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  • Ladakh, a beautiful place in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), lies between Kunlun mountains and the mighty Himalayas; and is known for its mountain beauty and Tibetan culture. It is also one of the most sparsely populated areas of J&K. Ladakh has Tibet in the east, Lahaul & Spiti in the south, J&K valley and Baltiul in the west and Karakoram pass in the north. Now about going to Ladakh in winters - Well, winters are the best time to visit Ladakh as the valley and mountains get covered with snow. Temperature goes down drastically due to heavy snowfall and one needs at least a week to 10 days for acclimatization seeing the weather of Ladakh in winters.

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    Ladakh in winters gives you a sight of amazing landscapes, scintillating mountains and trees covered with snow, frozen lakes, frozen waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites at the entrance of rocky caves. It all looks like dreamland and one feels thrilled and excited to see such unbelievable sights.  Located at a height of 14,000 meters above sea level, Ladakh becomes a perfect tourist destination in winters, especially for hikers, trekkers, mountaineers and bikers who love climbing and riding.  

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    Most of the people think that travelling to Ladakh in winters is not a good idea, but that actually is a wrong notion. Winters is the best time to visit Ladakh and one must not shrug away from this fact. This is because there isn’t much crowd and so, one can enjoy all the exquisite places that have existed over centuries in this wonderland. Just be careful at night as temperature might drop down to as low as -30℃. As far as your stay is concerned, there’s no need to worry. Ladakh has many guesthouses and local people also allow homestays at affordable prices during winters. The best ones are located near Fort Road and Changspa Road.

  • 01How to reach Ladakh in winter

    Image Credit : Wikimedia

    Winters start from November and continues till March in Ladakh. If you are a regular traveller who loves road trips, then the best way to travel to Ladakh is by road. But the roads remain open only till November end and get closed after that due to heavy snowfall. If you want to travel in December-January then the best and only way is by air. Flights are available from Delhi to Leh every day. You can choose Air India, Jet Airways and Go Air as these are the only 3 companies that operate on this route. You can travel by bus or taxi after landing down at Leh airport. You can also take your own car if you go there before November ends.   

    There are many winter packages that offer stay in Leh hotels and guesthouses, as well as homestays in Ladakh. These include photography tour, trips to Leh and Suru Valleys, etc. You must travel through tour operating companies and inform and the airlines of your choice, at least 1 week in advance. Companies provide value for money packages for Ladakh trip in winters. You also need a single person and/or group permits if you travel with your friends as Leh- Ladakh regions are strategic locations guarded by ITBP and Indian army.


  • Places to visit in Ladakh in winters

  • 02Leh City

    Leh has the Leh Palace, which is based on designs of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet; and was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 16th century. It gets lighted up at night and gives a fascinating view. One can see the whole Leh city from its roof. Leh city has the famous Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, known for its 3-storey high gold statue of Maitreya Buddha, along with ancient manuscripts.

    Then there is Shanti Stupa with its white dome and has relics of Buddha at its base, set there by the 14th Dalai Lama. It provides a panoramic view of the surroundings for which it is famous among tourists. There are also other places like the War Museum, Victory Tower and Sankar Monastery and village. The last one is just half an hour walk away from Leh.
  • 03Frozen Pangong

    Image Credit : Wikimedia
    With heavy clouds in the blue sky above it, the Pagong or Pangong Tso Lake is one of the best places to visit in Ladakh in winters. In Tibetan, it means ‘high grassland lake’. The lake is 130 km long and extends from India to China. The Indian side has only 40% portion of the lake, still, it’s good enough. Its water freezes out in winters and there’s snow all over it. A great huge spot for adventure seekers who like skiing and ice-skating.

    The Pangong Lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake (4250 meters) which gets frozen during winters, thus providing a splendid view with mountains behind it. There aren’t any fishes or any other aquatic life in the lake, except a few small crustaceans due to its saline water. If lucky, you might catch a glimpse of goose and ducks. It takes a 5-hour drive by road to reach Pangong Lake from Leh.
  • 04Nubra Valley

    Image Credit : Wikimedia
    Nubra Valley is another breathtaking spot that looks like a chocolate brown cake with white icing to top it. According to locals, its original name was ‘Ldumra’ which means the valley of flowers. This place appears between Kashmir and Tibet and is 150 km away from Leh towards the North. Its main town is Diskit, and its a landmark is a 32-meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is maintained at Diskit monastery. Along the valley are the villages of Sumur, Kyagar, Tirith, Panamik and others.

