Ladakh Best Trekking Tours and Travel Safar
(Little Tibet, The Last Shangri La, The Moonland)
Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalayas and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range, now turned into famour Holiday Destinations of India.
In geological terms, this is a young land, formed only a few million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force against the immovable mass of Asia. Its basic contours, uplifted by these unimaginable tectonic movements, have been modified over the millennia by the opposite process of erosion, sculpted into the form one sees today by wind and water.
A Land Safari on the Virtually Rainless Area
Today, a high -altitude desert safari will take you to rain-bearing clouds of Ladakh Tour, where you will meet the mighty Great Himalayas. Ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake system, the vestiges of which still exist on its south -east plateaux of Rupshu and Chushul - in drainage basins with evocative names like Tso-moriri, Tsokar, and grandest of all, Pangong-tso.
For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water. As the crops grow, the villagers pray not for rain, but for sun to melt the glaciers and liberate their water. Usually their prayers are answered, for the skies are clear and the sun shines for over 300 days in the year.
Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2,750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus it has lot of potential for adventure tourism, whether it is high altitude trekking of mountaineering. summer temperatures rarely exceed about 270 C in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to -200 C even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!
Central Ladakh Travel TourIts A tour of Centeral Ladakh have the attractions of mural, dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, pre-date the Tibetan style of painting that is present are reminiscent of the paintings of the far off Ajanta Caves and are presumed to be almost sole survivors of the Buddhist style current in Kashmir during the first millennium AD, along with some in Phugtal Gompa in Zanskar, and Tabo in Spiti
Northern LadakhKARGIL Travel Tour
Kargil Travel tour to the second town of Ladakh, is situated on the Suru River just short of its confluence with the Dras-shingo. Almost equidistant, at a little over 200-km from Leh, Srinagar, Padum in Zanskar and Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, it was in the old days the centre of a network of routes joining these places. After partition, Skardu went into Pakistan, but Kargil remains the main staging-point between Srinagar and Leh, and the Gateway to the Suru valley and Zanskar.
SURU VALLEY Travel Tour
The Suru valley tour of a greatly underrated part of Ladakh, runs for about 140-km from Kargil up to the base of the Penzi-la pass into Zanskar. Although immobilized in winter by heavy snowfall, its fields, watered by streams fro the surrounding mountains, produce rich crops of wheat and barely. Traditionally, it has been an area surplus in foodgrains.
Irrigation water is plentiful enough to allow the plantation of thick stands of willow and poplar, giving the area lushness rare in Ladakh. About halfway along its length there is great trekking route along the river loops, its way past a huge mound of alluvium, the last gasp of the Zanskar range, to carry on, past the glaciers of the Nun-kun massif to Rangdum, a Gompa on a hillock overlooking a wide marshy plain.
The lower portion of the valley is ideal for jeep safari trip, as its immediate charms apart, offers spectacular views of Nun-Kun and its attendant peaks. Expeditions to it mostly take off from Panikhar, the village just short of the valley's right-angled turn, which is also the base for long treks in the direction of Kashmir and Kishtwar. Other trekking bases are Sanku, further down the valley, and Rangdum.
ZANSKAR Travel Tours
Two rivers, flowing towards each other along the northern flank of the Great Himalayas, meet in the broad plain of Padum. They become the Zanskar River, which flows off northwards through a gorge in the Zanskar range, to meet the Indus at Nimo. This T-Shaped complex of valleys is Zanskar, opened to motor traffic only in 1980 when a road was built via the Suru Valley and Rangdum and over the Penzi-la.
Ladakh A Trekkers Paradise
Virtually untouched by the winds of change and modernization till then, Zanskar is now a favourite destination for trekkers. There are many trekking tours organized by Kashmir tourim and travel to give visitors a perfect holiday vacations. Padum is the centre for hard but rewarding treks to Manali via the Shingo-la (16,732 feet/5,100m); Kishtwar via the Umasi-la (17,828 feet/5,434m); and Lamayuru and Leh via difficult routes through the Zanskar range.
Zanskar hills are also known as a land of religion and has the greatest concentration of Gompas in Ladakh, outside the Indus Valley. The important travel attractions are Sani, Karsha and Stongde in the central plain, Bardan and Phugtal just off the Padum-Manali trail, and the small hermitage of Dzonkhul on the way to the Umasi-la.
Arts & CraftsARTS AND CRAFTS
There is little tradition of artistic craftsmanship in Ladakh, most luxury articles in the past having been obtained through imports. The exception is the village of Chilling, about 19-km travel up the Zanskar River from Nimo. Here, a community of metal workers, said to be the descendants of artisans brought from Nepal in the mid-17th century to build one of the gigantic Buddha - images at Shey, carry on their hereditary vocation. Working in silver, brass and copper, they produce exquisite items for domestic and religious use: Tea and Chang pots, teacup-stands and lids, Hookah-bases, ladles and bowls and cooking pots they need for everyday use.
Craft of Weaving
'Pattu', the rough, war, woollen material used for clothing is made from locally produced wool, spun by women on drop-spindle, and woven by semi-professional weavers on portable looms set up in the winter sunshine, or under the shade of a tree in summer. Baskets, for the transport of any kind of burden-manufacture for the fields, fresh vegetables, even babies-are woven out of willow twigs, or a particular variety of grass. Woodwork is confined largely to the production of pillars and carved lintels for the houses, and the low carved tables that are a feature of every Ladakhi living room.
Many such items, together with others recently introduced as part of the development process, are available in the District Hnadicrafts Centre at Leh, which exists to train local people as well as to market their products. There one can find, in addition to traditional objects, a few special items like Pashmina shawls- rough compared with those produced in Srinagar, but soft and warm as only pure Pashmina can be: and carpets in designs and techniques borrowed from Tibet. Similar carpets are also to be had at the Tibetan Refugee Centre at Choglamsar.
