|Leh Palace||Positioned close to the Victory Tower of Leh overlooking the entire Leh City|
|Leh Fort / The Victory Tower||Sited just two hundred feet above the Leh Palace|
|Shanti Stupa||Perched atop a steep hillock facing the Leh Palace and located just 5 kilometers from the Leh City in the Changspa area of the Leh District|
|Namgyal Tsemo Gompa||Stationed atop the Leh Fort|
|Lamayuru Gompa||Located at Lamayuru of Kargil District approximately 109 kilometers from Leh|
|Alchi||Parked on the lowland banks of the river Indus and located about 60 kilometers to the northwest of the Leh City Alchi|
|Likir||Nestled atop a knoll in the picturesque Ladakh Valley nearly 48 kilometers to the west of Leh|
|Hemis||About 40 kilometers to the southeast of Leh|
|Shey||Positioned just 15 kilometers to the southeast of Leh on the way to Hemis|
|Thiksey Gompa||Perched atop an elevated hillock of Thiksey and situated approximately 19 kilometers from Leh on the Leh Manali Highway|
|Stakna||Stationed on the right banks of the river Indus approximately 24 kilometers to the southeast of Leh|
|Stok Palace||Located about 14 kilometers to the south of Leh City across the river Indus|
|Matho Gompa||Nestled on the banks of the river Indus roughly 24 kilometers to the south of the Leh city|
|Spituk||Situated about 8 kilometers away from the Leh city|
|Diskit Monastery||Located about 118 kilometers to the north of Leh towards Hunder|
|Gurdwara Pathar Sahib||Located about 24 kilometers away from Leh on the Leh Kargil Road|
|Khardung La||Positioned about 39 kilometers to the north of Leh towards the Nubra Valley|
|Nubra Valley||Found just 150 kilometers to the north of the Leh City|
|Magnetic Hill||Situated roughly 50 kilometers away from Leh on the Leh Kargil Highway|
|Pangong Tso||Positioned at the distance of about 150 kilometers from Leh|
|Tso Moriri||Located in the Changthang Area of the eastern Ladakh approximately 215 kilometers to the southeast of Leh|
|Tso Kar||Located nearly 250 kilometers from Leh|
|Zanskar||Beyond the Zanskar Mountain Ranges|
|Suru Valley||Located in the proximity with the Kargil Town|
|Zorawar Fort||Positioned in the proximity with the Fort Road just 1.5 kilometers from the Leh Post office|
|Chamba Temple||Located in the Leh Market on the way to the Leh Palace|
|Jama Masjid||Sited right at the center of the city|
|War Museum||Very close to the Leh Airport|
The Leh Palace positioned overlooking the entire Leh City atop one of the domineering mounds of Ladakh terrain is an ancient Ladakhi alcazar erected in 17th century AD under the sovereignty of King Sengge Namygal; the legendary ‘Lion King’ of the Namgyal Dynasty. Fashioned after the Potala Palace of Lhasa; the official residence of Dalai Lama until the Tibetan Uprising of 1959, this nine storied structure of the Leh Palace is presently in ruins. While this stronghold was inhabited by the royal family of Ladakh, the upper floors of the bastion accommodated the noble folks whereas the lower floors functioned as the store rooms and stables. The Leh Palace was deserted in mid 19th century when the enemy forces of the Dorgas abducted Ladakh and the Namgyal Kings had to seek shelter in the nearby Stok Palace. At present, the Leh Palace is undergoing an extensive restoration work under the patronage of the Archaeological Survey of India. The Palace Museum exhibits a splendid collection of archaic Ladakhi ornaments, regal jewellery, impressive Thangka paintings, royal crowns, ceremonial dresses, ancient currency and other belonging of the Ladakhi monarchs. Fascinating panoramas and intriguing picturesque vistas of the Leh City, surrounding topography and majestic snow capped mountains can be captured from the roof of the Leh Palace.
