Ladakh is one of the most beautiful places on earth – its home to lakes, picturesque mountains, soaring peaks, beautiful monasteries and endless natural beauty you want to run through. Ladakh is dotted with colourful monasteries and is also a popular destination for adventure buffs. Within Ladakh flows the River Indus Zanskar, which draws river rafters from far and wide. Ladakh is always an allurement to the tourists especially for the foreign & domestic tourists. There are a number of people in different countries who love to visit Ladakh. While a lot has been written about Leh Ladakh but, people are still unaware of the hidden getaways in Ladakh. There are lots of interesting and exquisite offbeat destinations in Ladakh. Ladakh offers every spirit of tourism like pilgrimage, shivering hill station, rich culture heritage, romantic beaches, adventurous activities, historical landmarks etc. Ladakh is among the most beautiful places in India and one of best places to catch different attraction at one place. Whether you’re looking for a travel package to relax and indulge, special travels in Ladakh with friends and family, a trip to your favourite chill out spot or a new adventure, you’ve come to the right place.
LIST OF TOURISM ATTRACTIONS IN LEH LADAKH
Shanti Stupa is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh city, it gives a panoramic view of surrounding snow capped mountains . Situated at a distance of about 5 km drive able road from the Leh city or one can reach here by climbing 500 steps . The location of Shanti Stupa is such that it is visible from all over Leh city. The Shanti Stupa is white-colored domed-shaped structure, located in Chandspa which looks extremely beautiful during night when it is illuminated.
It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura, Ladakhis offered voluntary labor, construction started in 1983 and it was inaugurated in August 1991 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. The Shanti Stupa was built 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. It is built as a two level structure, a flight of stairs leads to the first level where a Dharmchakra (as in white strip of Indian national flag) with two deer on each side, features a central image of Lord Buddha in golden colour sitting on a platform turning the Dharmchakra wheel, the second level depicting the birth of Buddha, defeating of devils in meditation and death of Buddha along with many small images of meditating Buddha, all embossed in vibrant colours.
The Shanti Stupa is said to be the most famous tourist attraction around Leh, though its architectural style is different from the traditional Ladakhi style. The Shanti Stupa overlooks the city of Leh, providing panoramic views of the city, the village of Changspa, Namgyal Tsemo in the distance and the surrounding mountains. The stupa is open for tourists between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Sunrise and sunset are considered to provide the best views from Shanti Stupa.
Leh Palace is one of the most fascinating architectural ruins that still attracts the visitors to Ladakh. Due to its location at the edge of the Namgya hill, it catch the attention of the tourists more than anything else. Leh Palace is a former royal palace overlooking the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh. Modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet, the palace was built by King Sennge Namgyal in the 17th century.
The Leh Palace has nine stories which are in ruins now. Though it has been maintained now, it is uninhabited. The majestic palace overlooks the Namgyal hill and is nestled amidst breath taking locales of the Himalayas. Right above the palace is the famous Victory Tower that was built in the memory of the triumphant brave Ladakhi soldiers who fought the invading armies of Balti Kashmiris in the early 16th Century. Today, the palace serves as an office for Indian Government’s Archaeological Conservation Organization. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is restoring some of the ruined portions of this nine-storey palace. While the store rooms were on the lower floors, the royalty resided on the upper floors.
There is a museum in the palace in which some Thangkas and paintings are displayed. You can view the whole town from the roof of the Leh palace. The palace provides wonderful views of the mountain of Stok Kangri and some part of the Zankar Mountain across the Indus Valley. You can also enjoy the views of the snow capped mountains and landscape.
Situated in a beautiful locale surrounded by Stok Kangri range, Markha and Indus valleys, Stok is a visual treat for visitors. The Stok Palace Ladakh was initiated in the year 1814, as the safe haven to the royal clan and was positioned on the opposite side of Leh beside the Indus River Bank. This Ladakh monastery turned palace is the only colonized palace, the other two – Leh and Shey Palace are in ruins of times. Stok Palace is the less majestic yet more famous of the palaces in Ladakh. At some 14 km from Leh, it was the once summer palace of Ladakh’s royal family.
The Stok palace was built about two hundred years ago by king Tsepal Tondup Namgyal after Sikh general Zorawar Singh’s invasion of Leh. Descendants of the royal family still reside in the palace. 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 Stok Palace is decked with more than 80 rooms with only 5 rooms being open to the public. The Stok Palace museum Ladakh has an exceptional put on show of tangkhas, old weapons, kings’ armour, queens’ ornaments and perak (turquoise-studded head gear), traditional clothing and silver jewellery. Some interesting artifacts like the jewel-studded crown of Ladakh’s erstwhile queen are also housed in the palace. The palace also has a cafe on its terrace and some rooms open for visitors.
The latest temple constructed in the monastery is dedicated to Avalokitesvara which is another major attraction for visitors. The image of the Avalokitesvara has 1,000 hands and 11 heads. The small chapel within the monastery is the oldest in the whole Ladakh region.
Stok Guru Tsechu festival is a great crowd puller. Everyone is allowed to be part of the celebration. Dance, music and festive foods make the celebration a memorable event. This palace hosts an annual dance-mask festival in which there is a huge participation by the locals. There is also a collection of royal clothing, crowns and other important things which you can see while on the excursion of the palace.
Hall of Fame is a small yet glorious museum constructed and maintained by Indian Army in the memory of the soldiers who had lost their lives during the Indo-Pak wars. The Hall of Fame, located near the Leh Airfiled on the Spituk-Kargil road, was set up by the Indian Army XIV Corps as a Museum cum Memorial to the War Heroes. It is billed as a “Museum of Ladakh Culture and Military Heritage” and houses a War Memorial as well.