The Handicrafts tourism also has a department of Thanka painting. These icons on cloth are executed in accordance with strict guidelines handed down from past generations. In the same tradition are the mural paintings in the Gompas, where semi-professionals, both monks and laymen about to keep the walls decorated with images symbolizing the various aspects of the Buddhist Way. The skill of building religious statues is also not extinct. The gigantic representation of Maitreya was installed in Thise Gompa as recently as the early 1980s. Its a good ideal to shop for some of these artifacts on your holiday tours to Ladakh.
Other Attractions of Ladakh RegionEven Rupshu's bare hills support a sparse population of wildlife, and the animal most likely to be spotted is the Kyang, the wild Ass of the Ladakh and Tibet plateaux. Wild life safari tours will take you to explore plentiful are Marmots (ubiquitous on mountain slopes all over Ladakh), Hares, and an unusual tail-less rat. The lakes are breeding-grounds for numerous species of birds. Chief travel attractions among the tourist are the bareheaded Goose, found in great numbers on the Tso-moriri, the great crested grebe, the Brahmini Duck (Ruddy Sheldrake) and the brown-headed Gull.
Ladakh SpecificsCHORTENS AND MANI WALLS - Buddhist Monastries
As your travel in Ladakh and visit Chortens, among the more visible expressions of Buddhism in Ladakh are the chess pawn shaped Chortens at the entrance to villages and monasteries. These are the Tibetan equivalent of the Indian Stupa- large hemispherical burial mounds cum devotional objects, prominent in Buddhist ritual since the 3rd century BC.
Made of mud, stone and now also concrete, many Chortens were erected as acts of piety by Ladakhi nobles, and like their southern cousins, they are imbued with mystical powers and symbolic significance: the tall tapering spire, normally divided into thirteen sections, represents the soul's progression towards nirvana, while the sun cradled by the crescent moon at the top stands for the unity of opposites, and the oneness of existence and the universe.
Some contain sacred manuscripts that, like the chortens, wither and decay in time, illustrating the central Buddhist doctrine of impermanence. Those enshrined in monasteries, however, generally made of solid silver and encrusted with semi precious stones, contain the ashes or relics of revered 'Rinpoches' (incarnate Lamas).
Always pass a Chorten in a clockwise direction: the ritual of circumambulation mimics the passage of the planets through the heavens, and is believed to ward off evil spirits. The largest array is to be found in the desert east of Shey, the former capital, but look out for the giant, brightly painted specimen between the bus station and Leh bazaar whose red spire stands out against the snowy Stok Kangri mountains to the south.
The Mani Wall
A short Trekking trip downhill from the big Chorten, near the radio station, stands an even more monumental symbol of devotion. The 500-metre Mani Wall, erected by King Deldan Namgyal in 1635, is one of several at important religious sites around Ladakh. Ranging from a couple of metres to over a kilometre in length, the walls are made of hundreds of thousands of stones, each inscribed with prayers or sacred mantras - usually the invocation Om Mani Padme Hum: "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus". It goes without saying that such stones should never be removed.
WEDDING CEREMONIES Travel Tours
A visitor to Ladakh rarely has a chance to see a Buddhist wedding performance according to the old customs and ceremonies. Today too much foreign influence is likely to have crept in; European clothing is slowly replacing the traditional dress.
The celebration begins in the morning at the house of the bride. The all male party celebrated with Chang, which, according to custom, one must take in three consecutive draughts. As a special sign the host improved the 'Chang' by adding butter. A celebration meal is served in the afternoon, but again only men partook.
The bride remains in her mother's kitchen, symbolically indicating where her place is! Clothed in a wedding gown with a silver embroidered cape, decorated with old family jewellery, the bride is overwhelmed with lucky white ribbons and given gifts of money by her relatives and friends. While the men sing and the mother laments, the bride then goes to the family of the bridegroom, where she is met, in front of the house, by Lamas.
Now the celebration proper begins. In a long ceremony, in which the bride must first of all refuse the food which is offered to her, the bride is led from her father or a friend of the family, to her husband, with whom she then symbolically partakes of a meal. She is then shown the house, with particular emphasis on the kitchen. By sunrise the ceremony is concluded, but not the celebration, which is a social occasion for the families with musicians, food and much, much Chang.
Near to the palaces at Stok, Shey and Leh one may notice a large number of Chortens, the old 'pleasure gardens' of the kings of Ladakh. If one travel into the side valley, to the north east of Leh, on whose eastern slopes the road to the Nubra valley begins, one may find a Lare stone where a curious funeral practice was once conducted. The bodies of the dead were hacked to pieces and ground up with stones then left to be devoured by vultures. This practice was also followed in Tibet and is still followed in the Mustang region of Nepal.
Today the site of dismemberment is used for cremations. After a ceremony in the house of the dead person the corpse is tied up in a covered Sedan chair. Accompanied by Lamas the procession makes its way into the side valley near Leh. A few hundred metres northwest of the Chortens the procession halts and the chair is placed in a walled oven. This is really only a vertical tube with fire hole underneath. The fire is started with many prayers and during the long ceremony oil is frequently thrown into the oven until the cremation is complete. The ashes are scattered into a holy river or in the case of a person of high standing, placed in a Chorten.
The beacon highway leads from Leh into the Nubra valley over a pass at 5,606 metres - making it probably the highest road in the world. 'You can have dialogue with god' according to the road builder's sign! Only in September and October is the road open, at other times ice covers the road on the northern side of the Nubra valley. For foreigners the road tour is closed year round since the Nubra valley is in the restricted area and can only be visited with special permission.
Choglamsar is the main training place for Buddhist monks in Ladakh. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet the school of Buddhist philosophy school, on the right hand side of the road from Leh to Hemis, has become an important centre for the study of Tibetan literature and history and of Buddhist philosophy in its pure form. Many westerners, interested in Buddhist learning and meditation, have also studied here. Choglamsar has an extensive syllabus and its library is worth seeing, even for the casual visitor.
