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Leh Ladakh - The Ultimate Guide to Tourist Attractions, Transportation & Accommodation Options

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Aptly known as the 'Paradise on Earth', no tour to Kashmir Valley is complete without visiting the mesmerizing and challenging Leh-Ladakh region. For most of the tourism enthusiasts in India, a trip to Leh is the ultimate incentive - the pinnacle of all tourist destinations in the country. Not only the Indians but lots of tourists from other parts of the world too consider Leh-Ladakh to be the dream destination.

    Are you one among the aspiring travellers who are planning a trip to the heavenly Leh-Ladakh region this summer? In-case you are finding it difficult to collectively gather information for planning your Leh trip in a better way, then you are certainly at the right place. Right from the staying options to local transport services to must visit tourist attractions in and around Leh, find out all the relevant information that can help you in making your Leh trip a 'special' one.

    Tourist Attractions at Leh-Ladakh:

    Leh is known for its untouched natural beauty, snow-clad mountain peaks, pristine river confluages, lush greenery and secluded lakes. It is a popular retreat for adventure enthusiasts also. Leh-Ladakh region offers a wide range of adventure sports activities including trekking, mountaineering, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking and canoeing. Another unique characteristic which Leh can boast of is the rich cultural heritage - which exhibits a blend of Indian, Tibetan as well as Buddhism linings. A number of century old monasteries add to its old-world charm.

    Historical Monuments:

    1. Hall of Fame:
    Located near the Leh Airfield, the Hall of Fame is a museum maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the brave soldiers who had laid their lives for protecting the integrity of our country. The museum is rich in information and artifacts related to cross-border wars. Weapons used during the wars are also on display. You can collect a piece of souvenir from the War Memorial shop operated by the Indian Army.

    2. Leh Palace:
    A major attraction for the travelers is the 17th-century palace constructed during the ruling of King Sengge Namgyal which resembles the architecture of Potala Palace in Lhasa. It's a 9-storey building but some of the portions are in ruins due to poor maintenance. The palace is now under the maintenance of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and they are restoring some of the ruined portions. Leh Palace offers an excellent view of the valley from the roof-top.

    3. Stok Palace:
    Located at a distance of 15 KM from the Leh city, Stock Palace is a 190 year old structure built by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal. The construction of the palace was completed in the year 1825. It is considered as an excellent example of 18th century Tibetian architecture.

    4. Shanti Stupa:
    Inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1985, Shanti Stupa (Peace Pillar) is a snow-white dom-shaped structure constructed for celebrating the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism. It looks extremely beautiful on a full-moon night. Located on top of a hillock, Shanti Stupa offers excellent views of sunrise and sunset.

    5. Tsemo (Victory) Fort and Tsemo Gompa:
    Tsemo Fort is 500 years old heritage structure which is currently in ruins. This fort-cum-palace is a crown shaped building constructed in the early part of the 16th century.
    Right on the foot of the fort is the famous Tsemo Gompa, which is known for an eight-meter tall golden statue of Maitreya Buddha. The Buddhist monastery consists of two 15th century Buddha temples.

    Monasteries & Religious Places:

    1. Diskit Monastery:
    Situated in the Diskit village of Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery is a 700 years old structure constructed in the 14th century replicating the architecture of the famous Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet. It is considered to be the oldest and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley region. A huge 106 feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha is the main tourist attraction here. This monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism.

    2. Hemis Monastery:
    Hemis Monastery, constructed in 1672 during the reigns of King Singge Namgyal, is located in the South-Eastern part of Leh town. It is not only the largest monastery in the entire Leh-Ladakh region but also the most famous of all Buddhist Gompa's in the vicinity. Hemis Tsechu, an annual festival organized at this monastery, is a state holiday and attracts a large number of devotees from India and abroad. It's under the influence of Drukpa sect (Red Hat) of Tibetan Buddhism.

    3. Rangdum Monastery:
    Founded by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa in the 18th century, Rangdum Monastery is situated at a mystical location alongside a mountain stream and surrounded by snowy peaks. Centrally located on an ascending mountain top, it offers amazing views of the villages in the distant Padum Valley.

