When I think of my perfect vacation, Leh is the one place that immediately springs to my mind. I was there in August last year. With barren landscapes like no other place in India, and changes in scenery every few kilometres, it was truly a surreal experience to be in Leh. From spectacular mountain views to exploring the unique Tibetan lifestyle, Leh is a harmonious blend of Tibetan and Indian culture. Whether yours taste lies in adventure or exploring monasteries, Leh is a perfect holiday spot, offering something for everyone. Leh is dotted with several sightseeing attractions. Don’t forget to visit the Hemis monastery, which is the Ladakh’s largest monastery. This charming haven is known for a huge painting of the Lord Buddha that is displayed once every 11 years. Situated near Leh, the Thiksey monastery never fails to capture the heart and soul of visitors with its architectural splendour.
On the other side of Leh, on the Leh- Manali highway is the Morey plains, a high altitude desert.Pangong lake, made popular by the movie 3 Idiots, is definitely worth visiting. Other lakes that aren’t as popular but equally worthwhile visiting are the Tso Moriri and Tso Kar. Tso means lake in Tibetan. We mostly ate at Hotel Ri-Rab. Bon Apetit is a boutique restaurant cut away from rest of Leh and possibly has the best 360-degree view of the whole of Leh. Penguin restaurant in the main Leh market has variety of local cuisines to offer, and road side dhaba – Choglamsar Thupka – are a must visit. I recommend all tourists visit this at least once. This charming place is also home to many endangered animal species. It is only here that you can find the wild yak. Plan a wildlife safari to the Hemis National Park and be prepared to have an encounter with snow leopards, wild horses, red foxes, Tibetan antelopes, pallas cats, ibexes, bharals, mouse hare, blue sheep and docile marmots. The dense forests invite avid bird watchers to spot the wide varieties of birds such as sparrow, raven, kite, kestrel, buntings, larks, Bactrian magpies, black-necked crane and desert wheat eaters.
Leh is an amazing location that still hasn’t been spoilt like other hill stations. It’s probably because it’s very barren. But there is enough beauty in that. There isn’t much for sedentary, non-adventurous people, but if you like the outdoors and are fine not to be living in five-star accommodations, then this is where you need to go. Be prepared for the heat as well as the very cold weather that goes down to a freezing minus 10 degree Celsius, especially if you plan to trek or sleep in tents. The Leh-Manali highway is very beautiful but not one of the safest. I would not recommend this 500-km drive for the feeble-hearted. While driving on the highway, the scenery changes every 10 km. It’ll make you wonder why Indian tourists are making a beeline to explore foreign destinations when you have such beauty right in your own backyard.
About the author
Kirat Sodhi loves to travel, read and is a theatre enthusiast. You can contact her on twitter @KiratSodhi.