Leh Ladakh Information

Leh, the ancient capital of Ladakh region is perched at an altitude of 3,350 metres amidst starkly beautiful mountains, which gently blend into an oasis of lush fields.  The breathtakingly beautiful town is laden with palaces and monasteries.  It was a flushing caravan trade centre between Punjab and central Asia and between Kashmir and Tibet.  Today, Leh has emerged as an important tourist destination providing an unusual holiday.  It is an ideal base for trekking, mountaineering, camping and white water rafting.  The region of upper Indus Valley around Leh is the cultural heartland of Ladakh and is studded with a number of Buddhist monasteries (gompas) and magnificent palaces.

The region of Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, has often been described as a moonscape, a desolate high-altitude desert kingdom of mysticism and mystery. It is all of these, and more, a thoroughly awe-inspiring world of harsh reality, with few luxuries. Local lives are centered around Buddhism, yaks, and survival, and more recently on the small tourism industry that sprouts in the relatively warmer months of the year (July–Sept). Leh, Ladakh’s capital city, is little touched by rain, but the extreme cold during the long winter season means that this remote region remains isolated for much of the year. Come June, however, when the tourists begin to trickle into Leh, the sober, somber slumber of this remote high-altitude town lifts along with the temperatures. Situated in a fertile valley at the foot of Namgyal Tsemo peak, 8km (5 miles) northeast of the Indus River, Leh is deeply reliant on this short, intense tourist season. From June to September the surrounding barren mountains and distant snowcapped peaks are the perfect natural backdrop for the verdant fields and avenues of trees that cluster around the whitewashed, flat-roofed buildings. Developed as a market for traders from across the North India belt, Leh was an important stop for travelers traversing the challenging caravan routes to Yarkand and Kashgar. The Silk Road brought Buddhist travelers, and today the population remains predominantly Buddhist. You can spend up to a week exploring the town and the numerous Buddhist monuments within a 2- or 3-hour drive of Leh. Adventure-seekers can get caught up in river-rafting on the Zanskar and Indus, high-level mountainclimbing, or treks into remote, barren wilderness regions, which can easily extend your stay by an additional week. The more laid-back traveler will be rewarded by awe-inspiring excursions to high-altitude lakes such as Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

Leh’s wide street bazaar runs east-west. Together with the labyrinth of adjoining side streets and alleys, the bazaar is the center of business and shopping—particularly for visitors who find the plethora of antiques shops irresistible. Locals tend to visit the alternative market nearer the Leh polo ground, east of the center. For a truly exotic and atmospheric experience, visit the Old Village , a disorganized cluster of cobblestone lanes, ancient homes, and low-vaulted tunnels. It’s well worth an exploratory jaunt, during which you should sample the freshly baked breads sold by local bakers. Walking northwest of the city (beyond the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh headquarters, where you can shop for traditional Ladakhi handicrafts), you will quickly discover a rural farmlike community. Gone are the shops and eager sellers—here you’ll find only fields of green sprinkled with bright yellow blossoms, gentle streams trickling past squat stone walls, and small Ladakhi houses with little vegetable gardens. To the west are the cobbled streets of the popular Changspa neighborhood, characterized by the number of guesthouses and laid-back marijuanasmoking travelers who come here for the pastoral atmosphere. To the west of Changspa lies Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist monument most easily reached by motorable road. Inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in the 1980s, the large white stupa (commemorative cairn) was conceived as part of a Japanese-inspired peace movement to spread Buddhism throughout the world. From the vast courtyard at the base of the stupa you can enjoy matchless panoramic views of Leh and the rugged beauty of the surrounding mountains, which seem to stretch on forever. Northeast of the main bazaar area is Leh Palace, which unfortunately is in a sorry state of disrepair. At press time reconstruction and repairs were ongoing, but until they are completed, the palace is best enjoyed from a distance.

