Leh Palace:Leh Palace is an excellent example of the medieval Tibetan architecture. It features colossal inclined buttressed walls and protruding wooden balconies. Leh Palace is one of the most captivating architectural ruins that attract the attention of the tourists almost immediately with its majestic setting at the edge of the Namgyal hill and overlooking the town. Built in the 17th century, it was built as the residential palace for the King Singge Namgyal. Much smaller but resembling the Potala Palace in Lhasa( Tibet). The highlights of the palace are flaking murals trying to let the visitors glimpse the erstwhile glory and splendor of the ruined royal apartments and its roof terrace offers picturesque views of the town and the snow-capped Stok Kangri Mountains. Also worth of note is the gloomy Dukhar temple housed on the fourth storey with a thousand armed image of its deity, Goddess Tara, along with some wonderful and peculiar masks, musical instruments and weapons used once as props, to accompany the occasional recitals and religious ceremonies held in the courtyard of the palace outside.
Shanti Stupa: Stupa made for world peace, by a Japanese Buddhist organization, sets picturesquely on the hilltop at Changspa above Leh town. A magnificent white-domed structure, the Shanti Stupa of Leh Ladakh offers spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset. The stupa looks best at night, when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights. A large number of tourists come to Ladakh every year to visit this amazing stupa. The stupa was built in 1985 and is a beautiful monument decorated with colorful paintings and enshrines large statues of Buddha.
Hall of Fame: is a glorious museum constructed by Indian army. You can see biographies of eminent defense personalities, images and weapons used during Kargil war, Siachen and its heroes and their daily instruments and lifestyle of Ladakhi people.
Spituk Monastery -: Spituk Monastery – The Gompa (monastery) stands prominently on the top of a hillock, 8 Kms. from Leh, and commands a panoramic view of the Indus Valley for miles.
Spituk Gompa of Ladakh dates back to the 11th century. It owes its inception to Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub OD. Od-de led to the establishment of a monastic community at this place. A three-chapel monastery, functions under the Gelukpa order. Three other monasteries of Ladakh, namely Stok, Sankar and Saboo, are considered to be the branches of Spituk Gompa. It also boasts of a rich collection of thankas, ancient masks, antique arms, etc. And not to be missed is an impressive image of Mahakal.
Hemis Monastery : Hemis Monastery is positioned inside a gorge, at a distance of approximately 47 km from Leh. Hemis Monastery holds the distinction of being the biggest as well as the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh. It dates back to the year 1630 and was founded by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso. Belonging to the Dugpa Order, it stands on the western bank of the Indus River. The monastery also boasts of a very rich collection of ancient relics including a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha, various gold and silver stupas, sacred thankas (old paintings on silken clothes) and several other exquisite objects. Situated slightly higher than the Hemis Gompa (monastery) of Leh , is a sacred hermitage, founded by Gyalwa Kotsang. The meditation cave of Gyalwa, along with his footprints and handprints on the rock and sacred shrines, still bring back his memories to life.
The Hemis Monastery also serves as the venue of an annual festival, known as the Hemis Festival. This festival is celebrated as a commemoration of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava .And not to be forgotten is a sacred mask dance that is performed at the monastery every year. The dance takes place on 9th and 10th day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar.
Stok Palace and monastery: Stok, 14 kms southeast of Leh, is a place, where the present day royal family resides. King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal built Stok palace & Museum in the year 1825, is an outstanding eye catching palace where the ancient and modern architectural styles are making their lively presence. . At present the palace is open to visitors and presents a collection of royal dresses, old Thankas, King’s crown and other royal material.
Stok village also serves as a starting point for Markha valley trek and Stok Kangri trek or Stok Kangri peak climbing, which is one of the most popular trekking peaks in the Indian Himalayas and it’s proximity to Leh makes it very accessible. Recommend for those wish to climb a non-technical 6,153 metres peak.
Shey Palace and Monastery : Shey is a town in Ladakh that has the old summer Palace of the kings of Ladakh. It is located 15 km. from Leh towards Hemis. The palace,mostly in ruins now, was built more than 555 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the king of Ladakh.Shey palace complex are structures located on a hillock.Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh in past.
The Shey Monastery was also built in 1655 on the instructions of Deldon Namgyal, in the memory of his late father, Singay Namgyal, within the palace complex. This Shey monastery has the largest Three-storey statue of Shakyamuni golden Buddha statue in Ladakh. The statue is the only of its kind in the region.
