There are numerous monasteries all over Ladakh. Every village and town actually has one of its own. Some of these monasteries are quite large and well known whereas others are smaller and located in remote areas. The common factor among all of them, however, is that they are all equally beautiful and have a history of their own. One such beautifully located is the Alchi Monastery.
The village of Alchi is not too far away from Leh. From the main Srinagar Leh Highway, it is a short drive of just about 4 kilometers and from Leh, it is about 65 kilometers. But still, not too many people visit here. It is located right next to the Indus River and is a beautiful place to spend some time. You can even stay overnight in the village if you had some time to spare or you can just plan a short day-trip.
In this article, I will provide a brief travel guide on how you can plan a trip to Alchi Monastery and the village from Leh. If, after reading the article, you had any other questions, please feel free to ask in comments towards the bottom of this page.
The village of Alchi is a small village situated on low land on the banks of Indus River, about 65 kilometers downstream and west of Leh City. It is laid out in four settlements around the river.
The land around the village is very fertile due to which you will find plenty of greenery here. The narrow lanes inside the village are marked with Apricot trees on both sides and even the drive from the highway to the village is a very pleasant one. With the Indus River flowing right next to it, the whole setting of the village is highly scenic.
About Alchi Monastery in Ladakh
Alchi Village is best known for its monastery, also known as Alchi Gompa. While other Gompas in Ladakh are located on hilltops, the one in Alchi is situated on lowland. Considered to be one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, it is a Buddhist worshipping place as well as a study center managed by the lamas of Likir; and is said to have been built between 958 and 1055 AD. The monastery complex is separate from the other village settlements.
The monastery is best known for its excellent architecture with its assembly hall built in Kashmiri style and wall paintings reflecting the artistic and details of the kings that ruled Ladakh. It has monuments and scriptures believed to be as old as the 10th century. Giant but beautiful Buddha Statue, elaborate wood carvings and charming artwork are some of its other attractions.
How to reach Alchi Monastery
The village and the monastery are located quite close to the Srinagar Leh highway. From Leh, it is about 65 kilometers of drive and 160 kilometers from Kargil. Coming from Leh side, you will drive about 60 kilometers from Leh and will reach the Alchi Road. It is a narrow road and easy to miss so keep an eye out. If you were coming from Leh, it will be to your left.
It is also this spot where Indus River will again appear next to the road after vanishing since the last time you saw it near the Indus Zanskar Confluence. Turn left, cross the small bridge on the river (the one in the image below), drive for 4 kilometers and you will arrive at Alchi Village.
By Rented Motorcycle
The best and easiest way to get here would be by your own vehicle, following the route I explained above. But if you reached Leh by public transport, then renting a motorcycle for a trip to Alchi will be a good idea. On the same trip, you will also be able to cover some other places like Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, Sangam Point, and Likir Monastery, etc.
If you weren’t confident about riding a bike, you can also rent an automated scooter like Activa. Please read Leh Ladakh Motorcycle Rates to read about how much it will cost you.
Unfortunately, there is no direct bus available for Leh to Alchi Village. But you can board any bus going towards Lamayuru, Kargil or Srinagar and get down near Alchi Road. The bus will drop you near the bridge itself. For the last 4 kilometers, you can hitchhike if you came across another vehicle or will have to walk the rest of the way.
By Private Taxi
This may cost you a little but will definitely be the easiest and most comfortable way to travel in Ladakh. You will cover the same route I explained above, visit the same places and if you had time in hand, may even go as far as Lamayuru. Please read Leh Ladakh Taxi Rates to read about how much it will cost you.
Shared taxis will be another best way to travel. These are available from the Bus stand itself and are more frequent than a Bus. Just reach the Bus stand in the first half of the day and board any cab traveling towards Lamayuru.
If not a shared cab, you can just hitchhike as well which is a great budget option to travel. During the tourist season, you will find a lot of tourists traveling on the route and anyone will be happy to give you a ride. Someone in a car or taxi may not be that willing to stop but one of the motorcyclists will definitely will.
Places to visit in Alchi
Alchi is just a small village and as such, there is really no long list of tourist places in Alchi Village. The natural beauty of the place, Indus River and the calm and serene environment are its greatest attractions. In all honesty, you do not come to a place like this with expectations of a million things to see. Rather, you come here to just sit silently and relax for some time while getting away from the crowd.
