One of Ladakh’s main attractions are its monasteries. Some of the oldest and most 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. Ladakh’s landscape may be barren brown, but the monasteries here are a celebration of color and life. Some of them date from the 7th century and are known for their teachings, traditions, festivals and even architecture. Even in terms of location, these monasteries offer stunning views that are hard to get from anywhere else in Ladakh. Therefore, even if they are not religiously inclined, people still visit it just to have a different taste of culture and enjoy amazing views. One of these monasteries I would like to discuss in this post is the beautiful Stakna Monastery.
The word “Stakna” literally means “tiger nose” which was given to this monastery due to its location. It was built on a small tiger-nosed hill about 15 miles from the town of Leh on the 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 houses about 30 strange monks.
How to get to Stakna Monastery
Once you get to Leh City, visiting Stakna Gompa is quite easy. The village and monastery are located about 25 kilometers from Leh towards Karu, on the route from Manali to Leh. When traveling from Leh towards Karu, just after Thiksey, turn right, cross the bridge and you will reach the village of Stakna where this monastery is located. Road conditions are good and by your own vehicle it will take you no more than 30 to 40 minutes to reach the monastery. In total, a return trip from Leh will take about 2-3 hours. In fact, you can take your vehicle to the monastery. The bridge on the Indus River is a suspension, but it is motorized and capable enough for one car to cross at a time.
How to get to Stakna by Bus
If you were not traveling with your own vehicle and depended on public transport, there are several buses that you can board to get to Stakna Monastery. There is a direct bus to Stakna from Leh City at 4.30 pm and arrives at the village at 5.30 pm. For the reverse trip, there is a daily bus from Stakna at 8:45 am to Leh at 9:45 am.
But this is not really the only bus you will need to trust. In addition to the 4:30 pm bus, there are 5 other buses to Sakti from Leh and you can board one of them. The only condition is that you have to go down the Manali Leh road near the bridge and walk a little to reach the monastery, less than a kilometer away. For these and other bus schedules, read the Leh City Bus Service – Timetable and frequency.
Bikes, scooters and rental bikes
This is one of the next best options for sightseeing in the city of Leh. Even if you were not a confident driver and did not want to go through the high altitude passes alone, you can still rent a bike from Leh. In the main city, and also in villages like Stakna, it’s almost like walking in any other city on the plains. An automatic scooter will cost around Rs. 800 – 1000 a day and a motorcycle will cost around 1200 – 1500 a day, depending on which one you rent. I recommend opting for this as it will give you the flexibility to visit other monasteries and places while traveling to Stakna. For details, read How to rent a motorcycle in Leh and what are the rates?
If you enjoy cycling and would like to rent one for a day in Leh, you can also do so. For more information read How to rent a bike in Leh?
You can also rent a private taxi just from Stakna or a full day sightseeing tour of Leh City. This is also a great option if you are on budget. For information on how much it will cost, read Taxi Fares in Leh Ladakh.
What to see in Stakna Monastery
Or perhaps I should express this statement as what is the best known Stakna monastery. One thing you should know about all monasteries is that they are religious places where people pray. So everything there will be related to Buddhist or Tibetan culture, religion and history. If this is not in your best interest, it is best not to visit any monastery.
But most monasteries also have an ace up their sleeves, in the shape of where they are built. This is also the best part of Stakna Monastery. From your roof you will have a breathtaking panoramic view of the Stok Ranges, the Indus River, the green valley and the arid peaks. It is also a less crowded monastery, where not many tourists are visited. Therefore, if the purpose of your visit was also to spend time with the lamas and learn, the Stakna Monastery will serve that purpose well.
The interior of the monastery is very colorful, with beautifully painted wooden pillars and walls, decorated with intricate paintings by many Buddhist gurus such as Bodhisattva, Tshong-san-Gompa and Padma Sambhava. There are also some amazing paintings by Sakyamuni, Tsephakmad and Amchi and various artifacts, idols and bells made of bronze and silver in the main prayer hall. The only sound you will hear will be the drum music and the hum of the singing monks. The whole atmosphere of the monastery is very peaceful and you would love to sit and spend as much time as possible here.
I was here at night, at sunset time. Once the monastery lights are on, the view is absolutely stunning. Some other nearby places you can include on your trip to Stakna are the Thiksey, Hemis, Shey and Druk White Lotus School (Rancho School) monasteries. Yes, I’m talking about the same school as the movie 3 Idiots.
How to plan a visit to Stakna Monastery
Now let’s talk about the most important question of all. How do you plan your visit here? There are several ways to do this.
- Drive to the monastery in the evening at sunset and return to Leh for the night.
- Plan a tour of the monastery, which is also the most popular way. That way you can several other monasteries that I mentioned above.
- Take a short break here while traveling from Manali to Leh or Leh to Manali.
- Take a short break here while traveling from Leh to Pangong Tso or from Pangong to Leh.
Where to stay
There is no option to spend the night at the monastery, for which many people plan. The best thing to do would be to stay in Leh and plan a day trip to Stakna. Start early in Leh and you can also visit Thiksey, Stakna and Shey Monasteries and the same-day Rancho school. If you, however, stay somewhere closer, you could also look for an option in Karu and Upshi.
Where to eat
There is also no dining arrangement at the monastery. Bring some snacks, cookies, chips, etc., along with a bottle of water. There are also several dhabas and small restaurants on the Manali Leh road where you can eat.
Best time to visit Stakna Monastery
The best time to visit the monastery will be the same time to visit Ladakh. The ideal time will be between May and September. During these months, the weather is favorable, the roads are open and accommodation is easily available. If you are traveling in the winter months, you will have to board a flight to Leh and get to 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 just as well, but not as well as the other three. So as long as you have a postpaid connection, you will also stay connected at Stakna. The chances of connectivity are better with BSNL, Airtel and Jio.
Photography is not allowed in the main prayer hall, but in other parts of the monastery. Many people like to click on a photo of or with monks, but ask for their permission before doing so. Do not point the camera at who you like.
Dress modestly as you enter the monasteries. You should avoid wearing tiny or revealing clothes; or dress in a manner that seems respectful to the monastery and its monks. Choose slightly lost, simple, modest clothes that cover the whole body, including arms and legs.
Monasteries are religious places of worship. Please be sure to keep quiet and remain calm.
Do not smoke or drink inside the monastery. Leave your cigarettes and alcohol out.
Turn the phone to silent or turn it off.
Keep at a respectable distance from the idols and platforms on which they are established. If you were visiting children, do not allow your child to run or play with anything inside the monastery.
When you are in the presence of a Buddha statue, it is customary to bow your head regardless of your own religious views. Avoid pointing fingers and feet at the Buddha or the monks.
Altitude of Stakna Monastery
The monastery is located at an elevation of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet).
Is a permit required to visit Stakna Monastery?
No, you do not need to get a permit to visit the monastery. You can get there, buy the ticket and get in. In fact, internal line permission is not required to visit anywhere in Leh city. It is only necessary when you travel from Leh to other areas of Ladakh like Nubra or Pangong. You can simply reach Stakna and visit the monastery without obtaining any permission.
Stakna Monastery Schedules
The monastery is open to visitors from 6 am to 6 pm every day, including Sundays. It is open even on all holidays, but remains closed from 13:00 to 14:00 during lunch time.