Are you planning to travel to Thiksey near Leh on your next Ladakh road trip? Well, this Thiksey Monastery travel guide will help you get answers to all your questions about planning a memorable Ladakh trip.
Thiksey Monastery (also Thikse, Tiksey, Thiksay) is a beautiful Gompa that is perched atop a hill at 11,800 feet in Thiksey village near Leh. The views from various points in the monastery will take your breath away, and I can assure you this!
Lying 19 km before Leh on the Manali-Leh highway in the Indus Valley, Thiksey is a must-visit pit stop on your Ladakh road trip adventure. It is one of those places that require no introduction, given its popularity and significance in the Ladakhi culture.
Tourists generally visit Thiksey Monastery as a day trip from Leh along with other surrounding monasteries like Shey Palace, Stakna Monastery, Hemis Monastery, and Matho Monastery.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
About Thiksey Monastery
While Ladakh is on everyone’s radar for the extreme isolation, insanely gorgeous views and the breathtaking serenity that accompanies you wherever you might be. But, a Ladakh road trip is incomplete without the splattering of monasteries. The Gompas spread across the extremely hard landscape is just a beautiful sight to see.
One of the largest monasteries of the Ladakh region, Thiksey monastery has a stunning Maitreya temple on its campus. Thiksey is a 12-story complex and has a separate set of buildings for female residents. The different levels include – 10 temples, hall, homes for the monks, a nunnery, and numerous other segments.
The monastery, with its contrasting colors of red, ochre and while adding a splash of happiness to the surrounding views. And, what’s wonderful is the uncanny resemblance to the Potala Palace in Tibet.
In the 15th Century, the founder of the Gelug School (“the Yellow Hats”), Je Tsongkhapa, sent six disciples to spread the message of his teachings in remotest areas of Tibet. As part of this exercise, one of his disciples instituted a little monastery in Stagmo. Nearly half a century later, it was decided to set up a bigger complex.
When performing the prayers at the place of the new monastery – some crows grabbed the Torma offerings, meant to be spread across the valley as peace offerings. Searching for the torma, the monks found it on the opposite side of the valley, placed perfectly in Thiksey. The name of the village, coincidently, means – a perfect order. Thus, the monastery was set up here and named the same as the village
Best time to visit Thiksey Monastery
The months of May to October, in general, is a perfect time to visit Thiksey Monastery. The weather is pleasant, and roads to Ladakh are also open during that time. However, Thiksey might be considered a year-round destination if you are open to fly to Leh in winter.
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 Thiksey monastery in Ladakh during wintertime.
Hence, the best time to visit is the same as the peak season for the Ladakh Road trip, i.e., May till September/October. The monastery itself is closed from November to April. Hence, things to do and explore are limited in that time frame.
How to reach Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey lies on the Manali-Leh highway, about 35 minutes before Leh. Hence, you need to either reach Leh first if you are traveling from Srinagar side. Otherwise, you can also halt when traveling from Manali to Leh.
Traveling from Leh to Thiksey
To reach Leh, you may take a flight to the Leh Airport, or drive from either the Manali-Leh Highway or the Srinagar-Leh highway. The distance from Leh to Thiksey is 20 km approximately and takes about 35 minutes to reach.
Catch a bus to Choglamsar, where you’ll change the buses and ply the bus moving towards Thiksey. Buses are regular and leave every 15 minutes from the Leh bus stand. From Choglamsar, buses to Thiksey leave every half hour. The total cost for both buses as of 2019 is INR 35. Overall, it will take you about an hour to reach Thiksey by bus. There’s a long walk awaiting you for actually reaching the monastery from the bus stop.
Alternatively, you may choose to get a cab from Leh to Thiksey. This option will take you around 35-40 minutes of travel time and is an easy route with a well-paved route. Just drive towards Karu, and Thiksey is en route.
Arriving from the Manali-Leh Highway
While, yes, you may be tired and want to reach your destination, I truly suggest stopping at Thiksey monastery. After all, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Right?
We stayed the night in Sarchu, and the journey to Leh on the final day was quite stunning and relaxing, though long. By this day, we were also used to the daily grind of the road. Of course, all the while being shocked by the views.
Once entering Karu, we got the car refueled, took a diversion – visited Hemis Monastery for the last day of the Hemis Festival and then upon making our way towards Leh – we stopped again at Thiksey for quite some time.
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Not to miss places in Thiksey Monastery
You should not be missing these things when visiting the Thiksey monastery.
