Lamayuru Monastery is situated at an altitude of 3510 meters on the Leh -Srinagar highway. Lamayuru is an offbeat but easily accessible village in Ladakh, around 125 km from Leh. Also known as the Moonland of Ladakh, Lamayuru’s claim to fame is the distinct geographical formation of moon-like landscapes carved into the greater Himalayas. The terrain next to the monastery is strange yet stunning and incredible, and some say that the soil is similar to that on the moon, which justifies the name.
Today I am going to share a detailed travel guide for visiting Lamayuru Monastery on Srinagar Leh Highway. People visit Lamayuru when traveling from Srinagar to Leh or Leh to Srinagar on the second day of the journey after a night stop at Kargil or before reaching Kargil from Leh. Sometimes people also plan a trip to Lamayuru along with a trip to Sham Valley from Leh. This trick helps them cover other monasteries and sightseeing places in Sham Valley too.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Lamayuru Monastery
The Lamayuru monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh dating back to the 10th century, while it is also the largest existing gompa in Ladakh. It has many legends associated with it, one of which is that there existed a vast lake in Lamayuru, and the founding lama, Mahasiddhacharya Naropa, dried the lake up to lay the foundation of the village and the monastery.
Thus, after the water dried up, the land started to get moon-like craters and formations. This legend, of course, doesn’t have any concrete proof and is only a story that has been told for ages.
The Lamayuru Monastery is home to some of the most decorated and stunning chortens or stupas and colorful rocks carved with prayers in intricate details. The monastery also houses many bright and vivid ancient paintings of the cardinal kings. It originally had five main buildings, but currently, only one central building exists, which in itself is a favorite amongst travelers, devotees, and photographers from over the world.
The Lamayuru monastery is the main seat of the Drikung Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in the lower part of Ladakh. It is interesting to know that the monastery has around 300 lamas registered under it, while 50 different monasteries are administered under it.
Which festivals are celebrated in the Lamayuru monastery?
The festival of Yuru Kabgyat is celebrated at Lamayuru with various ritualistic dance performances and sacred ceremonies. It is a two-day festival celebrated in the 2nd month of Tibetan lunar calendar, which falls on 29th and 30th July in the year 2019.
A visit to Lamayuru over Srinagar Leh Highway is considered as one of the top things to do in Leh Ladakh. It can be easily covered as a day trip from Leh or traveling between Kargil and Leh.
Things to do in Lamayuru
Let us look at what are the main attractions or things to do in Lamayuru apart from visiting the Lamayuru monastery.
Camping in Lamayuru
There are many places near Lamayuru where you can pitch your camp and enjoy the camping experience in the wild on Srinagar Leh Highway. Even the Lamayuru village has options to pitch your camps, or you can camp by hiking around over moon-land like mountains too.
Yoga and Meditation
Lamayuru now has a yoga retreat center as well, which was established in the 1970s by Yogi Kyunga Rinpoche, where various monks are practicing meditation and spirituality under the foremost disciple of Rinpoche.
Few treks around Lamayuru can be taken up in case you are interested in trekking in the trans-Himalayas. There is a trek that goes from Lamayuru to Darcha over Zanskar, which takes about 18-20 days. Then some people also do the trek from Lamayuru – Wanla – Chilling over five days.
Bike Ride or Self Drive
You can always enjoy the beautiful drive or ride to Lamayuru from Leh or Kargil / Srinagar. The joy of this road trip to Lamayuru is simply amazing because the road conditions are mostly in excellent condition.
How to reach Lamayuru?
Lamayuru is situated on the road from Leh to Srinagar Highway, 15km east of Fotu La pass. It is almost the midway between Kargil and Leh on NH1D. If you are traveling from Leh to Kargil or Srinagar, you will invariably pass through Lamayuru unless you are taking the Hangroo loop road or Dah – Batalik route.
And it is always a good idea to halt and enjoy the scenic beauty and ancient heritage of Lamayuru along with landscapes of moon-land around Lamayuru. You can get around the scenic village of Lamayuru on foot as it is a small hamlet of around 100 scattered houses.
Mode of Transports
By road – If you are coming from Srinagar to Leh, you will come across Lamayuru on your way to Leh after Kargil at the base of Fotu La pass. The state-run JKSRTC buses ply within the Ladakh region, which is a budget option. Please confirm the bus timings beforehand. Bus rides might take a long time but are sure as hell fun and enthralling. You can also take your private vehicle (cars/bikes) or hire a taxi to go around Leh.
Lamayuru is situated on the road from Leh to Kargil or Leh – Srinagar Highway. You come across Fotu La and Namika La when traveling from Kargil to Lamayuru. The best way to reach Lamayuru from Leh is by hiring a cab/taxi or on a bike or by your private vehicle.
Leh to Lamayuru Bus
You can also board the local buses from Leh to Kargil – Srinagar and plan the trip using public transport. The buses running between Leh – Kargil or Leh – Srinagar, all-mountain passes through Lamayuru as well.
Kargil to Lamayuru Bus
Some buses run between Kargil and Leh, which passes through Lamayuru. Even the Srinagar to Leh bus passes through Lamayuru only. You can travel to Lamayuru by bus from Kargil to Leh as well.
By air – The nearest airport is Leh International Airport, which is well connected with other major airports in India. From the airport, you can hire taxis or rent bikes to travel to Lamayuru. You can also travel to Srinagar and then take the road trip from Srinagar to Kargil and Kargil to Lamayuru on the next day.
