Ladakh, a part of Jammu and Kashmir state in north of India, consists of two districts, Leh and Kargil. Leh with and area of 45,110 square kilometres makes it the largest district in India in terms of area. The district is bordered by Pakistan, occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the north and eastern part and Lahaul Spiti of Himachal Pradesh in the southeast. It is at a distance of 434 kilometres from Srinagar and 474 kilometres from Manali.
The most attractive feature of the landscape of Ladakh are the Buddhist monasteries situated on the isolated hillock in the vicinity of villages, these aesthetically pleasing, architecturally interesting monasteries provide the focus for the faith of the highly religious Buddhist people. Monasteries are the places of worship, isolated meditation and religious instruction for the young. Many monasteries celebrate their annual festivals in winter, which are marked by gay mask dances. Monasteries have a wealth of artefacts, Lamayuru, the oldest religious centre of Ladakh, beats all other in sheer grandeur.
In its uniqueness of wood carving, statues and frescoes, Alchi offers the highest rewards. The wealth of its possession and its annual summer festival make Hemis the most popular, while Thiksay rates high in terms of architectural impact and the beauty of the festival performances at Likir and Phyang with their proximity to Leh are great attractions in their favour while the accessibility of the Shey, Spituk and the Sankar monasteries make them suitable for visitors with time at a premium. Besides monasteries, the 9-storey Leh Palace, Stok Palace Museum and the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies Choglamsar, Mosque and Moravian Church at Leh are added attraction for the tourists. Most of these can be conveniently visited from Leh as buses ply daily between Leh and those monasteries. Most of the monasteries remain open throughout the day.
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Ladakh offers very interesting trekking routes. Trekking possibilities include short hikes, day-long walks up and down mountain slopes to visit isolated villages or monastic settlements, or across a ridge to enjoy the sheer beauty of the lunar mountainscape. Or long, transmountain treks involving weeks of walking and camping the wilderness.
Ladakh is rich in wildlife, you may come a across some rare species like gazelles, ibex, ammon or shapo etc. You are sure to see Yak and Demos grazing on mountain pastures. The mountain river can be the only sound in your solitude as it runs along your route. All these may go to make your trek in this region a memorable moment, the experience of the life time.
The government of India has declared the following historical monuments in Ladakh as national importance under Archaeological Survey of India:
Government of India, has recently declared some more areas of Ladakh open for International Tourism. These areas are among the outstanding feature of Himalayan Panorama. It could be yet another destination for the global tourists. These areas are relatively more distinct for cultural and adventure tourism.
This valley is popularly known as Ldomra or the valley of flowers. It is situated in the north of Ladakh, between Karakoram and Ladakh ranges of Himalayas. Nubra lies at an average altitude of about 10,000 feet above sea level. The climate, of the areas being soft, soil is much fertile and the vegetation of the area is comparatively thicker than those of the other areas of Ladakh. Diskit is the Sub-Division HQ. Of Nubra. Major village via Kardong, Khalsar, Tirit, Sumoor, Tegar Pinchemik, Titisha and Panamik all fall along the traditional silk route. The caravans travelling Central Asia and Kashmir through Nubra valley used to stay at those villages. Panamik was the most important place for haltage of Caravan.
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It served as last major village where the Caravans landed the facility of feed back, before they negotiated Saser and Karakoram pass towards Central Asia. The famous hot spring of Panamik also served them as a source for bath, drinking water and medicine purpose. Panamik has still got charms and potentiality to serve as a host to travellers. All areas around it including Iantsa Gonpa and Murgi waterfall across it combined with scenic view strengthens its beauty and hospitality. Major attraction of Nubra is the highest motorable road in the world at Khardongla pass (18,383 feet) majestic peaks and glaciers enchanting valleys and villages. There is a well-maintained road to Nubra from Leh.
Tourists can avail the facility of P.W.D. Rest House at Khardong, Khalsar, Diskit, Sumoor and Panamik villages. There are private guesthouses and Tented camps (Identified as cam ping sites) at Khalsar, Khardong, Diskit, Hunder, Tisrit, Sumoor Tegar, Tirisha and Panamik. Besides there are shops and small restaurants/tea stall at places enroute to Nubra valley. Some Hotels are also coming up at Diskit, Hunder, Tegar and Panamik. There is road head right up to Panamik and Hunder. Though the state of road stretch between sought Pule and North Pulu is rough yet travelling and passing through the worlds highest motorable bus Khardongla (18,383 feet) is the most exciting part of journey to Nubra.
Changthang (Nyoma Division)
The upland plateaus of Changthang in Nyoma Sub-Division are possibly the most attractive areas in the District as far as scenic beauty, brackish lakes and Wild Life are concerned. The vast pastures with their gently flowing streams and the lakes amidst the spectacularly coloured mountains are quite unlike any-thing a tourist will see anywhere in India.
