Tabo Monastery Overview

Tabo Monastery is one of the most wondrous places to visit in Spiti Valley. Founded a millennium ago, the temple is a unique amalgamation of history, culture and natural splendor. In the cold barren deserts of Tabo valley, the monastery appears as a sanctum from the brutality of barbarous rocky mountains around.

It houses centuries worth of Buddhist culture, tradition and heritage – a treat for history and cultural buffs. For those of you interested in art and handicraft – witness the amazingly preserved paintings, murals and sculptures. Or just kick back and take in the healing environment as calmness ascends over your being.

Discover the peaceful Tabo Monastery in the Himalayas with Spiti Valley Packages, where you can explore ancient Buddhist traditions and enjoy stunning mountain views in a serene setting.

Tabo Monastery is nestled in the serene Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It ranks as one of the top places to visit in the region to understand Buddhist heritage and culture. Founded in 996 AD by the Tibetan Buddhist Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo, this ancient monastery is one of the oldest operating Buddhist enclaves in the Himalayas as well as in India. Known as the "Ajanta of the Himalayas," Tabo Monastery is celebrated for its exquisite frescoes and murals. These murals cover almost every wall of the monastery's nine temples and numerous stupas. The artistic treasures, alongside valuable collections of scroll paintings, manuscripts, and statues, have been meticulously preserved. They offer a glimpse into the spiritual and cultural life of the past eras.

The monastery is located at an elevation of 10,010 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the mountains, it stands as a contrast to the rugged desert of Spiti Valley, adding to its mystical charm. Unlike most monasteries which are situated on hilltops, Tabo sits in a flat, bowl-shaped valley. It also offers a peaceful sanctuary to about 60 monks residing there. The complex is a marvel of earthen architecture, with structures made from mud that have stood the test of time. The Tabo Monastery is a place of worship and a centre for Buddhist learning. It is here where you can witness festivals like the Chakhar Festival, which showcases traditional Chham dances. Its historical significance, coupled with its spiritual ambience, makes Tabo Monastery a must-visit destination for seekers of knowledge and peace.


• Marvel at the ancient murals of Tabo Monastery that showcase Buddhist tales with vibrant colours and intricate details.
• Witness the serene beauty of the monastery's architecture, standing out with its golden top amidst the desert landscapes of Spiti Valley.
• Explore the caves above the monastery and witness monks meditating here, gaining a unique glimpse into their lives.
• Participate in the Chakhar Festival and witness the traditional Chham dance performances, get to know about the rich cultural heritage of the region.
• Visit the assembly hall to see the grand statue of Vairocana Buddha, surrounded by exquisite frescoes and sculptures, depicting stories of Tibetan-Indian Buddhism.

How To Reach

By Air

The closest airport to Tabo Monastery is the Bhuntar Airport in Kullu, it is well-connected to major Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai. It is located 280.4 kilometres from the monastery. From the airport, you can take a taxi or local/ state bus to Kaza. This journey covers 232.4 kilometres and takes around 8 to 10 hours. From Kaza, Tabo Monastery is 48 kilometres away. You can take local taxis or occasional buses to the monastery, which can take 1.5 to 2 hours.

By Train

The nearest major railway station to Tabo Monastery is the Kalka Railway Station in Shimla. It is located 463 kilometres from the monastery. The station connects Indian cities via the Kalka-Shimla Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Shimla, you can hire a taxi or board a bus to Reckong Peo and then to Kaza. This journey takes 18 to 20 hours in total. From Kaza, Tabo Monastery is just an hour's drive away.

By Road

Tabo Monastery is accessible by road from Manali through the Kunzum Pass and from Shimla via the Kinnaur Valley. The Manali to Tabo route covers around 231.1 kilometres and takes approximately 8 to 10 hours. The Shimla route is longer, about 465.5 kilometres, but offers breathtaking views of the Kinnaur Valley. This route takes around 14 to 16 hours. Both routes are only open from June to October. They are not operational during monsoons and winters due to rainfall and snowfall, respectively.

Best Time To Visit

If you are planning your visit to this ancient monastery, avoid months from January to April as the temperature will vary from 2 Degree Celsius to 14 Degree Celsius between these months and most of the routes are closed due to heavy snowfall. During this time even the locals do not prefer to step out of their homes and make themselves comfortable in their warm houses only.

The tourist season will begin from May onwards and goes on till October. However, one should avoid the monsoon month of August as the areas near the rain shadow desert of Spiti Valley receive very heavy downpours and the routes of the Himalayas get slippery and prone to landslides.

From May to October only the Spiti valley remains functional for guests, November onwards the heavy snow sets in. The ideal duration of the trip is between 7 to 8 days.

Other Essential Information

1. Tabo Monastery Location: Tabo, Himachal Pradesh 172113, precisely on the top of Tabo village on the left bank of the Spiti river.

2. Timings of Monastery: Morning chants begin at 6 am and monastery closes down at 7 pm in the evening. This happens every single day of the week.

Architecture of Tabo Monastery

Back in 996 A.D in the Tibetan year of the Fire Ape, this huge monastery was founded by the Tibetan Buddhist lotsawa Rinchen Zhangpo on behalf of the king of the western Himalayan Kingdom of Guge,  Yeshe-O. The amazing architecture of Tabo Monastery now holds four beautifully crafted stupas, nine temples. The architecture also includes 23 chortens, a monk's chamber, and cave shrines.