By train – The nearest railway station to Lamayuru is Jammutawi, at a distance of 685 km from Lamayuru. Taxis can be hired from the railway station to Lamayuru or Leh over Srinagar Leh Highway in a 3-day journey with overnight halts at Srinagar and Kargil.
Download your FREE high-resolution version pdf copy of this map of Srinagar Leh Highway covering Lamayuru and Mulbekh villages too. If, you liked it and found it helpful, please feel free to share it with your family and friends to help them too.
Best time to visit Lamayuru Monastery
The best time to visit the Lamayuru monastery is during the celebration of the festival of Yuru Kabgyat, which is in July/August. The months of May to October, in general, is a perfect time to visit Lamayuru Monastery because the weather is most favorable for traveling. The weather is pleasant, and roads to Ladakh are also open during that time from both Srinagar and Manali side.
The roads to reach Ladakh via Srinagar and Manali are closed from November to April-May, because of heavy snow. Therefore traveling via air is the only option to reach Leh, and further to Lamayuru monastery in Ladakh during wintertime. The roads to Lamayuru remain open in winter as well from Leh side. However, Fotu La and Namkee La pass closes at times.
Hence, a good time to travel to Lamayuru 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. But, you can always visit the moon-land of Lamayuru in the winter months as well.
Where to stay in Lamayuru?
Since the Lamayuru village shares a distance of around 125 km from Leh, it is advisable to stay there for a night and enjoy the calmness and serenity of Lamayuru, fully. Many people choose to stay in Lamayuru for weeks and months, practicing yoga. There are various stay options in Lamayuru like Hotel Moonland, Siachen Guesthouse, Dragon Hotel, etc.
Even the Lamayuru monastery offers accommodation options too along with other guest houses in Lamayuru village. So, head out and enjoy a bike ride to this beautiful and majestic landscape place.
In case you are planning a two day trip from Leh to Lamayuru, you can even come back from Lamayuru via Dah – Hanu route as well to explore Dah – Hanuthang villages and local culture up there.
You can always refer to some good hotels and guest houses in Leh.
Where to eat – Lamayuru Restaurant
Lamayuru monastery has a fabulous restaurant called Niranjana Lamayuru Restaurant, which offers amazing food. Even if you are not staying in Lamayuru, when coming from Kargil to Leh, this restaurant is my favorite place to eat lunch on the way to Leh. The service is a bit slow, but the taste buds will be 100% satisfied.
On the road between Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh, there are various food or eating options in Lamayuru, and on the highway as well. The food is pretty local, and does not have a lot of variety, but is still really delectable and filling. You should try some local shacks / dhabhas on the way which offers very nice and tasty local authentic Tibetan food and some will have noodles / thupka too.
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 !! 🙂 🙂
Leh to Lamayuru Itinerary
As suggested in the article, the distance from Leh to Lamayuru is 125 km only, and with such good road conditions, you can always make a day trip from Leh to Lamayuru. However, if you have time and you are not traveling on Srinagar Leh Highway but want to visit Lamayuru from Leh itself, then you can follow the below two days, Leh, to Lamayuru itinerary
Day 1 | Leh – Sham Valley – Lamayuru
Start early from Leh and move to Lamayuru. On the way, you should cover Sham Valley sightseeing that includes places like Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, Sangam, Alchi, and Likir. You may wish to have lunch near the Indus river somewhere around Khaltsi or Uley Tokpo.
Day 2 | Lamayuru – Chitkan – Dah – Hanuthang – Leh
While going back to Leh from Lamayuru, you can take the route of the Aryan village via Dah village and Hanuthang village to experience the local culture up there. As it will be a long route, you need to start early in the day from Lamayuru otherwise, you will not be able to spend much time at Dah – Hanuthang villages.
Other Important Tips
If you are traveling to Lamayuru by bus, make sure you have confirmed the bus timing in advance in the evening at Leh bus stand or Kargil bus stand. As the bus plies only twice, and the timing keeps changing, given the circumstances.
You should note that no inner line permits are required to visit Lamayuru monastery as it falls on the Srinagar Leh Highway.
Respect Monastery Rules
It’s important to note that photography is not allowed inside the prayer hall of the monastery. Please follow the monastery rules and ask before taking a photograph of any monk. Do not step over the statue and respect the holy place.
Take AMS Seriously
Travelers are advised to consult their doctors before commencing this high altitude road trip journey to Lamayuru because it can be tedious and demanding, and the Lamayuru weather conditions can get extreme, especially in winters. It is not recommended to sleep at Lamayuru directly when traveling from Srinagar without any overnight halt at Kargil.
Besides being unbearably cold in the winter season in Lamayuru or nearby Leh, AMS (acute mountain sickness) may hit even the most experienced travelers, as the altitude is high and vertiginous.
Leh, Kargil and Khaltsi petrol pump remains fully functional even in the winter months as well. So, you can pretty much rely on them for fuel availability in case needed for your road trip to Lamayuru.
Mobile Network Connectivity
BSNL and Airtel postpaid numbers work fine in Leh Ladakh, other networks do not get any reception. As Lamayuru monastery is near Kargil only, BSNL phone connections will work fine. BSNL has the widest coverage in Leh Ladakh, and Reliance Jio has also started its operation starting 2018.
You should check my tips on mobile connectivity in Leh Ladakh.
Apart from the ancient and remarkable monastery, the village of Lamayuru, with serenity and unique natural beauty, is your ideal place to halt between Kargil and Leh. The landscape changes as soon as you leave from Kargil, and it is bound to keep you in awe and spellbound throughout.
I hope this travel guide for visiting Lamayuru will help you plan a successful trip to this majestic place in Leh Ladakh.
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Leh Ladakh and Lamayuru, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip.