Tuesday, 11 April 2017

8 Best Things About Leh Ladakh: The Spell Binding Effect.

Leh Ladakh – The Adventure Of A Lifetime!

Ladakh, encircled by the majestic snow laden Himalayan ranges attracts numerous travelers from all over the world with its breathtaking beauty. This `land of the high passes’ offers stunning views of mountain peaks, rivers, lakes and incredible landscapes.

Here is a glimpse of this enchanting and mystical land…

The Road (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

1.Bustling Bazaars of Leh

Leh, the capital, with its narrow streets full of guest houses, restaurants and shops is a tourist’s delight. The Buddhist influence adds a magical charm to the valley - fluttering prayer flags and spinning prayer wheels invite you to explore this enticing land of monks and monasteries. This culture has given rise to some of the warmest people. Try using the universal Ladakhi greeting Juley, accompanied with a smile and the locals will open out to you. Acclimatization is the key to having a trouble free holiday. It would be a good idea to start your holiday by spending a few days exploring places in and around Leh, as you adjust to the high altitude.

The Tibetan Market in Leh (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

Go local and try their staple diet of Momos, Thukpa and Chai that’s available around every street corner. The main bazaar is probably the busiest place in the whole region and is a good place to shop for souvenirs.

2.Mesmerizing Lakes

The Pangong Tso  (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

In the sunlight, the stunning blue waters of the mystical Pangong Tso lake mesmerizes every visitor. A popular destination, only one third of this salt water lake lies in India, the remaining in Tibet. From the Indian tip of Lukang, visitors are permitted to view the lake. The expanse of the lake with its gentle shimmering waves in hues of blue along with its vastness, makes it seem like a mini ocean. Stretching across approximately 130kms with a width of 6kms at its widest, it lies in the shape of an `L’ with the shorter part in India. In the distance, you can see a faint range of mountains which mark the border of India and China. Despite the brackish water, this lake lies completely frozen in winter. Pangong Tso is approximately 175 kms (5 hour’s drive) from Leh, crossing through the Chang La Pass, the third highest motorable pass.
The Tso Moriri (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

Set amidst a backdrop of barren brown hills, snow covered peaks and surrounded by wetlands is this beautiful mountain lake of Tso Moriri. Officially known as the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve, it’s at a slightly higher altitude than Pangong Tso. The waters here are less brackish inviting the presence of wildlife. In the summer, migratory birds, Himalayan marmots and occasionally the wild ass can be spotted in the surroundings of this lake.  You will also see nomadic shepherds with their flocks of sheep around the lake. Tso Moriri is about 250 kms from Leh (7 -8 hours by car).

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3.A Foreign Landscape 

The monastery of Lamayaru in the background 
(Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

Perched on a hilltop, the ancient monastery of Lamayaru, set against a backdrop of barren brown mountains is an impressive sight. What makes it exceptional is the `moonscape’ terrain. These geological formations in the landscape are a remarkable spectacle. Lamayaru Monastery is built into this moonscape. Originally a collection of five large buildings, only one remains today. The monastery is a series of shrines inside which is a glassed meditation cave of Lama Naropa. It is home to about 150 monks who live a life of simplicity. The monastery also showcases a rich collection of paintings and artifacts. Though slightly remote, it’s natural beauty will fascinate every visitor, especially photographers and trekkers. Lamayaru also attracts visitors for the annual Yuru Kabgyat (mask festival). A two-day cultural festival, where you will see monks wearing masks dance in a procession. It is 127 kms (2 ½ hours drive) from Leh and is on the scenic Srinagar – Leh highway.

Another monastery which is definitely worth a visit is the Alchi monastery. Considered to be the oldest Buddhist learning center, it is famous for its miniature paintings. It makes an interesting stop as the village and monastery are distinct from the others in the region.  While other monasteries sit on hill tops this one is on a level ground. Situated on the banks of the Indus river, the fertile land makes the village of Alchi a lush green, giving you a break from the otherwise barren desert terrain. Alchi Monastery is 70kms (2 ½ hour’s drive) from Leh.

