Dhankar Monastery in the Spiti Valley is one of the most impressive Buddhist monasteries in India. While my love for monasteries is self-confessed, this one bowled me over. The Sun was shining high in the Himalayas as we left for Dhankar from Tabo, again hitting the gorgeous roads. The barren landscape of this cold desert left me wondering, for I never imagined I would love barren with such intensity.

The only worry on my mind was the trek to the Dhankar Lake. Having my trekking shoes stolen from the car the previous night, I was not sure of the trek. While it was just about more than an hour’s trek, it was arid, with tiny, prickly loose rocks and very slippery loose mountain soil. The altitude of 14,005 ft had suddenly become easier as compared to trekking up on that terrain in flip flops. Since I was in no mood to skip the lake, I said a quick prayer at the Dhankar Monastery.

Dhankar Buddhist Monastery Spiti Valley India

Isn’t that treacherous now?!

The monastery itself is gorgeous but quite vulnerable since it sits on a cliff in a treacherous position and is facing destruction. Overlooking the confluence of Pin and Spiti rivers, it is listed as one of the most endangered sites in the world by World Monuments Fund. Some of the walls inside have got huge gaping cracks. Nevertheless it’s a gorgeous structure, with a labyrinth of sorts inside it, taking you to the meditation rooms for the monks, a library and museum and the monks’ kitchen.

Dhankar Village and gompa

This is the view of the tiny Dhankar Village from the Dhankar Monastery terrace

Climb up its terrace (not more than three people at a time) for some fascinating views of the entire region. We set on the trek for Dhankar Lake after visiting the monastery and AMS hit me hard, quite hard at that. The first 20 minutes made my heart crave for a retreat, but there was no way I would have missed the high altitude lake. So, I kept moving, taking ample breaks for water and gums. While the weather was quite calm when we started the trek, it took a sudden turn and we ran into a thunderstorm. The wind howled so loudly that we could hardly hear one another. I, without the trekking shoes, skidded quite a lot.

Yet, the climb was worth it, for this one was really solitary. A gorgeous water body surrounded by the high Himalayas from all the sides. Weather made it all the more perfect for we could see rain happening on the other side of the lake – it was a miracle of sorts since Spiti rarely sees rain.

It seemed that the weather was bent to give me a great show to make up for the hard climb and all the skin tears in my feet. It was one of the grandest spectacles that I’ve yet seen and with shoes or without shoes, I would take the damn climb any given day.

Himalayas love me good enough to bring me back safe. Amen.

PS – Here are some tips if you plan to visit Dhankar Lake and Dhankar Monastery –

1) Hit the trek early in the morning for the Sun gets dangerously rough and there is no escaping the heat in the arid landscape.

2) Once you’re back from the trek, do not forget a heavenly meal at the new guest house at the monastery.

3) If you intend to stay in Dhankar Village, make sure you book a place in the guest house in advance. It’s one of the few places, apart from a homestay or two, that you can stay in.

4) Put your camera away for some time to enjoy the fascinating landscapes from the place.

5) May to October first week is the ideal time to visit the monastery, for the roads get snowed up during winters.

6) Leave a comment if you loved the post!

For more on Dhankar Lake and Monastery, write to me at shikhagautam1@gmail.com.

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