Ladakh (“land of high passes”) is a region in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kunlun mountain range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture
Cities of Ladakh
Tour to J&K, India and reach the remotest of places to get well-acquainted with this glorious land of snow crowned mountains and snow decorated trees. Be its the meadows of flower or the meadows of Gold, the cities of Kashmir are packed with best possibilities, you might not find anywhere. The cities of Kashmir are exciting and thrilling. Travel to Kashmir and experience your stay at the highest land of the world in Kashmir, India. Travel to Kashmir and visit the second coldest places of the world, Dras, located in Kashmir, India.
Dras located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India is the coldest place after Siberia during winter, are strategic towns that lie close to the Line of Control. Drass is located at an altitude of 3230 m, 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is a small township lying in the centre of a valley of the same name. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world by virtue of the intense cold that descends upon the valley alongwith repeated snowfall during winter. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than-40 C. The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zojila pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh.
‘Little Tibet’, the crescent land and the last Shangri La’ are names that have been applied to Ladakh, all with a bit of truth. Ladakh is a high-altiude plateau north of the Himalayan situated geographically in Tibet. It is a miniature version of Tibet, the people are Tibetan in their their culture and religion, and there are many Tibetan refugees. A land of freezing winds and burning hot sunlight, Ladakh is a cold desert lying in the rain shadow of the Great Himalayas and other smaller ranges. Little rain and snow reaches this dry area, where natural forces have created a fantastic landscape.
Pilgrimages in Ladakh
Buddhism, especially the Trans-Himalayan Buddhism from Tibet is the very essence of living in Ladakh . Partly because of the royal patronage, the central part of Ladakh has the greatest concentration of major Gompas or monasteries.
About 20 kms. south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzila Top (4401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow covered peaks. As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the watershed to the head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar’s main tributary valleys, the majestic Drang-Drung glacier looms into full view. The Drang-Drung glacier is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh. It is from the cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda River, the main tributary of river Zanskar, rises.
Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, Padum (3505 m) is the present day administrative headquarters of the region. With a population of nearly 1500, Padum can be described as the most populous settlement of Zanskar. Incidentally, it is only in Padum that there is a community of Muslims constituting nearly half the township’s population. Lately, Padum has become famous as a major trekking base and a popular tourist destination. Several places of tourist interest in the vicinity of the township can be visited in the course of entertaining walks.
The monastery of Stongdey lies 18 kms. 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, inhabited by the resident community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. The sprawling whitewashed complex has a number of temples, each a repository of the region’s rich monastic legacy. Stongdey can be reached by foot in about 4 hours along the recently laid rough road. The climb up to the monastery is rather strenuous, but it is worth the trouble for the breathtaking scenery of the valley available from here.
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 a few years back. The old castle now in ruins except from a small chappel, occupies a hill, overlooking the desert valley below. Nearby is the old Nunnery worth a visit for the austere life style of the small monastic community of nuns. An old monastery situated in the nearby village of Tsa-zar has exquisite frescos that should be missed. The village lies mid-way between Stongdey and Zangla. Zangla is the nodal point on the popular Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip.
Lying 6 km west of Padum, on the road to Kargil, the chief attraction of this picturesque village is the castle like monastery which is unique in its own kind. It is built on a level ground unlike other monasteries of the region. As the legend goes, it’s initial foundation is associated with Kanishka on account of the Kanika stupa which stands in the backyard of the walled complex. The main building comprises a huge multi-columned central prayer hall, housing an array of statues of popular Buddhists divinities and Drugpa (old schools) high saints. Adjoining this monastic complex is an old cemetery surrounded by a ring of ancient rock carvings .
Hill Station in Ladakh
DHA & HANU
Dah & Hanu is located Location : 187-km From Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K Dah & Hanu are places, at a far side of the great Indus River. Surrounded by the great Hindukush mountains and inhabited by a dynamic & gentle people who have a bank of strange legends to relate for the weary traveller’s ears. Living in almost sheer seclusion, Dah & Hanu, the two villages can be accessed only by a really backbreaking road ride, which skirts a sheer cliff face with the river flowing fast and furious below. Enjoying sheer isolation, Dah and Hanu are beautiful hilly villages in the Ladakh Region.
Lakes in Ladakh
Located in an isolated area at a 5 hr drive (160 km) from Leh, this 134 km long lake extends from India to China. Tourists mostly visit this lake during May to September with a special permit. The Pangong lake boasts of being the world’s highest brackish lake at a height of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft) from sea level. Villagers can be seen with their large herds of Pashmina sheep and long-tailed yaks. Despite being a salt water lake, it surprisingly gets frozen in winter. With such a wonderful location and a scarcity of oxygen, the Pangong Lake is a geologist’s domain too.
TSO MORIRI LAKE
Providing a majestic natural view of Ladakh in the north, Tibet in the east and Zanskar in the west, Tso Moriri lake is mostly visited in summer. Changthang plateau, with snow peaks, provides the source of water for the Lake. The lake is popular for being the largest of the High Altitude Lakes in the Trans-himalayan region, entirely within India. It was earlier a salty lake whose salt was extracted by the end of 1959 for the consumption by the local people. Tourists flock to the lake to visit the Korzok Monastery, situated on the western bank of the lake, believed to be about 400 years old.
