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Tourist Places To Visit In Ladakh
Ladakh. Land of mountains, ice, spirituality and wonder. In this overview of the best places to visit in Ladakh you will learn a lot more about its culture.
A rugged cold desert bound on all sides by peaks as high as the heavens and interspersed by divine lakes that change colour by the hour; azure to green to gold to purple. The people of Ladakh are hardy and spiritual. Indeed, it is hard not to believe, when you live in a world so close to the heavens. Buddhist monasteries dot the region, each more interesting than the other. Ladakhi children are especially gorgeous, and you'll find yourself losing your heart amidst a tiny sea of fat pink cheeks and bright eyes. From November to May, Ladakh is almost completely cut off from the outside world. The passes are motorable from May to August, and May, June and July are the most popular months for travellers from around the world.
White-water rafting through the mighty Zanskar
Rafting down the Zanskar isn't easy. The river has a hard as nails personality and it takes experience and steady nerves to face her fury. There are several rafting packages available locally, that take you through Ladakh's spectacular landscape while giving you a passing glimpse of pretty much everything Ladakh has to offer in one trip itself. Think of it as an overview of what else you can hope to explore there!
Tso Moriri Lake
Located in the Changthang area of Ladakh, this breathtaking high altitude lake is located 4,595 m (15,075 ft) above sea level. The drive to Tso Moriri from Leh (the largest town in Ladakh) is long - 7-8 hours, and the last couple of hours are a bumpy dirt track affair. One should stay in the tents located along the shores of the lake to enjoy the beauty of the amazing Moriri. They are comfortable enough & protect one well against the fiercely cold winds which sweep across the lake after dusk. A visit to the Korzok village with its quaint monastery is recommended. Tso Moriri is a restricted area and requires a permit to visit which can be obtained in Leh itself.
The Nubra Valley is set amidst a most surreal landscape - high altitude sand dunes, mountains of every conceivable Hue, an ancient dried river bed, enchanting monasteries, and endless winding roads. There is some basic accommodation at some of the villages in the Nubra valley where you can set up for the night and watch the sun go flaming down beyond the golden capped mountains. Take a picture with a shaggy double humped camel, run around on the crazily patterned sand dunes, visit the monasteries, there's plenty to do at the Nubra Valley. And even if you're in the mood for nothingness, there's no place more serene than Nubra.
Magnetic Hill is located about 30 kilometres off the gorgeous town of Leh. At 14,000 feet above sea level, the hill is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull stationary cars uphill at a speed of around 20 km/hr. The movement of a vehicle up a steep mountain with its ignition off is a truly unbelievable experience. Even airplanes and helicopters need to fly at higher speeds and altitudes to avoid the magnetic impact of the hills.
Thiksey Gompa (Monastery)
This monastery is situated 25 kilometres south of Leh. The monastery complex is spread out over a rocky outcrop and provides a cool photo op. Thiksey Gompa is a 12-story monastery that gives visitors a bird's eye view of the Indus Valley and the looming mountains around it. The Thiksey Monastery Complex consists of ten temples and shrines, a school, a museum, a medical clinic, a restaurant, a hotel and shops. On the slopes below the actual monastery are the houses of the 120 resident monks. Thiksey is one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh. Tourists often visit very early in the morning just to watch the monks recite their morning prayers. Reaching Thiksey on your own is easy - the main road passes just below and buses are frequent.
Pangong Tso Lake
Pangong Lake is a beautiful lake situated at an altitude of 4350 metres. The water is cold and clear and its colours are said to shift by the hour. The lake is surrounded by bald mountains, some that are snow-capped even in summer! Pangong Tso is a 134 kilometre long lake, but it is only 5 kilometres wide at the widest points. More than 60% of the lake is situated in Tibet. You need a permit to visit Pangong Lake that can be arranged by any travel agent doing bookings in the region. Most people only do day trips, but it is really worth camping there overnight if you can. That way you will be able to experience the glorious, shifting colours of the lake and surrounding landscape in all the different levels and directions of light.