There are enough Buddhist gompas within easy reach of Leh to keep enthusiasts busy for several days. North along the road to Srinigar are Phyang Gompa (16km/10 miles from Leh), and 15th-century Spituk Gompa (8km/5 miles from Leh), which sits atop a lone rocky hill. If you’re prepared to spend some time on the road (a scintillating journey), Alchi (along the left bank of the Indus around 70km/43 miles northwest of Leh, a short way off the Srinigar–Leh Rd.) is highly recommended. One of the oldest monasteries in the region, it dates back to the 11th century. Situated in a quiet hamlet with a handful of souvenir and snack stalls and some very modest budget accommodations, Alchi is centered around its inactive five-temple gompa complex, administered by the Yellow-Hat Gelugpa monks of Likir Monastery 30km (18 miles) across the river. You’ll need a flashlight to explore the temple interiors, which are covered with vibrant, colorful, detailed murals. A courtyard leads to the dukhang, or assembly hall, where the statue of Avalokiteshvara is believed to be of pure gold. On the way to Alchi, stop at Basgo , where a hillside citadel consists of several Buddhist temples attached to a ruined castle. A two-story-high golden statue of the future Buddha is housed in the Maitreya Temple, which has fantastic murals of fierce divinities that were the guardian deities of the royal family once resident here.

SOUTH & EAST OF LEH

Venturing south of Leh along the same road that goes all the way to Manali, you can take in a number of monasteries, and one or two Ladakhi palaces. Located across from Choglamsar on the opposite side of the Indus, Stok Palace (May–Oct daily 8am–7pm; Rs 25/55¢) is the only inhabited palace in Ladakh, home to the 74th generation of the Namgyal dynasty. The land-holding rights of Stok were granted to the royal family by Gen. Zorawar Singh in 1834 when he deposed Tshe-spal-Namgyal, the Gyalpo (king) of Ladakh. It’s an imposing complex, with around 80 rooms, only a few of which are still used by the current widowed Gyalmo (queen), who is sometimes in residence with her immediate family. Several rooms are taken up by the modest museum housed in one section. Museum highlights include a vast thangka collection, weapons, jewels and, of special note, the queen’s perak, a turquoise-studded headdress. The ghostly Buddhist shrine is an experience not to be missed. Fifteen kilometers (9 miles) from Leh, Shey Palace and Monastery (May–Oct, daily 8am–7pm; Rs 20/45¢) is worthwhile for the gompa, but the palace is little more than crumbling ruins. Thikse Gompa (daily 6am–6pm), 25km (16 miles) south of Leh, is a striking 12-story edifice with tapering walls that sits atop a craggy peak. From here you get magnificent views of the valley, strewn with whitewashed stupas.

Hidden from the world on a remote verdant hillock, Hemis Gompa (45km/28 miles from Leh) is considered the wealthiest Ladakhi monastery, its atmospheric prayer and assembly halls rich with ancient relics and ritual symbols. During the summer season in June and July, the monastery comes alive for the annual Hemis Tsechu , a festival commemorating Guru Padmasambhava’s birth. Masked dancing by the lamas and ritual dramas are played out in the courtyard, and the locals sell Ladakhi handicrafts and jewelry. Every 12 years, a magnificent embroidered silk thangka (tantric wall hanging) is displayed to the public; the next such unveiling takes place in June 2016, when the Year of the Monkey comes around again. On your daylong trip into Hemis National Park, you may—with luck—come across brown bear, ibex, or (if the stars are truly aligned in your favor) the extremely elusive snow leopard. The popular Markha Valley trek also traverses this park. East of Leh are two stunning high-altitude lakes that can be visited on a 2- to 3-day jeep safari. The only way to visit these lakes, close to the sensitive border with Tibet, is to book though an agent who can organize everything, including travel, guides, basic accommodations in tents or a village, and special permits. Pangong Tso is a huge lake, a large chunk of which lies across the border; farther south is Tso Moriri , where the colors of the water are as lovely as the birds you’ll spot. The trip can include a visit to the Chemdey and Tak-tok monasteries.

