Cheap Flights to Leh
Cradled by mountains, the high Himalayan city of Leh in the Ladakh region of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, lies at the crossroads of several old Silk Road trading routes. The trading caravans may be gone, but this far-flung corner of northern India still draws travellers from far and wide.
Visitors come, first and foremost, to trek in the mountains and visits places such as Pangong Lake and the Nubra Valley. Within the town itself, the Palace of the King of Ladakh is unmissable. So, too, is the walk through the Old Town on the way up to the palace. Somewhere that relatively few tourists explore, the Old Town's staircases, alleys and traditional mud-brick houses are a contrast to the bustling bazaars and more modern streets elsewhere in the city.
The city shows yet another side to itself during some of the many Buddhist festivals celebrated in the region. One of the most spectacular is Hemis, dedicated to the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.
Things to do
The city offers many opportunities for tours and treks in the high Himalayas. However, it also has attractions of its own, not least a palace situated in some of the most awe-inspiring surroundings imaginable.
Go to the Palace
Once a royal residence, Leh Palace is now abandoned. It is, however, open to the public. Built in the 17th century, the topmost of its nine storeys offer stupendous views south across the Indus valley and north towards the Ladakh mountains. At its foot is the charming Old Town.
Trawl the bazaars
Leh is an excellent place to pick up very cheap second-hand winter clothing, which is ideal for those spending only a short time in the mountains. There are also some good bookshops and, for souvenirs, Main Bazaar is hard to beat. Anyone looking for a genuine pashmina will also be able to find one here.
Where two rivers meet
Not far from Leh is the site where the river Indus meets the river Zanskar. One green and the other blue, the confluence of these two rivers is one of the most photographed scenes in Ladakh.
Calendar of Events
In common with other areas in Ladakh, Leh is predominately Buddhist and its festivals and events reflect this.
Hemis Festival. Dedicated to Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, this early summer festival centres around the large monastery of Hemis Gompa. The highlight is a masked dance performed by Lamas and celebrating the victory of good over evil. Many devout Buddhists also come to see Padmasambhava's silk thangka (a type of painting), which is displayed during the festival and is almost long enough to stretch from the monastery roof to the earth below.
Losar Festival. This is the Tibetan New Year and is celebrated in late January or early February -- as enthusiastically by the Buddhists of Leh as anywhere else. Offerings are made to the gods and dances, including the amusing "dance of the deer" (in tribute to the ibex), have a central role. For many first-timers, the most impressive spectacle is the flaming torch-lit "Metho" ceremony, where hundreds of people proceed through town, while chanting prayers intended to drive away evil spirits.
*Ladakh Festival. Celebrated all over Ladakh every September, this is an eclectic combination of Buddhist dances, archery, polo matches and music.