Ladakh is a different world. As you scrape down the runway at the Kushok Bakula Rimpoche Airport in Leh town, you will realize this fact. The name itself is significant as Kushok Bakula Rimpoche was a revered monk in Ladakh whose Spituk Monastery stands guard on a high hill facing the airport.
We have come up with a detailed itinerary of best places to visit in Leh as you not only need some time to rest and acclimatize but also apply for permits as you wander deep into this magical land, we all know as Union Territory of Ladakh.
Overlooking the city is the majestic Leh Palace and is one of the best places to visit in Leh. All your doubts concerning the fact that is Leh worth visiting will fade away, the moment, you have the first glimpse of the Leh Palace. This palace was built by Sengge Namgyalduring circa 1600.
The palace is nine stories high and was used by the royal family. The upper floors of the palace were used for accommodation purpose while the lower ones were used as store and stable.
The museum in this palace is worth visiting and is infact one of the best places to visit in Leh city. You will find a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, traditional costumes and crowns here. Thangka or traditional Tibetan paintings some of which are 450 years old with draw your instant attention.The bright colours of these age old paintings are starkly clear. You will be amazed to know the fact that this colour is due to use of crushed gems and stones in these paintings.
The base region of Leh Palace is equally astounding as it is home to Namgyal Stupa, the Chandazik Gompa and the Chamba Lhakhang. The mural fragments within and among walls also add to the mystique of this palace. Moreover, the panoramic view of Leh from this palace will leave a lasting impression of this beautiful town in your mind.
When to Visit: Open on all days of week
Timing: 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Entry Fee: Rs 15/- for Indians and Rs 100/- for Foreign Nationals
Another among best places to visit in Leh is the Shanti Stupa.The monument has been built with the intention of promoting world peace and prosperity. The commemoration of 2500 years of Buddhism is also signified with help of Shanti Stupa. On virtue of being perched on a hill top, the Shanti Stupa also offers panoramic view of Leh city and is a vital component of Leh local sightseeing.
This stupa is a part of the peace pagoda mission that Japanese Buddhist monks advocate. The relics of Buddha have also been placed below this Shanti Stupa, a fact that makes this place a worth visiting location.
Sunsets and sunrise look awesome from Shanti Stupa and all your notions on the question is Leh worth visiting would be answered, once you get here at this time. This stupa was built by Gyomyo Nakamura in 1991 and this is a two level structure. At the first level, the Dharamchakara having deer on both side and image of Buddha in Gold has been placed. The depiction of birth and death of Lord Buddha has been done at the second level. A similarity in both the levels though is the presence of small relics of Buddha in meditating position.
Best time to visit: July to September
How to reach: Through car or bike. Climb to the hilltop thereafter through a flight of steps
Hall of Fame
As the name indicates, Hall of Fame is a memorial. Located at a distance of 4 Km from Leh, this is among best places to visit in Leh city. This memorial has been build in memory of brave soldiers of Indian Army who laid their lives serving the motherland during India- Pakistan wars.This is a two story memorial and the upper story has been divided into two parts. In one, you can see different relics of Kargil War of 1999. The weapons used and captured from Pakistani Army also feature in this section which has been named as OP Vijay Gallery. The other region has been devoted to Siachen Glacier and displays various things associated with Indian Army which are used by the troops in this extremely challenging terrain.
Pictures of Kargil War have been featured on the ground floor and by merely seeing these you can gauge the braveness with which Indian soldiers fought during Kargil war. There is a section which displays photos of all who laid their lives during this war for the nation. You can even watch a documentary on Operation Vijay in the projector room in this museum.
The “last post” written by Captain Vijayant Thapar to his parents is also displayed proudly here. You will definitely be bound to think on what exactly we are contributing towards our nation’s growth when you read this emotional and motivating letter that a brave Indian Army Officer had written to his parents.
Do not forget to visit the souvenir shop as you will be able to buy t-shirts, caps and other traditional items here.