This building consists of two floors. It exhibits items related to Ladakhi cultural heritage. The key attraction of the museum is that it has displays on memorabilia, seized arms and amenities of Pakistani Army, biographies and photographs of the brave soldiers, etc. Divided into different sections, one part of the museum showcases the vibrant cultural and natural heritage of Ladakh. On the ground floor, there is information about the brave soldiers as and a souvenir shop and on the first floor, there are artifacts of various wars such as the weapons used during the war and some important documents, related to the same. On display is the information on the flora and fauna of Leh as well as its people- the lives they lead, rituals they observe and festivals they celebrate. Historical information on the various monarchs of Leh, battles they fought, is also on display. Upper floor is where the military ammunition used by the Indian army in its various battles with Pakistan are on display. There is another section dedicated to the Siachen glacier.
In the midst of the ancient monasteries and vibrant culture of the Indo-Tibetans, the Jama Masjid in Leh is a glorious symbol of the Islamic culture prevalent in the place. Jama Masjid is one of the historical mosques in Ladakh, which is situated in the heart of Leh, the capital of the state. It is considered to be the biggest mosques in the region and houses a memorial known as Shahi Hamdan. Built by the Mughals in the 17th century, today the double domed and intricately carved mosque is open only for male tourists. This memorial is dedicated to a Muslim Sufi Saint named Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. The Jama Masjid was constructed as a part of an agreement between the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and the then ruler of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal in 1666-67.nA glorious symbol of religious forbearance and magnanimity, Jama Masjid in Leh, along with the other mosques in a landscape replete with monasteries and Buddhist faith followers, blends in seamlessly with the spiritual and religious force field of Leh.nLocated in the Main Bazaar of Leh, Jama Masjid today is open only to men. A beautiful, stately double domed structure, the original mosque was replaced with the present day, intricately carved structure few years back.
Tsemo fort or Victory fort is now in ruined condition and once royal residence of the Namgyal dynasty. The fort complex has few temples built in veneration of the guardian deities of the dynasty. This structure is actually visible from everywhere in Leh. This fort seems like a crown on the head of the Palace ridge. This small but ruined palace contains of a number of worship flags. Directly underneath it is Tsemo gompa that is Tsemo monastery that consists of two temple buildings built in the 15th century, an eight meter tall gold-faced statue of Maitreya Buddha.
Tiger Hill Kargil is a peak in the Drass-Kargil region in Jammu & Kashmir and one of the famous kargil sightseeing. Overlooking the Drass Valley, the Tiger Hill at an elevation of 5,353 meters is the highest point in the region. It has become famous kargil sightseeing due to the second coldest occupied places in the worl d. It is surrounded by the Tolloling Range and other ridges that range from 5,000 to 6,500 meters. The Tiger Hill is one of the major tourist attractions in the Drass region, which can be easily captured, down from the valley. Tiger Hill Kargil is one of the uppermost crest in the area and it is famous for the battle between India-Pakistan during the year of 1999 .
@The Drass War Memorial that is also known as the Kargil War Memorial, remains a major tourist attraction in Drass, which is located on the Srinagar-Leh Highway. Drass War Memorial was built to honour all the officers and soldiers who died in the 1999 Kargil war. Drass War Memorial was built to commemorate the victory of Operation Vijay and also to serve as a fitting memorial for the brave Indian soldiers who were martyred in this war. It is located at a distance of about 5 Kms from Drass city centre. Kargil Vijay Diwas, which is celebrated on 26 July every year in the Kargil Drass sector, is a tribute to the Kargil War Heroes. It is also celebrated in the national capital New Delhi, where the Prime Minister of India pays homage to the soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyothi at India Gate every year.
This museum was setup and is run by the Indian army to educate people about the perils of modern war and its impact on mankind. Drass War Memorial is built in pink sand stone and has an epitaph commemorating the sacrifice of the soldiers. A wall with names of all the officers and soldiers who sacrificed their lives is also found. A war gallery, known as the Manoj Pandey War Gallery, showcases weapons and artillery recovered from the Pakistani forces and photographs taken during the war. Out of the million things an Indian can do for the country, visiting Drass Memorial is a gesture of respect for the immortal souls of Indian army men. The best time to visit is between June and September. If adventure beckons you, you can also trek to the nearby Suru valley.
The War Memorial is open Monday-Saturday from 10 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm.
The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural “suburb” northwest of the centre, with many guesthouses. Since opening to tourists in 1974, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders. It’s a small town, easy to get most places by foot. Apart from the 200 mud houses, the old town also has some Buddhist temples and mosques. By visiting any of the places in the old town, one can have a look at the Tibetan and Asian architecture which forms an influence. The place has some important historical buildings such as Jama Masjid, Leh Palace, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery and also the first cinema hall of Leh.
Old Town, being the former residence of the royal family, was where many festivals and events took place. These ranged from small community gatherings to more complex ones, involving elaborate religious ceremonies, sport competitions, music and dance performances. Although crammed with houses and narrow pathways, Old Town still managed to provide space for these celebrations. With time some of the celebrations and the spaces used for them have undergone changes while others have entirely come to a stop. Group walking tours are organized every week which take all the members through this beautiful place. The tours cover historical buildings of the old town which deserve a must-visit. Much has changed in Old Leh Town today. Over time, with many more Hindus and Sikhs now living in the neighbourhood, residents also participate in festivals like Diwali and Dussera. Storytelling has been replaced by television and the internet. Other festivals are shorter or have died out altogether. But the physical nature of Old Town still remains intact, and with it, the potential to revive old ways of celebrating and living.
