Ladakh Information

 

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow thus prohibiting the entry of monsoon clouds. The main source of water here remains the winter snowfall on the mountains that forms the glaciers. Ladakh, the region of mountain passes, a piece of broken moon land- a perfect place to witness the unmatched beauty of nature. Ladakh is the highest plateau of the Indian state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000m. It lies between 32 to 36 degree north latitude and 75 to 80 degree east longitude. The total area of 45110sq km makes Ladakh the largest district in India. Ladakh region is bifurcated in Kargil and Leh districts. Kargil lies at an altitude of 2750m and Leh at 3505m. The largest town in Ladakh is Leh.
 

Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It spans the Great Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River Valley. The district bordered Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the north and Eastern part and Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pradesh in the South east. Ladakh’s ethnic composition consisted of Mongoloid and a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards. It is sometimes called little Tibet due to strong cultural and geographical similarities with Tibet. The approach to Ladakh is invariably marked with many long walls running 2-3 kms, decorated with engraved stones bearing the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hun” and Chortens which symbolizes Buddha’s mind.

Around the first century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana Empire. Buddhism came to western Ladakh via Kashmir in the 2nd century. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Leh District’s population. The most attractive features of the Landscape of Leh are the Buddhists Gompas ( Monastries). The Gompas are situated on the highest points of the mountain spurs or sprawl over cliffsides, located in vicinity of villages and provide focus for the faith of Buddhists. Gompas have a wreath of artifacts. There are also some religious places of Muslims which constitute slightly more than 15% of the district’s population.

Religion and Culture
Religion and culture are perhaps what keep going an ordinary Ladakhi in most inhospitable conditions. At a place where the mercury plummets below zero degrees Celsius in winters and the rainfall during the year is as scant as 50 mm, one needs to be a little more than fit to lead a healthy life. Buddhism is the way of life in Ladakh, though there are people of other faiths in Ladakh who live in harmony with each other. The Buddhist monasteries dot the Ladakh landscape and are the centre of attraction during the various fairs and festivals.

Life Style

Simplicity is the way of life in Ladakh, as modernity has not touched Leh town as it has happened in other cities and towns of India. Cut-off from the rest of the world, Ladakh is barren yet beautiful. Ladakh comes alive during the fairs and festivals as one can see Ladakhi people in their traditional dress. Ladakhis are brave people who are industrious and cheerful. Perak, the headgear worn by traditional Ladakhi women, is the striking feature of womenfolk of Ladakh. This is a common sight during the festivals. The other feature that strikes are the precious stones that adorn a woman's neck in Ladakh.

Languages Spoken:
Boti is the main language of Ladakh; other languages spoken are Balti, Shina, Brokshat and Changshat. In schools, offices and restaurants English and Hindi are also used.

Permit and Passport:

Tourists do not require permit for Leh, however, all foreigners are required to get themselves registered at Drass, Rumtse and Serchu if they are traveling overland. Those traveling by air get the registration done at the airport. Tourists are required to get permit for some of the restricted areas like Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Lakes, Dhahanu and Nubra Valley, which can be obtained from District Magistrate, Leh, through Travel Agents at Leh.

Monasteries

Hemis is one of the largest and most popular monasteries in Ladakh visited by most travellers to Ladakh. The famous annual Hemis festival that takes place in June-July commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. This is the best time to see the cultural side of Ladakh. During the festival Ladakhis from remote corners of the region converge on the Hemis monastery.

Social Structure

Ladakhis follow a patriarchal society where the elder son inherits all the property. He is the one who shoulders the responsibility of the family. But when it comes to a younger son, the Ladakhi society permits him to become a Lama if he wants. He can also remain in the family. Lamas are devoted to God and remain detached from worldly affairs.

Buddhism

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Ladakh and one can find its stamp all over in Ladakh. Be it monasteries, music or simple way of life, Buddhism is the essence of Ladakh. One can find 'tangkhas', masks, musical instruments and precious items in the Gompas in Ladakh. A huge painting of the Buddha inside the Hemis monastery is the biggest draw. Thikse and Shey monasteries are the classic architectural wonder in the region. No matter which part of Ladakh you travel to, the smiling Buddha and His smiling followers greet you.

