Tag Archives: Palaces of India

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 the 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 to visit 

From sunrise to sunset

History of Leh Palace

The construction of Leh Palace was initiated by Tsewang Namgyal, the founder of the Namgyal Dynasty in the 16th century and was completed by King Sengge Namgyal, the 5th king of Ladakh in the 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 the Royals till it was attacked by the Dogra forces. 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 the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The 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 storerooms 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. The mud keeps the rooms warm in winters and cool in summers. Wood acts as an 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 the 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 the 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 the corridor on the third floor had a steep staircase that took us straight to 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- Lhakhang, also known as the temple of the 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 literatures. 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 Six – The Royal Apartment

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

Level 6 corrdior of Leh Palace

Level Seven- The Last Courtyard

The steep stairs from Level 6 took us to another higher level of the courtyard, offering the 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 the 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 the 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 stables and storehouses of the 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 easier but the second one is more adventurous. The climb makes 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 the inside, so Nyctophobic people be prepared for the journey
  • The 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 downstate, 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 other is Stok Kangri and Zanskar Himalayan 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 the comment section. You can also pin it or share it with friends and family.

Other articles you can Check from Leh Ladakh series are:

Leh Ladakh Road trip from Delhi

A walk with Indian soldier at Kargil War Memorial

Nubra Valley: The Valley of Flowers in Ladakh

A day at White Lake Tso Kar in Ladakh

Attractions on the Srinagar Leh Highway

Ladakh-The land of High Passes

All you need to know about Leh Ladakh Inner Line Permit

Story of Gata Loops

Dos and Donts for Ladakh Road Trip

Hemis Monastery: Biggest & Wealthiest Gompa in Ladakh

Sonamarg, Kashmir – The Golden Meadows of India

Bhuttico Kullu Shawls & Accessories – The Gift of Valley

Leh Ladakh Palaces

10 reasons why everyone should travel India

The colored Tibetan Prayer Stones – Mani Stones

Padam Palace: The Royal Palace in Rampur Bushahr

Usually, while traveling to Spiti Valley from Delhi, everyone makes their first stop at Shimla, and then head forward to Kalpa or Sangla Valley skipping Rampur Bushahr. But somehow the things were planned differently for us during our Spiti Valley winter trip. We got late while finishing our work assignment with Aamod Resort Shoghi, so planned a halt midway at Rampur Bushahr, Himachal Pradesh. The unknown destinations and unplanned halts always take you to explore the hidden gems i.e. what proved true for us and we found the hidden architectural marvel Padam Palace, also known as Rampur Palace at Rampur Bushahr.

Padam Palace- Royal Palace at Rampur Bushahr

About Rampur Bushahr

The town Rampur Bushahr lies 128 Kilometres from Shimla and is the last capital of Bushahr dynasty. The Bashahr dynasty originally used to rule from Kamru Fort near Sangla in Kinnaur and Shimla region. Later they moved their base to Sarahan and some 100 years back to Rampur Bushahr, along the beautiful River Sutlej. Interestingly, if you go by mythology and legends, the dynasty trace their roots back to Lord Krishna’s family. And this belief comes true when you can see lots of temples in the region.

Entrance to Rampur Bushahr town: Padam Palace

Rampur Bushahr spreads longitudinally covering the mountain slopes. It is guarded by Lord Hanuman’s Idol at the entrance, from Shimla side and below flows the gushing River Sutlej. The town seems to be blessed and quite prosperous.

Lord Hanuman statue at Rampur Bushahr: Padam Palace

History of Padam Palace

In the middle of the city, near bus stand, just adjacent to the Nau Nabh heritage hotel stands the walled, exalted Padam Palace. The Palace and town once served as the winter capital of Princely state Bushair but today it is just a private residence of the royal family and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

Panoramic view of Padam Palace

The foundation stone of Padam Palace was laid down in 1919 by Raja Padam Singh, who was 122nd King in the league of Bushahr dynasty and the father of Virbhadra Singh. The construction spanned over 6 years and got completed in 1925.