Leh Fort / The Victory Tower
One of the most worth mentioning landmarks of the Leh city; the ‘Leh Fort’ is a soaring white – red colored edifice that is sited just two hundred feet above the Leh Palace. Erected onto the peak of the Namgyal (Victory) Hill of Leh, the Leh Fort; also reckoned as the ‘Victory Tower’ was built under the benefaction of King Tashi Namgyal as a commemoration of Ladakh’s conquest over the Balti Kashmir militia in the early 16th century AD. Placed overlooking the Leh Palace as well as the whole of the Leh City, the Leh Fort strikingly bedecked with thousands of peace flags is easily perceptible from any part of the town. Subsisting in a ruined condition now, the Victory Tower of Leh houses the ‘Gon-khang Temple’ constructed by King Tashi Namgyal where the guardian deities of the Ladakh Kingdom are enshrined.
The Shanti Stupa of Leh perched atop a steep hillock facing the Leh Palace and located just 5 kilometers from the Leh City in the Changspa area of the Leh District is a Tibetan Buddhist Stupa that was established by Ladakh Shanti Stupa Committee in the year 1991 under the direction of a Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu named ‘Gyomyo Nakamura’. This magnificent white-domed chorten clearly visible from almost all the neighborhoods of the Leh town was consecrated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Himself. Honored to be one of the most visited tourist attraction of the province, the Shanti Stupa of Leh designed in a two-leveled configuration holds the relics of Lord Buddha at its bottom. The first level of the Stupa features a golden image of Lord Buddha seated upon a platform and the relief of Dharmachakra flanked by two deers. The second level features the motifs associated with the birth of Lord Buddha, Buddha in the meditating pose overpowering the devils and the Mahanirvana of Lord Buddha. Moreover, the photographs of the present Dalai Lama as well as innumerable lesser Buddha reliefs are also portrayed at both the levels. Particularly noted for its architectural order that completely diverges from the prevailing Ladakhi style, the Shanti Stupa of Leh looks absolutely compelling and attention-grabbing at night when it is illuminated with vivid electric lights. Photographic spectacles of the entire Leh City, the Changspa Village, the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery and the surrounding landscape can be perceived from the Shanti Stupa. This chorten of Leh; an emblem of the unison of Japan and Ladakh was built to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and it aimed at promoting peace and prosperity in the world. The Shanti Stupa can be visited from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa of Leh, one of the oldest existing monasteries of the constituency and the chief Buddhist Centre of the ancient Leh is a Buddhist Temple dedicated to Lord Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) that is presently maintained by the Lamas from the Sankar Monastery. Stationed atop the Leh Fort, the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa was established by King Tashi Namgyal of Ladakh Empire in 1430 AD. To be found in the backdrop of the celebrated Leh palace, the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery is greatly exalted for its three-story high idol of Lord Maitreya Buddha fabricated out of pure gold. Apart from that, the Gompa is also reckoned for its 10 feet tall statues of Manjushri and Avalokitesvara and for the antique scrolls of religious manuscripts and ancient frescoes preserved here. The Lamas from the Sankar Gompa perform the daily rituals at the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa and also light the butter lamps every morning. From the top of this monastery the scenic panoramas of the adjacent countryside, old Ladakh, elegantly flowing Indus River and the snow crowned crests of the Zanskar Ranges can be perceived. Also acknowledged as the ‘Red Gompa’, the Tsemo Monastery can be visited from 7:00 am to 9:00 am and from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
The Lamayuru Gompa of Ladakh located at Lamayuru of Kargil District approximately 109 kilometers from Leh is a Tibetan Buddhist Gompa that was founded by Mahasiddhacarya Naropa in 11th century AD. Estimated to be dating back to the period of Mahaguru Rinchen-zang-po, the Lamayuru Monastery, also called the ‘gYung-drung Monastery’ is believed to be the foremost Bonpo monastery of the Ladakh region. The Lamayuru Gompa; one of the oldest and largest monasteries of Ladakh originally consisted of five edifices, out of which only the central one has survived the test of time whereas the ravaged corners of the remaining four are still noticeable. The Lamayuru Gompa is now acclaimed for its well off collection of incomparable Thangka Paintings, outstanding murals and its Masked Dance Festival celebrated twice a year. At the time of the Monastery Festival, all the Lamas from the neighboring Gompas congregate here and offer prayers at the feet of Lord Buddha. As the legend goes, in the beginning the Lamayuru Valley used to be a lake where Lord Sakyamuni Buddha and his holy serpents (Nagas) used to reside. Later, the lake drained out when Mahasiddhacarya Naropa was meditating here. The monastery also houses a cave where Mahasiddhacarya Naropa is believed to have meditated.
