Lamayuru Monastery and Village in Ladakh

A Tibetan-Buddhist monastery with a medieval village thrown in for good measure.

Why visit? 
Simply stunning- the monastery is located on top of a barren hill (at 3500m) while the village, built in the same Tibetan/Ladakhi style with whitewashed walls, spills down the slopes. 

In West Ladakh, roughly halfway between Kargil and Leh. Map.

Getting there:
Not so easy! The easiest is to fly to Leh and then take a (shared) jeep or bus to Lamayuru, a 5 hour drive. Or, if you believe that the journey is the destination, start in Srinagar, cross the underwear-soiling scary 3700m Zoji La pass on the way to Kargil, and continue to Lamayuru. A ride you're guaranteed NOT to forget any time soon... see my post here...

IT'S HARD TO get solid information on Lamayuru Gompa (Monastery). What's clear is that there have been monks here for more than a 1000 years. Many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are located in places of solitude, and Lamayuru, on top of a 3500m peak in a high-altitude dessert landscape seemed to fit the bill. 
There are many other monasteries in Ladakh in spectacular places, and with wonderful art, but what makes Lamayuru stand out is the almost organic integration of monastery and village, both of which seem to grow straight out of the rock.  

Lamayuru has several simple hotels and it makes a good base to break the journey between Kargil and Leh. 

Once settled, simply start climbing up the hill, exploring the little alleys. You'll come across picturesquely crumbling stupas, prayer wheels, and some curious wildlife. 
The hill Lamayuru is built on is quite steep...
A curious cow in one of the village sheds, with the monastery high up in the background. 
A small but beautiful village shrine which contains a large prayer wheel. 
A row of prayer wheels at the monastery. Feel free to take them for a spin...
One of the village houses. Although simpler, the style is the same as that of the monastery creating a seamless fusion between the secular and the religious. 
Ladkahi lady. She's not holding a children's toy- it's a portable prayer wheel. 
Once at the monastery, there is a small entrance fee to go inside. Be sure to climb to the roof which offers stunning views of the valley. Also be sure to have plenty of storage space on your memory card as everything is just so picturesque, what with the blue sky, whitewashed buildings and colourful prayer flags... 
The main building of the monastery. I love the windows with their heavy lintels. 
A small Avalokiteshvara temple is just outside the main monastery...
...and is sometimes used as a classroom for budding monks. 
I ran into several monks who were friendly enough, as well as a school for young boys run by the monks. 

Further up the hill are some retreats for meditating monks. As the sign indicates, you're welcome to explore, as long as you respect the monks' solitude and the quiet atmosphere.   
And old lady praying near a crumbling chorten (stupa).

Useful links:
Lamayuru Gompa on Buddhist Tours


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Have you been here? Or are you planning to go? Either way, we would love to hear about it.