Exploring Ladakh’s Hidden Gem: Likhir Monastery

Embark on a journey to Ladakh’s lesser-known treasure, Likhir Monastery, with its rich history and stunning vistas. Discover the allure of this ancient sanctuary nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Himalayas.

Exploring Ladakh's Hidden Gem: Likhir Monastery

So you’ve got your bags packed and are all set to explore somewhere new, huh? Why not try something a little less clichéd this time? Yeah, that’s exactly what I did! Here’s my account…

With no fixed plan but a definite agenda – to explore, I took to the wheels and decided to randomly wander around on the roads of one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen on earth – Ladakh. It was an early morning in July, and believe me, this barren desert gets as scorching in this month as it gets cold in January.

The sun literally burnt my skin, so I made sure I had my sunscreen (I recommend one with SPF 100 or higher, personally I use the one from Lotus) in place. Stocked up with cans of Red Bull and enough fuel, I made my way towards Saspol from Leh taking the NH1. Just a 53-kilometer drive took me to Likhir (AKA Liker, Likir). With some bird watching on the way and some lazy chit chat with the locals, who are mostly Buddhists in this region, I finally drove uphill through the village and reached the Likhir Gompa, one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh.

Imposing Buddha Statue and Scenic Views

What caught my attention immediately was the almost 70-feet tall statue of Buddha covered in gold. Sitting majestically on a very colorful throne, it is a treat for the eyes especially if viewed under the clear azure sky. If you are in a mood to just sit and get philosophical about life, then walk right till the end of the entrance of the monastery and sit on the cliff that gives a mesmerizing and panoramic view of the village way below you. The patches of green and yellow ooze fresh lease of life against the various shades of grey and brown high up in the mountains.

A ten-minute trek uphill took me to the inside of the gompa, which also happens to be one of the wealthiest monasteries in the region and is inhabited by about 100 monks at a time. The main monastery has two assembly halls and the roofs are adorned with colorful prayer flags. A wooden staircase leads you to the top which is a great idea if you wish to take some pictures of the landscape or simply soak in the view.

Likhir Trivia

  • It is said that the monastery dates back to the 11th century. During the reign of the fifth king of Ladakh, Lhachaen Gyalpo, the land to build the monastery was offered to lama Duwang Chojse, who blessed the site and eventually the monastery was built in 1065.
  • The name Likher means Nagas Encircling. The monastery lies on a hilltop that looks like it is coiled like a serpent. It is said to be encircled by the two great serpent spirits – the Naga kings Nanda and Taksako and thus it got its name ‘Liker Galdantargyasling’.
  • The monastery is also called Klukhil (Klu – serpent, Khil – Coil) as it is believed that the Naga king Jakpo slept in a coil on the hill on which the monastery is situated. Popular belief says the name Klukhil in due course broke down to Likher.
  • About thirty students are given basic education at the monastery, which includes learning Hindi, Sanskrit, and Tibetan. The best of these students are eventually selected to become lamas.
  • The monastery has statues made of copper, silver, brass, and gold. Apart from the serene ambiance, the rare thangkas and murals are other attractions here.
  • The monastery was originally built as a fort to accommodate villagers during war. It was damaged in a fire and was rebuilt in the 18th century.
  • The religious rituals related to either sutra or tantra system, as practiced in the Tibetan monasteries, are adopted by this monastery.

How to get there

Regular flights are available to Leh from Delhi. Morning flights are the best. The 1 hour 20 minutes long flight gives a good glimpse of the Himalayan and Ladakh ranges, already preparing you for what’s in store. Likher is about an hour’s drive towards the west of Leh. Cabs and bikes are easily available on rent.

Where to stay

While Leh has multiple options to stay, homestays are a good option if you wish to get a good idea about the local culture and way of life.

Best Time to Visit: June to September.

What do you think?

Written by Swati Tewari

A dreamer, a reader...and a crazy party animal, who loves to write. Trying to create something different each time, looking at the road ahead, gazing at the stars, wondering what their smile says...

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