NUBRA VALLEY

A 5-hour jeep drive over the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung-La (5,578m/18,000 ft.), now a veritable vehicle scrap dump, leads to northern Ladakh’s lush Nubra Valley , a fertile region with gompas, hot sulphur springs (at Panamik), and double-humped camels. Deep within the breathtaking Karakoram mountain range, the valley combines terrific desertscapes and fertile fields watered by the Siachen and Shayok rivers. For centuries, the route into Nubra was part of the legendary Silk Route used by caravans of traders operating between the Punjab and various regions within central Asia. The valley is dotted with peaceful, pleasant, sparsely populated villages, but its little-explored landscape is the ultimate getaway for the traveler in search of escape; rent a bike and take time to explore. You need to arrange an Inner Line Permit in Leh (which can be done through any travel agent or through your hotel), and technically you must be traveling in a group of at least four people.

Location

Ladakh is located at 34.14°N and 77.55°E.  It is between the Karakoram mountain range in the north and the Himalayas in the south.

Climate

The climates in summer are short, though they are long enough to grow crops in the lower reaches of the Suru valley.  The summer weather is dry and pleasant, with average temperatures between 10-20°C, while in winter, the temperature may dip to 15°C.

History

Ladakh is a mysterious land shrouded in myths and legends.  A thousand year ago, before the Tibetan rule, Raja Skitde Nemagon, ruled over Ladakh, which was known as Muryul, as most of the mountains, and the soil in Ladakah wears a red tinge.  In the 10th century A.D, Skitde Nemagon, along with a couple of hundred men, invaded Ladakh where there was no central authority.

Ladakh Tourism Information

Ladakh, known as the 'land of the Lamas', is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India.  Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture.  It is sometimes called as 'Little Tibet' as it has been strongly influenced by the Tibetan culture.

Leh Palace

The nine storied majestic palace was built by Sengge Namgyal the ruler of Ladakh during the early 17th century.  It is said to have served as the model for the famous Patola Palace in Lhasa(Tibet).  Within the palace are old wall paintings depicting the life of Lord Buddha.  The small corridors have over 100 years’ old tankas of painted scrolls, statues and other armaments. Set on a small hill, the Leh Palace towers above the town of Leh.  It was once the thriving royal residence of the ruling Namgyals and is said to have served as the model for the Potala, its more illustrious cousin in Lhasa and one-time residence of the Dalai Lama.

Leh Monastery

It is perched high above the valley crags and dominates the palace and the town, symbolising the supremacy of the Spiritual king.  The monastery has a solid golden statue of Buddha, painted scrolls, ancient manuscripts and wall paintings.

Namgyal Tsemo

Another hill rising above Leh town is occupied by a small fort and monastery complex of Namgyal Tsemo peak.  It was built in the 16th century by King Tashi Namgyal and is believed to be the earliest royal residence in Leh.  Nearby is a Gonkhang, the shrine of the guardian deities and a temple dedicated to Maitreya (the Future Buddha).  Both the shines house excellent murals.

Leh Mosque

The magnificent mosque is a fine example of Turko – Iranian architecture.

Ladakh Ecological centre

It lies on the western edge of the town and is engaged in development of agriculture, solar energy, health and environmental awareness in the region.  There is also a small library and a shop selling local handicrafts.

Shanti stupa

The splendid Shanti Stupa or the ‘People Pagoda” atop a hill was built in 1980, with the help of Japanese Buddhists.

Changspa

This settlement on the outskirts of Leh is known for its exotic scenic beauty and colourful bazaar.  The Moravian church lies on the way to Changspa.

Leh Tour Information

Samkar Gompa (3km)

The 19th century monastery is the only one built on valley level.  It is the seat of the yellow sect of the Buddhists and has a rich collection of miniature statues of pure gold and a number of wall paintings.

Choglamsar(7km)

It is the main Tibetan refugee settlement in Ladakh.  Sporting activities like polo and golf can be enjoyed here.

Alchi Monastery (70km)

The 12th century gompa on the banks of Indus is one of the most beautiful gompas of Leh region.  Alchi is famous for its exclusive wall paintings.

