There are tourist destinations and then there is Leh in India. There are some places in the world which are on every traveller’s bucket list and Leh must be definitely one of them. The incredible place that Leh is, there is so much to explore and experience, once you’re here. Hence, if you’re still wondering what exactly should be done in Leh, then not to worry. Instead, go through this list of incredible things to do in Leh.
Visit a prominent shooting location for Indian films named Thiksey Monastery. Other popular religious shrines in Leh are Shanti Stupa, Lamayuru Monastery, Hemis Monastery and Jama Masjid. Go back in time and relive the historic times by visiting the Leh Palace Or Stok Palace. Other popular attractions in Leh are Pangong Tso Lake, Open Hand Espresso Bar And Bistro, Pangong Lake and Diskit.
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Famous for it’s architecture and location, and also as the location for the Satrangi Re music video from the critically acclaimed movie, Dil Se, the Thiksey Monastery in the Indus valley is renowned for being the largest among all of the gomphas located in the provinces of Ladakh and Leh. Managed by the Gelighpa sect, it’s extensive architecture is said to imitate the style of the Palace of Potala in Tibet.
The building consists of 12 storeys, divided into clear sections of residence, preserves and exhibits, the last of which contains such as stupas, thangkas, and statues. Besides a large collection of ancient swords and traditional paintings and artistry, a major attraction and feature of the premises of the monastery is the temple of the Maitreya Buddha. The idol of the Buddha was established in order to commemorate the welcoming of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1970. The traditional festivals held in the Monastery are the annual ritual of Gustor, held during the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar. The holy traditional dance of the Cham Dance is also a major cultural festival of the monastery.
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Shanti Stupa Rd, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101
05:00 am - 09:00 pm
Twilight is divine from this elevated spot, three miles from Leh. Whether sunrise or sunset, the changing light brings mystic beauty to the panorama of mountains surrounding the Stupa. The striking structure owes its remarkability to both; it’s isolation and its design. It was designed by a Japanese, and thus is greatly different from the orthodox Ladakhi structures.
This relatively new Stupa was built in 1991. The current and 14th Dalai Lama, who still visits often, himself enshrined the relics of the Buddha that are now housed there. The Shanti Stupa is a symbolic memorial depicting the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism in the world. Visitors can enjoy a brief interlude at the meditation room between climbing to the Stupa and photographing the surrounding mountains.
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Nubra Valley 194401, India
12:01 am - 12:00 am
150 kilometres north of Leh, where the Shyok and Siachan rivers meet, in between of Leh and the Karakoram range and the Siachen Glacier, lies Nubra Valley. Made famous by traders and travellers of the Silk Route, the valley is popular for the huge mountain faces, the many trails, the briskly flowing water of the rivers, bactrian camels and Diskit Gompas. Some of the most famous bits of the valley are the Khardungla Pass (the highest pass in the world), the Zimskang Museum, the Samstemling Gompa, the Tsolding Buddha Park, the huge Statue of Chamba, the Panamik Hot Springs, Hunder Gompa and Hunder Fort. The people of the valley speak Ladakhi, Balti, and some Hindi and broken English.
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Namgyal Hill Leh, Jammu & Kashmir 194101
07:00 am - 04:00 pm
A lonely, proud structure, the Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal of Tibet in the 17th century. Once, it was the world’s highest building; now it’s in abandoned disrepair. It’s nine floors, once exotically furnished and decorated are now a dark maze that you must navigate to reach the top. The upper stories were used as the residence for the royal families and were exceptionally adorned with ornamented models, show pieces, and room accessories. The storerooms and other sections constituted the lower stories, yet also extravagantly adorned with patterns of coloured stones and marble and handmade craftworks. Once at the roof, the village of Leh lays spread below you, surrounded by towering white peaks; the Mount of the Stok Kangri and the Zangskar range. Also check out the palace museum, which exhibits large collections of royal jewelry and golden ornaments used over the centuries. Make sure you carry a torch and avoid tripping. That said, unless you like the atmosphere of old structures, there’s not much to see.
