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  • Referred to as ‘Mini Tibet’, this is a land overflowing with Buddhist culture, traditions and intricately built monasteries in Ladakh. Dating back to the bygone era of even the 11th or 8th century, the monasteries still stand strong housing the monastic communities with different sects of Buddhism each imparting and spreading their way of life and belief to the world.

    Perched atop a hill or overhanging a cliff or even embedded in a natural cave, these distinct monasteries in Ladakh are all beautiful in their own stature. Housing beautiful paintings, ancient thangkas, silver and gold gilded statues of the omnipresent Lord Buddha, these monasteries draw visitors from far and wide to come and understand the beauty of the Buddhist culture. This is what makes it one of the best places to visit in Ladakh. 

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    Festivals in Ladakh are celebrated annually in each monastery, adhering to the dates in the Tibetan Calendar. The monks celebrate each festival with great pomp and zest performing the sacred Cham or masked dance and rituals to commemorate the celebrations. Locals, as well as tourists, take part in these celebrations with great pride and enthusiasm, dancing and feasting with the monks on this auspicious day.

    While some monasteries have opened to accepting the liberal way of life of common man and allowed them to pass through their doors to understand and learn a new culture, there are other monasteries still so strict in the curriculum and way of living that involves utmost sacrifice, complete meditation and a life away from the temptations and snares of the real world.

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    Nevertheless, all the monasteries are beautiful and distinct in their own way of promoting the positivity and rich culture of Buddhism to the world. So while on your tour in Ladakh, make sure that visiting monasteries forms an important part of your itinerary, and you’ll come back with an enriching and unique experience to carry with you, all your life.

    Here are some of the best monasteries in Ladakh:

  • 01Hemis Monastery

    The Hemis Monastery located around 45 km south of Leh is one of the largest and most famous monasteries belonging to the Drukpa or Dragon order. The monastery houses an amazing collection of the age-old relics such as the idol of Lord Buddha made up of copper gilt, gold and silver stupas, and revered thangkas, making it one of the richest monasteries in Ladakh. 

    The monastery founded by the first incarnation Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630, and when it was named Changchub Samling, the small Buddhist community here was born. This monastery has amazing collections of the age-old relics such as the idol of Lord Buddha made of copper gilt, gold and silver stupas. Being such a majestic monastery, it attracts visitors from various corners of the world, especially during its annual festival known as the Hemis Festival. This festival is a much-revered celebration to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava.  

    This place is a must visit while you are on your Leh Ladakh bike expedition.

    Held on the 9th and 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar, you must watch the festival celebrations as monks put up dance performances wearing colorful dresses and distinctly the enchanting sacred mask dance. It is held on the 9th and 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar

    Location: The Hemis Monastery is located 45 km towards the south-east of the main city of Leh.


  • 02Thiksey Monastery

    The Thiksey Gompa is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Ladakh and belongs to the Gelukpa order of Buddhism. The Gompa was first built at Stakmo by Sherab Zangpo. Later the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Paldan Sherab, founded the Thiksey Gompa on a hilltop to the north of the Indus River in the year 1430 A.D. 

    There are many holy shrines inside the monastery of which the famous one is the Lakhang Nyerma, dedicated to the Goddess Dorje Chenmo. When the shrine was constructed, it was one of the biggest of its time, but now only its ruins can be seen on the premises of the monastery.

    The monastery is now referred to as ‘Mini Potala’ of India as it resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. There are 10 temples in this 12 storied monastery with the main prayer hall housing a 40-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha (future Buddha) seated on a lotus, it covers almost two floors of the monastery. Many precious and rare statues, mini stupas and swords are on display inside the monastery.

    The Thiksey Gustor Festival is held here during the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar during the months of October - November when the sacred mask or Cham dances are performed by resident monks and nuns as a part of a ritual. Around 80 Monks resides here at present, spreading the aura of peace and deep Buddhism beliefs to the locals there.

