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Royal Leh Palace, Leh

  • Leh Palace Ladakh- Everything you should know


    Counted among the most famed tourist attractions in the entirety of Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir, Leh Palace is a royal palace located in its capital town, Leh. The palace holds a matchless aura within its   that is enough to please the visitors. Constructed in the 17th Century, the foundation of this palace was laid down by the founder of Namgyal Dynasty, Tsewang Namgyal, but it was Sengge Namgyal who completed its construction.

    The palace was constructed to serve as the residence of the royal family, but was later on invaded and captured by Zorawar Singh Kahluria. Despite having stood as a witness to the decades of unrest and wars, the palace somehow managed to retain its splendour which still amuses everyone.

    The Leh palace complex constitutes nine storeys, all of which had different purposes to serve back in the days of glory. The architecture of the palace is inspired from Potala Palace of Lhasa, making it a fine example of the medieval Tibetan architecture. The building looks all the more imposing when seen from a distance at night. You can enjoy panoramic views of the bustling town below and Stok Kangri mountains laid down in all their majesty.

    Another treat that the palace holds for history lovers is the museum that stores a great collection of artefacts shedding light on the cultural history of the region. The 450 year old paintings, crown and jewellery are on display here. Although photography is not allowed inside the palace, capturing the remnants of the past in your eyes is equally mesmerizing.


    Essential Info:

    Best time to visit: The best time to visit Leh Palace is during the summer season. The months of May and June offer the views of vivid landscape under the clear sky. Besides, the post-monsoon months of September and October are also considered a good time to pay this grand palace a visit. 


    Visiting Hours (Opening & Closing hours): Leh palace is open to visitors between 7 am and 4 pm everyday.


    Entry Fee: The entry fee for Indian tourists is set at INR 15 per person. For foreigners, an entry fee of INR 100 per person is charged.


    Altitude: Leh Palace is located at an altitude of 17582 feet


    Distance Between Leh and Leh Palace: Leh palace is located at a distance of 2.2 km from Leh City Centre


    How to reach from  Leh Airport: Leh Palace lies at a distance of 4.5 km from Leh Airport and can be easily reached by road. You can hire a taxi to reach Leh Palace from the airport .


    History of Leh Palace

    Leh Palace, a rare gem in the magical realm of Ladakh, has a very interesting history which is gloomy for most parts. The founder of the Namgyal Dynasty, Tsewang Namgyal was the person who laid down the foundation for the construction of the palace in 1553. But the construction of the palace was later on resumed and completed in the 17th Century when Ladakh was under the rule of Sengge Namgyal.


    The large, nine-storeyed complex was built to be inhabited by the royal family. While the upper floors were reserved for the royal family, the lower floors of the palace were used as stable and store rooms. Until the 19th Century, the palace witnessed times of prosperity and glory under the reign of Namgyal Dynasty. However, in the mid 19th Century, the region was invaded by Dogra forces and the palace was captured by the forces, forcing the royal family to flee. 


    The royal family was shifted to Stok Palace. The palace remained in the hands of General Zorawar Singh and the force of Dogra Dynasty for some time. But a different fate awaited the palace now. 


    As the forces kept conquering the farther regions of Tibet and Baltistan, the palace was once again abandoned by its residents with nobody to claim it. That is the reason why Leh Palace is also known as the forgotten monument.


    Architecture of Leh Palace

    Leh Palace was built with Potala Palace of Lhasa as the model structure for its design. The palace is constructed in the medieval Tibetan architecture, and is one of the top-most specimens of the architecture in India. There is something about the architecture of Leh Palace that makes it appear modest and grand at the same time. 


    Unlike many other palaces around the country, the palace is not typically ornamented with a lot of glasswork and colourful patterns but has it grandeur hidden in its simplicity. It was built to serve as the residence of the royal family, so it is natural to bear a touch of regalness in its character. The structure of the palace is as majestic as it could be. 