Passing over one of the world’s highest motorable roads, the Khardung La, Nubra is a tri-armed valley located to the north east of Ladakh valley. Located at a distance of 160 kms from Leh, the Nubra Valley (the valley of flowers) is a place of beauteous scenery, with the lush green valley standing in sharp contrast to the lofty barren mountains. The average elevation of the valley stretches from 3048 meters to approximately 6000 meters and mostly hosts an undulated and barren terrain except the places blessed by the Shoyok River. The meeting place of Nubra and Shyok rivers, this valley divides the Karakoram Ranges and Ladakh. The valley along the river are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts, including blood apples, walnuts, apricots and even a few almond trees.
A Buddhist dominated society, one can visit Samstanling Monastery and Diksit Monastery when here. The 35 meter tall statue of Maitreya Budhdha is intricately decorated and with the barren colourless hills in the background, it is a divine sight. The valley is also popular for blossoming out Apricot flowers. Another major attraction in Nubra Valley is the Lachung temple. And you can cross over to visit the friendly Tegar village and monastery, as well as Panamik’s hot springs, by the side of the Nubra. Panamik in Nubra valley is the last village up north this side that is open to tourists. Nubra valley is as a must do in a Leh trip and it is identified as a tourism circuit by the local administration of Leh district.
Zanskar is a sub district of Kargil located interior of Ladakh region with Padum as its administrative centre. Zanskar valley is one of the most isolated places to visit in Ladakh where about 14,000 people comprising of mainly Buddhists live. The valley is sandwiched between the Great Himalayan ranges and the Zanskar mountain ranges. Zanskar is famous for its high beautiful mountains and landscape. Zanskar is one of the most unexplored places in Jammu and Kashmir. Pleasant climate, landscape, snow-capped Himalayan Mountains and sparking rivers makes Zanskar a perfect holiday destination for worldwide tourists.
The valley has an area of about 5,000 sqr. Kms. and is situated at an elevation of 13,154 ft. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year. As winter approaches all the high passes get close and the river freeze on the surface. Zanskaris walk along the frozen river to reach the Indus River in Nimoo village, which is known as the Chadar trek
Zanskar is located 105 kms from Leh and is popular with its adventures junkies. Situated in the Himalayan range, Zanskar is popular with adventure junkies. A hotspot for trekking, paragliding and river rafting, Lamayuru to Darcha and Lamayuru-Padum are some of the popular trekking trails that pass around Zanskar. Treks to Markha Valley and Khangri begin from Zanskar. A unique trek that offered here is one on frozen water.
The temperature in Zanskar is cold around minus 300C during winter. While it remains pleasant during day in summer. The best time to visit zanaskar is between June and September. The main town in zanaskar are padum and Kharsha. The zanaskar valley is separated from the suru valley by the Penzila pass which serves as a excellent camping places, offering breath taking views. Zanakar is a accessible through Gogan. It also remain closed for 08 months due to heavy snowfall.
The suru valley is one of the most beautiful fertile valley of the region with its own unique culture and a rather recent addition for the tourism of jammu and Kashmir. It is nestled in the northeastern foothills of the Great Himalayas, at a height of 3000 meters above sea level. Tourists in large number throng to this place to spend their vacation amidst tranquil and picturesque natural beauty. The valley is famous for Nun (7137 mtrs) and Kun (7035 mtrs) peaks. The suru valley forms the main stay of Kargil district. Some places of interests in suru valley are Penzi La Pass, Panikhar, Sankoo & Rangdum
Suru looks ravishing during spring time when the apple and apricot trees are in bloom. The hills of Suru Valley are cultivated intensively than anywhere else in Ladakh. The population of valley is 35000 souls mainly of Dard Descent are Muslims who converted their Buddhist religion in the middle of 16th century. The winter is extreme and heavy snowfalls are normal but the conditions in suru valley don’t become as adverse as in Drass valley. The trek through Suru Valley to the Drang Drung glacier is one of the best in this aspect offering a mix of all the possible things one may do on the mountains. The trek is among one of the tough ones in the region and is only taken up by the experienced trekkers. There are no hotels in the Suru Valley but you can stay in camps and tents near the Rangdum monastery. You can stay in Kargil which has a few budget and mid-range hotels. As Kargil is an important stopover during the journey to Ladakh, booking hotel rooms in advance is advisable.
The “Hill” is located about 30 km from Leh. The magnetic hill has become a popular stop for domestic tourists on car journeys. Millions of people every year visit Magnetic hill because it has properties which can pull cars up hills. Travellers park their vehicles in the white-marked box on the road to witness the phenomenon. Magnetic Hill has become a major tourist attraction because of anti-gravity phenomenon observed on the hill. Even as mystery shrouds the reason behind the gravity defying phenomenon, Magnetic Hill continues to attract tourists in droves.
Sonam Dorje runs a sanctuary for abandoned donkeys on the outskirts of Leh in Ladakh, India. The sanctuary is situated just off the road leading to Khardungla Pass. The sanctuary survives almost solely on donations as well as on this remarkable character’s good will. Many of the donkeys have been either hit by cars or bitten by stray dogs and often require expensive treatment. It is open to the public throughout the day and donations and juicy carrots are most welcome and used exclusively for improving the lives and welfare of these wonderful animals.
