Key Monastery, also known as the Kye Gompa is located amidst the majestic Himalayas in Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is a serene place situated far away from the maddening crowds dedicated to Buddhist learning. The entire structure is engraved in a small hill as if crafted out of a portrait.
The best part about the Kye Gompa or the Key Monastery is that you can stay here and experience the culture of the Monastery that the blessed Lamas carry with them. Any itinerary for Spiti valley is incomplete without paying a visit to Key Gompa.
Being the largest monastery in Spiti, it is a place of religious training for the Buddhist Lamas. The place gives a very soothing and sedate feeling where you just want to sit back close your eyes and feel the positive vibe around. If you have the time, do stay here to experience the life of the monks.
Key Monastery – A Place where Faith Meets Expedition
Nestled high among the lofty mountains, Key Monastery is the perfect place to test both your faith and passion for travel. Reason being, the monastery is located so remotely that only the most daring souls can reach here. Not to forget, the faith it takes to make it here.
By the way, Kye Gompa is more old than you can imagine and it is more resilient than it appears to be at first sight. The structure is standing tall from the last many centuries. It has survived attacks from the barbaric mongols, snow storms, avalanches and earthquakes.
Nothing, and I mean nothing has been able to shake this wonderful place from its being. It is for this reason that visiting Key Monastery becomes even more important for travelers like me. This place makes you heal inside out.
Key Monastery – What, Where and How for First Time Travelers ?
If you are planning a trip to Key Monastery for the first time, it is extremely important that you understand this place well. Knowing Spiti as a region in general and Key Monastery in particular will come in handy if you’re ever stuck in the region.
It needs to be mentioned here that life in the mountains is totally different from the plains. Mountain life is hard. So in order to be a part of the difficult yet simple mountain life, respect the region and its people.
Let me share some essential travel information below that will assist you with your trip to Key Monastery.
Key Monastery is located in Himachal Pradesh’s Spiti Valley. Himachal Pradesh is situated in the northern part of India.
13,668 feet above sea level.
Key Monastery is accessible throughout the year. However, it is much more difficult to reach here during winters than it is during summers
|How to reach here ?|
In order to reach Key Monastery, you first have to arrive in Kaza. There are only 2 routes to reach Kaza – through Shimla and Manali. If you’re struggling with the question of how to reach Spiti Valley and which route to take to reach there, do not worry. Spend some time knowing both the routes.
|What all can you see here ?|
Tibetan Buddhist Lamas and their way of life will be the thing that you should observe here first and foremost. Besides it, paintings, murals, thangkas (Tibetan banners), ancient books, manuscripts, wind instruments, and collection of age old weapons are other important things that Key Monastery has preserved from centuries.
|Is staying at Key Monastery possible ?|
Yes. The Lamas are gentle enough to let you stay in their own personal quarters. You need to pay 200 INR for a night and this includes all the meals as well. Best part is that the Lamas prepare the meals themselves. So the food is super clean and hygienic.
|Staying options in other nearing places|
In case you don’t get the chance to stay at Key Monastery, you can either choose to stay at Key Village (3.3 kms away), Kibber (6 kms away) or Kaza (14 kms away). Remember, that you are in the mountains and hence even 1 km distance will take a lot of time to cover.
|Climate conditions at the Monastery|
Being at such a high altitude, the climate at Key Monastery is mostly chilly. This includes the summer months as well. During evenings, the temperatures dip to below 0 degrees easily. However, during summers, the sun is up and hence you can bask yourself in some fresh sunlight on a daily basis. Winters, on the other hand can be harsh.
|Best time to visit Key Monastery|
June end to beginning of September is the optimum time for visiting Kye Gompa. The weather is tolerable during these months and the both the routes (Shimla and Manali) to reach here are open.
|Acclimatization at Key Monastery|
You might face *AMS while traveling to Key Monastery. The best way to counter it is by carrying the AMS medicine as prescribed by your doctor back home. I highly insist that once you reach Kaza, invest at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep during your first night.
|Things to pack for Key Monastery|
Make sure to pack your warmest woolens, thickest shoes, body oil, vaseline jelly, battery charger and bunch of protein bars before heading out to Key Monastery.
|Other important monasteries to visit in Spiti|
Tabo Monastery, Dhankhar Monastery, Kungri Monastery, Kibber Monastery and Tangyud Monastery.