    When Leh Palace was constructed, it was the tallest building in the world. The palace complex has nine storeys that make it look imposing when seen from below. Since the upper storeys were occupied by the royal family, these parts of the complex are noteworthy.


    While the lower storeys were reserved as stable and storerooms. If you want to witness the palace in all its majesty, look at its structure from afar after the sunset as its façade is illuminated with golden lights.  


    Other Essential Info about Leh Palace

    1) Mobile Connectivity: Mobile connectivity is not an issue at Leh Palace as it is located in the capital town of Ladakh. However, it is to be kept in mind that prepaid sims issued in other states do not work in Jammu & Kashmir. So, you can only get mobile connectivity if you either have a postpaid sim or a prepaid sim issued in Jammu & Kashmir.


    2) Medical Facilities: There are no medical facilities at Leh Palace. But, since the palace is located at a short distance of 2.4 km from Leh city centre, you are not away from medical facilities while you are here. There are options in the town including well-equipped SNM Hospital.


    3) ATM's: Since Leh Palace is situated in the town of Leh, there are a number of ATMs located in proximity to it in the main town. 


    4) Petrol Pumps: Yes, there is a petrol pump in Leh Town. The second closest petrol pump is in Karu, at a distance of 35 km from the town.


    5) Food Joints: You can find good food joints in Leh main market area. Since Leh is the capital town, it has a bustling market with plenty of options to satisfy your hunger.


    6) Minimum Duration for Visiting Leh Palace: Since photography is not allowed inside the palace complex, You will not have a lot to do other than admiring the craftsmanship and checking out the impressive museum. So, a duration of 1 to 2 hours would suffice.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    1) When was it built?

    The foundation of the palace was laid in the 16th Century. However, the construction was completed in 17th Century.


    2) Who built it?

    The construction of Leh Palace was ordered by Tsewang Namgyal but it was Sengge Namgyal who completed the construction in the 17th century.


    3) Who was the Architect?

    The name of the architect of Leh Palace is not known. The design of the palace is hugely inspired by Potala Palace of Lhasa and is constructed in Medieval Tibetan Architecture. The majestic palace is loved by tourists for its brilliant architecture.


    4) What are the visiting hours?

    The visiting hours for Leh Palace are 7 am to 4 pm.


    5) How many days in the week the visitors are allowed to visit the Palace?

    Leh Palace is open during all days of the week. 


    6) What are the other places I can visit around the Palace?

    Leh Town has a few remarkable tourist attractions which can be easily reached as they are well-connected by road. Some of the major places that you can visit near Leh Palace are Shanti Stupa which is a hilltop Buddhist stupa with impressive architecture; Thiksey Monastery which is one of the most revered monasteries in Ladakh; General Zorawar Fort; and Hall of Fame Museum which is an army or war museum dedicated to the brave soldiers of India and is maintained by Indian Army. Besides, Leh Market is another must visit place that can be visited during your visit to Leh palace.


    7) Where it is located?

    The magnificent palace of Leh sits on the top of Tsome Hill, overlooking the charming town laid down below it. One can enjoy the views of Stok Kangri from the terrace of the palace.


    8) Is photography allowed inside the palace?

    Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside Leh Palace. You can only take pictures of the fort from the outside. However, if you have a written permission from the ASI, you can click photographs inside the palace.


    9) Is there any entry fee?

    Yes, you have to pay a minimal entry fee to explore Leh Palace. The entry fee for Indian tourists is set at INR 15 per person. For foreigners, an entry fee of INR 100 per person is charged.


    10) Why is Leh Palace also known as the forgotten monument?

    The name of Leh Palace as the Forgotten Monument is owed to its fate. After its construction, the palace initially served as the residence of the royal family. However, in the 19th Century, due to the invasion by Dogra forces, the residents had to flee and shift to Stok Palace. The palace was captured by the forces of Zorawar Singh, and was inhabited by them. And as Zorawar Singh and his forces kept conquering the farther regions like Baltistan, the palace was abandoned and never got any permanent residents back. Over the period, the palace lost its glory and was forgotten. 