The Drang-Drung Glacier is likely to be the largest glacier in Ladakh other than the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range, with a maximum length of 23 kilometres at an average elevation of 4,780 m (15,680 feet). The Drang-Drung Glacier (also called Durung Drung Glacier) is a 22 Kms long largest glacier accessible to tourists in the Ladakh region. Drang Drung glacier is the source of Doda River and one can trek upto the glacier from Padum. Drang Drung glacier can also be seen from the Pensi La pass. The glacier in fact looks like a winding river from Pensi la, the difference being that instead of water it’s a river of ice. Drang Drung is one of the major attractions of Zanskar region and offers the picturesque scenery of the snow capped mountain peaks of the Himalayas.
Dha and Hanu are two villages of the Brokpa of the Ladakh District of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. They are the only two villages that tourists are allowed to visit out of a number of Brokpa villages. Dhahanu is situated to the south west of Leh, around 163 kms, passing through the beautiful villages of Kaltsey, Domkhar, Skurbuchan and Achinathang. Being on lower altitude Dha & Hanu is warmer than Leh.
The Brokpa people have preserved their traditions and rituals over the ages. The villages of the Brokpas are also famous for their scenic splendour. Unlike the spartan landscape of Ladakh, the Brokpa villages have more green cover. Temperature in the villages is also higher than in other parts of Ladakh which has also led to the thriving vegetation. Temperature during summer reaches up to 40 degree Celsius.
Dah and Hanu don’t have hotels or guest houses. But there is a possibility of a tented camp accommodation. There are no restaurants in the village. It is advisable to carry your own food. You can buy snacks and other eatables from the small shops in the village. But if you want to stay longer than one day you would need to seek the help of locals. Best time to visit is between June to October.
Located close to the oldest monastery of Nubra valley in Ladakh, Diskit Monastery, the Maitreya Buddha is an impressive 32 meter statue of Jampa Buddha that dominates the hill below the monastery. The statue, one of the modern architectures that were built in the year 1996 & Gold to be used in the construction of the statue was donated by the heads of other major monasteries around. It is said to be built with three main functions in mind: protection, prevention and peace.
Gurdwara Shri Pathar Sahib is situated on the Srinagar-Leh Road, 25kms before the Leh. It is very beautiful and it was created in memory of the founder of Sikh religion and the first guru , Guru Nanak Dev ji. The Gurdwara was built in 1517 to commemorate the visit to the Ladakh region of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder Guru of the Sikh faith. The 25-km road from Leh to the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib is in good condition. Visitors can go by bus or taxi. The Gurdwara Sahib is located next to the main road near Magnetic Hill India.
The most famous lake in ladakh is about 160 kms from Leh. Pangong in tibetan stand for “long, narrow, enchanted lake”. The 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 Tibet.
Pangong lake is situated at the height of 14270 ft is interior drainage basin, in which the water is not drained by any mode of method. Because of no drainage facility, this lake has the most salty water. In spite of the salty water, this lake freezes in the winter season. This lake is located at the border of India and china, in which 40% is in India and 60% is in china. The line of control in between the India and China runs from this lake only.
This lake changes its color with each hour of the day. Salty water of the lake has no life to sustain. This lake has so much of salty water that no aquatic life can sustain in it except few Crustaceans. But this lake is home for migratory ducks and gulls. The marshes around the lakes have some signs of the herbs which last at least for 2 to 3 years of monsoons. Once this lake was the channel to Shyok River but due to natural calamities it is blocked now.
Tsomoriri or Lake Moriri (official name: Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve, is a lake in the Changthang (literally: northern plains) area in Jammu and Kashmir. The lake is at an altitude of 4,595 m (15,075 ft); it is the largest of the high altitude lakes in the Trans-Himalayan bio geographic region, entirely within India. The lake sits between Ladakh, India to the North, Tibet to the east, and Zanskar in the west.
Tsomoriri lake, also known as Moriri lake, is situated at the height of 15,075 ft, is the highest lake in the Ladakh. This lake is totally situated in the Indian Territory. Tsokar means the salty water, as there is no mode of drainage. This lake is fed by the two streams and springs. 34 different species of birds are found at this lake. There is no vegetation in the deep side of the lake while the shallow lake has some signs of vegetation.
Tso Kar – The smallest of the three high altitude alpine lakes in Ladakh region is situated in Rapshu in the southern part of Ladakh.Not far from the famous Tso moriri Lake is Tso Kar Lake. The Tso-Kar Lake also known as ‘White Lake’ The nomadic people Changpas are most outstanding feature of this area. They can be seen moving from one place to other grazing herds of goats, sheep and yaks. Changpas pass their days with their animals and move with their flocks, their only wealth from pasture to pasture according to changing season. Their flocks, their yaks, and goat’s hair furnish the raw material of which they make their ropes, their clothes and shoes. All day long men and women are busy milking, churning the milk into butter, making ropes, weaving mats and other fabrics. These people have been completely beyond the pale of all civilizing influences. Even towards the fag end of the twenty first century, they belong to a primitive pre-historic age, The Drive is scenic and Tsokar lake is one of the best. Tso kar Lake is easy to access and lies at a distance of 160 km from Leh. It lies 30 km west from Leh-Manali Road and 540 km from Srinagar.
Situated around 15 kms from the sacred Diskit region in Nubra valley, Yarab Tso Lake makes it home in the serene surroundings of the Sumur village. Truly captivating is the sight of this lake which can be seen after a hike of around 20 mins uphill from the Panamaik village. Yarab Tso lake is one of the holiest and high altitude lakes in Nubra valley. The presence of crystal clear fresh water in the lake underneath the rocky and barren terrain flashes the enchanting picture of its surroundings, making the view so picturesque.
Mirpal Tso is near to chusul and is completely isolated. The bed of lake is sandy and south end has fresh water.
Another beautiful lake en route Pangong. The lake is small and mostly missed by tourist on their rush to reach Pangong.