    River Shyok flows through the Nubra valley. Another important tourist spot is Samstanling monastery that lies between Kyagar and Sumur villages. This valley too is one of the best places to visit during your Leh Ladakh bike trip; as it is known for its scenic beauty, Bactrian camels and silent monasteries that have great architecture. You will have to cross the famous Khardung la pass to reach it.
  • 05Lamayuru Monastery

    Image Credit : Wikimedia
    Another must visit tourist destination during winters is the Lamayuru or Yuru monastery. In Tibetan, it means the ‘Eternal’ monastery and is located in Leh region. The monastery is located on Srinagar-Leh Highway at an altitude of 3,510 meters. It is an intriguing place and is considered as one of the largest and oldest monasteries of Ladakh.

    There are many stories and legends related to it. The best-known story cum legend is that a monk travelled to this place and decided to build a monastery here after experiencing the presence of some divine power, about a 1000 years ago.

    Local people who stayed in the last village before this place joined him to build it. Moved by his efforts, the king of this region decided to finance the monastery. Originally, there were 5 buildings but only 1 survives now. The monastery is located on a barren rocky mountain with white snow-covered Himalayas on its left.
  • 06Khardung La Pass

    Image Credit : Wikimedia

    Khardung La is a mountain pass that lies in Ladakh region of J&K, India. It lies towards the north of Leh, and is considered as a gateway to Shyok and Nubra valleys. It was built in 1976 and was opened for public and for motor vehicles in 1988. Since then it has been visited by many adventure lovers through car and bike expeditions that usually happen in groups especially Manali Leh bike trip.

    The pass is maintained by Border Roads Organization (BRO), as it is of strategic importance for India. One must carry sufficient amount of packed food and water as there aren’t any hotels or guesthouses near Khardung La pass. It becomes more important due to the traffic jam on the road.

    Khardung La Pass is at a height of 5,359 meters. If you have time then you can go further north of the pass and find some Bactrian camels at a place called Hunder, if you are lucky.


  • 07Tso Moriri Lake

    Tso Moriri or the mountain lake in Tibetan language is located Changthang plateau of Ladakh in J&K, India. The lake and its surrounding areas are protected as they are part of the Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation reserve. The lake is set at an altitude of 4,522 meters and is one of the highest lakes in Ladakh as well as in India. 

    It is about 26 km in length and between 3 and 5 km in breadth. Its water is alkaline by nature, and thus inedible. The lake is fed by springs and snow-fed mountains located nearby. One stream enters the lake from the north while the other enters from the south-west.

    One can visit the lake during summers if you want to see the 34 bird species that live on and around it; of which 14 are water birds. You can also catch glimpses of Tibetan geese, Lynx, Himalayan blue sheep, Tibetan ass, Tibetan sand fox and Tibetan wolf during your Manali Leh Srinagar bike expedition.


  • 08Thiksey Monastery

    Image Credit : Wikimedia
    The Thiksey Monastery or Thiksey Gompa is another one of the best places to visit in Leh. It is affiliated to and run by the ‘Gelug sect’ of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of one of the hills in Thiksey village, and is about 19 km east of Leh. It comes under Ladakh region in India.

    This monastery too is similar to the Potala style of building of Tibet. It has a separate set of buildings for women monks and as well as tourists. It is a fort style of Tibetan monastery which was built in the 15th century or in 1433 by Sherab Zangpo, 1 of the 6 disciples of the Gelug School or the ‘Yellow Hats’. 

    The monastery is built on a sacred hill located about 7 km north from Stagmo village. It is famous for its ‘mask dance’ or ‘Cham dance’ that happens from October to November every year.
  • Things to do in Ladakh in winter

  • 09The Chadar Trek

    The Chadar Trek
    Chadar trek is a winter trail by foot, which appears in Zanskar region of Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. During this trail, you will get to see mountain cliffs of up to a height of 600 meters. You will also see Zanskar river, which is a tributary of Indus river which is only 5 meters wide in certain places.

    The total distance of this trek is about 105 km. If you are an average trekker then you won’t be able to cover more than 15 km/per day. The best time to go on the trail of Chadar trek is from January to February, when the temperature drops to -30? at night.