Parked on the lowland banks of the river Indus and located about 60 kilometers to the northwest of the Leh City Alchi is a tiny rural settlement of the Ladakh Region that is distinguished for its exceptional geographic setting. Contrasting the other townships and monasteries of Ladakh, Alchi is situated on flatland and visiting the Alchi Gompa doesn’t call for any challenging ascent. Believed to be founded by Mahaguru Rinchen-zang-po sometimes between 958 and 1055 AD, the Alchi Monastery, a part of the ‘Alchi Group of Monuments’ is deemed a National Heritage. This ‘Monastic Complex’ highly extolled for its well conserved Indo Himalayan Styled wall paintings dating back to 11th and 12th century AD, towering effigies of Lord Buddha and baroque wood carvings & artwork is divided into three sections namely; ‘Dukhang’ (Assembly Hall), Sumtseg Temple (the Main Temple or ‘gTsug-lag-khang’) and the Manjushri Temple. Moreover, the monastery complex is also bursting with innumerable prayer wheels and small stupas. The Dukhang located right at the center of the monastery complex is the place where various religious ceremonies and daily worships are performed by the monks. The three storied structure of the Sumtseg Temple enshrines a 15.2 feet tall statue of Lord Maitreya flanked by Avalokitesvara and Manjushri. The Manjushri Temple enshrines four central images of Manjushri seated back to back.
Likir, renowned far and wide for its famous Tibetan Buddhist Likir Gompa is a small rustic hamlet that is quaintly nestled atop a knoll in the picturesque Ladakh Valley nearly 48 kilometers to the west of Leh. Believed to be established in 1065 AD by Lama Duwang Chosje under the patronage of King Lhachen Gyalpo; the 5th ruler of Ladakh, the Likir Monastery presently functions as the seat of the Ngari Rinpoche. The term ‘Likir’ literally means ‘the Naga encircled’. The Likir Gompa consists of two assembly halls (Dukhang) where several statues of Lord Bodhisattva, Amitabha, Sakyamuni, Maitreya and Tsong Khapa are preserved. The verandah of the monastery are festooned with the Thangka paintings depicting the four cardinal kings guarding the four directions, Lord Yama holding the wheel of life and many others. The most conspicuous feature of the Likir Gompa is its 23 meters tall figurine of Lord Maitreya Buddha gilded with pure gold. Presently, the Likir Monastery accommodates 120 Buddhist monks and also runs a Gompa School. Other than that, the Likir Gompa hosts the annual ‘Dosmochey’ assembly when various offerings are made and sacred dances are performed. This festival is celebrated in the 12th month of the Tibetan Calendar.
Hemis, to be found about 40 kilometers to the southeast of Leh is a minuscule Ladakhi parish that has earned worldwide fame for its Hemis Gompa; the largest Gompa of the entire Ladakh Region. This Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa Lineage formerly existing since 11th century AD and later revamped by King Sengge Namgyal in the year 1672 is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava; also worshipped as ‘Guru Rinpoche’. The Hemis Gompa is distinguished all over the map for its annual festival celebrated in the month of July in the honor of Lord Padmasambhava. The popular Mask Dance of Ladakhi Buddhist tradition is also performed at the time of the annual festival of the Hemis Monastery. Apart from that, Hemis is also noted for its Hemis National Park; a conservation area for protecting the endangered snow leopards dwelling in the Himalayas.
