I try to finish all my posts from a particular trip before I head on to another one. But try as I might, one or two posts manage to slip through, like the Monasteries of Ladakh! Every village in Ladakh and Spiti have their own monastery and more than religion it is their location that attracts me.
I visited Ladakh in January 2016 and boy it was cold. While we were roaming around, the temperature usually was in the minus. I visited Spituk, Lamayuru, Alchi, Thiksey and Chemdey Monasteries. I take you through them in that order!
The Spituk Monastery is about 8 Kilometers away from Leh. It is said to be built in 11 century CE. I explored a bit of the monastery but I was lucky to see the winter festival called Spituk Gustor. If you ever head to Ladakh in Januray do make sure that you do not miss out on the festival.
The distance between Leh and Lamayuru is about 125 kilometers, it took us about 4 hours to reach there because we would stop at so many places on the way to click pictures! The day was overcast though. On the way we approached a geographical formation called the ‘moonscapes.’ It is a must stop.
Lamayuru Monastery is also from the 11th century, it was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa. In January we were the only visitors to the monastery!
Alchi Monastery is unlike anything I have seen before. The only comparison that comes to mind is Tabo in Spiti. Both have wall to wall paintings within the monasteries. Both are a complex of temples rather than one large building. Alchi is said to be build either in 10th or 11th century.
We visited Lamayuru and Alchi on the same day. We had lunch at Alchi before visiting the monastery. It was a very cold day. The caretaker opened the monastery only for us, imagine that! Photography is prohibited inside the Alchi Monastery (Tabo too) because it damages the old paintings.
Before you think I clicked the picture inside, this is an outdoor gate at the Alchi Monastery. It is painted in the same style as the walls inside the monastery. This is one place where you are allowed to click a picture of the paintings.
Thiksey is about 11.00 km away from Leh. The monastery was built in 1430. It is a grand place.
We attended the morning prayers at the Thiksey Monastery. In the monasteries anyone is welcome for the prayers. It is also not considered rude if you get up before the entire ceremony is over!
The Maitreya Buddha Statue is one of the most recognized pictures from the monasteries of Ladakh. It is grand, almost two stories tall and utterly mesmerizing.
The Chemdey (also written as Chemrey Monastery) was the last monastery I visited. It is not far from Thiksey and I visited both on the same morning.
I loved the monasteries in Ladakh for their stunning locations too. They are often perched up on the highest slopes and the view around them is mesmerizing.
There is something so awe inspiring about the monasteries of Ladakh. I wonder how were they built in that ancient a time. How did they manage to survive for so long? But what I like most is their location, always majestic, always dramatic, always stunning!
PS. My trip to Ladakh was sponsored by The Grand Dragon Ladakh
When you get to visit Ladakh within the first ten days of a new year you know it started on the right note. Ladakh is really special for me. It was the first place I wrote about on this blog! My life looked up after I visited Ladakh in 2005, I am hoping for something similar after this visit a decade later! To begin with here is Ladakh in winter in pictures!
The Hosts- Grand Dragon Ladakh
My hosts for this trip were The Grand Dragon Ladakh. With the temperatures in minus for most of our stay, I appreciated my centrally heated room a lot! This post is an overview of my trip. You will get to read in detail about the various aspects of visiting Ladakh in winter later! I am so grateful to the Grand Dragon and their PR partners for providing me a fabulous start to 2016!
My room faced the Sotk Range of mountains. This was the view I woke up to daily. As Leh is at the height of 11,500 feet we took the first day easy and just lounged about in the hotel!
Day 1- Gustor Festival at Spituk Monastery, Shanti Stupa, Leh
One of the highlights of our trip was attending the first day of the Gustor festival at the Spituk Monastery. In a crowd of thousands there must have been about 40 odd tourists, out of which our group contributed 14 members! The mask dance festival was attended primarily by the locals!
Shanti Stupa, Leh
Our second stop for the day was at the Shanti Stupa in the evening. With the temperatures firmly in minus, it was cold! I was happy to head back to the heated car and the heated hotel!
Day 2- Chilling, Alchi and Lamayuru
We had a long day on Day 2 and I was looking forward to it! Our first stop was supposed to be Chilling, the starting point of the Chadder Trek. But as the Border Roads Organization (BRO) was blasting about 10 km before Chilling we had to give up our quest but not before we saw the beautiful Zanskar River trying hard to freeze.
We stopped at Lamayuru Village first. It has a fabulous monastery where we were the only visitors! It is beautiful as any village in Ladakh!
Alchi is one of the oldest monastery in Ladakh. It has four complexes with stunning paintings on its walls. To preserve it, no photography is allowed inside it.
Beautiful Vistas on Day 2
Day two was equally memorable for the beautiful landscapes we saw all along our drive. We gave the drivers a very tough time, asking them to stop almost at every bend! This was somewhere near Lamayuru!
Our young driver Tashi was extremely patient with us. On this day I was sharing the car with fellow bloggers Swati and Sam and we had a wonderful time!
Day 3- Thiksey and Chemdey Monasteries
We attended the morning prayers at the Thiksey Monastery to start the Day 3. While this was not the first occasion when I attended the prayers at a monastery it was certainly a first in the winter! It was followed by the breakfast at a local village nearby.
Chemdey Monastery, Ladakh
We shared the Chemdey Monastery with a few locals. There were no tourists other than us! It was certainly cold but it was a pleasure to have almost the whole Ladakh to us!
Our last official stop was at the home of a local oracle. But we made many unofficial stops while coming back to the hotel!
This in nutshell was my first trip of 2016. I am blessed that I got to see winter in Ladakh with my base at the luxurious Grand Dragon Hotel. I will write separate, detailed posts on each of the aspects of this cherished trip. But to begin with, I could not resist showcasing the pictures from the entire trip!
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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