1. Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
Location: 4.6km via Khardung Lha road from Leh city
Significance: Built by King Tashi Namgyal to mark his respect to Buddhism.
Timing: 7.00 am – 9.00 am & 5.00 pm – 8.00 pm.
Founded in early 15th century, Namgyal Tsemo monastery/gompa in Leh is renowned for its three-storey high solid gold idol of Maitrieya Buddha (future Buddha, also known as the laughing Buddha). Situated on a mountain top behind the Leh palace, the monastery offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa of Ladakh was founded by King Tashi Namgyal in 1430 AD, who was a follower of Buddhism and has been named after him only. It boasts of a rich collection of some ancient manuscripts and wall paintings.
Namgyal Tsemo Monastery of Leh Ladakh also houses a statue of Avaloketesvara and Manjushri, approximately one story high. Near the monastery is an old fort, which, because of neglect, lies mostly in ruins now. Down the hill side there is Shankar gompa which is also associated with Namgyal Tsemo monastery. It is a daily ritual followed by monks from Shankar gompa to worship Buddha and light butter lamps at Namgyal Tsemo. Visitors are allowed into the monastery only during morning and evening. When the temples open up, a monk from the Sankar Gompa comes to attend to the butter-lamps in front of the images.
2. Sankar Gompa
Location: 3km from Leh city.
Significance: Official Residence Of The Kushok Bakul, Ladakh’s Head Of The Gelug-Pa Sect.
Timing: 7.00 am – 10.00 am & 5.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Nestled amid the shimmering poplar coppices and terraced fields of barley that extend up the valley behind Leh , Sankar Gompa, 3-km north of the town centre, is among the most accessible monasteries in central Ladakh – hence its restricted visiting hours for tourists. It is a daughter-establishment of Spituk Monastery and the residence of the Abbot of Spituk, the Venerable Kushok Bakula, who is the senior incarnate lama of Ladakh due to his ancient lineage and personal authority. The place is well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. Climbing the steps one reaches the double doors leading into the dukang or assembly hall. Three green drums are on the right of the door under which is the place of the Gyeskos. The wall and entry door are richly painted. Upstairs is the Dukar Lhakang (“residence of the deity”) or inner sanctuary. There is an impressive figure here of Avalokiteśvara with 1,000 arms (all holding weapons) and 1,000 heads. The walls are painted with a Tibetan calendar, mandalas and rules for the monks. Above the wooden stairs can be seen the rooms of the Abbot, guest rooms and the library.
3. Shanti Stupa
Location: 5km from Leh city.
Significance: Built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 yrs of Buddhism.
Timing: Between 5.00 am – 9.00 pm.
Shanti Stupa is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh city, giving a panaoromic view of surrounding snow capped mountains. Situated at a distance of about 5 km drive able road from the Leh city or one can reach here by climbing 500 steps. The location of Shanti Stupa is such that it is visible from all over Leh city.
It is built as a two level structure, a flight of stairs leads to the first level where a Dharmchakra (as in white strip of Indian national flag) with two deer on each side, features a central image of Lord Buddha in golden colour sitting on a platform turning the Dharmchakra wheel, the second level depicting the birth of Buddha, defeating of devils in meditation and death of Buddha along with many small images of meditating Buddha, all embossed in vibrant colours.
A white dome Stupa (Chorten) built on a a steep hill in Changspa, , opposite the Leh Palace different in architecture from the Ladhakhi style gives a magnificent view at sunrise and sunset. It looks more beautiful at night illuminated in the white light. It was built by the Ladakh and Japanese Buddhists, Ladakhis offered voluntary labor. Construction started in 1983 under the supervision of Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura, a Japanese Buddhist and Kushok Bakula, a lama of Ladakh from New Delhi and it was inaugurated in August 1991 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
4. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
Location: 25kms from Leh city.
Significance: Built to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak Dev.
Gurudwara Shri Pathar Sahib is situated on the Srinagar-Leh Road, 25kms before the Leh. It is very beautiful and it was created in memory of the founder of Sikh religion and the first guru, Guru Nanak Dev.
Legend has it that during his sojourn in Ladakh (1515-1518 A.D.) in 1517 A.D. Guru Nanak was attacked by a demon. The demon threw a large boulder on the guru as he sat at the base of a hill meditating. However, the rock became soft like molten wax and failed to cause any harm to the Sikh Guru. The demon was in for a surprise when he found Guru Nanak unhurt. Bristling with fury, the demon tried to crush Guru Nanak by kicking the boulder with all his might. To his surprise, the demon’s foot caused a deep impression in the boulder which had turned soft. Realizing that the man in front of him was no mortal soul, the demon stopped harassing him along with the people of the town.
The boulder and the legend associated with it was forgotten for a long time. However, in the late 1970s, the boulder was discovered again during the construction of Leh-Nimu road. Construction work was brought to a halt by a huge boulder and despite all efforts it couldn’t be removed. Though people associated with the construction had visions asking them not to disturb the rock, army official in-charge of the project decided to blow. However, when army officials were about to blow up the boulder, lamas and locals arrived and stopped the work. The lamas told the army officials about the rock and Nanak Lama. Later, the army officials, locals and lamas helped construct the Gurudwara. The Guru Pathar Sahib is maintained by the Indian Army. It is a tradition for vehicles to stop and pay respects at the temple before continuing with the journey.
5. Stok Palace Museum
Location: 15kms south of Leh.
Significance: Present residential palace of the royal descendants of King Singge Namgyal.
Timing: 8.00 am – 5.00 pm.
Present within the palatial residential compound of Ladakh’s erstwhile royal family, the Stok Palace Museum provides a peek into the heritage of this secluded valley. The royal family of the region resided in this palace, until Zorawar Singh invaded Dogra and banished them from here. This large palace museum has only a small part open for visitors. Precious artefacts and relics related to Ladakh’s old monarchy are well-preserved in this museum, which particularly attract historians and anthropologists. The library also has such as around 108 volumes of the Kangyur, a collection of teachings of Lord Buddha. Ancient coins, royal seals, regal costumes, precious jewellery and photographs are also displayed here. This palace museum has a separate room for exhibiting the warfare equipment of Ladakh’s kingdom, where people can see an impressive assortment of swords, shields, bows, arrows, quivers and guns. In simple words, the Stok Palace Museum is a place where visitors get familiarised with the splendid heritage of this Himalayan kingdom.