Being a travel enthusiast, I always feel like I am missing out on some of the most beautiful places this planet has to offer. When I planned a bike trip to Spiti Valley along with my friends in August, I was not expecting to be bowled over by the majestic Key Monastery.
The trip to Key Monastery during the Monsoon made me feel I was exactly where I needed to be.
So we woke up in the morning looking at this view as it drizzled a bit in the morning at Kaza.
For the folks who want to know if travelling to Spiti during monsoons is safe, yes against popular belief Kaza does not get any significant rain. I went in August and could not find much rain after Chitkul.
But I would also recommend bikers check out this article on fuel pumps in Spiti valley for a smooth ride.
Our journey from Jaipur to Key Monastery
We used the Shimla route to get to Kaza which is the most important town in the Spiti Valley. After eventually arriving in Kaza and spending at least one night there, we were able to make our way to the Key Monastery.
We rode to Key Monastery from our guest house. The distance between Kaza and the Key Monastery is 14 km.
Even though the journey was on rough roads, the vista and the landscape more than made up for it. Along this route, the icy desert of Spiti showed off all of its formidable potentials.
The high, snow-covered mountains that touched the beautiful blue sky created a setting that was just stunning. Key Monastery is an absolute must-see if you find yourself in the Spiti valley.
It is widely considered to be one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Spiti. In my opinion, the Key monastery is grossly underappreciated and ought to be on the bucket list of everybody who has a passion for travelling to well-known locations all over the world.
About Key Monastery – The Biggest Monastery in Spiti Valley
At an elevation of 4,166 m (13,668 ft), it is perched atop a hill and serves as the primary residence for several monks who receive their education here.
The majestic Key Monastery, which is also referred to as Key Gompa, is one of the most prominent sights in the Spiti Valley and attracts tourists from a wide variety of backgrounds.
The magnificent Key Monastery can be found in a remote part of India, tucked away in the Spiti Valley, which is surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery.
It felt like it was taken straight from a book of fairy tales.
Built-in the ‘Pasada’ style of architecture, this architectural marvel dates back to the 11th century. It is quite the attraction in its own right. If you want to believe in its existence, you need to witness it for yourself.
This is one location in the Spiti Valley that practically everyone who travels this route should make an effort to check out. Because of its proximity to Kaza town, organizing a vacation to this location is fairly straightforward.
Inside Key Monastery
After we parked our bikes and entered the gate of the monastery where we saw a sign of do’s and dont’s of Key Monastery.
We ascended a series of steps that led us inside a dark hallway that is lined with exquisite Mani Wheels, also known as prayer wheels.
There are three floors in total within the monastery. The first one was primarily subterranean and functions as a storage facility. The assembly hall and the monks’ residential quarters are located on the ground floor of the building.
On the very top floor, there is a library that is worth checking out. It is home to a multitude of historic murals and manuscripts, including depictions of Buddha, some of which date back centuries.
In addition to various places of worship and a library, the first floor is home to some temples as well. Paintings and murals adorn the interior walls of the monastery, making for a very attractive decoration.
In addition to that, there was a vast collection of weapons from past eras that are currently being shown off to the public. The monks told us that these weapons were utilized to protect the occupants and the building when the monastery was assaulted so frequently in the past. The entire structure can be summed up by winding corridors that open into low-ceilinged chambers.
The Picturesque Setting in Key Monastery
It is a calm place that is removed from the commotion of the surrounding throng and is devoted to Buddhist education. The entire structure of the monastery is carved into the side of a modest hill, giving the impression that it was made from a portrait.
As the largest monastery in all of Spiti, it serves as a religious training centre for the Buddhist monks in the region. I found Key Gompa remarkable for the fact that I got to spend the night there and participate in the rituals and traditions of the monastery, which are passed down from the blessed monks.
When I first entered the Gompa, I was greeted by several monks. On the inside, there was a sense of peace and tranquillity. After that, I was very careful as I moved across the hallway without making any noise.
It brought me to an open area on one of the Gompa’s terraces. From that vantage point, I had a breathtaking view of the valley and the river. You can descend to ground level to experience the view from a variety of vantage points.
The Weather in Key Monastery
The holy Gompa that monks reside in affords them daily opportunities to take in breathtaking vistas like these. It is hardly surprising that they have clear and tranquil thoughts.
I also learned that the temperature might drop to -40 degrees Celsius during the winter. The mountains get covered in a thick layer of snow during that time. I wonder how the monastery looks during the winter. Its scenic appeal must be at its peak during the winter.
