Road Tripping from Leh is probably on the bucket list of every traveler in India. For some it is an adrenaline rush by biking from Manali – Leh, for others it is to enjoy the local festivals by flying directly into Leh. No matter what, Leh remains the number one destination to visit as it the epitome of scenic beauty in India. Leh is covered with three parallel ranges of the Himalayas – Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakoram with the presence of three rivers – Shyok, Indus and Zanskar flow between these ranges giving life to the rugged and barren mountains. As adventurous as the trip is to reach Leh, there are places to visit in Leh and around.
Situated on the Changtang pleauteu, Pangong Tso is one of the largest brackish water lakes in Asia at the height of 14,270 feet. The lake extends from India to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China. More than 50% of the lake lies within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The lake offers stunning views against the barren mountains and shades of crystal blue water which change with intensity and positioning of the sun. It is one of the most popular places in Leh and is located at 160kms from Leh town. The lake completely freezes in winter. In order to enjoy the picturesque views, the best to visit Pangong Tso is in Summer.
The lake is also popular for camping. However in the last few years, due to uncontrolled mass tourism and unethical camps, there was complete ignorance for waste management and effluent generation/treatment. The Jammu & Kashmir state government in April 2019 has banned camping and night stay at Pangong Tso. You can read more, here.
Khardungla Pass is popular as it is the highest motorable pass in the world at the height 18,380 feet and is the gateway to Nubra and Shyok valley. Biking to the highest motorable pass is one of the most sought after adventures and places to visit in and around Leh.
Managed by the Border Roads Organization, reaching and crossing Kardungla Pass is a challenging journey. With so much heights, one might face Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) due to lack of oxygen. Staying here for a long time can hamper the brain’s activity by causing headache, nausea, blurry vision amongst others. In order to enjoy the mesmerizing views from the top, it is advisable to be acclimatized to heights (stay in Leh for atleast 2 days), to be well hydrated before the start of the journey and not stay at the top for more than 20 minutes.
Nubra valleys is popular for two things – the golden sand dunes and riding the two-humped camel. A typical tourist destination, you will find less bikers or adventure thrillers here, but more of families having a good time. Situated on the bank of Nubra river, there are many camps and resorts around the sand dunes where you can spend a night. Since it is far from Leh – approximately 160 kms it is best to plan a night stay. Photo by Sonam Shah
Shanti Stupa is located on the Chanspa hill within Leh is one of the most magnificent and peaceful Buddhist monuments. It was built by Japanese monks to promote world peace. The peace at the stupa will engulf your aura and you will want to close your eyes and meditate to the distant chimes.
One can also enjoy the unobstructed, panoramic views of the city landscape and beyond which makes it one of the best tourist places to visit in Leh and around.
Hemis is one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries in India. It is popular for its annual mask festival called Hemis Festival, celebrated in the memory of Guru Padmasambhava. Hemis is the largest Gompa in Ladakh district and is the most accessible – approximately 45kms from Leh city. It permanently houses around 500 monks. Check the schedule of Hemis 2019, here.
Wherever you are in Leh, you cannot miss the sand coloured grandeur overlooking from a nearby cliff. A prominent symbol of the royal family since the 16th century, The Royal Leh Palace is nothing short of a scenic beauty. The Palace is over nine-storey high overlooking the panoramic views of the rustic Zanskar valley.
Tso Moriri Lake
Known as the twin to the popular Pangong Tso Lake, Tso Moriri is slowly rising to stardom for its tranquil yet stunning views. Located in the Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary, Tso Moriri is a wetland reserve and home to many migratory birds. The lake paints a beautiful picture against the barren snow-capped mountains, deep blue skies and pasteur green grasslands.
Founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, in the 14th century, the monastery has a statue of Cho Crowned Buddha and is one of the most beautiful and oldest monasteries in Ladakh district. Standing on the top of a hill right above the floodplains of the Shyok River and in Nubra valley, the monastery enthrals you with its enchanting beauty.
Shey monastery is famous because of the magnificent metal statue of Buddha and one of the places to visit in Leh , the second largest statue in the city of Ladakh. It is located 15 kilometres south of Leh.
Hall of Fame Memorial
Hall of Fame was built to show gratitude towards the soldiers of Kargil war. The museum is divided into two parts : 1) paintings and scenes from the Kargil war with detailed description of the encounters and 2) weaponry and arms while the other part holds the apparels which were worn by the soldiers at the time of war. There are also photographs of the soldiers who gave their lives to save the country.
Staying in Leh and wondering where to stay? Here are some options:
Sustainable Travel Tips for Places to visit in Leh and around:
- Though the city hotels have flush toilets, the places around may not. There is facility for pit toilets (water-less). Live like a local and use them.
- Get your own refillable bottle and fill it at hotels. The plastic bottle menace is too much for a high altitude city.
- Do not dispose food or plastic waste anywhere in the region.
- Support the local community by choosing a home stay.