LEH, LADAKH - THE CHARM OF THE HIMALAYAS
LEH, INDIA’S LITTLE TIBET
In the Ladakh region, of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, we found Leh. A high-desert city nestled in the great Indian Himalayas. Enveloped by snow capped mountains and highly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, the charm of Leh will instantly captivate.
Dotted with stupas and crumbling mud-brick Ladakhi houses, the Old Town is spread across the southern slope of the hill. Narrow winding alleys and stairways burrow beneath and between one of the last well preserved towns in the Himalayan region. Home to the local community who live in their ancestral houses through the centuries, Leh's Old Town preserves the Ladakhs 'Living Heritage' and the preservation of the town. This is an important task to prevent it from being wiped away by the wave of unplanned modernization.
Sitting high up on the hill and dominating from above situates the Leh Palace. Built in the 17th century, the Leh Palace now sits as ruins, however, it is in the process of being restored. Nine stories high and modeled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, the Leh Palace is still a thing of beauty. It holds 400 years of history with panoramic and magnificent views over the city of Leh and surroundings.
Beneath the Old Town, the bustling bazaar area is draped in a thick veneer of souvenir shops, tour agencies and restaurants. Colourful prayer flags strung overhead to spread good fortune of the Buddhist beliefs, it too comes across in the tranquil nature and hospitable welcoming from the people of Leh. Strolling the streets will take you through a web of lanes filled with locals going about their day. Cooking traditional dishes and breads in their tandoor ovens and tiny kitchens. All of this meanwhile passing numerous stray animals on your journey. Dogs, puppies, donkeys as well as cows are a regular occurrence around the streets of Leh and to us, always an opportunity to make new friends.
Although walking around Leh is the best way to see the town itself, it is at an immense amount of effort. Leh sits at 3524 meters altitude and holds a big risk factor to many if acclimatization precautions are not taken correctly. We did the road trip driving from Manali to leh, so we had slowly acclimatized to this altitude over 2 days. This helped on the arrival, but still proved to be somewhat difficult to become accustomed to. The struggle to get enough breath and oxygen is real... slow and steady is always necessary.
With so much still undiscovered and undocumented, Leh has a lot to offer to many. Unbelievable mountains, lakes and monasteries provide adventure for people willing to explore the surroundings of Leh City. Undoubtedly a place that is too easy to fall in love with. It allows you to take in such natural beauty and appreciate nature and a simple way of life in a place filled with so much history and culture. Leh, Ladakh.... the light of the Himalayas.
WORDS: TRACEY HARRIS
PHOTOGRAPHY: KRISTEL CHAPLIN
WHERE TO STAY IN LEH
Where to stay : There are ample hotels in Leh. We stayed off the Main Bazaar Street, highly recommended as everything is in walking distance. Click -here- for an idea of where to stay.
GETTING TO LEH
For the best route, journey from Manali to Leh on the Himalayan highway. This way you can fly out of Leh to your next destination and the road trip is unbelievable - Read about our trip here
WHAT TO DO IN LEH
If you have time, make your way out to Pangong Tso Lake - It is a 5 hour drive from Leh. There are many tour agencies in town near Main Bazaar street for you to book through.
If you fly in to Leh, give yourself a few days to acclimatize. The last thing you want is altitude sickness.
Buy acclimatization tablets. You can also find these around the city of Leh