The village of Nako lies at an altitude of 3625 metres, high above the last stretch of the Spiti valley. Today the village is comparatively poor, as only those families who have apple orchards at lower locations can participate in the trade which has otherwise brought prosperity to the region. The village is reached by a 7 km link from the road connecting Spiti to Kinnaur. Although in the Spiti valley, politically the region around Nako is still part of Kinnaur.

Nako was once a very important centre of Buddhism in the region. There are at least seven temples of different periods distributed all over the village, including a monastic complex (ཆོས་འཁོར་) on its western edge. Boasting four temples and a number of additional buildings, this complex preserves the earliest artistic heritage. The austere and unornamented exteriors of the buildings give little hint of the important artistic and religious legacy that lies within these walls.

The two oldest temples inside the monastic complex are the Lotsawa Lhakhang (Translator's Temple) and the Lhakhang Gongma (Upper Temple). These two temples preserve a considerable amount of their original decoration of clay sculptures, murals and ceiling panels dating back to their foundation in the first half of the 12th century. These two temples are thus described on separate pages. 

A third structure, the Karchung Lhakhang (Small White Temple), preserves a once-marvellous wooden door-frame with scenes of the life of the Buddha carved on the lintel. Today it is in a deplorable state, and it is also unclear whether its present location is original. The fourth structure of a similar size to the Lhakhang Gongma and just to the side of it is today somewhat confusingly called the Gyapakpé Lhakhang (rgya dpag pa'i lha khang, Temple of Wide Proportions).

Nako has already been visited and described by the renowned scholars A.H. Francke and Giuseppe Tucci in the first decades of the 20th century. However, only in recent years has this village and its cultural heritage again received scholarly attention. The most comprehensive publication on the site is the volume edited by Gabriela Krist, which is also available open access.

Selected Literature
  • Krist, Gabriela, ed. 2016. Nako: Research and Conservation in the Western Himalayas. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau Verlag.
  • Kerin, Melissa R. 2015. Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya. Contemporary Indian Studies. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 
  • Kerin, Melissa R. 2010. Visual Evidence for ‘Bri gung Activity at Nako, Kinnaur. In Tibetan Art and Architecture in Context. PIATS 2006: Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Eleventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Königswinter 2006, eds. Erberto F. Lo Bue, and Christian Luczanits, 20, 175-195. Halle (Saale): International Institute for Tibetan Studies. 
  • Tropper, Kurt. 2009. “A Thousand Maṇis in Immutable Stone”. A Donor Inscription at Nako Village (Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh). In Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques. Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya. Proceedings of the 13th Colloquium of the International Association for Ladakh Studies, eds. John Bray, and Elena de Rossi Filibeck, 87-96. Pisa, Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore. 
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2008. The depiction of Hindu and Pan-Indian Deities in the Lo tsa ba lHa khang at Nako. In South Asian Archaeology 1999. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Conference of the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held at the Universiteit Leiden, 5–9 July 1999, ed. Ellen M. Raven, 493-506. Groningen: Egbert Forsten. 
  • Ziegler, Verena. 2008. Das Leben des Buddha Śākyamuni am Holzportal des dKar chung Iha khang in Nako. Master thesis, Universität Wien. 
  • Allinger, Eva. 2005. An Unusual Depiction of Aṣṭamahābhaya Tārā in Nako/Himachal Pradesh as Compared with Other Representations of the Same Tārā in the Western Himalaya. In South Asian Archaeology 2001. Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Conference of the Eauropean Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in Collège de France, Paris, 2–6 July 2001. Volume II, Historical Archaeology and Art History, eds. Catherine Jarrige, and Vincent Lefèvre, 2, 355-364. Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations. 
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2004. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia. 
  • Klimburg-Salter, Deborah E. 2003. The Nako Preservation Project. Orientations 34 (5):39–45.
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2003. The 12th Century Buddhist Monuments of Nako. Orientations 34 (5):46-53.
  • di Mattia, Marialaura. 1998. Il complesso templare di Nako nell` alto Kinnaur: Un esempio dello stile indo-tibetano dei secoli X-XII. Rivista degli Studi Orientali LXXI (1-4):185–238.
  • Thakur, Laxman S. 1996. Nako Monastery: Archaeological Notes from an Account of the Western Himalayan Expeditions. East and West 46 (3-4):337–52.
  • Tucci, Giuseppe. 1988. The Temples of Western Tibet and their Artistic Symbolism. Indo-Tibetica III.1: The Monasteries of Spiti and Kunavar. Edited by L. Chandra. Vol. 350, Shata-Pitaka Series. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan: 141–173, pls. 74–91.
  • Francke, August Hermann. 1914 / repr. 1992. Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part I: Personal Narrative. Vol. 38, Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series. Calcutta / New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India / Asian Educational Services: 32–34, pls. 12, 13.

Quotation below from Francke, August Hermann. 1914 / repr. 1992. Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part I: Personal Narrative. Vol. 38, Archaeological Survey of India, New Imperial Series. Calcutta / New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India / Asian Educational Services: p. 32.