Camping in Lamayuru and Markha
Ladakh is a dream come true for mountaineers and hikers. There are a number of booking camps at the base of the Ladakh Range and in the Nubra Valley. Interested parties can undertake treks lasting from 2 to 10 days that cover regions like "Lamayuru" in the Indus Valley, the Markha Valley, Stok-Khangri and the Shayok Valley.
Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh. During summer, archery festivals are held in Leh with a lot of pomp and show. Various villages send in their teams to compete amidst revelry, dance, beer and entertainment. In case you are visiting Ladakh during summer, try not to miss this festival!
Leh is the capital and northern-most inhabited city of Ladakh. Solo-travellers, Buddhist pilgrims, adventurers — you find all kinds of tourists here. Couples come here for honeymoon and families come here for the sheer elegance of a white desert. The weather of Leh is harsh through winters and the passes leading up to it open only during summer, hence May to September-October are feasible for a visit. From palaces to gompas, markets to cafes serving piping hot thukpa — Leh has got you covered.
Lamayuru literally means moon-land, because the landscape here is said to be similar to that of the craters of moon. The town is located on your way from Kargil to Leh, and is a small intimate place on a hill, with scattered brick houses rising up to the great Lamayuru Monastery. The beauty of Lamayuru is a thing of legends and should be inhaled with your own senses. Sind river flows majestically by this quiet town and there are home-stays here to welcome you.
Dras. The land of Kargil war. The coldest places in India that is successfully inhabited. It is a town in the district of Kargil and forms the base of Ladakh state when entered from Jammu & Kashmir. It lies on the NH1D and is a stunning white paradise, with winter temperatures dropping down to -45°C. A trekking base, Dras is also famous for the Tiger Hill, where the Indo-Pak war of 1999 was fought. Do visit the Das War Memorial as it gives goosebumps to see so many martyrs resting in peace after a bloody war.
Zanskar Valley is a double delight — a beautiful place to soak your eyes as well as a terrain that challenges adventurers on trek. Bikers ride up here, road trip enthusiasts enjoy long drives and pre-winter camps abound. You can visit the Karsha Village and its Gelugpa monastery, camp at Penzella Pass, go river rafting and undertake the Zanskar River Trek (only in winter) when here.
Hemis National Park
Hemis is India’s largest national park, home to blue sheep, great Tibetan sheep, red fox, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan marmot, Eurasian Brown Bear and of course, the elusive snow leopard. Safaris on snow are amazing here, as are bird watching expeditions in Rumbak Valley and treks up the mountains in the park. The Markha Valley Trek goes into Hemis landscape and is also coveted when here.
The Hemis Monastery or Hemis Gompa is Ladakh’s wealthiest monastery. It is also largest and most popular, located 40 km from Leh. Built in the 17th Century, Hemis Monastery is the headquarters of Red Hat Drukpa order. Lamas and monks are trained here, royal families offer patronage here, and artists are commissioned to beautify its interiors. There are many beautiful stupas plated in gold, paintings, statues of Buddha and more in here. The Hemis festival of this monastery is very famous and should not be missed.
The Diskit Monastery is a pristine white gompa in Nubra Valley, the largest and oldest in the area. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo in 14th Century AD and still stands tall as a mark of Buddhism. You can climb the hill below the monastery and visit the 106 ft tall statue of Jampa Buddha. There is also a statue of Cho Rinpoche here worth visiting.
A tiny little village in the lowland of Ladakh, Alchi is perched on the bank of River Indus. It is only 70 km from Leh and must be visited to explore its fertile lands, apricot tree orchards, Hindu temples, Buddhist gompas and Islamic mosques. Some of the best places to visit in Alchi are Manjushree Temple, Sumtsek Temple and Monk Cells. Alchi Monastery though is the star attraction of this place.
Mulbekh is another little settlement on your way from Srinagar to Leh. It is renowned for its Mulbekh Monastery, having two gompas dedicated to the two major sects of Buddhism. There is a huge Maitreya Buddha statue here that you must visit. The Palace of Rajah Kalon of Mulbekh is also a good sightseeing experience. Adventurers and trekkers also enjoy camping on Mulbekh mountains, making this place a serene mix of spirituality and thrill.