Leh – The adventure capital of the country, is the destination that has the top three highest mountain passes in the world. This erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Ladakh is now a dream destination of many and the Mecca of adventure enthusiasts!
This destination has strong links with Buddhism and Tibetan culture. From architecture to cuisine, this city has an Eastern outlook. This is a very famous tourist destination for those who love isolated adventure spot for many outdoor activities that pump adrenaline into the brain. Leh is a stretch of null vegetation hills, craggy mountain passes, think snow, monasteries and clear water bodies that usually stands as block ice.
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.
List of places to visit in Leh !
The monastery of Hemis is situated on a green hill, surrounded by spectacular mountains. Hemis is situated around 45 kms in the south of Leh on the west banks of the Indus river. The Hemis monastery is the biggest and very richly endowed monastery of Ladakh. The Hemis monastery was built in 1630 and it belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. It is not visible from the road as it is located in a side valley. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. The monastery is decorated on all the four sides by the colourful prayer flags which flutter in the breeze and send the prayers to Lord Buddha.
The village of Alchi is situated around 70 kms. from Leh on the left banks of the Indus river. The village Alchi differentiate itself from other villages of Ladakh by being so lush green. The flood plain at Alchi is very fertile and provides good and relatively extensive agricultural land. Now most of the small houses are made of bricks. The main road at both side is covered by the Apricot trees. It is a normal sight to see the donkeys (Mules) laden with wares and building material during the summers when all the activities are at their peak. The Alchi region too received cultural influence from other areas. Alchi had contacts with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, however the Alchi’s isolation helped the village and the Gompa to keep their culture and traditions intact. Alchi was also on the main trade route of central Asia. The route along the Indus via Leh was connected to the Chinese Turkestan.
The main centre of attraction in the Alchi village is the Alchi Monastery or Alchi Gompa (monastery and temple complex), Leh on the banks of the Indus river. Alchi is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist centers in Ladakh and also as the monastic jewels of Ladakh. The Alchi monastery dates back to nearly one thousand years and so the effect of the Tibetan influence can be seen in the local culture. There are five shrines in the Choskor temple complex which has some splendid wall paintings.
Matho monastery, also known as Matho gompa, is a Buddhist monastery which was founded in the 16th century by the Lama Dugpa Dorje. This monastery is 26 kms away from the Leh city near the Indus River bank. The Matho village is situated at the deep gorge, which starts from Zanskar range and go across the Indus. This monastery is totally parallel to the Thiksey monastery.
This is the only monastery which belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist’s Sakya order. This monastery is mostly famous for the 400 years old Thangkas and its famous Nagrang festival. This monastery is seeing the increase in number of monks who reside inside the monastery dwelling.
Shanti Stupa is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh city, it gives a panaoromic 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.
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.
A white dome Stupa (Chorten) built on a Changspa, a steep hill, opposite the Leh Palace different in architecture from the Ladhakhi style gives a magnificent view at sunrise and sunset, it looks more beautiful at night illuminated in the white light. It was built by the Ladakh and Japanese Buddhists, Ladakhis offered voluntary labor, construction started in 1983 and it was inaugurated in August 1991 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. It was built to promote world peace and prosperty and to commemorate the 2500 years of Buddhism.
Spituk is yet another interesting monastery, on the hill top near Indus about 18 kms. from Leh on Srinagar road. The Spituk monastery offers a commanding view of Indus. It has a totally new Gompa within the monastery as well as the old Gompa has also been restored meanwhile. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. Higher up in the hill is a chamber which houses the enormous statue of goddess. Its face is covered and uncovered only once in a year during the festival time.
Leh Palace overlooks the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh, modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, but was later abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid-19th century. The royal family moved to Stok Palace. Leh Palace is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, the stables and store rooms were in the lower floors. The palace, a ruin, is currently being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The palace is open to the public and the roof provides panoramic views of Leh and the surrounding areas. 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 to the north.
Thiksey Monastery is the largest monastery in central Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated 18 km from Leh in the Indus valley.
The Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism is located at the top of hill. The monastery is famous for its architecture and its location. The 12 storey monastery has 10 temples, assembly hall, and residence for 120 monks and nunnery. The monastery buildings are structured in hierarchal order.
The monastery is referred as ‘Mini Potala’ of India as it resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. There is one big statue of Maitreya (future Buddha) which covers almost two floor of the monastery that is 40 feet in height. Tara temple of Goddess Tara is another major attraction for the visitors. Apart from visiting monastery one can also find some rare and precious stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords in the monastery.