Timings: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Entry Fee: Rs 25/- per person. Photography inside will entail a cost of Rs 50/-
How not will you make endless rounds of Leh Market when you happen to be in Leh. Infact your Leh local sightseeing will begin from the market itself.From groceries to local food, you can get everything imaginable under the sun now in Leh. 2021 is a different year and the market is evidently different of what it used to be in early 90s. Lanes and by lanes separate this market into sections with things like handicrafts and artefacts available in one section and food and souvenirs available in other. Infact, your Ladakh tour planning can be done in this market as it has some of the popular travel agencies of Leh lined up.
There are many eateries in Leh market with Dreamland restaurant, Lamayuru and Leh Darbar being the popular ones.
This is a popular monastery in Leh and is around half hour walk from the main town. You can consider it a sister concern of the Spituk Monastery. The monastery is relatively calm as only 20 monks live here and only few of them reside on permanent basis.
As you climb the stairs, you will be led to dukang or the assembly hall. The rich paintings on the doors and walls will definitely attract your attention. The residence of deity also known as Dukar Lhakang lies perched up higher. The idol of Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva) with its 1000 arms and 1000 heads is equally impressive.
You will definitely be impressed with the paintings of Tibetan calendar and mandala (geometric configuration of symbols) both of which adore the walls of Sankar Gompa. Rooms of Abbot, guests and a library also figure in this Gompa.
Situated above the Leh Palace is the Zorawar Fort, another among best places to visit in Leh. At one point of time, this fort was popular for being able to hold the wealth of the Dogra rulers of Jammu region. You will be able to see a collection of coins along with treasure of rulers of bygone era in this fort.
This fort was the home ground of General Zorawar Singh Kahluria who is known in Indian History for his innumerable victories against the Chinese rulers. Trekking from the Leh Fort is the best way to reach this fort as you will also be able to enjoy the amazing views of Leh.
This is a mere tree in the main market of Leh but holds immense religious significance. It seeded in 1516 when the holy guru of Sikhs, Shri. Guru Nanak visited this place. This Meswak tree is located behind the Jama Masjid in Leh and the place which is known as Datun Sahib consists of nishan sahib and a tree with a wrapping of orange cloth.
It is said that Leh was devoid of any kind of plantation and it was only after Guru Nanak planted this tree, did green vegetation surface in Leh.
This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Leh over the past few years.This riverbank is situated near Shey Village in Leh and is the venue for famous cultural event of Ladakh Singhey Khabab Spring festival. This three day festival is held during the month of June and a host of cultural events signifying the cultural essence of Ladakh are showcased during this event.
Even otherwise too, you can sit and relax on this riverbank and watch the mighty Indus river flow before your eyes.
This is a Buddhist monastery in Leh which is located 8 Km from the main town. This monastery was founded in 11th century by Od-de and today the monastery has over 100 monks who reside and learn here permanently.
Gustor Festival is the time to be at Spituk Monastery as the statue of Kali is displayed at this time. This is also the time to watch the popular Cham dance. You can also pay a visit to the museum here which is home to collection of ancient masks, antique arms and different Thangkas.
This is another popular monastery in Ladakh that figure among best places to visit in Leh. It is located 15 Km from Leh and is said to be built during 16th century. The museum in the monastery features collection of Kashmiri bronze idols, Thangkas and Tibetan and Mongolian firearms. Phyang Monastery is also known for its Gang-Sngon Tsedup festival.
How to Reach Leh
Leh is accessible both through Srinagar and Manali routes. From Srinagar, the distance of Leh is 434 Km while it is 494 Km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh. However, access through road route is limited during winter months.
Leh is accessible year-round by air from Delhi. Regular flights operate from Delhi and Chandigarh to Leh. It takes 1.30 hours by air to reach Leh from Delhi.
Ladakh is definitely an adventure travel hub and you can make a beginning by exploring the city of Leh, which definitely deserves your time and attention. More on different facades of Ladakh region in the coming blogs of this series!