This is like landing on the Moon,’ my fellow passenger exclaims as we step off the plane into a vast desert landscape. It is a breathtaking sight. The one-hour flight from Delhi has catapulted us to the roof of the world – at nearly 11,500ft, you will gasp for air in the rarefied atmosphere.
The best time to visit is during the summers from April to September when the weather remains pleasant and sun rays glitter up the mountain ranges thus giving an eye catching panoramic view making the trip most enjoyable and memorable.
Best Tourist Attractions in Leh Ladakh
1. LEH PALACE
Leh Palace also referred as the ‘Lhachen Palkhar’ is an ancient 17th century royal iconic palace, a 9 story marvel of engineering, making it one of the tallest buildings of that era. The palace provides spectacular views of Stok Kangri and the Ladakh mountain range as well as town and surroundings. A huge statue of Lord Buddha is seated inside the monastery of the palace. Old pictures and paintings are displayed in the exhibition halls of the palace showcasing fine designs. The palace looks even more ravishing on a full moon night raising the mystic charm and should not be missed.
The Leh Palace remains open to public from 7.00 AM to 4.00 PM at a very nominal entry fees of Rs.15/- Indian nationals and Rs. 100/- for foreigners.
2. HALL OF FAME
The Hall of Fame, located near the Leh Airfiled, is a double storey museum constructed as well as maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the soldiers who achieved martyrdom during the 1962 Chinese invasion and Indo-Pak wars .The museum showcases plaques bearing a vivid detail of the various heroic deeds of soldiers as well as artefacts like infantry small arms and weapons, paintings and murals that depict how the battles were fought. There is another section dedicated to the vagaries of Siachen glacier region. A souvenir shop on the first floor provides replicas of artefacts that can be carried back home as memories.
3. SHANTI STUPA
Shanti Stupa (also known as Chorten)is situated on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, that was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura .The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama himself.It is an iconic structure that stands out majestically in front of the gigantic mountain ranges in the Leh valley and is a great tourist attraction.
4. CHANG LA PASS
This is the third highest motorable mountain pass in the world, Chang La Pass, at an altitude of 5,300 meters above sea level and is named after the Sadhu Changla Baba. The Pass presents a grand breathtaking panoramic view of the vast Leh valley . May to October is the best time to visit this pass. There is also a small canteen that serves hot tea, coffee and magi. You can take a small refreshing break at this point on you way to Pangong Tso Lake and enjoy clicking some selfies with stunning views in the background.
5. PANGONG TSO LAKE
It is one of the largest brackish water lakes in Asia one third of which lies in India and two thirds lies in China occupied Tibet. It is located only 5 hours from Leh situated at a height of 14,270 ft above MSL on the Changtang Plateau in Eastern Ladhak. It measures 134 km in length and is 5 km wide and has crystal clear blue water with practically nil aquatic life. During winter months the complete lake freezes and annual events like ice hockey and cultural dance festivals are held on the frozen lake. The changing colours of the mountain ranges in the background of the lake adds to the grandeur of this place.
No inner-line permit is required for Indian tourists , however a group permit of minimum three people is required for foreign nationals accompanied by an accredited guide. Limited tentage accommodation with modern furnishing is available at affordable rates in close proximity of the lake. Camping facility in ecohuts is also available on the banks of the lake. All the tented accommodation provide fairly reasonable quality food. June to September is the best time to visit.
6. NUBRA VALLEY
Nubra Valley is one of the MUST VISIT places in Ladakh especially if you are visiting for the first time. Located 120KM North East of Leh the valley provides an ultra wide landscape at the junction of the lovely Shyok River and the Siachen River.
Things to do in Nubra Valley
- Bactarian camel safari
- Panamik village
- Diskit monastery
- Maitreya Buddha
- Yarab Tso, Sumur Lake
7. KHARDUNG LA PASS
Khardungla Pass is claimed by locals as the highest motorable road in the world a fact that’s apparently not true. Located at an altitude of 5359m above MSL is only about 40 KM from Leh. However the 3hour journey can be quite painful over the numerous land slides and mud slush that rolls down the steep slopes due to melting snow. Yet once you are over the top all the tiredness vanishes due to the freshness of the breathtaking view of the Nubra Valley on one side and Leh on the other.
8. MAGNETIC HILL
Magnetic Hill is a gravity hill located near Leh in Ladakh, India. The hill is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull cars uphill and force passing aircraft to increase their altitude in order to escape magnetic interference.
The “magnetic hill” is located on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik national highway, about 30 km from Leh, at a height of 14,000 feet above sea level. On its eastern side, flows the Sindhu, which originates in Tibet and goes to Pakistan. The Indian Army maintains a sikh Gurudwara near the hill where Guru Nanak Dev, the first of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, meditated in the 15th century. Due to both the Gurudwara and the gravity hill, the area has become a popular sightseeing destination.
9. SPITK GOMPA MONASTERY
Spituk Gompa, monastery is located at a distance of 8 km from the town of Leh , is perched on a high hill overlooking the Indus river. Dukhang the assembly hall is the main attraction of the gompa housing a high throne, reserved for Dalai Lama.
10. NAMGYAL MONASTERY
Founded in early 15th century, Namgyal Tsemo monastery in Leh in Ladakh is renowned for its three-storey high solid gold idol of Maitrieya Buddha. Situated on a mountain top behind the Leh palace, the monastery offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the gently flowing Indus river and the snowcapped peaks of Zanskar range.
11. ROAD SIGNS
While you are driving along the never ending winding roads with steep slopes and sharp bends do not miss the mischievously hilarious road side safety slogans created by project Hemank of Border Roads Organisation.
- I’m curvacious, but please take me slowly.
- Better Mr. Late than Late Mr.
- Let your insurance policy mature before you.
- On the bend go slow friend
- Feel the curves : Do not test them
- Darling I like you : but not so fast
- Safety on road : is “safe tea” : at home
- After whisky : driving risky
- Don’t Gossip Let Him Drive
12. SHOPPING IN LADAKH
The market is flooded with souvenirs, Curios and hand woven woollen items and jewellery like Pashmina Shawls, ehinick traditional rugs and carpets, winter wear, gems and silver jewellery.
Main markets in Leh are:
- Tibetan Market off Old Leh Road for clothes
- Moti Market near the Leh bus stand
Some good venues for shopping in Ladakh are:
- Ladakh Art Palace on the Main Bazaar Road
- Tibetan Handicraft Emporium on the Main Bazaar Road
- Ladakh Environment and Health Organization on the Main Bazaar Road
- Tibetan Handicraft Community Showroom in Choglamsar
- Cottage Industries Exposition in Changspa
- Ecology Centre in Changspa
- Women’s Alliance in Changspa