Reaching Ladakh

Ladakh is an exotic destination where a high plateau, steep mountains and valleys abound. The route to Ladakh by road is through several scenic passes. La in the Ladakhi language means mountain pass, therefore Ladakh means 'land of passes.' You can find some of the highest motorable roads in the world in Ladakh, which traverse these high passes and take you to exotic hidden locations high in the Himalayas.

How to Reach Ladakh
The overland approach to Ladakh from Kashmir Valley via Kargil is approx. 434 Km, 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 pass in the Great Himalayan Wall that serves as the gateway to Ladakh. The J & K State Road Transport Corporation (J&K SRTC) 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 (Zangskar) from the J & K SRTC at Srinagar.

Manali to Leh -
Since 1989, the 473 km. Manali-Leh road has been serving as the second overland approach to Ladakh. Open for traffic from around mid-June to early October. This high road traverses the upland desert plateau of Rupsho, altitude ranges from 3,660m to 4,570m. A number of high passes fall enroute among which the highest one known as Taklang-La is world's second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 17,469 feet/5,235m. Himachal Pradesh Tourism, HRTC and J & K SRTC operate daily 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. Maruti Gypsy and jeep taxis are also available, both at Manali and Leh at quite reasonable rates.

Road Distances

Srinagar - Leh - 434 Km
Manali - Leh - 473 Km
Srinagar - Kargil - 204 Km
Delhi - Leh - 1047 Kms
Leh - Kargil - 234 Km
Kargil - Padum (Zanskar) - 240 Km
Leh - Deskit (Nubra Valley) - 118 Kms.

Air Travel

Indian Airlines www.indian-airlines.nic.in operates 3 flight in a week between Leh and Delhi, 2 flights in a week from Jammu and once in a week from Srinagar. Jet Airways www.jetairways.com also operates six flights in a week between Leh - Delhi and Go Air www.goair.in operates daily flight Between Leh - Delhi.

BEST ACTIVITIES IN LADAKH

Ladakh Main Attraction
 

Leh
Leh is the the largest town of Ladakh with an area of 45110 Sq Km. The district is bounded by Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the West, China in the north and eastern part, and Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pradesh in South East.  Detail >>

 

Kargil
Kargil is located on the bank of the Suru River which flows at around 10,000 ft. high. Here people were followers of Buddhist religion till the 14th century AD. Presently, Kargil is inhabited by Muslims of Shia sect.  Detail >>

 

Drass
Drass is around 60 Kms. to the west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar. The place has beautiful pasture grounds and majestic mountain peaks surrounding it. Drass is the second coldest inhabited place in the world, where the temperature goes as low as - 50 in winter. Drass has become famous in recent years because of Pakistan’s misadventure in the Tiger hill and Tolloling areas. Detail >>

 

Nubra Valley
The Khardung La Pass at 18,380 feet, is the highest motorable road in the world, and a gateway to the Nubra Valley. The beauty of the Nubra valley is that it allows you to look over the Indus valley in the south and the mountain ridges of the Zanskar. You will get to see some rare and interesting plantations, quaint hamlets and high altitude desert landscapes. .   Detail >>

 
Pangong Lake
To visit this lake which is the world’s highest brackish lake at 14,256 feet (above sea level), you’ll have to undertake a 160 kms journey from Leh. Starting from Thicksey village, you will start crossing large mountain ridges that just don’t seem to end.  Detail >>
 

Zanskar
The Zanskar mountain range covers an area of 7000 sq. kms and is without a doubt, one of the most desolate places in the Himalayan range. Zanskar is known for its awesome scale. The tributaries of the Zanskar River are famous for seasonal white river rafting. Deep gorges, snow glaciers and a number of small religious spots dot the Zanskar valley.  Detail >>

 

Zangla
Zangla was being ruled by a titular king till his death a few years back. The old castle now in ruins except from a small chappel, occupies a hill, overlooking the desertic valley below. Nearby is the old Nunnery worth a visit for the austere life style of the small monastic community of nuns.
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