Attractions

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Pangong Lake

Rather, the most sought after tourist destination is Pangong Tso in Ladakh region. It is the highest among the high altitude lakes in India which is filled with saline water but provides some awe-struck moments to the visitors with the unbelievable phenomenon of changing colours quite a number of times a day.

The reflections of the towering Himalayan peaks in the water add more charm to the lake. Currently, Pangong Tso is the favorite location for tourists as the banks of the lake give soothing bed to relax and the nearby places are enhanced by the beauty of this particular lake. The quiet lake is 134 km in length and 5 km in width is situated at an altitude of 14270 meters. But the major share of the lake lies in the area of China. Now, its recognition is spread everywhere in the world because it is termed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The highly saline water does not accommodate any water species not even micro-organisms. But the banks of the lake give space for several birds and animals very rarely seen in the other parts of India. It is an important breeding ground for many migratory birds as well.

Height: The lake is located at an altitude of 4250 meters above the sea level.

Location: Pangong Tso is easily accessible as it can be reached after a five hour drive from Leh and the travel would be on a rough and dramatic mountain road. You will cross the villages of Shey and Gya during the tour and go through Chang La as well.

Best time to visit: The months from May to September are the ideal time to visit the lake as the other seasons may cause challenges due to the heavy snowfall.

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Khardung La

Controversies regarding the proclamation that Khardung La is the highest motorable pass in the world is not yet diminished but Ladakh travelers still believe that it is the highest and most adventurous pass in the world. Despite the controversies, Khardung La keeps on attracting hundreds of adventure seekers every year, be it bikers, trekkers or visitors. Nestled amidst the most reverberating surrounding, the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’ is located at an altitude of 17582 feet. Near to the pass, the collection of awesome valleys will lure you and along with the natural extravaganzas, the Tibetan prayer flags are an additional charm.

The pass was constructed in the year of 1976 and later in 1988, it was opened to public and from then on, the pass was inviting uncountable bikers, trekkers and tourists. It is maintained by the Border roads Organization as the pass is highly significant and important to India because it was once used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. Recently, Khardung La became the hot potato of the town with a happy news that a ten member team of visually impaired people is going to conquer the pass through cycling in 2017.

Height: Khardung La is located at an altitude of 5359 meters. But there is an incorrect proclamation on the signboards appear here saying that the height of the pass is 18379 feet.

Location: The highest motorable pass in Ladakh is lying about 39 kms away from Leh. By road, one can reach the pass. The first 24 kms of the road are paved and from there to the North Pullu check post, the 15 kms of the road are filled with loose rock, dirt and occasional rivulets formed after the melting of snow.

Best time to visit: The season between May to October is the best time to visit Khardung La.

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Shanti Stupa

The white dome of Shanti Stupa is clearly visible from a far distance when you are on a tour of Leh. Peace Pagoda got its name like that because of many reasons mainly the silence persists in and around the pagoda always. This Buddhist prayer center is the most beloved attraction in Jammu and Kashmir. At a height of 4267 meters, the two storied stupa stands holding its head high and overlooks the bustling Leh town. The uneven mountain terrains in the surrounding gives the pagoda a remarkable shining. It is at a location which is 5 km away from Leh town and one who visits the stupa has to climb five hundred steps. The exotic view of the Himalayan peaks turns the beauty of the stupa also, a peace lover would dedicate his life to have such overjoying moments.

History

The stupa was constructed by both Japanese and Ladakh Buddhists. The construction was started in 1983, many Buddhists and Indian Government officials have supervised the procedures throughout.

Structure of the stupa

Among the two structures of the pagoda, the first level depicts the central relief of Dharmachakra which has deer on each side and the turning wheel of Dharma also has a golden image of Buddha at the center. The second level displays images which show the birth of Budhha and the death as well. In addition, both the level have smaller images of Buddha meditating. The stupa came into existence in order to spread the word of peace and harmony among people and it came into establishment as a commemoration of the valuable 2500 years of Buddhism.