Shey, positioned just 15 kilometers to the southeast of Leh on the way to Hemis is a modest rural civic that is commended inside and out for its decrepit Summer Palace where the sovereigns of Ladakh used to retire during the pleasant summer season. Estimated to be dating back to 1655 AD, the Shey Palace and Monastery were constructed under the benefaction of King Lhachen Palgyigon (Deldan Namgyal) as a commemorative plaque in the fond memory of his father King Singay Namgyal. The Shey Gompa nested atop a soaring hillock in Shey is today famed all over the place for its blue haired statue of Lord Maitreya Buddha built in copper, brass & gold and ornately ornamented with precious and semi precious stones. This lofty sculpture measuring about 17.5 meters in its height is honored to be the second largest statue existing in the whole of Ladakh Region. What is more, the Gompa is also praised for its mural paintings showcasing the four guardian kings, Lord Buddha in various meditative positions, Buddhist preaching and other attractive Tibetan style stone carvings. Currently, the Shey Monastery is managed and maintained by the Monks from the Hemis Monastery. Shey, as it is sited in the upper Indus Valley hosts the annual Sindhu Darshan Festival held here on the banks of the holy river Indus.
The Thiksey Gompa perched atop an elevated hillock of Thiksey and situated approximately 19 kilometers from Leh on the Leh Manali Highway is a fort monastery belonging to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. Built in the central Tibetan pattern the Thiksey Monastery attributable to its semblance to the Potala Palace of Lhasa is also known by the epithet ‘the Mini Potala’. This twelve storied complex revered for its precious collection of rare Buddhist art objects including thangkas, wall paintings, statues, swords, stupas, and so on is complimented to be the largest Gompa of the central Ladakh of its kind. Enjoying the magnitude second only to the Hemis Monastery, the Thiksey Monastery today administers ten other monasteries of the province including Likir, Stok, Spituk, Diskit and others. The most conspicuous feature of the Thiksey Gompa is its 15 meters tall statue of Lord Maitreya Buddha installed in the year 1970 to commemorate the visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This mammoth statue of Lord Buddha portrayed seating in the lotus position (Padmasana) covers two stories of the monastery. Other sections of the Thiksey Gompa include the Tara Temple, the Lamokhang Temple, Assembly Hall, Nunnery and the residing quarters of the monks. The Gompa hosts its annual festival ‘Gustor’ in the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar when scared Buddhist dances like the Cham Dance and the Mask Dance are performed. Another striking detail about the Thiksey village is its Trade Fair wherein people from all over the Ladakh Province assemble here, trade and barter their goods and socialize with each other.
Stakna, stationed on the right banks of the river Indus approximately 24 kilometers to the southeast of Leh is a modest Tibetan Buddhist hamlet that has earned a ubiquitous repute for its famous Stakna Gompa. This Buddhist Monastery belonging to the Drugpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism was founded by a revered Bhutanese saint and scholar ‘Chosje Jamyang Palkar’ in late 16th century AD (1580 approx.). The term ‘Stakna’ literally means ‘a tiger’s nose’. The monastery and the village are christened as ‘Stakna’ as they are established atop a 60 meters tall mount shaped like a tiger’s nose. The Stakna Gompa is also recognized by its nickname the ‘Tiger’s Nose Monastery’. The most remarkable attraction of the Stakna Monastery is its spellbinding marble statue of Lord Avalokitesvara imported all the way from Kamrup in Assam. The monastery is also applauded for its fascinating collection of Buddhist teachings, ancient artifacts, archaic paintings, antediluvian arms and armory and other religious and cultural relics. Presently the Stakna Gompa accommodates around 30 Buddhist monks.
