Hemis Monastery

April 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Hemis Monastery is the biggest and richest monasteries in Ladakh and also one of the oldest, having been founded by the 1st Taktsang Repa, Ngawang Gyatso in 1630 AD.

47km drive from Leh to Hemis will first take you on the Manali – Leh Highway till the town of Upshi, little beyond which the small yet scenic diversion for the Hemis Monastery begins. Once you travel through the small yet curvy road to the parking of Hemis and park your vehicle in the parking lot just before the Monastery, you would be greeted by this large and beautiful Buddhist Prayer Wheel with a wonderful view of the valley.

view-from-hemis-monastery

Walking in to the Hemis Monastery, one starts coming to terms with the scale of Monastery, which might look smaller than Thiksey Monastery from outside, but is actually bigger and more imposing.

hemis-monastery

However once inside, Hemis Gompa has that old world charm and tranquility, which can only exist in such ancient monasteries and even though we had to walk barefoot in the month of December, with the outside temperature hovering around -8 Degree Celsius, we couldn’t help but feel peaceful and happy to have had the chance to visit such a beautiful and ancient monastery.

hemis-gompa

Hemis Monastery is open from 7:30AM to 6:00PM each day with one hour lunch break at 1pm and can be easily visited while going to or coming back from Tso Moriri or as part of dedicated tour of monasteries around Leh. Additionally, each year Annual Hemis Festival (Hemis Tseschu) is held on the 9th, and 10th, day of the 5th month of Tibetan Calendar. (see: Ladakh Monastery Festival Calendar 2014).

Tso Moriri Lake

March 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

Tso Moriri is a brackish lake, located in the Changthang Plateau, 211kms from Leh.

While Tso Moriri is much smaller in size in comparison to Pangong Tso, this 19km long lake is beautiful nonetheless and not only plays host to a wide variety of migratory birds during summer, but is also a declared wildlife protected area, thanks to its wetlands, which have myriad of flora and fauna. Due to this, camping in and around Tso Moriri Lake is prohibited by law, apart from the camping ground around Korzok Village (which is located on the banks of Tso Moriri).

tso-moriri-lake

tso-moriri-wet-lands

Tso Moriri is accessible throughout the year, barring a few days each year when there is enough snow to block the roads (which is usually cleared once the snowfall abates), though finding accommodation in Korzok Village during Winter months is a big chore and a cold affair. Hence for those visiting in winter, it is recommended to spend the night at Chumathang instead, which is located 70km before Tso Moriri.

Getting there

Generally a visit to Tso Moriri is spread over two days, with a night stop at Korzok Village. Travelers visiting from Leh can take the following route to reach Tso Moriri:

Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe Bridge – Sumdo – Namshang La – Tso Moriri – Take the road going towards the right from the fork just before the lake to reach Korzok Village.

While going back, travelers can either take the same route or the following via Tso Kar Lake:

Korzok – Namshang La – Sumdo – Puga – Polakongka La – Startspuk Tso – Tso Kar – Debring (Manali – Leh Highway) – Tanglang La – Upshi – Leh

Alternatively, visitors can head to Manali after reaching Manali – Leh Highway, though those traveling in their own vehicles need to keep in mind that that there are no fuel pumps between Leh and Tandi, hence they need to stock enough fuel for the 550km journey from Leh to Tandi via Tso Moriri and Tso Kar.

Those short on time can also club visit to Hemis, Thiksey and Shey Monasteries, while going to or coming back from Tso Moriri in order to save time, due to the fact that these Monasteries are almost along the route they will be taking.

Accommodation

Accommodation is available at Korzok Village, which has a resort, home stays, camps and camping ground during tourist season (Mid-May to Mid-October). Korzok also has a satellite STD booth, while the last mobile phone signal is at Korzok Village.

Transportation

Dedicated and shared taxis for the round trip to Tso Moriri are available from Leh. While the bus service is limited to say the least, with the only bus from Leh running on the 10th, 20th and 30th of each Month!

Permit

In order to visit Tso Moriri Lake, visitors need Inner Line or Protect Area Permit, which is issued by the DC Office in Leh.

Srinagar – Leh Highway to reopen on 31st March 2013

March 20, 2013 at 6:44 am

Border Road Organization is getting all set to reopen Srinagar – Leh Highway by 31st of March. Much ahead of time it normally reopens for traffic.

While it will likely take several weeks for the Srinagar – Leh Highway to fully stabilize and initially only light vehicles will be permitted on the route, it is nonetheless a welcome news for tourists as well as locals, who have been eagerly waiting for the Srinagar – Leh Highway to reopen for the past several month.

Along with a change in climate over the years, BRO too has been improving its infrastructure in area, leading to both Srinagar – Leh Highway and Manali – Leh Highway, opening much ahead of time they normally open and staying open for a longer duration as well.

Shanti Stupa, Leh

March 18, 2013 at 9:38 am

Shanti Stupa is located in Changspa Village in Leh and is a beautiful white domed stupa (chortan).

shanti-stupa

Shanti Stupa was built in 1991 by Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura, a Buddhist from Japan and it contains relics of the Buddha at its base and was enshrined by Dalai Lama himself. It also contains photograph of Dalai Lama in its base.

Since its construction, Shanti Stupa has become the must visit place in Leh and not only due to beautiful stupa and peacefulness, but also due to the fact that it provides a bird’s eye view of Leh City, which is only rivaled by the view provided from Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, which is located directly opposite Shanti Stupa, across the Leh City and is clearly visible from the stupa.

leh-city-from-shanti-stupa

Shanti Stupa is open from 5AM to 9PM each day and is a must visit for anyone visiting Leh and Ladakh.

Thiksey Monastery

March 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thiksey Monastery is located 22km from Leh, along the Manali – Leh Highway and is one of the largest and most beautiful monasteries in Ladakh.

Thiksey Monastery was built in 1430AD by the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Spon Paldan Sherab. 250 monks belonging to the Yellow Hat sect live at the 12 storey Thiksey Monastery, which also houses 10 temples.

From a tourist perspective, Thiksey is not only easily accessible thanks to its proximity to Manali – Leh Highway; it can also be visited while going to or coming back from Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri.

Add to that, Thiksey is not only beautiful to photograph, from both inside and outside.

thiksey-gompa

thiksey-monastery

It also offers great views, especially during the season, when the farms are lush with produce, against the backdrop of the barren landscape of Ladakh.

view-from-thiksey-monastery

Thiksey Monastery is also home to two storey tall statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, made of clay and gold paint and was constructed in 1980 to commemorate the visit of his Holiness, Dalai Lama.

Maitreya-statue-thiksey

Thiksey Monastery also has a guest house for visitors, who are interested in learning about Buddhism and staying at this serene and beautiful Monastery.

Additionally, each year sacred monastic dances are held in the monastery during the Gustor Festival, which is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan Calendar. (see: Ladakh Monastery Festival Calendar 2013).