Leh is the capital of the Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas and is situated at an altitude of 3,500 metres on the banks of the Indus River. Leh is a small town inhabited mostly by Lamaistic Buddhists and the Buddhist monasteries, or gompas, are its main attraction. Hemis Gompa is located 48km south of Leh and is the largest and most important monastery in Ladakh, containing golden statues, gem-studded stupas, rare books and fine paintings of the Buddha. Tikse monastery is 12 stories high and perched on a hill, while Shey Gompa, previously the summer palace of the Ladakhi kings, has a magnificent 350 year old and 12 metre high gold-plated copper statue of Buddha. Further west lie Likir Gompa, a beautiful building reminiscent of the Potala Palace in Lhasa and guarded by a 10 metre statue of Buddha, and Alchi Gompa, the most important cultural site in Ladakh which dates to the 11th century and has magnificent Kashmiri Buddhist artwork, quite distinct from the Tibetan art found elsewhere in Ladakh.
The old British hill station of Dharamsala was a quiet and anonymous town until 1959 when the Dalai Lama settled here after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. The town has a strong Tibetan influence, especially in its upper part of McLeodganj, located 500 metres above Lower Dharamsala. It's possible to catch a public audience of the Dalai Lama here while Tibetan buildings of note include the Namgyal Monastery with its Kalachakra Temple, the Thekchen Choling temple, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Nechung Monastery and the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute. The ridge of Triund above town at 2827 metres offers a pleasant trek and spectacular views of the town and the Dhaula Dhar Mountains to the north-east and the Kangra Valley to the south-west.
Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim, located between Nepal and Bhutan, which was annexed by India in 1975. Steeped in Tibetan culture, the town offers spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks. Its attractions include the Drodul Chorten surrounded by 108 prayer wheels which commemorates the victory of good over evil, the Institute of Tibetology which contains numerous priceless religious paintings (thangkas), statues and Buddhist books and manuscripts and the Rumtek Monastery outside of town, the largest in Sikkim and the headquarters of the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Pemayangste Monastery is the principal monastery of Sikkim, founded in the 17th century, and the centre of the Nyingmapa sect. This is a mystical type of Tantric Buddhism derived from Tibetan Lamaism, whose monks are characterised by the red caps they wear. Nearby lies Kecheopelri or the Wishing Lake, the holiest lake in Sikkim and a place of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus.
Travel to Tibetan sites in northern India
Organised group tours: Click here to see 18 tours to India which may include Tibetan sites in northern India.