The twin lakes of Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso, is located near to Nyoma and Hanle and is about 5000 meters above the sea level. Kyiun Tso is also known as chilling Tso. Very few tourist visit them as the track to reach there is tough and permits are issue. The route is from Mahe – Nyoma – Nidar – Thit Zarbo La.
Enroute Tso Moriri, Kiagar Tso is another beautiful lake and is located in Changthang plateau and is home to Changpas, nomadic ladakhis.
Another twin lakes of Stat Tso and Lang Tso is located in Zanskar region of ladakh near to Pensi La – The highest point in Zanskar.
The Hemis Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in this region, belonging to the Drukpa or Dragon order. It stands on the western banks of the Indus River, about 50 kilometres southeast of Leh on the Leh-Manali highway. The monastery was founded in 1630 by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso when he was invited by the then King of Ladakh, Singey Namgail and offered a religious estate. Beautiful statues and mural paintings adorn the monastery halls. It has a great collection of sacred thangkas and other artefacts in its 900-year-old museum. The most important festival here is the Hemis Festival where you can witness the enchanting sacred mask dance. It is held on the 9th and 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar.
Built on the side of a hill, the Spituk Monastery also known as the Spituk Gompa was founded in the 11th century by Od-lde as a monastic community. Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo, the great translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan, gave the monastery its present name, meaning exemplary, as he felt an exemplary religious community would arise here. The old gompa has been restored, while a new one has also been constructed within the monastery complex. The largest building, the Dukhang Hall, has seating along the wall with a throne at the far end. Miniature stupas and sculptures adorn the altar. A little higher up the hill is the temple of Goddess Vajrabhairva. The statue of the goddess is kept covered and is unveiled only once during the Spituk Festival.
One hundred monks reside in the monastery and during the annual two day Spituk Festival held in the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar, the monks perform masked dances representing good over evil and stories depicting the life of Buddha. Located just seven kilometres south-west of Leh, it is not a very difficult climb up to the monastery. The views of the airport and town below are spectacular, as are the sunrises and the sunsets visible from here.
This is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all monasteries in the region. A fine example of Ladakhi architecture, the Thiksey Monastery is located 17 kilometres south of Leh. It is a smaller version of the Potala Palace of Lhasa in Tibet. First built by Sherab ZangpoIt in Stakmo, it was later established on a hilltop by his nephew Paldan Sherab, where it stands now. The monastery belongs to Gelukspa or the Yellow Hat order.
There are 10 temples in this 12 storied monastery with the main prayer hall housing a 40-foot statue of Buddha seated on a lotus. Many precious and rare statues, mini stupas and swords are on display inside the monastery. There is also a temple dedicated to Goddess Tara here. The Thiksey Gustor Festival is held here during the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar when the sacred mask or Cham dances are performed by resident monks and nuns as a part of a ritual.
The Alchi Monastery, built in the 12th century, is the oldest Buddhist learning centre in Ladakh. Located 70 kilometres west of Leh on the banks of the Indus River, it is also the largest and most famous of the gompas built by Lotsaya Rinchen Zangpo. With the lack of a monarchy, he appointed four families to look after the monastery till the 15th century when it was taken over by the Lekir Monastery.
Different from other monasteries, this one is built on flat ground instead of on a hill top. It has three main structures. The Du-khang is the assembly hall and the largest part; the Sum-tsek is a three-storied structure with a four armed statue of the Bodhisattva occupying two storeys with figures of Maitreya Buddha, Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri on the ground floor; the third structure is Jampe Lhakhang, a temple of Manjushri. This temple also has a sculpture and painting of Rinchen Tsangpo.
Located just 15 kilometers south of Leh, this gompa is the residence of the Royal Family of Ladakh. It was founded in the 14th century by Lama Lhawang. The library at the monastery has 108 volumes of Buddha’s teachings. The entrance veranda has beautiful mural paintings of the guardians of the four directions. The main assembly hall is decorated with thangkas and banners. The walls have images of Vajrapani (the deity with the thunderbolt), Sukyamuni (Buddha as a sage) and Avalokitesvara (the four-armed deity). The Dalai Lama is believed to be a reincarnation of the Avalokitesvara.
The Palace has a museum with a collection of the king’s crown, the queens head gear with 108 turquoise pieces, royal dresses, jewellery, old currency, the wooden palanquin in which the queen arrived here when she got married and various other personal items of the Royal family. Early June sees a ritual mask dance being performed near the monastery. The two-day Stok Guru Tsechu Festival is held here every year in February. The interesting thing about this festival is that the prayers are not offered by a priest but by a common man, who is selected by the lamas and then groomed for the occasion.
En route to the Hemis Monastery, 15 kilometres from Leh is the Shey Gompa. Shey was originally the capital of Ladakh and Lhachen Spalgigon, the first king, built this hilltop fortress. In 1655, King Deldan Namgyal built the Shey Palace. There are hundreds of stupas and the Dresthang Gompa built around the palace. Currently, the palace is a monastery with the largest Buddha statue made of gilded copper, covering three floors of the building. Beautiful paintings and murals adorn the walls and the sculptures are marvellous. The lower chapel has a library with the largest collection of thangkas in Ladakh. Below the palace, along the roadside, are five Buddhas carved out of rock. Close to this monastery is the Druk Padma Karpo Institute, now renamed Rancho School. This was the school featured in the Hindi movie 3 Idiots. There are two festivals held at this monastery every year – Shey Srubla on the 30th day of the 1st month and Shey Rul-lo on the 10th day of the 7th month.