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Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101
09:00 am - 07:00 pm
Right outside the Air Force Base, this two-floor museum explores various themes related to Indian army’s role and presence in Ladakh. Most of it focuses on India-Pakistan conflicts in the 20th century. There are artefacts from the wars, a short film about the Kargil War, the role the army has played in various relief missions, an exhibit on extreme cold military wear, a commemorative wall to the fallen, weapons seized from Pakistan, and most famously, a letter sent by a father to his son before his death.
There is also an Adventure Park that provides an obstacle assault course and an archery range that kids might enjoy.
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Pangong Tso, Leh
The Pangong Lake is an exquisite and worldwide famous closed drainage lake spread across a vast area in the Himalayas. The major portion of the lake falls in the territory of Tibet. The lake has been categorized under the protocol of the Ramsar Convention as a great wetland reserve with a recognized global importance. Consequently, the lake has attained the status of the inaugural international wetland in South Asia.
The lake characteristically freezes at the onset of winter. Being situated at an altitude of almost 4500 meters, the lake consists of extremely minimal aquatic vegetation and micro vegetation. The marshy areas of the lake feature the flourish of scrubs and few varieties of perennial aquatic herbs. The underwater life is limited to the thriving of crabs and other crustacean beings, with almost no fishes or other forms of marine life.
The lake is also a much favored immigration zone for migratory birds, along with the breeding and dwelling of the Bar-headed goose, Brahmini duck, and several other species of mountain birds.
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NH 1D, Phey, Jammu and Kashmir 194101
06:00 am - 07:00 pm
25 miles west of Leh is a 16th century Gurudwara built to commemorate the visit of Sikh saint and founder of the Sikh religion Guru Nakak to Ladakh. Legend says a demon attacked the saint here with a rock while he was meditating, and upon contact, the rock melted, forming a depression in the shape of the meditating mystic. The rock was discovered by lamas in 1970 during the construction of the Leh-Nimu highway. Now maintained by the Army, the Gurudwara is a quick but popular stop. All that you have to see here is the stone.
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Hemis Gompa, Tikse
08:00 am - 06:00 pm
This affluent monastery, the largest in Ladakh, has been around for almost a thousand years, and is only an hour away from Leh by road. It would at times fall into disuse, but King Sengge Namgyain restored it completely in the seventeenth century. The Bropka sects, who are thought to be some of the purest descendants of the original Indo-European stock, manage it. The monastery is particularly famous for it’s annual two day Hemis Festival, celebrated in the honor of the Padmasambhav, or the “Second Buddha”.
During the festival, traditional songs and music are played using the pan drums, large regional trumpets and cymbals, and to this music, a highly esoteric “dance of masks” is performed. The monastery is also infamous; it’s suspected that this was a place Christ visited during his missing years, and there is much speculation that scrolls related to Christ, written in commemoration after the crucifixion, are kept here in secrecy.
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Khardung La, 194101
The Khardung La is a famous mountain pass at the junction of the valleys of the Shyok and Nubra. At a height of more than 5300 meters, the Khardung La is one of the highest pass capable of motorized transport for recreational and prioritized functions. The pass is regarded as a heritage also because of the historical caravan route connecting Leh with the province of Kashgar of the Central Asia. Native businessmen have relied on it for centuries, travelling on camels and horses.
The route is used for the major transports of the native businessmen throughout the year, mainly upon camels and horses. The province of Leh is the closest to the Khardung La. It’s also logistically important to the Siachen Glacier, which lies partway up the Nubra Valley.
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Alchi, Jammu and Kashmir 194106
10:00 am - 06:00 pm
Locals say Buddhist leader Guru Rinchen Zangpo built the monastery in the 11th century, but the monuments record Tibetan Kal-dan Shes-rab doing so in the 12th. This is not any one building but a complex of structures, of which the main ones are:
The Dukhang (Assembly and worship hall): see the frescoes of 1000 buddhas in the main passage, the paintings of Buddhas and other divinities, and the various mandalas.
The Sumtseg (Sum-tsek): a three story stone building of uncertain purpose, with deities depicted on textiles.
Manjushri Lha-Khang: 13th century temple in need of some renovations. It has nice religious carvings and paintings on the wooden doors and ceilin.
Lotsawa Lha-Khang: Small shrine to Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator of Buddhist scripts, with frescoes of Shakyamuni on the walls.
Also in the complex are the chortens with the preserved relics of monks and nuns inside. The drive to the complex is lovely, especially as the Alchi village has comparatively more greenery when compared to other places in Ladakh.
