On one level, Leh is a tourist town, with all the travel agencies, souvenir shops and pizza restaurants you would expect to find in a bustling backpacker centre. On the other hand, how many other tourist towns back onto ruined palaces in the lee of the Himalaya? The sky overhead is a vivid dark blue from the altitude – a breathless 3505m above sea level – and the modern town melts into a crumbling old city of timber and mud bricks. The Indian Army maintains a large military base near the airport to patrol the borders with China and Pakistan, but their main job is repairing roads and bridges and keeping the mountain passes clear of snow.
Best places to stay in Leh
10 best things to climb
Over ice and iron girders, shinnying up temples and scaling rainforest trees – tackle the world’s most worthwhile ways to reach the top. In this excerpt from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences we've gathered together ten things to go up, from the somewhat gentle to the downright difficult.
Leh destination guides
Hidden Valleys of Ladakh
Trek ‘Little Tibet'', attend the famous Hemis Festival and complete a journey to the borderlands of Tibet
Zanskar Ice Trek
A challenging and remote trek following the frozen Zanskar in winter