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Tourist Places To Visit In Leh
As the more densely habited part of the famous Leh-Ladakh region, Leh's charm is all about its high altitude civilization: yaks, monasteries, handicrafts and Tibetan culture and architecture. Very high, very rugged and very cold, Leh has bred a fascinating breed of hardy people, with a unique culture adapted to the harsh climate and terrain of the place. Here are some of the best tourist places you must visit when in Leh:
The nine-storey Leh Palace, built in typical Tibetan architectural style, has a stunning view of the surrounding landscape - houses, terraced fields and the magnificent snow peaks of the Stok Kangri. It is sad that most of it has fallen to rack and ruin now, and entering certain parts of it is nothing short of a torch-lit thriller.
Monasteries / Gompas
Leh is mostly ruled by Buddhist culture and religion and is home to some of the most incredible monasteries in the entire world. Each monastery has a courtyard where rituals are performed or yearly festivals are celebrated. There are also many Stupas, known as "Chortens".
Hemis Gompa: This world famous monastery was built in the 17th century. It is the largest and most famous monastery in the region.
Thiksey Gompa: Located at a distance of 20 km from Leh region, this Gompa has depictions of the historical art and architecture of the region. The monastery is a home to several marvelous stupas, statues, swords and much more.
Spituk Gompa: This historical Monastery is situated on top of a hill near the Indus River, 18 kilometers away from Leh.
Lamayuru Monastery: This monastery is home to one of the oldest and most beautifully constructed Buddhist Gompas in the Leh-Ladakh region.
Shey Monastery: This monastery boasts of a 12 metre tall, gold-plated statue of Buddha.
The main bazaar street of Leh runs right through the length of the town. It is dotted with shops selling woolens, tea, salt, and semi-precious stones. You will also find rows of Ladakhi women selling fruits and vegetables here among other things.
Three kilometers west of the main bazaar sits the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda). Perched on a hillock, this white stupa was built by the Peace Sect of Japan in the 1980's. The sides of the stupa are adorned with stories from the life of the Buddha. Strings of prayer flags flutter around and away from the temple, and you get a good panoramic view of Leh. The Shanti Stupa makes for a brilliant photo op.
At various points around Leh-Ladakh, you will see the famous Mani walls. These are long stone walls with prayers engraved on them, a form of Buddhist spiritual worship. On the outer walls one can notice the lines of "prayer wheels". Prayer wheels are wood and metal cylinders with prayers written on the long pieces of paper inside. Every rotation of the cylinders is equated to prayers being sent to Buddha himself.
Looming large and ominous over Leh is the famous Tsemo aka Victory Fort. It lies atop a steep hill that is a rather breath-taking (literally) walk from Leh. It's a steep and laborious climb up to the ruins. What remains of this fort today are mere bricks and stones; scarce testimony to the earliest royal residence of the Namgyal dynasty. The Fort is surrounded and flanked by some temples built in veneration of the guardian deities of the dynasty.
At the Main Bazaar, is a Sunni mosque built way back in the 17th century. It is said that King Deldan Namgyal's grandmother was a Muslim and she donated the land for this mosque.
Upper Leh is also home to a rustic little donkey sanctuary where injured and destitute donkeys are sheltered. You can feed the donkeys carrots and/or make financial donations to help in their support and care. It's all very sweet actually.
Established in 1984, the Ecological Centre of Leh runs a craft shop and organises workshops and teaching sessions on environmental issues in Ladakh. The Centre displays various environment friendly models including solar powered gadgets and has a library on Ladakhi culture and Buddhism.
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is a very frequented place in Leh. People from all walks of life, near and far away pay a visit here to remember Guru Nanak. Its name is derived from a story when a demon had thrown a rock at Guru Nanak, which nobody has been able to move from this site. The Gurudwara Pathar Sahib falls on the Leh-Kargil Highway and hence can be detoured at your convenience.
Khardung La is a pass in Leh that forms a gateway to a gorgeous unexplored world of Kashgar in Central Asia. At 5,359 m height, this is the highest motorable pass in the world. Due to its nature, Khardung La has historic significance as it was used by caravans back in the day to cross into and out of India. It is only 40 km from Leh and a must visit for its thrilling drive. It is being maintained by BSF and there is heavy army posting, so safety is fully ensured.
Located 30 km away from Leh is the Magnetic Hill. As the name suggests, this hill on the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway is magnetic in nature, its power so strong that it is said to attract even large metallic objects like cars and trucks. This phenomenon defies gravity, as when you park your car at the designated spot and kill ignition in neutral, it gets pulled on its own uphill at 10-20 km/hr. Do take an afternoon from Leh to check out this wonder and record loads of photos and videos.
Tso Moriri Lake
A trip to Two Moriri Lake from Leh includes some gorgeous views of this crystal clear waterbody, perked up by a safari in the Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary where this lake is located. You will get to see yaks, cows, goats grazing on its banks and herded by local nomads. Tso Moriri is frozen between January and March, but as summer approaches it thaws. So plan your trip accordingly.
Moonscapes and mountain camels, rivers and white deserts — that’s Nubra Valley for you. Its altitude makes it one of the coldest deserts in the world and puts it at the border of Ladakh and Tibet. It is 160 km from Leh and most people visiting Leh prefer to spend a short weekend here, away from the town, and in the lap of solitude. Home to Hunder Sand Dunes, Turtuk villages, Diskit Monastery, Yarab Tso lake etc, Nubra has much to show you.
The Sangam Point of Leh is where Indus River meets the Zanskar River, where they fuse into one another and continue to flow as one. With their own unique colours and textures, they make one hell of a wonder when they converge. So this place is important for two reasons, one for its beauty and contrast that is best captured on camera; and the other for river rafting. The greenish Indus and brownish Zanskar meet by the NH 1, making it a coveted tourist attraction.
Dras is one of the coldest inhabited places on earth, with its numbing winters and freezing summers. The challenging settlement becomes almost uninhabitable during the thick of winter. The mountains here are barren, brown and stark and craggy, with Das river free flowing as summer sets in. Hot water springs, scenic beauty and history of the Indo-Pak war make Dras a very popular tourist place.
Kargil forms the second largest region in the UT of Ladakh. Its cultural, political and historical significance shot up after the 1999 Kargil war of Indo-Pak. Suru (Indus) river flows here and a mixed race of Tibetan, Dard and Baltis people live in harmony. There is a Kargil War Memorial nearby and also the looming Tiger hill where Kargil war was fought. J. P. Dutta shot his movie LOC Kargil here and those sites are also pretty famous.