One of the primary attractions of Ladakh is its monasteries. Some of the most ancient and beautiful monasteries in the world are located here and are visited by thousands of people each year, including tourists, scholars, and people interested in Buddhist or Tibetan culture. The landscape of Ladakh may be a barren brown but the monasteries here are a celebration of colors and life. Some of them date back to as far as the 7th century and are known for their teachings, traditions, festivals and even architecture. Even in terms of the locations, these monasteries offer a stunning view that is hard to get from anywhere else in Ladakh. So, even if not religiously inclined, people still visit just to get a different taste of culture and enjoy an awesome view. One such monastery that I would like to discuss in this post is the beautiful Stakna Monastery.
The word ‘Stakna’ literally means ‘tiger’s nose’ which is given to this monastery due to its location. It is built on a small hill shaped like a tiger’s nose, about 25 kilometers from Leh town on Manali Leh Highway, on the left bank of the Indus River. It was found in the late 16th century by a Bhutanese scholar and saint, Chosje Jamyang Palkar and now is residence to about 30 odd monks.
Image By: Vinod Krishna
Below is a quick navigation menu of the details we will be covering in this post.
How to reach Stakna Monastery
For this part, I am assuming you are already in Leh town or at least know how to reach Leh. I will explain how you can get to Stakna Monastery from Leh or the best way to plan a visit here but in case you were wondering how to get to Ladakh first, then I will recommend reading How to reach Ladakh by Bike, Car, Bus, Train and Flight.
Once you have reached Leh town, visiting Stakna Gompa is fairly easy. The village and the monastery are located about 25 kilometers from Leh towards Karu, on Manali to Leh route. As you travel from Leh towards Karu, just after Thiksey, you will turn right, cross over the bridge and reach the village of Stakna where this monastery is located. The condition of the road is good and by your own vehicle, it will not take you more than 30 – 40 minutes to reach the monastery. In total, a return trip here from Leh will take about 2-3 hours. You can, in fact, bring your vehicle all the way to the monastery. The bridge on Indus River is a suspension one but is motorable and capable enough for one car to cross at a time.
How to reach Stakna by Bus
If you were not traveling by your own vehicle and were depending on public transport, then there are several buses that you can board to reach Stakna Monastery. There is a direct Bus to Stakna from Leh city at 4.30 pm and arrives at the village by 5.30 pm. For the reverse journey, there is a daily bus from Stakna at 8.45 am that reaches Leh by 9.45 am.
But this is really not the only Bus that you will have to rely upon. Apart from the 4.30 pm Bus, there are 5 other buses to Sakti from Leh and you can board either of them. The only condition is that you will have to get down on the Manali Leh Highway near the bridge and walk a little to get to the monastery which is less than a kilometer away. For timings of these buses and several others, please read Bus Service in Leh City – Timetable and Frequency.
Rented Bikes, Scooters & Bicycles
This is among the next best option for sightseeing in Leh town. Even if you were not a confident rider and did not want to go crossing high altitude passes on your own, you can still rent a bike in Leh town. In the main city, and also to the villages like Stakna, it is almost like riding any other city in the plains. An automatic scooter will cost about Rs. 800 – 1000 per day and a motorcycle will cost about 1200 – 1500 per day, depending on which one you rent. I will highly recommend opting for this because it will then give you the flexibility of visiting other monasteries and places as well while traveling to Stakna. For more details, please read How to rent a motorcycle in Leh and what are the Rates?
If you are into bicycling and would like to rent one for a day in Leh, you can do that as well. For more information, please read How to rent a Bicycle in Leh?
You can also rent a private taxi either for just Stakna or an entire day sightseeing around Leh City. This also is a great option if within budget. For information on how much it will cost you, please read Taxi Rates in Leh Ladakh.
What to see in Stakna Monastery
Or maybe I should phrase this statement as what is Stakna monastery best known for. One thing that you should know about every monastery that they are religious places where people pray. So everything in there is going to be related to Buddhist or Tibetan culture, religion, and history. If that is not something of your interest, then you should best skip visiting any monastery at all.
