Indian Monastery Tours

Indian Monastery Tours

Indian monastery tours present an exclusive opportunity to explore India's cultural and spiritual legacy. These monasteries, also known as viharas or gompas, are significant institutions in the religious and cultural aspects of India, particularly in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. They function as centers of learning, meditation, and community, and are typically located in remote and scenic areas that offer a glimpse into traditional Indian life.

An Indian monastery tour provides an avenue to admire the impressive architecture, intricate artwork, and serene surroundings of these establishments. Additionally, visitors can learn about the daily practices and lifestyle of the monks and nuns who reside in these monasteries, thus obtaining a better comprehension of the cultural and spiritual customs that have shaped India over the centuries.

Whether one is a history enthusiast, spiritual seeker, or an individual fascinated by beautiful architecture and art, an Indian monastery tour is an unforgettable experience. There are various tour options to suit different interests and preferences, making it possible for everyone to uncover something new on a monastery tour in India.

Top Monasteries to Visit

India is home to several remarkable and fascinating monasteries that are worth visiting. One of the most important and largest Buddhist monasteries in India is Hemis Monastery, located in the mountainous region of Ladakh. It is renowned for its annual Hemis Festival, which features colourful dance performances and attracts visitors from all over the world.

Another notable monastery is Tabo Monastery, situated in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monasteries globally, featuring stunning murals and ancient scriptures.

Tawang Monastery, located in Arunachal Pradesh, is the largest Buddhist monastery in India and one of the largest in the world. It offers breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains and a chance to experience the Buddhist way of life.

Sarnath Monastery, located near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, is a significant site for Buddhists as it is where the Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The monastery boasts beautiful temples and ancient ruins that provide a glimpse into the rich history of Buddhism in India.

Rumtek Monastery, located in Sikkim, is the largest and most important monastery of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet. It features stunning murals, intricate artwork, and beautiful gardens that make it a must-visit for anyone interested in Buddhist culture.

Ghoom Monastery, situated in Darjeeling, is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in India. It is famous for its 15-feet high statue of Maitreya Buddha and offers stunning views of the Himalayan mountains.

Finally, The Golden Temple, located in Amritsar, Punjab, is India's holiest Sikh shrine and one of the world's most visited religious sites. Its stunning architecture, peaceful atmosphere, and free meals make it a must-visit for anyone exploring India's religious heritage.

Monastery Tour Itineraries
  • Ladakh Monastery Tour: This tour offers an opportunity to explore the monasteries of Ladakh, which is situated in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The tour includes visits to famous monasteries such as Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Alchi Monastery, and Diskit Monastery, along with a chance to experience the unique culture, music, dance, and food of Ladakh.
  • Buddhist Circuit Tour: This tour takes you to some of the most important Buddhist sites in India, such as Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, and Kushinagar. The tour provides an opportunity to visit the sites where Buddha attained enlightenment, gave his first sermon, and passed away, as well as explore some of the ancient Buddhist monasteries and temples in the region.
  • Sikkim Monastery Tour: This tour focuses on the monasteries of Sikkim, a state in northeastern India that is home to several important Buddhist sites. During the tour, you will get to visit Rumtek Monastery, Pemayangtse Monastery, Tashiding Monastery, and more. You will also have an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the region, including its mountains, lakes, and forests.
  • Spiti Valley Monastery Tour: This tour takes you to the monasteries of Spiti Valley, a remote and breathtakingly beautiful region in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. You'll visit Tabo Monastery, Dhankar Monastery, Key Monastery, and other monasteries, along with an opportunity to explore the unique culture and landscape of the region, such as high-altitude villages, lakes, and snow-capped peaks.
  • North East Monastery Tour: This tour explores the monasteries of the northeastern states of India, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. You'll visit Tawang Monastery, Bomdila Monastery, Shillong Monastery, and other monasteries, along with experiencing the diverse cultures and landscapes of the region, including its tribal communities, waterfalls, and tea plantations.
Tips For Visiting Monasteries

If you're planning to visit monasteries in India, there are some tips that can help you make the most of your experience. Firstly, it's important to dress appropriately, as most monasteries require visitors to dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering. Secondly, be respectful of the monks and their way of life by not taking photographs without permission and refraining from loud talking or disruptive behavior. Thirdly, try to learn about the history and significance of the monastery beforehand, so you can appreciate its cultural and religious significance. Finally, consider hiring a local guide who can provide insight and context to your visit and help you navigate any cultural or language barriers. With these tips in mind, you can have a meaningful and respectful experience visiting the monasteries of India.

Cultural And Spiritual Significance

Monasteries in India hold a significant place in the country's cultural and spiritual landscape. They are not only places of worship but also serve as centers for learning, meditation, and community gatherings. These monasteries are often adorned with intricate artwork, stunning murals, and ancient scriptures, making them architectural marvels and a source of inspiration for visitors. The monasteries are also a testament to the rich and diverse history of Buddhism in India, which dates back over 2,500 years. The teachings and philosophy of Buddhism have had a profound impact on Indian culture, and the monasteries serve as a reminder of this legacy. Additionally, the monasteries are often located in remote and scenic locations, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the region and connect with their spiritual side.

