The stark and glorious land of Ladakh is located in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet, it is so far removed from what one expects of Kashmir, both in terms of geography and culture. A Ladakh tour will show you a very different and awe-inspiring world. Ladakh itself is separated from the Kashmir valley by the Himalayan range and the difference is immense. The breath-taking landscape is almost magical. Ladakh is known to be the world’s coldest desert. Here, you will find glaciers and sand dunes and freezing winds shaping the raw landscape.
Undoubtedly, you will emerge a changed person after your Ladakh tour. The people of Ladakh are friendly and there’s a sense of spirituality in the air. You can sense it as soon as you enter Ladakh. The many Tibetan monasteries contribute to this. But the wide expanse of the sky, the land and the mountains make you realise how tiny and insignificant we are in the whole grand design of the universe. The land might be barren, but it comes alive with the people here whose love for their land and simple joys infuse the landscape with life.
Ladakh is a plateau in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and it extends from the Himalayan mountains to the Kunlun ranges. The historic mountain ranges here that go back 45 million years ago. Ladakh depends hugely on the Indus River and most of towns like Leh, Shey and Tingmosgang are clustered near the river. In the north, it is bound by the Karakoram range while the Zanskar mountains lie along the south.
Since the Himalayas create a rain shadow, monsoon clouds cannot bring rain to Ladakh. Thus, it is a high-altitude desert that depends on winter snowfall on the mountains for its water. Ladakh is cold and dry throughout the year. Summer temperatures are just above 0 degrees during the day but at night they can go as low as -30. But in winters, temperature is -40 degrees almost all the time. It is one of the places where you will feel bright sunlight and freezing winds at the same time.
If you’re planning to visit Ladakh, it’s highly recommended that you pack a lot of warm clothes, thermals, woollen socks and sturdy insulated boots. The climate can get extremely sunny. But when you step into the shade, you could be freezing with cold. So it’s always best to layer your clothes here.
Ladakh is as mysterious as it is beautiful. With its monasteries and its mountains, Ladakh showcases a way of life that many people living in urban landscapes assume is lost forever. But the old ways still flourish in Ladakh, as do its people. There are numerous ethnic groups here, with Tibetans, Monpas, Dards and Muslims among them. So there’s a rich diversity in the culture here. From their cuisine to their dressing, the Ladakhis stand out exceptionally. If you are on a Ladakh tour during their festivals, you will be treated to a number of delightful customs and colourful celebrations.
Tourism in Leh and Ladakh is a huge factor in improving the economy and lives of the people of this region. Leh Ladakh tourism has evolved over the years and now brings in not just those who want to sightsee but also adventure enthusiasts who are keen on activities like white water river rafting, paragliding, mountaineering and skiing.
Leh is the most well-known city of Ladakh. Surrounded by towering mountain ranges and serene lakes, it offers a very different tourism experience to visitors. With its dry and barren landscape enlivened by the colourful Buddhist monasteries, Leh creates a magical travel experience. The nine-storeyed Leh Palace should definitely be included in your Ladakh tour.
Nubra Valley is another popular spot for tourists who are visiting Ladakh. Its proximity to Leh makes it easy to visit. It is also known as the Orchard of Ladakh. Nubra Valley is remote and yet draws tourists who come to see places like the Diskit Monastery, Hunder Monastery, Maitreya Buddha statue and of course, the world famous Khardung La Pass. There are hot water springs here alon with the Yarab Tso lake which is considered sacred.
Pangong Lake is an intense blue lake in the middle of the mountains. Recent Bollywood movies have made this a well-known spot. Tourists who visit Ladakh throng to this spot. The lake is an important breeding ground for several migratory birds. But Pangong is a remote area and the lake freezes during the winters. The beauty of Pangong Lake is almost surreal and needs to be experienced first-hand.
Another place of interest during a Ladakh tour is Zanskar Valley, an isolated region famed for its mountains and stunning landscape. This relatively unexplored region in Ladakh has a pleasant climate, beautiful views and glimmering rivers which makes it perfect for a holiday.
Apart from this, you can visit Kargil, Drass, Suru Valley, the intriguing Magnetic Hill on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar highway. The famed Khardung La Pass, with its gorgeous views of the valley and roads, is considered to be the gateway to the Shyok and Nubr Valleys. It is one of the highest motorable passes in the world.
• Check the weather conditions before you travel.
• Carry plenty of water to stay hydrated as this is very important at high altitudes.
• Remember to pack the right clothes when you are travelling to Ladakh. Cotton wear, woollens, thermals, sturdy walking shoes and sunglasses.
• Remember to pack extra batteries for your camera and mobile phone as electricity can be a problem.
• Wear appropriate clothes when you are visiting Buddhist monasteries.
• Avoid carrying plastic bags as these are banned in Ladakh.
• Don’t take photographs of monks without taking their permission first.