In 1977 the old bridge at Sonam Ling was replaced with a new one able to take heavy vehicles. Take a trekking trip of a jeep safari to reach the Mani stones in the village of Palam, which has a mixed Buddhist and Muslim population. The Hemis Stangna-Palam road is very rough and there are some river crossings to be made but there is a regular bus connection.
The PeoplePeople & Their Life
The traveller from India will look in vain for similarities between the land and people he has left and those he encounters in Ladakh. The faces and physique of the Ladakhis, and the clothes they wear, are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than of India.
The original population may have been Dards, an Indo- Aryan race from down the Indus. But immigration from Tibet, perhaps a millennium or so ago, largely overwhelmed the culture of the "Dards" and obliterated their racial characteristics. In eastern and central Ladakh, today's population seems to be mostly of Tibetan origin.
West Travel, in and around Kargil, there is much in the people's appearance that suggests a mixed origin. In fact, entire Baltistan (the districts of Skardu, Ganche in POK and Kargil in India) is a heterogeneous mixture of various ethnic groups such as Tibetan, Central Asian, Mongolian and Indo-Iranian. It is believed that the dominant community of those times, the Tibetans intermingled with other ethnic groups thereby giving rise to a new community altogether - known as the Arghons. Those who have made careful assessment of the local population indicate that the Arghons today constitute more than half of it whereas the Tibetans are almost 35 % of the population. Rest of the population is formed of Mons, Tatars, Indo-Iranians, Dards and some Arab families. Majority of the people speak Balti dialect with as much as 93% of people here claiming it tobe their mother tongue.
The Balti people live in an area that is highly important in terms of its geo-strategic location. The trade routes that once passed through it were the economic lifeline of the people living here. Situated just south to the Himalayan peak K2, the erstwhile region of Baltistan (called Baltiyul in the Balti language) was located towards north of Kashmir. This region also borders the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Today the region stands divided between India and Pakistan. The districts of Skardu and Ganche are located in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir, though India has never given up its claim over these areas. The district of Kargil is the Indian part of Baltistan and is located in the northern most state of India, Jammu and Kashmir.
Influence Of Buddhism
Buddhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh, and there are ancient Buddhist frock engravings allover the region, even in areas like Drass and the lower Suru valley which today re-inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. The divide between Muslim and Buddhist Ladakh passes through Mulbekh (on the Kargil-Leh Road) and between the villages of Parkachik and Randum in the Suru Valley, though there are pockets of Muslim population further east, in Padum (Zanskar), in Nura Valley and in and around Keg.
Travel to Buddhist Village which is invariably marked by 'Mani' walls, which are ling chest-high structures faced with engraved stones bearing the Mantra "Om Mane Padme Hum" and by 'Chorten', commemorative cairns, like stone pepper-posts. Many villages are crowned with a 'Gompa' or monastery, which may be anything from an imposing complex of temples, prayer halls and monks' dwellings, to a tiny hermitage housing a single image and home to a solitary Lama.
The Muslim Inhabitants
Islam too came from the west. A peaceful penetration of the 'Shia' sect spearheaded by missionaries, its success was guaranteed by the early conversion of the Sub-rulers of Drass, Kargil and the Suru Valley. In these areas, 'Mani' walls and Chorten are replaced by mosques often-small unpretentious buildings, or 'Imambaras' imposing structures in the Islamic style, surmounted by domes of sheet metal that gleam cheerfully in the sun.
Status Of Women In Ladakh
The demeanour of the people is affected by their religion, especially among the women. Among the Buddhists, as also the Muslims of the Leh area, women not only work in the house and field, but also do business and interact freely with men other than their own relations.
In Kargil and its adjoining regions on the other hand, it is only in the last few years that women are merging from semi-seclusion and taking jobs other than traditional ones like farming and house-keeping.
Traditional Rituals & Leisure Activities
The natural joie-de-vivre of the Ladakhis is given free rein by the ancient traditions of the region. Monastic and other religious festivals, many of which fall in winter, provide the excuse for convivial gatherings. Summer pastimes all over the region are archery and polo. Among the Buddhists, these often develop into open-air parties accompanied by dance and song, at which 'Chang', the local brew made from fermented barley, flows freely.
Information on Religious Harmony
Of the secular culture, the most important element is the rich oral literature of songs and poems for every occasions, as well as local versions of the "Kesar Saga", the Tibetan national epic. This literature is common to both Buddhists and Muslims. In fact, the info on most highly developed versions of the Kesar saga, and some of the most exuberant and lyrical songs are said to be found in Shakar-Chigtan an area of the western Kargil district exclusively inhabited by Muslims, unfortunately not freely open to tourists yet.
Ceremonial and public events are accompanied by the characteristic music of 'Surna' and 'Daman' (Oboe and drum), originally introduced into Ladakh from Muslim Baltistan, but now played only by Buddhist musicians known as "Mons".
When a child is born the family usually holds a festival for their relatives, neighbours and friends after the first 15 days, at age one month and after a year. All are invited to come to the house and are given 'Tsampa', butter and sugar, along with tea to eat and drink all day.
Wedding Process & Celebrations
When a marriage occurs festivities again continue all day with musicians and dancing. The first day is spent in feasting at the bride's house, the second at the groom's place. When the daughter of the family marries she goes to live in the house of her husband's partner. Boys are usually married or promised for marriage at about 16, girls at about 12. To make a proposal a relative of the boy goes to the house of the girl and gives a ring together with presents of butter, tea and 'Chang'. If the gifts are accepted then the marriage follows some months later.
The boy offers a necklace and clothes to the girl. The parents of the girl give the couple clothes, animals and land if they are rich. These gifts are known as a "Raqtqaq" or dowry. When the father of the family dies his place is taken by the eldest brother. The other brothers must obey the eldest brother. All inheritance of the family goes to the eldest brother and then to the next brother when he dies.
If the family consists of all girls, then the father will bring the husband of the eldest daughter into the house and all land stays in the daughter's name and passes to her first son. Both sets of parents must accept the proposal of the boy for the girl. Usually the marriage is set by both sets of parents, who will choose a suitable partner for their child on the basis of manner, health and ability to earn income and look after a house.
