- Encounters with locals
- Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
- Hiking / Trekking
- Place or Religious Monument
Leh is a place that stands apart from others during a tour of India. Perched in the Himalayas, its people have Nepalese characteristics with skin tanned by a mountain sun and slanted eyes.
During the day you can explore its mountain deserts, discover Buddhist temples or even take a camel ride through what is a unique landscape. One of my favorite moments was going to the local cinema. It was a large room with a projector and the screen was a wall. They showed a movie about two Ladakhi brothers who were in love with the same woman - and determined to get her, no matter the cost. They're still showing the same movie and it's not subtitled but the spectators' enthusiasm made it a moment to remember.
Once night falls, there's only minimal power, so Leh sits in darkness under a star-filled sky.
Getting to Lehinvolves going on something of an expedition when visiting India. You can travel there by road once the mountain passes are open, in summer in other words (it's a never-ending road, but from Manali onward it's magnificent), or you can get there by plane. Once there, at 3500 meters of altitude, you begin to regret smoking all those cigarettes and doing so little sport! But the majestic scenery largely compensates for all that!
There were stunning, spectacular mountains everywhere, all around us. Both the town and the region are mainly populated by Buddhists and Tibetan refugees, giving the area a relaxed, zen-like atmosphere, very different from the rest of India.
Enjoy and take advantage of this to hike up to the temples perched up in the surrounding mountains. Be careful of sunstroke however, which can be fatal at these altitudes! Try to keep you head covered at all times and ensure you remain properly hydrated.
In fact, it really is worth traveling to Leh by bus. From Manali it takes a long – very long – whole day. That said, you'll get to enjoy the fear that you won't make it to the top of the first pass due to the bus getting bogged down, or the fear involved in thinking to yourself that your bus could very well end up like the one at the bottom of the ravine, given the way the driver is driving it. These strong sensations are not to be missed.
What is certain is that Leh is a very nice place to visit. There are some ancient buildings to be found there, such as the Leh Palace – a must-see – and the Shanti Stupa, from where the views over Leh and its valley, as the sun sets over the mountains at the end of the day, are magnificent. This is also a place you can easily reach on foot.
Rummage around in the ruins, go for walks, enjoy the taste of momos, get off the beaten track on unsigned trails, and hire a motorbike to enjoy the exciting thrill of riding the Ladakhi roads towards the Numbra Valley, or towards Lamayuru and its superb villages, with their stupas and gompas, each more beautiful and original than the next. Splashes of green on an ocher background, precious little oases…