    4. Thiksey Monastery:
    One of the oldest monasteries in Leh district, Thiksey Monastery is housed in a 12-storey building complex having an architectural resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Thiksey Monastery is primarily known for its magnanimous statue of 15 meters high Maitreya Buddha - which is portrayed as seated in the lotus position rather than his usual representations in a standing posture. It's a popular attraction for the tourists for the scenic surroundings, alongside its religious importance. Thiksey Gompa offers breathtaking views of the snow-clad mountains and lush green valley from a quiet, peaceful abode.

    5. Spituk Monastery:
    Built in the 11th century, Spituk Monastery is a three-chapel monastery is located at a distance of 8 KM from Leh city center. Spituk Gompa is known for a giant statue of goddess Kali, which is accessible to the common public only during the annual Spituk festival. It is taken care of by the Yellow Hat sect (Gelugpa) of Tibetan Buddhists community.

    6. Phugtal Monastery:
    Placed on an isolated mountain cliff, the only way to reach this monastery is via a 7 KM trek on the Padum-Manali route. A distinctive monastery because of its unique architecture and set up, Phugtal Monastery is located in the south-eastern region of Zanskar Valley. It was founded in the early part of 12th century. Constructed with wood and mud on the mouth of a cave, over a hanging cliff, it appears like a honeycomb from a distance.

    7. Shey Monastery:
    Founded in the year 1655 by King Deldan Namgyal, the main attraction at Shey Monastery is a huge gold-plated statue of seated Shakyamuni Buddha, which is also the second largest statue in Ladakh. Most of the building complex is now in ruins but the beautiful landscape makes it a place worth visiting.

    8. Phyang Monastery:
    Painted in white and pale brownish yellow, Phyang Gompa belongs to the Red Hat sect of Buddhism. Constructed in 1515, the monastery lies on a hill top overlooking the adjacent villages. The prime attraction here is a 900 years old museum, which is home to an exquisite collection of ancient artifacts including stone and metal crafted idols, thangkas, various weapons and rare documents related to Buddhism.

    9. Stakna Monastery:
    Established during the later part of the 16th century, Stakna Monastery exhibits the glorious heritage of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism (Drukpa Lineage) cultures. Roof-top view from the Stakna Monastery presents a striking landscape of Indus river meandering through the Indus Valley on the backdrop of pristine blue mountain ranges.

    10. Other Monasteries:
    There are a number of monasteries in Leh-Ladakh region which deserve a mention here. Few of the monasteries with religious, as well as historical, significance include Zongkhul Monastery, Alchi Choskor Monastery, Rizong Gompa, Likir Gompa, Samstanling Monastery, Matho Monastery and Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery.

    Trekking & Valleys:

    1. Zanskar Valley:
    Sandwiched between the Great Himalayan ranges and the Zanskar mountain ranges, Zanskar valley is one of the most isolated places to visit during your Leh-Ladakh tour. For almost 8 months in a year, this place has no connectivity to the rest of the region due to heavy snow fall. Meandering through the valley is the Zanskar river which connects with the Indus river at a very scenic spot. The confluence of Zanskar and Indus rivers offers white water rafting opportunity - which is regarded as the best river rafting facility in India.

    2. Kangyatse Peak and Markha Valley:
    A famous trail for the trekkers, the route originates at the beautiful Markha Valley and concludes at the Kangyatse peak. Considering the topography of Kangyatse, the level of difficulty is quite higher on this trek and it takes around 9 days to cover the whole expedition.A majority of the trekkers prefer to hire horses on this trek as it serve a dual purpose - horse carrying the luggage and the horseman playing the role of a local guide.

    3. Liker to Khaltse (Sham Trek):
    This one is for the beginners. Considered as one of the easiest routes in the Ladakh region, this trek passes through a number of villages and monasteries en-route. It is an ideal trek for getting an insight to the culture and lifestyle of the native residents of Ladakh.

    4. Suru valley and Nun Peak:
    Regarded as the King of all treks in Leh-Ladakh region, an expedition to the Nun peak in the greater Himalayan ranges is the real challenge of one's physical stamina. Overlooking the serene Suru Valley, this scenic route is a favorite among the professional and amateur European mountaineers.

