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Alchi- The Oldest Monastery of Ladakh 


A quintessentially scenic sanctuary nestled in the lap of the Himalayas is the Alchi monastery or Alchi Gompa. The monastery complex has four separate settlements all over the Alchi village and the Sham valley region. There are a number of monuments that date back to different periods in history here. Alchi is famous and also one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. 


Alchi forms part of three villages, namely Alchi,  Mangyu and Sumda Chun, which comprise the ‘Alchi’ group of monuments. The monuments of all these three villages are of unique craftsmanship and style. Out of the three, the Alchi monastic complex is the most famous. Some of the paintings here are the oldest paintings in the whole of Ladakh. 


When to visit Alchi monastery

Ladakh India Alchi Monastery Alchi Gompa Ladakh Jammu Kashmir India Stock Photo

The image shows the oldest monastery in Ladakh, Alchi monastery

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The best time to visit Alchi monastery is at the festival time in summer. The months of May to August are ideal as the temperature is also comfortable and many festivals are celebrated in these months. Celebrations like Chotrul Duchen, Galdan Namchot, Losar, Dajyur, and Sho Dunand Monlam are the main festivals here. 


How to Reach Alchi Monastery

The Alchi Monastery is located at a distance of 70 km from Leh city, the best way to reach it is to hire a cab from Leh and travel by road. 

History of Alchi monastery

Ladakh India Alchi Monastery Alchi Gompa Ladakh Jammu Kashmir India Stock Picture

The old structures in Achi monastery

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Rinchen-Zangpo, a famous scholar and translator created the Alchi monastery. Some historical scriptures also state the role of a Tibetan noble known as Kal-dan Shes-rab. The monastery is made in the traditional Tibetan style. 

There are three main shrines in the complex: the Dukhang or the Assembly hall, the temple of Manjushri and the Sumtsek. The complex is also adorned with chortens

The wall paintings depicting Kashmiri and Buddhist styles are what attract people towards this place. There is also a huge statue of Buddha and beautiful artwork and wood carvings. 


The architecture of the Alchi monastery

A row of golden prayer wheels Royalty Free Stock Images

The image shows copper prayer wheels in the Alchi monastery

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What strikes me as unique, the Alchi monastery has three main parts namely Dukhang, Manjushri temple and Sumtseg. 



Dukhang is the entrance to the Manjushri temple and the place where monks perform their ceremonies and worship. The door is of the original wood and it has retained the structure through time. Mahakal and Wheel of Life are the landmarks of Dukhang. 


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The image shows ancient Buddhist symbols

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The most distinct feature of this monastery is Sumsteg which is made up of natural stone and loam. The credit goes to Kashmiri artists who made all the vintage paintings and artwork inside the monastery. It was in the 13th century that the original structure was made. Further additions of Buddha’s life prints in textiles were added later on. 


Manjushri Temple

The Manjushri temple, also known as Jampe Lhakhang dates back to the 13th century again. The paintings here are a little unrefined. The Lhotsava temple which is situated at the left of Manjushri temple was also a later addition. 


How to get to Alchi


The only way to get to Alchi is to travel by road from Leh. you can either take the state-run JKSRTC buses which are both economical and frequent. There are daily buses that ply between Alchi and Leh. the buses going from Leh to Kargil will also stop at Alchi which is on the way. 


Being only 70 km away from Leh city, Alchi can be reached on a private taxi too.  It’s best to leave early from Leh to avoid traffic, especially army convoys and civil trucks. On the other hand, travelling on bikes is the easiest and fastest way to reach Alchi. The route is scenic with beautiful bends on the roads. The turns may look dangerous too, but what is life without a little adventure, right? You can also rent motorcycles from Leh city to travel to Alchi. It is best to keep your petrol tank full as the route is tricky for sure. 


Driving distance from Leh to Alchi


The distance is close to 70 km, and driving time from Leh to Alchi will take you an easy one hour and about 40 minutes. Enjoy the scenic way and I can guarantee, your camera lens won’t rest for a while!


Accommodation at Alchi village

There are hotels and homestay options available at Alchi. We have some great properties that we can arrange for you. There is Wi-fi, parking space, running water and comfortable rooms at the resorts and homestays we offer. 


Alchi must definitely be on your itinerary for Leh Ladakh as apart from being the oldest, it also has some amazing artwork depicting both Kashmiri and Buddhist styles. The Alchi village surrounding the monastery is also a cute quaint little hamlet set in the arid hills. Do pay a visit and take in all the tranquillity and feel unparalleled bliss in one f the most revered place in Ladakh. 


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