Location: Any one can reach the stupa via road from Leh, only 5 kms from the town, a walk of fifteen minutes would require.

Timings: 05:00 am to 09:00 pm

Highlights: The sunset and sunrise views from the stupa are inevitably beautiful


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Magnetic Hill

Magnetic Hill is still a mystery yet a famed attraction that pulls the adventure lovers on a large scale toward it. A mystifying phenomenon which stunts the science and fiction together and exists as a magic to the normal people visiting here. Magnetic Hill is a trump card of every Ladakh tour because of the awe-struck moments it would promise the travelers. There is a sign board placed which says that the hill defies gravity completely and inviting everyone to experience the magical phenomenon.

 If you keep your vehicle in neutral at a position marked on the road and wait, you will be surprised to see the vehicle starts moving uphill at 10-20 km per hour. And this is the unexplainable feature of Magnetic Hill that confuses the world of science. It is located on Leh-Kargil-Baltic Highway and on the east, the beautiful Sindhu River is flowing calmly. Near the hill there is a Sikh Gurudwara maintained by the Indian Army. Due to the natural attraction as well as the human architectural brilliance, the hill has gained popularity in a short term. 

Not just the vehicles hitting the road but the aircrafts and helicopters crossing the radius which Magnetic Hill comes in would feel the same magnetic effect. If the aircrafts are going on a slow pace, then it starts jerking while they are in the circumference of the hill. So the only solution to escape from the clutches of this phenomenon is that the crafts should move at a greater speed.

Height: Magnetic Hill is located at an elevation of 14000 feet above the sea level.

Location: To reach the hill, you can hit the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway and it is situated at a distance of just 30 kms from Leh town.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Magnetic Hill is from June to October.

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Chadar Trek

For some years, adventure seekers all around the world have been talking about Chadar Trek in the Zanskar Region. Until this year, hundreds of people have experienced the thrill hidden and the mind blowing sights around Chadar frozen river. In fact, Chadar Trek is the most sought after and one of the breathtaking treks in the Himalayas. The winter trek is so special for those who are ready to have adventure at the maximum level. 

The river trek starts from Chilling where the river begins to freeze and mostly, travelers choose February as the best time to cross the frozen river as the ice sheets will be comparatively stable. The precarious snow-flakes would pose severe threats during the trek but in some other time, the challenges would be kind to the trekker. The surrounding of the river are completely vertical cliffs tall up to 600 meters. The Zanskar River is a tributary of the Indus and is 5 meters long. 

A trekker would have to cover 16 kms per day to complete the Chadar Trek. Usually, people opt for 10-15 days of trek depending on the climatic conditions persisting here. The temperature at Chadar will come to the lowest at -35 degree Celsius during winter and thus Chadar Trek becomes more intimidating. Approximate trekking distance one would have to cover in total is 75 kms.

Maximum altitude: 11123 feet is the height at which Chadar Trek would lead you to.

Location: To take part in Chadar Trek, one should arrive in Leh and from Leh, the journey starts and goes to Chilling, the beginning of the Zanskar River in the frozen state. From Leh it would take about 65-70 kms to reach Tilad via Chilling, the base camp of the trek.

Best time to visit: January end to February is the best time suitable for trekking in the frozen river of Chadar. Quality and safe trekking gears and highly warm clothes are required.

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Hemis Monastery

The biggest monastery in the North India is Hemis Monastery, one of the must visit attractions in Ladakh region. Set on the foothills of Indus, Hemis Monastery has 200 branches and over 1000 monks are staying there. It belongs to the red sect Brokpa of Buddhist order. Here the young Lamas are trained for the royal monasteries at Leh, Shey and Basgo.

History

Hemis Gompa came into existence 17th century and it was built by Chapgon Gyalshas and from then on the gompa was getting the royal patronage of Ladakh till now. But there is a saying that the monastery was founded by the first incarnation of Stangsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso. After the missing of the head Lama in 1956, a young 12 year old boy from Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh has been recognized as the head Lama of the gompa.

