Hemis Gompa

Buddhist Monastery in Hemis

This expansive, 17th-century monastery is the spiritual centre of Ladakh’s Drukpa Buddhists. While the rectilinear exterior lacks the vertically stacked perfection of Chemrey or Thiksey, the setting, in a sharp valley behind curtains of craggy red rocks, is atmospheric, especially on misty mornings. The complex's fine central courtyard has colourfully detailed timbers, the main prayer hall has wobbly three-storey pillars, and the Guru Lakhang's garish, 8m-high Padmasambhava statue has hypnotic eyes.

Documents supposedly found in the Hemis treasury were used to support the theory that Jesus Christ visited Kashmir. They have since disappeared, but the monastery’s extensive museum retains some other very precious religious treasures mixed in with tiger skins, skull vessels, swords and a stuffed ‘vulture pup’. Avoid crowds by arriving early and exploring the atmospheric upper, rear shrines like the Tsom Lakhang.

If you arrive outside official opening times, the museum will be closed, but some rooms of the monastery will be in use. If there's space, you can join the morning puja (around 7am) with dozens of child novice monks.