Having reached Leh if you give in to the temptation to plunge straight ahead towards the many natural landscapes that Ladakh has to offer, you would be missing out on the beauty of this quaint Himalayan town located at an altitude of approx. 3500 m. Steeped deep in Buddhist culture, with monasteries dotting the landscape, Leh offers travellers a rare glimpse of what life in the shadow of the mighty Himalayas is like. Enchanting mud brick houses framed against the mighty mountains offer a charming sight that deserves to be captured on camera. Here are some must see places while you are in this captivating city that is so easy to fall in love with.
The first place you should visit is the Leh Palace, a nine storey structure that was once considered the tallest building in the world. A fine example of Tibetan architecture, the palace was once the official palace of the kings of the Namgyal dynasty and is said to be the main inspiration behind the famous Lhasa Potola built much later. If you go higher on the same hill there lies Tsemo fort, the earliest recorded residence of the royal Namgyal dynasty which houses a collection of temples built to venerate the local deities. Offering a panoramic view of the entire town of Leh, the view from Tsemo fort is both mesmerizing and captivating. A little further on is the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa and a museum containing an interesting collection of paintings, jewelry and thangkas, some of which are more than 450 years old.
Climb down the hill to reach the main bazaar where you can indulge your taste buds in some local eateries. Leave the bazaar behind to turn off towards Changspa to reach Shanti Stupa. Built to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism by “The Japanese for World Peace” organization, Shanti Stupa is a structure dedicated to promoting world peace. An all-white structure with domes, Shanti Stupa offers an breathtaking imagery silhouetted against the rising and setting sun. That apart don’t forget to capture the breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and valleys from all sides of Shanti Stupa.
Hall of Fame
Start walking from the Shanti Stupa towards the Hall of Fame located on the road leading to the airport, a must see if only to salute the bravery of Indian soldiers who battle against daily odds to stand guard at the highest army station in the world located at Siachen glacier. You can also get to know a lot about the local Ladakhi people and their culture by visiting the Hall of Fame.
Located about 30 kms away from Leh as you head towards Kargil along the Manali highway, the Magnetic Hill continues to baffle tourists till today. So called because of the strong magnetic force that pulls cars up even when the ignition is turned off, a car drive up the magnetic hill is well worth the gravity defying experience.
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
As you drive back towards Leh after visiting the Magnetic Hill stop by at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. Built in 1517 to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak to Leh. A sense of peace pervades this Gurudwara which also offers a bewitching view of the majestic mountains that border it from all sides.
Make a halt at Spituk Monastery, located just 8 kms away from Leh on a hill framed against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas and with the mighty Indus flowing beneath. The beautiful landscape itself makes the monastery worth a visit, where else can you catch a glimpse of the beautiful Indus flowing in all its mighty under the watchful gaze of the snowcapped mountains. The famous Gustor festival takes place at this monastery, home to more than 100 Buddhist monks and several statues and images of Lord Buddha.
All the sightseeing coupled with the mountain air is bound to have made you hungry. Leh can proudly claim to be one of the friendliest cities for tourists with innumerable options for eating and staying during the tourist season. If you want a flavor of the local food, there are plenty of local options to choose from. Take your pick from the delicious Momos and Thupkas.
If you are the adventurous kinds, there is enough and more opportunity to indulge this part of your personality with the river rafting tours. Crossing some of the spactacular gorges along the Himalayan landscape is bound to have you enamoured.
One thing is for sure you will never rue your decision of having spent time in this spectacular city!