Leh, the capital of Ladakh, has been an important junction on the famous Silk Route of the olden times. It is also the second largest district of the country spreading in an area of 45,110 sq km. Located at an altitude of 11,562 ft, the scenic destination is still dominated by the ruins of the Leh Palace (a major tourist attraction). The former residence of the royal family of Ladakh is built on the lines of the Potala Palace, Tibet. It boasts of being home to several known ancient Buddhist monasteries. It is one of the most-visited destinations in Ladakh and has a lot to offer.
The town is located towards the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir, at an altitude of 3505 meters above sea level. The area is watered by the Zanskar river which flows into the Indus river. There are two routes to Leh- one from Manali in the south and another from Srinagar in the west.
The biggest draw for visitors coming to Leh is the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and historical monuments. The most impressive of all is the famous Shanti Stupa, located just outside the town. Besides Shanti Stupa, there is an 800 year old Kali Mandir which houses an exquisite collection of masks.
Then there is the 17th century Leh Palace, built in traditional Tibetan style, which offers breathtaking views of the town. Towards the southeast direction, there is the Thiksey monastery from where one can enjoy amazing views of the sunset. The Hemis monastery is the richest and oldest monastery in Ladakh.
The most important festival is the 2 days Ladakh festival, which is held during the 1st two weeks of September. It starts in Leh with a huge parade through the streets. The villagers turn up in traditional attire and sing folk songs, supported by an orchestra. The masked monks from selected monasteries perform dances which signify demolition of evil spirits. Then there is Hemis festival which takes place in June/July and lasts for 2 days. It is held at the Hemis Gompa to commemorate the birth of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism.
The best time to visit Leh is between May to September, when the weather is quite genial. Since Ladakh doesn't experience heavy rainfall, therefore monsoon is the best time to visit this region.
There are flights to Leh from Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu on a regular basis. During the first few months of the year, when the snow gets melted, the roads to the town are open. For those interested in biking tour, they can use Manali-Leh highway and Srinagar-Leh highway from around June to October. One can also use bus, taxi and jeep services from here.
Accommodation in Ladakh ranges between economy to deluxe hotels. These hotels are equipped with modern facilities such as clean rooms, internet, hot water and delightful garden. Some major hotel names include Oriental Guesthouse, Spic n Span hotel and the Grand Dragon hotel. Besides these hotels, one can choose to stay in people's houses at local villages. Here you can enjoy traditional home cooked food prepared by the families and interact with local farmers.