Leh the erstwhile capital of the kingdom of Ladakh is now a dream destination of many and the Mecca of adventure enthusiasts! Leh, one of the coldest deserts in the world is located at a distance of 434 Kms from Srinagar and 474 Kms from Manali (Himachal Pradesh). At the time of reorganization of districts in 1979, Ladakh was divided into Leh and Kargil and now Leh district is synonymous with Ladakh and vice-versa! Built by the Buddhist kings of Ladakh in 1553 the Leh Palace was once the world’s highest building. The primary attraction within the Leh city this palace is structurally similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Sightseeing of Leh,
The monastery of Hemis is situated on a green hill, surrounded by spectacular mountains. Hemis is situated around 45 kms in the south of Leh on the west banks of the Indus river. The Hemis monastery is the biggest and very richly endowed monastery of Ladakh. The Hemis monastery was built in 1630 and it belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. It is not visible from the road as it is located in a side valley. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. The monastery is decorated on all the four sides by the colourful prayer flags which flutter in the breeze and send the prayers to Lord Buddha.
The village of Alchi is situated around 70 kms. from Leh on the left banks of the Indus river. The village Alchi differentiate itself from other villages of Ladakh by being so lush green. The flood plain at Alchi is very fertile and provides good and relatively extensive agricultural land. Now most of the small houses are made of bricks. The main road at both side is covered by the Apricot trees. It is a normal sight to see the donkeys (Mules) laden with wares and building material during the summers when all the activities are at their peak. The Alchi region too received cultural influence from other areas. Alchi had contacts with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, however the Alchi’s isolation helped the village and the Gompa to keep their culture and traditions intact. Alchi was also on the main trade route of central Asia. The route along the Indus via Leh was connected to the Chinese Turkestan.
General Zorawar Fort
General Zorawar's Fort is situated above the Palace of Leh and the Gompa of Namgyal Tsemo. This prehistoric monument, also known as Riasi Fort, once held the wealth of the Dogra rulers in Jammu though it presently lies in a wrecked stage. A prominent warrior named General Zorawar Singh, known for his consistent struggle against the Chinese rulers over Ladakh owned the fort. A huge collection of coins and specimens of new stamps apart from the precious treasure of the ruler are housed in the fort now. Situated in proximity to the river Chenab, the fort is an attraction for individuals interested in archaeology, prehistoric culture, and artefacts. Inside the fort are present a mosque, a natural spring, and a Temple dedicated to Hindu Goddesses Kali and Durga.
The Jama Masjid is a historical mosque that is located in the midst of Leh and is the biggest mosque of Ladakh. This was constructed in 1666-67 A.D. as per an agreement between the ruler of Ladakh Deldan Namgyal and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Eventually a settlement was reached, wherein Mughals provided protection to Ladakhi kings in return for a fee, with the construction of Jama Masjid as its symbolic seal.
Matho monastery, also known as Matho gompa, is a Buddhist monastery which was founded in the 16th century by the Lama Dugpa Dorje. This monastery is 26 kms away from the Leh city near the Indus River bank. The Matho village is situated at the deep gorge, which starts from Zanskar range and go across the Indus. This monastery is totally parallel to the Thiksey monastery. This is the only monastery which belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist’s Sakya order. This monastery is mostly famous for the 400 years old Thangkas and its famous Nagrang festival. This monastery is seeing the increase in number of monks who reside inside the monastery dwelling.
When traveling by bike, you will get to see the best of that region with the level of intimacy unmatched by most other modes of travel. Trails can be matched to everyone’s riding ability. Mountain biking can hog you to limelight. The treacherous ride enroute to Ladakh is full of surprises. This adventurous mountain biking journey takes you to the world’s greatest motor biking roads. The journey after Manali has unforgiving roads. One has to ride on roads at heights where clouds usually hang out. The journey takes you over the highest passes in the world, including Rohtang La, Baralacha La, Lachlung La and Tanglang La and the grand Daddy of them all, the Khardung La, standing proud with its head thrust 18,380 ft in the air. This is considered to be the best motorcycling road in the world.
Shanti Stupa is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh city, it gives a panaoromic view of surrounding snow capped mountains . Situated at a distance of about 5 km drive able road from the Leh city or one can reach here by climbing 500 steps . The location of Shanti Stupa is such that it is visible from all over Leh city. It is built as a two level structure, a flight of stairs leads to the first level where a Dharmchakra (as in white strip of Indian national flag) with two deer on each side, features a central image of Lord Buddha in golden colour sitting on a platform turning the Dharmchakra wheel, the second level depicting the birth of Buddha, defeating of devils in meditation and death of Buddha along with many small images of meditating Buddha, all embossed in vibrant colours.
Spituk is yet another interesting monastery, on the hill top near Indus about 18 kms. from Leh on Srinagar road. The Spituk monastery offers a commanding view of Indus. It has a totally new Gompa within the monastery as well as the old Gompa has also been restored meanwhile. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. Higher up in the hill is a chamber which houses the enormous statue of goddess. Its face is covered and uncovered only once in a year during the festival time.
Leh Palace overlooks the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh, modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, but was later abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid-19th century. The royal family moved to Stok Palace. Leh Palace is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, the stables and store rooms were in the lower floors. The palace, a ruin, is currently being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The palace is open to the public and the roof provides panoramic views of Leh and the surrounding areas. The mountain of Stok Kangri in the Zangskar mountain range is visible across the Indus valley to the south, with the Ladakh mountain range rising behind the palace to the north..
Thiksey Monastery is the largest monastery in central Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated 18 km from Leh in the Indus valley. The Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism is located at the top of hill. The monastery is famous for its architecture and its location. The 12 storey monastery has 10 temples, assembly hall, and residence for 120 monks and nunnery. The monastery buildings are structured in hierarchal order. The monastery is referred as ‘Mini Potala’ of India as it resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. There is one big statue of Maitreya (future Buddha) which covers almost two floor of the monastery that is 40 feet in height. Tara temple of Goddess Tara is another major attraction for the visitors. Apart from visiting monastery one can also find some rare and precious stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords in the monastery.
The most natural way of exploring the wonders of Himalaya is trekking. Trekking infuses a feeling of comradeship, self reliance besides inculcating a sense of perseverance. The vast expanse to the highest mountain chain sheer magnitude of its snowy heights and indefinable feeling of joy and elation that they evoke in the mind of a trekker, make a trek in the Himalaya an experience to be remembered.