Leh, headquarter of Leh district is the largest town of the region. It can be considered as lifeline of Ladakh with every possible facility that gives the town a complete urban feeling
The Red Gonpa was built by King Graspa Bum-Lde in 1430 AD. It houses three storey statue of Maitreiya Buddha (future Buddha) and one storey statue of Avalokiteshwara and Manjushree. The Namgyal Tsemo (Namgyal Victory peak) was built by king Tashi Namgyal after reunification of upper and lower Ladakh and victory over Hors (Central Asian invaders)
The Hall of Fame, located near the Leh Airfiled, is a museum built and maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the soldiers who had lost their lives during various Indo-Pak wars. This building consists of two floors. The ground floor is dedicated to information about the brave soldiers and a souvenir shop. As you start on the ground floor, the first showcase consist of various artifacts relating to Kargil war in the year 1999, such as the weapons used during the war and some important documents relating to the war. The first floor is dedicated to Siachen Glacier and weapons used during the war. As you complete the visit, there is a video room playing tear rendering incidents during the Kargil war.
Leh Palace was built during the 17th century by the ruler King Sengge Namgyal. Its construction is on the same lines as the construction of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. This palace had to be deserted by the royal family in the middle of the 19th century, because of the taking over of Ladakh by Dogra forces. After this the royal family started living in-exile in the popular Stok Palace. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is restoring some of the ruined portions of this nine-storey palace. While the store rooms are on the lower floors, the royalty resided on the upper floors. The roof of this palace offers an excellent view of the Leh valley.
Stock Palace built by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal in 1825, is the palace of the royal descendants of King Sengge Namgyal. The architecture of this palace is a perfect mix of the traditional and the contemporary architectural styles. This palatial property consists of a number of beautiful gardens as well as a library that has around 108 volumes of the Kangyur (a collection of teachings of Lord Buddha). The palace is located around 15 kms away from the main city of Leh.
This palace hosts an annual dance-mask festival in which there is a huge participation by the locals. There are collection of royal clothing, crowns and other important things which you can see when a visit is undertaken during your stay at Leh.
Shanti Stupa is white-colored domed-shaped structure, located in Chandspa which looks extremely beautiful during night when illuminated. This peace pillar was built by ‘peace sect’ of Japanese Buddhist organization to celebrate the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism and for the promotion of world peace. It was inaugurated by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in 1985. This pillar is known for its gilt panels depicting the life stories of Lord Buddha. It is just 5 kms away from the main city of Leh and upon reaching this place, one can have panoramic view of Leh and Stock mountain ranges.
This stunning monument was conceived in 1982 and is gift by Buddhist nations who provided with relics of Buddha. One of the best place in the world to do meditation.
Sankar Gompa is located couple of kms away from Leh town belonging to Gelukspa school of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. This small Gonpa is a branch of Spituk Monastery, founded by the first incarnation of the Skyabje Bakula.
Mahabodhi Meditation Centre located around 10 kms from Leh near Choglamsar houses a very large meditation hall, school for nunnery, hospital and a museum on Buddhism. In this meditation centre, Vipassana (pali) or Vipashyana (sanskrit) program is held every year but there are no fixed schedule. One can get inspired by the people who visit there for dhyana or jhana (pali) or meditation.
Shey means “looking glass” got its name due to reflection of the palace in the small lake situated below the Palace. Standing tall 15 kms from Leh town lies on the banks of River Indus or Sindhu. This was the first construction by the first king of Ladakh, Lhachen Spalgigon and the ruins can be seen even today above the palace.
This palace holds 3 storey statue of Shakyamuni Buddha made of copper guilt, made by Deldan Namgyal in the memory of his father Singay Namgyal. One could see hundreds of Stupas occupying large area beside this palace presents an awesome sight. The 11th century rock-carved statue of five Buddha’s called as Dhyani Buddha’s can be seen below the Palace on the roadside.
Thiksey Gompa situated just 2 kms off Shey palace is the most beautiful of all the monasteries of Ladakh. Paldan Sherab founded the Thiksey Gonpa on a hill-top situated north of the Indus (Sindhu) river and built on style of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
The festival of Thiksey Gustor is held in October – November. When you enter this Gonpa, one will be dazzled to see a huge long assembly hall consisting of Shakyamuni Buddha’s and Maitriya Buddha statues. In Chamkhang at the top, near the courtyard contains the three-storied Maitriya Buddha statue, Dukhang comprising of thousand armed Avalokiteshwara, Shakyamuni Buddha and various Bodhisatvas. In Gonkhang, there is statues of Vajra Bhairava. Mahakala, Dharmakaya, the goddess Paldan Lhamo and Chamsring.
Hemis situated 45 kms from Leh is the largest monastery in Ladakh belonging to Drukpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. This Gonpa was founded by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630 who was invited to Ladakh by King Singey Namgyal who offered this Buddhist saint a large religious estate spread all over Ladakh region.
