One of the most spectacular, enchanting and peaceful places in the Changthang region of Ladakh is Hanle. Hanle is the home of the 17th century Hanle monastery which belongs to the Tibetan Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism and also to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, which is one of the world's highest astronomical observatories.
Hanle is located approximately at a distance of 150 km from Mahe and is accessible by road through Nyoma and Loma. As one nears Hanle the mighty mountains begin to reduce in size and eventually become not more than a cluster of hills.
Hanle offers you some of the best scenic experiences, which would give you the feeling of being transported to another world. When it comes to reality, the place has extreme climatic conditions, especially during the winters. To add on, the lack of oxygen makes it difficult for a newcomer to survive, if not acclimatized to the high altitude.
The months starting from April to September is the best time to visit Hanle. In the months from December to March the entire land is mostly frozen and has extreme cold weather which makes it difficult for tourists to stay.
With its strategic location close to the Indo-China border, to visit the places one will need to take a special permit to land here and also to pay a visit to the observatory. Apart from taking inner line permits irrespective of your nationality, photography is strictly prohibited here due to security reasons.
PC: McKay Savage
Even if you click pictures, the officials here request you not to share too many pictures on various social media platforms and other mediums. There is not much to see around here apart from the Hanle monastery and the observatory.
Hanle is a paradise for those who come seeking peace and a perfect location by all means away from the maddening crowds of any metropolitan city or major tourist places.
1. Hanle Monastery
Built in the 17th century, the monastery belongs to the Red Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhists. The monastery is also known as Analy Gompa apart from Hanle; the monastery is home to 10 monks and is visited by more than 40 others to offer prayers here.
PC: Deepak Bhatia
The monastery is approximately less than 20 km from the LAC or the Line of Actual Control between India and Tibet. The monastery is one of the largest and well known monasteries in Ladakh; it was built with the patronage of a Ladakhi king called Sengge Namgyal alongside a well known Tibetan lama named Taktsang Repa Ngakwang Gyatso.
The monastery is built in Tibetan architectural style, but one can find the influence of Indian and Chinese style of architecture in the structure. As the monastery lies in close proximity to the Tibetan border, the entire region falls under the highly sensitive area. Owning to which prior permission is required from the government officials in Leh to visit the monastery.
2. Indian Astronomical Observatory
The Indian Astronomical Observatory or IAO is one of the world's highest observatories thanks to its high altitude of 14764 ft above sea level. The observatory was dedicated to the nation in 2001 by the then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah.
The observatory has two telescopes which are active, one is the 6.5 ft tall Himalayan Chandra Telescope, which was named after the Noble laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrashekar. The second one is High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope.
The observatory is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bengaluru. The observatory has a guest house which provides accommodation facilities to the visitors on prior notification.