Thiksey monastery : Thiksey Monastery, an outstanding specimen of Ladakhi architecture, is a glorious Buddhist monastery located 20 kms. from Leh. Thiksey Monastery is the part of Gelukpa order in Buddhism and is beautifully located in the picturesque top of a hillock. The monastery is still very lively and has around 10 temples inside the premises. It encloses numerous stupas, Thankas, statues, swords, wonderful wall paintings and a large pillar carved with Buddha’s ideas and preaching, all in a mammoth 12 storied building complex. Located on the top of a hill and overlooks many small villages that are present in the valley on the foot of the hill. A marvelous Buddha statue in the seated position is adorning the main prayer hall. Thiksey Festival, a major attraction for tourists and Buddhist devotees, is conducted here with splendor and much pomp. In early morning or at noon, is the time when prayers are held in the monastery, accompanied by rolling drumbeats and Tibetan horns, the prayers are not to be missed.
Lamayuru Monastery: Lamayuru is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Kargil District, Western Ladakh situated on the Leh – Kargil – Srinagar road ,127 kms. West from Leh, at a height of 3,510 metres. Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh. The monastery is made up of a number of shrines and also has a very rich collection of thankas and magnificent wall paintings. At the outset, the Lamayuru Monastery consisted of five buildings, out of which only the central one exists today. The oldest surviving building at Lamayuru is a temple called Seng-ge-sgang, at the southern end of the Lamayuru rock, which is attributed to the famous builder-monk Rinchen Zangpo(958-1055 CE). Rinchen Zangpo was charged by the king of Ladakh to build 108 gompas, and certainly many gompas in Ladakh, Spiti and the surrounding regions, date from his time. Lamayuru is host to two annual masked dance festivals, in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar, when all the monks from these surrounding gompas( monastries) gather together to pray.
Alchi village & monastery : Alchi is a village situated on the bank of Indus River 70 km downstream from the capital in Leh .The village is famous for the existence of one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. Alchi Monastery(a national heritage) mainly known for its magnificent, and well-preserved 11th or 12th century wall paintings. The monastery was built, according to local tradition, by the great translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055 CE). Inscriptions, on the other hand, show that it was founded by a Tibetan noble called Kal-dan Shes-rab in the 11th century.Unlike the other gompas in Ladakh, Alchi is situated on lowland, not on a hilltop.
The wall paintings in Alchi Monastery are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh and reflect artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and Hindu kings of that time in Kashmir. It also has some massive statues of the Buddha and “lavish wood carvings and art-work.Alchi is a comfortable and a nice place in the heart of the Himalayas.
Phyang Monastery : Phyang is most beautiful village in Ladakh valley; the fields are surrounded by bushes, roses and trees. Yaks can be observed while grazing in the pastures or working in the fields. Phyang monastery is situated at a distance of approximately 20 km to the west of the Leh town. It belongs to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism. The hill of Phyang served as the venue of a monastery, known as Tashi Chozong, established in the year 1515. A monastic community was introduced to the monastery and with this started, the first establishment of the Digung teachings in Ladakh. There are a number of sacred shrines situated inside the monastery complex. Also, there are some exquisite wall paintings, dating from the royal period, adorning the monastery.
Another attraction of Phyang Gompa is its 900 years old museum. Its rich collection boasts of numerous idols, thankas (paintings on silken cloth), Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons, etc. The festival of Gang-Sngon Tsedup is held every year from 17th day to 19th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. The monastery also serves as the venue of the sacred dances, held every year on the 2nd and 3rd of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar.
Likir Monastery : The major sects of Ladakhi Buddhism are the Kargyutpa and Gelukpa- the Red Hat and the Yellow Hat schools respectively. First set up in the 14th century by monks from Tibet, it was extensively rebuilt about 200 years ago and dedicated to the Yellow Hat Order. Likir is a beautiful monastery that is located at a distance of 62 km to the west of the town, Leh. You can witness the statues of Bodhisattva, Amitabha (Buddha of the West), Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), and Tsongkhapa inside this monastery. The image of Avalokitesvara, with 1000 arms and 11 heads is also a cause of attraction of the tourists. At present, it is the dwelling place of more than 120 Buddhist monks. The monks at Likir also maintain the complex at Alchi, which was abandoned as a place of worship centuries ago, but remains among the earliest surviving gompas in the Ladakh region.
Khardung-la Pass : Khardung-la Pass, meaning the ‘Pass of Lower Castle,’ is located 37 kms.by road, on the way from Leh to the Nubra Valley in Ladakh. The pass lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley.Khardung La is believed to be the world’s highest motorable pass 5,565 metres (18,320ft.). The old silk route used to be passed from khardungla. In the olden days from Leh, trade caravans carrying pashmina, shawls, spices, opium and saffron used to cross the Ladakh range through the Khardung La or Chang La, traversed the forbidding Karakoram (meaning: Place of Black Gravel) range through the Karakoram pass and thence to the central Asian towns of Yarkand and Kashgar on the Silk Route. The caravans brought back precious stones, hashish, tobacco and silk.
