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Temple on the Hill

The construction of Leh Palace began in 1627 A.D. under the rule of King Senge Namgyal. He hired a Balti Muslim named Chandam Ali Singge to design and construct the establishment. The king had it built as a place of worship in addition to a home for his family. The Palace was built only using local materials, such as stone, mud bricks, and wood from local trees. Most of the stone was quarried some 17 km away! Despite using such simple materials, the palace has been standing for approximately 400 years!

On the dirt path up to the palace, we weaved through markets and narrow corridors. Greeted at the entrance by beautiful wood carvings and pillar, we ascended up the cool and dark passageways of the castle. As we ascended towards the 9th level of the palace, we explored many scenic vantage points and historical paintings and pictures. The palace and it’s windows enabled almost a full 360 view of Leh and the surrounding area.

After spending some time in the Palace, we asked for directions to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa.The man we asked pointed straight up to a red and white structure much higher up the hill. Namgyal  Tsemo Gompa is a monastery and temple built in the 14th century, much earlier than the Palace below. It was built by King Dakspa Bumdhe, the first kind of Ladakh, for worshiping the Buddha. We climbed, huffing and puffing, up the steep, dirt switchbacks to the base of the temple. We passed only one fellow traveler on the way up, and found only one other person at the top. He greeted us with “Juley” as we passed him. The temple’s seat offered an even grander view of Leh and the Himalayas, and we felt humbled by the vastness of the world around us.