    You must also go for the Chadar trek as it is widely popular among both- national and international adventure tourists. The trail will provide you magnificent views of mountains and surrounding areas, along with glimpses of local birds and wild animals.
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  • 10Snow Leopard Trek

    Image Credit : remotelands
    Snow Leopard Trek is one of the famous winter treks in Ladakh region. It has most inhospitable weather and so only regular trekkers and mountaineers can go for it. The trek goes through Hemis National Park, which stretches out at a height of 4100 meters and covers the whole Rumbak valley.

    The park is home to many wild birds and animals that appear in the Himalayan region. During the trail, you will witness rugged mountains, snow-covered peaks, trees and frozen water bodies. During the trek, you will see many animals such as snow leopard, blue sheep, horned sheep, Eurasian brown bear.

    You will also find several bird species such as golden eagle, vultures, migratory birds and water birds as well. You will also get first-hand experience of cold desert, dry lands, rocky plateaus and local folklore of Rumbak valley. Fresh air and freezing winds will welcome you on the trek.
  • 11Play Ice Hockey

    Image Credit : cntraveller

    Ice hockey is a game first introduced to the world in Northern Europe around 1990 and was developed from field hockey. In the beginning, it was adopted only by countries that have a very cold climate, but with its rapidly growing popularity, it spread out to other countries too. In India, ice hockey was introduced about a 100 years back in Shimla.

    Ladakh too adopted the sport somewhere around the 1990s, at a time when it was spreading to other parts of the world. Many clubs were opened that taught and played ice hockey in Ladakh but Ladakh Ice Hockey Club is the first and only registered club that was established in 1995. 

    Ladakh has the advantage of snowfall and ice availability to form the ice-rink naturally. Since its equipments are very costly, not many can play it. Currently, the game is played in Karzoo, Leh. It attracts many tourists during winters.

    Don't forget to check out the Delhi to Leh guide before you start planning your next trip.


  • 12Ladakhi Losar Festival

    Losar is one of the most important festivals of Tibetan Buddhists in Ladakh, as it marks the beginning of the New Year. It is celebrated with great zeal and grandeur. Its history dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era of Tibet. In ancient times, a spiritual ceremony was held every year in winters. Later, keeping its significance in mind, it was developed into a full-fledged festival. 

    Homes, streets and surroundings are decorated with lights, artefacts and decoration items to bring prosperity and good luck. The houses and offices are cleaned from inside and outside, along with roads and surroundings; and all old and unused items are kept out of the vicinity. This is done to ward of any kind of evil.

    The Ladakhi Losar Festival begins with the monks of Namgyal monastery by giving religious offerings to goddess Palden Lhamo to bring peace and prosperity to all Buddhists and their kin. Adventurers during their Manali Leh expedition often come and be a part of this festival.


  • 13Spituk Gustor Festival

    Image Credit : Wikimedia

    Spituk Gustor Festival is a two day annual festival that is celebrated in Spituk monastery every year, in the 11th month of Tibetan calendar. It is celebrated as the symbol of victory over evil. Monks and local people start offering prayers 7 days before the two day event. The mask dance is the highlight of this festival. These masks represent certain fiery, kind and pleasant spirits. 

    These masks are painted using natural colours and are polished with gold and silver to give a finishing touch. The dresses of masked dancers are made of silk and brocade; who dance to the tunes of long horns, conch shells, bells and other instruments.

    According to Indian calendar, it takes place on 7th and 8th January every year and is attended by a considerable number of tourists as it falls in winters. The festival ends with the burning of an effigy of evil. Some dances are also performed in pairs while others are performed in groups.
  • 14Experience Wildlife

    Image Credit : medium

    No doubt, Ladakh is considered as one of the unique wildlife destinations across the world. It is home to many exotic breeds of animals and birds, who keep roaming freely in their natural habitats. They are not disturbed by humans and efforts are made to keep them safe from poachers. 

    One can experience and see a variety of flora and fauna in Ladakh on rocky mountains, on dry cold deserts, plateaus, swampy grasslands, with snow-covered mountains in the background. You can find yaks, ibex, Tibetan hare, blue sheep, wild ass, bharal, Tibetan antelope, red fox, Tibetan wolf, mountain weasel and many others. 

    You will also find a variety of birds such as Lamagier, wall creeper, Himalayan snow cock, black necked crane, rock bunting, fork tailed swift, Brown Accenture, Robin Accenture, Tibetan snow finch, etc. You can capture all this natural beauty with a camera and keep them to share with the world and as memories of your Manali Leh jeep safari expedition.



