Leh Travel Guide

Photo of Leh

Leh Overview

The remote mountain town of Leh can be notoriously difficult to reach by road, even during its open season (May to August), but undoubtedly proves worth the effort required to arrive there. The two highways that connect Leh to Srinagar in the west (430km) and Manali in the south (479 km) are closed for the large part of the year due to treacherous weather and unsafe conditions such as rock falls. Even during the tourist season when the roads are supposed to be fully operational, it is not uncommon for travelers to find themselves waiting around for landslides to be cleared or bad weather to ease so that the roads can once again be opened. The Manali road (the NH 21 Highway) is particularly at risk to temporary closures as it includes some of the highest mountain passes in the world. Additionally, journeys from both locations are long and uncomfortable and (particularly if travelling by government buses) require overnight stops in halfway settlements. Leh does have an airport, however, and those keen to avoid these lengthy diversions can simply choose to fly in.

 

Upon arrival though, the capital of Ladakh is located in a truly stunning location. Vegetation is scarcer at this altitude (around 3500m) and so yawning deserts stretch for miles in all directions before abruptly meeting the colossal snow-capped mountains that surround the whole area. The town is filled with examples of Buddhist cultural influence and prayer wheels can be found all around as well as temples, historical monuments and courses in meditation and spiritualism. Any weather related problems that affect the surrounding highways will rarely be felt in Leh as it benefits from around 300 days of sunshine every year but visitors are warned that it can turn suddenly and sharply cold as the sun starts to go down.

Trekking is one of the most popular activities running out of Leh as it is the gateway to the surrounding mountain passes and lengthy walks. Treks to scenic spots including Pangong Lake, Markha Valley and Lamayuru can be organized through travel operators here although many will require a permit that doesn’t officially allow solo trekkers (although this can be negotiated through travel agencies too.) 

Things to do in Leh

Leh Palace

Easily spotted from the Main Bazaar, the palace is not so easy to find the way up to. Sitting atop a massive rocky outcrop that overlooks the city, the 17th century palace was once the highest building in the world and now remains a popular tourist location for those who don’t mind the steep 40 minute walk up through the old town and towards the nine-story structure. Views of Leh are breathtaking and visitors are particularly advised to go and enjoy the sunset there.
 
Tibetan Market
Leh’s Tibetan market is a series of wooden stalls that offer a great deal in the way of authentic Tibetan artifacts and souvenirs. Prayer wheels, ornate teapots, and elegantly crafted symbols of Buddhism and worship are all available here alongside shawls and handicrafts from both Tibet and Kashmir. Prices can be negotiated and it is not hard to pick up a good deal.
 
The Shanti Stupa
Build in an attempt to preserve the numerous and invaluable examples of Buddhist culture in the region, this joint venture between Japan and Ladakh is a two story structure that encompasses worthwhile sights including a golden Buddha, relics of Buddhism and reliefs which demonstrate important stories associated with Buddhism including the story of the Buddha’s birth. The stupa is around 5km from Leh and extremely worth a visit for those interested in learning more about Buddhism or just visiting a beautiful and unique structure designed to commemorate the 2,500 years of the religion’s practice.

Hotels in Leh

Asia Guest House

Nice, clean, family run affair, the Asia is split between a more modern accommodation block (coming at a slightly higher cost) and a more run-down block that offers more budget rooms. A sparse single in the cheaper block will only set you back 100 rupees a night. A basic restaurant service operates in the nice, sunny dining area at a reasonable price
 
Jampal Guest House
Located away from the busy collection of hostels and hotels along Changspa Road (and so out of the alcohol-free zone), the Jampal is nice, quiet and the rooms start at the reasonable price of around 300 rupees per night before negotiations.

Leh Weather

Leh Travel Resources

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