Hemis Monastery (43km)

Hemis nestled atop a green hill is the biggest and wealthiest monastery of Ladakh.  It was built in 1630, during the reign of Sengee Namgyal.  Masked dance performance is worth seeing during the celebrations of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava in June.  The monastery has gold statues and stupas adorned with precious stones.  It has  a rich collection of tankas, including the larges tanka in Ladakh which is unfolded only once in every 12 year (Last displayed in 2004).

Hemis High Altitude National Park (3km)

This unique park covering an area of 600s1km is inhabited by some of the most exotic and endangered animal species like shapu, bharal, ibex, snow leopard etc.

Phiyang (20km)

It lies on the Leh-Kargil road and was built by Tashi Namgyal in the later half of the 16th century.  The palace like gompa belongs to the Red Cap sect of the Buddhists.

Shey (15km)

The ancient capital of Ladakh is believed to have been the seat of power of the pre Tibetan kings.  Its abandoned palace has a temple enshrining a 7.5 metre high copper statue of Buddha, plated with gold.  The statue dates back to the 17thcentury and is perhaps the largest of its kind.

Spituk Monastery (8km)

The 15th century monastery atop hill is said to be the oldest establishment of Gelugpa sect in Ladakh.  It is built in Tibetan style and houses a library of Tsongkapa, the sect’s founder.

Thikse Monastery (20km)

It is one of the largest and architecturally the most impressive gompas in Ladakh.  The monastery is mainly known for its exotic murals and wall paintings. << Click to Book Your Tour Online>>

Stok Palace

Located in a tiny village on the outskirts of Leh, this palace has been the Ladkhi royal family's residence for the last 150 years since the Dogra armies invaded the Leh Palace.  One may have a chance to encounter with the members of the royal family too.  It houses a museum, which is said to have the best collection of exquisite thangka paintings in the whole of Ladakh.

Leh

Leh is the headquarter of Leh District, and the largest town of the region. It is located to the north of the Indus River at an elevation of about 3600m above the sea level.  The town is dominated by the nine-storey Namgyal Palace and Namgyal Tsemo (victory peak), built by Tashi Namgyal on his victorious reunification of the Upper and Lower Ladakh.

Pangong Lake

Pangong is 40 miles in length and nearly 2-4 miles in width at a height of 4267m above the sea level What strikes the eye in coming first in view of this lake is the lovely color of its water, particularly towards the evening, which is of the richest deep blue, over the whole expanse.

Nubra Valley

The Nubra Valley means 'Ldumra' (the valley of flowers), situated in the north of Leh.  The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000ft. above the sea level.  The main attractions of this area are Bactrian Camels (shaggy double hump camel) around the sand dunes.

Tsomoriri Lake

The Tsomoriri Lake is a beautiful mountain bounded expanse of water, around 240km. from Leh in Rupsho Valley.  The lake is located at 14,000ft. near a small village of Korzok.  The Korzok Monastery of the 19th century houses the Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues.

Festivals

Ladakh Festival

The Ladakh Festival takes place from September 1-15 every year in Leh and the villages surrounding it.  The festival lasts for 15 days with regular programs, which include archery, polo, and mask dances from the monasteries and traditional dances by cultural troupes from the villages.

Hemis Festival

The Hemis Festival is one of the most famous held monastic festivals held in June to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantrik Buddhism in Tibet.  The sacred dance drama of the life and mission of the Guru is performed wearing facial masks and colorful brocaded robes.  The three-day festival takes place from 9th to 11th, especially, in the monkey year festival, which comes in a cycle of 12 years.  During it the four-storey thangka of Guru Padma sambhava is hung in the courtyard and other precious thangkas are also exhibited.

Leh Ladakh Distance Guide

Leh Ladakh Anantnag 490 Km
Leh Ladakh Baramula 495 Km
Leh Ladakh Kathua 823 Km
Leh Ladakh Jammu 739 Km
Leh Ladakh Muzaffarabad 539 Km
Leh Ladakh Punch 585 Km
Leh Ladakh Riasi 660 Km
Leh Ladakh Srinagar 434 Km
Leh Ladakh Udhampur 680 Km