Flying into Leh, the cold desert land, over the magnificent Himalayas is a beautiful and scary experience at once. Leh Palace illuminated by huge halogen lamps looks like a bewitching castle on a hilltop set ablaze in the dark nights of the Leh. Drive in the city is as exciting as the wonders it has in its lap with the long isolated winding road that opens up into a sheer expanse of arid flatness in burnt sienna. There is blinding sun at the top and perhaps at the first impression, a visitor is not likely to appreciate the blessings of the land fully.
Bon and Buddhism rule the lifestyle and culture of the people here. The
Chortens (Stupas) and enchanting Gompas (Monasteries) adorn the city
with their presence. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and there
is an ominous beauty in the stark surroundings of Ladakh. The Hinayana
Buddhist way of life lends a benevolent spirit to the very air of the
Location:In Ladakh that covers western J&K, India.
Significance:Capital of Ladakh
The days are dry and warm with cool winds blowing. The highest
temperature is 25°C in summers and 10°C in winters while the
nights are cool with temperatures ranging between 14°C and 8°C.
There is heavy rainfall in winters. Recently, there has been increasing
incidents of sporadic rainfall throughout the year.
How To Reach
By Air:Leh is connected by the regular
domestic flights to and from Delhi. However, as the weather is
unpredictable, a 2 to 3 hrs hold-up is normal, especially on the
early morning departures.
By Train:The nearest railway station is in Kalka from
where has to take a bus or taxi to Manali via Shimla. There are
regular Tata Sumo and bus services in Manali to and from Leh.
By Road:Long, winding but well maintained roads are the
next best option to a flight for Leh. The two popular routes to Leh
are from Srinagar via Kargil on the Srinagar-Leh Highway and from
Manali via Sarchu and Dharchu on the Manali-Leh Highway. These
routes are only open from June to October.
However, it is a long and tiring journey of two days, the only
comforts being the spectacular sights of the mountain country,
alluring blue rivers and the passes over 13,000 ft that takes us to
our destination. The respective night halts on the two routes are
Kargil and Sarchu. There are regular bus and Tata Sumo services to
Leh. Leh Bus Stand is barely a kilometer from the city itself.
What to wear
In summers, light cotton clothes are advisable while you will need
heavy woolen clothes in winters. Wind-sheeters or raincoats as a safety
against rainfall or snowfall and good waterproof shoes are needed while
trekking. A warm sleeping bag will be an added advantage.
Kashmiris displaying their beautiful carpets and rugs adorned with a
mixture of Kashmiri and Persian motifs dominate the shopping areas.
There are a number of German bakeries in Leh to cater to European
tastes. Special Tibetan refugee markets are the other dominant shopping
centers in Leh. The turquoise from Tibet, the rubies from Burma and the
Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan along with the native Thangka paintings
make up a shopping buff's day. T-shirts with 'Free Tibet' printed in
them and painted masks and jewellery made from semi-precious stones or
fake stones are other attractions.
Metalware is the Tibetan specialty as is the quartz that comes all the
way from South India, which seems a little strange. Silverware, cymbals
with special religious motifs that are used during meditation,
decorative copper and brass trumpets, sonorous bowls made of nine metals
like cymbals, chunky shell bangles worn by Ladakhi women and exquisite
unpolished turquoise and silver jewelry are some of the highlights of
Set on a small hill, Leh Palace towers above the town. It once the
thriving royal residence of the ruling Namgyals and is said to have
served as the model for the Potala, its more illustrious cousin in Lhasa
and one-time residence of the Dalai Lama. A millennium-old,
seven-storeyed structure in mud and stone, it is mesmerizing to wander
through the crumbling remnants of royalty and watch the brilliant
Thangkas on its soot-stained walls.
Located in a tiny village on the outskirts of Leh, this palace has been
the Ladakhi royal family's residence for the last 150 years since the
Dogra armies invaded the Leh Palace. One may have a chance encounter
with the royals here too. It houses a museum, which is said to have the
best collection of exquisite Thangka paintings in the whole of Ladakh.
The other things housed here are crown jewels, dresses, coins, peraks
encrusted with turquoise and lapis lazuli as well as religious objects.
The Gompa Run
Gompas or traditional Buddhist monasteries and chortens or the smaller,
whitewashed stupas form the ever-present features of the stark expanse
of Ladakh. The two popular Gompa routes are: -
· The Leh-Manali Highway covering Shey, Thiksey and Hemis,
· The Srinagar-Leh Highway covering Spituk, Basgo and
Alchi. One may also cover Ridzong and Lamayuru on this route.
Leh is the principal city of Ladakh.