Leh, a high-desert city in the Himalayas, is the capital of the Leh region in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. Originally a stop for trading caravans, Leh is now known for its Buddhist sites and nearby trekking areas. Massive 17th-century Leh Palace, modeled on the Dalai Lama’s former home, overlooks the old town’s bazaar and mazelike lanes.
Offering sweeping views from a peak above the town, Namgyal Tsemo is a circa-1430 monastery with a gilded Buddha statue. Also known for its views is Shanti Stupa, a contemporary, white-spired Buddhist reliquary. Other area monasteries include Thikse, a tiered group of hillside buildings filled with Tibetan shrines, statues, and other art. South of Leh, the Indus River, and its Zanskar River tributary are known for white-water rafting on runs through scenic gorges. Trekking expeditions visit the higher altitudes of the Indus Valley area, including the 5,359m-elevation Khardung La pass.