Leh Palace- Once the Residence of Royals in Ladakh

When we talk about Leh Ladakh, we all talk about the colorful monasteries, vast landscapes, cobalt blue sky, high passes, high altitude lakes and the Tibetan culture there. Nobody talks or indeed tells about the grandeur unique Leh Ladakh Palaces there. During our 13-day road trip to Leh Ladakh, we made it a point to explore some Leh Ladakh Palaces and one of them was the majestic Leh Palace.

Leh Palace - Once the residence of Royals

About Leh Palace

Overlooking the Himalayan Leh town, on the top of Tsemo Hill lies the former palace or residence of Royals known as Leh Palace. Locally, the Palace is also known as Lhachen Palkar. It is a 9 storied structure one of its own kind erected in 17th century. Indeed it was the tallest of all structures during its heydays.

The Leh Palace looks quite distinct from the other Palaces of India – quite simple, yet elegant and its greyish black dun color merges well with the surroundings. Palace has almost no signage board except the history board at the entrance and various board markings on the floor levels. So, scratch your head, make guesses and talk to the guards to find out facts about the Leh Palace, exactly as we did.

Ticket for Leh Palace – For Indians Rs. 15/- per person & Foreign Nationals – Rs.100/- per person. Camera charges are Rs. 25/-

Timings– From sunrise to sunset

History of Leh Palace

The construction of Leh Palace was initiated by Tsewang Namgyal, the founder of Namgyal Dynasty in 16th century and was completed by King Sengge Namgyal, the 5th king of Ladakh in 17th century. It is said to be the replica of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, except being smaller in size .

The First Look of Leh Palace

The Palace was the residence of Royals till it was attacked by the Dogra force. During the attack Leh Palace suffered quite losses and family was shifted to the Stok Palace. Today, the palace stands still but is in battered shape. The restoration work here is carried out by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Architecture of Leh Palace

Leh Palace is a perfect example of Tibetan architecture. It has  9 stories in total, out of which Level 1 and 2 lays separate from the rest Levels. The lower two floors 1 and 2 were used as store rooms and stables whereas the upper floors were used as their residence by Royals.

Leh Palace Drawing

The Palace has no such plush flamboyant décor, to attract tourists or travelers. It is simply made of wood, mud, sand and stone. The uniqueness is the way 9 floors are laid down on the slanting hill and its buttressed walls. The materials used in the construction are used with a purpose. Mud keeps the rooms warm in winters and cool in summers. Wood acts as insulator and prevents loss of heat. Sand is used as a gluing material in between the stones.

Level Third – Entrance

After parking our car, a long cobbled road took us to the main Palace entrance. We thought it to be the first floor but it was actually third. So, the main entrance to the Palace is at third level.  The entrance has wooden pillars and some ferocious Lion carvings on it, decorated with Tibetan clothes.

From there started the long dark corridors with the maze of several small rooms with low entrances. The whole place from inside looked gloomy and some of the rooms had now been turned into the exhibition halls.

The only attraction we saw in these rooms were the huge glass windows which gave the panoramic view of Leh town and Polo ground. And irony is now the Polo ground is just a taxi stand. We also heard the guide describing that King used to sit here and watch the Polo match.  Isn’t that the example of  a luxurious life?

Windows in the room of Leh Palace

Level Four – Khatok Chenmo

The end of corridor at third floor had a steep staircase which took us straight to the level four. The open courtyard in the front here, offered the magnificent view of Leh town whereas the sides had beautiful, geometrically designed windows and overhanging balconies. The windows were decorated with yellow prayer flags, making it highly contrasting and appealing. On the other end I could see the staircase leading to the top floors and the curiosity was juggling in me was to reach the top soon.

Overhanging Balaconies in Leh Palace

Before we could climb to the next level; we saw the signage reading Duk – Kar- lakhang, also known as the temple of Royals. Being hesitant is removing our shoes, we skipped going inside the temple. But the multiple pair of shoes outside completely depicted that Temple is still active and used for offerings. On inquiring we got to know, the Temple houses a statue of Lord Buddha and several ancient religious literature’s. And from there, we further climbed the stairs to reach the next level.

The Royal Temple or Duk – Kar- lakhang in Leh Temple

Level Five – Hall of Public Audience

Again the zigzag, low lying corridors behaved no less than a maze to us. Indeed, I and Tashi were lost in our own direction and simultaneously were searching for each other. Here we saw a huge naturally lit room i.e. Hall of Public Audience, now used as an exhibition hall by ASI. There were several murals and paintings in the room. Some of them appeared to be more than 500- 600 years old and were now in dwindling state.

Level 6 – The Royal Apartment

The Level 6 appeared to be more open and spacious courtyard. Also. the view of Leh city was widening with increase in every level.  In the center of Level 6, stood the top surface of Hall of Public Audience, giving ample light to the room. On one end of courtyard, there is a The Royal Apartment, secluded from everything whereas the other end lead to the trailing stairs to next levels.

Level 6 corrdior of Leh Palace

Level 7- The Last Courtyard

The steep stairs from Level 6 took us to another higher level of courtyard, offering most thrilling panoramas of Leh city. The views were so contrasting that probably one can get confused looking at his own pictures. If one side of the Leh city is painted in green, the other side is probably painted in the dun shades and the front had a tint of both.

views of Leh Town from 7th Level of Leh Palace

The greeen view of Leh from Leh Palace

From here, you also get a perfect view of Tsemo Namgyal Castle, built by King Tashi Namgyal in 16th century.