    Location: The Thiksey Monastery is located 17 kilometres south of Leh and is one of the best places to visit during your Leh expedition.
  • 03Diskit Monastery

    Amidst the stark and barren Nubra valley stands the beautiful and milky white Diskit monastery. The oldest and largest monastery in Nubra, Diskit monastery is located at an altitude of 3142 meters. It was founded in the 14th century by Changzem Sherab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism, also known as the yellow hat sect. 

    Within the Tibetan style Gompa, there are beautiful frescos and gompas. An iconic feature of the monastery is the statue of Cho Rinpoche (Crowned Buddha), which is a part of the prayer hall. Visit the monastery in the month of February when it hosts the famous Dosmoche festivals which see a large number of tourists witnessing these celebrations while on their Manali Leh Srinagar biking trip.

    Here you can marvel at the rich collections of Lord Buddha idols, the superb interiors and architecture designs coupled with the religious atmosphere which is just a spellbinding experience. Trek to the monastery for a breathtaking view of Ladakh and make the effort to be present there in the morning when you can witness the prestigious Morning Prayer ceremony which is definitely an enriching experience.

    Location: The Diskit Monastery lies 15 km north-west off the Khalsar-Panamik route, at the edge of the desert in Shyok valley.
  • 04Alchi Monastery

    Renowned as the oldest Buddhist learning centre, the Alchi Gompa is one of the magnificently built monasteries in Ladakh. Located 70 kilometres west of Leh on the banks of the Indus River, it is also the largest and most famous of the gompas built by Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo in the middle of the 12th century. With the lack of a monarchy, he appointed four families to look after the monastery till the 15th century when it was taken over by the Lekir Monastery.

    Different from other monasteries, this one is built on flat ground instead of on a hilltop. It has three main structures. The Du-Khang is the assembly hall and the largest part; the Sum-tsek is a three-storied structure with a four-armed statue of the Bodhisattva occupying two storeys with figures of Maitreya Buddha, Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri on the ground floor; the third structure is Jampe Lhakhang, a temple of Manjushri. This temple also has sculpture and painting of Rinchen Tsangpo.

    Adorned with bright colours and intricately made statues of Lord Buddha, it takes approximately two hours to completely admire the beauty of these monasteries in Ladakh. An interesting and fun fact is that parts of Bollywood hit like Dil Se and Tashan were shot here at Alchi.

    Don't forget to check out the list of hotels in Leh before you start your next trip.

    Location: Located 70 kilometres west of Leh on the banks of the Indus River.

  • 05Lamayuru Monastery

    Renowned as Tharpa Ling which means the ‘place of freedom’; Lamayuru monastery is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in Ladakh and said to have been built around the same time as Alchi Monastery. It is located approximately 127 km from Leh on a steep mountain between Bodh Kharbu and Kha-La-Che. The monastery belongs to Red-Hat Sect of Buddhism. At its peak, the monastery housed 400 monks but nowadays there are only 50 inmates. About 150 monks reside in Lamayuru village.

    This monastery was founded by Mahasiddha Acharya Naropa the 11th century who came to the place for meditation.There are many legends associated with the construction of the monastery, one such predicted that the lake would be dried and a monastery would be constructed at its place. When the lake dried, Naropa found a dead lion there and chose to construct the first temple of Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). The founder then constructed five buildings but only one exists today.

    The monastery is famous for its rich wall paintings, a collection of thangkas, murals, scriptures and statues of different forms of Buddha and other deities. Every year on the 17th and the 18th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, a holy masked dance is performed by the monks of the monastery.

    Location: Lamayuru is about 125 km from Leh town and can be visited on the way to Leh from Srinagar.


  • 06Phugtal Monastery

    A trip to the Phugtal Monastery is a surreal experience, portraying an image as if stuck in the mountains in the form of a honeycomb. Situated at the mouth of a cave, atop a cliff, it is close to a major tributary of the river Lungnak and was founded by Gangsem Sherap Sampo during the early 12th century. From here, the view is magnificent as it makes a picture perfect setting of the mountains, lush greens and the pristine Lungnak River. 