Prime Travel Attractions and Places to Visit in Ladakhmore..
HemisThanks to the Hemis Setchu festival - one of the few held in summer, when the passes are open - Hemis, 45-km southeast of Leh, is the most famous Gompa in Ladakh.
Sankar GompaSankar Gompa, 3-km north tour of the town centre, is most travel monastery and the most ccessible monasteries in central Ladakh - hence its restricted visiting hours for tourists
AlchiTreking on the nearby Srinagar-Leh highway, you'd never guess that this is one of the most significant historical sites in Asia.
Baltoro GlacierTravel to Baltoro glacier is situated on the southern slopes of the central Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir. The location of Boltoro is in a huge arena hemmed by high peaks.
Baralacha PassOn the long Manali -Leh road and providing a route across the Baralacha range is the famous Baralacha Pass. It is situated at a spectacular 16,400 ft above sea level. The pass itself is 8-km long, and is literally the pass "where many roads meet".
Biafo GlacierThe Biafo glacier is located on the south-facing slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh. It has a trekking tour of about 60-km and descends from a large glacial trough.
Dah-HanuDah and Hanu are places on the far side of the great Indus River on the far side of Leh. Surrounded by the great Hindu - Kush mountains and peopled by a hardy but gentle people who have a bank of strange legends to relate for the weary traveller's ears. A jeep safari is ideal choice to reach the point.
Dosmoche TraditionAn ancient tradition started by the kings of Ladakh, Docmoche is still celebrated every year in February with great pomp and fervour. The courtyard of the chapel below the gates of the Leh of the Leh Palace comes alive with the music of drums and the thumping steps of the masked Lamas from different monasteries performing the sacred dance-drama.
Hemis Festival TourVisit Ladakh during the Hemis Festival. One of the most popular monastic selections in Ladakh, the festival of them is symbolises the centuries-old traditions of the Kar-gyur-pa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Safari TourThe Hemis High Altitude National Park includes the catchments of two valleys, which drain into the River Indus. It is named after the famous monastery -- Hemis, and sprawls over 600-sq-km in the Markha And Rumbak valleys.
Karakoram PassThe Karakoram Pass lies on one of the highest trade routes in the world for Yarkand in Central Asia. There are many trekking tours to reach the Pass offered by the Ladakh tourism and travel.
Khardong La & Digar La PassThe Khardong La pass is situated at an incredible elevation of over 5,800 m (18,680 ft). It lies on the route between Leh and the Shyok and Nubra valleys
Lakes in LadakhThe Tso Morari Lake is one of the largest lakes in Ladakh region and is almost like an inland sea. At an altitude of almost 4,500 meters, the Pangong Tso is only 8-km wide at its broadest but is an amazing 134-km long. Kyaghr lake is the halting place for those who are on their trekking holidays, and moving from the Kiangdum camping ground to the Tsomorari Lake.
LamayuruIf one sight could be said to sum up Ladakh, it would have to be Lamayuru Gompa, travel to 130-km west of Leh. Hemmed in by a moonscape of scree covered mountains, the white washed medieval monastery towers above a scruffy cluster of tumbledown mud brick houses from the top of a near vertical, weirdly eroded cliff.
Likkir Gompa Trip6-km to the north of the main Leh-Srinagar highway, shortly before the village of Saspol, the large and wealthy Gompa of Likkir, home to around one hundred monks, is renowned for its huge yellow statue of the Buddha to come which towers above the terraced fields and village below.
LosarLosar is the most elaborate of all the socio -religious events of Ladakh. It involves the entire population of the region. Interestingly, the rites and rituals are a mixture of Buddhist and the pre Buddhist Bon religious practices.
MathoMatho, 27-km south of Leh, straddles a spur at the mouth of an idyllic side valley. Though no less interesting or scenically situated than its neighbours, the Gompa sees comparatively few visitors.
Matho NagrangOn the 15th day of the 1st Tibetan month, a 2-day festival is held at the Matho Monastery - the only Saskyapa monastic establishment in Ladakh Hill Station.
Monastic Festivals Travel TourThe tour on the monastic festivals will give you insight to the events that provide the average Ladakhi with the spice of life. No other festival can match them in religious and entertainment value. These festivals are held to commemorate the founding of a monastery, the birthday of its patron saint or major events in the evolution of Tibetan Buddhism.
MulbekhWest of Lamayuru, the main road crawls to the top of Fatu-la (4,091m), the highest pass between Leh and Srinagar, and then ascends Namika-la ("Sky Pillar"), so called because of the jagged pinnacle of rock that looms above it to the south.
Namgyal Tsemo GompaOnce one is acclimatized to the altitude, the stiff early morning hike up to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, the monastery perched precariously on the shaly crag behind Leh palace, is a great way to start the day.
Nubra GlacierThe Nubra glacier is located on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a large glacier located in a huge amphitheater that is ringed by towering peaks.
PadumOnce the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, Padum (3,505 m) is the present day administrative headquarters of the region. With a population of nearly 1,500, Padum can be described as the most populous settlement of Zanskar, otherwise a very scarcely inhabited valley.
PanamicAfter a cleansing trip to the hot springs, where two rooms each have a deep tub filled with piping hot sulphurous water, where's little to do in Panamic other than walking tour. A dot on the mountainside across the river, Ensa Gompa makes an obvious excursion trip from Panamic.
Pangong TsoPangong Tso, 154-km to the southeast of Leh, is one of the largest salt-water lakes in Asia, a long narrow strip of water stretching from Ladakh east into Tibet. Only a quarter of the 130-km-long lake is in Ladakh, and the Indian army, who experienced bitter losses along its shores in the war against China in 1962, guard their side of the frontier.
PhyangA mere 24-km west of Leh, Phyang Gompa looms large at the head of a secluded side valley that tapers north into the rugged Ladakh range from the Srinagar highway.
