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LADAKH – LEH


Leh the erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Ladakh is now a dream destination of many and the Mecca of adventure enthusiasts! Leh, one of the coldest deserts in the world is located at a distance of 434 Kms from Srinagar and 474 Kms from Manali (Himachal Pradesh). At the time of reorganization of districts in 1979, Ladakh was divided into Leh and Kargil and now Leh district is synonymous with Ladakh and vice-versa! Built by the Buddhist kings of Ladakh in 1553 the Leh Palace was once the world’s highest building. The primary attraction within the Leh city this palace is structurally similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Now only the palace prayer room lives up to the sense of former grandeur of Leh Palace. Leh is a backpacker's haven with numerous trekking trails, valleys, and picturesque lakes. Renowned as the land of monks and monasteries there is lots to see in this amazing piece of land. There are three sub divisions of Leh with 7 different tour circuits identified for international tourists in Leh with breathtaking Himalayan panorama.

Pangong Lake

The famous and sparkling blue Pangong lake is situated in the Himalayas, approximately at the height of 4350 meters. It is 124 km long and extend from India to Tibet, where 60% of the lake lies. The lake freezes completely during winters in spite of its salinity. The lake has been a tourist attraction since a very long time and has gained further popularity after being a 'hot-spot' for many film shoots, apart from being an essential for anyone travelling to Leh.
Pangong lake is home to many migrating birds in summer and one can witness numerous ducks and gulls "surfing". Due to the briny water the lake does not support aquatic life other than some ocean bugs called crustaceans by oceanographers. Some are luck to spot a kiang which is a wild ass or a marmot a brownish rodent. There are two streams from the Indian side that form the wetlands and marshes at the edges. It is the beauty of the impeccable blue waters that embezzle the tourist's attention the most. The serenity and tranquility of this place is the tourist's paradise.

Leh Palace

Modelled on the basis of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. The palace is nine storeys high, where the upper floors used to accommodate the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and store rooms. The roof provides panoramic views of Leh and the surrounding areas, as 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 is visible in the north.
This nine-storeyed, dun-coloured palace is Leh's dominant structure and an architectural icon. This beautifully constructed palace was abandoned when the Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid 19th century and forced the royal family to move to Stok Palace. The now ruined palace is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns. Chinese thangka or sooth paintings, which are more than 450 years old, with intricate designs still retain the bright and pleasing colours derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones. Interesting structures situated around the palace's base include the very prominent Namgyal Stupa, the colourfully muralled Chandazik Gompa and the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang, with medieval mural fragments located between the inner and outer walls.

Tso Moriri Lake

The lesser known of the many lakes within the Changtang Wildlife sanctuary, Moriri Tso lake is twin to the Pangong Tso Lake. Located inside the Changtang wildlife sanctuary, this lake offers a scenic place of peace and tranquility. The water body measures about 28 km in length from north to south and about 100 feet average in depth. The lake is surrounded by barren hills, with the backdrop of beautiful snow-covered mountains. Since Moriri Tso lake is the lesser known of the two lakes, the crowd frequency is less too. Pangong lake always has many more people, and is now crowded with little stalls that sell Maggi and tea.
Tso Moriri has been declared as a wetland reserve. A number of species of birds included bare-headed goose, the great-crested grebe, the Brahmin duck and the brown-headed gull. Himalayan hares are abundantly found here. Moriri Tso is also called the 'mountain lake', owing to the peaks that surround it, towering at a height of 2000 meters, shutting it off from the outside world.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

Traveling to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa makes you encounter the steep mountains and submerges you in its serene and spiritual folds. The monastery has long lured travelers seeking Buddhist experience but surprises them with something unexpected- the moon like, quiet and mystic expanse of Ladakh's landscape.
Today, the guardian deities reside in the monastery's Gongkhang and the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags in and around the monastery lend their own spiritual cadence.

Khardung La Pass

Best known as the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, the Khardung La Pass, commonly pronounced as Khardzong La, is a very important strategic pass into the Siachen glacier and claims to be the world's highest motor able pass at an elevation of 5,602 m.
The pristine air, the scenic beauty one sees all around and the feeling that you are on top of the world has made Khardung La a very popular tourist attraction in the past few years.

Likir Monastery

On the banks of a sparkling Indus river, near the village of Saspol, on a hillock in the valley of Likir, sits Ladakh's oldest monastery, Monastery Likir or Likir Gompa.
Housing a large seated statue of Maitreya Buddha, gilded in gold and a sprawling 75 feet tall, this monastery was built in the 15th century by the 5th monarch of Ladakh. Fraught with paintings, murals and stone reliefs, the monastery is a stowage of Buddhist heritage, its founding principles, history, legends and teachings. There's a school inside the monastery run by the Central Institute of Buddhist studies and a library open to visitors where old manuscripts, volumes and books on Buddhism and the teachings of Tsong Khapa are housed.

Stok Palace

Located close to the Indus river, it was built in 1825 AD by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal. Well known for its architecture and design, beautiful gardens and amazing views, the palace presents a collection of royal attires, crown and other royal materials.
Easily reachable through jeeps and shared taxis, the palace is a worth seeing place. Spituk Monastery is a nearby attraction to visit.

