Spituk Monastery, also known as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa, is a Buddhist monastery in the village of Spituk, at a distance of about 8 kilometers from Leh. It is one of the numerous monasteries in Ladakh but what makes this one special is its location.
The monastery sits on the top of a small hill, right next to Leh airport. It offers a panoramic view of the airport and the surrounding Leh Valley. This makes it a favorite among people wanting to shoot pictures of the Leh Valley with an airplane either taking off or landing.
It is also a great spot to capture timelapse videos, especially at the time of sunset, with the airport and the airplanes adding further charm to the videos and the pictures.
We visited Spituk monastery during my recent two-month-long road trip to Leh Ladakh. The post below provides a brief narration of our visit and several other necessary details about the monastery. To read the previous parts of this travelogue, you can follow the links below.
Journey So Far:
- Magnetic Hill – Day 17
- Leh Palace – Day 19
- Leh to Tso Moriri – Day 21
- Yaye Tso Lake & Hor La Pass – Day 21
- Sightseeing in Karzok Village – Day 22
- Tso Kar Lake – Day 22
- Hemis Monastery – Day 23
- Stakna Monastery – Day 23
- Matho Monastery – Day 23
- Stok Palace – Day 23
Below is a short video of our visit to Stok Palace. You can take a look at it and it can help you decide whether you should include it in your itinerary or not.
About Spituk Monastery
The monastery is said to be an ancient one, founded sometime in the 11th century. The word ‘Spituk’ means exemplary which relates to the entire story behind the monastery coming into existence.
It is said that after the introduction of the monastic community in this region, the monastery was founded with the belief that an exemplary religious community would arise here. This is why it was named Spituk Monastery.
The monastery is now home to about 100 monks and is connected to Leh City by a good motorable road. In my opinion, it is among the best spots to get an amazing view of the sunrise in Leh City.
How to reach Spituk Monastery
Reaching Spituk monastery is fairly easy. It is only about 10 minutes of drive from the city. You need to first reach the airport and from there, continue driving further ahead toward Nimmu.
Shortly after the airport, you will notice a road bifurcating to your left. This is the one that you need to turn. There are boards near the road marking the area and even the monastery itself is visible from the road.
There is no public transport available though. You will either have to travel in your own vehicle or a private taxi. Another option is to rent a bike in Leh for local sightseeing.
If neither of the above suits you, then just board any cab or a bus going toward Nimmu and get down at the Spituk bifurcation. You can also hitchhike. There will be a lot of tourists and locals traveling on the Srinagar Leh highway and anyone can drop you near the monastery.
Spituk Monastery Altitude
Spituk has an average elevation of 3,307 meters (10,852 feet).
Exploring the Monastery
Spituk monastery is not really a large one. I think people come here more for the view of the valley and the airport rather than to visit the monastery itself.
There is a giant statue of Kali in the monastery that is unveiled during the annual Spituk festival. For the rest of the year, the statue is kept covered and you are not allowed to see it.
There are a couple of other smaller temples in the complex. The one that intrigued me the most was the Butter lamp house but no one was allowed inside. We just had to see it from the outside, through the glass panes.
Of all the monasteries of Ladakh, Spituk was the one where we were not allowed inside any of the temples. There were prayers going on when we visited but no one was allowed to attend the prayers as well.
I am not really sure if it was just a one-time thing when we were there or if it was a regular practice. Since the gates of the temples were kept closed, all the tourists at Spituk, including us, were just sitting outside in the complex enjoying the view rather than focusing on the monastery.
Every year the Spituk Gustor Festival is held at the monastery in the month of January. The dates of the festival vary each year but it is mostly toward the end of January.
Spituk Monastery Timings
The visiting hours of Spituk Monastery are from 7 AM to 7 PM. You can however drive up the hill and be in the complex even before and after these timings to capture sunrise or sunset, or even a late evening view of the city and the airport.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide
Spituk Monastery Entry Fee
There is no entry fee for Spituk Monastery. I did not even notice a ticket counter there. We did not pay any money either for the monastery or car parking. It could be introduced in the later years but there is no entry charge at the time of writing this article.
Best time to Visit Spituk Monastery
The best time to visit the monastery will be the same as the best time to visit Ladakh. The ideal time will be anywhere between May to September.
In these months, the weather is favorable, roads are all open and accommodation is easily available. If you were traveling in the winter months, you will have to board a flight to Leh and then reach Spituk from there.
If you are planning a winter trip to Ladakh, then you can try to keep your dates around the Spituk Gustor festival. Cham dance is performed at the monastery and people gather in large numbers to witness.
The locals believe that after this festival, the weather becomes a little warmer and more pleasant. People wait in queue for hours at the gate of Gonkhang (the oldest part of the monastery) to catch a glimpse of the Mahakala statue.
You can check the dates of the festival at this post, Ladakh Festival Dates. If you can plan your itinerary according to the festival dates, it will surely add another experience to your trip.
BSNL, Jio, and Airtel have coverage at Spituk as long as you have a postpaid phone. Prepaid phones do not work here or anywhere else in Ladakh for that matter.
Leh to Spituk Monastery Distance
Spituk Monastery is located at a distance of about 8 kilometers from Leh City.
- Ladies are not allowed to stay overnight in the monastery. They are requested to leave the monastery before dark.
- Cigarette smoking on the monastery premises is strictly prohibited. You are not even allowed to carry cigarettes or chewing items in the monastery.
- Music on the monastery premises is not allowed. You are also not allowed to play the music even in your car parked in the monastery complex.
- Alcoholic drinks on the premises of the monastery are strictly prohibited.
You do not need to obtain a permit for visiting the monastery. You can just reach there and spend some time enjoying the view and peaceful environment.
In fact, Inner Line Permit is in fact not required to visit anywhere in Leh City. It is only needed when you travel from Leh to other areas of Ladakh like Nubra or Pangong.
That is mostly all that you need to know about visiting the Hemis Monastery. We spent about an hour at the monastery and then returned to the hotel. For the rest of the day, we did not go anywhere and just rested in our rooms.
- Journey Ahead: Tsemo Castle – The Best Place in Leh to See the Sunset
The next day, we visited another interesting place called Tsemo Castle. Even this one is within Leh City and you can get there in less than 15 minutes. Like Spituk is a great place to capture the sunrise, Tsemo Castle is one of the best locations to capture the sunset. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
I hope the travelogue, pictures, and information above on Spituk Monastery were of help. If you have any questions, you can contact me on Instagram and I will be happy to answer. You can also consider subscribing to my YouTube channel and asking a question there.