Leh & Ladakh
LadakhLadakh, the largest of the ten provinces of Jammu and Kashmir is bordered by the Karakorm chain of mountains in the north and Himalayas in the south. Ladakh is the land of towering mountains and Buddhist simplicity. It's beautiful terrains and mountains beckons the adventurous tourist for trekking and mountaineering. The land of jagged peaks and barren landscapes, it is at once alluring and awe-inspiring. Hidden behind this harsh and forbidding facade is an ancient civilization with captivating people. The great Indus river flows right through Ladakh. The province is divided into Leh, the capital, Nubra, Zanskar, lower Ladakh and Rupshu.
Sightseeing at LadakhLeh : Leh, The capital of Ladakh since the 14th Century is situated at an altitude of 11000 ft. Leh is also a favourite hiking locale and is known for some of the best hikes in the country. The main attraction is the nine storey Leh Palace (Built by Sing ge Namgyal in 16th century) and Tsemo (Victory Peak) built by Tashi Namgyal. The other places of importance are the Sanskar Monastery, Shanti Stupa Zoravar Fort etc. It is also the main business centre of Ladakh. Leh can be subdivided into four main tourist circuits:
Dha-Hanu : It is at a distance of 150 - 170 kms from Leh and is situated at an altitude of 10000 ft. It is the Land of the "Drok-Pa"an Indo Aryan race. Only two villages Dha & Biama are open for tourists. Their cultural and religious practices are totally different from the rest of Ladakh. Bon-Chos believe in an ancient Pre-Buddhist animist religion known as "Bon-Chos".These people abstained from bathing all their lives saying that " If you wash your self,your luck goes away" but since the last few years this practise is beginning to fade away.It has much to offer to scholars in the field of Ethnology&Social Anthropology.
Central Ladakh : This area around river Indus extends from Upshi to Khaltse. This is a very beautiful area with lots of Monasteries and villages. The capital of Ladakh (Leh) also comes under this area. The major attractions are the nine storey Palace (Leh), the Palace Museum of Stok, Hemis, Thiksey, Chemrey, Phyang, Lamayuru, Spituk, Ridzong, Alchi Monasteries and villages of Basgo, Nimoo, Sanskar etc.
Nubra Valley :Popularly known as the "Ldomra" or the valley of flowers, it is situated at an altitude of about 10000 ft. The major attraction is the world's highest road ('Khardong la' at 18,380 ft). The capital of Nubra, Diskit is 118 km from Leh. It has a beautiful monastery(founded in 1420) on the hilltop just above the village. Seven kms. from Diskit is the village of Hunder which is very famous for double hump camels, found only in Central Asia and Nubra Valley. Other attractions are the villages of Trith, Sumur, Tegar (Samstangling Monastery ) and Panamik (hot springs). Eight kms from Panamik is Ensa Monastery which is 250 years old and accessible only after a trek of 3-4 hours.
Changthang Area :The land of nomad. These tribes are called the "Khampas" or "Chamgpas". There are two race of nomads, one is the 'Ladakhi Nomads' and the other 'Tibetan nomads'. Tibetain nomads wear yak skin and live in movable tents. They can be seen moving around with their herds of yaks, goats, sheep, and cows in search of pasture lands. The area is also famous for its wild life. You may see snow leopards, foxes, wolves wild asses, antelopes, marmots and even some endangered species of birds like the bar headed goose, crested grebe, brahimi ducks, etc.
Zanskar :The Land of Religion, it is noted for its high ranges, fine Gompas and hospitable people. It has the largest number of Gompas in Ladakh region outside the Indus Valley. The land was virtually untouched until recently. It is now a popular destination for adventurous treks. The famous peaks of Nun & Kun are in Zanskar. Padum is the the main habitation and subdivisional headquarter. Nearby are two famous Gompas of Stagrimo & Pibithing. A two hour trek from Padum takes one to Karsha Gompa (16th Century).This is the largest and the wealthiest Gompa of this region. Other interesting Gompas of this region are - Sani (6kms from Padum), Stongdey(18kms), Bardan(12kms) and the Phugtal Gompa.
Suru Valley : The Suru Valley one of the prettiest regions of Ladakh, stretches for 140 kms beyond Kargil to the Penzi La pass, the point of entering into the Zanskar valley. Its verdant hills are intensively cultivated. Enough snow and water during the year sustain two crops annually. The valleys are especially picturesque in spring when they are the Sankoo-Panikhar tract is magnificent. The open valley adorned with undulating alpine meadows strewn with wild flowers, groves of poplars and willows are set against the majestic backdrop of the Himalayan peaks dusted with snow.