The Stok Palace located about 14 kilometers to the south of Leh City across the river Indus is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and palace where the descendents of the Namgyal royal family of Ladakh still reside. The Stok Gompa was originally established in 14th century AD by Lama Lhawang Lotus. Later in 1825 AD under the patronage of King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal the Stok Palace was added to the Gompa when the royal family of Ladakh had to move to Stok from Leh as the Leh Palace was besieged by the Kashmiri forces. Demonstrating a unique amalgamation of both traditional and contemporary styles of architectonics, the Stok Palace is today acclaimed for its exclusive library holding all the 108 volumes of the Kangjur. Besides, the Stok Palace is also noted for its Palace Museum where the visitors can see a rare collection of ancient Ladakhi royal crowns, ornaments, attires, royal throne of the Namgyal kings, palanquins, old currency, official letters with the seal of the king, religious objects, utensils used in the royal kitchen and other extraordinary artifacts. The Stok Palace is enclosed with a beautifully landscaped garden from where arresting prospects of sunrise and sunset can be viewed. Stok Gompa is particularly reckoned for the annual Mask Dance Festival celebrated here with utmost pomp and grandeur. The Stok Palace and monastery can be visited from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. 50 INR are charged here as the entry fee.
The Matho Gompa nestled on the banks of the river Indus roughly 24 kilometers to the south of the Leh city is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery that is eulogized as the only example of a Gompa maintained by the Sakyapa Sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. Established by Lama Dugpa Dorje in 16th century AD, the Matho Gompa is presently celebrated all over the map for its annual Oracle Festival called ‘Matho Nagrang Festival’. This fiesta is held on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. At the time of the Matho Nagrang, around 60 local lamas elect two oracles who are believed to be possessed by Lord Rong-tsan. These oracles then serve a four year term and their function is to predict the fortunes of the villagers for the coming year. It is said that the oracles cut themselves with knives or sprint along the Gompa’s topmost parapet while they are possessed and it so turns out that at the end of the festival they miraculously come out unhurt by the grace of Lord Rong-tsan. Moreover, it is said that the oracles can make out if some skeptic person asks them any question just to check their authenticity. Other than the oracle festival, the Matho Gompa is noted for its exceptional collection of 16th century Thangka paintings. The sanctum of the Matho Gompa enshrines four statues of the thousand-armed Lord Avalokitesvara, Maitreya Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha and the Blessing Buddha.
Spituk, situated about 8 kilometers away from the Leh city is a tiny Buddhist suburb that is recognized far and wide for its Spituk Monastery; also known as the ‘Pethup Gompa’. This Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Gelug Sect was established by the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od named ‘Od-de’ in 11th century AD. Originally constituted as a Red Hat Institution, the Spituk Gompa was taken over by the Yellow Hat Sect in 15th century AD. The Gompa enshrines a giant statue of Goddess Kali in its sanctum sanctorum. The Spituk Monastery hosts the annual Gustor Festival that is celebrated from the 27th day to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar. Presently the Spituk Monastery accommodates about 100 monks.
The Diskit Monastery located about 118 kilometers to the north of Leh towards Hunder is a Tibetan Buddhist Gompa maintained by the Gelugpa Sect (Yellow Hat Sect) of the Tibetan Buddhism. Founded by a disciple of Tsong Khapa named ‘Changzem Tserab Zangpo’ in 14th century AD, this monastery happens to be the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery existing in the ‘Nubra Valley’ region of Ladakh. Functioning as the subordinate Gompa of the Thiksey Monastery, the Diskit Gompa is predominantly acclaimed for its 32 meters tall effigy of Lord Maitreya Buddha. Apart from that, the prayer hall of the monastery also holds a statue of Maitreya Buddha, several images of the fierce guardian deities and a huge drum. The sky-scraping cupola of the Diskit Gompa is adorned with a fresco that depicts the Tashilhunpo Monastery of Tibet. The Diskit Monastery receives thousands of devotees on the occasion of its annual Desmochhey Festival (Festival of the Scapegoat) celebrated in the month of February when the residents of Nubra Valley throng the premises to witness the famous Mask Dance. This Mask Dance is performed by the Lamas of the Gompa which generally narrates a story related to the supremacy of good over evil. Presently around 100 monks reside in the Diskit Gompa. The Monastery also runs a school in collaboration with a Non-Government Organization; Tibet Support Group.
