The monasteries, stupa and palace are all located close to Leh. Spituk monastery is a 20 minute drive away while Sankar, Shanti stupa and Leh Palace are all within easy walking distance of the central part of Leh.
Unveiling the Thanka at the Spituk Festival
Od-de established the monastic community at Spituk in the 11th century. Spituk is approximately 8 km from Leh. Originally the monastery was under the Kadampa School, but now belongs to the Gelugpa order. Stok, Sankar and Saboo are considered branches of Spituk. The main images in the monastery are that of Buddha and a sacred image of Amitayus presented by Tsongkhapa, founder of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism. There is also impressive image of Mahakaal, and a rich collection of thankas, ancient masks and antique arms. Indide the old chapel are images of Tsongkhapa, his two chief disciples and of the Buddha.
Sankar Gompa, only 3 km from Leh, is a branch of Spituk Gompa and belongs to the Gelukpa order. The monastery is the official residence of the head of the Gelukpa Sect in Ladakh, The Kushok Bakul. The main images in Sankar are of Tsongkhapa, two of his disciples, and Avalokitesvara with 1000 arms and 11 heads. There are a number of other images also, like those of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), The Present Buddha, Maitreya (the Future Buddha), White Guardian and Amchi (the Buddha of Medicine). The Dukar Lokhang is a temple devoted to Dukar and has an image of the deity with 1000 arms, feet and heads and 100,000 eyes. There are time restrictions for visiting Sankar.
Sunset view from Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa is on the hilltop at Changspa provides spectacular views of Leh, especially at sunrise and sunset. The stupa itself looks best at night when it is beautifully illuminated with glittering lights.The Stupa was built by a Japanese Buddhist organization to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. His Holiness the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Stupa in 1985.
Leh Palace above the old town
Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, but was later abandoned when Kashmiri forces besieged it in the mid 19th century. The Palace is nine storeys high. The upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the stables and store rooms were located in the lower floors.