The Key Monastery (Ki Gompa in Tibetan) is located in Spiti Valley, which is in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. Â It is the most iconic structure in the valley and should definitely be part of any trip into this corner of the Tibetan Plateau. Â The monastery has a unique fort-like design due to it’s strategic importance of defending the valley’s citizens in times of warfare.
The Ki Monastery in Spiti Valley is a remote and relatively uncommercialized corner of India, although it is still fairly accessible given that you have enough time to make the trip. Â Most people start their journey at one of two jumping off points; Manali or Shimla. Â You can take the public bus up to either of these locations, but from here you will have to travel by mini-bus unless you have your own transport.
From Manali or Shimla:
The travel time from either Manali or Shimla is about 10 hours as you wind your way up the steep, often scary, road leading over the Himalayan range and into Spiti Valley. Â From whichever side you enter on, the travel time will be about the same. Â Although keep in mind that access to the valley via the eastern side can be periodically closed due to weather. Â The west side is the most common entry point.
Kaza, the capital of Spiti Valley, sits at the base of the mountain range on the north side of the Spiti River. Â Most visitors will base themselves out of Kaza, although there are guesthouses all throughout the valley. Â Kaza has two sides, old town and new town. Â The old town has the majority of budget guesthouses and restaurants although the two sides are within walking distance of each other.
Unless you have your own transport, the most common way to get around the valley is by hitchhiking. Â Buses to travel throughout the valley but they are infrequent and often full. Â Hitchhiking is safe and very acceptable in this region.
Key Monastery is just 15 KM northwest of Kaza. Â To catch a ride from Kaza walk to the edge of town where you will find a large cement archway. Â This is where the turnoff to Kaza meets the major road. Â Here, you should be able to hitch a ride to the monastery. Â Just tell the driver that you want to get dropped off at Ki Gompa.
You will most likely get dropped off at the village sitting at the base of the monastery. Â From here you can simply walk up the hill to Key Monastery. Â There is no fee and you will most likely be welcomed by the monks there. Â Sometimes there are lectures from visiting Lamas and if you come at the right time of day, you may get an authentic meal out of it.