- Maitreya Buddha – a two-story statue of Buddha, the largest in Ladakh
- Assembly Hall – contains murals of Tibetan calendar
- Nunnery – the school for nuns
- Library – it has a big collection of books and manuscripts. It can be closed at certain times.
- Rooftop – for breathtaking views
Exploring the Monastery
While ideally, you should spend at least half a day in the complex, the longer is, of course, better. While the views are stunning and the unique architecture will leave you in awe, it is also a great place to learn more about Buddhism and the culture.
Right at the entrance of the monastery, you’ll be welcomed in by a statue of the protector deity. The views upon entry of the Indus Valley will help settle all nerves from long travels and long walking!
Right off the bat, I suggest you head straight to the Maitreya Buddha, which is just a splendid piece of architecture. Spend time marveling at the exquisite handcraft and recognizing the still and calmness of the place. After this, you may move on to Tara Temple – a small temple dedicated to the Goddess. While small, visual treats adorn the temple.
Lamokhang Temple should be your next stop as it houses several scriptures such as the Stangyur. An important point of notice – Women are not allowed entry here. This temple is the place where young boys become Lamas after training.
Thiksey Monastery Festival
Thiksey Gustor is a 2-day event and is among the popular festivals of Ladakh. The festival begins with the preparation of sacrificial cake, Torma – indicating an evil force. The end of the festival is marked when a monk cuts the cake in two, ending the reign of evil.
The cake is cut to mark the end and then distributed amongst the worshippers (Argham’ or Klling). The unique aspect of the Thiksey Gustor is the re-enactment of the assassination of the traitor King Lang Darma of Tibet by a Buddhist monk during the mid-9th century.
The event attracts many tourists during the two-day ritual, which usually happens either in October or November, depending on the Tibetan calendar. It is a beautiful ceremony with the Chham dance, where the residents of the monastery dress up and adorn masks to perform the ritual of victory of good over evil. Also, another highlight has to be the Argham ceremony where monks perform a reenactment of King Lang Darma (9th Century)
Staying in Thiksey Monastery
If you’re inclined to learn more about the Buddhist culture, you’ll want to spend more time here. The village offers Chamba Hotel as a suitable location, or you may choose to stay at the monastery. I would suggest you stay at the monastery, which offers basic rooms and food at a very budget-friendly price.
You can even get to stay at Shey or Hemis monasteries too which are nearby from Thiksey Monastery.
You can always refer to some good hotels and guest houses in Leh.
Food options at Thiksey Monastery
There are two cafes in the complex. One is situated at the rooftop with beautiful, gorgeous views and the other is near the parking area. Of course, the Chamba hotel in the village also has a restaurant.
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 !! 🙂 🙂
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 try some dhabhas on the way which offers very nice and tasty local authentic Tibetan food and some will have noodles / thupka too.
- The entry fee to visit Thiksey is Rs 30 for both Indian and foreign nationals.
- The timings of Thiksey monastery are from 7 AM – 7 PM (May to November)
- Early morning monastery rituals are beautiful, so if you’re planning a trip – try to get in as early as possible.
- It is respectful to wear conservative clothes, nothing too revealing.
- Sunscreen is a must! You’ll be walking around at exceptional heights in direct sunlight – protect yourself.
- Also, must carry water. At such heights, dehydration hits hard and fast. Ensure you have your water bottle at all times.
- Must take AMS seriously. I know we say this in all posts regarding Leh, but it is a serious issue! The extreme lack of oxygen does take a toll on your body, and you should be aware of the symptoms at all times. Be vigilant! There is no shame in admitting to the symptoms you feel, and it is always a wise decision to talk about it with your group – so you all can keep an eye on each other.
- Certain mobile connections, such as Airtel postpaid and BSNL, do work here. I have heard that Reliance Jio is also reliable – though, don’t know firsthand.
You can always club a road trip to Thiksey with other nearby monasteries including Stakna, Hemis and Shey Palace. The detailed travel guides for each of them are available in this article or you can search them using the search box of our website.
A delight to all those that visit, Thiksey monastery is just a happy memory awaiting to happen. Right in culture, in history, in views and serenity, you’ll want to have Thiksey on your list for sure!
Have you visited Thiksey monastery in the past? Is there something that I have missed here? Please comment below and let me know, will add it to the post with due credits of course. Also, any places you would like us to cover that we have have not yet covered then do let us know, and we love to talk about all things travel!
Happy traveling to the Land of Gompas!