Spituk Monastery is located in the Leh District of Ladakh. Also known as Spituk Gompa, this Monastery is situated 8 km away from Leh. It was constructed in the 11th century by Od-de, elder brother to Lha Lama Changchub Od, and later taken over by the Yellow Hat sect, a school of Buddhism founded by Je Tsongkhapa, during the 15th century.
The Spituk Monastery, also known as Spituk Gompa, falls under the Leh District in Ladakh. It was named by Rinchen Zangpo, translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts to Tibetan. Owing to its huge collection of antique masks, icons, antique arms and numerous thangkas or religious Tibetan silk paintings, this monastery not only attracts devotees but tourists as well.
Tsemo Monastery, built by King Tashi Namgyal, the successor of the Namgyal dynasty who ruled over Leh during the 15th century, was founded in the year 1430. The monastery is currently looked after by the monks of the Sankar Gompa.
Age-old manuscripts and frescoes along with a huge, 3-storey tall, golden statue of the Maitreya Buddha, also known as the Laughing Buddha or the Buddha of the future, can be seen at the monastery.
Apart from that, 10 ft tall statues of the Avalokiteshvara, a 'bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all the Buddhas, and an idol of Manjushri, a 'bodhiattva' associated with transcendent wisdom, respectively, are enshrined here.
Stanka Monastery, situated at an elevation of 60 m on a secluded rock, lies at a distance of about 25 km from Leh. The numerous paintings and artefacts kept in the monastery are looked after by monks belonging to the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The temple was constructed by Chosje Jamyang Palkar, a Buddhist sage, in the year 1580.
The monastery depicts the tradition and culture of the 15th century. The monastery is now considered as a Buddhist heritage. A marble statue of Avalokiteshvara, a 'bodhisattva’ or enlightenment-being, who embodies the compassion of all the Buddhas, is considered to be one of the popular attractions of the temple. It is believed that the idol was brought to the monastery from Assam.
The monastery also houses a museum where arms and armoury belonging to medieval times have been kept. The Monastery is also known as ‘Tiger’s Nose Monastery', as the rock on which the Gompa is placed resembles a tiger leaping towards the sky. Tourists can avail buses or take up a 30-minute hike up the hill.
Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery is looked after by a sect of Tibetan Buddhists called the Karmapa. Karmapa in the sense of the word is someone who carries out all the activities of Buddha. This monastery works towards the encouragement of Tibetan Buddhism and the conservation of their culture.
At present there are 17 Karmapas, each of them dedicated towards creating awareness about Buddhism. A large number of people have joined the Karmapa training centre to learn and understand the teachings of the Karmapa.
Thiksey Monastery, situated at a distance of 19 km from the east of Leh, displays impressive architectural styles of the medieval era. It is one of the largest Monasteries of the region and is 12 storeys tall. Beautiful wall paintings, stupas, statues, swords and thangkas can be seen inside the Gompa.
Also present in the monastery is a huge pillar engraved with the Buddha’s teachings and ideas for the development of the society. The monastery organizes the two day long Thiksey festival every year, which is attended by a large number of people. The Matho Gompa and Shey Gompa located nearby are added attractions of the place.
Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. The edifice of the palace is similar to that of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, which is in Tibet. When forces of Dogra, took over Ladakh in the 19th century, the palace was abandoned and the royal family was moved to the Stok Palace.
This palace has 9 storeys, where the higher floors were occupied by the royal family and store rooms and stables were in the lower floors. The Archaeological Survey of India is currently looking after the maintenance of the palace, which is presently in a wrecked state.
Tourists visiting this place can enjoy the beautiful view of the surrounding areas like the Stok Kangri besides the Indus valley and the Ladakh mountain range.
Shanti Stupa, located in the district of Leh in Jammu & Kashmir above the agricultural suburb of Changspa, was built by the ‘Peace Sect’ of Japanese Buddhists. The stupa, meaning pillar, is noted for its gilt panels which represent the stories of Buddha. It was constructed in the year 1983, on orders of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in order to promote the doctrines of Buddha. Situated at a distance of about 5 km from the city of Leh, and facing the Leh Palace, the stupa can be reached via the fort road.
The construction of the Stupa was completed in 1991 and its inauguration was carried out by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Visitors can easily reach this place with hired jeeps or taxis. Trekking is also a convenient option for adventure lovers for reaching this place.
Mountain Biking is considered to be a popular sport in the region of Leh. Adventure lovers can ride across the highest motor-able road in the world. The road between Manali and Leh, which stretches over 485 km, gives mountain bikers a chance to ride across the mesmerising Himalayan ranges over four mountain passes.
Moreover, tourists can enjoy the scenic beauty of the place while riding across the magnificent landscapes.
Jama Masjid, located in the city of Leh, is the capital city of Ladakh. This mosque, constructed in honour of a Muslim Sufi Saint, Mir Syed Ali Hamdan, has immense historical significance. Erstwhile ruler of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal, and the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb constructed Jama Masjid, in the year 1666-67 as a part of an agreement.
Paragliding is one of the most popular sports among tourists in Leh. Situated on the banks of the river Indus, this place is famous for adventure sports. Situated at an altitude of 11,000 ft, it is perfectly suited for paragliding. Paragliding here can be taken up all year around, October to June being the best time.
Trekking is immensely enjoyed by tourists who visit Leh because of the snow caped mountains and the scenic beauty of the region. Tourists can undertake both mild and challenging trekking across the snow covered Himalayan terrain. Experienced and trained trekkers can compete in the trails of the mountain ranges that surround Leh.
Trekking institutes present in the area aid tourists in their treks. The months between June and September are noted as best months for trekking. The Markha Valley trail, Spiti to Ladakh trail, Ladakh Zanskar trail and the Nubra Valley trail are some of the popular trekking routes in the valley. Apart from this, tourists can also enjoy safaris along the plain valleys along the Indus river.
The Vajra Bhairav Shrine, situated at a distance of 10 km from Leh, is made in honour of the guardian ‘tantric’ deity belonging to the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat sect. The Shrine is opened for the common people only once a year because it is believed that the deity has supernatural powers. The idol of the deity is kept inside the chamber of the shrine for the rest of the year.
This shrine is noted as one of the oldest buildings of the region and displays 600-year-old paintings on its walls. One can easily reach this place via taxis or jeeps. In addition to this, tourists can also see the Mahakal Temple, Spitul Gustor and the Spitul Monastery, which are located in proximity to the region.
Stok Palace, built by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal in the year 1825, is situated at a distance of 15 km from the city across the river Indus. The palace houses over 108 volumes of the Kangyur, a list of sacred texts recognized by the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, in its library.
Originally used as a place of residence by the royal family and successors of King Sengge Namgyal, the palace was built in a traditional style with beautiful architectural patterns. The view of sunsets and sunrise from the palace and its gardens are an added attraction.
Another feature that attracts numerous visitors to the place is the annual mask dance festival. During this time tourists can see the rare collection of the royal crowns, royal attires and other significant material. Visitors will require at least 4-5 hours taking a complete tour of the palace.
The Spituk Monastery located inside the palace is one of the major attractions for the tourists. Travellers can easily avail shared taxis and jeeps to drive up to the place.