    This is the remotest monasteries in Ladakh and is a popular destination for tourists visiting Ladakh in winters. This Buddhist monastery is not only built on a cliff but it also has a natural cave. It is believed that around 2,550 years ago important sages, scholars, and translators visited this place. The Phugtal monastery was and it still is a preferred place by the scholars and teachers to meditate. This monastery which has a library as well as prayer rooms houses around 70 monks. 

    This one of the most isolated monasteries of the region is made up of wood and mud. Trekking being the only means of reaching this monastery, it creates a calming and tranquil experience to reach to the top and absorb in the aura of this divine place.

    Location: Phugtal monastery is located in Lungnak Valley, south of Zanskar and is accessible only by foot. You can choose to get dropped from Padum to the charming little village of Ichar, from where you have to trek up to the monastery.


  • 07Spituk Monastery

    Overlooking the gorgeous Indus River, this monastery in Ladakh was built and founded in the 11th century by Od-de, the older brother of Lha Lama Changchub. Initially, the gompa used to run on the principals of the Kadampa school (Red Hat sect) but it later came into the fold of Gelugpa order (Yellow Hat sect). 

    Today, it is home to 100 monks as well as a giant statue of goddess Kali, which is shown to the public during the yearly Spituk festival. The most iconic feature of the monastery is the icons of Buddha and 5 thangkas sharing space with sculptures and mini chortens. You definitely cannot afford to miss, its unique collection of ancient masks, antique arms and fine thangkas here.

    A little higher up the hill is the temple of Goddess Vajrabhairva. The statue of the goddess is kept covered and is unveiled only once during the Spituk Festival. The monastery plays host to the annual Spituk or Gustor Festival held in the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar, where the monks perform masked dances representing well over evil and stories depicting the life of Buddha.

    Many travellers who are on their Manali to Leh jeep safari expedition, often come here to witness this historical beauty.

    Location: This monastery in Ladakh is located 8 km away from the main city of Leh.
  • 08Likir Monastery

    Also known as Klu-Kkhyil gompa, the Likir Monastery was ordered to built by the 5th king of Ladakh Lhachen Gyalpo and was thus founded by Lama Duwang Chosje in 1065. The monastery is of the Gelugpa sect or Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Even today, Buddhist teachings and the three basic Pratimoksha disciplines are preached on the site. Likir means the Naga encircled. 

    The monastery got its name as it is believed two serpent spirits, Nanda and Taksako guard it. The monastery also plays host to the annual festival held in the 12th month of the Tibetan Calendar from the 27th to the 29th of the month and this festival is celebrated with great pomp. The locals put up religious dance performances along with the monks who perform sacred rituals on these auspicious days. This place welcomes many travellers during their Manali to Leh trip and never ceases to amaze them with its beauty.

    Location: Likir Gompa is located around 62 km to the West of the main city of Leh.


  • 09Shey Monastery

    Shey being originally the capital of Ladakh was built in 1655 by Deldon Namgyal, the king of Ladakh. Located in the premises of the Shey Palace, it is believed to be the summer retreat of the royal family of Ladakh. Situated 16 km from the city of Leh, it is en route Thiksey and Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. 

    Currently, the palace now a monastery houses the largest Buddha statue made of gilded copper known as Shakyamuni Buddha, covering three floors of the building. In front of the statue is a large wax bowl with a flame that is continuously lit for a year after which it is replaced. The objective of burning the flame is to highlight the importance of integrity and spirituality to the tourists visiting the monastery

    With beautiful murals and paintings adorning the walls, it’s lower chapel has a library which is believed to have the largest collection of thangkas in Ladakh. As you walk up to the monastery, you’ll also come across five Buddhas carved out of rock along the roadside. Close to the monastery is also the Druk Padma Karpo Institute, now renamed Rancho School after its feature in the Hindi movie 3 Idiots.