Nubra Valley : Nubra valley is one of the most remote valley and is about 150 km north of Leh, the capital town of Ladakh, in the Himalayas.It is also known as the valley of flowers. During early summer, Nubra is clad in endless bushes of yellow and pink wild roses, and once the valley is through with the season of roses around August, a carpet of wild lavender lies gently on it.
The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges. Siachen Glacier (better known as the hightest battelfield of the world) lies to the north of the valley.The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. above the sea level. Like the rest of Ladakh, Nubra is a high altitude desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds, where irrigated, and on high slopes. The villages are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard for oil, and a variety of fruits and nuts, including apple, walnut, apricot and even a few almond trees grow. Most of the Nubra Valley is inhabited by Ladakhis who speak Ladakhi; the majority of them are Buddhist, with a minority of Shia and Sunni Muslims. Thye valley is also known for the goats that give you the famous Pashmina shawls
Along the Nubra or Siachan River lie the villages of Sumur, Kyaga, Tirith, Panamik and many others. Samstanling monastery is between Kyagar and Sumur villages, and Panamik is noted for its hot springs. Across the Nubra or Siachan River at Panamik, is the isolated Ensa Gompa.
The Nubra Valley, once on the trading route that connected eastern Tibet with Turkistan via the famous Karakoram Pass, is the most recently opened area of Ladakh. Nubra invites you to a trip back in time into a nearly forgotten ‘Shangri La’. With breathtaking views and delightfully hospitable inhabitants, it is quite an experience.You will require an “Inner Line” permit (which can be obtained in Leh town) to enter Nubra.
Diskit village : is located slightly off the little hamlet of Khalsar in Nubra valley dotted with apricot plantations. Diskit is amongst the larger villages in the region, and home to the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa – the oldest, and the largest monastery in the Nubra valley.This is situated on a rocky spur above the village with commanding views up and down the valley. Diskit has a regular market with a number of rudimentary hotels and guest houses, some of which are very basic. The road between Diskit and the quaint little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. Keep your eyes open for the double-humped camels! Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes, and (two-humped) bactrian camels graze in the neighbouring “forests” of seabuckthorn. The double humped Bactarian camels- which in the olden days, were used as pack animals on the Central Asian trade route.Today these camel safaris are very popular in the area and visitors can take a camel safari out into the sand dunes from hunder village.. You could spend a pleasant evening around these natural marvels that border a stream, and have snowcapped peaks for a backdrop.
The Samtanling Gompa : The Samtanling Gompa is situated on the mountainside above Summer Village, is definitely worth a visit, and houses a fine collection of idols, frescos and thankas (painted and embroidered scrolls).
Panamik village : The furthest place the permit allows one to visit in the Nubra valley is Panamik, the last settlement of any size before the Tibetan border on this old trade route. In the olden days this village was a busy center, the last major settlement before the caravans plunged into the mountains of the high mountains of Karakoram range and Kun-lu. The 250 years old Ensa Gompa, nestled on top of a rock overlooking snow-peaked mountains across the valley is much further away than it looks.
Panamik is the last destination travellers are permitted to travel to in Nubra valley and it’s not very wise to proceed further than the provided barrier at the northern edge of the town since this is a rather sensitive border area. It is completely controlled by the Indian Army, usually with very friendly soldiers.
Hot Water Sulphur Springs : On the mountainside above the village hot water bubbles out of the earth in thermal springs. The waters of the hot sulphur springs at the village of Panamik, the last destination travellers are permitted to travel to in Nubra, are believed to have certain medicinal qualities that cure a number of ailments.
High altitude Lakes in Ladakh : The Himalaya region is dotted with hundreds of lakes. Most lakes are found at altitudes of less than 5,000 metres, with the size of the lakes diminishing with altitude.The famous lakes In Ladakh Himalays are Tso-Moriri and Pangong Lake-which is also the largest lake in the entire Himalayas. These large lakes are in an area that were closed to tourists, and were open recently. You will require an “Inner Line” permit to visit these recantley open areas.
Pangong Lake (4,350 metres) : Pangong Lake is the largest lake in the Himalayas (150 kms from Leh) situated at a height of about 4,350 metres (14,300 ft). It is 134 km long and extends from India to China (Chinese occupied Tibet) 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. Spangmik, the farthest point to which foreigners are permitted, is only some seven km along the southern shore from the head of the lake, but it affords spectacular views of the mountains of the Changchenmo range to the north, their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lake’s brackish waters. In the summers the lake is inhabited by the nomadic Chang – Pa Tribe (herds people of Tibet and south-east Ladakh.) They cultivate crops of barley and peas in summer. It is in winter that they unfold their tents (rebo) and take their flocks of sheep and pashmina goats out to the distant pastures.
