Leh Palace

Definitely THE icon of this town, Leh Palace is steeped in history. Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, the palace is perched on a hill and is nine storeys high. Now in ruins, it is the former royal residence of the Namgyal dynasty, till they were deposed by Sikh General Zorawar Singh and retreated to Stok in the 19th century.

Eerily beautiful and haunting, the palace is said to resemble the massive Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. It is believed that the master craftsman was brought to Leh specifically to build the royal palace and had his right arm amputated so that he couldn’t build another like it.

Even though Leh Palace was sacked by the invading Sikh army, its walls are still sturdy although now bare. If you’re up for a thrill, walk through the maze of dark corridors, hidden staircases and wobbly ladders inside but remember to take a torch. While the upper floors comprised the royal residence, the lower ones housed stables, store rooms and the servants’ quarters.

The palace has but one furnished room – a beautiful Buddhist prayer room at the centre. It offers spectacular views from the roof, from where you can see the city of Leh spreading out below, and panoramic views of the Zangskar range to the south and Ladakh range to the north.

At the base of the palace complex is a handful of interesting structures. These include the Namgyal Stupa, the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang with medieval mural fragments, and the colourful Chandazik Gompa depicting the pantheon of 1,000 Buddhas.