Tsokar Lake is popularly called the “White lake” because of the salt content in it. Situated approximately 45 km northwest of the Tsomoriri Lake at a height of 4,485 m, the Tsokar lake covers an area of about 10 sq km. The whitish surface of this lake is the main element that makes it so charming and attractive. The local people extract salt content from the lake . Tso Kar is a salt water lake located off the Manali to Leh road.
The Gangasagar lake is an artificial lake, which is believed to have been constructed during the time of Sivaji’s coronation with the holy water of river Ganges. The lake provides an enchanting view of the Raigad Fort and the snow clad peaks forming the backdrop. These waterways, surrounded by majestic mountainous ranges, form the uniqueness of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with their charming houseboats, blossoming gardens, and water sports activities. All these specialties are ideal to make your holiday memorable for a lifetime.
Monuments in Ladakh
Sightseeing of the historic monuments and major Buddhist gompas (monasteries) are the main attractions of Ladakh. The Indus Valley, particularly from Upshi down to Khalatse, which is the region’s historic heartland, is dotted with all the major sites connected with the former kingdom’s dynastic history, starting with Leh, the capital, since the building of its nine-storey Leh palace in the early 17th century. A few kilometres up the Indus is Shey Palace, the most ancient capital, with its palace and temples. Down river, Basgo, right on the road, and Tingmosgang, a short distance up a side-valley, both served as royal capitals when the Old Kingdom was temporarily divided into two parts in the 15th century.
The Sankar Gonpa is a couple of kilometers away from Leh town. It belongs to the Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gonpa is a branch of the Spituk Monastery, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula. Sankar gompa belongs to the monks of Gelukpa order and features the awesome statue of the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshwara Padmahari or Chenresig with 1,000 heads and as many number of arms.
Leh Palace is one of the most captivating architectural ruins that attract the attention of the tourists almost immediately with its majestic setting at the edge of the Namgyal hill and overlooking the town. Built in the 17th century, it was built as the residential palace for the King Singge Namgyal. Much smaller but resembling the Potala in Lhasa, Leh Palace is now in ruins. It has nine storeys and has been deserted since the royal family shifted to the Stok Palace in 1830s. nine storeys, but it is now dilapidated and deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s.
The 17th century monastery of Ladakh, Hemis is also the largest one in the region. 45 km south of Leh, it belongs to Brokpas, the red sect. Unique in its own sense, this monastery is both splendid and majestic. An annual festival is held here in June or July for two days commemorating the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The monastery stands concealed inside a gorge and belongs to the Dugpa Order. The biggest and the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh, Hemis Monastery was founded by the first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso.
15 km south of Leh, Shey monastery is the former redidence of the royal family. Lhachen Palgyigon, the first king of Ladakh, built it. It features 12 ft high statue of Shakyamuni Buddha made by copper guilt and another statue of Buddha, which is three-storeys high. Also known as Dresthang Gompa , it is adorned with stone carving and chortens scattered around it. Shey’s Buddha statue was made in 1655 by a Nepalese sculptor who was assisted by three Ladakhi craftsmen. The castings of the statue were made in Leh while the statue’s copper was collected in Zanskar and hammered into plates on big rocks
Phyang Monastery of Ladakh is situated at a distance of approximately 40 km to the west of the Leh town. It belongs to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism. The site where the monastery now stands was once a part of the numerous monastic properties, offered during the time of Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial to Chosje Damma Kunga. The hill of Phyang served as the venue of a monastery, known as Tashi Chozong, established in the year 1515. A monastic community was introduced to the monastery and with this started, the first establishment of the Digung teachings in Ladakh.
Thiksey monastery was built some 600 years ago and consists of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in an Incarnate Lama’s private apartments at the summit. The gompa contains 10 temples; below the monastery itself are chapels and “houses” of monks stretching down the hillside. There are about 100 monks of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism living here. After entering the main courtyard, to the immediate right and up several steps is a new temple containing a large Buddha statue. This Buddha, 15 meters tall was constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama
Lamayuru Monastery lies 15 km east of the Fatu La on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, with its medieval village seemingly growing out of the rocky hillside below it. In the past, Lamayuru has housed up to 400 lamas, but presently there are only 30 to 50 lamas living here, although about 150 lamas belong to the gompa. The other lamas stay and teach at Lamayuru’s smaller daughter gompas located in outlying villages. Twice a year, all the lamas gather at the gompa for general prayers which are accompanied by three days of masked dancing. These gatherings occur in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan calendar (usually March and July).
Alchi Monastery is located near the small village of Saspol. It is one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating from the 11th century. Because it was constructed before the invading wars begun in the 15th century, Alchi was built on lowlands, rather than on a hilltop as other gompas were, to protect them from marauding armies. The gompa at Alchi was erected by Rin-chen-Izghimpo, one of the first Ladakhi kings to engage in foreign relations. To build the monastery, the Ladakhi king signed a treaty with the Gyalpo (king) of Tibet, who agreed to provide the artisans.
The Nubra Valley lies north of Leh and is accessible over the Khardung la (18,500 feet/5,600 m), one of the highest motorable roads in the world. The Valley was on the caravan route from Leh to Kashgar via the Sasir and Karakoram passes. Apart from unparrelled trekking opportunities, the valley houses several Buddhist monasteries such as Sumur and the 350 year-old Diskit gompa, famous for its murals. Diskit monastery to witness the morning prayer ceremony. It takes about 45 minutes through a long row of scattered chortens to reach the gompa which is set on the highest point near the village.