Magnetic Hill

The popular Magnetic Hill of Ladakh is said to be a gravity hill where vehicles defy the force of gravity and move upwards on the hill, when parked at the marked location. The hill lies at a distance of 30 km from the town of Leh, at an elevation of around 14,000 feet above sea level. To the eastern side of the hill flows the Sindhu River, originating in Tibet and is an almost essential stopover for all those who travel to Ladakh.
Many theories have emerged as to why this hill may be fraudulent, a simple illusion or how it may actually be a great discovery and one of the Earth's many geological wonders. It is believed that the absence of a visible horizon and the backdrop scenery make a faint downwards sloping stretch appear to be an upward slope, creating the illusion of the vehicles moving upwards. Irrespective of the theories and beliefs that surround it, Magnetic hill is a nice place to stop by on your trip, just for the fun of it and to experience mystery beyond the limits of our everyday lives

Shanti Stupa

The Shanti Stupa features the photograph of the current Dalai Lama with the relics of the Buddha at its base. The stupa is built as a two-level structure. The first level features the central relief of Dharmacakra with deer on each side. A central golden Buddha image sits on a platform depicting the "turning wheel of Dharma" (Dharmacakra). The second level has reliefs depicting the "birth" of Buddha, the death of Buddha (mahanirvana) and Buddha "defeating the devils" while meditating. Both levels feature a series of smaller meditating Buddha beliefs.
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.

Spituk Monastery

Spituk Monastery also called as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa. It is a Buddhist monastery in Leh district, Ladakh, northern India. It is located at 8 kilometres from Leh. The monastery contains 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali.
Spituk Monastery is also known as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa among the locals . It is a Buddhist monastery situated in Leh district, Ladakh, northern India. The site was blessed by the Arhat Nyimagung. It was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od when he came to Maryul in the 11th Century. He introduced the monastic community. When Lotsewa Rinchen Zangpo (Translator) came to that place he said that an exemplary religious community would arise there and so the monastery was called spituk. It consists of 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali.

Hemis Monastery

What is almost always an extension to and completes a trip to Ladakh is a day trip to the nearby town of Hemis, landmarked by its monasteries, gompas and an occasional spotting of the rare snow leopard at the highest wildlife sanctuary in the world, in landscapes as extraordinary, wide and humbling as that of Ladakh.
Visit the Hemis Monastery, host of the iconic celebration called Hemis Festival, here. Also visit the Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary and a number of Gompas in and around the area.

Hall Of Fame Museum

Located at approximately 4 km from the main city, this glorified museum was built in memory of the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting for India at the Indo-Pakistan war.
Maintained by the Indian Army, the museum showcases seized arms and amenities of Pakistani Army, pictures and biographies of brave soldiers. A section of the museum also displays Siachen area, exhibiting apparel and amenities used by the Indian Army in the region. Apart from this, one can also witness items related to Ladakhi culture, history, vegetation and wildlife found across the globe.

Mountain Biking

Often termed the paradise of mountain bikers, Leh has thousands of tourists coming in every year to experience the thrill of driving on its steep slopes and adrenaline gushing paths.
For adventurous daring mountain bikers Leh-Manali highway is spectacular road while enjoying the picturesque landscapes. The rides are best possible or opens in late May and closed by September end when the snow fall reclaims the high passes.

Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary, Hemis

At an altitude ranging from 3,300 m to 6,000 m above sea level, this sanctuary is known to be the highest in the world as well as the largest park of South Asia. It is also a habitat to the rare Snow Leopards.
Other than these, also spot here, Ibex, shapu, bharal and amongst various others. With several alpine and steppe trees along with shrubs spreading over the valley bottoms, and 73 varieties of registered birds residing in this place, it tends to be a tempting landscape for forest and nature walks.

Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary

At an altitude of about 4000 to 9000 feet, Changtang wildlife sanctuary is a world away from the world offering its visitors something extraordinary from the wildlife reserves one usually sees. You can spot rare wildlife like the black necked crane and the Tibetan Wild ass and roam around a host of lakes and marshes. The sanctuary is frequented often for the Pangong Lake that it houses, which is quite a highlight of Leh's tourism scene.
Apart from the fact that it is a set apart from the rest, the majestic river Indus runs through the sanctuary, cutting it into two parts. Changtang is a plateau, part of the Hindu Kush Himalaya, the natural enchantress. And true to its name, it doesn't fail to enchant the viewer with its sparkling lakes and dreamy scenery.

Tso Kar lake

Tso Kar is called the white lake, and unlike its counterparts Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso, Tso Kar is the most peaceful and calm of them all and also the smallest of the three. There are only a few yak sheds, a monastery and a couple of nomadic families in the surrounding. An overnight camp here is recommended. The lake and area of Tso kar is home to many nomads who travel these areas continuously. Tso kar also has a large variety of birds for bird lovers as the marshlands surrounding the lake supports an amazing array of bird life.
The common birds that are seen are Brahmin ducks, bar headed geese and great crested grebe. The main attraction, however, is the black necked crane. The black necked cranes, known for their fidelity, come to Tso Kar to lay eggs. The sight of the bird, with a wingspan of almost 8 ft, taking off is an amazing sight to witness against the backdrop of green plains and the snow covered mountains.

Alchi

A sign hanging over its entrance reading 'The model village of Alchi', Alchi is home to a 900 year old Buddhist monastery, that boasts of a rich culture that was somehow lost. This hamlet, high in the Himalayas houses the monastery covered with 11th- 12th century Indo-Tibetan paintings in bright ochre, gold, green and azurite hues. The painted statue of Bodhisattva Maitreya looms over the entire monastery making anyone who enters gasp at the beauty of the sight they are looking at.
The monastery remains as one of the most well preserved sites to have showcased an age old culture, though scholars say that with rising humidity levels, the paintings are at risk of getting damaged. The only reason it has stayed in such marvelous condition is because of the low humidity levels in the Himalayas. Apart from the monastery, it is recommended that travellers stay in Alchi for a night or two to experience a true Ladakhi village life. Alchi is a must visit, for one of the most unique, beautiful and enjoyable travelling experiences.

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