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Lamayuru monastery and surroundings, a must stop on your route through Ladakh

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Lamayuru monastery and surroundings

Lamayuru monastery and surroundings!

Sometimes I really want to retire to a lost, remote place. I don’t mean to go visit it, if not to stay there for a while. The crazy life that those of us who live in a big city lead is what awakens them. That place could be the Lamayuru monastery and its surroundings, an essential stop on a trip to Ladakh (and easier to reach than it seems!).

Sometimes I really want to retire to a lost, remote place. I don’t mean to go visit it, if not to stay there for a while. The crazy life that those of us who live in a big city lead is what awakens them. That place could be the Lamayuru monastery and its surroundings, an essential stop on a trip to Ladakh (and easier to reach than it seems!).

If you are considering a route through the Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir region, a stop that you should note is Lamayuru and its surroundings

Famous on the tourist routes for its monastery, in Lamayuru you can sleep in a guesthouse sharing a patio with the monks, who are silent and almost invisible. Few, as in most of the Buddhist monasteries of little Tibet. The splendid days of feudal rule are long over, although these communities are still very influential in their villages.

In fact, families continue to send their children to study, with their habits on, in the village monastery. Thus they assure them a daily meal, some instruction, and accumulate good karma . The one that always comes in handy for the other life.

One of the first images that I remember of the Lamayuru monastery is when we arrived.

It was in the afternoon and the kids between 10 and 12 were coming back from school to the monastery. They entertained themselves by playing with each other and eating bags of potato chips and other sweets like the boys here do, as a snack, next to the door of the monastery. His interest in me or any of my colleagues was practically nil. Quite the opposite of ours towards them.

Lamayuru is near the Kashmir border, and next to the Valley of the Moon

How many “valleys of the moon” will there be on Earth?

Before seeing the monastery, the road that takes us from Ladakh to Kashmir goes through the Valley of the Moon. Fantastic sandstone formations suddenly surround you. If the sun is low, as is the case, the image is much more impressive. It reminds you of the odd desert , and that makes you smile.

Then the monastery appears among the curves, orchards and poplars that rise defiantly with their green leaves, competing with the colors of the bare mountains of vegetation.

Right away you are in Lamayuru village. On top of it, as in all the towns of Ladakh, stands the monastery. Presiding. With its red and black wooden balconies, its curtains with the five colors that Tibetan Buddhism uses everywhere, and a gompa with its prayer flags a few meters above.

After occupying the rooms of the Guesthouse Niranjana, which is the name of the accommodation that shares a patio with the monastery, and seeing where the bathroom is to be shared by all, we bundled up a little more and climbed to the highest point of the gompa. It is a walk that is great after so many hours of driving, but it is also an effort to add to the altitude. We are more than 3500 meters high. Never mind.

Up there, one of the images that you dreamed so much and that you already adore awaits you. Buddhist flags flapping in the wind, throwing up their prayers as they slowly unravel.

The wind … the wind is strong that afternoon, announces a storm that does not discharge, and it is cold. However, this is one of those moments that you will always remember because of the beauty around you. For the silence. For the grandeur. And because yes, even though you are not a believer in this or other religions, you feel that this place has magic.

We finished the day having a chai in a house a few meters below the monastery. We are the only customers and the man is eager to bring us some candles, since there is no electricity at that time. Some kids zascandilean among us.

The history of Lamayuru monastery

Dating back to the 10th century, it is said to be  one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. They also say that it is one of the largest in terms of number of monks, although only about 150 live in it. Apparently the community is 400 religious. Even so, as I have already told you, it is not that you see many there.

Legend has it that Lamayuru was formed after the visit of the sage Naropa , who drained the lake that filled the valley and founded the gompa alongside Rinchen Zangpo.

Rinchen Zangpo is one of those mythical characters who is credited with building more than 100 monasteries. A sage who traveled India several times in search of ancient Buddhist scriptures, returning to Ladakh to preserve and translate them into Tibetan.

