If you are an avid traveler you don’t need a reason to travel to Ladakh at any time of the year. It really has something for every traveler! So whether you are a photographer looking for some amazing shots, a biker who wants to take a road trip amidst the beautiful valleys, a trekker who wants to scale the lofty mountains, a lover of long drives or simply a backpacker looking for some adventure, you will not be disappointed by this place in India. In fact, you will be left in awe of this beautiful land tucked in the mountain range that extends from the Kun Lun mountains to the Great Himalayas towards the South of the region.
Ladakh has many amazing places to explore. There are so many beautiful and serene monasteries, sparkling lakes reflecting the lofty mountains along the lake shores, challenging treks, beautiful rivers that freeze during the winter months and landscapes that will leave you spellbound and wanting more of this beautiful place. And if all of this is not enough then do try some local cuisine, visit the sacred monasteries or enjoy local festivals and make your stay well worth in simple Ladakhi styled accommodations.
The best time to visit Ladkah is during summer (April – August). So if you’re looking to beat the heat this summer and embark on the trip of your lifetime, head to Ladkah!
Attractions and Activities in Ladkah
As the sun rays fall on this breathtakingly beautiful lake, it appears absolutely amazing with the sparkling water reflecting the towering mountains. It is a 160 km long lake situated at a height of 14,270 ft. Almost two-third of the lake lies in Tibet and is located at a 5 hour drive from Leh.
This is the largest lake in the Ladakh region and is situated at an altitude of 15,075 feet. The lake is fed by two streams and from the melting ice descending from the mountains. Drive through the scenic roads of the region towards the serene and exceptionally beautiful Tsomoriri lake.
Also known as Tsho Kar lake is located in the southern region of Ladakh, and is yet another lake that offers serenity and is extremely picturesque. You may spot wild animals along the lakeshore. It glistens like a sparkling oasis in the vast expanse of the dry arid terrain.
It is located in the Nubra valley of Ladakh and is the oldest and the largest monastery in the valley. It is also known as the Deskit Gompa with views overlooking the Maitreya Buddha statue. A unique feature about this place is an exclusive temple that has statues of Hindu gods and goddesses like Kali and Kuber which are considered to be so powerful that their heads are kept covered and only the learned Buddhists can see them. It’s only in the month of February when a festival is held that there heads are uncovered so that they can bless their devotees.
It is a Tibetan Buddhist Gompa, and is situated at a 45 km distance from Leh. The annual Hemis festival is held here in the month of June. The route that leads to this monastery is embedded with spots of landscape beauty. Inside the monastery there is a museum that displays old invaluable artifacts, statues, images and scriptures. The monastery has a beautiful temple dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava. This is the richest monastery in Ladakh with ancient weapons, manuscripts, musical instruments and statues. Additionally, the Hemis monastery is a national monument which indeed it should be, given the fact that it represents India’s identity, which is, ‘unity in diversity’.
Thiksay Gompa is located on top of a hill in the Thiksey village and is approximately 19 km east of Leh. It is located in the Indus valley and is a 12 storey structure. One of the main points of interest in this monastery is the Maitreya temple which was constructed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama in the monastery in 1970. It contains a 49 ft high statue of Maitreya Buddha.
This a Buddhist monastery and is 54 km west of Leh and is situated on a little hill in the Likir village near the Indus river. To reach this monastery you have to traverse a curvaceous valley which is amazingly beautiful with surrounding picturesque hills. The tall Buddha idol is surrounded by mountains and the monastery is quite old and holds great heritage. This monastery is also a national monument and is a must visit place in Ladakh.
Other Sightseeing spots
This beautiful and elegant white dome is located on the top of the hill Chanspa. It is a major tourist attraction not only because of its religious significance but also due to its amazing panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. It is a must visit place in Ladakh.
Going to this place is another unique experience for tourists. They are supposed to park their vehicle in a particular space a near the hill and the vehicle automatically starts moving in the upward direction. Actually the surrounding slopes create an optical illusion and the downhill road actually appears the uphill road. Vehicles on the hill may appear to roll “uphill” in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
Hall of Fame
It is situated on the Leh-Srinagar highway and is a museum about Indian defense forces martyrs, bravery, and freedom. It provides a history of Ladakh in one section of the museum. The museum has tons of actual war weapons on display from various Indian expeditions and wars. Keep it on your must-visit list when in Ladakh.
