Situated on the banks of the mighty Indus River in Alchi village (Ladakh), Alchi Monastery is one of the oldest Buddhist learning centers and a treasure of the Himalayas. The beautiful village of Alchi is nestled in the lower segment of Ladakh, 66 km away from the town of Leh, in the Khalsi Tehsil on the Leh to Srinagar Highway.
Today I am going to share a detailed travel guide for visiting Alchi monastery near Leh. Tourists generally visit Alchi either as a day trip from Leh or when traveling to Leh from Kargil.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Alchi Monastery in Sham Valley
Alchi has emerged as one of the top things to do in Ladakh near Leh in recent years. It can be easily covered when you come to Leh from Kargil.
The Alchi village is known for the old yet stunning monuments it houses, dating back to various periods. One of these monuments is the Alchi Monastery, best known for its unique style and artistry. It was founded by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo in the 10th century. Although, the inscriptions on the monuments say otherwise because they ascribe it to a Tibetan noble called Kal-dan Shes-rab later in the 11th century.
The assembly hall and the main Sumtsek temple of the Gompa are built in Kashmiri style, as seen in many other monasteries. Alchi monastery has the influences of both Buddhism and Hinduism reflecting in the architecture through wall paintings, frescoes, and carvings, mainly due to the Hindu kings of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh of that time.
The Monastic complex has huge statues of Buddha, multiple Chortens (stupas), elaborate wood carvings and artwork resembling the baroque style of architecture.
Another exceptional masterpiece of architecture is the Alchi Sumtseg, made of loam and natural stone. Kashmiri artists were hired for the intricate vintage woodwork, facades and paintings, found in the interiors of the monastery. Several additions were made in the 13th and 14th century in the forms of wall paintings and textile prints, depicting the life of Buddha, and the Buddhist concept of Compassion, Hope and Wisdom.
Dukhang or Assembly Hall
The lavish Assembly Hall or Dukhang is at the heart of the Alchi monastery. This part is where the monks perform ceremonies and prayers. There is the Wheel of Life and Mahakal that can be seen at the outer gate. Frescoes of one thousand Buddhas are depicted in the passageway leading to the main assembly hall. Even though many additions and repairs have been made to the hall with time, it is still one of the most magnificent and ancient structures of the monastery.
As compared to the Sumtseg and Sumda Assembly hall, Manjushri Temple alias Jampe Lhakhang dates to around 1225 AD. Like Sumtseg, here too, there are several paintings on the wooden ceilings but are unrefined. The Lhotsava or Lotsawa temple to its left side is a later addition to the Alchi monastery complex.
Then there are Chortens. The Great Chorten and the Small Chorten dating back to the 13th century, following the building of Sumtseg. These stupas are adorned with ancient paintings and are considered to be unique links to other monuments in the region. There were three other Chortens added to the Alchi Monastery later.
How to reach Alchi Monastery near Leh?
Leh to Alchi Monastery distance is 66 km and is located west of the Leh town. You can reach it by taking a slight diversion from Srinagar Leh Highway at Saspol. It is nestled in what we popularly know as Sham Valley.
By road – The easiest way to reach Alchi Monastery by road is hitting the Srinagar – Leh Highway. You can reach Leh also by the Manali Leh Highway if you are traveling from Manali side.
The state-run JKSRTC buses ply within the Ladakh region but then to visit Alchi monastery from Leh you may need some hitchhike as well at Sasapol. You can also take your private vehicle (cars/bikes) to Alchi from Leh as well.
If you travel from Leh to Kargil, after traveling west for about 60 km comes Sasapol bridge. You take left from the Sasapol bridge to reach Alchi.
By air – The nearest airport is Leh Airport, which is well connected with some major airports in India, including New Delhi. From the airport, taxis can be hired to reach the hotel in Leh and then make a day trip from Leh to Alchi Monastery and back the next day after acclimatization.
By train – The nearest major railway station from Leh is Jammu Tawi, at a distance of 812 km from Leh. Taxis can be hired from the railway station to reach Leh over Srinagar Leh Highway in a 3-day journey with overnight halts at Srinagar and Kargil. Some people do prefer to stay overnight at Alchi after Kargil to be more cautious about AMS issues.
Joginder Nagar railway station is just 635 KM from Leh via Manali Leh Highway but is not a major one.
Best time to visit Alchi
The roads to reach Ladakh via Srinagar and Manali are closed from November to May, because of heavy snow. Therefore traveling via air is the only option to reach Leh, and further to Alchi in Ladakh during wintertime.
Hence, a good time to travel to Alchi monastery is the same as the best time to visit Leh Ladakh. That is, from May to September / October when the roads to Leh Ladakh are open from Srinagar and Manali side.
However, the best time to visit the Alchi monastery is during the celebration of a festival like Chotrul Duchen – closely following Losar (the Tibetan New Year) and Dajyur, Galdan Namchot, Monlam and Sho Dun. You get to live the culture and customs of the region and monastery during such festivals.