Inside Hemis monastery, you would see statue of Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinponche. The festival of Hemis is held every 12 years wherein Thangka similar to one in Tibet is exhibited. The last time it was exhibited in 2004 and is due in 2016.
Spituk Gompa situated 7 kms from Leh was founded by Od-Lde I in 11th Century. This Gonpa houses a giant Kali statue. From this Gonpa, one could see the landing and take-off of aeroplanes that comes to Leh.
37 kms from Leh you will get to this highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 feet. “Amazing isn’t it” sign board welcomes you on way to Nubra from Leh.
This is very picturesque and puts you in mersmerized state, but with lower oyxgen at this height, very dangerous to stay for long time. Once you cross North Pullu, you reach Khardung village and then to Valley of flowers.
The original name used for Nubra is Ldumra meaning “Valley of Flowers” and situated at North of Ladakh. The settlements can be seen along the Shayok and Siachen River streams.
The most fascinating and unique feature is Sand dunes between Deskit and Hundar villages where you can take a tour via bactrain camels which came from Persia during the Silk Route.
Hundar is located approx 7 kms from Deskit. This place is known for sand dunes and a walk on the sand dunes which has various forms and shape would be an exotic experience.
There is monastery which is 500 year old and worth a visit for it provides tremendous serene and stillness to the mind.
Deskit is the administrative center for Nubra valley and larger than surrounding villages. Restaurants serve Ladakhi, Tibetan, Chinese and Indian food of rice, roti and sabzi.
This place gives you astounding views of mountains and known for Deskit Gonpa founded by Lama Sherab Zangpo of Stod in 1420 AD. This monastery from top provides you a picturesque and wonderful sight of Nubra Valley.
Stay and accommodation
Camps and medium budget hotels can be found across Deskit and Hundar.
Turtuk is the last Indian Village for civilians to visit. Beyond Turtuk lies Gorkha Bridge and after that is International border with Pakistan. Turtuk became part of India after 1971 war and was given permission for tourism in early 2010.
After permission was granted, the villagers along with tourism ministry have begun construction of guest houses and hotels to cater to tourists. This is also a good place to stay for few days as this region is simply breathtaking.
You could interact with the villagers here and there are smaller budget hotels where one can stay. From Turtuk, you can see K2 mountain very clearly and during winter seasons, K2 will have deep snow and crevasses can be seen clearly.
Other side of Shayok river, you will find this small village known for monastery called Samstanling gonpa and camel safari.
Further away from Sumur and Tiger village is Panamik which is known for sulpur springs having medicinal properties. North of Panamik upto 5 kms tourists are allowed to visit which leads to Siachen area and comes under restricted area. On the other side of Panamik and Nubra river, you will see Ensa village known for picturesque monastery.
Enroute Lamayuru you would be fascinated by the river joining with turquoise green representing Zanskar and grey representing Indus at Nimmu where you can enjoy the Sangam and also take a journey on rafting which is conducted here.
Further away from Sangam, you will see a board showing “Magnetic Hill” with a box on the road requesting vehicles to stop their vehicle there to see how their vehicle moves without any effort due to Magnetic effect. This place also offers good time for every traveler to just climb up a mountain and come down and have fun. This is a good entertainment spot for children to play.
Alchi monastery is one of the oldest monastery in Ladakh.To reach Alchi, one has to cross the bridge on the way back from Lamayuru. This is one of the oldest Gonpa in Ladakh. At Alchi, you are welcomed by sight of Achi Choskor which means “religious enclave”, built by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo, the great Tibetan translator of 11th century.
He translated the Pali and Sanskrit texts to Tibetan. The fascinating part of this monastery is that it is built in three tier shrine in Kashmiri style. This monastery not only has statue of Lotsava the great translator, but also Lhakang Soma (new temple), the Jamyang Lhakang (Manjushri temple) and a mammoth statue of Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinponche.
Just before reaching Lamayuru, you would be stunned with natural formations like craters on earth with various hues and colors. There are deep shades of blue and grey with a backdrop of mountain ranges adding glory to this very spot. They have been aptly named as Moonscape or Moonland
Built on a natural pillar-like sandstone is on Leh -Srinagar highway. The history of this amazing monastery began with visit of Arahat Nimagung to this place when there was merely a lake here.
It is said that the Arahat made a prophecy that the monastery will come up at the very spot and be made offerings with prayer and grains of corn to the Nagas spirits. The corn mixed with the earth and grew in the form of Swastik (Yungdrung) and that was how this monastery got name Yungdrung Tharpaling Gonpa.
40 kms from Kargil towards Leh lies a rock-cut image of Maitreya Buddha at Mulbek on Leh-Srinagar highway Mulbek is known for Syed Mir Hashmi shrine located at Karpo Khar on outskirts of Sankoo.
