"The land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us" (Ladakhi saying)
Ladakh ("land of high passes") is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south. Ladakh, which is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the area. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It is sometimes called "Little Tibet" as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. Historically, Ladakh was a Buddhist kingdom which included Baltistan and Aksai Chin which are now administered by Pakistan and China respectively.
Ladakh is the highest plateau of the Indian state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It spans the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley.
Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the east, and Nubra valley to the north over Khardung La in the Ladakh mountain range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans–Kunlun territory of East Turkistan in Central Asia on the other side of the Kunlun range across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Running southwest to northeast, the Altyn Tagh converges with the Kunlun range in Kashmir which runs southeast to northwest forming a "V" shape which converges at Pulu. The geographical divide between Ladakh in the highlands of Kashmir and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the vicinity of Pulu and continues southwards along the intricate maze of ridges situated east of Rudok, wherein are situated Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri and culminates in the vicinity of Mayum La.
TOURIST PLACES IN LADAKH
Leh Leh is the heart of the Leh district and Capital of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Leh Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since opening to tourists in 1974, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders.
It's a small town, easy to get most places by foot. The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural "suburb" northwest of the center, with many guesthouses.
Leh is the largest province in Jammu and Kashmir, covering approximately 60,000 square miles. It is surrounded by the highest mountain ranges in the world. The region is blessed with beautiful landscapes, sky-kissing monuments, tranquil lakes and evergreen forests which cast a magical scenic beauty. Apart from that, a Leh tour offers the tourists plenty of recreational and adventurous activities like hiking, trekking, river rafting, polo and archery to get engrossed with.
The main Bazaar's elevation is 3505 meters , so take it easy on your first few days there or risk possible altitude sickness. Even experienced high altitude travellers (Andes) might have some trouble.
Pangong Lake is a beautiful high altitude lake at 4350 meters with deep blue waters, surrounded by tall mountain peaks. This lake lies on the Indo - China boundary, with only one fourth of the lake being in India. The road to this lake passes through Chang-la pass , claimed to be at 5425 meters. It's a five hour drive (149 Kms) from Leh to this place. There is also a small camp on the way where a Yak Safari can be done. The passage is also very tough to cross by car. So a four-wheel drive car is recommended. Experienced bikers should not have any problem. Day return trips from Leh avoid the AMS issue , but you won't be able to see much during the your 60 minutes stay there .Overnight trips directly from Leh is outside safety guidelines . The safe and comfortable option is to plan this trip at the end of your stay in Leh , and with a overnight stop at Tangtse (altitude 3950).
If you remember the scene from the movie 3 Idiots when Kareena Kapoor comes riding on a scooter to meet Aamir Khan, then you have already seen the scenic beauty of the picturesque Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake. Pangong Tso-lake in Changthang region of Ladakh has emerged as one of the most wanted places to visit among domestic tourists in recent times especially after the Bollywood blockbusters "3 idiots" and "Jab Tak Hai Jaan".
Pangong Tso is about five hours drive from Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir. The route passes through beautiful Ladakh countryside, over Chang La, the third highest Motorable mountain pass (5289 m) in the world. The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla pass. Road down from Changla Pass leads through Tangste and other smaller villages, crossing river called Pagal Naala also known as “The Crazy Stream”. The color of water is always changing with the weather condition. The water sparkles in distinct shades of blue, green, purple, and violet, being transparent to a good depth.
Nubra Valley From Leh, you can hire a car and drive over , Kardung-La, to the Nubra Valley. You will need an "Inner-Line Permit" , easily arranged from any of the travel agents in Leh. However, it is better to get it from the office by yourself. Travel agents generally gets you permit for the specific places only and can be heavy on your pocket. So, better take the charge by yourself and do it. The Nubra Valley is at the base of the Karakorum Range. Within the valley are the Hundar Sand Dunes, well worth seeing. You can hire a 2-humped Bactrian camel there for 300 rupees and take a ride, great fun!
Nubra Valley is a Tri-armed valley, which is located to the north east of Ladakh valley. Nubra valley is formed by the Shyok River, which is a tributary of the Indus, and the Nubra or the Siachen River. Nubra Valley is about 150km north from its principle town, Leh. Nubra Valley was the ancient gateway for the famous Silk Route. The average altitude of Nubra Valley is about 10,000ft above from the sea level. Nubra Valley is surrounded from all the sides by snow-capped Himalayan ranges.
