Places to Visit in Ladakh and Leh
The tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh includes Zanskar.The flight into Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is an unforgettable experience- over the dramatic expanse of the Himalayas- for Ladakh straddles four main ranges-the great Himalayas, Zanskar, Ladakh and The Karakoram. This is the highest inhabited region in India and the River Indus with its tributaries slice their way through the ranges.
Tourist Places to Visit in Ladakh and Leh
Remote though it is , Ladakh has never been totally isolated. Over the centuries the trade route from India to Central Asia passed through this area undeterred by its high passes and desert landscape. Caravans carrying spices, brocades, pearls, carpets and more mundane merchandise like salt and tea took just two months to cover the distance from Amritsar in the Punjab to the Central Asian towns of Yarkand and Khotan ! Leh and Kargil on this ancient route developed then into centres of trade.
Around Leh in the upper Indus Valley is the cultural heartland of Ladakh, where the old capitals of the area are located and where many of the splendid palaces and gompas are also to be found. The people of Ladakh are predominantly Buddhist and practice Mahayana Buddhism tempered with the old Bon animistic faith and tartaric Hinduism. It was the sage Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Ladakh during his travels in the 7th century, the Buddhist scholar Rinchen Tsangpas at Lamayuru and Alchi are said to date from that time.
The living Buddhist heritage is manifest in the villages where ‘mani’ walls are engraved with the mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’ and stones are piled into commemorative mounds known as ‘chorten’.The gompas precariously perched on steep hill sides or rock faces seem an integral part of the rugged landscape.
In Western Ladakh, in Drass, Kargil and The Suru Valley where the Muslim Shia faith prevails there are mosques and imposing Imambararas in the Islamic style, surmounted with domes.
Travelling into Ladakh by road is exciting. It takes two days from Srinagar to Leh (434 km) with a mid way halt to Kargil, which gives the visitors a marvellous introduction to this spectacular destination, while easing the acclimatisation process to the high altitude low-oxygen atmosphere of Ladakh.
The road leaves behind the verdant beauty of the Kashmir Valley at Zoji-la, the pass in the Great Himalayan wall that is the gateway into Ladakh. Densely forested slopes give way to bare mountains in shades of russets and brown as the road descends to the alpine meadows of Minamarg on to Drass, the first village after the pass. It is reputed to be the second coldest habitation in the world after Siberia. The people here are different. They are Dard origin and believed to be the Aryan people who migrated from the Central Asian steppes.
Onwards the road traverses a narrowing gorge on to the little training town of Kargil, the mid point of the journey. Located on the River Suru, at 9000 feet Kargil is the base for visits to the spectacular Suru and Zanskar valley and for a variety of adventure activities in the region. 40 km ahead of kargil is Mulbekh noted for its immense figure of Maitreya, the future Buddha, carved in deep relief into a rock face high above the village. The road climbs its breathless way to more passes Namika-la (12,200 ft/3719 m) and Fotu-la(13479 ft./4094 m)- a truely top of the world feeling.It sweeps past the amazing Lamayuru Monastery spilling spectacularly over a mountainside down the incredible Langroo Loops to meet the River Ibdus at Khalatse-a descent of 4000ft/1219m in about 32km. A panoramic view of the amazing russets, yellows and grays of Ladakh range unfold as the road follows the river. Gompas and forts van be glimpsed in the distance. At the Spituk Monastery the visitors gets a first dramatic glimpse of Leh, floating like a mirage in the distance.
Leh is breathtaking. Towering over the city is the tall nine storeyed palace built by Ladakh’s ruler Sengge Namgyal in the early 17th century. It is said to have served as the model for the Potala Palace built by king Tashi Namgyal in the 16th century stands above it on the Namgyal Tsemo peak. Down below, the town is a maze of little box like buildings bristling with brushwood stored on the roof for winter, set in an oasis of green fields.
Though Leh has been capital of this region since the 17th century, strewn around it along the Indus valley are earlier capitals of the region. From Leh one can wander off on marvelous day expedition to get a glimpse of some of the treasures of Ladakh. Not far from Leh, Shey is the oldest capital of Ladakh from where its earlier Tibetan Kings ruled. Perched on a top of a huge rock are the royal palace and temples adorned with brilliantly coloured murals and a 7.5 m gold statue of the Buddha. Basgo (40 km) and Tingmodgang with their fort and palaces were also capitals of Ladakh. Stok palace across river from Leh is the home of the erstwhile royal family. The palace museum here has collections of beautiful royal costumes and jewellery, exquisite thangkas (religious themes and icons painted and embroidered on cloth), porcelain, jade, weapons and armour.
