Ladakh is the highest plateau of the state of Kashmir region and is situated at a height of almost 3,000 meters. Ladakh is one of the most peaceful and serene places on earth and is the ex-kingdom of the Buddhists. The picturesque view of the pristine rocky bases, the amid whitewashed stupas and the mani walls define Ladakh. This is one of the favorite destinations of Indian tourists. Besides, this area under Jammu and Kashmir attracts foreign tourists as well.
Location: Ladakh the “land of high passes” lies between the Kunlun ranges in the north and the Great Himalayas to its south. The total area of the place is 33,554 sq miles. The culture here is similar to that of Tibet’s.
The early nomadic inhabitants of Ladakh were yak herders but they were settled down across the Indus, soon after the emergence of the Buddhist monks from Tibet. They crossed over Mt Kailash to reach India. Gradually, Buddhism became the primary religion of the area. But there are still tribes living in different parts of this region.
Towards the 16th century, the Muslim armies started to invade Ladakh from the west. It was Ali Balistan who successfully conquered the west. The Buddhist monarch Singge Namgyal moved back and settled into his new capital at Leh. Finally, around 1846, Ladakh came into the hands of the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu. Since then this area is under Jammu and Kashmir. Later on, in 1996, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) was established to support the anti-Buddhist discrimination. Today, Ladakh is a Union Territory but the government of the State is earning handsome from the tourism industry. Though, their autonomy is still a far dream.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh and is the biggest and important town here. This was previously the capital of Ladakh Kingdom, which is why reminiscences of the monasteries and historical places are found here. Leh can be reached by road from Manali and Srinagar otherwise airway is the best way to reach there. You will find cheap hotels, quality food (authentic Tibetan delicacies) and hospitality of the locals here. Besides, the spectacular view of the place will always awe-struck you at Leh.
Zanskar is famous for having reminiscences of the Indus Valley Civilization, now located in the remotest parts of Ladakh is a sub-district of Kargil. Zanskar is only accessible by foot in winters. The remotest corners of the area are still left virgin. If you wish to explore the unexplored and want to walk through the less trodden roads, Zanskar can be a great trekking option for you. Padum is the largest town with approx 700 inhabitants there. Make sure whether an Indian or a foreigner, you need a permit as soon as you cross the Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley and Tso Moiriri.
Kargil became one of the most famous places in India after the war. This is the second largest town in Ladakh. If you want to experience the heavenly beauty of Ladakh, this is the right place for you, surrounded by lush green as well as snow capped mountains.
This is perhaps the top listed tourist attraction in Ladakh. Pangong Tso’s total area covered is 270 sq miles. The deep blue, sometimes turquoise water of the brackish lake, surrounded by yellow mountains creates a heavenly aura. If you wish to rest in a tranquil place after a long trekking, this can be the ultimate spot. From Leh, it takes a 6 hour drive to reach Pangong Tso.
If you are interested in ornithology and bird watching, then Tsomoriri will not disappoint you. Some of the best migrating birds from across the world come here and nestle in the pristine lake. Bird watchers never miss this place.
Khartungla Pass is best known for being the highest motorable roads in the world. It is made at an altitude of 5,360 meters. This is an amazing road that will gift you with picturesque views of the surrounding. You can only listen to the winds and few bells from the Gompas while travelling by the road.
Other significant places to see in Ladakh are -Lamayuru Village and Monastery, Sand Dunes at Hunder, the stupas and Gompas, and above all the vast open space surrounded by the mountains. This is a biker’s paradise.
Best time to visit: June to October
Indian Airlines offer flight services to Leh from Delhi thrice a week, 2 flights from Jammu and once in a week from Srinagar. Jet operates 6 flights across the week between Leh and Delhi and Go Air accommodates daily flights between Leh and Delhi.
J&K State Road Transport Corp operates regular deluxe and ordinary bus services from Srinagar to Ladakh (Leh). Journey through the Zojila Pass at a height of 3,505 m high can really awe-struck you.
Road distances between some major north-Indian cities and Leh-Ladakh are:
Srinagar - Leh - 434 Km
Leh - Kargil - 234 Km
Srinagar - Kargil - 204 Km
Manali - Leh - 473 Km
Leh - Deskit (Nubra Valley) - 118 Kms
Delhi - Leh - 1047 Kms
Kargil - Padum (Zanskar) - 240 Km