The road from Leh to Alchi is also open in the winter months. So, you can surely plan a trip to the Alchi monastery from Leh in winter months as well after flying into Leh. Please ensure that you are willing to endure the cold weather and want to witness the white beauty of Ladakh.
The roads to reach Ladakh via Manali and Srinagar are closed from November to May, because of heavy snow, therefore traveling via air is the only option to reach Leh.
Where to stay in Alchi?
There are few guesthouses and homestays in Alchi village where you can stay overnight. Many people do stay overnight at Alchi for better acclimatization. You can stay at Alchi either after flying into Leh for sleeping at a lower altitude, or you can get better acclimatized for the altitude of Leh when traveling from Srinagar to Leh.
Apart from that, you can visit also visit Alchi Monastery from Leh on the same day you are planning to explore the local places in Sham Valley which includes Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Basgo Plains, Confluence of Indus – Zanskar Rivers and Likir Monastery or nearby monasteries from Leh. It is recommended to leave early morning from Leh for making a day trip to Sham Valley.
Homestays or Guest Houses in Alchi
Otherwise, as said above, there are some stay options in Alchi village, with a couple of hotels, guesthouses, and local homestays. There are camps “Sumtseg Camps” run by the Alchi monastery, where you can stay at some affordable rates as well. You can choose to stay back in Alchi or return to Leh depending on the time you have in hand, vehicles, etc.
Semskit Guest House Alchi
Contact Person: Tsering Dorjey – 9622227963. Prices are Rs 1700 for twin sharing rooms with breakfast and dinner. A total of 4 rooms with attached bathroom are there in this guest house. The parking facility is not available and they are not operational in winters in Ladakh.
Lower Ladakh Guest House Alchi
Contact Person: Tsetan Dorjey – 9419809365. Prices are Rs 1900 for twin sharing rooms with breakfast and dinner. A total of 6 rooms with attached bathroom are there in this guest house. The parking facility is available, and they are operational in winters as well.
Norbuling Guest House Alchi
Contact Person: Tsering Norboo – 9419841306. Prices are Rs 2000 for twin sharing rooms with breakfast and dinner. A total of 5 rooms with attached bathroom are there in Contact Person: this guest house. The parking facility is available and they are operational in winters as well.
Lharjey Homestay Alchi
Contact Person: Sonam Dolma – 9419306358. Prices are Rs 1500 for twin sharing rooms with breakfast and dinner. A total of 4 rooms with attached bathroom are there in this guest house. The parking facility is available and they are operational in winters as well.
Lotsava Guest House Alchi
Contact Person: Sonam Stanzin – 9419347729. Prices are Rs 1400 for twin sharing rooms with breakfast only. A total of 4 rooms with an attached bathroom and two rooms with a common shared bathroom are there in this guest house. The parking facility is available, and they are operational in winters as well.
Where to eat?
If you are making a day trip to Alchi, I will suggest that you have your meals at Nimmu village where there are plenty of local shops right on the road itself. Some do offer very nice and tasty local authentic Tibetan food as well as samosas. Nimmu village is halfway to Alchi at a distance of about 32 km and takes about an hr drive from Nimmu to Alchi.
On the other hand, you will find food options upon reaching Alchi village, as there are few guesthouses and homestays plus tea/snack shops in the village near the monastery as well.
You should always carry your water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂
Other Important Tips
Unlike the other gompas in Ladakh, Alchi is situated on lowland, not on a hilltop, with a slight incline making it convenient for old people to visit.
Alchi Monastery Visit Timing: It is open on all days from 8:00 am – 01:00 pm and 02:00 pm – 06:00 pm. There is no entry ticket to the monastery.
Travelers are advised to consult their doctors before commencing this journey to Leh Ladakh because it can be tedious and demanding, and the climatic conditions can get extreme, especially in winters. Besides being unbearably cold in the winter season in Ladakh, AMS (acute mountain sickness) is sure to hit even the most experienced travelers, as the altitude is high and vertiginous.
Plan your Stay and Food
It is important to note that there is minimal food or stay options near Alchi village, so it is advised to make a day trip from Leh and return by evening. Also, better stock enough food and water before your trip to the Alchi in case you do not like what is available at Nimmu village or Alchi village tea shacks or homestays.
Mobile Network Connectivity
BSNL and Airtel postpaid numbers work fine in Ladakh, other networks do not get any reception. Alchi monastery may have signals of BSNL mobile services. BSNL has the widest coverage and Reliance Jio has also begun its operation starting 2018.
Alchi Monastery attracts tourists and devotees from all over the world, for its ethereal ancient beauty. It is one of the most revered Buddhist learning centers and the most prestigious one, and it just doesn’t deserve to be missed on your Ladakh trip.
You can cover the Alchi Monastery trip with other sightseeing places like Likir Monastery, Magnetic Hill in Ladakh and Confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers as a day trip from Leh.
I hope this travel guide for visiting Alchi monastery will help you plan a successful trip to this holy place in Leh Ladakh.
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Sham Valley and Alchi, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Leh Ladakh trip.