Below is a list of places to visit in Alchi Village.
The monastery itself is set in a very calm and quiet environment and is perfect for some soul searching. The ambiance of the entire place is very soothing. Inside the monastery, the temples of Sumtsek, Lo Tsawa, Vairocana, Manjushree and Kangyur are worth visiting.
The entire monastery is decorated with beautiful wood carvings, large Buddha statues, and historic wall paintings of Buddha’s teachings. One of the walls has thousands of tiny Buddha pictures of Buddha painted on it and is quite interesting to see.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with family
The monastery complex consists of three major shrines: the Dukhang which is the Assembly hall, the Sumtsek and the Temple of Manjushri. All of the shrines are said to be dating from between the early 12th and early 13th centuries.
Other than the three major shrines, the monastery also has two other important temples; the ‘Lotsabha Lakhang’ and a new temple called the ‘Lakhang Soma’.
Dukhang (Assembly Hall)
Dukhag or the Assembly Hall is where the monks perform worship and ceremonies. It is a large and ancient Hall whose walls are painted with beautiful colors and forms of gods and deities. These are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh. The door frame at the entrance of the hall is said to be ancient and the original one from when the hall was built.
At the outer gate, one can see the paintings of ‘The Wheel of Life’ and ‘Mahakal’. In the passageway that leads to the hall, you will find beautiful frescoes of one thousand Buddhas.
The meaning of the word ‘Sumtseg’ is a three-storied building. The Alchi Sumtseg, though small, was built with loam and natural stone in the early 13th century. It is decorated with woodwork columns, facades, walls, clay images and paintings made by Kashmiri artists. The sanctum occupies the ground floor and the first floor.
A large statue of Maitreya Buddha is located inside, flanked by images of Avalokiteshwara to its right and Manjushri to its left.
The images represent the Buddhist concepts of compassion, hope, and wisdom.
Following the building of the Sumtseg are the Chortens. A Stupa is known as ‘Chorten’ in Tibetan and is an important religious monument. The Chortens in Alchi Monastery are said to be from the early 13th century.
A little further down is the beautiful temple of Manjushri with a huge idol of Tara inside the sanctum. The temple is located close to the Indus River and is believed to be dating back to around 1225 AD.
Indus River Viewpoint
Towards the back of the monastery, one can actually walk down to the Indus River that flows right next to it. I did not really know what else to call it so I just named it as a viewpoint. They have built a huge platform kind of spot with a view of the village, mountains and the river flowing down below.
It is a great place to spend some time in a peaceful environment, listening to the sound of the water and the wind, while admiring the natural beauty of the place.
A narrow lane towards the monastery hosts a number of shops selling Tibetan handicrafts, jewelry items, artifacts and idols of Buddha and several other Gods and Goddesses. It is a great place to shop that is not too crowded and has a lot of items that you may want to buy as a souvenir.
Gurudwara Patthar Sahib
As you start driving from Leh towards Alchi, you will come across Gurudwara Patthar Sahib about 23 kilometers later. It is an ancient Gurudwara dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is under the management of the Indian Army and is a must-visit place for everyone coming to Ladakh. You should stop here briefly while either going towards Alchi or coming back. To know more, please read Gurudwara Patthar Sahib of Ladakh.
Magnetic Hill of Ladakh
It is not in Alchi Village as such but will be on the way towards Alchi. It is a spot on Srinagar Leh Highway where your car will start to climb up the road on its own, with the engine turned off. Sounds intriguing? I agree. Magnetic Hill will fall about 4 kilometers after the Gurudwara. To know more, please read The Truth Behind the Magnetic Hill of Ladakh.
Indus Zanskar Confluence
Once you have experienced the Magnetic Hill, next in line would be the Indus Zanskar Confluence, commonly known as ‘Sangam’. It is a vantage point with an amazing sight of the Indus and Zanskar river merging into each other. It is among the most photographed spots of Ladakh and one that you just cannot miss. To know more, please read Sangam Point Ladakh – Indus and Zanskar River Confluence.
After you have taken a photograph at this spot, you can drive straight towards Alchi Village.
Things to do in Alchi
After talking about places to see in Alchi, let us talk in brief about what else can you do here. Shopping in the small but charming market will be one of the best things to do after you have visited the monastery. I found that the items on sale here were the same as the Leh market but priced much lesser. Not just religious things, but it is also a great spot to buy some cheap jewelry items.