Phyang TsedupPhyang is one of the two Dringungpa Monasteries in Ladakh. This monastery can be reached trevelling 17-km west of Leh, holds its festival in July/august. Like other monastic festivals, sacred dance-dramas or 'chhams' form the core of this festival.
River RaftingWhile water levels are high, between the end of June and late August, Leh's more entrepreneurial travel agents operate rafting trips on the river Indus
SankooA picturesque expanse surrounded by colorful rocky mountains, Sankoo is an upcoming township with a small bazaar and numerous villages around. Dense plantations of Poplers, Willows, Myricarea and wild Roses fill the bowl shaped valley, giving it the ambience of a man-made forest tucked within the mountain ramparts.
Siachen Glacier TourThe most famous attraction from Ladakh is Siachen glacier lies in the extreme north-central part of Jammu and Kashmir near the border of India and Tibet. With a length of about 72-km, Siachen is known as the largest glacier in the world outside the Polar Regions. Many trekking tours are organized by Ladakh tourism department during summer months.
Sind ValleyConsidered by many to be the most beautiful of Kashmir's side valleys, the Sind is also the travel route to the Zoji la pass.
Sindhu Darshan FestivalThe Sindhu Darshan or Sindhu Festival aims at projecting the Indus as a symbol of India's unity and communal harmony. Whilst promoting tourism to this area, this festival is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldier of India.
Siser La Or Saser LaSiser La is a high mountain pass in northern Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies on one of the highest trade routes in the world for Yarkand in Central Asia.
StokJust beyond the Tibetan refugee camp at Choglamsar, a side road turns left off the highway to cross the Indus on an iron bridge plastered with prayer flags, and then continues up towards a huge TV mast.
Stongdey/ Stongde MonasteryThe monastery of Stongdey lies 18-km to the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla. An old foundation associated with the Tibetan Yogi, Marpa, Stongdey is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar
SumurSoon after passing Khalsar, the road crosses the confluence of the Shyok and Nubra to a patch of green sloping from the river to the base of precipitous mountains. Sumur is home to the Nubbra valley's most important monastery,
Suru ValleyThe Suru Valley is formed by the catchment are of the SuruRiver, which rises from the Panzella glacier.
The Nubra ValleyThe 18,640 feet high Khardung La pass forms the divide between the Nubra Valley and Leh. After crossing the Khardung La, one descends to a place called "Khalsar", situated on the left bank of the Shyok River.
Tulimpati LaThe Tulimpati La is located in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kahsmir. This pass opens up the route from the Nubra Valley of Ladakh towards the Karakoram Pass.
Zozi LaZoji La is a famous pass over the main Himalayan range on the Srinagar-Leh highway. As a matter of fact, this pass has often been termed as the gateway to Ladakh.
Buddhism In LadakhAlthough the Islamic influence extends out of the Kashmir valley as far as Kargil in Ladakh, the predominant religion is overwhelmingly the Tibetan, Lamaist form of Buddhism.
ChemreyClinging like a swallow's nest to the sides of a shaly conical hill, the magnificent Gompa of Chemrey sees very few visitors because of its location - tucked up the side valley that runs from Karu, below Hemis, to the Chang-la pass into Pangong.
Chong Kumdan GlacierThe Chong Kumdan glacier is situated on the lower slopes of the Karakoram Range. It is located in a trough that is surrounded by high peaks on all sides. The melt-water from this glacier flows into the Shyok River, which in turn joins the Indus River. The Chong Kumdan glacier had blocked the flow of the Shyok River several times in the past. Thus the Gapshan Lake was formed which drained away once the ice dam gave way. This glacier can be approached by travelling to Skardu in Ladakh.
Dances Of LadakhLadakhi Dances are very colorful and majestic. The slow and gentle movements of these dances are very well complemented by the richness of jewelled 'Peraks', Silver ornaments and rich music.
Diskit And HundurThe caramel brown hillside above the old town supports Diskit's picturesque Gompa, built in 1420 by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong-kha-pa.
Gasherbrum Glacier Trekking SafariThe Gasherbrum glacier is located on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh. It lies at the base of the Gasherbrum peak and has a length of about 26-km. There are some of the most adventurious trekking trips to Gasherbrum Glacier, that makes your holiday in Ladakh more thrilling and full of adventure. The melt-water from this glacier joins the Shyok river system. Glaciers in hanging valleys open into the main glacier. No vegetation grows in this tract due to the extreme conditions of cold. This glacier can be approached via Skardu in Ladakh.
Gu-StorGu-Stor literally means 'Sacrifice of the 29th day'. It is traditional to the monasteries of the reformist Geluk-pa order of Tibetan Buddhism. This two-day long festival is held mainly in the Spituk, Thiksay (also spelt as Thiksey) and Karsha (Zanskar) monasteries, at different times every year. s
Hispur GlacierSituated on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh is Hispar Glacier.
Rakaposhi GlacierRakaposhi glacier is located on the lower slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Gilgit area of Ladakh. It is tenanted on the north-facing slopes of the Rakaposhi massif. The Rakaposhi glacier feeds an eastern tributary of the Hunza River, which in turn flows into the Indus River. The Rakaposhi glacier lies in a trough whose bottom gently slopes towards the north and northwest. Boulders and rocks are strewn all over the surface. This glacier can be approached via Gilgit in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
RupshuLocated east of Zanskar, the restricted area of Rupshu is Ladakh's easternmost and most elevated region, blending into western Tibet's high plains. In fact, topographically, but not politically, Rupshu is an integral part of the Chang Tang, Tibet's 600-mile-wide, 15,000-foot high northern steppes, of which it is the westernmost extremity.
Saltoro GlacierThe Saltoro glacier is located on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in Ladakh makes some good trekking routs. Situated in a cirque of the Saltoro massif, this glacier feeds one of the two main streams of the Saltoro River, which in turn drains into the Shyok River.