220 kms from Leh is this small transit town to Srinagar providing excellent views of Tololing and Tiger Hill mountains. These mountains came into lime-light during the Kargil war of 1999 between Pakistan and India.
Once a Buddhist area, this changed to Shia Muslim tradition in late 15th century.
Kargil at an altitude of 10,000 feet has mightly Suru River flowing through it providing fantastic views and a photographer’s delight.
12 kms from Kargil, you can visit this village which has been target of cross border shelling yet a very picturesque village overlooking Pakistan
This popular enchanting valley is covered with awesome greenery spread across large stretch of valley flanked by snow clad mountains.
With sparking Suru River, this valley looks breathtaking and photographers cannot stop their shutters either.
This valley ends at Penzi La.
Rangdum is in a valley situated 3,657 m (11,998 ft) above the sea level, in an isolated region of the Suru valley in the Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in Northern India. On one side are the colorful hills while on the other side are rocky mountains and glaciers, notably Drang-drung.
Rangdum is located midway between Kargil and Padum. It is about 100 kilometers from Kargil. The road conditions are very bad near Rangdum. A JKTDC bungalow is available at Rangdum. Restaurants and hotels are also available here. There is no access to electricity, phone or internet.
While reaching Padum from Kargil you would see spectacular views of Nun kun mountain and cross most challenging Penzi-La by road.
You would reach Rangdum valley with a monastery perched atop of hillock covered by glacial mountains.
Padum was once capital of Zanskar and is now most populous settlement of Zanskar and here you can take river rafting.
Padum is known for its fabulous monasteries perched on hill tops like a cardboard box on mountains. The most spectacular ones are:
1. Karsha Gompa
2. Stongday Gompa
3. Zongkul Gompa
4. Sani Gompa
5. Stagrimo Gompa
6. Phutkal Gompa
7. Bardan Gompa
8. Zangla Palace
The great Tibetan plateau is known as Chang-Thang primarily inhabited by Changpa nomads, who are traditional producers of the finest variety of pashmina wool used by Kashmiri weavers for the world famous “Pashmina shawls”. One can visit the factory on way to Pangong Lake or Tsomoriri.
Known for exotic birds in Korzok Changthang is tucked in the midst of barren mountains. This lake is 19 kms long and 7 kms wide at an altitude of 4595 mtr and 215 kms southeast of Leh.
This water is unfit for any living organism eventhough it looks breathtaking. Towards the northern offshore island measuring around 80 x 60 mtr, you would find bar-headed goose and brown-headed gull apart from other exotic birds like horned-lark, redbilled chough and wagtails.
You would be fascinated to see various wild animals including Snow Leopard, Kiang, Nyan, Wolf, Red Fox, Lynx, Marmots
This 300 plus year old monastery lie beside the lake is in a most serene environment and good place for meditation practices.
The gompa, at 4,560 metres (14,960 ft), houses a Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues.
In the past, the monastery was the headquarters of the Rupshu Valley. It is an independent monastery under Korzok Rinpoche, widely known as Langna Rinpoche. The 3rd Korzok Rinpoche, Kunga Lodro Ningpo was the founder of Korzok Monastery.
This revered monastery is 300 years old. The Tso Moriri Lake below it is also held in reverence, and considered equally sacred by the local people. With the efforts of the WWF-India the Tsomoriri has been pledged as a ‘Sacred Gift for a Living Planet’ by the local community (mostly Chang-pa herdsmen). As a result, the area has been opened up for tourists
On the way to Tsomoriri, you will reach this place which is known for Sulpur springs over Indus river and people visit this place to undergo treatment for various ailments using the springs under the guidance of Amchi who are Tibetan medical practitioners.
Like Tsomoriri, Tso-kar is surrounded by wedlands and lush green meadows is home for Samad-Rokchen nomadic community. Known for salt in the lake, is the source of salt extraction for the locals.
This lake can be approached while return from Tsomoriri which will touch 2nd highest motorable road at Taglang La at 17,584 feet.
You can stay at a camp at Tsokar which is breathtaking and refreshing as it provides adventure and serene experience.
Pangong Tso is Tibetan name for “high grassland lake”, is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not a part of Indus river basin area and geographically a separate land locked river basin.
The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.
Hanle is a village in Ladakh and is the site of the 17th century Hanle Monastery (gompa) of the “Red Hat” Tibetan Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism located in the Hanle Valley on an old branch of the ancient Ladakh – Tibet trade route.
Hanle is also home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory. The location of both the village and the observatory are highly sensitive due to the close proximity of the Tibetan / Chinese border and special permission is needed to visit either by the Indian Government. Fukche airport is 24 km away, and Ukdungle town is close by. India has also set up a GRT (Gamma Ray Telescope), Himalayan Chandra Telescope, of 2 m diameter at Hanle. Once complete the Major Atmospheric Cerenkov Experiment Telescope gamma ray telescope being built here will be the world’s largest telescope at the highest altitude and the second largest gamma ray telescope in the world.