Ladakh – the land of high passes, is often described as “little Tibet”. It is a land like no other – a high altitude desert cradled by the Kharakoram and the Great Himalayan Ranges; it lies astride two others, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar Range, at altitudes ranging from 3000 m to 7672 m. Roads and trekking trails cross these mountain barriers through passes at an average elevation of more than 5000 m – the highest moterable road in the world crosses the Ladakh Range at the 5578 Meters high Khardung-la.
Ladakh receives little snow and less rain. The sun shines for over 300 days in the year. Summer temperatures seldom exceed 27ºC in the shade, whilst in winter they may drop to minus 20ºC.Despite a harsh climate, the Ladakh is are a cheerful and courteous people, who can be rated as on of the most hospitable people in the world. For the mountaineer, the nearby Zaskar range offers some fantastic and challenging hiking opportunities. A variety of long, mid and short range treks, which follow rough trails and pass through some spectacular high-altitude mountain passes, connect the region’s gompas and villages.
The road journeys to Ladakh. Starting at Manali is an unforgetful experience; crossing over a series of high passes, topped by the 5360 m high Tanglang-la – it is an adventure, offering spectacular scenery. Ladakh offers numerous high altitude treks, wild jeep safaris, white water rafting, mountain biking and mountain climbing. Meeting its colorful people and participating in their festivals are experiences to remember. Tours to monasteries are soul enriching and awe-inspiring.
Ladakh comprises of the Indus Valley, Nubra Valley, Changthang, and the Rupshu.
1.The Indus Valley – at an average elevation of 3500 m is sand-witched between the Zanskar Range on its South and the Ladakh Range on its North, This is the geographical backbone, and the historical heartland of Ladakh. All major sites connected with its dynastic history are here, starting with Leh, the capital city. The bulk of the population resides along the Indus. Its main attraction is the numerous Buddhist monasteries, quaint villages, fairs, festivals and bazars. Air and road communications converge at Leh.
Down the Indus, on the route to Balistan, at an altitude of 2600 M, live a miniscule community called the Drok-pa. They are Buddhist – but also worship nature gods and spirits. Of Aryan origin, they are the last remnants of the Dards. Numbering a few thousands, they have preserved their racial purity through centuries. Located 162 kms from Leh, only two of the five Drok-pa villages are open to Tourists.
2. The Markha Valley – an offshoot of the Indus lies close to Leh but is separated by the Stok Kangri Ridge rising upto the 6700 m high Konglacha peak. Since 1974, when Ladakh first became accessible to foreign visitors, this high and arid region has captured the imagination of adventure travelers. This itinerary between Ladakh and Zanskar offers a large diversity of landscapes, from the jagged Kongmaru La pass (5000m) to the green oasis of the Markha valley with breath-taking views of the Korakoram snow-capped peaks. Many scattered high villages, each with irrigated fields of barley and potatoes, add color to this otherwise quite barren environment, and provide the chance to meet the Ladakhi peasants in the simplicity of their daily life. Markha will be an opportunity to visit the old monastery, famous for its paintings.
3. The Nubra Valley – lies 200 Kms by road, North of Leh, across the Ladakh Range. To reach there you have to undertake the highest road journey, over the Khardung -la at 5578 Meters. The main population centers are Deskit and Hunder. Nubra is well cultivated and fertile, With plenty of water and a hospitable altitude of around 3000 m, it has the best climate in Ladakh, and Because of this the Nubra was the main staging post for caravans traversing from Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet to Central Asia. Its main attractions are its climate, greenery, and views of glaciers and peaks of the Kharakoram, enchanting valleys and villages, Buddhist Gompas, Hot Springs. Double hump camels-remnants of the trade route days, enable an interesting camel safari. Road building has taken its toll. The heavy military and tourist traffic has disturbed its tranquility. Yet a jeep safari to Nubra, is a unique experience.
4. Four Passes of Rupshu and Tso Morari Lake – are located about 240 Kms, South East of Leh, The Rupshu is formed by the drainage of the Zanskar Range, transforming it into bare rolling many hued hills divided by open high altitude valleys – called the ” changthang”. It has many high passes and pastures, with both fresh and brackish water lakes. The main attractions are the 28 Kms long Tso – Morari lake at an altitude of 4000 M, spectacular views, wildlife – the Kyang, or the Tibetan wild Ass, snow leopard, foxes, marmots, exotic birds like bar headed Goose, black necked crane, and other migratory birds, are found here. This is also the home of the nomadic herdspeople, called the Chang -pa. There are few small villages. The best way to experience the Rupshu is to traverse it whilst trekking – and for the more adventurous cross over to Spiti, across the Great Himalayas, over the 5578 m high Parang-la pass.
North of the Rupshu Valley, across the 5475 m high Chang-la pass, 154 kms East of Leh the upland plateau continues to, the Pangyong Lake at an altitude of 4300 M. The lake is 130 kms long, and is bisected by the border between India and Tibet. It is set amidst the spectacularly colored mountains, with snowcaps and glaciers of the Changchenmo Range in the background. There are a few scattered Chang-pa hamlets