There are tell-tale pieces of evidence of agricultural activity there, primarily the growing of peas and potatoes. This is an extremely unusual occurrence in the valley. The atmosphere at Key Monastery was calming and relaxed. It made me want to close my eyes, put my feet up, and take in a good energy that permeates the area.
At that moment, I wanted to stay there as long as I can and learn about the monastic way of life.
Stay in Key Monastery
There are no hotels around the Key monastery. The monastery does not have a separate guest house or any other accommodation options available for visitors. In the event that lodging is not available at the monastery, the next closest option was in the town of Kaza.
Fortunately, during our trip, lodging was available. I and my friends were given a place to stay in the Lama quarters. The fact that we got to live and dine with the lamas made it an excellent educational opportunity.
The Savory Cuisine and the Butter Tea
The fact that we could spend the night at Key Monastery at a price that is not prohibitively expensive is easily the most appealing aspect of this location. It costs 200 rupees for a one-night stay.
In addition to this, When you eat with the monks, they do not request that you pay for the meals. The best aspect about it is that the monks cook the food themselves.
This means that the food is extremely sanitary and free from contamination. For the price of two hundred rupees, you get a place to sleep for the night, lunch, dinner, and breakfast the following morning, as well as multiple cups of tea.
The cuisine was fairly simple, but it tasted amazing despite its lack of sophistication. A dish made of cubed barley flour, potatoes and Yak cheese is absolutely delicious. I do not believe that I have ever come across such an exquisite balance of refined flavour and relatively simple presentation.
One thing I learned was that kindness and helpfulness are abundant among Key Monastery’s monks. They offered us a cup of butter tea, which, in light of the chilly weather all around, had a savoury flavour to it.
We had an incredible time as we relaxed with a cup of steaming hot tea and took in the scenery all around us.
The Photogenic View
There is a place behind the monastery where we obtained a breathtaking glimpse of the sun setting behind the outline of the building. The memories of that place are still fresh in my mind. We simply headed around to the back of the monastery and found a path leading up the mountain.
The breathtaking panorama of the Spiti River and the surrounding valley may be found just outside the walls of the monastery. The whole place is extremely photogenic
We had numerous opportunities to take some truly remarkable photographs at the monastery because it is situated in such a breathtaking position.
The photographs that we took of the sunset from the vantage point I described before were stunning. Because there is no pollution in the air, the night sky is filled with an infinite number of stars—a sight that city dwellers like us seldom get to see.
I was completely mesmerized by the night beauty of the valley as I found myself clicking some wide-angle images and star trails of the night sky in Key Monastery
Prayers and Rituals at the Key Gompa
At the Kye Gompa, the monks pray twice each day at sunrise and sunset. Visitors are welcome to participate in any of their ceremonies if they so desire.
All that is required of the visitor is to arrive promptly and maintain a state of complete silence until the conclusion of the prayers. During our trip, the monastic community gathered for prayer on two separate occasions each day.
This, too, was a wonderful experience that called for no prior understanding on the part of the participant. I simply entered the prayer hall where the monks were gathered, closed my eyes, and chanted along with them to find some inner calm. During the ceremony, I felt the good energy that emanates from the monks as they chant.
There is an incredible amount of information to take in here. It is not Buddhism per se that I am speaking about, but rather a life in general. I certainly got some insight into the wider world by conversing with the monks.
I also took note of how simple their lives were, yet how happy and fulfilled they appear to be. After only one day here, I was already beginning to doubt whether or not my life was better than those of the monks.
When to go to Key Monastery for the best experience
It is recommended that visitors pay a visit to Key Monastery during the months of May through September, as this is also the most pleasant season to explore Spiti Valley.
I was fortunate to visit Key Monastery in early August. Travel on either of the highways that lead to Spiti is not prohibited during these times of the year. The climate was extremely pleasant, with days that were delightfully warm and evenings that were only mildly chilly.
A trip plan for the Spiti valley that does not include a stop at the Key Gompa is lacking something important. You will feel better on the inside and out after visiting this site.
I found every facet of Kye Gompa, beginning with the vibrant flags that decorate the front entry and continuing through the intricate murals that adorn the interior, mesmerizing. Even though it was not a particularly lavish stay, it was nice and toasty during our time there. The trip was certainly worth it as I am going to look back on the experience with fondness and continue to talk about it for many years.
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