Photography is what you should really indulge yourself in while visiting Alchi Village. With Indus River right next to it and all the greener, the village presents a great opportunity to capture some of your best Ladakh shots.
The pollution-free skies of Alchi lit up with millions of stars each night and become a sight for sore eyes. If you were carrying a capable camera and were into photography, you will have your fun clicking long exposure shots of the sky and star trails.
Other than this, just slow life down for a while, relax, do some soul searching, walk by the river and rejuvenate yourself. That is what you would want to do in Alchi Village.
Where to Stay in Alchi Village
Most people prefer to visit Alchi Village on a day trip. That is you start from Leh early in the morning and visit Alchi while covering some other nearby places like Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Indus Zanskar Rivers Confluence and Likir Monastery (commonly referred to as Sham Valley tour). You can do that as well but if you had some time in hand, I will highly recommend staying for a night in Alchi.
Accommodation in Alchi Village is mostly in the form of a few guesthouses and homestays. All of them are very basic and simple but will definitely be comfortable and warm enough. Alchi is at a lower altitude than Leh. Due to this, it can also be a great place to spend your first night in after landing in Leh to avoid altitude sickness in Ladakh.
Guest House in Alchi Village
Listed below are some recommended guest houses in Alchi Village.
Lower Ladakh Guest House Alchi, Alchi
It is a great place to stay and is located a little ahead of the monastery. I stayed here in January and it was very comfortable and warm. They have good rooms with attached bathrooms. Expect the price to be around Rs. 2000. You can contact them at 9419841306.
Lotsava Guest House, Alchi
A friend of mine stayed here and provided good feedback. The contact person is Stanzin and you can call him at 9419347729. Expect the price to be between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000. The price for rooms with an attached bathroom is Rs. 2000 and the ones with a shared bathroom are for Rs. 1500.
Other than the above, there are a few other guest houses like Choskor Guest House (094198 26363), Norbuling Guest House (9419841306) and Zimskhang Holiday Home (01982227086). Or just take a walk around the village and you will notice a few others as well. These were the names that I had the contact numbers for.
Hotels in Alchi Village
There is only one hotel here that I know of and its name is Potala Hotel. You can call them at 094198 80182. To be very honest though, I am only mentioning it here separately because it has ‘Hotel’ in its name. Otherwise, the difference between a hotel and guest house here is next to none. They are all more or less the same.
Homestay in Alchi
There are homestays available as well in Alchi. One that I know of is Lharjey Homestay (o9419306358). Or you can talk to the villagers and inquire about others.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Sham Valley
Camping in Alchi Village
There are camps in the village by the name of Sumtseg Camps that are operated by the monastery itself. It is a good option for someone traveling on a budget. Otherwise, if you were carrying your own camping gear, Alchi can be a good place to go self-camping as well.
Where to Eat
As far as I can tell, there are no big eateries or restaurants in the village. You may get some tea and snacks but that will be it. Other than this, you will have to eat at the guest house you are staying at.
If you were planning a day trip, I will recommend that you carry something to eat with yourself. Or else, you can eat at Nimmu Village that falls on the way. Another good place to have a meal is the Sangam Cafe, near the Indus Zanskar Confluence.
Best time to visit Alchi Village
The months from May to September are all equally good to visit Alchi Village. This is also the best time to visit Ladakh. Both the roads leading to Leh from Srinagar and Manali will be open at this time and you can plan a road trip. The weather too in these months is very enjoyable with moderately warm days and pleasantly cool nights. Since it is the peak tourist season, all hotels and guest houses will be up and running and you will have no problem finding a place to stay.
However, even if you were coming in any other month, you can still easily reach Alchi Village and the Monastery. The road from Leh to Alchi remains open for all 12 months. I myself was here for a couple of days in January and really enjoyed my stay.
Alchi Monastery Timings
The monastery is open from 10:00 am to 01:00 pm and 02:00 pm – 06:00 pm.
There is no entry fee applicable.
BSNL has the widest coverage in ladakh. Airtel comes next followed by Jio at third spot. In the village of Alchi, you will have network on both BSNL and Airtel phones but it must be a postpaid connections. Prepaid phones do not work anywhere in Ladakh. For more information on this, please read Mobile Network in Ladakh and Data Connectivity.
I hope the information above on visiting Alchi Monastery and Alchi Village was of help. If you have any questions; or need any other details; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.