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Leh Tourism And Travel Guide
-19.6° C / -3.3° F
May to September
4 to 6 Days
Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (3 kms)
Jammu Tawi (680 kms)
Leh lies in the upper Himalayas stretching from the Himalayan to the Kunlun ranges. Since time immemorial, Leh has served as an important stopover for trade routes and Indo-Chinese interactions. The terrain is rocky and arid and is washed by the crystal clear waters of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. The region is hidden between high passes and tall peaks leaving Leh fairly untouched and far away from the chaos of the Indian Plains. Tourism in Leh is like experiencing a very real spiritual realm. Here's a travel guide to Leh and all you need to know to plan a trip to this high altitude valley.
How to Reach
Given the high altitude mountainous region, reaching Leh is thoroughly dependent on the climatic conditions. Nevertheless, its popularity as a tourist destination has made a lot of services available that will help you reach your destination with considerable ease.
Sometimes this can be more exciting than the destination itself. Two major road routes, the Srinagar-Leh route and the Manali-Leh route, both approximately 400 kilometers, are among the most coveted ones for bikers and backpackers. The roads reveal in detail what a jaw-dropping terrain this really is.
There are several buses that will take this route too. One thing to keep in mind is that the roads are only open from mid-June to end of September once the ice has thawed.
The Station at Jammu is the closest Railway Station to Leh. From here you can pursue the Srinagar-Leh route by boarding a state government bus or renting your own vehicle or taxi.
Best Time to Visit
Leh has four prominent seasons, a very cold and festive winter, a cool and pleasant spring, a comparatively warm summer and a cool, romantic autumn.
The winters are a brilliant time to experience the culture of Leh and take part in the festivals. The rivers and lakes are frozen at this time and the whole landscape is covered with snow. Spring and Autumn are probably the best time to visit if you wish to enjoy light snowfall. Summers are the most convenient time to visit the valley since it's pleasant, the roads are open and local business are open to cater to travelers. This is also the best time for biking and sightseeing.
Things to Do
Explore a Myriad Culture:
Leh is an important center for Buddhism and you will find many monasteries here. The 11th century Spituk Monastery is quite popular, with its giant Kali sculpture unveiled once every year during the Spitok festival. The Thiksey Gompa has a striking resemblance to the Patola Palace in Lhasa, home to the 14th Dalai Lama before the Chinese invasion of Tibet. You could also visit the Hemis Gompa to witness the Hemis Festival during the month of July, and the Shanti Stupa with its brilliant white walls to discover tranquility amidst a backdrop of snowy mountains. Other monuments worth visiting are the ancient Jama Masjid and the 17th century Leh Palace.
Gawk at Nature:
The cold deserts of Leh are a pretty unique sight. The streams are crystal clear and the lakes and the sky are a shocking shade of blue. The confluence of the azure Indus river with the emerald of the Zanskar is a sight you'd love to behold. The royal blue of the Pangong Lake will make you wonder about the unreachable depths of our planet. And the magical sand dunes of the Nubra Valley and the mystery of the magnetic hill will leave you speechless.
Adventure and sports:
Leh is a favorite spot for adventure enthusiasts. The roads to Leh go past some of the highest motorable passes in the world. Consider rafting in the Zanskar river or the Indus river. The Zanskar freezes in the winters forming the 'chadar' over which traders and trekkers have marauded for centuries. The land is also great for cycling and safaris.
What To Eat
One finds many restaurants in Leh along the markets. Besides thupkas and momos, try the tigmo, a kind of fermented bread, served with stew. There's also the mouthwatering mokthuk, a dish of momos and soup. To keep warm drink the qahwa, a rich Kashmiri style tea with cinnamon and the butter tea also known as gurgur cha. Enjoy all your meals with chhupri, cheese made from yak’s milk.
Leh is dotted with markets and shops and you will find many souvenir shops near tourist spots. The Hemis Monastery also has a prayer and souvenir shop where you can pick up prayer flags and wheels. Do stop at the most prominent Tibetan Bazaar and Moti Bazaar to find a variety of the famous Pashmina shawls, hand weaved winter clothes, pearls, precious stones, jewelry, and of course the highly renowned hand woven carpets.