Sights in Ladakh
Castles, Palaces & Mansions

Leh Palace

Bearing a passing similarity to the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet), this nine-storey dun-coloured palace took shape under 17th-century king Sengge Namgyal. Essentially it has been unoccupied since the Ladakhi royals were stripped of power and shuffled off to Stok in 1846.
Tsemo Fort
Visible from virtually everywhere in Leh, 16th-century Tsemo (Victory) Fort is a defining landmark that crowns the top of Palace Ridge. Up close, it’s surprisingly small and the shattered walls contain little more than flapping prayer flags, but scrambling around them provides a precarious frisson.
Spituk Gompa

Founded in the late 14th century as See-Thub (‘Exemplary’) Monastery, impressive Spituk Gompa is incongruously perched overlooking the southern end of Leh’s airport runway around 5km from town. Multiple mud-brick buildings tumble merrily down a steep hillock towards Spituk village on the Indus riverbank.
Stok Palace

Ladakh’s former royal family were stripped of their power in 1846 and now live a comparatively modest life, dividing their time between a private mansion in Manali and the stately Stok Palace . Vaguely potala-like and with wobbly, colourful window frames, the palace is photogenic despite a giant telecommunication tower that looms directly behind.
Stakna Gompa

Small but visually impressive, the 1618 Stakna Gompa crowns a rocky outcrop just 800m across the Indus from Km449 (where Leh–Thiksey buses terminate), though the gompa’s winding access road adds another 900m. The narrow suspension bridge is just wide enough for small taxi-vans. Off the gompa’s small central courtyard, four rooms with vivid new Tantric murals can be visited.

As you wander north Leh’s rural qualities and the impressive mountain setting become swiftly apparent. Captivating footpaths follow the remarkable network of canal streams, with a relatively accessible yet captivating area around little Sankar Gompa .
Wanla Gompa

Above Wanla village, tiny medieval Wanla Gompa is dramatically perched on a towering knife-edge ridge flanked by two shattered tower remnants of a now-destroyed 14th-century fortress. Its carved porch is reminiscent of Alchi’s and a single, spookily dark chamber contains three large statues backed by ancient smoke-blackened murals.
Likir Gompa

15th-century Likir Gompa very photogenically covers a hillside with archetypal Tibetan structures. The first prayer hall to the right on entry has seats allocated for both the Dalai Lama and his brother, Likir’s honourary head lama. After two more colourful prayer halls you climb to the cute, one-room museum .
Thekchhok Gompa
Chemrey village is dominated by the beautifully proportioned Thekchhok Gompa . A maze of pathways leads up to the main complex where the central 17th-century prayer hall has wonderfully wobbly wooden pillars. The Lamalakhang above has murals atmospherically blackened to semi-invisibility by butter-lamp smoke.
Naropa Royal Palace
Once Ladakh’s summer capital, Shey is an attractively green, pond-dappled oasis from which rises a central dry rocky ridge, inscribed with roadside Buddha carvings . The ridge is topped by the small if photogenic Naropa Royal Palace .
Matho Gompa
Sakya-Buddhist Matho Gompa is perched on a colourfully stratified ridge above Matho village. Most of the early-15th-century monastery has been replaced by more modern structures in recent years, but it’s still worth the trip for the stupendous valley views

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