4.A Natural Sauna In Desert Terrain

A lady with her prayer wheel
(Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

While travelling in this freezing desert like terrain, a relaxing dip in one of the coldest altitudes is a luxury! Nestled along the Indus is the village of Chumathang which welcomes you with its hot water springs. Here, spread across nearly an acre you will see boiling water pouring out through sprinklers, accompanied with a lot of steam. The air is warm, with a thick smell of Sulphur. This boiling hot water flows between the rocks to meet the freezing waters of the Indus river. At the right point in this mixture, the soothing temperature allows a relaxed dip. Chumathang is approximately 150 kms (5 hour’s drive) from Leh and enroute to Tso Moriri Lake.

5.On Top Of The World

No visitor leaves Ladakh without posing for a photo at Khardungla Pass, the world’s highest motorable road! A board at the top signals its height – 18380 ft. 

A cheerful face
(Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

Crossing over Khardungla, you descend to enter the river valleys of Nubra and Shyok. Known for its beauty, the Nubra valley has a stunning landscape which is filled with greenery, flowers, huge mountain faces and numerous trekking trails.  Visitors usually halt for the night at Diskit before returning to Leh. A landmark of this valley is the 32 meter Maitreya Buddha statue maintained by the Diskit Monastery. Being at a lower altitude than Leh, the Nubra Valley enjoys warmer climate and is also a great place to spend a few days to acclimatize to the altitude. If you have time, travel further to Hunder to see the Bactrian camels. These camels with two humps are native to the cold desert regions of Hunder. Diksit is about 140 kms from Leh. Keep in mind that you need a minimum of 2 days to visit the Nubra Valley.

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6.Dancing With Masks

          A Mask Dance (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)
Hidden behind a mountain lies the biggest monastery of the region, Hemis Gompa. This monastery is the venue for the biggest cultural event of the year, the Hemis festival which is held over 2 days, sometime in June-July. Local Tibetans eagerly look forward to this event. This festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. Lamas perform the famous mask dance (known as Chaam) to the accompaniment of drums, cymbals and long horns. Hemis Monastery is at a distance of 40 kms (1 hour’s drive) from Leh.

7.A Winter Spectacle

The frozen Zanskar river (Photo credit:Narayan Gopalan)

The winters are harsh in Ladakh, with the landscape covered in layers of snow. Heavy snowfalls make Leh accessible only by air. But the weather doesn’t deter trekkers and mountaineers who come to traverse this frozen landscape. The famous `Chadar trek’ (`Chadar’ means blanket in the local language) attracts those with an adventurous spirit. A difficult and challenging trek, it involves walking over the frozen Zanskar river. The river transforms itself - from a rapid flowing one in the summer, to a frozen blanket of ice during the winter. Temperatures range between 15 to 20 degrees (during the day) and -25 to -35 degrees (during the night). Walking along this frozen spectacle is unquestionably one of the most thrilling treks! 

8.Voyagers On Bikes

Gata Loops: 22 hair pin bends (Photo credit: Narayan Gopalan)

If you’re a rider, exploring Ladakh by Motor bike will surely be on your bucket list! Ask any biker and he or she will tell you that it’s something that needs to be experienced and cannot be described in words. While many bikers kick start their expedition from Manali, there is also the option of hiring one in Leh. Apart from being able to explore the terrain independently, it will undeniably add a twist of adventure to your trip.

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Whether you are a traveler seeking solace amidst nature or looking to experience an adrenaline rush – Ladakh will leave you enthralled with its beauty and memories to last a lifetime!

Author: Sharada Gopalan
Photo credits: Narayan Gopalan

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  1. Amazing blog! Here I am also sharing my experience of Chadar Trek.Hope it helps.

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