Ladakh

Bounded by the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains, Ladakh is the largest province in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The landscape of Ladakh, a high altitude desert, is defined by craggy, barren cliffs and plateaus. Ladakh is a favorite among adventure sports enthusiasts, offering unique adventures in trekking, mountaineering and white water rafting. While rafting options are available on both Indus and Zanskar rivers, the Zanskar course is more difficult and exciting. The trekking options range from short, day-long walks to visit monuments or monastic settlements to long, trans-mountain treks involving weeks of walking and camping in the wilderness.

Ladakh celebrates a numbers of monastic festivals – annual events of the major monasteries primarily in winters. The month of September, hosts the Ladakh Festival that gives a peek into the richness, depth and pageantry of Ladakh’s centuries-old culture, traditions and folk heritage. One can witness the best samples of the region’s performing arts, Archery contests and the Ladakh Polo Cup.

Weather

During summer season (April-June) the sun shines brightly in Leh and makes the weather warm and comfortable. The mountains remain snow-clad the lakes remain frozen showcasing a different kind of beauty altogether.

Monsoon (July-August) descends on Ladakh from late July to the end of August. During this time, landslides and cloudbursts can take place in Ladakh making it a risky time to visit the place.

During the months of September & October winter starts setting in. The weather becomes pleasant with cold winds blowing during the evenings. This makes it a perfect time to go for trekking. The winters can get unbearable in Ladakh from November to February. The trekking routes are closed down after heavy snowfall in November.

The best time to visit this nature’s abode is during the summers when the temperatures are moderate and hospitable to its tourists. However, the most famous treks here are conducted in the months of December and January along the river Zanskar.

How to Reach

Being a remote area, Ladakh is only traversable by air or road. The nearest airport is at Leh, which is well connected to Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar, Chandigarh, Mumbai and several other cities in India.

As mentioned, the city is at a very remote location with minimal resources available. So the region does not have a railway station. However, the nearest railway station is at Jammu (700 km from Ladakh) which is well connected with Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

Ladakh can be reached by road from Manali or Srinagar. The road from Manali to Leh is said to be one of the most picturesque routes of the world.

Key attractions/Sightseeing

Pangong Lake: The famous and sparkling blue Pangong Lake is situated in the Himalayas, approximately at the height of 4350 meters. It is 124 km long and extends from India to Tibet. The lake freezes completely during winters in spite of its salinity. The lake has been a tourist attraction since a very long time. Pangong Lake is home to many migrating birds in summer and one can witness numerous ducks and gulls “surfing”. Due to the briny water the lake does not support aquatic life other than some ocean bugs called crustaceans by oceanographers. Some are luck to spot a kiang which is a wild ass or a marmot a brownish rodent. There are two streams from the Indian side that form the wetlands and marshes at the edges. It is the beauty of the impeccable blue waters that embezzle the tourist’s attention the most. The serenity and tranquility of this place is the tourist’s paradise.

Leh Palace: Modelled on the basis of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Leh Palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. The palace is nine storey high, where the upper floors used to accommodate the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and store rooms. The roof provides panoramic views of Leh and the surrounding areas. From here the mountain of Stok Kangri in the Zangskar mountain range is visible across the Indus valley to the south, with the Ladakh mountain range rising behind the palace is visible in the north. This nine-storey, dun-coloured palace is Leh’s dominant structure and an architectural icon. This beautifully constructed palace was abandoned when the Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid-19th century and forced the royal family to move to Stok Palace. The now ruined palace is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of jewelry, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns. Chinese thangka or sooth paintings, which are more than 450 years old, with intricate designs still retain the bright and pleasing colors derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones. Interesting structures situated around the palace’s base include the very prominent Namgyal Stupa, the colorfully muralled Chandazik Gompa and the 1430 Chamba Lhakhang, with medieval mural fragments located between the inner and outer walls.

Tso Moriri Lake: It is the lesser known of the many lakes within the Changtang Wildlife sanctuary, Moriri Tso Lake is twin to the Pangong Tso Lake. This lake offers a scenic place of peace and tranquility. The water body measures about 28 km in length from north to south and about 100 feet average in depth. The lake is surrounded by barren hills, with the backdrop of beautiful snow-covered mountains. Tso Moriri has been declared as a wetland reserve. A number of species of birds included bare-headed goose, the great-crested grebe, the Brahmin duck and the brown-headed gull. Himalayan hares are abundantly found here. Moriri Tso is also called the ‘mountain lake’, owing to the peaks that surround it, towering at a height of 2000 meters, shutting it off from the outside world.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa: The monastery has long lured travelers seeking Buddhist experience but surprises them with something unexpected- the moon like, quiet and mystic expanse of Ladakh’s landscape. The guardian deities reside in the monastery’s Gongkhang and the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags in and around the monastery lend their own spiritual cadence. Traveling to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa makes you encounter the steep mountains and submerges you in its serene and spiritual folds.

Khardung La Pass: Best known as the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, the Khardung La Pass, commonly pronounced as Khardzong La, is a very important strategic pass into the Siachen glacier and claims to be the world’s highest motor able pass at an elevation of 5,602 m. The pristine air, the scenic beauty one sees all around and the feeling that you are on top of the world has made Khardung La a very popular tourist attraction in the past few years.

Nubra Valley: Nubra valley is a dash of lush greenery in Ladakh’s dessert and moonlike landscapes and slopes, being almost 3000 m lower than Leh. Snuggled between the Karakoram Range and nourished by two rivers, Nubra is brimming with Sea buckthorns and Alfalfa. During summers, the whole valley is carpeted with Pink and yellow roses and by autumn in oodles of wild lavenders which, like almost everything around it, a sight beyond simple natural beauty. To travel to this place, tourists require an Inner Line Permit that can be obtained in Leh.

Magnetic Hill: The popular Magnetic Hill of Ladakh is said to be a gravity hill where vehicles defy the force of gravity and move upwards on the hill, when parked at the marked location. The hill lies at a distance of 30 km from the town of Leh, at an elevation of around 14,000 feet above sea level. To the eastern side of the hill flows the Sindhu River, originating in Tibet and is an almost essential stopover for all those who travel to Ladakh. Magnetic hill is a nice place to stop by on your trip, just for the fun of it and to experience mystery beyond the limits of our everyday lives.
White water rafting: Rafting expedition is done on Zanskar River, called the Grand Canyon of India, with high cliff like gorges at certain places. The Zanskar Rafting expedition is one of the best river trips in the world.

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