Leh Ladakh is one of the best trips you can undertake in India. While you must visit the famous places nearby such as Pangong Tso lake, but it is equally important to get the unique experience of Ladakhi culture centered around Leh. If you fly to Leh directly, you might end up missing the important local sightseeing of Leh town. That’s why we created a properly planned itinerary so that we were able to explore Leh and all its elements nearby within a span of two days. Here are a few places that are a must visit when you go on a tour of Leh, Ladakh. All these places can be easily covered in a couple of days without your schedule becoming too hectic. We’ve listed a few places in and around that you shouldn’t miss when you go to Leh.
It is impossible to miss this monumental structure when you visit. Towering over the entire city of Leh, on a hilltop in Chanspa, this Stupa is a major tourist attraction for its unique heritage as well as the beautiful panoramic views of the entire city of Leh from it. Situated at a height of 13,999 ft, the stupa is located 5 kilometres from Leh on a steep hill facing the Leh Palace. The stupa can be reached by a drivable road or on foot using a series of 500 steep steps to the hilltop. Built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura , the Stupa is symbol of cultural as well as religious opulence. It was established to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th and the current Dalai Lama himself. It is open for tourists between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit the Stupa to truly appreciate the marvel of Leh surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
Being in Leh and missing out on seeing Leh Palace is an atrocity. It holds historic and cultural significance to Ladakh. Apart from that it provides amazing panoramic views of Leh and its surrounding regions from its roof. Build 17th century by then King Sengge Namgyal, it is a former royal palace which overlooking Leh. It is modeled upon the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It is a majestic nine storeys high building in which the upper floors used to accommodate the royal family, while the lower floors housed the stables and store rooms. In mid nineteenth century when the Dogra forces took control of Ladakh, the royal family abandoned it and moved to Stok Palace. Gradually it fell into ruin, though now it is being restored to its former glory by the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India. The mountain of Stok Kangri in the Zangskar mountain range is visible across the Indus valley to the south, with the Ladakh mountain range rising behind the palace to the north.
One of the places of attraction here is the Palace Museum which holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns from generations of royals. Unique chinese thangka or sooth paintings with intricate designs, retain bright and pleasing colours derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones. They are said to be more than 450 years old. When you’re traveling to Leh, this should be one of your priority stops.
Now this is one of the most cool places to visit when you travel to Ladakh. Yet it is easily missed because not many people know about it. It is a small stretch of road located about 30 kms from Leh towards Kargil and known as Magnetic Hill, one of the most mysterious places in Ladakh. On this particular part of the Srinagar-Leh highway, road ahead appears to be going uphill. Still when you turned off the engine of your vehicle and then let it stand in neutral, it will slowly start moving by itself and can even go up to a speed of 20 kms per hour on its own. This mind boggling phenomenon has confused countless generations and even led to the rise of many superstitions centered around this area. It is generally believed that magnetic force here is so strong that it can even pull cars uphill. In fact, this region has received such a reputation that even the aircrafts that fly over it increase their altitude in order to avoid magnetic interference. So is there any truth to all this? Yes there is. If you are standing at the right spot, which is even marked on the road, you can experience this wonderful phenomenon by yourself. But it is not the power of magnetism that makes your vehicle move. What is at work here is actually an optical illusion that tricks our mind into seeing an uphill where there is a downhill. It is all due to our minds being tricked by the position of the horizon which is obstructed by the surrounding mountains. Go there once and experience this amazing phenomenon while marveling at how easily nature can trick our brain.
Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame, located near the Leh Airfield, is a museum constructed as well as maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the soldiers who had lost their lives in the service of their country in various wars. It is also termed as a memorial for the war heroes. Consisting of two floors, on the ground floor, there is information about the brave soldiers who did great deeds in battles and a souvenir shop. On the first floor, there are artifacts remnants of various wars (mainly Kargil war) such as the weapons used during the war. There are also some important documents on display. One of the main attractions of the museum is the display of the Siachen where various things such as shoes worn by soldiers, the food they eat and how they heat it using Hexamycin tablets giving us an idea about the rough conditions in which our soldiers live. Such things raise our respect about for the brave men who dedicate their lives for the protection of their country at the cost of their comfort, luxuries, their family lives and even their own lives. Knowing that your army is protecting you is one thing, realizing it is another. It is one of the most defining moments of the Ladakh trip.