Diskit Monastery, also known as Deskit monastery is not only the oldest but also the largest Buddhist Gompa in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh. The prayer hall of the monastery consists of a statue of Maitreya Buddha, various images of other guardian gods as well as huge drum. This monastery is of the Gelugpa sect (Yellow Hat) of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, during the 14thcentury. The monastery’s cupola is same as the Tashilhunpo Monastery of Tibet. Every year this monastery plays host to the popular Dosmoche festival, held during the month of February, which is a famous tourist attraction.
Seventeen kilometres west of Leh, on top of a hill is the Phyang Monastery. It is one of the two monasteries that belong to the Dri-gung-pa sect of Buddhism. Legend has it that Denma Kunga Drakpa laid the foundation stone of this monastery. He pitched his tent on top of the hill and during meditation, saw the protector Achi riding her blue horse. He took this as a sign and built the monastery there. The monastery has a 900-year-old museum housing a vast collection of idols, firearms and weapons, old thangkas, wall paintings and murals of Mahakala. The old temple of Mahakala (the Gomkhang) was built at the time of the foundation of monastery. Phyang Monastery is home to a school, which imparts modern education along with Buddhist studies to its students. The Phyang Tseruk Festival held on the 2nd and 3rd of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar attracts a large number of tourists. The spectacular Cham dance is the highlight of the event.
Situated around 9 kilometers from Leh, the Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery is one of the major Dharma centers in the Ladakh region. Founded by Lama Chime Dorje Rinpoche in 1973, this monastery is run by the Karmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhists. At present, there are 17 Karmapas in this region. This monastery has played an important role in the proliferation of the traditional Buddhist culture and values. It includes an original mud-brick complex housing the Dukhang (Assembly Hall) and living and working quarters including classrooms, office, kitchen and library. Since it was founded by a Tibetan national, it depends on the munificence of private organizations and individuals for monetary funds.
Located around 26 kilometers away from Leh, on the picturesque Indus Valley, Matho Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery built under the Saskya Monastic Establishment. It was constructed around 500 years ago. It was established by Lama Dugpa Dorje in 1410, who belongs to Sakya order. It houses a marvelous collection of ancient Thangas and known for its Matho Nagrang Festival. It is an annual festival which takes place in the first half of March. It is a nice place where you can understand Buddhist teachings and philosophies. The nearby attraction of this place is Stakna Gompa.
Located on the main highway between Bodhkhabru and Kha-la-che, at an altitude of 3.510 meters, Lamayuru Monastery is amongst the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. It is said to have been built around the same time as Alchi monastery. It was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa in the 11th century and belongs to Red-Hat Sect of Buddhism. There are several legends associated with this Gompa. One such legend is that Lamayuru was a lake that drew back up to the mountains after blessings from a lama, in order to evacuate space for this monastery. It features a rich collection of wall paintings and Thangkas.
Nestled at an altitude of 11,998 feet above the sea level, Rangdum Gompa is situated halfway between Kargil and Padum. It was founded by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa in the 18th century. It rises above a centrally ascending mountain, established around the diverged route of a mountain stream. It appears like an ancient fortification, which stands as a guardian of a mystical mountain valley. It is located alongside Julidok village and around 25 kilometers from the Pensi La pass which leads to Zanskar. This monastery is home to around 30 monks and monasteries.
Likir Gompa, around 62 kms to the West of the main city of Leh. The 5th king of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo ordered the establishment of this monastery and thus it was established in 1065 by Lama Duwang Chosje. The monastery is of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In the times of today, Buddhist teachings and the three basic Pratimoksa disciplines are preached on the site. The monastery also plays host to the annual festival that is in the 12th months of the Tibetan Calendar, from the 27th to the 29th . During the festival, religious dance performances are given by the local artists.
Rizong Gompa, also known as Rhizong monastery belongs to Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism is situated on the hilltop of a rocky valley to the north of river Indus. It is also known as the Yuma Changchubling in Ladakh region. Established at Ri-rdzong in 1831 by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpa order, today it has around 40 monks who have to abide by very strict rules and regulations. It is also famous as ‘the Paradise For Meditation’. It is around 73 kms from the main city of Leh. The monks residing in this monastery cannot own anything except books. The complex also consists of a number of religious shrines.
Stakna Gompa or Stakna Monastery is a buddhist bonastery located approximately 45 km from Leh. Enshrined by Chose Jamyang, a Bhutanese saint and scholar who established the monastery in the second half of the 16th century, this gompa is a visual display of the religious and cultural heritage of India and Buddhism. As it is erected on a hill looking like a tiger’s nose, Stanka Monastery derives its name from the same hill. The monastery inside has the image of Arya Avaloketesvara from Kamrup (Assam). The Stakna Gompa belongs to the Dugpa sect of Buddhism and is the residence of about 30 Monks.
On entering the courtyard, there is a big assembly hall known as Dukhang whose walls are adorned with beautiful paintings of Sakyamuni, Tsephakmad and Amchi. On to the right of courtyard, there is a seven feet tall silver gilded chorten having figure of Lord Buddha with some notes. Then parallel to the hall there are paintings of Bodhisattva, Tshong-san-Gompa and Padma Sambhava. The successive reincarnations of Stakna Tulku serve as the incumbents of Stakna Monastery and they spread the teachings of Dugpa order. This monastery also has a number of sister monasteries, 3 of which are in Zanskar-Bardan, Stakrimo and Sani. From the roof of Stakna Monastery tourists can have a striking view of Indus valley and river. There is also a Tathok Moonastery nearby Stakna, an attraction 50km from Leh where Guru Padmashmbhava mediated.
