Hanle , Leh
Hanle is a small village in Ladakh, of about 300 inhabitants, and also houses the Indian Astronomical Observatory. Most explorers travelling to Ladakh may have not heard of this remote village situated in the south-eastern end of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a 9 to 10-hr long drive from Leh and close to the Indo-China Border.
There is not much to do, in terms of sightseeing except for the Hanle Monastery - which is a historically and architecturally significant 17th century Gompa belonging to the Tibetan Buddhism sect – and the Indian Astronomical Observatory – boasting of being one of the world’s highest observatories. The observatory, operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics is the highest in the world, at an altitude of 4500 mts.
Most visitors to Leh during the peak seasons try and cover what Ladakh is most famous for, i.e., the famous Gompas nearby, Nubra Valley, the Tso Moriri, Pangong Tso and the like. If you plan on covering these, Hanle will hardly make your list of ‘Top places to go in Ladakh’. There are only one or two operating guest houses and a few locals offering home stays.
However, if you are a traveler searching for an absolute peace of mind, a few rare nights of stargazing and wilderness with ample amount of time in your hands, this is the right place for you. The Changthang valley has a scenic landscape that is unique even to Ladakh.
The strategic location of Hanle (close to the Tibetan/Chinese border) means that you'll need a special permit to visit Hanle. Leh to Hanle would be about 275 KMs, via Chumathang and Mahe. Stay at the Hanle observatory guesthouse (request prior permission) or at one of the many homestays in Hanle. Lately it has become tough to get the permission for stay at Hanle observatory guesthouse. There are some homestay and private guest houses options available in the village.
Before visiting the place, one must keep in mind that the village is less than 20 kms away from the Line of Actual Control and is a highly sensitive area. Inner Line Permits are a must – yes, even for Indian citizens.