Most of my friends were surprised to hear that I was visiting Leh, capital of Ladakh for the first time in my life despite being an avid traveler for the last 50 years. After spending a few days in Ladakh in April 2016, I realized that next time I must spend more time here to explore secrets of this place.
Ladakh is known for high altitude and number of passes connecting the difficult terrains. Inspite of harsh weather conditions throughout the year, Ladakh is a favorite tourist destination, but it requires grit and physical endurance to travel there.
Many people do ask “Why visit Leh Ladakh? It involves lot of money. It is crowded in summer. Requires lots of endurance & grit. Far off and lots of alternatives are available. I am of the view that it has to be planned properly – when air tickets are cheap, number of tourists is less and attention of the host is maximum to ensure a better experience.
Ladakh is a dream destination for many and mecca for adventure enthusiasts. It is a paradise for the photographers. There is hardly any nature or wildlife photographer, who would not like to go to one of the coldest desert of the world. They come to shoot Snow Leopard and Wild Ass as well as some unique species of birds, which are endemic to this region. Even the landscape gives a feeling that is out of the world.
It is one of the least populated places on the Earth. You would see vast tracts of empty mountains and landscape for miles together… stunning snow covered mountains, sandy mountains, natural fresh waterbodies, narrow and high passes that takes your breath away and unimaginable sights which keeps on changing very fast.
Places to Visit at Leh
2) Sputik Monastery;
3)Leh Palace (replica of Lhasa Palace in Tibet);
4)Thikse Monastery (One of the important Buddhist Monastry);
5)Indus River ( backbone of Ladakh as most of the major towns such as Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang are located on the banks of Indus river);
6)Breeding Centre of rare Double Hump Bactrian Camel;
7) Hall of Fame Museum (developed and maintained by armed forces).
Other must visit nearby places:
You may observe the Wild Ass also known as Kiang on the way to Pangong, if you are lucky.
During our visit in first week of April, we saw the frozen river on our way to Pangong Lake.
Half of the lake had a thick layer of ice on the surface and another half we observed waves in the blue water of the lake. It is a fact that one can drive a car on the frozen lake during winters.
2) Tso Moriri Lake about 240 km from Leh situated at around 15000 is also worth visiting.
3)The Hemis Monastery, the largest and richest Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh is hardly 50 km from Leh.
4)At Nubra valley one can explore Hunder and Diskit Monastry and white sand dunes. One could enjoy the ride on the Double Hump Camels, only found in this part of India. Only 161 are left in our country and are on the verge of extinction. That is the reason for a breeding center for Double Hump Camel at Leh.
You could also see the Aryans, how they have settled here and attract people from all over the world.
On the way to Nubra Valley at about 40 km from Leh, you would pass through the Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world. Its journey is worth remembering for a lifetime.
No doubt the terrain is treacherous, but the views are breathtaking. Be ready to enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley and capture its beauty in your memory and through the camera to share with the world.
At last, but not the least, don’t forget the inhabitants of Ladakh region and their culture, which have been preserved for time immemorial. The same is visible to this day in their smile, silence, humility, social network and the simplicity.
How to Reach??
Though the capital city Leh has an active airport at an altitude of almost 10,000 ft, it has air connectivity from Delhi all over the year barring few aberrations, but it is motorable only half the year as the extreme weather conditions cut off the entire area from the rest of the country during the winters from October/November to April every year.
The motorable road from Manali to Leh crosses four passes – Rohtang, Baralacha, Lungalacha and Tangla. This route is open from May to November. Similarly, the road from Srinagar has passes through Sonmarg, Zozila, Drass and Kargil. This is the traditional route to Ladakh since time immemorial. No journey to Ladakh is complete unless both the routes are covered. These two routes are mesmerizing and extend lifetime experience.
When to Visit??
One may choose winters or just before the beginning of the season i.e. end of March or beginning of April to avoid the tourist rush.
The first thing one must remember that, when you reach Leh by Raod you are acclimatized automatically, but when you reach by air it is necessary to take a complete day’s rest to get acclimatized before you start your trip. That is simply a necessary trick to remain safe & sound in this difficult high altitude terrain.