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib located about 24 kilometers away from Leh on the Leh Kargil Road is a Sikh Gurdwara established in the year 1517 AD to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to the Ladakh region. As per the prevalent legend earlier a demon dwelt in this vicinity and terrorized the locals. On the appeal of the people Guru Nanak Dev Ji (locally know as Nanak Lama) arrived here and settled down on the banks of the river flowing below the hill inhabited by the demon. Enraged demon swore upon killing the Nanak Lama and one day while the Guru was meditating he pushed a huge boulder (Pathar) down from the hilltop. Miraculously, when the Pathar touched the Guru, it softened like melted wax and halted against the Nanak Lama’s back. On learning this, the demon tried to push the boulder with his right foot but he was dumfounded when he saw that Guru Nanak was still unhurt and instead the imprints of his own foot had got embedded upon the boulder. The demon immediately surrendered to the Nanak Lama and begged for his mercy. Later he renounced all his evil deeds and began serving people. The same Pathar is now enshrined in the Pathar Sahib Gurdwara of Leh which bears the impression of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s body on one side and the footprint of the demon on the other.
Khardung La positioned about 39 kilometers to the north of Leh towards the Nubra Valley and nested at the elevation of 5,359 meters (17,582 feet, however it is claimed to be 18380 feet high) is a high altitude mountain pass that is widely reckoned as world’s highest motor-able road. Built in the year 1976 under the BRO project ‘Himank’ and opened to motor vehicles in 1988, the Khardung La Pass is constantly maintained and mended by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) of India. This mountain pass holds immense strategic importance as this route is used for carrying supplies to the Siachen Glacier. Moreover, it also forms a part of the ancient caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in China. This entryway to the Shyok and Nubra Valley, the Khardung La Pass is now exceedingly popular amongst the trekkers, bikers and other adventure enthusiasts. The initial 24 kilometers between Leh and South Pullu Check Point are considerably well paved. The 14 kilometers long stretch between South Pullu and North Pullu is basically just dirt and loose rock occasionally intermitted by the rivulets formed by the melted snow. Again, the road from North Pullu Check Point to the Nubra Valley is also well maintained. Inner Line Permit is required for crossing the South Pullu Check Point. This permit can be obtained from the DC’s office at Leh. The Khardung La Pass is closed from October to May every year due to heavy snow fall. It is to be noted that the tourists should carry AMS medicines along as they might suffer from the altitude motion sickness while at Khardung La. At the Khardung La Top there are a few cafeterias where one can relish hot tea and maggi. A monastery adorned with innumerable prayer and peace flags is also sited here.
The Nubra Valley also known as the ‘Ldumra Valley’ meaning ‘the valley of flowers’ is a high altitude desert to be found just 150 kilometers to the north of the Leh City that is formed by the confluence of Shyok and Nubra or Siachan Rivers. Accessible from Leh only through the Khardung La Pass, the Nubra Valley separates the Ladakh region from the mighty Karakoram Ranges. Positioned at the average altitude of 10,000 feet above the mean sea level, the Nubra Valley is chiefly inhabited by the Buddhist Ladakhis and several Shia and Sunni Muslims. Furthermore, the blue eyed, reddish-brown haired and rosy cheeked people believed to be from the Greek origin are also found in the Nubra Valley. This cold desert receives meager precipitation and the only evident vegetation is seen along the fertile river beds. The Nubra Valley is enclosed by the Siachen Glacier to its north and the Sasser and Karakoram Passes to its northwest. Nubra Valley forms a part of the legendary silk route which connected Central Asia with East Turkistan in ancient times. Sumur, Turtuk, Panamik, Kyagar, Hundar, Tirith, and many other villages lie in the Nubra Valley along the Nubra or Siachan River. Hundar, a home to the Chamba Monastery functioned as the administrative headquarters of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in 17th century AD. Presently, the stretch between Diskit and Hundar is reckoned for its unique sand dunes and the double humped Bactrian camels found here. Several worth visiting destinations of the Nubra Valley include Samstanling Monastery, hot water springs of Panamik, Ensa Gompa, Diskit Monastery, etc. Tourists need to acquire Inner Line Permit to enter the Nubra Valley.
