Ladakh has always fascinated me. As part of the Indian army family, I have grown up on stories of this area. My dad also has a few anecdotes from the time he was in Leh and how he and his mates managed to have fun even through the harsh climate and the hardships. The stories get more entertaining with time.

But what kept me from planning a Leh trip was that I wanted to spend a couple of weeks to cover everything I had on my bucket-list. So when the stars aligned, August had enough holidays for a longer trip. Two of our good friends also agreed to join us for this epic journey.

After a pit stop in Delhi to meet up with friends’ families, we took a direct flight to Leh. Ladakh is also connected by road with Manali and Srinagar and a road trip by either route is a memorable experience.

As I stepped out of the plane, I was speechless. I have seen my share of mountains, but the grand snow capped mountains of Ladakh tell a story and I was hooked on.

The view that welcomes you at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Leh

Leh, the capital city was founded in 14th century and was pronounced as Sle or Gle but with time started being called “Leh” by Moravian missionaries. I recommend spending atleast two days in Leh city to acclimatise well before journeying further inside to the beautiful lakes and valleys.

Shanti StupaΒ 

A symbol of peace offering beautiful panoramic views of Leh city surrounded by mountains. Sunrises and sunsets provide the best views. The stupa is lit up after dark and is the perfect place to find your inner peace.

Shanti Stupa in Leh City

Breathtaking view of the blue sky, brown mountains and the rustic villages with shades of green

Leh Royal Palace

The Leh palace is a distinct nine storeyed fortress that is easily accessible through the bazaar road. It was built in 16th century and was vacated by the royal family when they had to move to Stok palace on being attacked by Dogra forces. The palace architecture is influenced by Tibetan architecture and is made up of mud, sand, wood and stones. The Victory tower above the palace commemorates the brave Ladakhi soldiers who fought invaders in 16th century.

The view of the city from the upper windows of the palace

Hall of Fame

This is a military museum which documents various operations in the region and the superhuman courage of the Indian army. It is a tribute to our fallen heroes and includes a war memorial. The museum also displays the history and culture of ladakhis and their relationship with the army.

I was inspired, nostalgic and proud of our forces who sacrifice so much protecting us. There is “Beating Retreat Ceremony” by the army while lowering the flag and a very moving light and sound show is screened every evening.

Spituk Gompa

Ladakh has many beautiful monasteries and in most of them you need to sweat a bit to reach the top. But all the exercise is worth it as without exception, the panoramic views from the top are fabulous and vouch for great photography.

Do ensure you visit as many monasteries possible as they give you an insight into the Buddhist culture and way of life of the monks and people living in the monasteries.

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib

This Gurudwara is located at 25 kms from Leh on Leh Kargil road and has a folktale associated with it. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is very well respected in Ladakh and Tibetan Buddhist consider him a saint. Guru Nanak had stopped here to rest on his way back from Tibet, Nepal and Sikkim in 1517.

According to local belief, there lived a demon on the mountain opposite to the gurudwara and he used to trouble the locals. He saw the Guru meditating and hurled a huge boulder at him to kill him. When the boulder touched Guru Nanak’s body it transformed into soft was and his body got imprinted in it. Having believed that the Guru is dead, the demon climbed down the mountain. But on seeing the Guru unharmed and still meditating, he realised Guru’s divine powers and pledged his obedience to him. The boulder with Guru Nanak’s imprint and the demon’s footprint is sheltered by the Gurudwara. A trek up the mountain is a must for a great view of the barren mountains and panoramic beauty.

Magnetic Hill

I was fascinated by the phenomenon at Magnetic Hill and the legends tied to it. This small stretch on Leh-Srinagar highway appears to be going uphill however if you put your vehicle in neutral in the box marked on the road by BRO it moves ahead instead of going back downhill.

The locals believe that the mountains have so much of magnetic force that they can pull the vehicles uphill. Some also believe that the road is a path to heaven and only the deserving ones get pulled uphill. I was intrigued to find the right answer and once I had network, Mr Google answered – Optical illusion.

Sangam Point (Confluence of Indus and Zanskar)

A few kms ahead of Magnetic Hill is the meeting point of Indus and Zanskar river and the world’s highest rafting point. There are many options for the rafting routes depending on difficulty level and time. Cost ranges from Rs 1500 to Rs 3000 (under $50)

Main Bazaar

We recommend you end the day with a trip to the main bazaar which is close to Leh palace. The market buzzes with energy in the evening with lots of shops and restaurants. Perfect place to buy some Pashmina shawls,Tibetan souvenirs and semi precious jewellery. The small local restaurants are great places to try some local food like Tigmo (fermented and steamed bread with stew) or Thupka (Tibetan comfort soup with noodles and veggies). You can also ask for butter tea or Kahwah to go with your food.