Nubra valley is famously known as “BROKEN MOONLAND” because in winter, the whole valley looks like the landscape of moon. Nubra Valley lies in between Tibet and Kashmir. The main attractions of Nubra valley are Shaggy Double humped Bactrian Camels around sand dunes, Panamik, Yarab Tso Lake, Diskit Monastery or Diskit Gompa, Hunder Monastery, Lachung temple, Maitreya Buddha statue, Samstanling Monastery, and mainly for the world's highest motorable pass, Khardung La Pass (18,380 feet).
Tsomoriri Lake Tso-moriri Lake is known as Mountain Lake is a spectacular site amidst mountain ranges in Leh. From Leh it took 6-7 hours to reach Tso Mori Lake. It is beautiful lake located in secluded Rupshu valley.
Tso-moriri or Lake Moriri is a High Altitude Lake (officially named as Tso-moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve), located in the Changthang (literal meaning, northern plains) area with an altitude of 4,595 m (15,075 ft). The Tso-moriri Lake measures about 28 km in length from north to south and about 4-6 km in breadth and about 100 feet average in-depth. Maximum depth of Tso-moriri Lake is 248 feet. Tso-moriri Lake is surrounded by barren hills, with the backdrop of beautiful snow-covered mountains.
Tso-moriri Lake is situated in the middle of the elevated district of Rupshu. The Rupshu valley lies south east of Ladakh on the road from Manali to Leh at altitude ranging from 16,500 feet. The 137 km drive from Leh to Rupshu can be covered in 7 to 9 hours. This pretty valley is inhabited by a small population of ‘Changspa’, who are nomadic shepherds. The area is rich in wildlife including the wild ass, black necked cranes and geese flock to the lake side for breeding during the summer months. This serene lake and the area around it attract a large range of wildlife, including migratory birds, marmots, wild asses, and (rarely spotted) Tibetan wolves. Nomadic herders of goats, yaks, and cows live in the lake's vicinity. In reality this place is extremely harsh and difficult to survive especially in winters. This eye-soothing lake is the Divine Destination in Leh.
KHARDUNG LA TOP
Khardung La Top or the "Pass of Lower Castle" is the world's highest motorable pass and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valley in Ladakh.
One of the most picturesque locales in Leh, Khardung la Pass is situated 39 km by road North of Leh and is at a height of 18,380 ft from the sea level. The road from Leh to Khardung La is asphalted for about 24 km till the South Pullu check post but from there the road is made up of gravel (Loose Rock) and dirt track till the North Pullu check point (15km) and occasional rivulets of snow melt. Khardung la pass connects Leh and Nubra Valley and also serves as a gateway to the famous siachen glacier.
Khardung La pass offers amazing views of the valley and the roads winding up the mountain. The pristine air, scenic vistas and the feeling of being on top of the world have made Khardung La a popular tourist attraction. Inner line permit for Indians and Protected area permit for foreigners is required to visit Khardung La top. A steady climb over winding road gave a panoramic view of Leh town below with Stok Kangri peak in the background. An isolated gompa on a small hill provided an enchanting picture as one climbs up. The weather is highly unstable and can change surprisingly fast leaving you stranded for hours or even days so you need to come prepared when planning to visit Khardung La. Once you are there, the feeling is no less than conquering the world.
Changla Pass is the second highest motorable mountain pass in the world, Chang La Pass, situated at an altitude of 5,360 meters above sea level, is named after the Sadhu Changla Baba.
The Pass temple was built after him only. The place is famous for its scenic and serene natural beauty which attracts tourists from all around the world. The nearest settlement to this place is the little hamlet of Tangste. It is the main gateway for the Changthang plateau situated in the Himalayas.
These high altitude passes are one of the reson why road trip to Ladakh is a preferred mode of Ladakh trip. Crossing these passes with snow capped peaks, barren landspae and view of undulating valley add to the adveture of Leh Ladakh travel. One must cross Changla Pass to reach famous Pangong Tso Lake, one of the largest high altitude lakes in India. Yak Ride is also available for tourist at Chang La. There is a tea point at the Chang La Pass where the Indian army serves hot tea to the tourists and public convenience is also available unlike many other passes in Ladakh.