The Magnetic Hill situated roughly 50 kilometers away from Leh on the Leh Kargil Highway is a gradient upland that is supposed to bear certain magnetic properties which can pull the cars uphill and even the aircrafts passing from here need to increase their altitude so as to escape the magnetic obstruction experienced here. Actually the hill doesn’t have any magnetic powers and it is just an optical illusion which makes you feel that a car is being pulled uphill.
The Pangong Tso positioned at the distance of about 150 kilometers from Leh and accessible from Leh via Chang La Pass; world’s 3rd highest motor-able road is an endorheic lake that is cradled in the mighty bosom of the Himalayas at the elevation of 4,350 meters above the sea level. Also known as the ‘Banggong Co’ which means a long, narrow, enchanted lake in Tibetan Language, the Pangong Tso measuring about 134 kilometers in its total length extends from India to Tibet. 60% of the lake lies in the border of the China controlled Tibet. This huge lake measuring about 5 kilometers at its widest point covers an extensive area of 604 square kilometers. This salt water lake lying in the disputed territory is deemed a wetland of international importance as the ‘Line of Actual Control’ passes through it. The brackish water of the Pangong Tso doesn’t support any micro-vegetation but it functions as a major breeding ground for a wide array of avifauna including various migratory birds. Numerous ducks, Brahmini ducks, gulls, bar-headed goose, kiang, marmot and other species of wildlife are seen here. Highly praised for its scintillating blue waters, the Pangong Tso receives thousands of tourists, bikers, trekkers, campers and other adventure aficionados during the tourist season which extends from May to September. The lake completely freezes during winter and the roads are blocked due to heavy snowfalls and landslides. It is to be noted that due to security reasons boating is not permitted in the Pangong Tso. Besides, the tourists need to obtain the Inner Line Permit for visiting the Pangong Tso. This charismatic lake formed a brief backdrop in the very popular Bollywood song ‘Satarangi Re’ from the blockbuster Hindi movie ‘Dil Se’ (1998) while the climax scene of the super hit Hindi film 3 Idiots (2009) is also filmed on the banks of the Pangong Tso.
Tso Moriri, officially called ‘the Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve’ is the largest High Altitude Lake of the Trans-Himalayan Bio-geographic Region that is situated at the elevation of 4,595 meters above the mean sea level. Located in the Changthang Area of the eastern Ladakh approximately 215 kilometers to the southeast of Leh, the Tso Moriri Lake is enclosed by Ladakh to its north, Tibet to its east and Zanskar to its west. Surrounded by lofty snow clad Himalayan Sierras, this brackish water reservoir is fed by the water rivulets those are formed out of the melted snow in summer. This lake placed entirely within the Indian periphery is accessible only during the summer season.
Tso Kar, the smallest of the three most sought after lakes of the Ladakh region is a salt water lagoon that is parked amidst the Rupsa Valley nearly 250 kilometers from Leh. The term ‘Tso Kar’ literally means ‘salty lake’ in the local tongue and until 1959 salt used to be extracted from the waters of Tso Kar. This lake is oligotrophic by nature and holds alkaline waters. This Tso is fed by the springs those are formed by the melted snow. Perched at the altitude of about 4500 meters, the Tso Kar Lake can be reached taking a diversion on the Leh Manali Highway close to the More Plains.
