Leh (Jammu and Kashmir)
Introduction: A land of freezing winds and burning hot sunlight, Leh is a cold desert lying in the rain shadow of the Great Himalayas and other smaller ranges. Little rain and snow reaches this dry area, where natural forces have created a fantastic landscape. Surrounded by rugged mountains this land is completely different from the green landscape of many parts of the Himalayas. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karokaram, it is a land which has no match. History: The region of Leh once formed part of the erstwhile Kingdom of Leh and for nearly 900 years from the middle of the 10 th century existed as an independent kingdom. After 1531, it was periodically attacked by the Muslims from Kashmir, until it was finally annexed to Kashmir in the mid 19th century. Description: For visitors to Ladakh, the Leh Palace has always been a major attraction. The palace, that overlooks the Himalayan town of Leh, has a certain kind of mystery to it. Though the Leh Palace today stands in a state of desertion, you cannot afford to miss the site. But thanks to the government, attention has been paid to restore the glory of the past and the Kashmiri craftsmen are working on it. The palace has been built on the lines of the Potala Palace in Tibet.
Leh Quick facts
Leh Geography and Climate
Leh is located at [show location on an interactive map] 34.17° N 77.58° E. Its average elevation is 3,650 metres (11,975 feet). Average annual rainfall is 90 mm. Principal roads include the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway which connects Leh with Srinagar and the 473 km Leh-Manali Highway which connects Manali with Leh. Both roads are open only on a seasonal basis.Temperature in summer (June to September) can touch 30C and -20C in late December and January. Annual rainfall is 6".
Best time to visit Leh
Leh is open for tourist throughout the year, while the best period for tour and trek is from June to October. Most of the trekking routes are closed after November due to heavy snowfall at high passes except the Liker to Kahltsey (Sham) trek. The best period for Chadar trek is from January to Mid-March.
Leh is small enough to find your way around easily. The bus station lies just south of the town centre, while the road from the airport ends in the main street, Main Bazaar road, where there are plenty of shops and restaurants. The most popular area to eat, to reside and spend money is around Fort Road, while Changspa, about 2km northwest of central Leh, is a village with many guest houses frequented by long-term visitors. Sankar, a similar distance northeast, also has many family-run guest houses and is becoming more popular with visitors.
Leh Near Getaways
Leh is the administrative center of the Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. From the 17th century, it was the hub of the bustling caravan trade between Punjab and Central Asia and between Kashmir and Tibet
How to reach Leh by Road
There are two overland routes the Srinagar to Leh road remains open from early June to November. The Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation operates regular deluxe and ordinary bus services.
How to reach Leh by Rail
The nearest Rail Head is Jammu 620 km. from Leh. Jammu is connected to all parts of India through express trains.
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How to reach Leh by Air
Indian Air Lines operates regular flight to Leh from Delhi, twice a week between Leh to Jammu and once a week from Srinagar. Jet Airways Operates daily flight between Leh to Delhi.
Leh Festivals and culture
Hemis Festival in Leh: The festival, which runs for two days, is celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava. Dosmoche Festival: Dosmoche, the festival of the scapegoat, is celebrated with fervor at Leh. Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is et up outside Leh. Losar: This spectacular festival celebrates the Ladakhi/Tibetan new year. Festivities last for 2 weeks during December or January,depending on the Lunar calander . All Ladakhi Buddhists celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in gomp Sindhu Darshan: Festival, as the name suggests, is a celebration of river Sindhu, also known as the Indus. The Festival aims at projecting the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. Harvest Festival: The festival usually starts from 1st september and lasts till sepftember 15th. It is a colourful celebration of the rich,cultural diversity of Leh's people. Tak-Tok: This festival is celebrated at cave Gompa of Tak- Tok . It is among the major festivals of Ladakh. Celebrated in summer, it is yet another tourist attraction. The festival is celebrated with fanfare and locals from far-flung areas storm the place on the occasion.
The demeanor of the people is affected by their religion, especially among the women. Among the Buddhists, as also the Muslims of the Leh area, women not only work in the house and field, but also do business and interact freely with men other that their own relations. In Kargil and its adjoining regions on the other hand, it is only in the last few years that women are emerging from semi-seclusion and taking jobs other than traditional ones like farming and house -keeping. The natural joie-de-vivre of the Ladakhis is given free rein by the ancient traditions of the region.
