Ladakh is located in the Indian Himalayas, with the Karakoram mountain range. This was an independent Buddhist kingdom, it is well known for its ancient monasteries, picturesque mountains and large blue lakes. Ladakh is often called “little Tibet” because the culture and the landscapes are quite similar.
Ladakh shares borders with Tibet (China) to the east, the Indian state of Kashmir to the west, Xinjiang province (China) to the north, Pakistan to the northwest and the Indian state of l ‘Himachal Pradesh to the south.
Leh, the largest city in Ladakh is also its capital. It is the main hub for travelers. It is located at an altitude of 3,500 meters above sea level and was an important trading center along the ancient Silk Road which served as a transit point for traders traveling from India to the ‘Asia.
Ladakh is accessible by air and by road. There are direct flights from New Delhi to Leh daily and all year round. The region is also accessible by road from Srinagar and Manali. However, these roads are closed in winter due to the heavy snowfall which makes the passes impossible to cross. The 500 km long Leh-Manali road is generally open from May to the end of October. This road is a real adventure, with tight turns, and you have to cross three impressive passes: Rohtang La (3980 meters above sea level), Baralacha La (5030 meters above sea level) and Taglang La (5328 meters above sea level)) . altitude). The road from Srinagar to Leh passes through magnificent mountain landscapes; the journey is less tiring than that of Manali.
Best time to visit Ladakh
The best time to visit the Ladakh region is from April to November. Ladakh is a cold desert of high altitude, and the monsoon rain in India has no impact in Ladakh because the clouds are blocked by the high Himalayan mountains. Therefore, Ladakh is always dry and sunny. When the road between Leh and Manali and the road between Leh and Srinagar are closed during the winter, taking a flight is the only option to visit Ladakh. Even though it is very cold in winter in Ladakh (-10 degrees to -25 degrees), visiting the region right now is a wonderful and unique experience.
Most of the hikes cannot be done, but the famous Chadar trek (on the frozen Zanskar river) and the Snow Leopard trek are two of the main activities that can be done right now. Ju-Leh Adventure is one of the few travel agencies in Leh that also operates in winter and can organize hikes and arrange transportation for tourists visiting the region during this season.
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Main places to see in Ladakh
Indus Valley monasteries: Leh, Shey, Thiksey and Hemis
The population of Ladakh is mainly Buddhist and the region has many Buddhist monuments, including stupas and monasteries of different sects of Buddhism. Leh Palace dominates the city of Leh. It is built on a hill above the city center and its roof offers a beautiful panorama of the city and the surrounding mountains. Near the palace there is the Namgyal Tsemo monastery which is visible from everywhere in Leh. Built in the middle of the 15th century, you can see a very large Maitreya Buddha statue inside the main temple.
Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh. Shey palace is famous for its huge copper Buddha statue. Thiksey Monastery is the most picturesque monument in the valley. It looks like a small version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa (Tibet). The monastery has beautiful murals and 120 monks live here.
The largest monastery in Ladakh is Hemis which is located 45 kilometers from the city of Leh (less than an hour drive). The Hemis Monastery is well known for its festival which is celebrated annually to commemorate the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. During the festival, you can see mask dances performed by the monks.
The Nubra Valley, also known as the “Valley of Flowers”, is one of the main attractions in the Ladakh region. Nubra is located at an altitude below Leh, about 3000 meters above sea level. To access the Nubra valley, you have to cross the Khardung La pass, the highest motorable road in the world at 5,602 meters above sea level. There is a strong military presence at the strategic pass as it is the gateway to the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world between India and Pakistan, in the Karakoram Mountains.
The two most famous villages in the Nubra Valley are Hunder and Turtuk. Hunder is very popular for its sand dunes and the Bactrian camel safari. The village of Turtuk is known for the Balti tribe. Turtuk is located just a few kilometers from the border with Pakistan and was opened to tourists in 2010. The Diskit Monastery is the largest monastery in the valley and is located near the village of Hunder. Right next to the monastery, there is a large statue of Buddha on top of a hill, the statue is 32 meters high.
Pangong and Tsomoriri lakes
Pangong and Tso Moriri lakes are the most visited destinations in Ladakh. These two lakes are located on the Changthang plateau in the eastern part of Ladakh. Pangong Lake, located at 4,350 meters above sea level, is a 6-hour drive from the town of Leh. The lake is 135 km long and almost a large part of the lake is actually in China. Pangong Lake has many birds, including rare migratory birds.
Lake Tso Moriri is located 4,522 meters above sea level in the south-east of Ladakh. The lake is the breeding ground for the beautiful black-necked crane. The inhabitants of the valley are nomads moving from one place to another with their animals (sheep, goats, yaks). Lake Tso Moriri is 19 kilometers long and its water is salty.