This lake is situated in the Easter sector of Ladakh at an elevation of about 14,300 feet. The 154 kilometres journey from Leh to Pangong lake is a memorable one, passing through monasteries, remote villages, mountain ranges and finally crossing the mighty Changla pass (5,150 metres). It is one of the largest and most beautiful natural brakish lakes in the country. This lake is more than 130 kilometres long and more than half of it lies in China.
Tsomo Riri Lake
This lake is situated at a elevation of more than 4,500 metres above sea level, at a distance of 240 kilometres from Leh in the south-east sector of Ladakh. It is like a pearl shape and contains large mineral deposits. Korzok village is situated on the South West Bank of this lake. Korzok Gonpa and its inhabitants the nomads (Changpas) are most outstanding features of this lake.
The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn’t preclude an immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakh adherents, and even solemn religious enactment’s are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Many of the festivals of the gonpas take place in winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people. They take the form of dance-dramas in the Gonpa courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful mask, perform mimes representing various aspect 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 to these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyment 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.
The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals, frequented by tourists and locals a like, is that of Hemis, which falls in late June or the first half of July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava. Every 12 years, the gonpa’s greatest treasure, a huge thangka - a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth- is ritually exhibited. Other monasteries which have summer festivals at Lamayuru (also early July), Phyang (Late July or early August), Tak-thok (about tend days after Phyang) and Karsha in Zanskar (11 days after Phyang). Like Hemis, the phyang festival too involves the exhibition of a gigantic thangka, though here it is done every year. Spituk, Stok, Thiksay, Chemrey Matho all have their festivals in winter, between November and March. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals to coincide with Dosmochey, the festival of the scapegoat, which is also celebrated with favour at Leh.Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of the 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 stoma, 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 cleaned and made ready to welcome the New Year.
Indian Airlines and Jet Airways cater to the need of world class Air services for the tourists. Leh, the principal town of Ladakh has now become gateway to the world by any connecting flight from Delhi one can fly in to Leh from abroad in a day as well. Recently one of the low cost carriers viz Air Deccan has also started daily service to Leh from Delhi.
Both the overland routes i.e from Srinagar and Manali normally open by the end of June and remain open till mid September. The road journey is tough passing through numerous high passes with an average height of 5,500 m but it is worth the pain as it passes through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Himachal tourism deptt runs a daily bus service from Manali to Leh with an overnight halt in a tent in a beautiful valley called Keylong.
Leh offers a variety of accommodations to suit almost every pocket or preference. Most hotels are family-run establishments and, as such, the services are more personalised than professional. Hotels are classified into A, B, C and Economy category while GuestHouses fall under Upper, Medium and Economy class. Tariff quoted in A and B category hotels include all meals, a system followed by most establishments. The guesthouses is a less formal facility offering rooms is a part of a residential house or its annex, where the guests can share the family kitchen for meals. Apart from the low tariff offered for accommodation ranging from very good to merely basic, the guesthouse 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 not yet adequately developed. The State Tourism Department has started the development of accommodation facilities like Tourist Complexes and Hiker’s huts at Tangse, Spangmik, Sakti, Rumtse, Hunder, Panamik and Saspol. Tourists can also seek accommodation as paying guests in a few selected homes in these places though 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 visiting the Pangong and Tsomoriri lake areas.
There are also some Government run Tourist Bungalows located mainly along the Srinagar-Leh road. These offer the best value in the medium range, but room availability is uncertain unless you hold a confirmed reservation. This is possible only if a written equisition has been sent to the Tourist Office at Leh of Kargil in advance.
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, tourist planning winter trips may have to book accommodation in advance so as to ensure provision of heating arrangements during the period of their intended stay.
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The summer visitors to Leh will basically need warm-weather clothes, with a sweater for evenings and mornings when it may be chilly. Temperatures begin to fall around the 2nd half of August, and though cottons continue to be warm during the day until mid September, a heavy sweater or an anorak or coat will be needed in the mornings and evenings. Fromm mid-September it starts getting distinctly cold and woollens are needed even during the day, though in the sun it is still hot. Winter visitors - which means November to April - will need to equip themselves with heavy woollens, anoraks or tweed coats, gloves, balaclave helmets or equivalent and warm boots.
Reasonably good trekking equipment can be hired from private tour operators specialised in mountain treks. All trekkers should remember that nights in the mountains could be chilly at any time of the year and make sure that they are fully equipped for the treks. They must carry enough food for the whole trek, basic supplies like fruit & vegetables or the occasional villages enroute will be able to provide local food if you run out of food stock. It is advisable to keep a good torch handy during treks and visit to the monasteries because shrines are often found ill-lit.
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