The Hemis High Altitude National Park that extends over 600 sq. km. is named after the famous monastery, Hemis gompa that is situated 40 km. southeast of Leh. Located on the west bank of the Indus River, it comprises the catchments of Markha, Rumbak and Sumdah nalas. It is known for some rare species like the bharal and the snow leopard. Hemis has in fact been identified as a snow leopard reserve under a project launched by the Central Government aimed at conserving the species, its prey base and its fragile mountainous home.

Best season

The climate is extreme and shows high fluctuations both on a daily and seasonal basis. Precipitation is quite low, averaging at 160.5 mm. In winter, temperatures are close to freezing point during the day. The Zanskar River and its tributaries are frozen and temperatures drop to as low as -150C to -200C at night. Since the winters are very harsh, so it’s best to plan a trip during the summer. April to June and September to December are the best seasons for bird-watching. For animal viewing, September to June is suitable.

Transport

  • By Air: From June to September, one can fly to Leh from Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar or Jammu. Indian Airlines is the only airline with flights to Leh. In winter, however, proceeding by road is a safer option.
  • By Road: Approachable by road from Leh, this national park contains several camping sites. The area is barren and rocky, covered only sparsely with vegetation. There is a daily bus service from Leh to Hemis.
  • On foot: The route from the Spituk Gompa just below Leh, through Jingchen valley onto Gandu La and the Markha valley, proceeding to Hemis via Kongmaru La is a fabled trek that the adventurous would be happy to experience.

Things to do

  • Enjoy birdwatching in the Rumbak Valley
  • Spot the snow leopards by trekking in the park.
  • Travelers can also try the Markha Valley Trek which goes inside Hemis.

Amidst the stark and barren Nubra valley stands the beautiful and milky white Diskit monastery. The oldest and largest monastery in Nubra, Diskit monastery is located at an altitude of 3142 meters. It is approachable by a Diskit village through a rugged and dusty road that crosses a stream in the middle of the village. In the 14th century, Nubra Valley was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, the disciple of Tsong Khapa. Currently, it belongs to the yellow hat sect of Buddhism, also known as the Gelugpa order. And under the control of the Thiksey monastery and hence, considered a sub-gompa of Thiksey. The monastery is beautiful inside out. Within the Tibetian style Gompa, there are beautiful frescos and gompas. An iconic feature of the monastery is the statue of Cho Rinpoche (Crowned Buddha), which is a part of the prayer hall. Within the prayer hall, there are big drums and various images of the guardian deities. The monastery also runs an NGO by the name of the “Tibet Support Group.” Unmissable part of the monastery is the panoramic views of Nubra Valley that one can get to see from the top of the monastery.

Getting There

Most efficient way of reaching Nubra is to take a shared bus or taxi from Leh or Sumur. From Leh, most of the transports depart via the Khardung La pass; another longer and the less used route take the (almost as high) Wari La pass. Once in Nubra, take a taxi to reach the various attractions. Diskit monastery is located at an altitude of 3142 meters so as to reach here tourists can drive or take a walk along the mani walls and chortens.

Best time to visit

July to September will be the best time to plan a visit the Diskit Monastery as this when the roads are clear. Dosmoche festival, held during the month of February, is also a good time to plan visit to the Diskit Monastery.

Things to Do

Impressive 106 feet long statue of the Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha facing the Shyok River on top of a hill below the monastery is a must visit.

Pangong Lake, one of the most famous high altitude lakes in Leh Ladakh. This scenic wonder derives its name from the Tibetan word, “Pangong Tso”, which means “high grassland lake”. You could spend hours in contemplation here, and still not have enough of its beauty. Pangong Tso is also known to change colors, appearing blue, green and red at different times of a day. If you have decided to go on a trip to Ladakh anytime soon, don’t forget to visit Pangong Lake. The beauty which awaits you there cannot be described in words. It has to be seen, felt and absorbed all by yourself.

Things to do at Pangong

The beauty of Pangong Lake is in itself a reason enough to plan a trip there. However, there are other things to do at Pangong Tso that will keep you excited during the duration of your stay here. One of them is camping. Camping at the Pangong Lake can be an enthralling experience. Place a bonfire, get a barbecue going and enjoy the beauty surrounding you – it can’t get better than this!

Although leaving the warmth of your camp is extremely difficult, go ahead and step out. During the night, the stars of the sky shine in all their glory. The feeling you get is that of oneness, of the skies and the universe immersing themselves in you. At dawn, get out of your camp and watch the sunrise. Watch, as the rising sun gradually disperses the darkness and ushers in the light. Carry a camera with you, and capture these splendid moments while you spend a wonderful time at one of the best lakes in India.

A few of the migratory birds also flock here. This makes the site heaven for the bird watching enthusiasts. You can further extend your trip to Tso Kar.

The route to Pangong Lake is as beautiful as the lake itself. To get a glimpse of this beauty, stop about 10 km from before Pangong Tso, if you are coming from Leh. You will be greeted by a few signboards saying, “Stop here to see rare endemic species Marmot”. Marmots are large squirrels which are found in mountainous areas and reside in burrows. Despite being quite dodgy, they do come out from their potholes during the day. Thus, there is a good chance of spotting them.

An adventure is all about taking on challenges and being brave enough to try anything unusual. One of the unusual things to do in Pangong Lake is to take a dip in its cold and brackish waters. Usually, tourists leave Pangong Tso after sunrise as they have to reach Leh before sunset. Before doing so, take a dip in the lake. Yes, it sounds crazy, and you would be crazy enough to try it. But craziness is what makes an adventure thrilling and memorable.

The face of the Ladakh Tourism, the white-domes Shanti Stupa was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura as a part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The stupa is a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. Within the stupa, there are relics of the Buddha, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa is spread over two levels. First level has Buddha idol, and second features relics depicting the “birth” of Buddha, the death of Buddha (mahanirvana) and Buddha “defeating the devils” while meditating.
Getting There

Located at an altitude of 3,609 metres (11,841 ft), Shanti Stupa can be reached by car or by climbing a series of 500 steep steps to the hilltop. Closest landmark to the Shantii Stupa is Leh Palace.
Timings:

Things to Do

One can also visit the Leh Palace, which is quite close to the Shanti Stupa. Don’t forget to click some amazing pictures against the backdrop of the stupa. From here, the view of Leh is extremely beautiful. Tourists can also consider visiting the market nearby the Shanti Stupa to pick some local handicrafts.

In your travels around Leh Ladakh, you will come across fascinating sights which arouse your curiosity to no end. One such sight awaits you in the form of Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, the place where gravity takes a backseat. Lying at a distance of around 30km from the town of Leh, the Magnetic Hill is marked by a yellow signboard which reads “The Phenomenon That Defies Gravity”. It also instructs you to park your vehicles in the box marked with a white point on the road, which is known as the Magnetic Road. When parked at the indicated spot, vehicles begin moving forward at a speed of almost 20km/h.

Magnetic Hill lies on the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway in the Trans-Himalayan region. To the east of the Magnetic Hill flows the Sindhu River, making the surroundings a photographer’s delight.