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Leh -The Heart Ladakh

Gelek Phunchok

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Leh, once the capital of Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh and a crossroads of the ancient silk route is now the heart of the Leh district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India Located at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 ft), it is dominated by the ruin of Singge Namgyal’s nine storey palace- a grand building in the tradition of Tibetan architecture, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace of Tibet . Adjacent to the palace is the Namgyal Tsemo , a fort built by king Tashi Namgyal in the 16th century and the Gonkhang -Temple of the Guardian Divinities.

Down in the main town, some exciting sites to visit are the Cho-Khang also known as Gompa Soma and the imposing mosque dating from the late 17th century, behind that is the old town of Leh recently added to the Word Monuments Fund's list of 100 most endangered sites, which is a cluster of old and vernacular style houses situated around the foot of the palace hill. However, the pleasure of visiting Leh is not only confined to the purposeful visiting of sites but a stroll along the main market, observing the varied crowd and peering into the little antique shops selling curios and jewellery and the line of women from the nearby villages sitting on the edge of footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables and fruits brought to be sold. Apart from these, some exciting places to see around the Leh city is the Changspa village, an agricultural suburb of Leh with clusters of budget hotels and guesthouses, lying below the hill on which stands the picturesque Shanti Stupa, a Japanese Stupa dedicated to world peace, Sankar Gompa- a Buddhist monastery belonging to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and Moravian Church built by the Christian missionaries in 1885.

There are several attractive destinations within 10 km radius of Leh too. Starting with Skara, another prosperous suburb of Leh which has a Zorawar Singh fort built in 19th century by the great Dogra general Zorawar Singh, then we have Sabu – a model village nestled between two southward stretching spurs of Ladakh range about 9 km away, next in the line there is Choglamsar- another suburb with a majority of Tibetan refugee settlement with many attractions like a children’s village, a handicraft centre and the Dalai lama’s prayer ground called Jivey tsal (garden of peace) and Mahabodhi International meditation centre. Going further ahead on the Leh-Manali highway we have the multi award winning Druk White Lotus School near Shey village. And on the Leh- Srinagar road we have the famous Spituk monastery almost 2 kms from the Leh airport, which strikes every guest eyes on their first plane.

Leh serve as an ideal base to commence tours and treks to the different valleys of Ladakh and also have day trekking route like Leh-Sabu village and Leh to Gyamtsa. Leh is also the main terminal of overland journey to Manali, Srinagar, Delhi and other part of India. Ladakh’s only civilian airport Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport is located at around 5 kms from Leh market, which have regular flight service to Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and Chandigarh.

You can watch this video about the features of Leh-Ladakh

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