Ladakh Ecological Development Group, also known as Ecological Centre of Ladakh was established in the year 1983. Managed by hundreds of staff members, this group is led by Tsewang Rigzin, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress. This group was started in order to create awareness towards the environmental concerns in the area.
Long-term development, importance of culture in the area, promoting the idea of use of natural resources in the region, community-based development projects are the main objectives of the group. Apart from this, the Ecological Centre of Ladakh also promotes the use of alternative technology.
The development group is also working towards developing awareness for solar energy and the constant development of the state with it. Several hydraulic ram pumps, which have proved helpful to the locals, have been installed in this region by them.
Matho Monastery situated in the Indus river valley is situated at a distance of 16 km from the city. It has a history of over 500 years and is managed by the Sakya Monastic Establishment, Ladakh. The monastery was constructed by Lama Dugpa Dorje in the 16th century. The four hundred year old thangkas or religious Tibetan silk paintings, and the Matho Nagrang festival associated with it are renowned among tourists.
Visitors can see an antique collection of thangkas in the museum built inside the monastery, presented in the form of Mandalas. The shrine kept in the monastery symbolises the guardian deities. It is also believed that this place is idyllic for learning and understanding Buddhist knowledge and ideologies.
Holy rituals and dances are performed in the monastery during the Matho Nagrang festival held in the first half of March. Travellers can easily avail taxis and cars to reach the place.
Suru Valley, drained by the river Suru, is popular among tourists for its natural beauty. The Valley has around 25000 inhabitants who are believed to be the descendants of the Tibetan and Buddhist Dard community. The population of this place, originally Tibetan Buddhist, converted in the 16th century and now follow Shia Islam.
Visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of the Kun and Nun mountain peaks, from the lower end of the valley. Suru Valley is surrounded by other tourist places such as Zanskar and Padum. Accommodations for visitors are available at nearby situated Rangdum.
Monastery Circuit is one of the most famous areas in Ladakh. Many Buddhist Gompas such as the Pharka Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Matho Monastery and Hemis Monastery lie in this region. The Hemis Monastery is one of the largest Monasteries in Ladakh and enshrines one of the biggest statues of Buddha.
The statue of Buddha is shown to people only once in every 11 years. Painted with vivid colours, the Thiksey Gompa is one of the noted Monasteries in the region with its 12 storied structure and magnificent entrance where a 15 m tall statue sits.
Stok Palace Museum, located inside the Stok Palace, houses royal crowns, royal artefacts, precious stones, copper coins, jewellery, prayer instruments, thangkas or religious Tibetan silk paintings and other heirlooms. The museum depicts the art and culture of the region in the past. The thangkas, kept inside the museum belong to the 16th century and depict the life and teachings of Buddha.
The palace, situated in proximity to the Indus river, is one of the prominent tourist attractions of the region. It was built by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal in 1825 AD. One can enjoy the magnificent views of sunsets and sunrises from the Palace. The whole palace requires at least 4 to 5 hours for exploration.
Shey Gompa, founded by King Deldon Namgyal, is located at a distance of 15 km from the southern part of Leh. A large copper and gilded gold statue of a seated Buddha, considered to be the second biggest statue in the region of Ladakh, is enshrined inside this Gompa.
The monastery was constructed in the year 1655 by King Deldan Namgyal, also known as Lhachen Palgyigon, in honour of his father Singay Namgyal. Although currently in a ruined state, Shey was considered the summer capital of Ladakh in earlier times. Monks of the Hemis Monastery now manage the Gompa.
Spangnik, situated 7 km away from Pangong Lake, is considered to be one of the remotest areas of the Pangong region. Tourists can enjoy a panoramic view of the snow covered Chang-Chenmo Range and Pangong Range from the village of Spangnik. In addition to this, visitors can also see numerous glaciers situated in the north-west side of the Pangong Lake, which is in proximity to the village.
Serzang Temple, built in the 17th century, is located at a distance of 40 km from Leh. Travellers can reach this place via the Leh - Srinagar Highway. One of the unique features of the temple is that Gold and Copper were extensively used in its construction.
A statue of the Maitreya Buddha known as the Buddha of the future or the Laughing Buddha, standing tall at 30 ft, sits in the temple. The Tilopa, Marpa, Mila Raspa and Naropa are some of the magnificent paintings, which are kept in the Temple.
Figures of Buddha and people belonging to the Red Hat sect are painted in the temple walls. The Serzang manuscript which is a copy of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon that lists all the sacred texts that various sects of Tibetan Buddhism recognise, written in Silver, Gold and Copper letters, has been housed in the temple since ages.
General Zorawar's Fort is situated above the Palace of Leh and the Gompa of Namgyal Tsemo. This prehistoric monument, also known as Riasi Fort, once held the wealth of the Dogra rulers in Jammu though it presently lies in a wrecked stage.
A prominent warrior named General Zorawar Singh, known for his consistent struggle against the Chinese rulers over Ladakh owned the fort. A huge collection of coins and specimens of new stamps apart from the precious treasure of the ruler are housed in the fort now.
Situated in proximity to the river Chenab, the fort is an attraction for individuals interested in archaeology, prehistoric culture and artefacts. Inside the fort are present a mosque, a natural spring and a Temple dedicated to Hindu Goddesses Kali and Durga.
In order to reach this place, travellers can either drive their vehicles up to the entrance of the fort or trek from the Leh city bazaar, which is at a small distance from the fort.
Sankar Gompa, also known as the Sankar Monastery, is situated at a distance of 3 km from Leh which can be easily covered by walking. A figure of the Avalokiteshvara, a 'Bodhisattva’ or enlightenment-being who embodies the compassion of all the Buddhas is placed in the Gompa. The idol has eleven heads, one thousand hands and eyes on the palm of each hand.
Designed in a traditional architectural style, the paintings of the ‘Guardians of the Four Directions’ are placed at the entrance. Visiting hours of the Monastery are limited to early mornings and evenings as it is managed just by 20 monks who reside there. Du-khang, also known as the assembly hall in the monastery, can be reached through a staircase which leads to double doors opening directly to it.
The walls and the doors of the place are opulently painted with mandals, rules for the monks and a Tibetan calendar. According to records, the Monastery was previously the residence of the Abbot of Spituk, whose rooms along with the guest rooms and library located upstairs, can also be seen.