Khardung La being one of the most popular destinations in Leh and the gateway to Nubra and Siachen glacier, one might encounter a lot of traffic and army convoys on the way and it is best to start off the journey early in the day to avoid as much traffic as you possibly can. The drive to Khardung La can get very bumpy as the weather and landslides that frequently happen here doesnt augor too well for well maintained roads! Having said that the drive to the summit of Khardung La is relatively easy compared to a few other rides in Leh. Road beyond South Pallu is in bad condition & gain in altitude is substantial and the elation of reaching the Khardurng la top is mind numbing!
Located about 75 kms from Keylong, Baralacha La at an altitude of 16,040 feet across the Bhaga river is the start point of several treks in Leh Ladakh region which include the famous Suraj Tal trek and Chandra Tal trek. It is always advisable to cross Baralacha La pass before noon. The melting of snow on the higher altitudes of this pass makes it difficult to cross it as the day advances.
Tanglang La on the Manali – Leh highway at an altitude of 17582 ft is the highest point on the highway. Tanglang la is like the gateway to Leh on the Manali – Leh route. Gata Loops and Tanglang La are the highlights of the Manali – Leh highway. Like most of the mountain passes in Leh on Tanglang la also there is a small temple and a marker stone whith the altitude of the pass mentioned on it!
The gateway to Changthang, Chang La at 17,590 ft is the third highest motorable pass. At the pass there is a shrine dedicated to Chang La baba after who the pass is also named. Tangste is the nearest settlement. Indian army serves tea here free of cost to tourists visiting Chang La pass!
Zoji la Pass is one of the highest mountain passes on Srinagar – Ladakh highway about 100 km from Srinagar ahead of Sonmarg. Zoji la pass remains closed to traffic for nearly six months in a year due to heavy snowfall in winter. (Opens by April end)
The Marsimek-La pass built by ITBP at 18634 ft also makes unsubstantiated claims of being the highest motorable pass in the world! Marsimek-La is on the northern-most tip of the Plateau 35 kms from Pangong Tso
Fotu La pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway of the Himalayan Zanskar Range stands at a height of of 13,478ft (4,108m) above the sea level. This mountain pass is referred to as the highest point on the highway, going beyond the well-known Zoji La. The drive through the pass is a beautiful journey where you can stop to get an amazing view of the snow-clad mountain ranges.
Lachulung La, located in Ladakh separates the valleys of the Tsarap Chu Chu and the Tozay, where both are on the flow of the Zanskar and the Indus rivers. Situated on 16,600 feet above the sea level, the pass is quite close to the Sarchu and Pangong lake. The pass on the Leh-Manali Highway is around 8 kms from La Nakee that is around 24 kms towards the north of Pang. The road is visible from the narrow gap of the Lachulung Lungpa. While crossing the pass, the tourist buses and taxis take a halt here most of the times, to let the tourists admire the local natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. It is one of the favorite passes amongst the hikers as well as trekkers.
Namikala pass, located at the Zanskar range that connects Srinagar- Leh highway. This pass located at the height of 12,139 feet above the sea level is also known as the pillar of the sky passes. Namikala pass is situated on the way to Mulbek valley. Tourists here can see the rock carvings of Maitreya Buddha as well as a Gompa. It is one of the most important passess in Ladakh and the last one too, before one enters the Kargil region. You will find a number of signboards giving important information. Although a barren land, but once you cross the pass you can admire the breathtaking view of the lush green surroundings and snow-covered peaks.
River Rafting is an adventurous sport for the strong hearted. If you want to enjoy the experience in the Himalayas there is no other suitable destination than Leh-Ladakh. River rafting in Leh-Ladakh takes you through picturesque landscape. Traversing through the deep waters amidst deep canyons and soaring snow-covered peaks it is an experience every rafter would love to enjoy. There are many options for river rafting in Leh Ladakh; the main ones being Indus River rafting and Zanskar River rafting.River Rafting in Indus River and its tributaries provide the rafters with many opportunities. The best of the stretches in River Indus is the one between Spituk and Nimu or Saspol. But those who are new into the sport should choose the easiest stretch upstream from Spituk up to Karu. River Rafting in Zanskar River provides some exciting though difficult stretches. Through a deep ravine in the Zanskar Mountains there is a stretch between Padum and Nimu that can be the most exciting of all stretches. River Rafting in Leh-Ladakh can be a fulfilling way of enjoying the mountains. Discover Ladakh offers you the facility to book River Rafting tours in Leh-Ladakh well ahead in advance.
The best time for river rafting in Leh-Ladakh is from June to October.
A bike ride to Leh, Ladakh passes through some of the most breathtaking, challenging and awe-inspiring landscapes found on Earth. But by any means it is not an easy ride since most parts of the road are at altitudes of 13,000 feet and above in the Himalayas. You have to Buckle up for the most precious bike trip of your life time. Stopover in sapphire lakes, rusty terrains, peaceful outback and almost anywhere your heart wants to. Discover Ladakh welcome you all to come, visit our region and be a part of the experience & thrill of riding a motorbike and travelling around the beautiful region through – mountains, valleys, high plateaus, crossing – villages, streams, rivers, high mountain, high mountain roads, visiting – temples, monasteries, small towns and making numerous friends all around. We guarantee you that the touring experience would be a lifelong memory and to cherish for times to come. Did you know that the road leading to Ladakh is the same trail that was used by caravans going to the Silk Route centuries and centuries ago? If this isn’t awe inspiring enough, the roads leading into the region are only open four months of the year – for the remaining eight, they are covered in snow. For many riders, the highlight of bike tours to Leh Ladakh is Khardung-La, the highest motorable road in the world. To pass from Leh into the Nubra Valley, you will need to drive your motorcycle along a road that sits at 18,380 feet. It is surely a terrifying, yet exhilarating experience.
