India

Leh Old Fort

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At the very top of a ridge that overlooks Leh town are the remains of the 16th century palace and fort of King Tashi Namgyal. The relatively small white building sits just above the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, so a visit to both can be combined to save you having to climb this ridge multiple times.

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This was Leh’s first royal residence, and just like all Ladakhi capitals, Leh too had its first fortress built at the highest elevations. With the passing of time and the kings becoming more confident, subsequent palaces were built at more accessible lower elevations.

The once massive fort is now in ruins, and whether it is open or not will be just down to pure chance. The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa just below is rumoured to be open 7-9am and 5-8pm, but on both my visits to Leh I found things to be very different.

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You can still wander about the complex, in particular there was an interesting shrine in a small room that still appears to be in use, and of course there are spectacular panoramic views of Leh valley and the mountains beyond.

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Historians believe that an earlier fort dating to the 5th century once resided here, built by Dards who were the first inhabitants of Ladakh. Parts of that citadel it is believed were incorporated into this fort, and you can see small portions of ruined buildings stretching along the crest of the ridge, strung with fluttering prayer flags.

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