    5. Henaskut to Wanla:
    The scenic Henaskut to Wanla trekking route goes through a number of high altitude mountain passes including the Yogma La, Niyiguste La and Pirkiting La. The whole distance can be covered in 6 days with adequate rest.

    6. Lamayuru to Padum:
    A 10 days trek through the beautiful surroundings of Singay La pass originates at Lamayuru and concludes at the Padum in the Zanskar Valley. Interested trekkers can continue through the same trail to Darcha village in Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. It is the longest trekking route in Ladakh.

    7. Tso Moriri to Parang La:
    From the beautiful landscape of Tso Moriri Lake, the route runs down to Kyangdam and ultimately leads to the highest point in the region, the Parang La mountain pass. The highlight of this trek, the Parang La pass, is situated at an altitude of over 5580 meters. It takes around 7-8 days from Tso Moriri to get to Parang La.

    8. Stok Mountain Range:
    Trekking through the Stok Mountain Range attracts huge interests from a large number of travellers and mountaineers. The breathtaking views of the Indus Valley from the Stok Kangri peak, situated at an elevation of over 6000 meters, is the ultimate reward for the trekkers.

    9. Chadar Trek:
    Ever wondered how would it feel like trekking on the snow? The frozen Chadar trek, which originates from the Chilling village, is your chance to experience and relish the challenge. This trekking trail is strictly for the adventure lovers with prior trekking experience. Chadar trek would take 9-10 days and it covers a total distance of about 75Kms. Highest point on this trek is 11120 feet which leaves even the experienced trekkers gasping for air.

    10. Other Trekking Routes:
    Ladakh is a trekkers' paradise and you will be spoilt for choices. Besides the popular routes mentioned above, you can also explore Lamayuru to Darcha trek, Rumtse to Tso Moriri through Yalang Yugula pass (5440 meters), Saboo to Khaltsar via Digar La Pass (5300 meters), Spituk to Stok route and Hemis to Zangla trek through Martsalang and Zengchan villages.

    Lakes in Leh Ladakh:

    1. Pangong Tso Lake:
    You may not have heard the name ever, but if you are told about the place where Phunsukh Wangdu aka Rancho had established his school in the movie '3 Idiots', then you will immediately realize and connect with the Pangong Tso Lake - where Kareena Kapoor had confessed about her love for Aamir Khan.

    If you have been amused by the amazing backdrop portrayed in the movie, then it's your chance to pay a visit to this blue water lake which sprawls across the Indo-China border. Situated at a height of 4,250 meters on the Changtang plateau in eastern Ladakh region, Pangong Tso Lake, also known as the Hollow Lake, is a great testimony of nature's craftsmanship. Spending a night at one of the tent-houses on the lake shore can be an unique experience for you. Without paying a visit to this mesmerizing lake filled with azure blue waters, your tour to Leh-Ladakh will be incomplete.

    2. Tso Moriri Lake:
    Located at an altitude of almost 4600 meters above the sea level, Tso Moriri Lake is the largest lake in the entire Ladakh region. This serene blue lake attracts a large number of native and migratory birds and thus it has become an important tourist attraction for the nature and bird lover. Distance between Leh and Tso Moriri Lake is 250Km and it will take about 8 hours of driving to get to Tso Moriri Lake if all goes well. Not many tourists go there due to the 250Km distance from Leh so at times you can have the whole lake to yourself.Spending a night at Tso Moriri Lake is highly recomended.

    3. Tso Kar Lake:
    Tso Kar Lake is a salt-water lake located in the Rapshu Valley region in western Ladakh. During extreme winter conditions, the temperature falls below -40°C and the lake surface turns in to a frozen field. Overshadowed by the colossal mountain peaks, the place has an enchanting appeal. Tented camp on the lake’s western bank can come to your aid if you are interested to stay there for a day or two.

    4. Yarab Tso Lake:
    Located at the scenic backdrop of Sumur village in the Nurba Valley, Yarab Tso Lake can be accessed after an uphill climb of 20 odd minutes from the Panamaik village. It also has religious importance among local inhabitants who consider its crystal-esque water to be sacred.