    There are two festivals held at this monastery in Ladakh every year; Shey Stubla on the 30th day of the 1st months and Shey Ru-lo on the 10th day of the 7th month.

    Click here to check out the trekking trails in Ladakh.

    Location: The Shey Palace has situated 16 km from the City of Leh and is en route the Thiksey and Hemis monastery.


  • 10Phyang Monastery

    Denma Kunga Drakpa, the Dorzin or meditation master laid the foundation stone of this monastery.  Legend has it that Drakpa stayed in a tented camp to contemplate the beauty of this place and while meditating he saw Achi the protectress on a blue horse. He took this as an auspicious sign and constructed this monastery to commemorate this event. The tranquil and serene environment of the place provides its visitors with the much-needed peace of mind, body and soul.

    The name Phyang was derived from Gang Ngonpo that means the blue mountain, which can be seen right behind the monastery and belongs to the Dri-Gung-pa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Home to around 100 monks, the monastery also houses a school to impart training in Buddhism along with modern education.

    With ancient wall paintings, collections of old thangkas and murals of Mahakala, the monastery also has a museum that has 900-year-old collections of idols, scriptures, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons. The Phyang Gompa becomes the venue of Gang-Sngon Tsedup Festival, each year, starting from the 17th day up to the 19th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar, which attracts a large number of tourists every year. Dance, music and mask dance are the high point of this event. The Cham dance by the lamas is also quite spectacular to watch. This is a must have experience while you are on your Leh Ladakh road trip.

    Location: Nestled on the top of a hill, the Phyang Monastery is situated around 15 kilometres west of Leh.


  • 11Stakna Monastery

    Enshrined by Bhutanese saint and scholar Chose Jamyang in the late 16th century, Stakna means Tiger’s nose which is also the shape of the hill on which the monastery is located.  Belonging to the Drugpa sect of Buddhism, this monastery in Ladakh portrays an image of the religious and cultural heritage of India and Buddhism. There’s a big assembly hall known as Dukhang, which is adorned with beautiful paintings of Sakyamuni, Tsepha Kmad and Amchi. 

    Out of the several idols of the monastery, the most significant one is that of Arya Avalokiteshvara from Assam's Kamrup region. To the extreme right of the courtyard, there’s seven feet tall silver chorten which features the statue of Lord Buddha with some prayer notes. The wall opposite to the entrance of the Assembly Hall is painted with three images, of a Bodhisattva, Padmasambhava and Tshong-san-Gompo. Statues of Sakyamuni (Past Buddha), the Present Buddha and Maitreya (Future Buddha) are also found in the hall. Like other gompas, Stakna also has a throne for the head lama of the monastery.

    Home to about 30 monks currently, it has a number of sister monasteries, 3 of which are in Zanskar-Bardan, Stakrimo and Sani. The best part of this monastery is the striking view of the Indus River Valley from its rooftop.

    Location: The Stakna Monastery is located 45 km from the city of Leh.


  • 12Takthok Monastery

    Takthok Monastery widely referred to as Thak Thak and Thag Thog by the local Buddhist people is the only monastery belonging to the Nyingmapa school of order or Red Hat sect of Buddhism. The monastery came into existence under the rule of ‘Tshewang Namgyal’. It is built around a cave on a mountainside and hence derives its name Takthok which in English means ‘rock roof’. According to the legend, the great Padmasambhava did his meditation in this cave in the early 8th century. This cave is termed as Duphug (Tu-Phuk) Lhakhang and is a famous pilgrimage site for all the Tibetan Buddhists around the world. 

    The monastery has a temple, a Dukhang or assembly hall which has statues of Maitreya, Padmasambhava and Dorje Takposal.

    Buddhists set out here on a pilgrimage to be blessed by ‘dubchu’ or Holy Water and to pay homage to the sacred book of Buddha’s teachings, the ‘Kandshur’, which has 108 volumes, along with other sets of Buddhists teachings to protect the people against evil spirits, curses and epidemics. These texts were written in pure gold and silver letters. Lamas use the text at the time of birth of baby, death of a person or for other rituals,  and they also claim to predict the future of a person by reading the scriptures. 