Shyok Valley & Indus ValleyIndus is a large valley formed by the main channel of the Indus River as it flows across Ladakh. The Shyok Valley is the valley of the Shyok River -- the river of death. This is a "Yarkandi" (Central Asian) name, probably given by the Central Asian traders
Thak Thok GompaClustered around a lumpy outcrop of eroded rocks, 4-km up the valley from Chemrey, the small Gompa of Thak Thok (pronounced Tak Tak and meaning "top of the rocks") is the sole representative in Ladakh of the ancient Nyingmapa order.
ZanglaLying deep in the northern arm of Zanskar at the end of the 35-km long rough road from Padum, Zangla was being ruled by a titular king till his death in 1989. The old castle now in ruins except from a small chapel, occupies a hill, overlooking the desertic valley below.
ZongkhulA spectacular cave monastery of Zanskar, Zongkhul falls on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking trail, just before the ascent of Omasi-la Pass begins.
Significance - Ladakh
HistoricalFor close on 900 years from the middle of the 10th century, Ladakh was an independent kingdom, its dynasties descending from the kings of old Tibet. Its political fortunes ebbed and flowed over the centuries, an the kingdom, was at its greatest in the early 17th century under the famous King Senge Namgyal, whose rule extended across Spiti and western Tibet up to the Mayum-la beyond the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.
And gradually, perhaps partly due to the fact that it was politically stable, in contrast to the lawless tribes further west, Ladakh became recognized as the best trade route between the Punjab and central Asia. For centuries, caravans carrying textiles and spices, raw silk and carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics traversed it.
Trade In Ladakh
Heedless of the land's rugged terrain and apparent remoteness merchants entrusted their goods to relays of pony transporters who took about two months to carry them from Amritsar to the Central Asian Towns of Yarkand and Khotan. On this long route, Leh was the halfway house, and developed into a bustling entrepot, its bazaars thronged with merchants from far countries.
The famous "Pashm" (better known as Cashmere) also came down from the high-altitude Plateaux of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet where it was produced, through Leh to Srinagar, where skilled artisans transformed it from a matted oily mass of goat's under fleece into shawls known the world over for their softness and warmth.
Ironically, it was this lucrative trade that finally spelt the doom of the independent kingdom. It attracted the covetous gaze of Gulab Singh, the ruler of Jammu in the early 19th century, and in 1834, he sent his general Zorawar Singh to invade Ladakh. There followed a decade of war and turmoil, which ended with the emergence of the British as the paramount power in neighbouring province of Baltistan was incorporated into the newly created State of Jammu and Kashmir. Just over a century later, this union was disturbed becoming part of Pakistan, while Ladakh remained in India as a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
A Tour of The Caravan Route To Leh
Travel to this ancient route of Ladakh. Ladakh's position at the centre of a network of trade routes traditionally kept it in constant touch with the outside world. From Chinese Central Asia, the mightily Karakoram Range was breached at the Karakoram pass, a giddy 18,350 Feet (5,600m).
The tour from Yarkand crossed five other passes, of which the most feared was the glacier-encumbered Saser-la, north of Nubra. Travellers from Tibet could take one of two main routes from the Central part of the country, the Tsang-po valley, they could pass the holy sites of Kailash Mansarovar and reach Gartok, on a tributary of the upper Indus, from where they followed the river down to Leh.
Trade with the 'Pashm'-producing areas of western Tibet flowed by a more northerly route, taking the village of Rudok, a few miles into Tibet, and from there across to Chushul on the Pangong-tso, up the length of the lake to Tangse, then a cross the 18,300feet (5,578m) Chang-la to the Indus, and so to Leh.
Baltistan, joined administratively with Ladakh for 100 years, was linked to it either via the Indus up to its confluence with the Suru-Shingo river, and on up to Kargil: or by the Chorbat-la pass over the Ladakh range, the trail dropping down to the Indus 40 km below Khalatse, and following the river up to Leh.
Still Following The Old Path!
The two main approaches to Ladakh from south of the Himalayas are roughly the same as today's motor roads from the Srinagar and Manali. The merchants and pilgrims who made up the majority of travellers in the pre modern era, traveled on foot or horseback, taking about 16 days to reach Srinagar; though a man in a hurry, ridding non-stop and with changes of horse arranged ahead of time all along the route, could do it in as little as three days.
The mails, carried in relays by runners stationed every four miles or so, took four or five days. That was before the wheel as a means of transport was introduced into Ladakh, which happened only when the Srinagar- Leh motor-road was constructed as recently as the early 1960s.
MythologicalORACLES AND ASTROLOGERS
The Ladakhi's believe implicitly in the influence of gods and spirits on the material world, and undertake no major enterprise without taking this influence into consideration.
The Lamas are the vital intermediaries between the human and the spirit worlds. Not only do they perform the rites necessary to propitiate the Gods - in private houses as wall as in the Gompa temples; they also often take on the role of astrologers and oracles who can predict the auspicious time for starting any enterprise. There are special travel tours to see the Lamas indulging into affairs that are dependent to astrology, ploughing the fields, or taking in the harvest, arranging a marriage or going on a journey - and advise as to the auspicious way of going about it.
The Matho Gompa Oracle Tours
The most famous monk oracles are those of Matho Gompa. Ladakh tourism has organised special trips to travel to those people who have special divine powers. Chosen every three years by a traditional procedure, two monks spend several months in a rigorous regimen of prayer and fasting to prepare and purify themselves for their arduous role. When the time comes they are possessed by the deity, whose spirit enables them to perform feats that would be impossible to anyone in a normal state such as cutting themselves with knives, or sprinting along the Gompa's topmost parapet. On this condition, they will answer questioned put to them concerning individual and public welfare. However, the spirit is said to be able to detect questions asked by skeptical observers with the intention of testing him, and to react with frenzied anger.
Based On Local Beliefs
There are also in some villages lay people, men and women, who have special powers as oracles and healers. Some of them belong to families in which there have been several such receptacles of spirit forces. Others are diagnosed as such without any hereditary background.