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 favourite 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 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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Nubra Valley

Something divine makes Nubra Valley close to heart and it is not an exaggeration but a fact that experienced and shared by the countless tourists visited the paradisiacal location in Jammu and Kashmir. Without touching the spectacular roads of Nubra Valley, a Ladakh tour will not be complete. The tri-armed valley has Diskit Village as its capital. Ldumra, a magnificent name is the original name of the valley as the local scholars insist. Ldumra means Valley of Flowers. The large valley is formed after the merging of Shyok River with Nubra or Siachen River causing the separation of the Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges. The valley is located 10000 feet that is 3048 meters above mean sea level and those who cross the Khardung La Pass can easily come to Nubra Valley from Leh.

Except for the river beds, every other place in the valley shows scant vegetation and low precipitation levels. Most of the villages in the valley are occupied by Nubra skat speakers and in the villages, one can find lush greenery and farming which happen through the regular irrigation. Diskit is the place where native people are seen in abundance and Diskit Monastery is the centre of attraction as well. The Shyok River flowing on one side of Diskit has a captivating effect on the visitors. Nubra Valley unwinds a lot of surprising sights when you visit it and an unbelievable fact is that the valley was open to the public till Hunder until 2010. Beyond Hunder, it was the greener region in the lower altitude where the Turtuk village exists. Till 2010, the Government did not allow tourists to mesmerize themselves in the magnificent beauty of Turtuk where numerous apricot trees and other vegetation along with the tribal community were preserved as a virgin.

Height: 3048 meters above the sea level

Location: The paradisiacal Nubra Valley is located at a distance of 140 km from Leh and the main road access to the valley is through Khardung La pass where you have to show the photocopies of your travel permit to the soldiers camping.

Best time to visit: The months from June to September is the perfect period to visit Nubra Valley

To see the pure, rugged face of nature, One must visit Ladakh once in their lifetime.

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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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Tso Moriri Lake

It won’t be exceeding at all how much you describe the beauty of Tso Moriri in Ladakh, a highly protected lake in Changthang Region and a significant portion of Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.  It is the largest of all high altitude lakes in India especially in Ladakh and is located at an altitude of 4522 meters above the sea level. The length comes to 26 km north to south and 3 to 5 km is the width and the water is wholly brackish. 

The water to feed the lake comes from the springs and melted snow from the nearby mountains. There are two major stream systems to lead the water to the lake. One in the north part of the lake and the other comes in the southwest part. Huge, extensive marshes are seen at both the entrances of the lake. Rupshu Valley, a breathtaking area is the guardian of Tso Moriri along with an array of the lofty Himalayan Mountains in the surrounding.

The number of people come to witness the beauty of this splendid lake is lesser when compared to that of Pangong Lake. It is because of the secluded location of the lake. Hence, it is a favorite home town for many migratory birds. They come to breed here especially birds like great- crested grebe, the brown-headed gull and the Brahmin duck. The rare Himalayan hares are also abundantly seen near the lake. Thus, the declaration of the lake as a reserved area is a right option to protect these species from extinction. Less human interference would keep their lives strong.

Height: The lake is situated at an altitude of 4522 meters.

Location: You can reach Tso Moriri via road from Leh. It is 150 kms away from Leh Airport. Kalka Railway station is the nearest one to the lake. You will get buses and taxis from the station as well.

Best time to visit: May, June, July and August are the peak season when tourists come to Tso Moriri in large numbers and other months will be filled with snow and have extreme cold conditions.

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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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Lamayuru Monastery

The high elevation where Lamayuru Monastery is located at amuses every traveler comes here. Existing on Leh-Srinagar Highway, around 15 kms east of the Fotu La, the monastery is perched on a height of 3510 meters. The murals, frescoes and the images of Buddha have created an interesting setting inside this famous Buddhist temple.

History

Lamayuru Monastery was originally the monastery belonged to Bon and the name means Swastika which symbolized eternity. The history says that an Indian scholar named Naropa caused a lake to dry up and there founded Lamayuru Monastery. Seng ge Sgang is the oldest building surviving which is dedicated to the builder-monk, Rinchen Zangpo.

The structure of the monastery

There were actually five buildings in the beginning and still one can find the remaining of the four buildings located in the corner. In the past there, were up to 400 monks and currently there are 100 monks residing in the monastery. There is a small temple can be seen which is dedicated to Avalokiteshwara.