    Mountain Passes in Leh Ladakh:

    Besides the three mountain passes en-route Srinagar-Leh National Highway (NH 1D), namely Zoji La, Namki La and Fotu La, and the Baralacha La Pass on the Leh-Manali Highway, there are few other major Himalayan mountain passes in and around Leh Ladakh region. These passes are of great historical importance in terms of trade market as they used to serve as the gateways between India and other neighboring countries for importing and exporting essential goods. Currently, these passes are the strategic military bases to fight against cross-border terrorism. They have also played a huge role in the growth of tourism industry in Leh-Ladakh region.

    Khardung La:
    World's highest motorable pass situated at an elevation of over 5600 meters, Khardung La is the doorway to Shyok and Nubra Valleys. It offers a spectacular hawk-eye view of the distant Nurba Valley. Khardung La is especially a paradise for bikers from all over the world. The experience of mountain biking to this secluded high altitude pass is a cherished memory for the adventurist.

    Taglang La:
    With an elevation of 5328 meters above the sea level, Taglang La pass is the second highest mountain pass in Ladakh after Khardung La. It is situated in the Zanskar range and is approachable from the Leh-Manali highway. You can catch breathtaking views of the Zanskar Valley from this scenic place.

    Chang La:
    The third highest motorable mountain pass in the world, Chang La Pass has an elevation of 5360 meters above sea level. Named after Sadhu Changla Baba, the pass has a temple dedicated to the monk. Chang La pass is rated as one of the must visit places in Leh-Ladakh due to its barren landscapes decorated with snow-capped peaks and view of the undulating valleys underneath.

    River Rafting in Leh Ladakh:

    River rafting and kayaking in the Indus River which flows across Ladakh is a great experience for adventure enthusiasts. It offers five levels of 'Rapids' - grade one to five, hence suitable for participants of all experience levels. Here are a few of the popular river rafting routes in Leh Ladakh.

    1. Hemis-Stakna-Shey: Grade 1 rapids. Suitable for the beginners.
    2. Thiksey-Choglamsar: Grade 1 and 2. Another beginner friendly rafting experience.
    3. Phey-Nimo: Grade 2 and 3 rapids. Very scenic route through hamlets and monasteries.
    4. Alchi-Khaltsey: Grade 3 rapids. For the amateur and adventurous folks.
    5. Saspol-Khaltsey: Grade 4 & 5 rapids. Strictly for adventure seekers and professionals.

    Modes of transport to and within Leh Ladakh:

    Bus Service to Leh:
    If you are on a budget trip to Leh – Ladakh, then the best mode of local transportation within Ladakh region is the bus service. Most of the tourist attractions at Leh are well connected by local bus service. Nearby attractions such as Takthog, Chemrey, Stakna, Thiksey and Shey can be easily covered in a day using public transportation. It is also very friendly to the wallet as the fare ranges between INR 5 to INR 30 based on the distance. Even the distant places like Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Nurba Valley and Hanle are connected to Leh by daily bus service.

    Shared Taxi at Leh:
    Another economical mode to travel around Leh is shared taxis. Yes, you are not alone. There are many travellers who prefer to share seats with others instead of hiring the entire vehicle. You can hop on to one near the Leh bus stand and save a considerable amount of money.

    Taxi/Cab Rentals at Leh:
    Cab rental is the most comfortable of all travel modes. If you are travelling in a group on a leisurely vacation and not too much concerned with the budget, then hiring a taxi/cab can provide you the luxury to take your own sweet time in visiting the tourism circuits. On the flip-side, the fare is on the higher side and could easily cost you 5-times the money you would have spent on a shared taxi ride.

    Bicycle Rentals at Leh:
    Bicycles are a great way to explore the Leh town and adjacent places. There are many shops in Leh that offer cycle rentals for as low as INR 20.

    Motor Bike Rentals Leh:
    Options are aplenty if you want to rent a bike for touring Leh and the surrounding areas. Right from the most inexpensive Bajaj Pulsar 150 to the Royal Enfield Bullets/ThunderBirds and everything in between, you can rent a bike on per day basis and explore the beauty of the region. The cost of renting a bike at Leh Ladakh is around INR 800 to INR 1600 per day and you will have to handover a refundable deposit of INR 5000 to INR 10000 for the security purpose. Make sure to test ride the motorbike to assess its condition before making payments in advance.