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Leh District, Jammu & Kashmir
08:00 am - 07:00 pm
Home to the erstwhile Royal Family of Ladakh, the structure has been extensively renovated and extended to suit its new function as a museum of royal history. Artefacts crowns, photos, coins, official articles and jewelry are exhibited. Thankas (Buddhist paintings on silk), representing the teachings and ideologies of Buddha, are also displayed. The palace boasts exquisite gardens within the premises, and an excellent restaurant that faces Leh, offering a lovely dining view. The ginger tea and the bread pakodas at the restaurant come highly recommended.
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Srinagar - Ladakh Highway, Jammu and Kashmir 194101
12:01 am - 12:00 am
Gravity Hills are a phenomenon in which the shape of the landscape, the light of the day and certain failings in human perception make it seem like what goes up is actually going down. Unwary people coming across this hill often find themselves coming to a stop in complete bewilderment as they slow down for what they think is a downhill ride, or see their parked car rolling uphill on its own. This location is about 30 kilometres from Leh on the road to Kargil. Listen to the locals and you will get to listen their stories that once upon a time here used to be a pathway that led straight to heaven. Quite interesting!
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B.P.O Khaltse, Ladakh, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194106
06:00 am - 06:00 pm
A hundred and thirty kilometres from Leh, the thousand-year-old Lamayuru Monastery is a famous traditional Tibetan Gompha following Buddhism, and is situated at an altitude of 3500 meters. The land surrounding the monastery is famously known as The Moonscape, as it strikingly resembles lunar landscapes. The monastery is regarded as the first ever monastery following the customary traditions of the Bonpo along with Buddhism. The monastery was allegedly founded by an ancient Indian scholar Mahasiddhacarya Naropa when the lake here dried up. The dried up bed of the lake is the foundation of the entire spread of the monastery.
The premises of the Lamayuru near the southern zone of the rock of Lamayuru, includes an ancient temple named as the Seng-ge-sgang. During the early years after the build, the main building premises of the monastery included five buildings, of which four have undergone natural degradation. However, the Lamayuru monastery houses almost 150 monks, and is regarded as among the largest as well as a heritage monastery or traditional gompha of Leh. During the second and the fifth month according to the lunar calendar of Tibet, the Lamayuru monastery holds two traditional dance festivals that characterize the usage of native traditional masks. The monastery is also situated close to the Wanla Monastery. Visitors may stay at the the Moonland Hotel or the Siachen Hostel.
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Diskit, Jammu and Kashmir 194401
07:00 am - 07:00 pm
The Dishkit is more famously known as the Dishkit Gompa or monastery, precisely situated in the Nubra valley of Leh. The sect of the Gelugpa is followed in the Tibetan monastery under the religion of Tibetan Buddhism. The founder of Dishkit was Changzem Tserab Zangpo, who was a follower of the founder of Gelugpa sect- Tsong Khapa. The interior of the monastery features the idol of the Maitreya Buddha placed in the central prayer hall. The adjoining images surrounding the statue of the Buddha feature several guardian gods and goddesses. The cupola is raised upon a platform and it is adorned with an exquisite fresco of the heritage Tibetan monastery of Tashilhunpo.
Besides the main functional monastery, the administrative premises also include a school whose facilitation is supported through the financing of a Tibetan NGO, known as the Tibet Support Group. The studies especially include computer sciences and various subjects of science along with arts. The monastery is in close proximity to the Lachung Temple, which is regarded as an ancient temple and bears a large statue of Tsong Khapa. The monastery holds a winter festival traditionally known as the Dosmoche. The rituals and celebrations are attended by enormous visitors and natives from the Nubra Valley.
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Zanskar Valley Road, Leh, India
12:01 am - 12:00 am
About 5 kilometres south of Nimmoo Village is the point of confluence of the waters of two differently colored rivers - Indus and Zanskar. The waters of Zanskar are tinged blue; the Indus, green. The point is a four-hour drive by jeep from Leh. If you’re here in the summer (recommended), Zanskar will be flowing swiftly and the Indus, slowly. It’s the opposite in winter. There is not much else to see or do here. However, this is one of the most picturesque locations in Leh, not to be missed. You can also trek till here if you are an adventure enthusiast.