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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shanti Stupa: Of votive stupas, acclimatization and beautiful views

The town of Leh has many interesting and important landmarks. One of them is Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist white-domed stupa located on top of a hillock in the upper Changspa region of Leh. I like this place a lot because it is one of those locations that help you acclimatize well in the rarified atmosphere.

Shanti Stupa during sunset
You might wonder how does a monument help in acclimatization. The answer lies in the 100 odd steps that lead up to the stupa from the upper changspa road. After the initial rest period of 24 hours, this climb is a great way to train your lungs for the low oxygen levels in the atmosphere.

Small stupas on the climb up to Shanti Stupa
Situated at about a 10 minute walk from the Leh market, the entrance of the Shanti Stupa is lined with a whole lot of votive stupas (stupas built by ordinary people as their own small temple). And as you admire the votive stupas, you can huff and pant to the top to enjoy the sensational views of the Leh town.

View of the army camps and the Leh city from Shanti Stupa
The best time to climb the Shanti Stupa is in the late afternoon hours as this will allow you get a chance to catch the sunset  over Leh when the town and the surrounding hills are decked in golden orange. If you are visiting during the no moon day or during one of the Buddhist festival days, make sure you go in the night to see the entire pathway lit by lamps. To see this sight, you can take either the Go Air or the Indigo Airlines flight from Delhi, which drops by Leh every day

View of the Leh town from Shanti Stupa
But, when you do go to see this night extravaganza, be careful of the crackers that local boys seemed to have placed almost everywhere. My close friend nearly had a panic attack when one of the crackers burst right under him.

Exploring Shanti Stupa
Festivals or no festivals, sunrise or sunset, day or night, Shanti Stupa is a must go place if you wish to acclimatize well and quickly. The other option is the nearby monastery that is also situated on top of a small hillock. It always helps to plan well to combat AMS (acute mountain sickness).

For cheap air tickets, book early and get to enjoy Ladakh without spending a lot of money.



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