Five things to do in…Where? Leh? Lay? Le? What?
Leh (pronounced lay) is in northern India. It is in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Zanskar range of the Himalayas acts as a rain shadow for the region, making Leh a desert. Average elevation is 11,000 feet.
Leh is very popular with Indians. In 2009 a movie called 3 Idiots in Pangong was released. Because of the popularity of the movie, Indians are clambering to holiday in Ladakh. Consequently, during the high season (summer), it can become quite crowded.
Pangong Lake is a five hour car ride from Leh. So what is there to do in Leh?
Sightseeing. Likir Monastery, Alchi Monastery are close by. Likir is a large monastery, while Alchi is an archeology site in which monks still live and work.
Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace are in the middle of Leh Town. They are both very crowded with taxis carrying tourists.
Trekking in the Himalayas. You don’t need a guide to do this. The trails are well maintained and used. Reservations are required with the homestays, however. The trailhead is at Zingchen in Hemis National Park. A fee is required to enter the park. There is a village called Rumbak that has 8 or 9 homestays. The next stop is Yurutse. Yurutse is not a village, just one large house. After crossing the Ganda La pass at 15,900 feet, and descending into the Markha Valley, the trail leads to Kaya and another homestay. The homestay hosts are wonderful and it’s great meeting other trekkers.
Shopping. Leh does not lack for shops. Pashminas and jewelry are big items, as are souvenir shops and hiking shops. Bargaining is allowed. The shopkeepers will tell you a high number. You can decide if you want to pay that or bargain.
Motorcycle tours. Perhaps when you think of kicking up dust, you’re not thinking of dust on your shoes. There are many places in Leh to rent a motorcycle. You can go your own way or have a guide.
River rafting. The Indus and the Zanskar rivers both pass near Leh. The Indus has grade 1, 2 and 3 rapids. Tour companies offer day trips or longer trips of several days with sightseeing and camping.
I used an organization called Overland Escape. One low, low price covered 4 days in a hotel with 3 meals a day if I wished, a guide on the trek, homestays and 2 days of sightseeing with a driver. Don’t miss the Stok Palace Museum and the Hall of Fame. The Stok Palace Museum chronicles the royal family when Ladakh was a kingdom. The Hall of Fame is a military museum. The Indian military is quite impressive. The museum showcases the military’s history, as well as equipment. Hemis Monastery is a short drive away. This is the largest monastery in the region. This monastery also has small boy monks.
The Dalai Lama is revered in this area, as most people are Buddhist. He has several homes in this area. There are two mosques in Leh and one church.