Location: The monastery is located at a distance of 127 km from Leh in the Lamayuru region. You can reach the monastery via road by bus or jeep.

Timings: It is open on all days from 06:00 am to 06:00 pm.

Entry fee: INR 30 per person

Highlights: There will be two annual Mask Dance festivals happen which is the most suitable time to visit the monastery.

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Alchi Monastery

After the endless mountain peaks, green valleys, high passes, monasteries in Ladakh are the prime factors behind the huge number of visitors to the paradise every year. Alchi Monastery, a group of Buddhist shrines is now a remarkable landmark and a must visit tourist attraction in Leh. The rugged valleys, uneven mountain terrains etc are creating a flamboyant view from the monastery and make the travelers feel elevated. Alchi is a part of the three villages that together constitute to the Alchi Group of Monuments.

History

Alchi Monastery and its current guardians are grateful the great translator Rinchen Zangpo who was the reason behind the construction of the monastery. He built it in the AD 1000 and there were 32 wood carvers and sculptors from Kashmir to help him. But when the Gelug sect decided to shift the activities to Likir Monastery permanently, it turned to be the administrative shrine of the Alchi Gompa, officially.

Structure of the monastery

Alchi Monastic Complex has three principal shrines named the Dukhang or Assembly Hall, the Sumtseng and the temple of Manjushri. Chortens have a special space inside the complex. The wall paintings seen inside are dating back to the spiritual and artistic nuances found in Buddhism and Hindu Kingdoms. Like we seen in other monasteries, here also, you will find the huge statues of Buddha and several wood carvings and art works appearing in Baroque style.

Location: The monastery is located in Alchi Village in the Leh District, 70 km from Leh.

Timing: May to September on all days: from 10:00 am to 01:00 pm and from 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm.

Entry Fee: For Indians: INR 25, For Foreigners: INR 50

Highlights: The views from the monastery have attracted a lot of film production sets. Good photographic location as well.

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Royal Leh Palace

A nine storey high building displays the influence of Potala Palace in Lhasa is the famed Royal Leh Palace that stands with its head high on a cliff top overlooking the ravishing Leh town. Leh Palace is a must visit during anyone’s tour of Ladakh region as it has been standing there as a symbol of the old glorious days of the royal family lived here. The top floors accommodated the members of the regal community and the low floors were occupied by stables and stores.

History

In the 17th century, King Sengge Namgyal led the construction of Leh Palace and it gained fame in a short span of time. Later, it was termed as an architectural icon and the symbol of pride and glory of Leh. The history says that during the time when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh, Leh Palace was abandoned and the members of the family were asked to move to Stok Palace. The Archeological Survey of India has restored the valuable ruins of the palace and opened to the public as a remarkable tourist attraction.

Structure of the palace

There is a monastery behind the palace which is a part of the palace and there you will find the statue of a seating Buddha in there in the monastery behind the palace. On the walls of the palace, you will see the old pictures and paintings including Tibetan thangka.

Timings: The palace is open to the public on all days from 07:00 am to 04:00 pm

Entry fee: For Indians: INR 20 and for Foreigners: INR 100

Location: Leh Palace is closely located to the town. Visitors can reach the palace by walking from Leh town as it is about 5 kms away from there.

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Zanskar valley

The Zanskar Range is the mountain range in Jammu and Kashmir that acts as the separating line between Ladakh and Zanskar. The Zanskar Range is a part of the Tethys Himalayas, formed with weakly transformed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is 6000 meters. It is an inevitable spot for adventure lovers during their adrenaline rushing trekking trips to the Trans Himalayas every year.

On the way to Zanskar Valley, one will come across the incredible Suru Valley which puts forth a decent trekking experience to adventure lovers. Zanskar is alluring always with its brightly shining mountain peaks and the presumably attracting villages, sometimes, it looks overshadowing the relishing Changthang Region as well. Tourism has caused a great enhancements on the economic side of the region like education flourished and the lifestyle of the people has changed but it took its toll on the fragile mountain environment.

Nevertheless, Zanskar is the favorite tourist destination still because of the vast area that is made beautiful by multiple hues, the distinct flora and fauna and the extremely variant climatic conditions. There are two main branches of the Zanskar River; one is Doda which has source near Pensi-La and flows south eastwards to reach Padum and the second one is formed by two tributaries called Kargyag River and it has source near Shingo La.