Structure of the monastery

The biggest monastery in the region has a surprising architecture and the building is quite appreciable. There are a lot of big statues and stupas decorated with stones and also the splendid collection of thankas. The collection of thankas is believed to be the largest and it would be shown to the public once in 11 years.

Location: Hemis Village is located 43 km south of Leh town and it is very easy to reach the monastery by bus or jeep.

Timing: 08:00 am to 01:00 pm and 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm

Entry fee: INR 100

Highlight: Hemis Festival is the prime attraction at the monastery which celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche. The tenth day of the Tibetan lunar month every 12th year is the date of festival.


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Markha Valley Trek

Adventure lovers always had an affection to Markha Valley and still it fulfills the dreams of a trekker or adventure seeker with the unrivalled collection of natural spectacle. Long day trekking tours are offered by a lot of tour providers all over India which promise a journey through the most scenic locations and villages. The awesomely exciting feature of this trek is that it will let the trekker cross two high altitude passes in Ladakh; Gandala La at 4980 meters and Kongmaru La at 5276 meters.

 Being one of the diverse treks in Ladakh region, Markha Valley trek offers a lot of adventurous moments throughout. The barren land of Ladakh and the Buddhist temples found throughout the journey make the trek special. The route winds past the Ladakhi villages and it goes to Hemis National Park where the chances to spot some rare wildlife species are comparably high. The nomadic groups of people will be a unique picture to keep in heart. The symbols of Buddhism like ‘chortens’, stupas, multi colored prayer flags and numerous monasteries narrate the story of Buddhist culture embraced Markha centuries ago. Another interesting fact heard about Markha Valley trek is that it is also called ‘tea house trek’ due to the accommodation provided in parachute tents in most of the villages during the tour.

Maximum altitude: 15000 feet is the maximum altitude the trek will cover.

Location: In most of the cases, the trek starts from Leh. The trail usually goes through Chilling, Skyu and then to Markha. From Markha it would take the trekker to reach Hankar and Nimaling and finally return to Leh. The ideal trekking distance is 75 kms and it would be graded as difficult.

Best time to visit: The months of June, July, August, September and October are recommended as the best time to do Markha Valley trek.

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Stok Kongri Trek

Stok Kangri, Ladakh is one of the most popular places for high altitude trekking in India. Although the beauty of Ladakh draws in innumerable tourists and trekkers from all over the country and the world, the Stok Kangri trek isn’t really suited for anyone and everyone.

It is advisable that only experienced trekkers set out on this expedition as the climatic and geographical conditions of the place may not suit novice or amateur trekkers. Nonetheless, Stok Kangri is one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the country. It is for this reason that the Stok Kangri trek forms an inevitable experience while trekking in India.

The trek begins from Leh, which is noted for its natural beauty as well as the warm and hospitable people. During the first couple of days of the trek, you can move around Leh, go sightseeing and get acclimatized to the weather of the region. These couple of days will prepare you for the trek ahead. You will next be taken to Chang Ma via Stok Village by road.

The journey from Leh to Stok Village takes you to witness the amiable yet fictional setting which includes lush greenery, glistening snow peaks and scenic splendor of the region in this stretch. On reaching Chang Ma, you reach a snow covered region and begin trekking. You will need to climb on for about three hours. From here you will head on to Manokorma, which is at an elevation of 14200 feet.

During the trek, you will be able to view some very beautiful peaks such as the Gulap Kangri, Parcha Kangri, etc. The base camp of the trek is at an elevation of 16, 300 feet. From here, the journey continues till you reach the Stok Kangri. The rewarding scenery from the top is what draws trekkers from all over the world to high altitude trekking in India. The trek back to Leh is a bit arduous and you may need to be careful while climbing down the mountainous terrain.

Best Season: June - October

Difficulty Level: Medium

Max. Elevation: 5000 m

Number of Days: Maximum 10 days of trek can be done here