The most recent and happening spot for travelers to and in India; Ladakh is a region in north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian part of which comprises the Kargil and Leh districts. Ladakh is a Tibetan alphabet which means ‘Land of high passes’.
This territory has Karakoram Mountains in the north and Himalayas in the south. The land might seem to be barren and parched, but the beauty of nature makes it meaningless. The beauty of striking and sky-touching peaks, crystal clear water bodies, welcoming people and rich tradition is sure to be unparalleled. Besides being an unspoiled and majestic tourist hotspot, Ladakh is also the favorite destination in India for mountaineering and trekking enthusiasts.
There are a variety of options for tourists stay in Leh and Ladakh including guest houses, hotels, paying guest accommodations and rooms in monasteries. In recent times, concept of ecotourism has also been introduced in Ladakh a part of which is the concept of ‘Homestays’. According to this concept, tourists and trekkers in Ladakh stay with local families in the villages. This way, they do not have to carry tents and food and hence to do require pack animals to accompany them.
Major Attractions in Ladakh
- Monasteries – Majority of people living in Ladakh are Tibetan Buddhists and hence there are plethora of monasteries in Ladakh.Thiksey Monastery – Situated in Indus Valley at a distance of 18km from Leh, also known as Mini Potala, this is the largest monastery in central Ladakh district. Its location at the top of a hill and its architecture is what makes it famous and a must visit spot for all those travelling to Ladakh. The monastery also houses a 40 feet tall statue of Maitreya.Takthok Monastery – Also known as Old Order Monastery, this is the sole monastery in Ladakh which belongs to the Red Hat sect of Tiebtan Buddhism. Located in Shakti Village of Ladakh district, the monastery is either carved into mountains or is made up of rocks. It comprises of temple, Dukhand and caves. Other popular monasteries of the region are Matho Monastery, Lingshed Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Hanle Monastery, Sani Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Chemrey Monastery, Rizong Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Lamayuru Monastery and Mulbekh Monastery.
- Palaces – The Razir Khar Palace is the first palace of the then ruler Thatha Khan. It is said that the palace turned out to be so magnificent that the king commissioned to cut the right hand of its architect so that he cannot make another such palace in future.Much similar to the Potala Palace of Lhasa is the Leh Palace. This eight story palace is situated behind the main market and is still owned by the royal family of Ladakh. This palace was built by the architect of Razir Khar Palace by his left hand.
- Tsomoriri Lake – The natural grandeur of this lake in the south eastern part of Ladakh is beyond explanation. Also known as Lake Moriri, this is one of the two most renowned lakes in Ladakh, second one being Pangong T so.
Other major tourist attractions of Ladakh include
Khardung La, Sumda Chun, Zanskar, Dha-Hanu, Markha Valley, Chang La, Likir Gompa and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Ladakh is between May and October. The treks however open in June and remain opened till mid of October. Gompas or the Buddhist Monasteries of this region also celebrate their annual festivals during summers so this is the ideal time to be in Ladakh and experience everything that this place has to offer to the fullest.
Festivals and Fairs
The festivals celebrated in Ladakh with a lot of excitement and fervor are as follows:
- Ladakh Festival – This is a cultural festival organized by government with a purpose of popularizing heritage and tourism of this region. The week-long festival showcases music, dance, art & craft, culture and life of Ladakh.
- Hemis Festival – Held in the month of June or July, this is not just a festival but a gala event composed of plethora of cultural activity including loud music, blasting trumpets and a variety of dances.
- Monastery Festivals – Monasteries of Shey and Thikse celebrate their festivals that constitute prayers and invocations.
How to Reach
By Air – Leh, the capital of Ladakh has an airport which is at a distance of 5kms from the main town on Sringar Highway. The airport is well connected with Delhi. But the flights to Leh can be cancelled at a very short notice due to erratic weather conditions.
By Rail – It is not very convenient to travel to Ladakh by trains since the closest railhead is Jammu Tawi which is at a distance of 680km from Ladakh. Although this railway station is well linked to other major railheads of the country, but its quite far from Ladakh so it is not recommended to travel to this place by train.
By Road – Ladakh is well connected to all the major towns and cities of the country by way of fine roads and this is also a preferable way to travel as compared to other modes of transport. Highways to Leh and other areas of Ladakh remain open from June to almost end of October (the precise duration depends upon weather conditions). Srinagar to Leh road and Manali to Leh road are the most common overland routes. The road trip to Ladakh will take you through some of the most ravishing scenic views of nature that you will surely remember for life!