Within easy reach of Leh is the Spituk Monastery(8 km) with its surrounding view of the Indus. It has fine thangkas and a collection of ancient masks. Thinkse Monastery (20 km) one of the most impressive in the area is spectacularly located and is noted for its beautiful murals. Hemis (43 km) is of course the biggest gompa in Ladakh and the best known for its magnificent summer festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is widely celebrated in the are and is top in the list of tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh. The largest thangka in Ladakh is to be found here.
It is unfolded only once every 12 years. Other magnificent gompas located in the vicinity include the splendid Lamayuru, Likir, Phyang, Rizdong, stakna, Matho and chemrey gompas, all easily accessible from Leh. Alchi 970 km) no longer an active religious centre, is among Ladakh’s most beautiful monasteries. Alchi is top in the list of tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh. Over a thousand years old, its wall paintings like those of Tabo in Spiti are reminiscent of the Ajanta style of paintings. Within th town of Leh itself there is plenty to see and do.
An easy walk away through the interesting coppersmith’s quarter, past the Moravian Church, the Ladakh Ecological Centre and across the fields, is the Sankar gompa.Another interesting walk to the Ladakh Shanti Stupa goes through the picturesque village of Changspa. In the colourful Bazar are fascinating little shops with everything from semi-precious atones-lapiz, coral, turquoise and pearls to fine curious and artifacts. It is a marvellous shopping experience.
Skara another pretty village and the ramparts of the old eastern fort of Zprawar Singh makes another little expedition. Eating out is fun at open air garden and sidewall restaurants that offer Tibetan, Indian and even Continental Cuisine.
The second largest town in Ladakh marks the mid-point of the journey from Srinagar to Leh. Kargil is also the take off point for excurtions into the Suru valley and the remote Zanskar Valley with their exciting opportunities for mountaineering, camping, river rafting anf trekking trils into Himachal Pradesh, Jammu amd the Indus Valley.
Kargil was once at the cross-roads of a network of trade routes that led to Kashmir, Baltistans, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Tibet and an air of romance still lingers around its narrow cobbled streets and bazars spilling over with locally crafted curious.The town retains its conservative Balti Shia Muslim culture and has two fine mosque built in the Turkish style. After the Kargil war between India and Pakistan, Kargil is top in the list of tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh.
Nestling in the Suru Valley, kargil is set amidst green, richly cultivated hill sides. The two tributaries of the river Sury-the Drass and Wakha meet there.There are pretty walks around the town with breathtaking views of the mountains. A day long excurtions into the Suru Valley goes past the picturesque Imambara of Trespone(25 km).
The Suru valley one of the prettiest areas of Ladakh, run for 140 km beyond Kargil to the Penzi la pass, the point of entry into the Zanskar Valley. Its verdant hills are intensively cultivated. Enough snow and water during the year sustain two crops annually.The valleys are especially picturesque in spring when the apple, apricot and mulberry trees are all in bloom and in autumn when they are laden with fruit.
The view along the Sankoo_panikhar tract is magnificent. The open valley adorned with undulating alpine meadows strewn with wild flowers, groves of poplars and willow are set against the majestic backdrop of the Himalayan peaks dusted with snow. Suru Valley is top in the list of tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh.
At Thangbu, a little village, the traveller gets a first glimpse of the spectacular Nun(7135m) Kun(7035 m) massif. Panikhar 12 km beyond this is the base for treks to Kashmir and Kishtwar. The roads goes past the glaciers of the Nun-Kun massif to descend to Rangdum set in wild and beautiful surroundings. It is located at the furthest end of the Suru Valley before the Penzi-la pass. Set high on a central hillock the Rangdum gompa with a little stream forming a moat around it, looks like an ancient fort protecting the valley.
The zanskar valley is noted for high ranges, fine gompas and gentle people. The most isolated of all Himalayan valleys, inaccessible for 8 months in a year, it is now a popular destination with trekkers.
Set in a wide plain where two swift flowing tributaries join to form the Zanskar river, is Padum the main habitations and the subdivisional headquarters. Zanskar is top in the list of tourist places to visit in Ladakh and Leh.
Close to the town are a set of ancient rock carving and two picturesque monasteries, the Stagrimo and Pibiting gompas takes one to Karsha with the largest and most wealthy gompa in the region. It dates back to the 16th century. Other interesting monasteries include the castle- like gompa at Sani (6 km from Padum), the splendid Stongdey (18km) perched on a rocky outcrop, Bardan (12 km) and the spectacularly located Phutgal just off the Padum-Manali trail.
Overall a trip to India is not considered complete unless you have see places to visit in Ladakh and Leh.
More Tourist Places to Visit in Jammu and Kashmir
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Zanskar Tourism | Things to do in Zanskar Ladakh, Zanskar Travel Guide | Trek, River Rafting
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