Thiksey Monastery is a popular tourist destination in Ladakh, and for good reason. Located in the hilly country of northern Kashmir, Thiksey is the largest monastery in Ladakh and the only one to have been built during the Ladakhi Buddhist era.
Noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Tibet, Thiksey Monastery is a must-see building near Leh. One of the main attractions of Thiksey Monastery is its Maitreya Temple which commemorates the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1970. The temple has a 15m tall statue of Maitreya Buddha and it's one of the largest statues in North-West India. Thiksey Monastery belongs to the Gelug or Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhists. It also has an annual Gustor festival held in November where people come from all over Ladakh to trade items and socialize.
Thiksey Monastery is a classic example of an ancient gompa in Tibet. The monastery was established in around 1433 and had been there ever since. Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, the disciple of Tsongkhapa, founded it in what is now Stagmo north of the Indus Valley, in a village called Lhakhang Serpo (Yellow Temple). Later, Palden Zangpo restored it after religious conflicts during the mid-15th Century. Thiksey Gompa is what we now know as Thiksey Monastery today.
This monastery's architecture resembles that of the Potala Palace in Tibet, which has a similar ordering system. It also has an official residence, called the potang. The level of importance increases as you go down the hill and then crescendos as you reach the top. On top is a monument called Lamokhang and at the bottom are dwellings where monks once lived.
There's nothing like a visit to Thiksey Monastery during the Gustor Festival, which takes place in October or November. During the festival, visitors can witness the traditional Cham Dance that this sacred site is famous for.
The best way to get there is by hiring a car or renting a bike from Leh, which is around 19 km away.