Alchi Monastery Ladakh
Needless to say that the natural beauty, challenging trails, adrenaline-rushing activities, and monasteries are the important elements that combine to make this paradise of earth. A lot of people might take it as an exaggeration but this is nothing but the truth. The ‘land of high passes, has always been a destination towards the top of the list of travelers. It serves all kinds of travelers and gives them a reason to travel to even the ‘hardest to access’ places in the Himalayas. One such place and probably one of the best attractions of Ladakh is the Alchi Monastery. From meditating in the calm and peaceful environment to spinning the prayer wheel while asking any wish, travelers enjoy and love their time at Alchi. Located in a scenic village of the same name in the Leh district, the Alchi Monastery looks truly breathtaking.
Probably, the oldest and most popular monastery in Ladakh was built by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo somewhere between 958 and 1055. Alchi Monastery in Ladakh is one of the most visited attractions owing to its wonderful locations and beautiful architecture. However, inscriptions in the monastery state it to be of the 11th century. Today it is being monitored by Likir Monastery. The Alchi monastic complex stands out amongst the rest of the attractions in the three villages. This monastery is actually a complex of temples consisting of 4 separate portions that have monuments built at different times. The main complex has three temples- gTsug-lag-Khang (main temple), 'Jam-dpal lHa-Khang (Manjushri temple), and Dukhang (assembly hall). Intricately carved paintings adorn all these structures and are believed to be the oldest surviving in Ladakh. Alchi monastery receives a huge footfall throughout the year because people visit here anytime in the year. The wall paintings depicting the details of Hindu kings as well as the teaching of Buddhism adorn the site. There is also a huge Buddha statue in the complex which is also a famous tourist attraction in Alchi Monastery.
History of Alchi Monastery
If we look at the history of the Alchi Monastery, we can understand that it is a group of monuments and not just one building. Alchi is a part of this group that sprawls across two villages namely- Sumda Chun and Mangyu. Apart from these two villages, the main monument which is the monastery itself is situated in the Alchi village. All the monuments here are reckoned to be beautiful and unique in their own ways. They showcase the true craftsmanship of the architects and builders. It is believed that the Alchi Monastery of Ladakh was created by the infamous translator and scholar “Rinchen Zangpo” in the 10th century. A name that is not just popular but also respected by people of Ladakh and those who follow Buddhism. But the inscription speaks differently as it showcases that the monument came into existence somewhere in the 11th century. Nevertheless, with Indus flowing nearby and the location of this monastery in the abundantly beautiful Sham Valley, has made it a wonderful place to be at. So, plan your trip to Alchi Monastery from Leh without a miss because it is a go-to destination.
Major Highlights of Alchi Monastery
In the past few years, the Alchi monastery has become one of the top attractions of Leh Ladakh. Though it is easily accessible while coming from Kargil towards Leh, people prefer slipping it in the itinerary afterward. The Alchi village is a profound place that houses a list of monuments from different times. The architecture of the monastery and the monuments around the place show a huge resemblance to the Tibetan style. The entire Alchi Monastery complex houses three major shrines in total. These three are the main attractions or key highlights of the Alchi Monastery.
There are a few others but most people worship these and come here to visit these three shrines. The major attraction of the monastery lies in the wall paintings that have detailed depictions of both Kashmiri style and Buddhist style artwork. This is not it; the huge complex buildings of the monastery house lavishing wood carvings and a huge statue of Buddha. Both these things are highly similar to the baroque style of artwork.
The major attractions of Alchi Monastery are:
- Dukhang or the Assembly Hall
- Manjushri Temple or Jampe Lhakhang
- Wall Paintings/Frescoes
All these major attractions are open 7 days a week but their visiting timings are either between 10 am and 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. So if you are planning on visiting the Alchi Monastery, make sure the timing matches.
Best time to visit Alchi Monastery
Ladakh is accessible during the summer season by road and that’s the best time to visit Alchi Monastery as well. This is between May and August. All the roads are cleared of snow and the climate is also pleasant making it easier and better for the travelers to enjoy their time at various places of Ladakh.
How to reach Alchi Monastery
Although the best way to read Alchi is to divert towards Sasapol from NH1 while coming from Kargil. But people visit it while heading back, which is also a fine way. If you are traveling in a public vehicle you can visit Alchi Monastery by hiring a cab or private taxi. How to reach Alchi Monastery can be a question for those visiting Leh Ladakh from Manali but then they have to take the NH1 route back to their home.
Where to stay in Alchi
Owing to the number of people visiting Alchi Monastery each year, the people of Alchi have rigorously worked to make the availability of staying options a task for themselves. The locals have built several staying options in the village to house people visiting the place. Usually, people prefer visiting the monastery and other places in Alchi during the second half of the day and spend a night here. The best-staying options in Alchi include:
- TIH Hotel jeevanam villa
- The Indus Valley Resort
- The Land Resort
- Cho Palace
- The Silk Route Ladakh
- The Grand Ladakh
From homestays to guesthouses to multi-star hotels, there has always been an extensive number of options for people of Ladakh. Some of the hotels of Alchi do take pre-booking or online booking but most function the traditional way. Also, even in the peak season, finding a room at Alchi won’t be a difficult task.
Where to eat
Another very important thing while staying at someplace is the availability of things to eat. Places to eat in Alchi are also abundant. From good restaurants to small stalls of local cuisines, travelers do enjoy their time in this village. Some of the best places to eat in Alchi include:
- Alchi Kitchen
- Mughlai Central
- Cafe Pirates
- Tequila Reef
- Golden Oriole German Bakery
Other Important Tips
- Keep in mind that Alchi Monastery is about 65 km from the city of Leh. So while planning your visit here make sure you have sufficient time and food in your bag. Although it's the NH1 that leads to the monastery and it takes 2 hours to reach here but once you reach you would surely want some time to spend here.
- Entering the monastery is chargeable. You will have to pay just 25 INR and the amount is the same for foreign tourists as well.
- Keep all your documents in your bag while traveling to the Alchi monastery because it is important and can be asked for at any point in time.
- You are traveling to a high altitude and it is better to slip into comfortable clothes for extra comfort. Wearing comforting clothes will allow your body to breathe throughout the trail.
- Make sure to apply sunscreen before leaving the city as the sunlight is direct here and can burn your skin.
- Keep your body covered in layers of warm clothes because the temperature fluctuation in Ladakh is very abrupt and unpredictable. Wearing layers of warm clothes can allow you to take them off when it becomes hot and put them on when cold.
- Make sure you spend a good 2-3 hours at the monastery. There are a lot of things to do and you surely are going to like it there. If not anything else, sit with the monks and hear about the history and some good things about Buddhism and Alchi Monastery.
- Monks meditate around the Alchi Monastery inside the place as well. So try to be as quiet as you can because disturbing them would be rude. While reaching the place you will see a lot of banners telling you to talk softly and that’s because the people here want to keep it a rejuvenating place for all.
- Like most of the monasteries in Ladakh, Alchi is also a secretive one. No photography is allowed here for their own reasons. So, it will be highly appreciated if you respect their things at all cost.
- All the intoxicating items including cigarettes, alcohol, and even food items are not allowed inside. The only thing a person can carry is a water bottle. So do remember to either keep it aside before entering to leave it back in your hotel.
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