But most of the monasteries also have an ace up their sleeves in form of the location that they are built at. That is also the best part about Stakna Monastery. From its roof, you will get a panoramic and stunning view of the Stok ranges, Indus River, the green valley, and the barren peaks. It is also a lesser crowded monastery where not many tourists visit. So if the purpose of your visit was also to spend some time with the lamas and learn, then Stakna Monastery will well serve the purpose.
The inside of the monastery is very colorful with beautifully painted wooden pillars and walls decorated with intricate paintings of many Buddhist gurus like Bodhisattva, Tshong-san-Gompa, and Padma Sambhava. There are also some incredible paintings of Sakyamuni, Tsephakmad, and Amchi and several artefacts, idols, and bells made of bronze and silver in the main prayer hall. The only sound you will hear will be the music of the drums and hum of the monks chanting. The whole environment of the monastery is very peaceful and you would just love to sit down and spend as much time here as you can.
I was here during the evening, at the time of the sunset. Once the lights of the monastery are switched on, the view is absolutely gorgeous. Some other nearby places that you can include with your trip to Stakna are the monasteries of Thiksey, Hemis, Shey and Druk White Lotus School (Rancho School). Yes, I am talking about the same school from the movie 3 Idiots.
How to Plan a Visit to Stakna Monastery
Now let us talk about the most important question of all. How do you plan your visit here? There are multiple ways to do this.
- Drive to the monastery in the evening at the time of sunset and return to Leh for the night.
- Plan a monastery tour which is also the most popular way. That way, you can several other monasteries that I mentioned above.
- Take a short break here while either traveling from Manali to Leh or Leh to Manali.
- Take a short break here while either traveling from Leh to Pangong Tso or from Pangong to Leh.
Where to Stay
There is no option of staying overnight at the monastery which a lot of people plan for. The best thing to do would be to stay in Leh and plan a day visit to Stakna. Start early from Leh and you can also cover Thiksey, Stakna, and Shey monasteries and Rancho school as well on the same day. If you would, however, stay somewhere closer, then you can also look for an option in Karu and Upshi.
Where to Eat
There is also no arrangement for meals in the monastery. Bring along some snacks, biscuits, chips, etc along with a bottle of water. There are also several dhabas and small restaurants on Manali Leh road where you can eat.
Best time to visit Stakna Monastery
The best time to visit the monastery will be the same as the best time to visit Ladakh. 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 Stakna from there.
The first thing you should know is that only postpaid connections work in Leh Ladakh. BSNL, Airtel and Jio have the best connectivity. Vodafone and Idea postpaid connections work as well but not as well as the other three. So as long as you are carrying a postpaid connection, you will remain connected at Stakna as well. Chances of connectivity are better with BSNL, Airtel and Jio.
Photography is not allowed in the main prayer hall but is allowed in other parts of the monastery. A lot of people like clicking a picture of or with Monks but please seek their permission before doing so. Do not just go pointing your camera at anyone you like.
Dress modestly while entering the monasteries. You should avoid wearing skimpy or revealing clothes; or dress in a manner that would seem respectful to the monastery and its monks. Chose clothes that are a little lose, simple, modest and cover your entire body including arms and legs.
The monasteries are religious places of worship. Please ensure that you maintain silence and remain clam.
Do not smoke or drink inside the monastery. Leave your cigarettes and alcohol outside.
Turn Your Phone to Silent or switch it Off.
Keep at a respectable distance from the idols and platforms that they are established on. If you were visiting with children, please do not allow your child to run around or play with anything inside the monastery.
When you are in presence of a Buddha Statue, it is customary to bow your head irrespective of your own religious views. Avoid pointing your fingers and feet either at Buddha or the monks.
Stakna Monastery Altitude
The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 ft).
Also Read: How to Calculate Budget for Leh Ladakh Trip
Is there a permit required for visiting Stakna Monastery?
No, you do not need to obtain a permit for visiting the monastery. You can just reach there, buy the ticket and enter. 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. You can just reach Stakna and visit the monastery without needing to get any permit at all.
Stakna Monastery Timings
The monastery is open for visitors from 6 AM to 6 PM every day, including Sundays. It is open even on all public holidays but remains closed from 1 pm to 2 pm during lunch hours.
Hemis Monastery Entry Fee
There is an entry fee of Rs. 30 per person for visiting the monastery.
I hope the information and details above on visiting the Stakna monastery were 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.