Leh Religious Places
Buddhist Pilgrimage: Buddhism, especially the Trans-Himalayan Buddhism from Tibet is the very essence of living in Leh . Partly because of the royal patronage, the central part of Ladakh has the greatest concentration of major Gompas or monasteries. Monasteries of Phiyang, Hemis and Chemrey belong to the Namgyal dynasty period and are a major attraction during their monastic festivals. Stongdey: The monastery of Stongdey lies 18 kms. To the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla. An old foundation associated with the Tibetan Yogi, Marpa, Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. Zangla: Lying deep in the northern arm of Zanskar at the end of the 35 km long rough road from Padum, Zangla was being ruled by a titular king till his death a few years back. The old castle now in ruins except from a small chappel, occupies a hill, overlooking the desert valley below. Sani: Lying 6 km west of Padum, on the road to Kargil, the chief attraction of this picturesque village is the castle like monastery which is unique in its own kind. It is built on a level ground unlike other monasteries of the region.
Shanti Stupa: The Shanti Stupa was built by a Japanese order and was opened by the Dalai Lama in 1985. From the top, one can view the exotic locales nearby. The stupa is located at a distance of 3 km from the Fort Road.
Leh Entertainment and Night Life
Mountain climbing at Leh: The climbing season in leh extends from mid - May to mid -October, the ideal period being from June to September because it is during this time that Leh remains unaffected by the monsoon, which holds sway over most of the Himalayas. There are also two other places like Zanskar Range and Karakoram Range for more adventure in mountain climbing. The other main adventure trip in Leh is cycling it is an excellent planning trip option to enjoy at Leh. Cycling in Leh Himalayas has its own unique taste. You have a number of route options to choose from. Some of the most preferred cycling routes or itineraries are Leh to Alchi, Leh to Hemis, thorugh Khardungla Pass, and Jispa-Gondla, Marhi-Manali, are other trips that can be undertaken. Next important adventurous trip in Leh is jeep safari which makes to feel as exciting as we move forward. In Leh Tsmori-Ri, Nubra and Dah Hanu offer the toughest and most terrific Jeep safari in the Himalayas. Crossing the Khardungla pass, considered to be one of the highest motor able roads in the world is an experience in itself. The routes for jeeps safaris are Manali to Leh, Nubra valley, Zanskar Valley, Leh ? Kargil ? Padum ? Leh. Camel Safari:Tourists can enjoy the soft adventure of camel safari in Ladakh in the months of July, August and September. As one explores the rugged mountain terrain on a camel back, one feels far removed from the earth. Yak safari: A Yak Safari is organised on prior booking. All those who wish to experience Yak Safari in Ladakh should respect the humble attitude of this majestic animal. Travellers are also requested not to take the extreme hospitality of the yak for his weakness or laziness. Mountaineering: Leh is the paradise for mountaineering as there are so many peaks and mountains to climb. Only dare devils can dare to climb these. Climbing and conquering the lofty peaks of Leh needs extreme fitness. River rafting in Leh: Ladakh has three major rivers, where you can undertake this adventurous Sport. Indus in Leh region, Shayok in Nubra and Zanskar river in Zanskar. A range of rafting options are available on these rivers.
There is little in the way of nightlife in Leh. You can order a beer at many of the restaurants, but they close fairly early. For a more adventurous alternative, ask around the old town (or your guest house owner) for Chang the local home brew beer. It goes for about 15 IRP for a liter, bring your own bottle. There are a few springs scattered around Leh that provide a natural, plastic free change to bottled water.
Kidding around Leh
Wild life at Leh: It would be more exciting for the tourist if they make a visit to the wildlife at the Leh for the most uncommon species like Yak or Wild Ox, Urial The Great Tibetan Sheep, Urial or the Smallest Sheep, Bharal or Blue Sheep, Ibex, Snow Leopard and also bird species. The region of Ladakh is also known to shelter around 310 species of birds; though it is not regarded as a birding paradise. Most of the bird species found in Ladakh are breeding migrants. Polo : Polo is also very popular in Leh. Apart from a well-maintained polo ground, regular matches and competitions are organised during the Ladakh festival.
Popular items to shop at Leh are Pashmina shawls, stoles and other Pashmina wool garments. Locally handmade woolen socks, gloves, caps and sweaters are a favorite of tourists in Leh. Tibetan handicraft items including prayer wheels, Buddhist masks and Thangka paintings can be purchased in Leh. Tibetan silver jewelry and traditional Ladakhi jewelry with turquoise are also popular with tourists.
