Leh – A Paradise on Earth
Few places in India are at once so traveller-friendly and yet so enchanting and hassle-free as mountain-framed Leh. Leh is the heart of the Leh district and capital of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since opening to tourists in 1974, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders.
It's a small town, easy to get most places by foot. The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural "suburb" northwest of the center, with many guesthouses.
The main Bazaar's elevation is 3505 meters, so take it easy on your first few days there or risk possible altitude sickness. Even experienced high altitude travellers (Andes) might have some trouble.
District Leh is situated roughly between 32 to 36 degree north Latitude and 75 to 80 degree East longitude and altitude ranging from 2300 mtrs to 5000 mtrs above sea level. District Leh with and area of 45100 Sq. Kms. makes it one of the largest District in the country.The District is bounded by Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the North and eastern part and Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pardesh in the south east. It is at a distance of 434 Kms from State capital Srinagar and 474 Kms from Manali (HP).
Topographically, the whole of the district is mountainous with three parallel ranges of the Himalayas, the Zanskar, the Ladakh and the Karakoram. Between these ranges, the Shayok, Indus and Zanskar rivers flow and most of the population lives in valleys of these rivers.
Leh has a cold, arid climate with long, harsh winter season that is, from October to early March. The winter temperature in Leh dips down at maximum to -29 degree Celsius and during summers the mercury rises to a high of 33 degree Celsius.
Best places to visit in Leh:
- Pangong Lake
Pangong lake is one of the most popular places to visit in Leh and is located just 160 kilometers away from Ladakh. The drive to Pangong lake is an exciting experience offering scenic views. It is a beautiful lake with crystal blue waters blessed with pleasant weather throughout the year.
Enjoy the solitude near the placid waters of this magnificent lake and take out your cameras to capture the picturesque view of this wonderful place. Black necked Siberian can be spotted near the Mahe marshes, the only breeding place for these rare migratory birds.
- Tso Moriri Lake
Drive to the beautiful Tsomoriri lake from Leh taking around 6-7 hours is a thrilling and adventurous experience as the last 60 Kilometer journey is on rugged paths. It is beautifully placed in the secluded Rupshu valley.
- Lamayuru Trek
It is the most ancient, royal and interesting located at a distance of 125 kilometers from leh. It is picturesquely enveloped by the rugged, dusty mountains and is beautifully carved out of the badland area. It comes in your way when you move towards Kargil from Leh. Drive on the road towards Lamayuru is an excellent way to explore the scenic snow capped mountains of the region. Tso Moriri is one of the must see places to visit in Leh.
- Magnetic Hill
One of the places to visit in Leh is the Gravity hill having strong magnetic properties which can pull cars uphill and make Aircrafts go higher in terms of altitude so that they could bypass magnetic interference. Due to this amazing effect, millions of people from all over the world are attracted towards this place.
- Nubra Valley
Trekking on the rocky, colossal trails of this valley is a truly exciting experience as it is situated near the banks of the pure nubra river. The valley is named as “the valley of flowers” and it has some of the most beautiful, vibrant and colourful flowers set amidst lush green landscape. This place is popular because of its serene and tranquil ambience.
- Diskit Gompa
It is the most ancient and largest gompa located near the Nubra valley. The golden Buddha statue which is 32 meters tall is worth seeing. It is located 120 kilometers away from Leh.
Shanti Stupa. It is a white domed sacred shrine situated on a hammock in Leh. It is indeed a masterpiece of royal, ancient beauty. The astonishing Buddha statues, holy books and holy relics are sealed here for future generations. It was built as a monument to celebrate 2500 years of Buddhism.
- Shey Monastery
Shey monastery is famous because of the magnificent metal statue of Buddha and one of the places to visit in leh , the second largest statue in Ladakh. It is located 15 kilometers south of Leh. It was built in the year 1655 by Ladakh’s king Deldan Namgyal. The royal kings of Ladakh used to stay here during summers.
The Ladakh district lies near LOC having Kashmir valley towards south and Gilgit-baltistan towards west. It is situated 234 kilometers west of Leh. It is a perfect place for camping at night before moving forward your journey to explore other attractive places around Leh.
- Khardungla Pass
Situated at an altitude of 5359 meters, it is the second highest motorable pass in the district of Leh. The drive from Leh towards this pass is a fun-filled experience yet scenic experience. The word Khardungla signifies the “pass of lower castle”. The above ten were some of the best places to visit in Leh.
Here are 10 best things to do in Leh:
- A Visit to Ancient Monasteries
The monasteries talk about the rich culture and history of Ladakh. Some of the most beautiful statues of Lord Buddha are present here. The Gompas are a sacred place for the Buddhists and are worth visiting.