*AMS stands for Acute Mountain Sickness
Top Things to do at Key Monastery
Kye Gompa is such a wonderful place that you can pursue many things here. Find below a few suggestions.
Explore the Monastery
Right from the colourful flags located on the entrance to the creative murals on the inside, every element of Kye Gompa is enchanting. Take a tour of the place and learn the significance of this sacred space. Also, check out the collection of the ancient thangkas.
Learn from Lamas
While you are in the Key monastery, interact with the monks who will explain to you everything about the monastery, right from the history to the importance of the place in their lives. They will even be warm enough to give you a tour of the Gompa.
Be a part of the daily rituals
The monks offer prayers twice a day at Kye Gompa. If you want, you can be a part of their rituals. All you need to do is show up on time and stay silent till the prayers are over. You will sense the positive vibes of the chanting monks.
Savour Butter Tea
The monks at Key Monastery are most kind. They will offer you a cup of Butter Tea which will be quite savoury given the chilly atmosphere around. Sipping steaming hot tea and enjoying the terrain around will be one heck of an experience.
Donate at Key Monastery. It is the least that a traveler can do. The Lamas of the Gompa are compassionate people and don’t expect you to make any contribution. But donate anyways, out of the goodness of your heart.
You have got to take pictures of Key Monastery, the landscape and the terrain around. My god, it is magnificent. Don’t forget to click a selfie with the kind lamas and the young lama kids who would love to get themselves clicked.
Best Routes to Arrive at Key Monastery
As mentioned in this blog before, the only way to reach Key Monastery is by first reaching Kaza – the sub divisional headquarter of Spiti. In order to reach Kaza, you will have to travel from your home city to either Shimla or Manali.
Both these routes will lead you straight to Kaza in Spiti. You can find about all the possible travel modes and the details of these routes in another blog of mine.
Once you finally reach Kaza and spend at least a night there, you can head towards Key Monastery. Kaza is at a distance of about 14 kms from the monastery. Now this may seem like a short distance. However, since you’re in the mountains, the time taken from Kaza till the Monastery will be at least 3 hours.
The journey might be on rugged roads but the view and the landscape will make up for it. The cold desert of Spiti will present itself in all its might on this way. The high snow clad mountains touching the clear blue sky will make for one hell of a background.
Kye Gompa in Winters
During the winter season, Key Monastery is covered with snow. The temperatures are as low as they can get. The only way to survive the cold is to stay warm internally. This can be done by sipping lots of warm water throughout the day and by consuming more fat than usual.
As a traveler, you can visit Kye Gompa in winters. But the route to be taken this time will have to be through Shimla only. This is good because there are so many reasons to visit Shimla for travelers. Its a lovely place.
The route through Manali is shut down during the chilly winter months and after that as well. Once you reach Kaza and finally manage to arrive at Kye Gompa, make sure to stay there only.
If possible, carry a hot water bottle with you. Keep filling it with warm water taken from the Monastery. Sit in a blanket and put it on your lap. This will keep you warm.
Kye Gompa in Bollywood Movies
In the movie ‘Highway,’ Key Monastery was featured as a picturesque location where Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda elope from the conforming society. Try recalling the scene where Alia asks Hooda,” Tumhe pahar zada pasand hai ya samundar.” (do you like mountains more or sea).
This scene was shot in Key Monastery.
You too will realize the value of that question once you reach there. Don’t wait further. Pack your bags and travel to Key Monastery before the cold winter arrives.