Famous To Eat at Leh
Vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkins, beetroots, and beans are cooked in a variety of different ways and accompany meat dishes. Mutton and chicken are the commonly consumed types of meat in Leh. Favorites include Thukpa, a thick soup with vegetables that provides a complete meal and delicious Momos or steamed dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables, accompanied by a fiery chili sauce. And should not forget to eat their apricot jam which is freshly available there
Leh Museum and Hill Stations
Hemis Gompa: Hemis, the largest monastery in Ladakh,was built in 1630. It belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. It lies at a distance of 45 km south of Leh. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh.
Gardens and Parks at Leh
Hemis National Park: The Hemis National Park is located in the Ladakh division of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Situated at a distance of around 40 km southeast of Leh, it takes its name from the world famous Buddhist Gompa situated here. The National Park is situated at the bank of river Indus and includes the catchment area of Markha, Sumdah, and Rumbak streams.
Lake at Leh
Pangong Lake: Situated at almost 14,256 feet, Pangong Lake is the world?s highest saltwater lake. The lake itself is almost 150 km long with just one third of it in India, the other 100km extending into Tibet, (now belonging to China).
Apricots that grow abundantly in Ladakh are another popular gift that you can take back as a delicious souvenir of your trip to Leh.
Leh Travel Tips
Tourist don't require permit for Leh; however, all foreigners are required to registered at Drass, Rumtse and Sarchu if they are traveling by road. Those traveling by air get themselves registered at the airport. The tourist are required to get a permit for restricted areas like Tsomoriri, Tsokar, Pangong Lakes, Dhahanu and Nubra Valley, which can be obtain through registered travel agencies. Make it sure to carry six photocopies of the permit while traveling, to submit at the Checking points. Credit Cards are not accepted by most of the hotels and travel agents except some antique shops so it would be better for tourists carry Indian currency. Acute mountain sickness can occur to any one at an altitude above 10,000 ft. from the sea level. The most common symptoms of acute mountain sickness are headache disturb sleep loss of appetite, nausea, coughing, irregular breathing, breathlessness, lassitude and lack of concentration. Since Leh Town is situated at an altitude of 11,500 ft. above sea level. It is advisable to take the following precautions, so as to acclimatize your body properly. Take complete rest for the first 36 hours of your arrival at Leh. However, this period may vary with different people. Your body should get used to the lower oxygen levels. In case you develop any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please consult a Doctor. The 10 essential things one requires while mountaineering are: a map, compass, extra clothing for changing, matches, fire starter, knife or multi purpose camp tool, sunglasses, extra food, first aid kit, headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries, sunscreen, water filter or other method of water purification and whistle as a crucial security item to keep handy when exploring unpredictable terrain.
Leh Tourist Offices
Leh Dy. Director Tourism, Leh-(Ladakh) 194101 Tel: 01982-252297, 252095 Kargil Tourist Officer, Kargil (Ladakh) 194103 Tel: 01985-232721, 232266 Fax: 01985-232266
The overall picture vis a vis banking in India may have undergone a radical transformation but in distant places like Ladakh, few if any multinational banks have branches. But Indian nationalised banks can be found in almost all places, except the most remote where no banks operate. These banks in Leh and Kargil will cash travellers cheques and convert currency but will not have ATMs. Banking hours usually are 10 AM to 2 PM, Monday to Friday and 10 AM to 12-noon on Saturdays. The SBI (State Bank of India) has branches in Leh and Kargil that are authorised to exchange foreign currency. Credit card acceptance is low in Ladakh - only a few commercial establishments in Leh and maybe Kargil will accept any tender other than currency.
Must do at Leh
Take permission before you click a photograph of any one. Don't take photo if they ask for money. Take water purification piles with you. And you can use boiled fresh water during the trek. Dzomsa Laundry sells high pressure boiled water for Rs.7 per liter. Bring you own water container.
Not to do at Leh
Do not use plastic bag since plastic is officially banned in Leh. Always separate and properly dispose off litter burns burnable, bury biodegradable materials while trekking. Don't disturb wild animals during the trek and should be aware of the highly sensitive ecology and the economy of the geographical and cultural landscape.