Pangong Tso This high salt-water lake, considered to be the highest salt-water lake in the world (certainly in Ladakh!), is at 4300 mtrs in elevation, and is surrounded by mountain peaks over 6500 mtrs high. The lake is extremely long, about 150 km long, but is only a couple of miles (2 km or so) wide -- basically, shaped like a pencil.
Best Season to Visit : June to October.
- Air : Indian Airlines operates flight from Delhi to Ladakh four times a week. It also has flight arrangements from Chandigarh to Leh. Tourists usually prefer to travel to Leh by air. The flight path will take you directly above the Zanskar valley giving a beautiful look of the most of the other ranges.
- Road : The Manali-Leh road has served as the primary land approach to Ladakh. The traffic starts around mid-June and continues till early October. Himachal Pradesh state road transport corporation and J & K state road transport corporation all operate deluxe and ordinary bus services between Manali and Leh. It takes approximately 19 hours from Manali to Leh depending on weather conditions.
Shopping in LadakhShops sell various curios, handicrafts and (supposedly) Tibetan and Indian antiques, manned by pushy Kashmiri merchants eager to make a sell. Apart from the jewelry and some traditional Ladakhi handicrafts, most of the items are made outside the region or brought in from Nepal. To prevent being fleeced by the shop owners - Bargain!! Watch out for various festivals (eg. Ladakh festival).
LehLeh is one of the favorite tourist destinations located in the northernmost parts of the country. The capital of the Ladakh district, Leh is towards the eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Lapped in the snow-covered fringes of the Himalayas, Leh has been the center of Tibetian-Buddhist culture since ages. It's Gompas have attracted devout Buddhists from all over the world. Besides, it is also a favourite trekking and hiking spot and is known for some of the best hikes and treks in the country.
Sightseeing at Leh -Leh Palace : A miniature version of the Potala in Lhasa, the Leh Palace is one of the major attractions here. The palace was built in the 17th century and is now dilapidated and deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s. Above the palace, at the top of the Namgyal hill, is the Victory Tower, built to commemorate Ladakh's victory over the Balti Kashmir armies in the early 16th century.
The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa : Built in 1430, it consists of a three-story high Buddha image and ancient manuscripts and frescoes. The fort above this gompa is ruined, but the views of Leh from here are breathtakingly beautiful.
Sankar Gompa : The Sankar gompa is located a couple of kilometers north of the town center. The gompa belongs to the Gelukpa order and has an impression of the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshwara Padmahari or Chenresig.
Shanti Stupa : The Shanti Stupa was built by a Japanese order and was opened by the Dalai Lama in 1985. One can view the exotic locales nearby from here. The stupa is located at a distance of 3 km from the Fort Road.
Alchi Gompa : Seventy kilometers from Leh, on the banks of river Indus, is the Alchi gompa dating back to the 11th century. It is a famous monastery with a widely renowned collection of paintings.
Hemis Gompa : At a distance of 45 km south of Leh, Hemis is one of the biggest gompas in Ladakh. Built in 1630, it belongs to the red sect, Brokpa.
Matho Gompa : Situated on the opposite bank of the Indus across Thikse, the Matho gompa was established in the first half of the 16th century and has a valuable collection of old and beautiful thangkas, some in the form of 'mandalas.' Its annual festival of oracles in early March is an important event in the Ladakhi religious calendar.
Shey Gompa : Until the 16th century, the Shey gompa was the royal residence. It is located at a distance of 15 km south of Leh. This Palace Monastery has the largest statue of Maitreya Buddha (the Buddha to come) in Ladakh.
Spituk Gompa : At a distance of 8 km from Leh, standing majestically on top of a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley, lies the Spituk Gompa. It was built in the 15th century and houses a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, icons and thangkas. Higher up the hill is the Mahakal Temple, containing the shrine of Vajrabhairava.
Hemis National Park : Hemis High-Altitude National Park in Leh is the largest high-altitude reserve of India. This is a place worth visiting.
Best Season to Visit : The climate of this region is one of the extremes (-40 degrees in winters). March to September is the best time to visit Leh.
Reaching Leh -
- Air : There are regular flights from Delhi to Leh that are run by the Indian Airlines. There are direct flights once a week from Leh to Srinagar and twice a week to Jammu. The Delhi flights are overbooked throughout the year.
- Road : There are two overland routes to Leh-the roads from Srinagar and Manali. The Leh-Srinagar road is usually open from June to October, while the Leh-Manali route is open from July to September.