No photograph could suggest Ladakh's colour or its size, or the mysterious atmosphere that hangs around this cold desert. But a visit to Ladakh is worth every discomfort in the world.
The Landscape of Ladakh
The landscape of Ladakh is dotted with Gompas or monasteries, located on
picturesque mountain tops, gorges and cliffs. These gompas are the
repositories of religion, culture and the honoured Buddhist way of life.
They are also the venues of social and religious meetings, which are a part
of the seemingly unchanging Ladakhi life. Dance, drama and song lend a
cheerful tinge to these occasions round the season. Polo and archery are
popular sports and become occasions for heavy Chang drinking - the local
beer from barley.
Wildlife of Ladakh
The high mountain valleys, extending up to the snow line are the habitat of
Ladakh's unique wildlife. The better known animals are the Kyang - wild
Horse, the great Sheep , the Ibex and the Markhor Goats. And of course the
prized Tibetan Antelope, which is hunted for its superfine Shahtoosh Wool.
These animals are rare and facing extinction at the hands of poachers and
hunters. Urgent steps are required for their protection.
The Yak and the common Sheep called Hunia are the mainstay of the domestic
economy. The goats of Changthang have supplied the Pashm for the famous
Kashmiri Pashmina shawls. The common sheep provides food, clothing and
transportation. In rural areas, wealth is measured by the number of Sheep
owned by a person.
Nubra, The Green Valley
The Nubra valley lies to the north of the Ladakh range, and to enter it,
you must cross the Khardungla Pass - the highest road in the world. It is
perhaps Ladakh's most enchanting valley. The source of the Nubra River is
the famous "Siachen glacier" which, together with the glaciers
near it, are known to be the biggest outside the north and the south poles
giving the area, the nomenclature: The Third pole'. Siachen means 'The Place
of Wild Roses', and that is what it is. These glaciers also make the best
mountaineering and trekking regions of Ladakh. The Nubra valley is wide
open, and dotted with farms, orchards and clusters of trees.
Kargil, Drass And Zanskar
Kargil is mainly a staging post between Leh and Srinagar. Drass is about 60
km from Kargil and is the sceond coldest inhabited place in the world,
second only to the siberian city of Yakutska. However, because of its
closeness to the Line of Control (LoC) it comes under the restricted region
Trekking In Ladakh
Routes from Kargil and Drass lead to the scenic Zanskar mountains, which
have excellent trekking trails including the one from Padam over the great
Himalayas into Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. Few of the high passes of Ladakh
are clear of snow until July, and in certain remote valley areas it is
better to cross the passes until the snow has fully melted. Nonetheless,
most of the passes in the Ladakh can be crossed by the end of June, which is
the best time to undertake an extended trek through Ladakh, Zanskar or out
of Panikhar in the Suru valley.
The treks out of the Markha valley can be undertaken from the end of June
when the snows melt on the higher passes. The Kongmaru La and the Dung Dung
La remain open until the middle of October. However, a trek up the Markha
valley could be undertaken throughout most of the year by avoiding the high
passes and following the trail along the Zanskar River before heading up the
If trekking over the Kanji La you must bring a tent. If travelling to the
Zanskar valley at the margins of the seasons it is possible to trek over the
Pentse La and find shelter in the villages en route to Padum, although you
must bring your own food supplies. Before undertaking the trek over the
Kanji La, it is important that you are well acclimatised. Plan on spending a
few additional nights at Rangdum before crossing the pass. Trekkers better
not make river crossings between Rangdum and the base of the pass in late
June and July when the spring snow melt causes the rivers to flood.
River Rafting On The Indus River
The river indus and its tributaries - the Shayok, Zanskar and the Drass are
the only water supply sources of Ladakh. The source of the Indus is the
sacred Mount Kailash. It enters Ladakh near Demchok and, for about 100 km,
flows slowly through the open, desert like valleys, forming small channels
with marshland conditions at some places. As the river flows towards leh
through gorges, nature takes its course and makes splashes of purple, green,
blue, yellow and crimson on the cliffs. It is a breath-taking sight that can
never be forgotten, nor replicated anywhere else.
One more thing river Indus is famous for are rafting trips that happen on
its water levels in between the end of June and late August. Rafters can
take up two different stretches of the Indus river: one is from Spitok to
the Indus- Zanskar confluence at Nimmu, and from Nimmu to the ancient temple
complex at Alchi. Experienced rafters looking for more challenging route can
try out the route between Alchi and Khalsi.
Mountaineering & Ice Climbing In Ladakh
The Suru and Zanskar valleys provide some of the more spectacular and
difficult climbing in Ladakh. The Nun Kun Massif is one of the most frequent
climbing areas of the region and is booked out for months ahead, sometimes
years, by climbing expeditions.
The approach to the twin peaks is from the Kargil-Padum Road, about 70-km
south of Kargil. The main approach is either from Tangole or Gulmadong. Some
expeditions have also approached from Parkutse along the Kangri Glacier. To
reach the base camp for Kun it is for the climbers necessary to cross the
Lakes in Ladakh
The lakes of Ladakh are wondrous. The biggest and the most magically
photogenic is Pangong Lake (14,000 ft.) It is 150 km long and 2 to 5 km
wide. Only one third of it is in India; the rest is in Tibet and offers some
great options of high altitude jeep safari in Ladakh.