India // Jammu and Kashmir //

Southeast of Leh

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Southeast of Leh, the Indus Valley broadens to form a fertile river basin. Among the spectacular Buddhist monuments lining the edges of the flat valley floor are Shey, site of a ruined palace and giant brass Buddha, and the stunning monastery of Tikse. Both overlook the main highway and are thus served by regular buses.

With the exception of Stok Palace, home of the Ladakhi queen, sights on the opposite (south) side of the Indus, linked to the main road by a relatively unfrequented and partly surfaced road, are harder to reach by public transport. South of Stok, Matho gompa is more famous for its winter oracle festivals than its art treasures, but is well worth a visit, if only for the superb views from its roof terrace. Further south still, continue to Hemis, Ladakh’s wealthiest monastery and the venue for one of the region’s few summer religious festivals. To side-step your fellow tourists without spending a night away from Leh, head up the austerely beautiful tributary valley back on the opposite side of the river from Hemis to the gompas of Chemrey and Thak Thok, the latter built around a fabled meditation cave.

East of Thak Thok, the road crosses the Chang La and then veers east to the high mountain lake of Pangong Tso, most of which lies in Tibet. Far more relaxing and inviting is the vast wilderness of Rupshu with trekking possibilities around the shores of Tso Moriri, in the deep south. Permits are required for these three areas.

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