Main Market of Leh
The main market of Leh is a thriving entity with tourists from all over India and the world gather to create a wonderful mixture of culture and colors but with a distinct Kashmiri ting. Leh’s main market road is lined with shops on either side, mainly selling Kashmiri items. You can buy all sorts of Kashmiri clothing for your loved ones, though the prices here are quite exorbitant. If you are on a tight budget, it is better to explore other markets in Leh before venturing to the main market. There are a few lanes on the market road where the prices are considerably cheaper than the rest of the shops. There is also the main Leh post office on the same market road where you can buy beautiful Ladakh postcards and send them to your family and friends.
We also found many makeshift Tibetan refugee markets set up across the market area of Leh. There are many exceptional items available such as Tibetian locks with different carvings on them. The jewellery sold here is very fine and made of silver with many stones and pearls embedded in it. The turquoise stone is even said to come from Tibet and the pearls all the way from China. But again some of them are very pricey. The best Tibetan refugee market we came across was on the lane where one of the famous Leh restaurants is, Tibetan Kitchen. This market is not very crowded and it is better to buy souvenirs from here as the price is as reasonable as it is going to get.
Located at about 48 kilometres drive from Leh, is the confluence of the rivers Indus and Zanskar. This view of the ‘sangam’ of two rivers is absolutely mesmerizing. While Zanskar looks a muddy, Indus has more of a bluish green hue. Zanskar also freezes in winters but Indus doesn’t. They meet at the point of ‘sangam’ and then flow into Pakistan.
The colours of the two rivers can be distinctly seen at the confluence. It has one of the most beautiful views that you’ll see in your entire Ladakh travels. It’s a great place to sit back, relax while enjoying a little picnic, clicking pictures with and amazing background.
Monasteries – Hemis Monastery, Thiskey Monastery and Shey monastery.
We managed to cover three famous monasteries during our two days local sightseeing around Leh. The magnificence of the Buddhist monasteries is a true wonder to behold. The rich cultural and historical experience is invaluable. Don’t rule out this experience when you undertake the ladakh travel trip.
It is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh and even in the world. It existed even before the 11th century. It is also easily the richest monastery in Ladakh with at least 150 lamas living in it at any given time. Hemis is especially renowned for a huge painting of the Buddha, which is displayed to the public once in 11 years. It is located 47 Km from Leh on the west bank of the Indus and the monastery belongs to Dugpa Kargyutpa order and built on a green hillside surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, is hidden in a gorge. Many stupas made of gold and silver, sacred relics and a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha are some attractions of this monastery. It was founded by the 1st incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630, who was invited to Ladakh by the king Singay Namgial. Within a pleasant 3 Km walk, on one side of the mountain above the monastery there is a sacred hermitage founded by the great Gyalwa Kotsang where in the cave, his foot-print and handprint on the rock is available for visit. This Kotsang is an old hermitage, which was founded many years before the Hemis Monastery.
In my opinion, it is the most beautiful monastery in the entire Ladakh. It is an architectural wonder of 12-storey complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. Its greatest attraction is the Maitreya (future Buddha) Temple which was installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970. A 15 metres high statue of Maitreya, which is the largest such statue in Ladakh, covers two storeys of the building and is truly a wonderful structure to behold. This gompa belongs to the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) sect and is located on top of a hill, approximately 20 kilometres east of Leh.
Shey Palace and Monastery
It lies on the route between Leh and Hemis Monastery about 15 km from Leh. Shey Palace which was the erstwhile royal residence of the Ladakh monarchs, is the main appeal of Shey. Built by Ladakhi King Deldan Namgyal in 1655 AD the palace offers views amazing views of the vast expanse of the surrounding valleys.
This glorious palace houses the Shey monastery and has the largest golden Buddha statue which covers almost three floors of the monastery. Painting on the walls, murals and sculptures of Buddha are worth a tour in and around the monastery.