Originally a trading post on the Silk Road, today Leh is the capital of Ladakh, home to a bustling bazaar and remarkable historical sites such as Tsemo Fort and Leh Palace © THONGCHAI S, Shutterstock
Most visitors to Ladakh start or finish their journey here, and the seasonal influx of both foreign and domestic tourists gives the area a cosmopolitan air.
Life in Ladakh centres on the mountain town of Leh. The regional capital is a bustling hub with the rare combination of reasonably developed tourism infrastructure and a number of well-preserved tourist sites, but with the sensation that great wilderness adventures await just beyond the horizon. Most visitors to Ladakh start or finish their journey here, and the seasonal influx of both foreign and domestic tourists gives the area a cosmopolitan air.
If you arrive by air you’ll need a few days to acclimatise to the altitude, but it’s an easy place to spend time, especially during the summer months, and there are plenty of options for accommodation, food and entertainment. The best way to get a feel for the city is to start out in the bustling bazaar and then climb the spaghetti-like tangle of streets between there and Leh Palace. The alleys are far too narrow for a car to traverse (though that doesn’t seem to stop some trying …), which means visitors can get a glimpse into times gone by: men struggling uphill with handcarts laden high with vegetables; women baking flatbreads in ovens open to the street; and crowds of schoolchildren racing and shrieking along, excitable but good-natured street dogs in pursuit.