Ladakh offers many challenging peaks for a mountaineer. Stok Kangri Peak (6121 m) in Zanskar, Kangyaze Peak (6400 m) to the south east of Leh and the Nunkun Massif, which can be reached from the Leh-Kargil road are popular with serious mountaineers. All climbers need to get permission from the Indian Mountaineering Federation in Delhi, before attempting the ascent of an peak in Ladakh.
Ladakh is one place which is considered as a heaven by those who search places to gain the thrill of adventure. Ladakh trekking tour is always a thrilling and a great experience for every tourist. While a lot has been written about Leh Ladakh but, people are still unaware of the hidden getaways in Ladakh. There are lots of interesting and exquisite offbeat destinations in Ladakh. The best way to thoroughly enjoy the place is to experience the adventurous and fun trek. There are many ‘must do’ treks in this paradise Ladakh. Trekking in Ladakh offers a vast diversity with its unique landscape and exquisite culture, from the green oasis of the hidden Valleys and Plateaus with abundance of wildlife, nomads, wetlands, pastureland, fresh water springs, streams, and the famous lakes such as Tsomoriri, Tsokar & The Pangong. There are a lots of trek trails and options available here for trekkers such as Chadar Trek, Markha Valley trek, Indus Valley Trekking, Lamayuru-Alchi trek and many more.
Archery is a traditional sport of Ladakh and Archery contests are held regularly in villages and at the National Archery stadium in Leh. Archery contests are accompanied by festivity including drinking singing, dancing and betting on the result. Watching an archery contests is sure to offer an interesting adventure into the cultural life of the Ladakhi people.
Polo is a popular sport in Ladakh and is usually played every Tuesday and Saturday in summer on the Leh polo ground. There are usually 6 men in a team riding on sturdy Zanskari ponies. A polo match in Ladakh consists of 20-minute halves and is played in an exhilarating atmosphere with the crowd cheering on both teams with great enthusiasm. Polo tournaments are also held during the Ladakh Festival held in the first half of September
The most famous of all monastic festivals in June (a three day affair) to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks and colorful brocades robes. The monkey year festival is a special treat which comes at a cycle of 12 yrs. The four-storey Thanka of Guru Padmasambhava is displayed during the festival.
Matho Monastery of Leh Ladakh hosts the Matho Nagrang Festival, on an annual basis. The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. All the monks participate in the sacred dances, performed at this annual event. The festival is famous because of appearance of the two oracles during the festival after a full month of meditation in complete isolation. Matho Monastery also boasts of housing an amazingly rich collection of four hundred years old Thankas.
Celebrated with much fervor and delight in the month of February at the courtyards of majestic Leh Palace. Masked Lamas from different monasteries perform the Chams every year turn by turn. This festival is also celebrated at the Diskit monastery and the Likir with great enthusiasm. The start and end of the Tibetian calendar marks the occasion.
Gustors takes place at Thiksey, Karsha & Spituk monasteries at different times of the year. A two day celebration, to mark the victory of good over evil. Gustor literally means “Sacrifice of the 29th day” and it ends with burning of effigies representing evil.
Stok Guru Tsechu held in February, a week before the Matho Nagrang. Monks from Stok monastery perform masked dances, but the highlight being appearance of two oracles who are laymen prepared and cleansed by the lamas to receive the spirit of the deities.
Losar stands for the Tibetian new year. The Losar festival is celebrated in the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar, two months ahead of Tibetan New Year. In early 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Baltistan forces in winter; therefore he decided to celebrate the festival two months before. Later it became a tradition and being celebrated in the eleventh month. It lasts for over a month when Gods, deities, ancestors and even animals are fed without fail. Everyone in the family joins in for the celebration and if anyone is missing, they will have a cup of tea filled in their name.
Sindhu Darshan is a three-day festival held from 1st to 3rd June, in Shey Manla around 8 kms. from Leh on the bank of Indus river (Sindhu Ghat). For the first time it was organized in October 1997, as a symbol of unity and communal harmony and national integration.
This festival is held in the Phyang monastery in July/August. The monks as usual perform the Chams but the festival gets its popularity from the huge Thanka of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo hung during the celebrations.
From September 1st to 15th every year in Leh and in the villages around, the Ladakh festival is celebrated in the grandest style. With cultural troupes performing from different parts of Leh, forming the part of the procession which leads to the Polo ground, for the big inauguration. Regular programs are held at the nearby villages during the 15 day period.
Area: Zanskar (Ladakh)
Altitude: 3850 m/12628 ft
Grade: Moderate to tough
Duration: 12 Nights/13 days
Season: Mid Jan – End Feb
Region: Ladakh Himalaya
Grade : Strenuous
Altitude : 5090 m
Season : Mid June- Mid Oct
Duration : 24 Nights/ 25 Days
Area: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 08 Nights & 09 Days
Altitude: 4300 m/17220 ft
Season: July- Oct
Region: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 07 Nights/ 08 Days.
Grade : Moderate
Altitude: 3,750 m
Season: Mid June- Oct
Region: Ladakh Himalaya
Duration: 24 Night/ 25 Days
Altitude: 4470 m
Season: June – Oct
Region: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 09 Night/ 10 Days
Altitude: 4430 m
Season: Mid June- Oct
Region: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 9 Nights/ 10 days
Grade : Moderate
Altitude: 5135 m
Season: Mid June – Oct
Area: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 11 Nights/ 12 Days
Altitude: 3700 m
Season: April- Nov
Area: Ladakh Himalayas
Duration: 7 Night/ 8 Days
Altitude: 5016 m