Ladakh Travel Guide
Nestled between the two towering mountain ranges of Himalayas and Karakoram, Ladakh has no parallel in terms of natural beauty and scenic attractions. This amazing and tranquil land, which is always full of mystery, happens to be on the top of the list of most travelers from India and rest of the world. Nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts or people just wishing to immerse themselves in the charm of the place, find Ladakh to be a pristine haven for solitude and satisfaction.
Visiting Ladakh can be a humbling experience. Apart from the spectacular jaw dropping views, the plethora of ancient monasteries, palaces, monuments and temples makes any visit well worth the effort to this hilly kingdom. The list of attractions can be seemingly long and endless, but the few which have captured the imagination of every holiday enthusiast are detailed here.
The Royal Palace
Overlooking the Namgyal Hill in Leh, this former palace housing the royalty of the Kingdom is a major tourist attraction of Ladakh. This nine story example of some of the finest medieval Tibetan architecture dates back to the seventeenth century and is set amidst the backdrop of the Ladakh and Stok Kangri mountain ranges.
The Royal Palace in Leh is an important example of Buddhist culture. Apart from a statue of Lord Buddha, it houses among others, several paintings and manuscripts that are nearly 450 years old. The Victory tower on the top of the Palace, is a symbol of the battle between the Kashmiri and Ladakhi soldiers and an iconic landmark of the city.
The beautiful Old Town in Leh, is largely influenced by the traditional Asian and Tibetan architecture. The stairways and the long winding alleys of this 200 house town are the major attraction of this area.
Old Town is also home to some important historical buildings of the area, namely, Jama Masjid, Tsemo monastery and the first ever cinema theatre of Leh. The spot is best visited by organised walking tours which take place on weekends and cover all the must see areas of Old Town.
Tiger Hill is an important mountain peak of strategic importance situated in Drass valley, on the Srinagar to Leh national highway. Rising 5353 m above sea level, the peak shot into prominence in 1999, when a major battle took place between the two armies of India and Pakistan during the Kargil war.
Pangong Tso Lake
Located at a height of 4250 m, the bollywood famous Pangong Tso Lake is considered to be the largest brackish water lake in Asia. Also known as Hollow Lake, due to its unique shape, the waters here emit different hues with the rising and setting of the sun. A third of the lake lies in India, while the remainder lies in Tibet, from where it is mostly fed. Pangong Lake is a five hour drive from Leh, and a permit from the Deputy Commissioner is required to visit the site. This high altitude lake was made famous by the movie 3 Idiots.
Situated at a distance of about 40 km south-east from the main city center of Leh, the Hemis monastery is the largest and the most popular of all the Gompas of Ladakh. Built by King Namgyal in 1672, an important festival takes place here every year, called Hemis Tsechu, to highlight the victory of good over evil.
The Drukpa sect of Buddhism are the caretakers of this monastery, which also houses some rare and beautiful paintings, along with a statue of Lord Buddha.
Khardungla is situated at an altitude of 18,379 feet about 40 km away from Leh. Considered to be the highest drivable road in the world, the area offers amazing panoramic views of the surrounding valleys, made to look more colorful by the fluttering prayer flags. This iconic road is best enjoyed by booking a Ladakh Tour Package with a reputable, knowledgeable guide leading the way.
The Khardungla pass is of great strategic importance as it serves as the main supply route to the soldiers of the Indian Army stationed at Siachen Glacier. The pass is an important gateway to motorcycling enthusiasts, who arrive here from all parts of India and the world for a refreshing mountain biking experience.
The Nubra Valley is supposed to have originated from the depths of the Tethys Sea, from which the mighty Himalayas have said to be risen.The Hunder sand dunes found here are like the desert dunes found in other parts of the world. Hunder is a village situated in the middle of this valley.
The famous two – humped Bactrian camel is found here and is a major tourist attraction. The valley is located 150 km to the north of Leh, and offers stunning views of a desert type landscape surrounded by harsh and barren mountains. Situated 4000 m above sea level, the Nubra Valley is a veritable oasis in the desert against the backdrop of a snow clad countryside.
If you want to go to the moon visit Lamayuru for a true lunar like experience. This tiny village is located on the highway leading to Kargil, around 127 km from Leh. Lamayuru is best known for two things, the intriguing Lamayuru monastery which has legends and tales associated with it and the lunar terrain.
An annual festival on the second month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, by the name of Yuru Kabgyat, is a star attraction of this region. Burning of effigies and mask dances performed by the Lamas are the highlights of this festival which symbolises the banishment of ego from within a human being.
The most desolate and without doubt the best valley in the region, Zanskar Valley is the place to visit in Ladakh. The reflection of the snow off the steep mountain on the Zanskar river sides makes for a surreal visual.This wonderland can be accessed from Kargil via Padum, and once there, the complete aura of being in a remote place will engulf you.
The ever popular Chadar trek, on which trekkers make a magical walk on the frozen Zanskar River is a fun way to enjoy attractive surroundings. Truly this is one of the most incredible and memorable experience of a lifetime.
For the true adventure buffs, no trip to Ladakh can be deemed complete, without a visit to the lonely and secluded Phuktal Monastery located in the Zanskar region. The monastery is only accessible by foot, however, the trek past small villages, over rickety bridges and up steep rock formations and cliffs is a mesmerising one.
The Phuktal monastery lies hidden inside a high mountain cave and resembles a honeycomb from a distance. Home to a number of prominent sages and saints over the ages,the walls of the monastery are adorned with paintings and frescoes which are fascinating looking to the eye.
Traveling to Ladakh can be a life changing experience.This region of unmatched splendor, ancient monasteries and a perpetual clear blue sky is certain to make you gasp in awe and bewilderment. The heavy influence of Buddhists and Tibetans has given Ladakh the title of Little Tibet or Shangri La, while the rich culture and tradition has left travelers coming here for centuries totally wonderstruck.