About Key Monastery
The Key Monastery is the brand ambassador of the Spiti Valley, it is by far the biggest monastery in the valley, situated on a hill near the Spiti River. Built thousands of years ago, also known as the Kye Monastery, it arose when the Tibetian Buddhism started spreading in the valley.
Inside the monastery there are several enigmatic spaces such as a labyrinth, with interconnected dark rooms through the dark and narrow alleyways. The Key Monastery holds a rich library of Buddhist sacred texts and manuscripts, securing religious sentiments of the valley. The Archaeological Survey of India has kept a detailed list of all the assets of the monastery post-independence. It also has a wide array of medieval weapons stored inside it, which were used in the old days to ward off attacks from dacoits and expeditionary forces.
The people around the monastery would get inside and then, the monks would throw stones at the invaders to fend themselves. The Dhankar Fort and Monastery also had the same response in times of trouble. Another use of the weapons was to keep the population under control. As peaceful as the valley may look now, Spiti has had its fair share of bloodshed in the past.
The kingdoms of Bushahr, Kullu, and Ladakh were under constant attack during the historic turbulence which were under the Nono of Spiti. The Mongols would also at times create unrest.
How to Reach Key Monastery
Depending upon the season, you can reach Key Monastery from the Shimla side or the Manali side by bus or private vehicle. The road from Manali over the Rohtang Pass closes after October when heavy snowfall hits the high passes. The only option in the wintertime is to travel by the Shimla-Reckong Peo road (also called the Hindustan Tibet Road). Assuming, you will reach Kaza first, the ways and means to reach Key Monastery are listed below.
Kaza to Key Monastery
The distance from Kaza to Key Monastery is 14 km and to reach Key Monastery from Kaza is not a big deal. Although buses are available in the evening, it is difficult for anybody to catch a bus to the monastery and be back on the highway at 7:00 PM to catch a ride till Kaza. So, the most sensible thing to do would be to visit the monastery on the way back from one of the villages in the Kibber-Langza-Hikkim belt. Get down at the monastery early in the morning and then hitch a ride back to Kaza.
Kaza to Key Monastery Bus
For the morning travel, you have to get on the Kaza to Kullu bus, which leaves the bus stand at 5:00 AM. Get down at Rangrik Bridge and then walk till the Monastery( it might take an hour or more). The other option is latest available by 5:00 PM, that is the bus from Kaza to Chicham or Kaza to Komic and it will drop you right below the monastery.
Hitchiking to Key Monastery
One step at a time
If you don’t happen to have a vehicle and decide to take a shared taxi towards Kibber, you can get down on the way to Key monastery. If you are planning to hitchhike till the key monastery that too is possible. To break it up, you will find a lot of vehicles going till the Rangrik Bridge, from where they crossover to the other side of the river.
Across the bridge
Get down at Rangrik Bridge and explore the area. There’s even a dirt trail that goes to the riverbed (which is quite fun) and many inhabitants get down there to fill their water. Back to the Rangrik Bridge, you have to wave at vehicles to get a ride as Key Village is the only thing between the monastery and the bridge.
Enter the Key Village
Once you get off at Key Village, there is a dirt trail that goes all the way up to the monastery. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the monastery from that point. You have to climb uphill and there is even an option to go to the vantage point above the monastery. Do keep in mind the traffic is relatively less on these roads during weekends.
Stay in Key Monastery
Being the religious hub for the entire Spiti Valley, Key Monastery offers many rooms to pilgrims and devotees from every part of the country and it is also open to guests like the Dhankar Monastery.
For a nominal charge of 200 INR, you will get a bed for the night with food included. You have to eat what the monks eat, which may be Rajma-Chawal (canned beans and rice) or Momo or Thukpa (nothing fancy but wholesome). You get to stay where the monks stay and most probably, you will find fellow travelers there who are also staying there for a night. But in winter, it might be just you.
Trekking near Key Gompa
As mentioned above, there is a trail that goes from behind the gompa up on the mountain. If you hike up that path, you will find a bunch of chortens on the hilltop and the time to reach there should be an hour or less. This hilltop is right next to the Kibber road so there is a good chance of hitching a ride down from there.
FAQs on Key Monastery
Q1. What is Key Monastery is famous for?
Ans. Key Monastery is a religious institute in the Key village, harboring pilgrims, tourists, and people from all walks of life. It is famous for its stunning location and religious sentiment it endows on its guests. Situated quaintly in the Spiti Valley, Key Monastery holds the history of the valley on its backs and continues to help people with their daily lives in the mountains.
Q2. Can we stay in Key Monastery?
Ans. Yes, you can stay in the Key Monastery. Being the only religious hub for the entire Spiti Valley, Key Monastery offers many rooms to pilgrims and devotees from every part of the country and it is also open to guests like the Dhankar Monastery.
Q3. Who built Key Monastery?
Ans. Monastery is built by Drompton who was a famous disciple of Atisha in the 11th century. At that time, around 350 lamas can take refugee in the sanctity of the monastery.
Q4. How do we get to Key Monastery?
Ans. Depending upon the season, you can reach Key Monastery from the Shimla side or the Manali side by bus or private vehicle. The road from Manali over the Rohtang Pass closes after October when heavy snowfall hits the high passes.
The only option in the wintertime is to travel by the Shimla-Reckong Peo road. Once you reach Kaza, you will find various options to travel; such as bus, private cabs, or rental bike/car to nearby villages in the Spiti Valley .