The Diskit Village is located slightly off the little hamlet of Khalsar. Dotted with apricot plantations, Diskit is amongst the larger villages in the region, and home to the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa - the oldest, and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley.
Diskit has a number of rudimentary hotels and guest houses, with an odd store here and there. On your Ladakh holidays, do carry ample supplies with you when you leave Leh, as Nubra has little to offer besides the very basic. The road between Diskit and the quaint little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. Keep your eyes open for the double-humped camels!
Situated at an altitude of 3600 m
above sea level, the monastery of Tiksey is situated about 20 km far from the town of Leh
and ranks among the most important monasteries in Ladakh. It is the seat of Tiksey Rinpoche, the main leader of the Gelug School in Ladakh and is the main and leading monastery for more than ten other famous Ladakhi monasteries such as Diskit, Spituk, Likir, and Stok. It is believed that in the early 15th century, Tsongkhapa, the founder of the reformed Gelug School, sent six of his disciples to remote regions of Tibet to spread the teachings of the new school. One of these six was known as Sherab Sangpo.
Thiksey is one of the finest examples of Ladakhi architecture. This Gompa is situated on the top of the hill and forms part of Gelukpa order. The 12-storey monastery complex contains numerous stupas, statues, thankas, wall paintings, swords and a large pillar engraved with the Buddha's teachings apart from the sacred shrines and other precious objects to be seen.
125 km west of Leh, Lamayuru monastery was founded in the 10th century. According to a popular folktale, Lamayuru was once a lake. A Lama once blessed the place so that it caused the waters of the lake to recede up to the mountains and left the place for the monastery to be built. This monastery is in utter ruins and only its main hall stands to this day housing numerous Tankhyas. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival is held here annually during summer on the 28th and 29th days of the second Tibetan month. Lamayuru has some fascinating caves carved out of the mountainside and is set on a high cape overlooking the village and valley. The monastery is also known as Yung Drung (meaning 'Swastika') and is worth seeing, if only for its beauty that surmounts that of any other gompa of the region.
The Cave Monastery of Shergole is old and small but has elegant frescoes. A peculiar Buddhist monastery of the region, it juts out of a brown, granite cliff and is frighteningly suspended in the middle of the mountain. The architectural oddity of the monastery along with its thrilling views arouses the curiosity of not only the tourists but also the locals and it is a perfect thing that one would want to take a photograph of, as a memento to keep forever.
The Hemis monastery is situated 44 kilometres from Leh. We started out very early in the morning to cover the distance from Leh to the Hemis monastery, on a metal road that winds along the Indus river. It was a vain attempt at beating the crowd because the crowd had the same idea. A cavalcade of jeeps filled with tourists, was hot on our trail.
It is the largest monastery in Ladakh, Hemis belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. Built in 1630, 45 km south from Leh, it is not only impressive and intriguing but also different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. An annual festival is held for two days in June-July in the courtyard of the monastery to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava.
Hemis is the headquarter of the Red Hat Drukpa order and all the monasteries throughout Ladakh are administered by it.
18 km from Leh, Spituk Gompa is on the hilltop near River Indus. Od-De founded the Gompa in 11th century and was called Spituk (exemplary) by Rinchen Zangpo, a translator that visited the place. Initially it belonged to the Kadampa School but during the reign of King Gragspa Bumide, he transferred it to Gayluk Pa order. The monastery has a rich collection of ancient masks, antique arms, icons and numerous Thankas. An annual festival, known as the Spituk festival, is held here from 17th to 19th days of the eleventh month. There is another shrine, higher up the hill, known as the Mahakal Temple, dedicated to the deity of Vajrabhairava. It has a frightening face, which is unveiled only during the annual festival in January.
The Samtanling Gompa
The Samtanling Gompa at the relatively bigger Sumur Village is definitely worth a visit, and houses a fine collection of idols, frescos and tangkhas (painted and embroidered scrolls). Sumur too offers basic holiday accommodations, and a few days spent in this busy little village can be a very pleasant experience.
There is a lovely campsite by the river, close to the village. The campsite, like some others in Nubra, offers good tents-for-two with beds and a table and common dining and wash rooms. Though a little steep on the pocket, the continental breakfast and the range of good food at the camp can be very tempting in Nubra, where a can of beans carried all the way from Leh is a delicacy.
Hot Water Sulphur Springs
The waters of the hot sulphur springs at the village of Panamik, the last destination travellers are permitted to travel to in Nubra, are believed to have certain medicinal qualities that cure a number of ailments.
If you are in the mood for yet another monastery, you can walk to the Ensa Gompa that is over 250 years old.