The remote land of Ladakh has always fascinated people. Images of a stark and barren landscape juxtaposed alongside lush green fields, monasteries precariously perched on mountaintops, and an intriguing blend of cultures.
Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, was once the central meeting-point for trade caravans from Central Asia and the plains of India. Religious ceremonies and monastic festivals are regular features of the Ladakhi landscape. Crafts such as metal-work, painting, weaving, and wood-carving are widely found in the region. Archery and polo are the traditional sports here.
For seven months a year, Leh airport is Ladakh's only link with the outside world. Transport, boarding and lodging facilities are available to suit every pocket and there is sufficient novelty, antiquity and hospitality for all.
Ladakh is one of the only few places where one can experience Tibetan Buddhism being practiced in its original form.
Population: Approx 15,000 people
Climate: Dry, warm days with temperatures ranging from 25°C in summer to 10°C in winter and cool nights between 8°C and 14°C with heavy snowfall in winter should sum it up. Winters can be particularly harsh with temperatures going down to the minus figures.
Main Language(s): Hindi and English Time Zone: GMT + 05:30 Phone Area Code: 01982
Best Time To Visit: Throughout the year, but the extreme winters can be harsh on your system if you are travelling here for the first time. June through November are the best months to visit.
Airport Distance from City Center: 4 kms Taxi Rates from Airport to City: Rs.150 Approximately
40 kms from Leh, Hemis is one of the richest, biggest and most famous monasteries in Ladakh. Its popularity stems from the major annual festival held during summer in honour of their Guru Padma Sambhava 's birth anniversary. It was built during the 1630s. Of its many frescoes, the most famous is the Wheel of Life.Shankar GompaThe Shankar Gompa (monastery) is famous for its numerous statues of pure gold and a number of interesting paintings. Close by are the Leh Palace and the cottage industries emporium.Alchi Gompa70 Kms from Leh on banks of the Indus, is Alchi Gompa dating back a thousand years. One of its walls features thousands of miniature-sized pictures of the Buddha. Three large sized images made of clay and painted brightly are its focal attraction. This monastery consists of six temples, with seated statues of Buddha and exquisite paintings. Its exquisitely painted walls depict the events of the Buddha 's life, lamas and musicians.Leh - SheyShey, about 15 kms from Leh was once the residence of the royal family and is famous for its gilded statue of Buddha that stands at a height of 7.5 meters. A visit to this monastery, however, needs prior permission from the Lama.Leh - StokStok was the Palace of the banished royal family. This is the only inhabited palace in Ladakh. A museum in the palace displays fabulous period costumes and jewellery of the royalty. Interesting historical objects like coins, seals, armour, weapons, precious jade and porcelain can also be found on display. The palace is about 200 years old.Leh - LamayuruThe oldest holy site in Ladakh, Lamayuru was once a lake. According to legend it was blessed by a lama and the water of the lake receded into the mountains leaving place for the monastery to be built. It is also famous for being a 'free-zone' since not even a criminal can be apprehended in this place. It is mostly in ruins and only the main hall exists today.Leh - LikirThis monastery dates back to the 18th century. Majestically situated, it commands a spectacular view. There is a statue of the Matreya Buddha within the Likir Gompa. The Matreya Buddha is the incarnation of Buddha ready to come into the universe.Leh - Spituk8 kms from Leh, Spituk stands on top of a hillock overlooking the Indus valley. This 15th century monastery houses a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, and an awe-inspiring image of Kali. The face of the Kali image is kept covered and revealed only at the annual function in January every two years.Leh - ThikseyA fine example of Ladakhi architecture, Thiksey is one of the largest and most impressive gompas. There are several temples in this gompa containing images, stupas and exquisite wall paintings. It also houses a two - storeyed statue of Buddha which has the main prayer hall around its shoulder. This monastery has an outstanding collection of art in its chambers.
Leh has its own distinct cuisine, totally different from Chinese food. Flat noodles and momo dumplings are quite popular, though not available everywhere. The main Ladakhi dish, thukpa, is a stew of meat and vegetables. In most parts of Ladakh it is thickened with barley-flour. There are numerous Tibetan restaurants in Leh, as well as some multi-cuisine restaurants.
Devi Tibetan Restaurant
Near the State Bank of India
Near the State Bank of India
Tibetan Friends Corner
Near the Taxi stand
Wok Tibetan Kitchen
Hemis festival: One of the festivals, which are famous and celebrated with zest, is the Hemis festival. Hemis is the biggest monastery of Ladakh and the spiritual centre of Buddhists. People from all over Ladakh come to attend this two day long festival which is held end of June. Before the festival begins there is seven days of prayers in the monastery. The most impressive part of the festival is the famous mask dance which lamas of the monastery perform continuously for two days. The masks represent various gods and demons. The whole festival signifies the triumph of good over evil. The day marks the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of the red sect.
Other monasteries also hold similar festivals at different times of the year.
Ladakhi Festival: This festival showcases the best in Ladakhi culture and traditional sports like archery and polo. Admission to all events is free. The polo grounds within Leh is the hub of most activities. The inauguration ceremony is a must see. Colourful processions start the parade. Contingents in their traditional costumes come from every part of the district. Some contingents represent particular arts (theatre for instance), rather than regions. The inaugural show at the polo ground is virtually an abridged version of the entire festival.
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