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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrA quaint land surrounded by the snow-capped mountain peaks and passes, Ladakh is one of the most popular places for tourists to enjoy the untamed nature of the Himalayan beauty and seek recluse from the hustle and bustle of usual daily life in the cities.
Home to the Tibetan and a number of Muslim populations, the inhospitable condition in the region often becomes a major challenge for visitors to acclimatize and live in this territory.
History and DemographyTo the east of Ladakh lies Tibet while on the west is the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the region of Baltiyul. To the north of Ladakh is Xinjiang in the trans-Kunlun region and to the south lies Lahaul and Spiti. Ladakh once served as an important trade route from Tibet but that was closed when China sealed the Tibetan borders with India.
Located at the highest elevation in the Kashmir region, one can observe the valley of Ladakh (9,800 feet) which spreads over the Karakoram , the Himalayan Mountain, and the Indus Valley range. Ladakh is mainly a high-altitude cold desert and is devoid of rainfall as the Himalayan Range tends to block the monsoon clouds here. The main source of water in Ladakh is the abundance of snowfall that occurs in this region, especially during the winter season when the temperature drops several degrees below freezing point.
Ladakh's origin dates back to a very early age as history reveals that people have lived in this region from the Neolithic period. However, with the course of time and owing to the close proximity and access to the Tibetan region, Ladakh was mainly dominated by the Tibetan people until China closed its border with the Indian territories.
Subsequently with the strategic separation of territorial landmass between India and China, a segment of Tibetans stayed in the Ladakhi regions. Buddhism was considered the sole religious practice until the advent of Muslim aggression in the valley, which eventually led to a mixture of Muslim and Buddhist population as we see now.
For a long time, Ladakh was an unknown place for tourists, mainly because of the location and the harsh weather conditions in this place. However, Ladakh has now gained an international prominence as one of the most beautiful valleys in the country as travelers from faraway places visit this valley to enjoy the untouched beauty of nature in this cold, desert land. Ladakh also acts as a starting point for many trekking routes and is home to several high-altitude National Parks of India.
Spoken Language in LadakhThe people of Ladakh mainly speak in a local dialect called Ladakhi, which is a variation of the Tibetan language. English and Hindi are also known by the people in this city, but not in the remote regions of the valley.
Fauna of LadakhDespite Ladakh being an arid region, it is surprising to see the concentration of different species of birds in this area. There are around 225 varieties of birds recorded including Indian Hoopoe, Indian Redstart; Brown-headed Gull, Barhead goose; Brahimini duck, Black-Necked Crane; Golden Eagle, Tibetan Raven; Snow-cock, Red-Billed Chough; Chukor, Ruddy Sheldrake and others. Some of them are migratory birds as most of them are seen during the summer seasons.
Ladakh is also the home of the Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf and Brown Bear. Besides, you will also be able to trace Tibetan Wild Ass, Bharal, Ibex, Argali and Shapo in this land.
Places to visit in LadakhIt is quite unexpected to see a barren valley that can look so stunning, which is in fact the beauty of Ladakh. Besides, there are several monasteries around this region, those that are worthy of a visit. Here lies a list of some important locations that you should visit when in Ladakh:
Nubra ValleyLocated around 73 miles from the valley of Ladakh, this region is also known as the ‘Valley of Flowers’. Nubra Valley has a spectacular scenic beauty, and to reach this place you need to cross Khardung La , which is considered the highest motorable pass in the world. It is hard to cover Nubra Valley from Ladakh in one day, mainly because of its distance. However, there are few accommodations available in and around Nubra Valley for a night stay. If you visit Nubra Valley, be sure to check-out Diskit which is the regional center of Nubra Valley and also home to a beautiful monastery. Hunder, which is located around 6 miles from Diskit, is a high-altitude white sand desert famous for camping and camel rides. Sumur is another location which is for camping and is famous for its monasteries. Turtuk is a region with a spectacular landscape, located very close to the border of Pakistan and Panamik and is often visited for its famous natural hot sulfur spring.
Pangong LakeThis beautiful blue-colored lake is located around 98 miles from the valley of Ladakh and can be accomplished in a day. However, as many often prefer to stay overnight to enjoy the beauty of this place, there are a number of accommodations available for stay in Spangmik and Lukung, which are in close proximity to this place.
Hemis MonasteryHemis is considered the largest monastery of the Ladakh region and it houses around 150 Lamas who lives over here. Inside the monastery there is a large painting of Buddha which is displayed to the public once every 11 years.
Tso-Moriri LakeLocated around 131 miles from the Ladakh valley, it will take you into two small lakes called Tso-Moriri and Tso Kar. You may stay in this region as there are few accommodations available. However, camping is strictly prohibited in this area.