Its architecture is primarily divided into 3 parts including the Main temple, Older & Newer temples and Stupas. Built-in 996 A.D the paintings belong to the 10th -11th century for the main temple, 13th -14th Century for Stupas and 15th -20th century for the rest of the temple. The monastery is having a huge collection of manuscripts and Parmana texts, recorded between 1991 and 1998. Heree, you can find a mix of non-urban and regional characteristics that belong to India and Central Asia.

This perfect blend was made by Yeshe-O and his two sons while they were building the monastery back in 996 A.D.The traditional taste of non-Buddhist tradition originated from the protection deity Wi-nyu-min. The entire Vajradhatu Mandala (Vairocana in his 4-faced, 8-armed form sitting over this mandala of Vajradhatu) is precisely represented in the Main Temple.

Tabo Monastery Temple Complex

The Temple Complex basically has the Main Temple, Older Temples, Newer Temples, Stupas and Fittings. Newer temples have the temple of Enlightened gods, The Golden Temple, The Mystic Temple, The Temple of Dormton and The Bodhisattva Maitreya Temple.

The other share of Older temples includes The Large Temple of Dormton, The Mahakala Vajra Bhairava Temple, The Chamber of Picture Treasures and The White Temple.The main temple (Tsug La Khang) includes an entry hall, assembly hall, and a recessed area which has a shrine area.

The Assembly hall is having a traditional deity, The Vajradhatu Mandala, while the shrine area holds three huge life-sized structures and a figure of Lord Buddha seated on a throne with 2 lions facing each other. In newer temples, the Temple of Dromton is the biggest after the assembly hall. In the boundaries of the temple complex, there are many stupas containing 4 paintings on the inner side.

Its frescoes and stucco paintings are the reason it is called “Ajanta of the Himalayas”, which also favors the bond between Indian and Tibetan cultures. On almost every wall you can spot the end number of thangkas (scroll paintings), preserved statues, murals, frescos, and manuscripts. There used to be 32 medallions on the wall before the 1975 earthquake.

History of Tabo Monastery Temple

Tabo Monastery will take you a millennium back in 996 A.D when it was built by the Buddhist King Yesho-O, which was later renovated by the royal priest, Jangchub O’d, the 2nd generation of Yesho-O. Initially, Tabo monastery was built as a “daughter” monastery of the Tholing Monastery in Nagri, western Tibet. This royal dynasty was majorly responsible for spreading Buddhism in Tibetan History and was keen on re-introduction of Indian Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet.

The contribution was so huge that it’s been documented in writing on the walls of Tabo Monastery.During the 17th – 19th centuries, the monastery and bridge across the Spiti River went through historical events and political trouble in the area. In the modern era, during the year 1975, the monastery was heavily damaged due to the Kinnaur Earthquake which was later the monastery was restored by the 14th Dalai Lama.

The monastery is a historic treasure as its roots are from a millennium back. Considering the same it is protected by the government under Archaeological Survey of India.Tabo Monastery is a divine place for monks as it has a rich past regarding the knowledge this place has to offer. Kyabje Serkong Rinpoche served as the Head Lama who become the Abbot of Tabo Monastery since 1975, was responsible for taking care of the monastery and monks, teaching Buddhist scriptures and being certain about the local community is living happily as well.

Tips for Visiting Tabo Monastery

Here are some of the tips which can be helpful while exploring the corners of Tabo Monastery:

- Apart from the Monastery guest house, you can get yourself a comfortable stay at Dekit Norphel Tiger Den Restaurant. Staying at this calm and cozy place may cost you between INR 400-500 per night for two people. You can find basic facilities like hot water, dining, etc. there.

- Try and connect with the monks while you are inside the monastery as they can give you a real insight into the architecture and wall paintings made there.

- Kindly restrict yourself before clicking photos inside the monastery as photography is not allowed inside the monastery.

- Visit the monastery before 5:30 pm in the evening as they shut post that.

- Make sure to not litter in the town as it will destroy the natural beauty.

- Always carry a layer of clothes along with a windproof jacket and woolens as you will observe a sudden drop in the temperature which goes below the freezing point.

- While driving, try not to honk while you are there in Tabo as people might be sleeping in the caves.

- Try to attend a festival at the Tabo Monastery, you will get to see monks performing the traditional Chham dance.

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Tabo Monastery FAQs

How old is the Tabo Monastery?

Roots of Tabo Monastery will take you a millennium back in time, in 996 A.D. Tabo Monastery was founded. A full fledged restoration was done 46 years after the foundation of the monastery due to the destruction caused by an earthquake.

In which state is the Buddhist site Tabo Monastery is located?

It is precisely located in the Tabo Village of Lahaul and Spiti valley which falls under the state of Himachal Pradesh.

What should I wear for going to Tabo Monastery?

It is suggested to wear warm clothes like a sweater, jacket or overcoat. You probably won’t be able to wear anything else other than this considering the cold weather of Tabo village. And as they say, make sure to be dressed as per the occasion. You are visiting a temple, so dress accordingly.

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