- Go on a Camel Safari
Camel safari is a great way of traversing the colossal valleys of Ladakh wrapped up in the lap of nature surrounded by the magnificent hills and green landscape, this should be included in list of things to do in Leh.
- Go on a Jeep Safari
An enthralling jeep safari on the scenic landscape of Ladakh is absolutely fun and exciting. If you have to travel several miles, then the best way is to hire a Jeep which will make your journey relaxing and comfortable.
- Visit to Drass Valley
Popularly called as the “Gateway of Ladakh”, it is the second coldest destination around the world that is inhabited. Keep your sweaters, gloves and jackets ready before you visit this beautiful chilling place.
- Go Mountain Climbing
Something to be included in things to do in Leh list is mountain climbing. Leh and the surrounding regions in Ladakh is a haven for mountain climbers with its unique charm and natural beauty. Hiring a local guide or sherpa is highly recommended before venturing out to conquer the mountains.
Cycling on the rocky trails of this beautiful place is a unique experience which you will remember throughout your life. Thrillophilia has organized a number of cycling tours in this region which takes cyclists along scenic paths.
- Motor Biking
Hire a bike and hit the road of Leh and explore the surrounding regions. Riding around this region is a truly hair raising experience.
Talking about adventure activities in Leh ladakh, you can’t afford to miss trekking on the rocky and arduous slopes of the Himalayan ranges enclosed by thick dense forests and lush green landscapes. Thrillophilia organizes a number of treks in Leh from June to February every year. This is one of the things to do in leh , that would make your trip a splendid one.
- Ice Skiing
Enjoy Ice Skiing on the high and long snowy slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges and make your vacations truly memorable.
Fall free with the cool breeze blowing across your hair, experience the view of the clear sky, the snow capped peaks and the huge green landscape adorned by rivers. This region offers some of the best views for those thinking of paragliding in Leh.
Paragliding shows you the best of beautiful Leh, hence including this in your things to do in Leh becomes inevitable.
What’s special about Leh?
Leh redefines tranquillity, serenity and it makes you feel as if you have entered a paradise away from the city life where you can forget everything else and simply enjoy every moment that you spend here. It has an interesting unique culture and a visit to ancient monasteries lets you explore some of the most beautiful Buddhist statues, relics and holy books.
You must try out the scrumptious and mouth watering Tibetan delicacies. You can purchase the Handicraft and art items designed by the local people for your home sweet home as well as your loved ones because they can’t be found anywhere else.
Rich Culture and History: It has a unique unexplored history and the actual residents of this region are still a mystery. Some of the known races include Tibetan, Brokpa and Mon.
People of Ladakh and their Customs: The population of Ladakh mainly consists of Buddhists along with some percentages of Christians, muslims and hindus. The ladakhi people are very warm and welcoming. They have a rich culture and the Ladakhi dress is absolutely attractive and alluring.
Ladakhi Food: You must taste the typical ladakhi food which tastes similar to the Tibetan food. The must try delicacies of the Ladakh region include Tsampa and Thupka.
Art and Handicraft: The art and handicraft items are extremely creative and beautiful. They are believed to be originated from local tribes. Ladakhis are generally talented and creative due to the customs and traditions which have been passed from generations. Ladakh is extremely popular for painting, Pashmina shawls and metal sculptures.
Festivals of Leh:
Ladakh is a land of several vibrant and colourful festivals celebrated by the monks and local people. The native people celebrate these festivals as per the Buddhist calendar. In order to explore the rich culture of this place, you must participate in the Hemis festival and Ladakh festival.
- Hemis Festival
This festival is celebrated to honour the birth of the guru Padmasambhava, the founder of tantric Buddhism in Tibet. This festival is celebrated annually in the month of June or July.
- Losar Festival
It is celebrated in the 11th month as per Tibetan calendar which is 2 months ahead of New year.
- Ladakh Festival
Held during the initial weeks of September, It is a unique and a colourful festival which includes stunning ceremonial costumes and amazing mask dances paraded by troupes along the lanes of Leh.
Shopping at Leh: Visiting the local market of Leh is an excellent way of interacting with the locals and learning about their tradition and customs. Besides, a visit to the local market allows you to purchase unique items such as semi precious stones, pearls, tribal jewellery, organic products and local handicrafts.
Pashmina Shawls: Every woman would love to add the graceful, beautiful and fine pashmina shawl to her wardrobe. It is made up of cashmere wool which comes from pashmina or changthangi goat. The pashmina goat can be spotted in the high altitudes of Himalayan ranges.
Prayer Wheels: It is a spiritual item which consists of a cylindrical wheel mounted on a spindle made up of coarse cotton, Leather, stone, wood and metal.
Buddhist Relics: It is believed that these relics that are original parts of lord Buddha’s body still exist which includes the much talked about sacred relic of his tooth.