Zanskar is a sub district of the Kargil district that is separated from Ladakh by the Zanskar Mountain Ranges. The term ‘Zanskar’ is said to have originated from a Tibetan word ‘Zangs’ meaning copper. ‘Zanskar’ is explained in various ways including ‘White Copper’, ‘Copper Star’, ‘Copper Palace’, ‘Food Palace’, etc. The Zanskar Ranges are growing more and more popular both amongst Indian and foreign tourists and adventure enthusiasts for the numerous enchanting and challenging trekking trails it offers.
The Suru Valley drained by the watercourse of the Suru River; a tributary of the Indus River is one of the most beautiful valleys of the Ladakh region that is distinguished for its unfathomable scenic bequest and the enthrallingly picturesque vistas it proffers. Kargil is the most noteworthy town nestled in the lap of the Suru Valley. The Suru Valley serves as an important base camp for the trekkers heading towards Sankoo, Mulbek and other Ladakhi terrains. A summer tent-camp is available at Rangdum while the mountaineering expeditions to Nun Kun start at Tangole.
The Zorawar Fort of Leh positioned in the proximity with the Fort Road just 1.5 kilometers from the Leh Post office is an ancient citadel that is christened in the honor of General Zorawar Singh; the ‘little Napoleon of India’. General Zorawar Singh served Maharaja Ranjit Singh as well as Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu and is commended for his creditable contributions during various military campaigns including the Ladakh Campaigns, Baltistan Campaign, Tibet Expedition and the Treaty of Chushul. The Zorawar Fort of Leh, also known as the Riasi Fort holds a natural spring, a temple dedicated to the Hindu Goddesses Kali and Durga and a mosque. The garrison is encircled by a 5 meters deep moat which can be entered only through the bridge built across this trench. The Zorawar Fort was originally built as a transit stopover and the stronghold was always guarded by around 300 soldiers and 30 artillery operators. Ancient weaponry rooms, food storage, stables, resting rooms, Military Parade Ground, etc constitute the sections of the Zorawar Fort of Leh.
The Chamba Temple of Leh located in the Leh Market on the way to the Leh Palace is a magnificent temple that is dedicated to Lord Maitreya i.e. the Future Buddha. Apart from the 14 meters tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha, the Chamba Temple is also famed for its utterly astonishing wall paintings and frescos.
The Jama Masjid of Leh sited right at the center of the city is a Muslim place of worship that was constructed in the year 1666-67 under the patronage of a Ladakhi Monarch; King Deldan Namgyal. This mosque was established consequent to the agreement between King Deldan Namgyal and the most notorious Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb according to which Aurangzeb helped the Ladakhi kingdom to fight the Mongol Army and in return a Masjid was erected in the capital city of the Ladakh territory. The Jama Masjid of Leh is believed to be the biggest mosque of the province and it enjoys the capacity of accommodating about 500 worshippers at a time. Extremely venerated by the Sunni Muslims of Leh and surrounding villages, the Jama Masjid is renowned for housing a commemorative plaque known as ‘Shahi Hamdan’. This memorial is dedicated to the revered memory of a Muslim Sufi Saint; Mir Syed Ali Hamdani.
The War Museum of Leh also glorified by the epithet ‘the Hall of Fame’ is an absorbing memorial that eloquently displays the history of various Indo – Pak and Indo – China wars, describes the commendable accomplishments of the Indian Army, showcases the aftereffects of these wars and pays tribute to the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting for the Motherland. In its diverse sections the War Museum of Leh displays various exhibits such as the photographs of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the Indo-Pak wars, official Army emblems, war gears and equipments seized from the Pakistani soldiers, archives of war documents and recordings, miniature of the Siachen battlefield, small replicas of the mountain-scape of Jammu & Kashmir, artifacts related to Ladakhi people, their culture and lifestyle, and so on.