    Listed below are a few reliable bike rental services in the Leh town area -

    1. Ladakh Bike Rental - Contact +91 94199 80089
    2. Apex Adventure - Contact +91 96229 75375
    3. Ladakh Bikerz Club - Contact +91 99069 94949
    4. Royal Moto Touring - Contact +91 98161 63378
    5. Active Adventures - Contact +91 99069 71009

    For those who decide to go for a road trip will find Manali to Leh and Srinagar to Leh highway travel guide threads useful.

    Mobile phone connectivity in Leh and Ladakh region :

    If you are coming from outside of J&K you would need a post paid connection for roaming to work. Prepaid connections do not work in J&K while on roaming.

    Best mobile network at Leh : BSNL has the best network coverage and the widest in Leh and rest of Ladakh region. Airtel is mostly restricted to well populated areas.

    Data connectivity in Leh :Both BSNL and Airtel only work on 2G/GPRS and will give you a 32kbps speed which is barely enough for using messenger apps like whatsapp and line etc. There is 3g network at some locations but speed remains a problem.

    If you do not have a post paid connection you can buy a local prepaid sim card with the help of hotel staff where you would be staying but that is not guaranteed.

    Accommodation Options at Leh Ladakh:

    Leh-Ladakh has a large selection of accommodation options catering to budgets of all sizes. Right from budget hotels, mid-range guest houses, deluxe accommodation to luxurious resorts, you can be assured of finding a suitable staying option on a par with your requirements. A few reliable options in listed below -

    1. Atisha Guesthouse
    Budget INR 500 - 1000.
    Farka, Fort Road, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 99069 92187 (M).

    2. Greenland Guest House
    Budget INR 500 - 1000.
    Changspa Rd, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 01 982 253 156 (L)

    3. Ashoka Guest House
    Economy INR 800 - 1200.
    Main Market, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 96229 76331 (M)

    4. Horpo Guest House
    Standard INR 1000 - 1500.
    Chubi Road, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 94192 69586 (M)

    5. Double Humped Camp
    Standard INR 1200 - 2000.
    Hunder, Diskit, Nubra Valley.
    Contact - (+91) 98184 49952 (M)

    6. Hotel Snowland
    Standard INR 1200 - 2000.
    Upper Tukcha Road, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 01 982 253 027 (L)

    7. Namra Hotel
    Deluxe INR 1700 - 3000.
    Tingmosgang, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 01982 229 033 (L)

    8. Ladakh Heaven
    Deluxe INR 2000 - 3000.
    Old Fort Road, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 99103 29129 (M)

    9. Glacier View
    Luxury INR 4000 - 7000.
    Kirzoo, Shanti Stupa Road, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 94192 18202 (M)

    10. Hotel Shangri-La Ladakh
    Luxury INR 5000 - 8000.
    Old Road Sheynam, Leh.
    Contact - (+91) 01 982 256 050 (L)

    Hope the information provided here would prove to be helpful to fellow ITF members who are planning for a trip to Leh Ladakh this summer.


    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2016

  2. DhongiBaba

    DhongiBaba Active Member

    A friend of mine who left for Leh 7 days ago is being treated at a hospital there for multiple fractures in his left leg. He went there with two other friends in his own SUV and was attacked by local taxi union goons who don't like outside vehicles being used for sight seeing. They were attacked in broad day light in a very populated area with iron rods and hockey sticks. They put dents all over the vehicle and broke all the glasses and took away their wallets too. This was three days ago.

    My friend tried to get help from the police but they are hand in glove with the taxi gangs there.

    My advise is to find another destination and give Leh and Ladakh a mis. Himachal and Uttrakhand has some very beautiful places which one can choose from.

  3. Gabydi

    Gabydi Member

    Again thank you for another great guide. I think I finally found what I was looking for. Ledakh is the place I need to visit if I want to do some trekking. What interests me is that it’s possible to climb at high-altitude and that’s what I want. The only thing that worries me is the security, and that you don’t mention companies that guide tourists through the whole trips. I don’t know if depending in a horseman is a good idea, I’m looking for a company with professional guides and tenting services that can plan this trip. I would appreciate any information you could have.