Stakna – meaning ‘the nose of a tiger,’ derives its name from the shape of the hill in which the monastery sits on top. The visually impressive Stakna Monastery is at a distance of 26 km from Leh and offers some spectacular views of the Indus Valley.
Today I am going to share a detailed travel guide for visiting the Stakna monastery near Leh town in Ladakh. Tourists generally visit Stakna Monastery as a day trip from Leh along with other surrounding monasteries like Shey Palace, Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Monastery, and Matho Monastery.
This tour is generally known as the monastery day tour from Leh. Some people also prefer to visit Stakna Monastery while traveling towards Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri lake or while coming back from these lakes.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Stakna Monastery
Stakna monastery is home to 30 monks and belongs to the Drugpa order of Buddhism which is evident from the elephant tusks on either side of the altar in the monastery. The lineage of the Drugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism is carried forward by the monastic head and the monks at the monastery.
Chosje Jamyang Palkar, a Bhutanese saint and scholar enshrined the monastery in the 16th century, and since then Stakna Gompa has served as a flagship tourist attraction of Ladakh.
The assembly hall or the Dukhang of the monastery is adorned with several murals and paintings of Sakyamuni and Amchi. At the same time, there sits a 7ft tall silver gilded chorten in the right end of the courtyard. Several stunning paintings of Buddhist gurus like Padma Sambhava and Bodhisattva decorates the monastery parallel to the main hallway.
In the heart of the monastery sits the gorgeous marble statue of Avalokitesvara, which they consider to be brought from Kamrup in Assam. In the center of the courtyard, there is a stuffed Lhasa Apso. Locals believe it to be the favorite pet of the lamas in the monastery long ago.
Visit Druk White Lotus School (Rancho School)
On the way from Stakna to Shey Monastery, you’ll find the Druk White Lotus School (Rancho School), which featured in and got popular from Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots. You will find local guides at the entrance to the school who will take you to the famous locations from the movie. The school can sustain seismic disturbances.
While you visit Stakna Monastery, you can also visit the Takthok monastery nearby where Buddhist guru Padma Sambhava meditated. The annual festival at Takthok is celebrated every year in August.
Fun Fact: On the way to Stakna from Leh, you’ll cross Shey and Thiksey monasteries as well, which you must not miss.
How to reach the Stakna Monastery?
Stakna 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. The distance of Leh to Stakna Monastery is 26 km.
The best way to reach Stakna monastery 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.
The state-run JKSRTC buses ply within the Ladakh region, which is pocket-friendly. The bus will drop you on the Manali Leh highway from where you will have to cross the bridge and walk for around 800 meters to reach the monastery. You can also take your private vehicle (cars/bikes) or hire a taxi to Stakna, in which case you can take your bikes to the monastery.
The bridge to Stakna monastery is suspension one and only one light vehicle is allowed at a time.
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Mode of Transports
By road – The easiest way to reach Stakna or 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 Stakna or 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 Stakna Monastery
The months of May to October, in general, is a perfect time to visit Stakna 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 May, because of heavy snow. Therefore traveling via air is the only option to reach Leh, and further to the Stakna monastery in Ladakh during wintertime.
Hence, a good time to travel to Stakna 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.
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. You can even get to stay at Thiksey or Hemis monasteries too which are nearby from Stakna Monastery.
You can always refer to some good hotels and guest houses in Leh.
Where to eat?
There isn’t much around the Stakna monastery in terms of places to eat. You can eat on some shacks on the way to it from Leh or also travel to Upshi, where there are many roadside dhabhas.
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 !! 🙂 🙂
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.
Other Important Tips
Stakna offers some amazing views of the Thiksey monastery and the overlooking valley with Indus river meandering through it. Don’t miss to capture the view of Stakna monastery with aqua-colored Indus and colors of fall in October month. You will realize there is heaven in India 🙂 …
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 Stakna 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 Stakna 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 them for fuel availability in case needed near the Stakna monastery.
Mobile Network Connectivity
BSNL and Airtel postpaid numbers work fine in Leh Ladakh, other networks do not get any reception. As Stakna Monastery is near Leh only, both the connections will work fine at Stakna, Shey, Thiksey, and other nearby monasteries. 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.
Stakna Monastery is a visual delight in regards to both cultural and rich religious heritage and the magnificent views of the spectacular Indus Valley. Standing on a hillock on the banks of the Indus River, the Stakna monastery is a photographer’s delight, as it offers distinct views of picturesque landscapes.
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I hope this travel guide for visiting Stakna monastery will help you plan a successful trip to this holy place in Leh Ladakh.
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