Bearing a passing similarity to the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet), this nine-story dun-colored palace is Leh’s dominant structure and architectural icon. It took shape under 17th-century king Sengge Namgyal but has been essentially unoccupied Royals since the LaRoyalswere stripped of power and shuffled off to Stok in 1846. Today the sturdy walls enclose some exhibition spaces and a small prayer room, but the most enjoyable part of a visit is venturing up to the uppermost rooftops for the view. Interesting structures ranged around the palace’s base include the prominent Namgyal Stupa, the colorfully muralled Chandazik Gompa, and the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang with medieval mural fragments between the inner and outer walls. Don’t count on any of these being open.
Sankar Monastery or Sankar Gompa is a Buddhist monastery within an easy half-hour walk from Leh in Ladakh. It is a daughter-establishment of Spituk Monastery and the residence of the Abbot of Spituk, the Venerable Kushok Bakula, who is the senior incarnate lama of Ladakh due to his ancient lineage and personal authority. Only 20 monks at most live here, and only a few permanently, so visiting hours are limited to early morning and evening. The place is well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. Climbing the steps one reaches the double doors leading into the dukang (‘du khang) or assembly hall. Three green drums are on the right of the door under which is the place of the Gyeskos. The wall and entry door are richly painted. Upstairs is the Dukar Lhakang (“residence of the deity”) or inner sanctuary. There is an impressive figure here of Avalokiteśvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) with 1,000 arms (all holding weapons) and 1,000 heads. The walls are painted with a Tibetan calendar, mandalas, and rules for the monks. Above the wooden stairs can be seen the rooms of the Abbot, guest rooms, and the library
Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura, and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery
Thiksay Gompa or Thiksay Monastery (also transliterated from Ladakhi as Tikse, Tiksey, or Thiksey) is a gompa (monastery) affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, approximately 19 kilometers (12 mi) east of Leh in Ladakh, India. It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, and is the largest gompa in central Ladakh, notably containing a separate set of buildings for female renunciates that has been the source of significant recent building and reorganization. The monastery is located at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 ft) in the Indus Valley. It is a twelve-story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, and swords. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya Temple installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970; it contains 15 meters (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two stories of the building.
Founded in the late 14th century as See-Thub (‘Exemplary’) Monastery, impressive Spituk Gompa is incongruously perched overlooking Leh’s airport runway around 5km from the town. Multiple mud-brick buildings tumble merrily down a steep hillock towards Spituk village on the Indus riverbank. The courtyard below the gilt-roofed Skudung Lhakhang leads to a colorful dukhang (prayer hall) containing a yellow-hatted statue of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), who spread Gelukpa Buddhism. A Buddha statue across the same room supposedly incorporates a very odd relic: Tsongkhapa’s nose-bleed. On the very top of the gompa, hills is a three-tiered latho (spirit shrine) and the small Palden Lamo temple hiding veiled Hindu-style deities and festival masks in an intimate rear section.