Alchi Gompa (65 km)

The Alchi monastery is more a monastic complex than a single monastery. Just like Likir, this one is of the earliest gompas in Ladakh and dates back to the 10th century. It has special historical and religious significance as it was founded by the great Tibetan scholar and translator Rinchen Zangpo, who was chosen by the then Tibetan king to spread Buddhism in the Trans-Himalayan region.

The king had sent our 21 scholars on this mission but only two survived the harsh climate. One of them was Zangpo, who spread the faith far and wide, and who also reached what is now Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim in India. Since he engaged local Kashmiri sculptors and artists to adorn the monastic complex, Alchi’s style is an eclectic mix of both the Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Note, the wall paintings at Alchi are among the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh. The complex also has lavish wood carvings that have been described as almost baroque in style. Pause by the ‘oldest willow tree in Ladakh’ in the monastery complex and contemplate its origin – it is said to have grown out of Zangpo’s staff, which he set down there.

Administered by the Likir gompa, Alchi is built on flat ground – no climbing! It is located a short distance from the actual village, its busy approach road flanked by souvenir stalls. Alchi is an interesting monastery to visit but it’s worth the drive only if you are en route to Lamayuru gompa.