As one approaches Leh for the first time, via the sloping seep of dust and pebbles that divide if from the floor of the Indus Valley, one will have little difficulty imagining how the old trans -Himalayan traders must have felt as they plodded in on the caravan routes from Yarkhand and Tibet: a mixture of relief at having crossed the mountains in one piece, and anticipation of a relaxing spell in one of central Asia's most scenic and atmospheric towns.
Prime Attractions of Leh Ladakh
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. more..
About 20-km south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzela Top (4,401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
Hemis Festival Tour of Leh Ladakh Region
Thanks 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 Gompa, 3-km north of the town centre, is among the most accessible monasteries in central Ladakh - hence its restricted visiting hours for tourists
The Shanti Stupa
A relatively new addition to the rocky skyline around Leh is the Shanti Stupa above Changspa village, 3km west of the bazaar. Inaugurated in 1983 by the Dalai Lama,
Driving past on the nearby Srinagar-Leh highway, you'd never guess that this is one of the most significant historical sites in Asia.
The 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.
On 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".
The Biafo glacier is located on the south-facing slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh. It has a length of about 60-km and descends from a large glacial trough.
Dah 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.
An 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.
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 Sanctuary
The 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.
The Karakoram Pass lies on one of the highest trade routes in the world for Yarkand in Central Asia.
Khardong La & Digar La Pass
The 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 Ladakh
The 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 trekkers moving from the Kiangdum camping ground to the Tsomorari Lake.
If one sight could be said to sum up Ladakh, it would have to be Lamayuru Gompa, 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.
6-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.
Losar 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.
Matho, 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.
On 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.
The monastic festivals are 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.
West 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 Gompa
Once 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.
The 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.
Once 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.
After 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 walk. A dot on the mountainside across the river, Ensa Gompa makes an obvious excursion.
Pangong 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.
A 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 is one of the two Dringungpa Monasteries in Ladakh. This monastery 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.
A wealthy monastery, presided over by Shas Rinpoche and linked to Sumur in the Nubra, the atmospheric Rhidzong is a relatively new Gompa dating from the 17th century.
While 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
A 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.
Shey, 15-km southeast of Leh and once the capital of Ladakh is now all but deserted, the royal family having been forced to abandon it by the Dogras midway through the last century.
The 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.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful of Kashmir's side valleys, the Sind is also the access route to the Zoji la pass.
Sindhu Darshan Festival
The 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 La
Siser 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.
By contrast, the 15th century monastery, which tumbles down the sides of a steep knoll to a tight cluster of farmhouses and well-watered fields, is altogether more picturesque.
Just 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 Monastery
The 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
Soon 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,
The Suru Valley is formed by the catchment are of the SuruRiver, which rises from the Panzella glacier.
The Leh Palace
Lording it over the old town from the top of a craggy granite ridge is the derelict palace of the 16th century ruler Sengge Namgyal.
The Nubra Valley
The 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.
Ladakh's most photographed and architecturally impressive Gompa is at Tikse, 19-km southeast of Leh. Founded in the 15th century, its whitewashed Chortens and cubic monks quarters rise in ranks up the sides of a craggy sun bleached bluff.
The 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.
Zoji 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 Ladakh
Although 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.
Clinging 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 Glacier
The 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 via Skardu in Ladakh.
Dances Of Ladakh
Ladakhi 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 Hundur
The 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.
This socio-religious event is celebrated to observe the birthday and the Buddhahood of Tsongkhapa- the Tibetan saint-scholar who founded the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism during the 14th century. The Gelukpa School later developed as the dominant monastic order in Central Tibet.
The 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. 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-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
Situated on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh is Hispar Glacier.
Lording it over the old town from the top of a craggy granite ridge is the derelict palace of the 16th century ruler Sengge Namgyal. A scaled down version of the Potala in Lhasa, it is a textbook example of medieval Tibetan architecture, with gigantic sloping buttressed walls and projecting wooden balconies that tower nine storeys above the surrounding houses.
Rakaposhi 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.
Located 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.
The Saltoro glacier is located on the southern slopes of the Karakoram Range in Ladakh. 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 Valley
Indus 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
Stok Guru Tse Chu
Stok Guru Tse Chu is yet another festival of oracles, and is held in Stok, the present seat of royal residence in between the months of
February and March.
Thak Thok Gompa
Clustered 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.
This 2-day festival is celebrated during July, in the spectacularly situated monastery of Lamayuru, about 127-km west of Leh.
Lying 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.
A spectacular cave monastery of Zanskar, Zongkhul falls on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking trail, just before the ascent of Omasi-la Pass begins.
Significance - LehM
Capital Of Ladakh.
Leh only became regional capital in the 17th century, when Sengge Namgyal shifted his court here from Shey, 15-km southeast, to be closer to the head of the Khardung La-Karakoram corridor into China. The move paid off: with in a generation, the town had blossomed into one of the busiest markets on the Silk Road. During the 1920s and 1930s, the broad bazaar that broad bazaar that still forms its heart received more than a dozen pony- and camel-trains each day.
Leh's prosperity, managed mainly by the Sunni Muslim merchants whose descendants live in its labyrinthine old quarter, came to an abrupt end with the closure of the Chinese border in the 1950's. One after the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971, when India rediscovered the hitherto forgotten capital's strategic value, did its fortunes begin to look up. Today, Khaki-clad Jawans (soldiers) and their families from the nearby military and air force bases are the mainstay of the local economy in winter, when foreign visitors are few and far between.
Undoubtedly the most radical shake-up, however, ensued from the Indian government's decision in 1974 to open Ladakh to foreign tourists. From the start, Leh bore the brunt of the annual invasion, as busloads of backpackers poured up the road Srinagar. Twenty or so years on, though the main approach is now via Himachal Pradesh rather than Kashmir, the summer influx shows no sign of abating.
Leh is doubled in size and is a far cry from the sleepy Himalayan town of the early 1970's. During July and August tourists stroll shoulder to shoulder down its main street, most of whose old style outfitters and provision stores have been squeezed out by Kashmiri handicraft shops, art emporiums and Tibetan restaurants.