Shey Monastery or Shey Palace is situated 15 km south of the town of Leh in the Ladakh region. This ancient monastery of Shey offers some dramatic panoramic views from its complex. The monastery which is mostly in ruins now lies on a hillock of the Leh – Manali Highway towards Thiksey Monastery.
Today I am going to share a detailed travel guide for visiting Shey monastery near Leh town in Ladakh. Tourists generally visit Shey Monastery as a day trip from Leh along with other surrounding monasteries like Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Monastery, Stakna Monastery, and Matho Monastery.
This tour is generally known as the monastery day tour from Leh. Some people also prefer to visit Shey Monastery or Shey Palace while traveling towards Pangong Tso or while coming back from it.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Shey Monastery & Shey Palace
Amidst the abundance of natural beauty and magnificent mountains, Shey Monastery was built in 1655 by Deldan Namgyal, the king of Ladakh, in the memory of his father. This Palace was maneuvered as a Summer Retreat for the Ladakhi kings.
One of the most notable and key features of the Shey Monastery is the Shakyamuni Buddha, standing tall with a height of 39ft in copper and gilded gold. It is estimated to be the second-largest Buddha statue of the kind in all of Ladakh.
On either side of the Buddha statue, the 16 saints (arhats) who achieved Nirvana, are displayed. And the wall behind the Buddha has paintings of Buddha’s two most popular disciples. Colorful depictions paint the walls of the entire monastery. Multiple murals of Buddha, various rock carvings and chortens decorate the monastery all around the Shey Palace.
Very close to the Shey Palace, around 400 meters, there is another shrine built by Sennge Namgyal, which is home to another astounding statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in a sitting posture. At the farther end of the valley, lies the official residence of the Lama of the monastery, which offers a grand view of the majestic Indus Valley, along with the view of other scenic places like Thiksey Monastery, Stakna Monastery, and Leh town.
Fun Fact: It is interesting to know that Shey Palace was the summer capital of Ladakh, until 1842 when the Namgyals had to abandon the Palace and flee to Stok, due to the invasion of the Dogras from Jammu that year.
Which festivals are celebrated in Shey monastery?
The monastery hosts two seasonal festivals every year. One of which celebrates the beginning of the sowing season, it is called Shey Doo Lhoo, celebrated on the 26th & 27th of the first month of the Tibetan calendar (July/August).
The other festival called Shey Rhupla celebrates the harvest, where the farmers offer the first fruits of corn to the monastery. A special Rhupla dance is performed by men in tiger costumes, which is a delight to watch.
A visit to Shey Palace including Hemis Monastery and Thiksey Monastery is considered as one of the top things to do in Leh Ladakh in recent years. It can be easily covered on a day trip from Leh or when traveling to-fro from Pangong Tso lake.
How to reach the Shey Palace?
Shey Palace or Shey Monastery is situated on the road from Leh to Thiksey Monastery or Leh – Manali Highway. Numerous monasteries, chortens, stupas, and rock carvings adorn this road.
You can also reach Shey Monastery by hiking 4 km from Thiksey monastery and the trail is described as “Ladakh’s biggest chorten fields with hundreds of whitewashed shrines of varying sizes scattered across the desert landscape.”
The best way to reach Shey Palace from Leh is by hiring a cab/taxi or on a bike or by your private vehicle. You can also board many local buses from Leh to nearby places like Sakti, Karu, Cemday, etc and do the trip using public transport.
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Mode of Transports
By road – The easiest way to reach Leh by road is hitting the Manali – Leh Highway via Manali or Srinagar Highway if you are traveling from Srinagar (J&K). It is imperative to know that state-run buses and local taxis ply within the Ladakh region very well in the summer months.
The road leading to Karu is the one you need to take, which is also called Manali Leh Highway. The road to Shey from Leh remains open all around the year.
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 Shey monastery along with other nearby monasteries.
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. After reaching Leh, you can travel to Shey Monastery as mentioned in the article above.
Joginder Nagar railway station is just 635 KM from Leh via Manali Leh Highway but is not a major one.
Best time to visit Shey Monastery
The best time to visit the Shey monastery is during the celebration of festivals like Shey Rhupla and Shey Doo Lhoo, celebrated in July/August. The months of May to October, in general, is a perfect time to visit Shey Monastery because the weather is most favorable for traveling. The weather is pleasant, and roads to Ladakh are also open during that time.
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 Shey monastery in Ladakh during wintertime.
Hence, a good time to travel to Shey monastery is the
Where to stay?
You can plan to explore the local tourist places near Leh, like Thiksey, Stakna, and Shey monasteries as well as other attractions on the same day, trip from Leh. It is advisable to leave early morning and return by evening and stay at Leh only.
Otherwise, stay options are there in Shey village, with a couple of hotels and homestays like Poro Homestay, Botho Guesthouse, etc. You can choose to stay back in Shey or return to Leh depending on the time you have in hand, vehicles, etc.
Even you can get to stay at Thiksey or Hemis monasteries too which are nearby only.
You can always refer to some good hotels and guest houses in Leh.
Where to eat?
You will find food options upon reaching Shey, and some on the way too. Although, always stock up on some food and water bottles from Leh itself. You should try some 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 !! 🙂 🙂
Other Important Tips
Special permission needs to be taken to visit the Shey Monastery as there is only one Lama at the monastery, and the inner sanctum they generally keep closed. Nonetheless, you can enjoy the surrounding areas and the magical view the Photang offers. There is also a hotel right opposite the monastery, which has a charming flowered garden from where you can enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley.
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 road trip journey to Ladakh and Shey Palace because it can be tedious and demanding, and the climatic conditions can get extreme, especially in winter. Besides being unbearably cold in the winter season in Shey or nearby Leh, AMS (acute mountain sickness) may hit even the most experienced travelers, as the altitude is high and vertiginous.
Leh and Karu petrol pump remains fully functional even in the winter months as well. So, you can pretty much rely on it for fuel availability in case needed.
Mobile Network Connectivity
BSNL and Airtel postpaid numbers work fine in Leh Ladakh, other networks do not get any reception. As Shey Monastery is near Leh only, both the connections will work fine at Shey, Thiksey, and other nearby monasteries. Having said that, BSNL has the widest coverage and Reliance Jio has also started its operation starting 2018.
You should check my tips on mobile connectivity in Leh Ladakh
Shey Monastery attracts tourists and devotees from all over the world, especially during the festivals of Shey Doo Lhoo and Shey Rhupla. Visit this monastery for the stunning colors of nature and panoramic views of the beautiful Indus Valley, while you imbibe the rich history of Shey.
I hope this travel guide for visiting Shey 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 Leh Ladakh and Shey Palace, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip.