The largest part of Jammu and Kashmir state is Ladakh region situated deep within the mighty Himalayan mountains. A sparsely populated region having only two districts Leh and Kargil having a combined population of about two lakhs comprising mainly of Buddhists, Muslims, and few Christians.
Ladakh is a cold desert with naked mountains all around and all along. A pollution free region deficient in oxygen and vegetation has very vast plain areas within high mountains dotted with green patches here and there on the areas which receive water from the melting glaciers in summers. Because of the absence of pollution, the view of distant mountain ranges is clearly visible and a camera can catch the beautiful pictures of the area with an amazing clarity.
Ladakh has a mixture of Tibetan and Indian culture. People of all faiths are highly religious, tolerant, very simple and gentle. Each village, town, and the city is having Monasteries, Mosques, Churches, and Gurudwaras. People of Ladakh love and respect their culture and have maintained their values till date inspite of the spicy tampering of modernization. Ladakh is full of beauty, festivity, and a colorful environment which is available nowhere in the world except this wonderland.
Places in and around Leh
Leh Palace situated on a hill overlooking Leh town was built by the king of Leh in the 17th century. From this nine-story high building, you can have an amazing panoramic view of the entire Leh town. The night view of the palace is very charming.
General Zorawar Fort within Leh city was built by Dogra General Zorawar Singh and was the base of Dogra rulers. A mosque and a Hindu temple exist in this fort which is a symbol of Hindu Muslim brotherhood.
Shanti Stupa built on a hillock in Changspa area of Leh by the Japanese Buddhist appears like a pearl on the barren hill. The view is magnificent especially after the sunset when it glows in the dark with special lights all around it and appears as if the moon has landed on the hill.
You can also see The highest polo ground in the world situated within the city itself. Local Polo teams play matches in this ground and even all public functions are also held here.
Leh airport is a unique airport which is not plane but a sliding one. Landing and take off is possible only from a particular side only; landing from the downside and take off from the higher side of the runway.
Gurudwara Pather Sahib situated some 25 km from Leh on Srinagar Kargil Leh highway was built in 1517 AD in commemoration of the visit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj. It is said that earlier it was called Nanak Gompa in the memory of Nanak Lama. A saint or Faqir in the local language is called a Lama. It is said that when Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited this place it was haunted by a big demon who used to torture local people. The people requested Guru Nanak to help them. One day when Guru Nanak was sitting for his meditation the demon saw him and to finish Guru Nanak, he rolled down a huge stone rock from the top of an adjacent hill. The rock came rolling down the hill with great force but stopped the moment it touched Guru Nanak Dev Ji sitting in meditation. The demon was surprised, he came down and tried to press the rock against Guru Nanak with his foot. He was further surprised to find that the rock had melted and his foot was stuck in the melted rock. He begged pardon from Guru Nanak and promised not to harm anyone thereafter. The rock still has an imprint of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj on it. This Gurudwara is now maintained by Indian Army. Langer Parshad is served to all who visit the Gurudwara.
Magnetic Hill is believed to have magnetic properties. You keep your vehicle with the engine turned off without brakes on the road, it starts moving uphill slowly. It is believed that the hill nearby having magnetic field attracts the vehicles and they start moving.
Indus and Zanskar river Confluence between Pather Sahib Gurudwara and village Nimmo can be seen from the national highway itself. One with crystal clear blue waters and the other with brown muddy waters merge together to be one at this place. The site is really worth seeing.
Stok Palace and Stok monastery are in Stok village across Indus river opposit Leh. The King of Leh shifted to this palace after he left Leh palace.
Hall of fame near Leh airport portrays war heroes of Indo Pak and Indo China wars as well as those who laid down their lives in Saichin and Kargil Wars.
Ladakh is filled with Buddhist monasteries which are centers of cultural, spiritual, and traditional values. These heritage places have existed for centuries and are well maintained by local priests called Lamas. These beautiful places have grand idols of Buddha and his incarnations. The grand Tanka paintings on the walls of these monasteries with shining and bright colors are a masterpiece work of local art.
The main monasteries are, Hemis Monastery is also known as Hemis Gumpa, Thiksey monastery on the hillock at Thiksey village, Likir monastery, Spituk monastery, Stakna monastery, Dikshit monastery, Alchi monastery, Phayang monastery, Takthok monastery, Sumda Chun monastery, and Lamayuru monastery in addition to other numberless monasteries spread all over this heaven.
Two world famous lakes in the Himalayan region exist in Ladakh; Tsomoriri lake and Pan gong lake which is about 80 km in length with blue waters, half is in India and half in China. To reach Pan-gong lake one has to cross Chang-la pass which is second highest motor-able road in the world; the first being too in Ladakh known as Khardungla pass at a height of 17582 feet from the sea level.
White sand dunes at village Hunder in Nubra valley are a wonder on such heights in this Heaven. Double hump camels exist only in this valley in the country. A ride on the double hump camel is an experience worth enjoying and remembering for life.
Moon land on the Lamayuru hills on Kargil Leh national highway is a wonder on earth. These moon lands are situated on the mountains at Lamayuru village which resemble moon’s surface.
The original Aryan race existed on the banks of Indus river known as Indus valley civilization. This race is believed to still exist in two distinct villages Dah and Hanu in Leh. They have maintained their distinct culture, character, and traditions. They don’t mix with other cultures of Ladakh and have a separate distinct identity. Their appearance is different from the Buddhist/Mongolian race. They have long face and long nose and they support a unique cap fitted with flowers.
During the summers there are very nice local vegetables available in Ladakh such as Turnip, local Reddish, Cauliflower, Peas, Knoll, Broccoli, and Spinach. Generally, ladies sell these fresh vegetables in the market on the footpaths. Turnip and peas of Ladakh are very famous.
The hot springs in this sub-zero zone at Chumathang village in Leh district is a wonder in the area.
Ladakh is also famous for the best Apricots which grow in plenty in the entire region. Leh barries is another wild fruit known for its rich contents of vitamin C.
Ladakh is known the world over for the production of famous Pashmina, as well as ShahToosh. Shahtoosh is obtained from a Tibetan Antelope(Chiru), which is now banned because of the danger of extinction of this Antelope. These Shahtoosh shawls made by master craftsmen are priced between Rs 3 to 4 lakhs per piece.
Watching the Sky at night during a full moon night as well as dark moonless night is worth experiencing. During a moonless night, you can see the brightly shining stars, bigger in size than usual in the plains. The milky way which has disappeared from the scene due to a lot of pollution and smoke in the plains is very clearly visible from Leh area. Nights are colder, silent, and free from any disturbances. With sufficient warm clothes or sleeping bag, you lay during a night on the ground in a vast field away from the village or a town and experience the pleasure and tranquillity of silence. Only you and The God and no one else in this world to disturb you. You cant have such an opportunity to really enjoy nature like this anywhere except in Ladakh. During a moonlit night, you feel as if you are really in the heavens. The size of the full moon is much bigger at this altitude and it shines more brightly. You can read a book in the moonlight. The mountains changing colors with the change in the position of the sun during day and moon during the night present a unique beauty of these barren heights.
A tour of Ladakh is not complete without a visit to Suru and Zanskar valleys which provide an opportunity to experience adventure tourism and white water rafting in addition to giving a very exhilarating feeling and experience worth enjoying.
A land of Lamas, Spirituality and peace is a real heaven on earth.