    The monastery’s new temple is also a major attraction and is known for its murals, paintings and statues of Buddha. Consecrated by 14th Dalai Lama in 1980, the monastery is a major tourist attraction mostly travellers who are on their Manali to Leh Bike trip.

    The Takthok Monastery hosts an annual event every year on the 9th as well as 10th of every sixth month according to Tibetan calendar, along with a sacred dance by the 55 monks residing here, to commemorate this event.

    Location: The Takthok monastery is located at a distance of 46 km from the city of Leh.
  • 13Rizong Monastery

    According to popular belief, Guru Padmasambhava along with other lamas used to meditate in the caves around Rizong in isolation, surviving on one meal a day and avoiding any contact with the outside world. Before building the monastery in 1831, Lama Tsultim Nima started a hermitage at the site to teach monks about Buddhism, who even today abide by very strict rules and regulations like apart from sacrificing all comforts and material possessions, they are even forbidden to light fires in their cells or even handle anything touched by women.

    Known as a ‘Paradise for meditation’, this monastery in Ladakh belongs to the Gelugpa Order or Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism and overlooks the picturesque Indus Valley. Home to about 40 monks today, the Rizong Monastery educates and teaches these monks the great scriptures and the chosen path to God with a very strict and simple way of life. 

    Located 2 km away, a nunnery, known as Chulichan (Chomoling), is under the cover of the monastery, where 20 nuns or the Chomos reside and worship at the temples of the monastery, perform chores like milking, spinning wool and getting oil for the temple lamps.

    Location: The Rizong Monastery is located 73 km from the city of Leh.


  • 14Matho Monastery

    Founded by Lama Dugpa Dorje in the year 1410, Matho is the only monastery that follows the Sakya sect of Buddhism. In order to introduce the Monastic community, the king offered religious estate in neighbouring villages and the Nagrang festival was started, which is held on the 14th and 15th day of the Tibetan calendar. The monastery is home to more than 60 lamas, they are chosen as oracles every three years where they have to undergo rigorous fasting and meditation over the duration of few months to purify themselves.

    Apart from the Nagrang festival, the other festivals also organised have performances of the Cham dance and acts of oracles which are done under the influence of supernatural powers. The oracles run barefoot on the parapets of the monastery roof leaving everyone in awe and fear of them. 

    Constructed around 500 years ago, the monastery has a marvellous collection of ancient Thangas, walls adorned with sacred paintings, statues of Maitreya, Sakyamuni, the blessing Buddha and a thousand-armed statue of Avalokitesvara.

    Location: The Matho Monastery is situated on the banks of the Indus River about 20 km south of Leh.


  • 15Rangdum Monastery

    Perched atop a mountain, the Rangdum Monastery looks like a citadel, overlooking and guarding the serene valley, with rolling hills, mountains and pristine glaciers which only enhances the beauty of this place. Located in Kargil Suru Valley, this monastery was built by Gelek Yashi Takpa about 200 years ago and some even believe it to be from the 8th century. Home to about 40 monks, the monastery has a rich assortment of Tibetan antiques and other precious artefacts and you’ll find the monks in deep meditation in the tranquil ambience of the premises.

    You will also find a prayer hall located in the central part of the monastery, which will give visitors a clear view of the ancient and rustic beauty of this place. And while you’re here, you will get the feeling of remoteness, since this monastery is located far off the mainland. 

    Although the roads to the monastery are bumpy and require a good amount of time to reach, it still receives a lot of visitors every here, due to its surrounding gorgeous vistas and peaceful aura for meditation.

    You must check out the Delhi to Leh guide before starting your next expedition.

    Location: The Rangdum Monastery is located in the Kargil Suru Valley about 130 km from Kargil and 343 km from the city of Leh.



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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