Local Sight Seeing in Leh-Ladakh
Leh, a historic town that served as the royal capital of the Old Kingdom, is dominated by the nine-storey Leh palace built by King Singge Namgyal in the 17th century in the grand tradition of Tibetan architecture, which is said to have inspired the famous Potala in Lhasa built about half a century later. It rises from the edge of the town overlooking Leh. However, it is now dilapidated and deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s. Above the palace, at the top of the Namgyal hill, is the Victory Tower, built to commemorate Ladakh’s victory over the Balti Kashmir armies in the early 16th century.
The Stupa is 3 km from Fort Road, Leh and located on the hilltop at Changspa. There is a very steep set of steps but there are great views from the top. One can also see the road to Khardong Pass from here. The Stupa was constructed in 1985 by a Japanese Buddhist organization, known as ‘The Japanese for World Peace’, to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. A magnificent white-domed structure, the Shanti Stupa offers spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset. The stupa looks best at night, when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights
A pretty and prosperous suburb of Leh town with a pretty village. From here one can admire the earthen ramparts of Zorawar Singh’s fort, now housing army barracks.
Hemis Monastery, 40 km southeast of Leh, was established at the instance of King Singge Namgyal, in 1672 AD. It is the biggest and best-known ‘Gompa’ of Ladakh. Hemis is best known to tourists for the colorful festival held in July. Sacred masked dances performed by the resident Lamas are held to eulogize the triumph of good over evil.Hemis is also associated with the Hemis National Park\lso the abode of the snow leopard, Tibetan kiang, ibex, serow and Tibetan antelope. Amongst the avian fauna population found in the Hemis national park are the snow partridge and golden oriole.
Palace, situated on a hillock 15 km south of Leh, was built in 1645 by Deldon Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress. From the palace one can get the views of the ranges in the south to the Thiksey gompa and in the west to the Zanskar mountain ranges. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa.
Stok gompa is a subsidiary of Spituk and both were founded by the same lama, Nawang Lotus, during the reign of King Takpa Bumbde. The oldest parts of the gompa are some 550 years old though the main Dukhang is only about fifty years old. A door on the left side of the courtyard opens onto the gompa’s library. This room has a complete set of the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings. The central image in this library is of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha). To the left of the Dukhang is a new temple which has a new and large image of Avalokitesvara with his 1,000 arms (to demonstrate his enormous strength) and 11 heads. On either side of this image are numerous small stucco images of lamas and Buddhasest to the Zanskar mountain ranges. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa.
The mountain pass (la means pass in Tibetan) is situated 37 km north of Leh. Khardong La is supposed to have the highest motorable road in the world at an elevation of 18380 feet / 5570 m. It is the gateway to the Nubra Valley and used to lie on the ancient caravan trade route to Central Asia.
Pangong Lake, 145 kms from Leh, is situated at an altitude of 14,100 ft (4,267m). It is 6 to 7 kms (4.5 miles) at its widest point, and over 130 kms (80 miles) long, and is divided by the international border between India and China only one-third of it lying in India. Spangmik, the farthest point up to which foreigners are permitted, is about 7 kms along the southern shore from the head of the lake. It presents a spectacular view of the mountains of the Chang-chenmo range to the north, their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lake’s brackish waters. Above Spangmik are the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Pangong range. Spangmik and a scattering of other tiny villages along the lake’s southern shore are the summer homes of a scanty population of Chang-pa, the nomadic herdsmen of Tibet and southeast Ladakh. The Pangong Chang-pa cultivate sparse crops of barley and peas in summer. It is in winter that they unfold their yak wool tents called rebo, and take the flocks of sheep and pashmina goats out to the distant pastures.