Height: The valley is situated at an average height of 6000 meters above the sea level.

Location: It is located at a distance of about 464 kms from Leh and would take around 10 to 11 hours to reach. Buses are available from Leh to reach the valley.

Best time to visit: The months of June, July, August and September are suitable to visit the Zanskar Range as the other months will cause heavy snowfall and the roads will be blocked.

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Hemis National Park

Around 4400 sq.km is the area the prime attraction of Ladakh spreads into. We are talking about the renowned Hemis National Park named after the popular monastery in the region that is Hemis Monastery. The very rare species of wildlife is the reason behind its global recognition. Bharal and snow leopards are examples for the unseen animal collection found in Hemis National Park. The park is located on the west bank of the Indus River. 

The animals, the flora, the birds and the nature in the park and its vicinity are coming under the highly protected areas and this is the only place in India where the protected snow leopards are seen in abundance. The Rumbak and Markha catchments were found to be protected with the discovery of the park in 1981 and it grew into 4400 sq.km in 1990 and becomes the largest national park in South Asia. Argali or the Great Tibetan Sheep, Shapu etc are the supporters of the prey base for the predators in Hemis. Asiatic Ibex, the Tibetan Wolf, the Eurasian brown bear and red fox are some of the endangered species found before and some are still present in the park. The crucial problem faced by the park is the regular animal-human conflicts because over 1600 people are living inside the park boundaries, mainly pastoralists living with poultry farming, goats and sheep.

Height: The elevation at which the park exists is 3000-6000 meters above the sea level.

Location: The park is located about 5 kms from Leh and Leh Airport is the closest airport to the park.

Best time to visit: To reach the park there are a number of trekking routes opened from Mid-June to Mid-October. But the best season to spot snow leopards is of course, in late winter.


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Spituk Monastery

Spituk Monastery in Ladakh has another name that is Pethup Gompa, very famous among the locals. It is located at a distance of 8 km from Leh and there are 100 monks inside the gompa. The major attraction at the monastery is the giant statue of Goddess Kali. The Buddhist monastery is at a site which was blessed earlier by Arhat Nyimagung.

History     

Spituk Monastery was founded by Od-de. He was the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od. When he came to Maryul, he built the monastery and introduced the monastic community. But Lotsewa Rinchen Zangpo on his arrival said that an exemplary religious sect should be there and thus the name of the monastery was changed to Spituk which meant exemplary.

Structure of the monastery

There are three chapels in the gompa with numerous statues of Buddha and several thankas as well. The Dukhang Hall is the highlight and the two rows of seats running to a throne at the end are also something unique found here. Visitors will come across the beautiful sculptors and chortens.

Location: The monastery is perched on a thrilling hill top near Indus and about 8 kms away from Leh on Srinagar road. It is at an elevation of 3307 meters.

Timings: It is open on all days from 08:00 am to 01:00 pm.

Entry fee: INR 20 per person

Highlights: Gustor Festival held from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan Calendar and it is for two days with mask dance and prayers. Usually, the festival falls on winter time which guarantees the presence of natives in large but the number of tourists would be comparatively lesser.


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Visit to the Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame is a proud displayer of Indian Army simultaneously acts as the symbol of those dark days of India’s war against Pakistan. The museum that showcases seized arms and weapons of Pakistan army is located in Ladakh, the paradise of adventure lovers lying in the beautiful Himalayas. Moreover, the museum is considered to be a tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the war. To make it more appealing, the Indian Army has kept the photos and the things of those soldiers inside the museum. Also, the arranged items related to the history and culture of Ladakh, wildlife and vegetation have importance and amuses the visitors definitely. 

There are things which enhance every Indian’s patriotic feelings as well as they let us appreciate the bravery shown by every Indian soldier during the wars, from the heart. Different quotes, letters written by the soldiers, the tools, aircrafts, weapons, tents and what all the soldiers have used during the period are preserved which give every visitor a minute to think and pay tribute to those brave hearts who lost their lives to help every one of us sleep in peace. Located next to Leh Airfield, the museum is opened on all days. Every day, visitors will be able to watch a detailed documentary on Operation Vijai or Kargil War screened.