Tsemo Namgyal Castle view from Leh Palace

Level 8 and Level 9 of Leh Palace

The last two levels 8 and 9 looked more broken down as compared to the rest levels and were closed for the public. The Guard sitting at 7th level told us that probably these levels also had been the royal rooms used for their own living.

Level 8 and 9 of Leh Palace

Level 1 and 2

Now the only left part was Level 1 and 2. We wanted to go down and explore it but it was already time for sunset and Palace to shut down. So, we just clicked some shots of the same from level 3 while exiting. And these levels were used as stable and store house of Royals.

Level 1 and 2 of Leh Palace

How to reach Leh Palace

Leh Palace lies almost 2 kilometers away from the main Leh Market on the hilltop. There are two options to reach here. One is by driving till the palace and second is climbing the steep slopes from the Leh market. The first one is more easy but the second one is more adventurous. The climb make you pass through the Ladakhi houses and shops and it can be covered in 20-25 minutes.

Leh Palace at Dusk

Some Important Tips

  • Leh Palace is dark from inside, so Nyctophobic people be prepared for the journey
  • Doors are really small. So, mind your head. Indeed, you will also find the boards quoting “Mind your head” with in the palace
  • Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated as it really gets tiring while climbing up and down
  • Wear flat shoes and comfortable clothing
  • Remove shoes before entering the Temple
  • Listen to the guards and don’t enter the prohibited areas as they have a valid reason to stop you from entering them. Palace is almost in broke down state, so be safe
  • Don’t lean against the overhanging balconies and windows

Our Opinion

The visit to Leh palace is a journey to the primitive world. Its starking grand building is quite unique as compared to the other palaces of India. It clearly depicts the royalty and the power Royals had enjoyed. And the best is views- if on one side you see bustling Leh town, then on the another is Stok Kangri and Zanskar Himalyan range. We still can’t get over the views we had enjoyed and lived there.

Leh Palace - Once the residence of Royals

That was all about our experience. Have you visited the Leh Palace or you want to visit it? Do share your thoughts on the same in comment section. You can also pin it or share it with friends and family.

20 thoughts on “Leh Palace- Once the Residence of Royals in Ladakh”

  • Your post got me back to my own visit last year to this palace. I so so loved this place for its quaintness. I see that you too, found that contrast of colors from the palace terrace. It is amazing how one side is so green and the other brown. Simple and elegant is how I descibe this place.

  • Tibet is such an alluring place. I’d love to visit both the monasteries and the palaces in Leh Ladakh. Leh Palace seems indeed grandiose. I’d choose to drive up there if I were to go, but I’m sure my husband would love to hike the steep slopes from the Leh market.

  • I’m so amazed how modern the Leh Palace looks given the age it was built. It looks in such good condition too. I would definitely enjoy a visit, to appreciate in person all the interesting architectural details you’ve highlighted.

  • Very impressive massive structure in stone. The sculptures inside too are interesting. I am worried though how long will the wooden structures stand.

  • Wow, I do want to go to India for a long time, but I have never heard of the palace before. Sounds and looks like a magical place and it´s definitely on my list for my visit. Thank you for sharing!

  • The Palace does seem to be in good condition. It has a simplicity like the monasteries in that region and I bet the views of the landscape around it are worth it.

  • There’s a stark grace to this ancient temple. The rooms and views are elegant even now. How wonderful to walk through and consider what it once meant to be a royal and calling this temple home.

  • The palace is so big, what a nice place to explore in India. So many people have misconception in the West of India being busy and overwhelming but this proves otherwise open space and in the mountains 🙂 very nice post, good experience im sure.

  • This looks like a fascinating place to visit to catch a glimpse of the past glories of the royals! It is a shame that part of it is off limits, but at least you can see most of the floors. The views are incredible too, it sounds like it would be worth the hike up, even if a taxi is easier I like the sound of the adventure!

  • What an interesting piece of architecture! The palace does look very simple indeed.. I wonder how it was back when it was still being used by royals.. Level 7’s view of the Leh City is quite astonishing… Love the landscape!

  • India is my number one dream country to visit, but I still have not managed to go there yet. Your Post on Leh Palace just adds another place I want to see. Climbing up to it must have been great experience. Thanks for sharing.

  • India is such an alluring place. I’d love to visit both Leh Palace and the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, after which it was modeled. The palace seems indeed grandiose. I’d choose to drive up there if I were to go, but I’m sure my husband would love to hike the steep slopes from the Leh market.

  • Loved the landscapes from the top, but that is only expected in Ladakh. The interiors of the palace reminded me of the Dhankar Fort, although it was much smaller and not well maintained. Did not know that it was a replica of Potala. Wonder if I ever will be able to see the original one!

  • You are right, I have been to Ladakh but never to this palace and I don’t think I have even heard of it, I wasn’t aware of this lovely little hidden gem there! The view from level 7 courtyard is amazing! I love the distant view of Tsemo Namgyal Castle. Can’t believe these castles date as far back as the 16th and 17th century, I love the architecture! Lovely find in Ladakh, I have to say.

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