Likir gompa was established in the 15th century and early in its history became responsible for the oversight of Alchi gompa, to which it has posted lamas up to the present day. The gompa is set on an isolated ridge a few kilometers north of Saspol. The road approaching the gompa makes a wide semi-circle around its base, affording beautiful views of the gompa from different vantage points. Likir belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism and currently houses about 120 lamas. The head lama, the younger bother of the Dalai Lama, has married (against the rule of the sect) and is permanently absent from the gompa. The gompa school has some thirty pupils who learn three languages besides Ladakhi, Hindi and English, as these are the national languages of India, and Tibetan for religious purposes. The pupils, some of who will be selected as lamas, live part of the time in the gompa and part of the time with their parents. Climb up to Likir's central courtyard and immediately on the right is the main Dukhang or main assembly hall.
The entrance verandah is painted with the Guardians of the Four Directions on either side of the entry door. On the right verandah wall is a wheel of life mandala held by Yama, the divinity that decides a person's future fate after death. In the main Dukhang, there are six rows of seats for the lamas. This is where the day's prayers take place and also where the lamas take their meals. Numerous thankas hang from the columns and walls in the Dukhang. At the front on the left are two large chortens. Inside the chorten on the left is a statue of Avalokitesvara, a Bodhisattva whose name means "Lord of All He Surveys" and who is believed to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama. The chorten on the right contains a statue of Aitabha the Buddha of the West.
In the center at the front of the hall are three large statues: in the left and central position are statues of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha) and to the right is Maitreya (the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion). To the right of this are statues of Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the yellow-hat sect with his two disciples. The throne seat in the centre of the hall is reserved for Likir's head lama and visiting head lamas from other gompas. The walls on both sides of the Dukhang are lined with glass-fronted bookcases containing the Kandshur and the Thandshur. The entrance walls are painted with various guardian divinities. Near the entrance, by looking up, one can see two large, rolled-up thankas hanging from the beams. These thankas are displayed only during the winter festival. One depicts Sakyamuni and the other Likir's guardian divinity. Exiting the Dukhang, diagonally across from the courtyard's entrance is the "New" Dukhang, about 200 years old. Interestingly, the entrance verandah is not painted with the Guardians of the Four Directions, as is the usual practice. Instead, the wall on the left depicts the different ways a lama may wear his robes while the right wall shows the correct way lamas should behave. The Guardians of the Four Directions appear on the right entrance wall inside the New Dukhang. The main image in this Dukhang is Avalokitesvara with 1000 arms and 11 heads. On either side of this image are bookcases, filled mostly with volumes of the Sumbum, a narrative of the life of Tsong-kha-pa. The left side wall is painted with the 35 Confessional Buddhas. The right side wall depicts the 16 Arhats (worthy ones who have achieved Nirvana) on either side of a central image of Sakyamuni flanked by his two chief disciples.
After leaving the New Dukhang, turn left and go up a ladder one flight of steps. Step through the doorway to the left into a courtyard. On the far left side is an entry door into the Zinchun, the head lama's room, where the Dalai Lama stays when he visits Likir. The room is hung with numerous thankas and contains images of various lamas. Of particular interest are the images of the 21 Manifestations of the White Tara (the Saviouress and consort of Avalokitesvara). Each image is decorated with brocaded fabric and the entire effect of these images arranged around the room is very striking. Leave the courtyard outside the head lama's room, turn left and go down a few steps. On the left is the new Gonkhang, devoted to guardian divinities. Work on this temple began in 1983 and was completed a year later. The artistry of this temple vividly demonstrates the continuing vitality of Buddhism in this region. The left side wall depicts guardian divinities while the right side wall shows Sakyamuni, his disciples and various lamas. The right front wall depicts Tsong-kha-pa. The glass-fronted room at the front of the Gonkhang contains images of the gompa's guardian divinities. These images are covered by cloth all year and are displayed only during the gompa's festival.