Dras is a town in the Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir and is often called the ‘Gateway to Ladakh’. It is at an altitude of 10990 ft and it starts from the Zozila pass.
Do visit the Kargil war memorial also known as Vijaypath and was built in the memory of the soldiers and officers of the Indian army that laid down their lives in the Kargil war.
Trekking in Ladkah
If you are an adventure lover and are looking for some real thrill and want to challenge your limits, then the treks in Ladakh are something that you are looking for. There are many treks for the adventure lover in you. Take a look at some of the treks that we have mentioned below.
Markha Valley Trek
As you start your journey from the Spituk bridge, witness an eclectic mix of a beautiful landscape,monasteries, patches of wild roses and amazing willow groves. Most of this trek is inside the Hemis national park and you will also see canyons covered with colorful prayer flags that signify Buddhism. The end point of your journey is Leh.
The trek starts at the Lamayuru monastery and comprises of trekking through some of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh. If spirituality and serenity is your cup of tea then this trek is for you. It encompasses spirituality with a bit of trekking. The end point of this trek is the Alchi monastry.
Stok Kangri Trek
The Stok Kangri mountain is the highest among the Himalayan Stok range. It stands at a height of 6,153 m. It is a very popular peak among trekkers as the formidable elevation gives an ultimate thrill to them. You will start your journey from Chang Ma and along the journey you will see picturesque mountains that keep changing color depending on the amount of sunlight they get.
Chadar Valley Trek
Trekking on the frozen Zanskar river entails experiences that are really amazing. You will see jaw dropping sights of gorgeous ravines and towering snow-capped mountains. It opens during winter when the ice-sheet is most stable so the best time to go there is from December to February . The starting point of your trek is Tilat do.
Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm. Buddhists from China, Japan, Korea and Tibet come here to celebrate them.
Yuru Kabgyat Festival, Lamayuru monastery
In this 2 day festival prayers, rituals and mask-dances are performed by the monks of the monastery. It is dedicated to Yuru Kabgyat. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm and Buddhists from China, Japan, Korea and Tibet come to attend the festival.
Time of the festival : July , August
Hemis Festival, Hemis Monastery
This festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhav considered as an incarnation of Buddha. The mask dances that are performed by the monks are the most esoteric of all festivities. This 2-day festival is celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month as a victory of good over evil. On this day the local women and men dress elegantly with colorful head gears and loads of jewellery and celebrate the day with a lot of zeal.
Time of the festival : June
Ladakh Festival, All over Ladakh
This is an annual festival that is organised by the Jammu and Kashmir tourism and it celebrates the culture of Ladakh. The major attractions of the event are dance, music, sports and handicrafts. The period of the festival stretches for 15 days or more but this year in2016 it will be a 7 day affair only. Tourists can immerse themselves in the local culture and experience the culture and lifestyle of the Ladakhis.
Time of the festival : September
Saka Dawa Festival
It is celebrated in the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar and is revered by Buddhist followers as on this day Buddha was born and attained enlightenment and then parinirvana. Prayers, rituals and mask dances are a major part of this festival as well and people on this day refrain from killing animals and eating meat.
Time of the festival : May and June
Local Food and Drinks in Ladakh
People of Ladakh earn their livelihood mainly by farming so most of the cuisine comprises of the produce from the farms like beetroot, potatoes, pumpkins and beans which cooked in a variety of ways to make delectable dishes. While meat is mostly mutton or chicken for the Ladakhi locals.
Thukpa a Tibetan clear soup which has a lot of vegetables in it and a real comfort food for cold temperatures.
It is a typical drink of the Kashmiris and is consumed to keep the body warm from the cold climate of the region. The saffron and cinnamon in the beverage provide warmth to the body.
This tea is served at homes and is generally not available at any restaurants. It is buttery and salty and looks light pink in color. The main reason for butter in the tea is to prevent chapped lips and salt in it helps prevent from altitude sickness.
Not to taste momos in Leh is almost a crime! They are either stuffed with vegetables or meat and taste absolutely yum.
Cheese from Yak’s Milk
It is known as chhurpi in Ladakh, and is a dried and smoked form of cheese and is made from the milk of the yak. It is available in sweet,salty and plain in the region. It is a must try when in Ladakh.
These are just some of the many attractions that are a part of the beautiful Ladakh and any visit to India is incomplete without visiting the beautiful north that forms the crown of the country.
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