Entry fee:  For Indians: INR 10, for Foreigners: INR 50

Timings: 09:00 am to 01:00 pm and 03:00 pm to 07:00 pm

Highlight: Evening parade or march is a major event happening here

Location: 4 kms from the main town, on the way to Magnetic hill via Leh Srinagar Highway.

Tips: Camera and video are allowed inside but at an additional cost.


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Rohtang Pass

Rohtang Pass is quite famous among Ladakh travelers but the unpredictable avalanche and severe climatic conditions make it scary some times. Nonetheless, it had made adventure seekers’ tour of Ladakh mind-blowing. A high mountain pass at an elevation of 3978 meters above the sea level, Rohtang is just 51 km from Manali. It is a part of the proud Pir Panjal Range of the mighty Himalayas.

It acts as the connecting link between Kullu Valley and Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Being an ancient trade route, it was well maintained by the natives. The generic name of the pass suggests that either the pass was the oldest and the most used pass. With the increase of visitors every year, the fragile mountain ecology will be in threat, environmentalists worry.

But the exciting beauty of the mountain terrains seen from the top of the pass is indescribable and flamboyant. The Indian Government started building a tunnel which is 8.5 km long to bypass Rohtang pass in order to reduce the travel time and distance to Keylong, Lahaul and Spiti and Leh.

The tunnel promises to reduce the distance by 50 km and the time by five hours between the south and north faces of Rohtang pass. Currently, the time taken to ascend and descend the pass itself is 5-6 hours.

Height:
 Rohtang Pass is located at an altitude of 3978 meters above the sea level in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.

Location:
 The pass is located about 51 kms away from Manali and you can reach the pass if you take Leh- Manali Highway.

Best time to visit: 
The pass will be open from the months of May to October as the snow starts melting and the paths will be cleared.

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Lachulung La

Apart from Khardung La or Baralacha La, Ladakh has numerous other passes at great heights which stand as Ladakh’s pride for centuries now. The glitters of other passes may be diminished by Khardung La mainly but all the other passes are equally important. Lachulung La is a single example.

The elevation of this pass is 5059 meters above sea level which is considered to be a dangerously exciting height for any pass after Khardung La. Lachulung La is on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Also, it separates the valleys of Tsarap Chu and Tozay. If you take Leh-Manali highway, you will be able to cross this pass that has other names such as Lachalung La, Lungalacha La etc. 

A fact that to be remembered before you head to visit this pass is, it is open only for four and a half months during summer. Any traveler should be prepared not to fall sick during the conquering of Lachulung La because its geographic status, the height, the rugged pathways and the remote villages it goes through may cause dramatic influence on your body. Being one of the most adventurous passes in Ladakh, Lachulung is a favorite stop avid adventure lovers.

Also, the surroundings are quite fictional as the towering Himalayan passes and the nature lying in correspondence to them are creating soothing visuals. Trekkers should be very careful while climbing the altitude up as altitude sickness is assured at the top and keep hydrated to maintain your body conditions with respect to the climate. But the descent is smooth and easy so that you will feel overjoyed till the end.

Height:
5059 meters

Best time to visit:
May to October

How to reach:
Take Leh-Manali highway, from Sarchu 54 KM and from Pang, 24 Km

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Tanglang La

Tanglang La is a high mountain pass, the glorious pride of Ladakh, the favourite tourist spot for bikers and trekkers. 5328 meters above the sea level is the dream like height of this pass which happily poses some threatening adventure to those who try to climb up the top. The road leading to the pass on Leh-Manali highway, from Upshi to Tanglang La is completely paved. A 500 meter long section of the road is the only part which is unpaved. Tanglang La is also beautifully paved to the make the climb easier. 

There are a lot of confusions existing regarding the position of Tanglang La in the list of world’s highest motorable passes and the world believes it to be the second highest which is proven to be wrong. The local sign on the top of the pass shows the altitude of the pass is 17582 feet or 5359 meters. But now, it is said that the sign board gives a wrong impression but the original height of the pass is 5328 meters. The pass is made beautiful by the innumerous Buddhist prayer flags despite the fact the road is tough to conquer and any type of traveler will fall for the scenery at the pass and adventure lovers would love to try their energy level by climbing up to the top. But remember, the oxygen level will be decreased as you cover the altitude and reaches to the half of what you feel at sea level.

Height: 5328 meters of 1248 feet

Best time to visit: May to October

How to reach: The pass is close to Leh-Manali highway and can be reached via 21 Gata loops

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