Padam Palace Complex

Just as we stepped inside the huge Iron Gate from Hotel Nau Nabh, there was a huge sprawling complex with a lot of green lawns. At one end of the lawn, there is a colorful glass and wood building known as Sheesh Mahal, in the center stood octagonal dome-shaped structure in a turquoise blue color known as Machhkandi. Whereas on the other end, stretched a building in ash grey color with huge vertical pillars, known as Padam Palace. The dark shades against the green background and blue sky truly represented that the building has grown more elegant with time.


The eight-sided dome-shaped wooden structure in the lawn, Machhkandi was the place from where King interacted with his public. The structure is painted in blue, has a lot of carvings and figurines and four entrances. We totally fell in love with its architecture and couldn’t resist climbing it. From all the eight angles, the views were different but equally enchanting.

Machhkandi at Padam Palace

Machhkandi from different angle at Padam Palace, Rampur

After entering I looked up at the dome and was astonished to see the colors, symbols, and figurines on it. The engraved symbols and figures were Om, Ram, Name of the king, state, fish, flowers etc.

The dome of Machhkandi at Padam Palace, Rampur Bushahr

Exact logic of having them in the dome is still not clear to us but what we could relate is that Machhkandi was treated like a temple and the King or decision maker sitting there was like a God. So these positive symbols might be imparting him the wisdom to make the fair decision.

Dome decorated with symbols and figurines - Padam Palace

The Palace

As we stepped down the stairs of Machkkandi, there started the horizon of horizontally spread elegant Palace. The Palace has a huge facade with symmetric arches and geometrically designed ceiling with green and red glass patches in between. The chocolate brown colored wooden carvings on the first floor, crowned by reddish brown gables and multi-gabled bandstands clearly depicted the architecture skills of craftsmen. The tapered wooden screen on the first floor has floral designs and figures to partially admit light without exposing inside.

Wooden Carving on first floor of Padam Palace, Rampur

In the whole structure, the major attraction was the alluring blue front door with a lot of glass work on it. Few glasses in center of the door were colored and tinted. We couldn’t enter inside as it was closed but still it left us completely stunned from outside. I peeped inside through the glass and could see a huge hall with minimum furniture and colored windows/ doors on all sides. The sun rays through these tinted glasses were making wonderful geometrical impressions. On each side of the door, was placed a statue of Hindu idols -Lord Ganesha and Lord Balaji.

Blue Door at Padam Palace. Rampur Bushahr


Another, striking feature of the palace is completely No use of cement anywhere. Instead, the black gram paste was used for cementing the stone blocks together.

Padam Palace Facade

Just in front of the Palace main door is a huge octagonal shaped fountain, which was empty and filled with dirt. But we are sure when in the run; the fountain might be adding the charm to the whole complex.

How to reach Padam Palace

Padam Palace lies 128 Kilometres from Shimla and can be reached by bus, cab or private car in 3 hours. If commuting by bus, get down at bus stand and walk meters0 meters right and you will be at Padam Palace.

Entry FeesThere is no entry fee to see the Palace. You need prior permissions to visit inside.

Total Time to see PalaceHalf -hour to 2 hrs

 Where to stay in Rampur Bushahr

There are several accommodation options in the town from budget, luxury to heritage hotels. But, if you want to live like Royals, then stay at Nau Nabh Heritage Hotel for a day. We will be writing a complete post on it, soon.

Best time to Visit Rampur Bushahr

Rampur Bushahr can be visited throughout the year. Summers are pleasant and they last from March to June. Monsoon starts from June and continues till September.  September to November too is a good time to explore the place but is cold. Expect cold and snowy winters from December to March in Rampur. Sometimes even roads get closed, so check the status before planning your trip.

However, the best time to visit town is during Lavi festival; which is held every year between 11th to 14th November. Lavi Fair is one of the biggest fairs in North India. It adds life to the town and is a major talk of the area.

Other Attractions in Rampur Bushahr

Apart Padam Palace, one can visit Raghunath Temple, Ayodhya Temple, Narsingh temple, Dumgir Budh Temple, Dutt Nagar, Nirath, Nirmand and Asia’s largest Hydro project Nathpa Jhakri power plant.

Padam Palace, Rampur Bushahr

For us, the visit to the Padam Palace was like a time warp to the era of the Kings and Queens, where they lived the royal lives and were the decision makers. Imagine, still, the people of Rampur Bushahr, greet Cheif minister, Virbhadra Singh as Rajaji (King).