The most famous holy places in Leh Ladakh, India are the Buddhist monasteries. Apart from that also, there are a number of other pilgrimages in Ladakh. Some of the popular pilgrim destinations in and around the Ladakh region are:
Padum, situated at a height of 3505 meters, serves as the administrative headquarters of the Ladakh region. Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, it now houses a population of nearly 1500. Muslims constitute nearly half of the population of the town. A huge boulder near the river bank with ancient rock carving, dating back to the 8th century, is a living proof of the fact that North Indian Buddhism has had influence in this region since ancient times. Then, there is the Starrimo Monastery gripping a tree-covered ridge above the old town. The ancient Pibiting village with the hilltop monastery as its backdrop is an epitome of stupa architecture.
The Stongdey monastery is situated 18 km to the north of Padum. It is the second largest monastery of Zanskar and owes allegiance to the Tibetan Yogi, Marpa. Playing host to about 60 Gelukpa monks, the Stongdey monastery houses a number of temples, each a reservoir of the rich heritage of the region. A climb to the monastery provides you with a magnificent view of the valley below.
Zangla is situated to the north of Zanskar and was ruled by a titular king till a few years back. There is an old hilltop castle mostly in ruins, a small chapel, an old Nunnery, etc worth visiting in Zangla. The village of Tsa-zar, mid-way between Stongdey and Zangla, houses an old monastery with some beautiful frescos. Zangla also serves as the focal point on the Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip, covering most of the cultural sites of Zanskar.
Sani is situated on the road to Kargil, approximately 6 km west of Padum. It houses a beautiful monastery that has been built like a castle. Unlike any other monasteries of the region, it is built on a level ground. A Kanika stupa standing in the backyard and a redundant chapel with some exquisite frescoes are some of the major attractions of this monastery. It also has a huge multi-columned central prayer hall, with statues of Buddhists divinities and Drugpa (old schools) high saints. It is believed that Naropa, the famous Indian yogi from Vikramsila, sat in meditation under the Kanika stupa. The same site, now, has a veiled bronze figure of the yogi, unveiled once a year in late July at the time of an annual two-day festival.
There are numerous Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that serve as one of the major tourist draws. The famous monasteries of Phyang, Hemis and Chemrey belong to the Namgyal dynasty period. Then, there are the monasteries of Thikse, Likkir, Rhidzong and Spituk in central Ladakh, which belong to the reformist group. Almost every monastery in Ladakh serves as a venue for one festival or the other. Even meditation sessions are held in Ladakh in summers at the Mahabodhi Meditation Center on Changspa Lane.