The spirits possessing these lay persons are believed to be capricious, and not always entirely benevolent, and some people resist being possessed by them. Once they have accepted, however, they undergo a process of initiation and training by monks and senior of oracles, and only after this is completed may they start practising. The effectiveness of their spirit healing is an article of faith with the Ladakhis.
CulturalORACLES AND ASTROLOGERS
The Ladakhi's believe implicitly in the influence of gods and spirits on the material world, and undertake no major enterprise without taking this influence into consideration.
The Lamas are the vital intermediaries between the human and the spirit worlds. Not only do they perform the rites necessary to propitiate the Gods - in private houses as wall as in the Gompa temples; they also often take on the role of astrologers and oracles who can predict the auspicious time for starting any enterprise, whether ploughing the fields, or taking in the harvest, arranging a marriage or travelling to near by destinations- and advise as to the auspicious way of going about it.
Leisure - LadakhARCHERY AND POLO Adventure Sports
Travel to Leh, as Archery festivals are held during the summer months, with a lot of fun and fanfare. There are various Ladakh Tour packages promoted by Ladakh Travel Tourism to participate in these competitive events. The shooting takes place according to strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of Surna and Daman (oboe and drum).
As important as the archery are the interludes of dancing and other entertainment. Chang, the local barley beer, flows freely, but there is rarely any rowdiness. The crowd attend in their; Sunday best, the men invariable in traditional dress, and the women wearing their brightest brocade mantles and their heaviest jewelley. Archery tours are pretext for the gathering, but the party's the thing.
The Traditional Sport Of Polo Adventure
Polo tours are organized in Western Himalayas, especially to Baltistan and Gilgit. It was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid-17th century by King Sengge (also spelt as Singe) Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. The game played here differs in many respects from the international game, which indeed, is adapted from what British travellers saw in the western Himalayas and Manipur in the 19th century.
Here, each team consists of six players, and the game lasts for an hour with a ten-minute break. Altitude not withstanding, the hardy local ponies-the best of which come from Zanskar - scarcely seem to suffer, though play can be fast and furious. Each goal is greeted by a burst of music from Surna and Daman; and the players often show extraordinary skill. For example, when starting play after a goal the scorer gallops up to midfield holding ball and mallet in the right hand, and throws the ball, hitting it in the same movement towards the opposite goal.
Fairs & Festivals - LadakhFAIRS AND FESTIVALS of Ladakh Tourism
The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn't preclude and immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakhi adhe-rents, and even solemn religious enactment's are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Ladakh tourism organize many annual festivals of the Gompa during winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people and best time to take a trekking tour in Ladakh.
Another event to enjoy while on your Ladakh safari is to watch dance-dramas in the Gompa courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful masks, perform mimes representing various aspects of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil.
Local people flock from near and far and tourist from all over the country come to be the part of these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyments of the party atmosphere, with crowds of women and men, the opportunity to make new friendships and renew old ones, the general bustle and sense of occasion.
Hemis Festival - One of The Most Famous Tourist Festival in Ladakh.
The biggest and the most famous of the monastic festivals, frequented by tourists and locals alike, is that of Hemis, which falls in July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava, Every 12 years, the Gompa's greatest treasure, a huge Thangka - a religious icon painted embroidered on cloth is ritually exhibited. This is the ideal time to take a trip of Ladakh and enjoy the Hemis festival.
Other monasteries which have summer festival tours are Lamayuru (also early July), Phiyang and Karsha in Zanskar (11 days after Phiyang). Like Hemis, the Phiyang festival too involves the exhibition of a gigantic Thanka, though here it is done every year.
Spituk, Stok, Thikse, Chemrey and Matho all have their festivals in winter, between November and March. Likir amd Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals to coincide with Dosmoche, the festival of the scapegoat, which is also celebrated with fervour at Leh.
The New Year Festivities
Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is set up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of 'Storma', ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleansed and made ready to welcome the New Year.
Losar falls about the times the winter solstice, any time of the winter solstice, any time between 8th and 30th December. All Ladhaki Buddhists celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in the gompas and in their domestic shrines.
How To Get There to LadakhMoving On
As befits India's remotest Himalayan town, Leh is singularly hard to get to, and even harder to leave. Fragile road and air links mean visitors all too often find themselves stranded waiting for passes to open or planes to appear. Wherever and however one travels, book an onward ticket as far in advance as possible and be prepared for delays if the weather changes.
Local Transport of LadakhINTERNAL TRANSPORT
The best and most reasonable way to travel within the region way to travel within the region is by public buses, which ply on fixed routes according to fixed time schedules. The most comfortable and convenient through expensive mode of travel, however, is by taxis, cars, and Gypsy, which are available for hire on fixed point-to-Point tariff.
For visits to the newly opened areas of Nubra, Changthang and Dah-Hanu it is mandatory to engage the services of a registered/recognized travel agency for making all the requisite arrangements including internal transport. Detailed information about bus schedules, taxi tariff, travel agencies, etc. can be obtained from the Tourist Office.
Travel By RoadROAD Tour
The main overland approach to Ladakh is from the Kashmir Valley via the 434-km Srinagar-Leh road, which remains open for traffic from early June to November. The most dramatic part of this road journey is the ascent up the 11,500 feet /3,505 m high Zoji-la, the passing the Great Himalayan Wall that serves as the gateway to Ladakh.
The J&K State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) operates regular Deluxe and Ordinary bus services between Srinagar and Leh on this route with an overnight halt at Kargil. Taxis, cars and jeeps are also available at Srinagar for the journey. Groups can charter deluxe and A-class buses for Leh, Kargil or Padum (Zanskar) from the J and K SRTC at Srinagar.
Since 1989, the 473-km Manali-Leh road has been serving as the second land approach to Ladakh. Open for the traffic from around mid-June to early October, this high road traverses the upland desert plateaux of Rupshu whose altitude ranges from 3,660m to 4,570m.