Zanskar ValleyLocated in a very remote area of Ladakh, Zanskar can be only be reached by crossing high-altitude passes. Scanty rainfall and harsh weather makes this region quite troublesome, especially for any tourists during the winter months.
Sham ValleyThis valley is located very near to Kargil and is around 68 miles from the Ladakh valley. On the way to this valley, one can see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. Some of the notable places to visit in this valley are Magnetic Hill, Likir Monastery, Patthar Sahib Gurudwara, Hall of Fame War Museum, Basgo Ruins and the Lamayuru Monastery. Also be sure to visit Alchi Monastery as it is the oldest monastery in the Ladakh region which is said to have been established in the 11th century AD.
LehIt is the central location of Ladakh valley. The airport and bus stand is located in this area and you first need to reach Leh to explore the surrounding regions of Ladakh. Leh is located at an altitude of over 11,000 feet and tourists are always advised to acclimatize here before moving to other areas inside Ladakh, which are located on higher planes. However, while you stay in Leh, be sure to visit some of the popular monasteries in this area like Thiksey, Hemis and Shey. You can also check out the Stok Palace and Museum and Mathos for its stunning beauty.
Recommended Treks from Ladakh regionThe valley of Ladakh is a trekker’s paradise. With high peaks and passes, many trekkers from faraway places visit this area just for the sake of trekking. Some of the most recommended trekking routes from Ladakh region are Parang La Trek, Kang Yatse Trek, Markha Valley Trek, Zanskar Trek and the Stok Kangri Trek.
How to Reach LadakhBecause of high-altitude, the road to Ladakh remains open from June to October. If you plan to visit Ladakh, irrespective of any time of the year, the best option to reach this place is via flight. There are direct flights available from Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar for reaching Ladakh. However, be sure to keep track of the schedule of these flights as the flight are often delayed because of the inclement of weather conditions in and around Ladakh.
Approach to Ladakh is also possible via road. Some of the tourists usually prefer to take a road trip because of the stunning lunar landscape views of the peaks and passes on the way. The valley of Ladakh can be reached either from Manali in Himachal Pradesh or from Srinagar, which falls in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
From Manali, it takes an overnight trip to reach the valley of Ladakh. There are regular tourist bus services from HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourist Department Corporation) and HRTC services to reach this place. You can also hire either shared taxis or private taxis to reach Ladakh. Most of the buses and taxis have overnight stops in Sarchu or Keylong region before reaching Ladakh.
Buses from Srinagar reach Ladakh via Kargil.Many adventurers also travel to Ladakh by motorbike from Manali or Srinagar. The routes that are usually followed by the bikers are:
Moving around the Ladakh RegionLocal buses are available in Leh that connects it to other parts of the valley. However, most of the buses are overcrowded and it may pose a problem for a tourist to travel in these congested buses. So the best option to travel in the valley is via taxi. You can hire local taxis to take you in and around this region, which is also the most comfortable mode of transport in this place.
Another option is to hire a bike as there are number of agents in Leh that offers bikes for hire for local sightseeing tours.
Festivals in LadakhThe valley of Ladakh comes alive during the months of June and July as there are a number of festivals like Hemis Festival, Dosmoche Festival, Phyang Festival, Sindhu Darshan Festival and others that occurs during this time.
EatingTibetan foods are common in the Ladakh valley as many local restaurants offer Skyu, Ngamphe and Thukpa everywhere within this region. Besides, you will also find rice served with lentils and vegetables which is a common food in the remote regions of this hilly land. In the town of Leh, you will find Chinese, Indian, Korean and Italian cuisines. There are also a number of bakeries which are famous for serving different type of breads, tarts, brownies and fruit pies in Ladakh.
AccommodationOwing to the influx of tourists in Ladakh valley, there are a number of accommodations available from budget to luxurious hotels. Some of the recommended budget and mid-range hotels in Leh and Ladakh region are Agling Resort, Jorchung; Khan Manzil, New Antelope; Gespe Karten, Gaph-chow; Rinchen, Ladakh Sarai Resort, Hotel Yasmin; Hotel The Auspicious, Hotel Asia; Hotel Dreamland, Hotel Naro; Oriental Guest House, Hotel Kanishka and others. For a hi-budget stay, the recommended hotels are Hotel Shangrila, Hotel Shangrila, Spik n Span, Hotel Pangong, Hotel Hill Town, Hotel Grand Dragon and others.
Tips for Travelers
Carry necessary medication as there are high chances of being affected by high-altitude sickness.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 01, 2015