Cushioned between the Himalayan Range and the Karakoram Range in Northern India, Ladakh, “the land of high passes”, is a popular tourist destination for adventure seekers and mountaineering enthusiasts. This rugged and beautiful landscape is a part of a long-running political battle and is sometimes known for its armed conflict between India and its neighboring countries, but it’s definitely a destination you must visit at least once in a lifetime. From its landscapes which offer optical illusions to its animal life, its high-altitude settlements to bridges of distinction – Ladakh is a paradise on earth.
The Zanskar Range
Zanskar along with Karakoram is the range that ribbons your journey to Ladakh. The mighty mountain ranges have their mouths covered in snow and foothills bathed in water bodies. It is difficult to pin down the beauty of this place. The terrains are steep, extremely swirly and scary with thundering background music given by the rivers cutting in between. Also, because of the extremely hard route and a difficult height, the place is not overcrowded with visitors. You can hear your echo ricocheting back from the hills at any point you wish to.
Pangong Tso Lake
Pangong Tso lake, one of the highest salt lakes in the world, is a five-hour drive from Leh. The lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. About 60% of the lake is in China and it goes up to Bhutan. If you are an expert ice-skater, then maybe visit this place in winters, and roll your skills on the frozen bank of the lake. Boating is prohibited but this can be a perfect site for camping.
This is the highest motor road in the world open to civilians. Many bikers and motorists come to drive here every year just for the thrill of it. Health may become an issue here as oxygen levels fall at such heights of about 5359 meters, but the experience of the place still attracts many. You feel as if driving in snow caves with colorful Tibetan flags to add some glitter to your route. There are a few tour agencies in Leh that will drop you off at the top with bikes so you can ride all the way down back to Leh, it was one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had.
Now Ladakh has something peculiar, “Gravity Hill”, to offer naturally which other tourist spots around the world try to create artificially. This is the optical illusion at Magnetic Hill. It is actually a mild downslope, however, seems like an uphill track because of the surrounding landscape. Visitors parking their vehicles break-free in this zone, see them traversing an upward trajectory while in reality, the vehicle moves downward.
Tso Moriri Lake
Looking for a postcard-perfect landscape? This place is where you can click awesome pictures even with the most outdated technology! This is the beauty of the place. The blue-white horizon above with snow-white peaks, green mountains beside and the lush green earth beneath as you take a walk. A perfect metonym for peace, beauty and poise.
Ladakh is one single place exhibiting different meteorological characters. Anyone would obviously be surprised to find a desert in this mostly freezing snow-packed habitat. Visit the Nubra valley and you will find charming sand dunes that remind you pretty well of Arabian Nights. You can also promise to show your kids double-humped camels, which commonly roam around in this valley.
This is the monastery which makes Ladakh the land of monks and monasteries. There are many monasteries, but this one is the eminence because of its scenic beauty. It is magnanimously carved at the highest point on a hilltop, with the surrounding mountains rising above it, circumference the entire monastery.
This is a place where some of your favorite movie scenes with beautiful night sky visions are captured. If you were thinking that it is Photoshop and graphics which were used on-screen, try visiting this place once. Especially when it is the time of shooting stars. Lamayuru Monastery can give you sleepless nights with its captivating sky gaze.
This is the epitome of peace and existence. Many people come to Ladakh just to spend some time at the Shanti Stupa to rejuvenate their inner self and to connect with the Supreme. Located strategically on a hilltop in Leh, it is enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The 500 steps to the white dome allow you to take a beautiful view of the entire district below.
It’s a royal palace which was built by a Tibetan king in the 16th Century. It has now become a tourist spot and the entire town of Leh can be overlooked from this palace. The palace has nine stories, although, in a semi-ruined state, this palace also has a museum with a very rich collection. The Archeological Survey of India is renovating and reconstructing the Leh palace because of its iconic nature.
Dalai Lama Mass Prayer
The holy Dalai Lama is visiting Ladakh very often. Make sure to plan your itinerary so that you can experience his mass prayer in one of the monasteries in the region. While we were there, all the roads around Leh were lined by thousands of Ladakhis and Tibetans, monastics and lay people, old and young, including hundreds of school children in uniform. It was as if the entire local population had turned out to greet His Holiness, eager smiles on their faces, scarves, sticks of incense and flowers in their hands.
White Water Rafting
Leh offers a rafting experience, on the Zanskar river. The rafting expedition costs about 1500 rupee per person, however, you can choose among the various packages as per your time schedule. Leh airport is the closest that connects you this water excursion trip that offers meals, resting points, guides, transport and everything you need. The rafting usually finishes at Khaltsey, which is about 90 km from Leh if you take a full trip.
Just So You Know:
- If you have a checklist of to-do’s in life, and seeing a snow leopard is one of them, then visit Ladakh. The place because of its location is very close to wildlife and natural habitats. There are many zoos and you can go for some safari or excursion contracting any of these.
- Above are just a few, actually, Leh-Ladakh is a perfect tourist spot with a plethora of enticements to see.
- Because of its altitude and clear celestial sphere, it is used for many astronomical research projects.
- You can meet the Kung-Fu nuns of Ladakh in the Drukpa nunnery who are at par with the Buddhist monks.
- Korzok, on Tso moriri lake, is at 4600 meters and considered as the highest field in the entire world.
- Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle in Ladakh is the 2nd highest optical telescope around the world
Grab A Bite:
- Lamayuru restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Leh. It is situated on the old fort road, Leh and serves a variety of cuisines. If you are not specifically looking forward to South Indian food, then this place has a good variety to offer for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
- Little Italy restaurant in the main market of Leh is another attraction for foodies. It is located on the first floor and offers very rich Indian food.
- Hotel Sten Del restaurant in Nubra valley with the Sangam Bar and restaurant is the best place to eat if you are out for night safari or desert camping. It offers you nice food and a garden bar along with.