Architectural And Art of Indian Monasteries

The architecture and art of Indian monasteries are a significant aspect of their cultural heritage. Many of these monasteries date back centuries and showcase a blend of different architectural styles and art forms. The use of vibrant colors, intricate carvings, and murals depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology are common features. The intricate designs and patterns carved on pillars, walls, and roofs are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of the artisans who built these monasteries. The use of natural materials like wood, stone, and mud bricks adds to the organic feel of the architecture and creates a harmonious connection with the surrounding landscape. Overall, the architectural and artistic elements of Indian monasteries provide a fascinating insight into the country's rich cultural and artistic heritage.

Festivals And Events at Indian Monasteries

Monasteries in India hold a significant place in the religious and cultural life of the people, and the festivals and events celebrated at these monasteries play a vital role in preserving and promoting the unique cultural heritage of the country. Some of the most important festivals celebrated at Indian monasteries include the Hemis Festival at Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, the Losar Festival at various monasteries in the Himalayan region, the Tawang Festival at Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, and the Saga Dawa Festival at various monasteries in Sikkim. These festivals are known for their vibrant and colorful celebrations, which include traditional dance performances, music, and religious rituals, and attract visitors from all over the world. In addition to these festivals, many monasteries also hold regular prayer ceremonies and teachings by revered spiritual leaders.

Monastery Cuisine

Monastery food in India is an essential element of monastic culture and signifies the modest and unassuming lifestyle of the monks. The cuisine is mostly vegetarian and prepared from locally-sourced ingredients, emphasizing seasonal vegetables. Popular dishes comprise thukpa, a soup made with noodles, momos, steamed or fried dumplings filled with vegetables or meat, and butter tea, a hot beverage consisting of tea leaves, butter, and salt. The culinary style may differ according to the region and monastery, with some having their signature dishes. Monks themselves usually cook and serve the food, and guests are invited to dine with them, presenting an exceptional opportunity to encounter the monastic lifestyle directly.

Monastery Tours for Families, Photographers & Spiritual Seekers

India offers a variety of monastery tours catering to different interests. For families, there are tours that focus on providing a fun and educational experience for children while exploring the monasteries' cultural and spiritual significance. These tours often include activities such as learning traditional dance, music, and art from the monks. Photographers can opt for tours that provide ample opportunities to capture the stunning architecture, intricate paintings, and scenic landscapes of the monasteries. For spiritual seekers, there are tours that offer a deeper understanding of Buddhism and the monastic way of life, including meditation sessions, talks on Buddhist philosophy, and interaction with monks. These tours often include visits to the monasteries that are off the beaten track, providing a more authentic and immersive experience. Whatever the interest, a monastery tour in India promises a unique and enriching experience.


Accommodations near Indian monasteries offer a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and experience the daily life of the monks. Many monasteries provide basic guesthouses for visitors, offering a simple and peaceful place to stay. These guesthouses often have shared facilities and provide vegetarian meals. In addition to guesthouses, there are also various hotels and resorts located near monasteries, providing more luxurious accommodations for those seeking a more comfortable stay. Some of these hotels offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and landscapes, making them an ideal choice for photographers and nature enthusiasts. Overall, staying near a monastery can be a rewarding and memorable experience, providing an opportunity to connect with the local culture and spirituality.

Best Time to Visit

The recommended period for visiting and discovering the monasteries in India depends on the location and specific monastery you plan to visit. However, generally, the most suitable time to visit most monasteries is during the cooler months from October to March, as the weather is comfortable, and there is minimal rainfall. This time also allows visitors to participate in various festivities and events celebrated in the monasteries, such as the Hemis Festival held between June and July and the Losar Festival, which marks the Tibetan New Year in February or March. However, it's important to note that some monasteries may have specific visiting days or hours, so it's recommended to check in advance to avoid any inconvenience during your visit.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are the ideal months to visit Indian monasteries?

The best months to visit Indian monasteries are between October and March, when the weather is pleasant and rainfall is minimal.

Are there any dress codes for visiting Indian monasteries?

Yes, visitors should dress modestly and conservatively, covering their shoulders and knees, and remove footwear before entering any religious place.

Can I take photographs inside Indian monasteries?

Photography policies vary between monasteries. However, visitors can usually take photographs in outdoor areas and some designated areas inside the monastery. It's important to respect the monastery's rules and restrictions.

Can I stay overnight at Indian monasteries?

Yes, some monasteries offer overnight accommodations, but availability may be limited. Making bookings in advance is recommended.

What type of cuisine is served at Indian monasteries?

Indian monastery cuisine is mainly vegetarian and prepared with locally sourced ingredients, emphasizing seasonal produce. Popular dishes include thukpa, momos, and butter tea.

Are there any specific etiquettes to follow when visiting Indian monasteries?

Yes, visitors should show respect to monks and other visitors, remove footwear before entering the monastery, avoid touching religious objects, and maintain a peaceful environment in the monastery.

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