The Lamayuru monastery is made up of several buildings, most of which can be visited. Do not stop looking at the stones carved with symbols, which appear unexpectedly as you go from one to another.

According to local regulations, women cannot be in their rooms after night has fallen.

To know more about the monastery, you can check Wikipedia , for example. I’m going to keep telling you about my experience there 😉

A somewhat hectic night

The sensations of that sunset contrast with the lively dinner that we have. We were alone in the guesthouse, apart from the managers of the attached restaurant.

When we retired to sleep, the wind howled fiercely in the old windows of my room. This was located next to the access door of all the others, on the corner of the inner courtyard of the monastery.

At midnight, I was awakened by men banging on the door. They were shouting in Ladakhí or some other language, I couldn’t identify it. They insisted, while I waited for them to leave. They insisted. I got mad. I yelled at them in Spanish to shut up and get out. They insisted a little more, with the same urgency and the same force when it came to pounding on the door, but I screamed louder. They left.

To open the door, not to speak, and even less as a woman in those lands (nor in these, really).

Maybe they were truck drivers looking for accommodation and they thought that the first door is where the person in charge of the guesthouse was sleeping. Or it could have been bandits, who say that there are, there are.

The village of Lamayuru or how is rural life in Ladakh

The next day begins with a small trekking around one of the mountains that stands next to the Lamayuru valley.

Coming down from the monastery, there are small stupas surrounded by stones with Om Mani Padme hum , the most widespread mantra in Tibetan Buddhism. Words that are mostly associated with a representation of Avalokiteshvara, of which the Dalai Lama is considered a reincarnation.

You go through town, and people greet you. Some men are making bricks, the same way I saw in Iran many years ago.

Some women come from shopping. There is a girl who is going to fetch water from the fountain. It seems beautiful to you. Her mother arrives and you tell her by gestures. And by gestures she makes you understand that yes, but that she has unruly hair.

Another girl greets you from her window. An older couple carries a cart full of grass for cattle. Leaving the town, the peasants cut the cereal with their sickles, and a beautiful landscape opens up.

A hard life, and at the same time in such a wonderful environment. In summer. What will winter be like here?

Wanla and its monastery

Wanla is a village that can be reached on this route on foot, or also by car. It is very close to Lamayuru, in a parallel valley.

It is crowned by its own monastery, smaller than Lamayuru’s, but it also appears taller. We are actually in a castle in whose center the monastery was built. Currently, the Achi association is rebuilding it.
Apparently it is simpler and it seems to you that it is older than the Lamayuru monastery, but it is not like that. It is just more rustic.

Down in the village, there are a couple of shops along the road that runs through it. You can buy snacks or have a chai. Little more. The town climbs the mountainside, full of houses with beautiful balconies.

Two large prayer wheels , housed in a brightly painted pavilion, start the way up to the monastery.

In Wanla you can order a meal in one of the houses that are preparing to give this service to the few tourists who go there. An opportunity to contribute to the local economy , to discover a traditional house inside, and to savor one of its festive dishes. The daily diet is much leaner.

I remember that kitchen, with a large cupboard where the trousseau of copper and ceramic pots are perfectly aligned. Next to them is the wood stove that is surely the best resource to withstand the cold. There the star dish is prepared, delicious homemade pasta momos , with spinach-type vegetables.

The carpeted floor, cushions against the walls. Trunks that serve as tables. A cozy atmosphere, and like from another time.

And I remember the people, always the people. It’s the best of the sites, don’t you think?

How to get to Lamayuru monastery

Lamayuru is located 111 kilometers from Leh and 153 km from Kargil, already in Kashmir . The highway is NH1.

The number of kilometers is misleading. It will take about 6 hours to get to / from Leh, and about five hours on the way to / from Kargil.

You can go by taxi, just one way or round trip, and from both reference directions (Leh or Kargil), the price is the same. Just under 3,500 rupees if it is one way, and about 4,500 if it is round trip. There are also buses for 120 Rupees that come and go from these cities [prices 2016].

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