Nestling in a side valley of the Indus, about 10 kms from the main course of the river, is the hill station of Leh, the most important town in Ladakh. Spread over dusty mountainsides with a main street and narrow winding by-lanes, Leh has a distinct character that transports you back in time.
The old palace perched on a hilltop guards flat roof houses and the main bazaar. A major trading point where caravans came in from distant lands of Yarkand, Kashgar, Tibet, Kashmir, and northern India, the market once bustled with activity. Locals sold tea, salt, wool and semi-precious stones.
Now, the town is crowded with tourists, jostling their way along the main street during the peak summer season. Due to its strategic importance for India, Leh also has a large military presence, and a major part of the town’s income comes from spending by the armed forces. Since Ladakh was opened up to foreign tourists in 1974, tourism has also become one of the major sources of income generation.
Sitting at 3,500 metres above sea level, the air is rarefied and outsiders need time to get acclimatised. After arriving, give at least 48 hours before undertaking any vigorous climbing or treks. The most common symptom of high altitude sickness is headache and nausea, which usually goes within a day or two.
How to Reach Leh?
By Air : Leh is connected by flight service that comes in to the airport from Delhi. the airport is located 5kms from town. From the airport one can take a bus or shared jeep-taxis into the town. the flights are at best erratic and depend on the weather conditions prevailing in Leh and flights can get cancelled at short notice. Book your flight well in advance as flights get full very fast and it may not be possible to get a seat at the last minute.
By Rail : There is no train service to Leh.
By Road : Leh is connected by two major highway routes, one to Manali and the other to Srinagar. Both traverse treacherous mountain routes and high passes, many times getting blocked due to landslides. The Leh-Srinagar road runs close to the border with Pakistan and is often blocked by the army. The road connection to Leh is open only in the summer months from mid-June till end of September. You can do the route either by private cars and jeeps or by the tourist buses that run from Manali. Buses come in to the town bus stand, close to the main bazaar and most of the hotels.
Best Time to Visit Leh
The best time to visit Leh is in the summer from May till the end of September. At this time the weather is very pleasant and festivities are in the air with the Ladakh Festival taking place. July and August are thepeak tourist months in Leh with temperatures perfect for sightseeing. The monasteries also hold their celebrations at this time of the year.
The winter months from December till the end of March are not recommended times to visit Leh as temperatures dip below freezing.
Things to do in Leh
In Leh the list of things to do includes visiting various monasteries, palaces and few mosques. Head to nearby places like Stok Palace or shop for Ladakhi or Tibetan handicrafts. Savour the variety of Tibetan cuisine available here or revel in the various festivals celebrated here.
Places Near Leh
Some of the places near Leh that you can visit are the various important gompas like Hemis Gompa, Stok Palace, Thiksey Gompa, Shey Palace, Stok Palace, and Museum, Alchi Choskor and Lamayuru Gompa.
Other interesting places around Leh that you can visit are the smaller shrines and a bust of the founder of Hemis. The monastery is well connected from Leh, with buses making a 3-hour tour and then returning back. It is also possible to stay in tented accommodation or a simple guesthouse to attend the early morning prayers.
Hotels in Leh – Choice is Yours
Some Hotels in Leh are also available.