Tso-Moriri Lake (4,595metres) : Tsomoriri Lake Moriri is a High Altitude Lake ( 240 kms from leh) with an altitude of 4,595 metres (15,080 ft) in the Himalayas in Ladakh valley. It is the largest of the High Altitude Lakes in the Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region, entirely within India It is hemmed between Leh in the North and Tibet in the east and Zanskar in the west; the Changthang plateau is the geographical setting with snow peaks that provides the source of water for the Lake. Accessibility to the lake is limited to summer season only.The small village of Korzok, with its hill top monastery,is the only habitation in the area,which is otherwise inhabited by the nomadic Chang – Pa Tribe( herds people of Tibet and south-east Ladakh.)Even these bare mountains support a sparse population of wildlife, and the animals most likely to be spotted is the Kyan-the wild ass of the Ladakh and Tibet Plateaux.The most plentiful are marmots( ubiquitous on mountain slopes all over Ladakh.), hares, and an unusual tail less rat. The lake is breeding grounds for numerous species of birds. Chief among them are the bar-headed goose, found in great numbers, the great crested grebe, the Brahmini duck s(ruddy Sheldrake) and the brown- headed gull.
A very pretty 10 days “ Parang –la-Pass” trek ends at Korzok, which starts from Kibber( Spiti valley- in Himachal Pradesh) over Parang la 5,578 metres(18,300ft.)
Kargil town : Kargil the second town of Ladakh and is located 204 kms. from Srinagar to the west, 234 kms from Leh to the east, 240km from Padum to the southeast in Zanskar valley in the Himalayas. Kargil still remains the main staging-point between Srinagar and Leh, and is the gateway to the Suru valley and Zanskar valley in the Ladakh Himalayas.
Suru valley : The Suru valley is a valley in the Ladakh Himalays, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which is drained by the Suru River (Indus) a tributary of the Indus river. It is located at a height of 3,000m.The suru valley a greatly underrated part of ladakh,run for about 140 kms from Kargil upto the base of Penzi-La -Pass at Panikhar- a samll village which divides the Suru valley with Zanskar. Although immobilized in winters by heavy snowfall,its field watered by streams from the surrounding mountains,produce rich crops
of wheat and barley. Irrigation water is plentiful enough to allow the plantation of thick stands of willow and poplar trees,giving the area a lushness rare in ladakh.
The Suru valley is inhabited by 25,000 people. Buddhists in the Suru valley are dispersed throughout the valley in small numbers but are found mainly in Rangdum village ( famous for Rangdum Monastery) and is about 25 km from the 4,400 m (14,436 ft) Penzi La (pass) which leads into Zanskar.
The Nun Kun mountain massif comprises a pair of Himalayan peaks: Nun, 7,135 m (23,409 ft) and its neighbor peak Kun, 7,077 m (23,218 ft).Nun is the highest peak in the part of the Ladakh Himalayan range . The massif is located near the Suru valley .Kun is located north of Nun and is separated from it by a snowy plateau of about 4 km (2.5 mi) in length. Pinnacle Peak, 6,930 m (22,736 ft), is the third highest summit of the group.
Panikhar village,in the Suru valley is also the base for long treks in the direction of Kashmir and Kishtwar valleys.
Zanskar valley : Zanskar is arguably one of the most beautiful mountain regions in the world. Yet untouched by crowd of travelers, only dies hard nature lover and adventure enthusiasts have walked its paths. The three arms radiate star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse where the region’s two principal drainage’s meet to form the main Zanskar River. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region’s 10,000 strong, mainly Buddhists population lives. Spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq. kms. High rise mountains and deep gorges surround Zanskar. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes, including the Penzi-la. Zanskar opened to motor traffic only after 1980 when a road was built via the Suru valley and Rangdum over the Penzi-la.
Zanskar is also known as a land of religion and has the greatest concentration of Buddhist monasteries (gompas) in Ladakh outside the Indus valley.
Rangdum (20 kms from Penzi-La- Pass) and Padum (240 kms from Kargil) are the main villages in Zanskar valley. Padum has several hotels and restaurants meant for tourists. Padum has a post office, internet cafes and telephone booths. A number of notable Buddhist monasteries are located near Padum including Bardan Monastery,Kursha Monastery, Sansi Monastery and Phugtal Monastery.
The 240 km long Kargil-Padum road, of which the first 90 km stretch is paved, remains opened from around early July to mid October.
In June, the summer is at its height in the region and the climate is ideal for trekking .Padum is a center for rewarding long treks to Manali via Shingo –la (16,732ft.), Lamayuru and Leh treks via through the Zanskar range( Great Himalayan ).
Come to Zanskar, and discover its sheer beauty that gives you a peek into heaven kept aside for humans.