A number of high passes fall en route among which the highest one, known as Taglang-la, is the world's second highest motor able pass at an altitude of 17,469 feet/5,325m. H.P. Tourism, H.P. SRTC and J&K SRTC operate Deluxe and Ordinary bus services between Manali and LEH. The bus journey between Leh and Manali takes about 19 hours or two days with an overnight halt in camps at Serchu or Pang. Gypsy and jeep taxis are also available, both at Manali and Leh.
Travel By AirAIR TRAVEL
The quickest way out of Ladakh region is by plane. Airline service operates regular scheduled flights to Leh from Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar. Some private airlines are also planning to operate air services betwe4n Delhi and Leh in the near future.
Hotel Resorts and Places To Stay in LadakhLeh offers a variety of accommodation to suit almost every pocket or preference. Most hotels are family-run establishments. Hotels are classified into A, B, C and Economy categories while Guest Houses fall under Upper, Medium and Economy class. Tariff quoted in the meals, a system followed by most establishments. Tariff quoted in the A and B category hotels includes all meals, a system followed by most establishments.
The Guest House is a less formal facility offering rooms in a part of a residential house or its annex, where the guests can share the family kitchen for meals. As a part from the low tariff offered for accommodation ranging from very good to merely basic, the Guest House system also provides an opportunity for the tourists to see and experience Ladakhi life from the inside.
In the newly opened areas of the region- Nubra, Changthang and Dah-Hanu- tourist infrastructure is also been adequately developed. The State Tourism Department has developed accommodation facilities like Tourist complexes and Hikers Huts at Tangse and Spangmik on the Pangong lake circuit, Korzok on the Tso-moriri Lake, Deskit and Panamic in the Nubra Valley, and at Biama in the Drokpa area.
Ladakh Trekking Tours and Camping Facilities
As an interim arrangement, the J and K Tourism Development Corporation has started offering camping facilities properly furnished accommodation on the Manali-Leh road, Deskit on Nubra valley Trekking Routs and Pangong lake Trek Tours. Tourists can also seek accommodation as paying guest in a few selected homes in these places, through they would be well, advised to travel fully equipped with personal sleeping bags and some tinned provisions to be on the safe side, especially when taking trekking trips on the Pangong and Tso-moriri lake areas.
There are also some Government - run Tourist Bungalows located mainly along Leh Srinagar-Leh road. These offer the best value in the medium range, but room availability is only if one holds a confirmed reservation. This is possible only if a written requisition has been sent to the Tourist Office at Leh or Kargil in advance.
Information of Climate in LadakhWeather of The Cold Desert
Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2,750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 270 C in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to -200 C even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time! The best time to Visit Ladakh is during summers season from March to October when the weather is little warm.
General Information About Ladakh
ClothingZanskar experiences drastic fluctuations in the daily temperature even during the height of summer. While the days are pretty warm, even hot at times due to the desertic effect, the evenings can become quite chilly thus requiring additional clothing. It is advisable to be prepared for this situation with a pullover and a down jacket while planning to travel to Ladakh. Other essential items include a sturdy pair of walking shoes, a good sleeping bag, and a pair of woolen socks or some thick cotton socks. It is also essential to bring a quality tent if the intention is to travel or trek around on your own, and a good quality rucksack for back packing. It is also important to carry your provisions from Srinagar or Kargil, if a longer tour of the adjoining villages is intended.
LocationNorthern Most Part Of J&K.
Best Time to VisitJune To Mid September
Trekking Season: May To Mid-October
Mountaineering Season: Mid-May To Mid-October
Adventure Activities in LadakhThe climbing and trekking season extends from mid - May to mid -October, the ideal period being from June to September because during this time only Ladakh remains unaffected by the monsoon, which holds sway over most of the Himalayas. Foreign climbing expeditions are required to obtain permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for climbing all listed peaks. A booking fee, based on the height and popularity of the allotted peak, is charged and a Liasion Officer is assigned to every climbing team. The minimum period required for processing applications is six months. Every authorized expedition is provided with adequate rescue coverage in the events of accidents and illness.
Useful Information About LadakhPeak Season Reservations
During the peak tourist season i.e. early June to mid-September, it is advisable to book hotel rooms in advance. By late September, as the tourist rush starts to decline, advance booking is not necessary as availability of accommodation becomes rather easy. However, tourists planning winter trips may have to book accommodation in advance so as to ensure provision of heating arrangement s during the period of their intended stay.
Kargil has worldwide direct dialing telephone facility, besides post and telegraph offices. In addition J&K Tourism operates its own wireless Radio phone network with field stations at Kargil, Padum and Leh which are connected with controlling stations at Srinagar, Delhi and Jammu. During the tourist season mobile wireless stations are also established in key places in the remote areas.
HospitalsThe District hospital in Kargil is fairly well equipped and staffed with a team of specialist and general practitioners. In addition there are Medical Dispensaries at Drass, Mulbek, Trespone, Sankoo, Panikhar and Padum each headed by a qualified doctor and equipped with basic health care paraphernalia.
Tourist Information CentresThe Tourist office here regularly updates its store of information on the region. Tourists undertaking mountaineering expedition on hard trekking along difficult routes are well advised to inform the Tourist Office at Kargil about their routes and proposed program so as to monitor their welfare.
A Word of Caution - LadakhINNER-LINE RESTRICTIONS
Entry of tourists beyond one mile north of Zoji-la-Drass-Bodhkarby-Khalatse road is restricted. However, on the Khalatse-Leh road, the monasteries of Tia-Tingmosgang, Rhizong, Likir and Phiyang can be visited even though these fall north of the road. Similarly, tourists are allowed to visit Shey, Thikse, Chemrey and Thak-Thok lying north of the Leh-Upshi road.
The Leh-Manali road is also open up to one mile east of its general alignment. Although the northeastern and northern regions of Ladakh are now partially opened for foreign tourists, there are required to obtain permission from the Deputy Commissioner, Leh. This is only subject to several condition of travelling along certain identified tour circuits in groups of four or more. Permission to enter to other restricted areas can be sought from:
The Ministry Of Home Affairs,
Government Of India,
Lok Nayak Bhavan,
Khan Market, New Delhi