Thupka

The beauty of Leh is in it’s magnanimity, it’s ruggedness and it’s honest to god people. The Ladakhis are very friendly and will happily share a tale or two with you. We made many friends on the way and their contentment and simple way of living humbled us.

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73 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! Your post has brought back my memories of Ladakh trip. Ladakh holds a special place in my heart. The rich culture, yummy food, friendly people and awe-inspiring places – everything is simply amazing about this place. I can’t wait to go back.

  2. There is nothing about Ladakh that will not fail to mesmerize me. Be it a photograph or an article, it always captures my imagination and I can almost feel the cold mountain air on my face. It is absolutely sound advice to spend a couple of days in Leh before venturing further, and of course there are so many sights and experiences waiting in Leh itself.

    • That’s so true about Ladakh. When I was writing this post, I felt like I was back there amongst the magnanimous snow peaked mountains. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Leh is always on my wish list. You have provided some useful information about Leh city tour. I would also love to mingle with friendly and honest locals and try out some Tibetan food. I am saving this as it is a useful handy guide.

  4. Leh looks like an amazing travel destination to visit with its picturesque natural landscapes all around as well as the rich culture evident in the area. I’d love to visit it to take in all the sights and sounds for myself as well!

  5. Leh definitely looks like other worldly. It is so beautiful. The views from the plane are breathtaking. I hope when I visit here, the day is bright enough so that I get similar views. The mountains against the blue sky and the green pastures look equally enchanting!

  6. I visited Ladakh a couple of years back and I absolutely fell in love with this place. The beautiful vistas, snaking rivers, majestic mountains and heart-warming hospitality – everything around swayed my heart. Your post just refreshed my memories of the trip. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  7. The landscapes of Ladakh are so awe inspiring. I’m also a fan of the food and can gorge on thupka or tingmos any time of the day. I’ve not yet made my way there though. It is something I will do sooner than later, and your recommendations give me a handy guide.

  8. Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful photos! Isn’t it amazing how such variety of colors and beauty can be found in Nature itself? Thanks for sharing about this mesmerizing place πŸ™‚

  9. Leh has always been on my list of places to visit, but somehow we never managed to travel there. I think thoughts of the place being way too high, up there in the clouds, altitude sickness, et al, have scared us way too much. Your pics make me want to plan a visit right away! I think I’ll wait for my toddler to grow up a bit till we really go, though. πŸ˜€

    • I would agree, that kind of thoughts kept me from planning a trip to Leh for many years but I guess my curiosity got better. Also traveling with a toddler is not that difficult if you acclimatize well. Kids actually adapt better than adults and are much stronger than we give them credit for. I speak from experience with our toddler πŸ˜‰

  10. It’s in my bucket list to travel and see so many historical places, the imagery in this is wondeful! It makes me just want to jet off and explore

  11. Oh wow these pictures are just gorgeous! I love all the historical elements. Looks like a place to add to the bucket list!

  12. Wow, this looks amazing. I’ll be showing this to my daughter tomorrow as she’s developing an interest in India.

  13. That reminds me of some places I’ve been to in Nepal. I remember people spinning those wheels in prayer. So interesting!

  14. Such awesome photos. I don’t travel anymore except vicariously through bloggers. The stew looked different, although I would like to try it. The architecture is grand as well as the mountains. I love the photo of the snow capped mountains with the sky behind – beautiful!

  15. Your experience of this place is great and the photographs really make the place stand out for anyone looking to visit. It sounds like you had a lovely time.

  16. Those mountains are incredible and you have captured them so well! Sometimes it is hard to do nature justice with a camera, but you have certainly achieved that. What beauty! Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. You are very lucky to have gotten the possibility to make this trip! Trips are good for the souls, that’s a sure thing! The city is gorgeous and your adventures there are wonderful! Now you’ve got some stories to tell your family about Leh! )))

  18. This is another side of India that I have never seen before. Leh has so many interesting tourist attractions, and it’s great to discover all of them through your photos.

  19. This is a beautiful breakdown of this gorgeous city. I’ve always dreamed of visiting India. The architecture and views you show are amazing!

  20. I have never been to Leh City but I always wanted to visit. Such a wonderful place. This is truly a bucket lists material.

  21. This is a beautiful city! I’d love to go one day. I have never been to India but my uncle has lived there and he loved it.

  22. The landscape alone looks absolutely incredible and worth the trip to get there! Thank you for sharing your journey, I’ll need to keep this in mind when planning a trip next year!

  23. I never really had an urge to visit this country and I think it is because of a learning curve of the area and the negative things I heard. The pictures are beautiful and my mind is changing!

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