Land of high passes, Ladakh is a dream destination for many and is a nerve center for the adventure travelers. Being one of the coldest deserts in the world, Ladakh is located a distance of around 430 kilometers from Srinagar and around 470 kilometers from Manali(Himachal Pradesh). Ladakh was divided into Leh and Kargil at the of reorganization of land in 1979. However Leh district has become synonymous with Ladakh these days.
Ladakh is the highest plateau in Kashmir with most of it being over 3000 meters. It spreads across the Himalayan and Korakoram mountain ranges and the Indus valley. Vegetation is highly sparse except for few wetlands and river channels. Ladakh consists of a number of places which as described below:
Leh is the largest town in Ladakh. Its major attraction is the palace structurally similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The Leh palace was one of the highest buildings built by the Buddhist kings in 1553. Leh is a trekker’s haven with a number of trekking trials, valleys and wonderful lakes. Leh is also known as the land of monks and monasteries. The Hemis monastery and Alchi monastery are couple of them. It is also a preferred destination for mountain bikers as it offers them the second highest motorable road in the world. Leh offers the most natural way of exploring the wonders of the Himalayan Mountains through trekking and safari.
Around 150 kilometers from Leh is the Nubra valley where the rivers, Shyok & Siachen meet to form a huge valley. The Sasser pass and the famous Korakoram pass of the Silk route which connects Nubra with Xinjiang lies to the northwest of the Nubra valley. Dikshit monastery is famous for being the largest and the oldest monastery in the valley. Many are lured to experience the camel safari in the highest deserts of the world.
Bisected by the international border between India and China, situated around 4260 meters above the sea level is the Pangong lake. The lake freezes completely in winter despite being saline in nature. It is a 5 hour drive from Leh on a rough and adventurous rocky road. The picturesque lake is open from May to September during the tourist season.
The most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys, about 20 kms from Rangdum stands the Panzila axis beyond which is Zanskar. The Panzila pass is a breathtaking tableland encircled by snow laden mountains. As Zanskar roads comes down the slopes of Panzilla, the amazing Drang Drung glacier looms into view. The mesmerizing Himalayan scenery and its culture attract many tourists. The Zanskar trek is one of the most well known Himalayan treks. During trekking, a traveler crosses 5 passes and wanders through remote valleys, past hilltop monasteries and graphical villages. July to September is advised to visit this trek.
Being the 2nd largest town in ladakh after Leh, Kargil is situated 204 kilometers from Srinagar and 234 kilometers from Leh. It serves as a checkpoint to travelers travelling between Srinagar, Leh & Zanskar. Kargil is situated on the banks on the river Suru which provides excellent adventure travel opportunities which include mountaineering, trekking, river rafting, camping and more.
Drass valley, the 2nd coldest inhabited place in the world, is located 60 kilometers from Kargil towards Srinagar. The valley receives repeated snowfall during winters due to which weather is extremely cold with temperature falling below – 40 degree Celsius. Summers are short, begins in May as snow starts melting. The Drass valley is world renowned for its trekking trails offering a number of trekking routes to travelers. One of the popular trekking routes is a 3 day trek to Suru Valley. Offering beautiful sightseeing opportunities, the trek also passes through Umbala pass at an altitude of 4500 meters with amazing view of the pastures and flower valleys. A 3 day trek to the holy cave of Amarnath is also a popular trek. Standing tall and dominant, the Tiger hill on the line of control is a grim reminder of the Kargil war.