I am sure that before coming to this blog, you must have read hundreds of posts detailing everything about travel in Ladakh. Everyone has the same idea about backpacking in Ladakh with a trip to Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, Turtuk, Khanrdungla Pass and Lamayuru. But Ladakh has a lot more to see and experience for an offbeat traveller than following these typical itinerary.
Leh being the centre of Ladakh region, the travellers end up here two or three times during their trip to Ladakh. But most of the time is spent in rest and gathering energy for the next road trip. Leh as a hustling bustling town, has a lot to offer than Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace. Here are some unusual experiences in Leh City that will add more memories to your trip.
Visit an art gallery
Exploring Art galleries of Leh is the best way to understand the non-touristy side of this city. Leh has multiple art galleries. Two of them can be found if you walk to Leh Palace instead of taking a car there. Lala Art Café is a small space that you’ll find the moment you enter Old City. You can see stone carvings on the ground floor, have traditional food like Khambir and learn momo making and weaving.
LAMO is another art gallery that organizes many exhibitions by world renowned artists. You can also visit Zanskar Arts and Rabsal Café that regularly host exhibitions in the summers.
Spend your night in a nearby village
Stok Village is not far from Leh, Phyang village is also 2 hours away. These villages have many homestays that will give you an offbeat experience of traveling in Leh. Staying at homestay gives back to local community and is a part of responsible tourism in Ladakh.
Many cafes and hotels in Leh organize art classes and workshops. You can find the occasional notices around the main market. Learning mandala is a nice experience that gives you a better understanding of Buddhist Culture.
Enjoy Langar at Patthar Sahib Gurudwara
Patthar Sahib Gurudwara is on the way to Magnetic Hills which is a part of every Leh Ladakh itinerary. But not many people visit Patthar Sahib Gurudwara nearby that is maintained by the army. If you visit this place in the morning, you’ll catch a piping hot breakfast of Jalebi and Tea. Some days Jalebi is replaced with Parle G biscuits which is equally yummy.
Right on the edge of Ladakh main market, you’ll find a number of small stalls selling dryfruits. Everything here is fresh and directly from the farm. A casual stroll in the market will also introduce you to a side of Leh that regular travel itineraries won’t.
Attend Ladakh women’s market every Sunday
Ladakh women’s market is organized every Sunday in the Leh main market. You can find local jams, spices and pickles prepared by women from different villages. They also serve local food in makeshift stalls. Timing from Ladakh Women’s Sunday market is between 2 PM and 7 PM.
Catch an expedition film at Snow Leopard Conservation India Trust
Snow Leopard Conservation India Trust is an organization that has been working towards protection and conservation of Snow Leopards in Ladakh. Their office is in Leh, and you can visit between 12 PM and 4 PM. You can see their museums where they have kept a number of artefacts and remains of animals that they have found during their missions. You can also watch a film on one of their expeditions.
If you are planning to do something offbeat in Leh then Donkey Sanctuary is a must visit. It is a shelter for homeless donkeys and if you go there then you can buy carrots from the nearby shops.
Entry fee: Free
Zorawar Singh Fort
Fort Road has most of the hotels but not many know about Zorawar Singh Fort at the end of the road. The fort was established by the famous Commander-in-Chief of the Dogra Kings, Zorawar Singh. In 1834, he defeated the Ladakhi forces and established Dogra rule in Ladakh. This 19th Century fort has huge mud walls with a mosque and a temple inside the premises.
Attend a heritage walk of Old Leh Town
Weekend heritage walks of Old Leh Town will take you inside the hidden gems and old houses. The allies also go till Leh Palace if you are interested in climbing. Old Town is historical and you’ll get to learn interesting trivia from the time when the city was far from commercialization.
Try Kashmiri Lunch
Leh City is filled with eateries where you can enjoy Kashmiri Lunch. There are many small dhabas in Old Town where you can enjoy unlimited rice and mutton rogan josh for 100 rs only. Little Italy is one right next to Leh Market that serves amazing Kashmiri food. Try their thalis that are simply delicious.
When you walk towards Polo Ground, you’ll find Chai Lane. This a small ally with a number of tiny food joints that only serve Tea and Bread. If you are a solo traveller in Leh and want to save money on food then this place will be perfect for you.
Women’s Alliance is close to Donkey Sanctuary. The alliance works towards uplifting the life of women and help them learn the art of pashmina shawl weaving and selling them at fair price. The Women’s Alliance also promotes local cultural activities along with medical camps and animal welfare.
Close to Women’s Alliance, you’ll find Sankar Monastery. While Shanti Stupa is the popular Buddhist monastery in Leh, not many know about Sankar Gompa or Monastery. Since the place is mostly empty, you’ll get to see the activities of monks up close and personally. The architecture of the monastery is very beautiful with beautiful red doors. It is one of the top offbeat places in Leh City.
Datun Sahib Tree
Legend about Datun Sahib is that a man offered a branch to Guru Nanak Dev for brushing his teeth. He used one part for brushing and set the other part into the ground which grew into a huge tree. The most interesting part is that there are hardly any trees like these in Ladakh.
Central Asian Museum
Central Asian Museum has a collection of amazing artefacts showcasing the rich history and geology of Ladakh. This four storey building has a number of vintage artefacts, old manuscripts, photographs, unique rugs, traditional utensils and skeletons of extinct animals.
Entry fee: INR 50
When you are close to Sankar Gompa, ask anyone for Rock Museum and you’ll find a sign indicating the place. Rock Museum is a collection of unique stone and rock samples found all over Ladakh.
Entry Fee: INR 50
Visit a book shop
Leh City is full of amazing book shops. Most of these shops are around the market. Leh Ling Café and Ladakh Book Shop are two of the most popular establishments where you’ll find many rare books along with coffee table magazines and trekking guides. Bookworm on Fort Road is another store that keeps a number of prized collections.
Stroll at Sindhu Ghat
People who come to Ladakh on a fixed itinerary don’t really get to do much apart from the typical stuff. But in case you are free and have an extra few hours before evening falls then you should visit Sindhu Ghat. A stroll here is a peaceful experience. The landscape is really beautiful and the view of sunset is mesmerizing.