Area: 97,000 sq kms out of which
nearly 38,000 sq. kms are under Chinese Occupation since 1962.
Population: Approx. 2.40 lakh in the 2 districts of Leh &
Languages: Ladakhi including Balti / Purgi, Shina or Dardic,
Urdu / Hindi.
Ethnic composition: Mongoloid/Tibetan, Dardic and assorted
Altitude: Leh 3505 m, Kargil 2750 m
Ladakh is a land abounding in awesome physical features, set
in an enormous and spectacular environment. Bounded by two of
the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Karakoram in the
north and the Great Himalaya in the south, it is traversed by
two other parallel chains, the Ladakh Range and the Zanskar
In geological terms, this is a young land, formed a few
million years ago. Its basic contours, uplifted by tectonic
movements, have been modified over the millennia by the
process of erosion due to wind and water, sculpted into the
form that we see today.
Location: Ladakh, J&K
Significance: Capital Of Ladakh.
Main Attractions: Bazaar, Old Town, The Leh Palace,
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Shanti Stupa, Ecology Centre, Sankar
Best Time To Visit: June To September
As one approaches Leh for the first time, via the sloping seep
of dust and pebbles that divide if from the floor of the Indus
Valley, one will have little difficulty imagining how the old
trans -Himalayan traders must have felt as they plodded in on
the caravan routes from Yarkhand and Tibet: a mixture of
relief at having crossed the mountains in one piece, and
anticipation of a relaxing spell in one of central Asia's most
scenic and atmospheric towns.
Sankar Gompa : This is small but more interesting place
to visit than the Leh Gompa and can easily be visited on foot.
The Sankar Gompa is an under Gompa of Spitok Gompa. At the
most only 20 monks live here and few are permanently in
residence although the monastery itself is fairly active. Thus
the Gompa is only open to the public from 7.00 am to 10.00 am
and from 5.00 to 7.00 pm. It is, however, well lit, so an
evening visit is worthwhile. At these times the monks will
welcome the visitors and may offer one yak butter tea, 'Tsampa'
and boiled and spiced mustard plant.
Chamba Temple :One place definitely worth walking through
the putrid smelling puddles to visit, however, is the Chamba
temple. It's not easy to find on your own; ask at the second
row of shops on the left after the big arch for the key keeper
(gonyer), who will show you the way. Hemmed in by dilapidated
medieval mansions, the one roomed shrine houses a colossal
image of Maitreya, the Buddha to come, and some wonderful old
Leh Palace : The old palace of the kings of Ladakh
overlooks the town from the southwest slope of the Tsemo hill.
It has eight storeys and was built by King Sengge Namgyal in
the 16th century, at much the same time as the famed Potala of
Lhasa - which it resembles. The damage to the palace, one side
is gaping open, stems from the Kashmiri invasions of the last
century. Like the Shey palace the Leh palace still belongs to
the Ladakhi royal family, who now live in their palace in Stok.
Leh Gompa : The Leh Gompa stands high above
the palace and also overlooks the ruins of the older palace of
the King of Tagpebums. The Red Gompa also known as Namgyal
Tsemo Gompa was built in 1430 by King Gvags-Pa-Bum-Ide and has
a fine three-storey high seated Buddha figure flanked by
Avalokitesvara on the right and Manjushri on the left. In all
there are three Gompas at the top of the hill, the topmost one
is in a very ruined condition but offers extremely fine views
over Leh and the surrounding countryside. To the right of the
palace one can see a Buddha painted on the rocks, a remnant of
an earlier monastery.
Other Leh Gompas
There are a number of lesser Gompas in the old town of Leh -
such as the Guru Lakhang to the left of the palace, beneath
the large Chorten. The Chamba Lakhang, south of the palace,
and the Chenrezig Lakhang, to the southeast, are similarly
less famous since they contain little of interest compared to
other more splendid Gompas around Leh. In the centre of Leh
the Buddhist association of Ladakh in 1957 built the new
monastery or Gompa Soma or Jokhang. It contains an image of
the Buddha Sakyamuni that was brought form Tibet. Meetings of
the Buddhist association are held in this monastery.
Kargil Town & Around
Kargil town (2,704 m), situated midway between Srinagar (204
Kms) and Leh, (234 kms) on the Srinagar-Leh highway, is the
second largest urban centre (approx. 8,000 inhabitants) of
Ladakh and headquarters of Kargil district. A quiet town now,
in the past it served as an important trade and transit centre
for the Central-Asian merchants due to its unique equidistant
location (about 200-230 kms) from Srinagar, Leh and Skardo,
all well known trading outposts on the old trade route
network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise
transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet,
Yarkand, Kashmir and Baltistan. Since 1975, travellers of
various nationalities have replaced traders of the past and
Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of
About 20-km south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed
across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans
Himalayan Valleys. The Panzela Top (4,401 m) is the
picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and
surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the
watershed to the head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar's
main tributary valleys, the majestic "Drang-Drung" glacier
looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and
snow, the Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in
Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the
cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or
Doda River, the main tributary of river Zanskar, rises.
How to Reach Ladakh
By Air: The nearest airport is Leh. There are flights
from Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar.
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.
Manali - Leh road remains open from mid June to early October.
Himachal Pradesh tourism, HRTC and Manali private bus union,
operates a daily bus services, which takes two days to reach
Leh, after a night halt at Sarchu or Darcha.