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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Leh Ladakh – Experience of a Lifetime!

Leh Ladakh – Experience of a Lifetime!




Think about Ladakh and the first thing that pops in minds of many is perhaps the leather jacket clad bikers riding through the serene and heavenly roads. But no matter who you are, a biker, a traveler, photographer or even a movie buff (who often catches the glimpse of Ladakh in movies) if the word ‘adventure’ gushes the adrenaline in your veins then Leh-Ladakh is definitely the place you wouldn’t want to miss. Housed in the Indian state of beautiful Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is the highest plateau in the state which has range of surprises to offer, from stark mountains, to monasteries, lakes and not to miss the Tibetan food and culture. Leh is the largest town in Ladakh and has much more to offer than one can imagine.

I must warn that traveling to Leh isn't really a piece of cake, it does have its own challenges be it the accessibility to the place, weather or mountainous terrain. The easiest way to travel is by air from Delhi (yes, I kept it simple), although if you want to experience an exciting crusade before reaching Leh then traveling by road either by bus or by bike or even by train provides an incredible view of the landscape as an incentive.

There is so much to explore in Leh that one must be prepared for an extensive trip to capture the scenic beauty of this relatively less explored land on your camera. But before you start exploring don’t forget to acclimatize yourself to the atypical weather. Here are some places I managed to travel while in Leh and it still lingers fresh in my memories.

Shanti Stupa:

Built in 1991 by Buddhists from Japan and Ladakh, one not only finds spiritual solace under the shade of peaceful Buddha statue enshrined by 14th Dalai Lama, but can also get a good Panoramic view of the valley.  This place provides one of the world’s best sunrise and sunset views. A must-go place for photographers and nature lovers.


Leh palace:

A humongous structure that takes you back to 17th century royal living. Seeking inspiration from Potala palace in Lhasa (Tibet) this awe-inspiring palace is whopping nine storey high which seems to have held royal family in higher floors, while housing stables and store rooms in lower floors. Although in dilapidated state now, this place is sure to take you back to ancient times.




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Tsemo fort:

Also, called victory tower is placed on the same hill (Namgyal hill) as Leh palace. It was built to celebrate the victory of Ladakh over Balti Kashmir Army in 16th century. This structure is visible from virtually any place in Leh. Placed beneath the fort is this 15th century monastery called Namgyal Tsemo Gompa that consists of a three storey high Buddha image along with many ancient manuscripts.



Thiksey Gompa:

Located less than 20km away from Leh it is housed at the top of a hill in Thiksey village and has one of the most beautiful and colossal Buddha statues in Ladakh placed in Maitreya temple which stands 49 feet tall. Built in 15th century this twelve storey complex houses many stupas, thangkas, murals, swords etc.


Hemis Gompa:

Being the largest monastery,  it is also considered to be one of the wealthiest monasteries of Ladakh. Renovated in 17th century by king Namgyal Sengge this Gompa belongs to Dugpa order worshipping the Buddha Padmasambhava. The monastery is full of colourful murals and sculptures. The huge idol of the Buddha is one of a kind.  I was lucky to witness the vibrant Hemis festival held every June honouring the deity. The vibrant outfits, attractive masks, beautiful tunes, and dance is once in a life time experience.




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Pangong Tso lake:

Remember Phunsuk Wangudo (Aamir Khan) flying a drone with ladakhi kids near a lake in movie ‘3 idiots’? Yes, that beautiful lake is what I am talking about. The journey from Leh to this lake takes about 5 hours and one needs to start early as there are many passes to be crossed in between.  There is a strange yet beautiful stream that flows near lukung called Pagal nala which needs to be crossed before 12 noon as it becomes unassailable after that. It takes a whole day to visit this place, but the moment one catches the glimpse of this heavenly lake, some sort of renewed energy starts to radiate in the air. This place is worth a visit in all human existence. Although, there is no permit required for Indians it is best to carry an identity proof anyway.


War museum:

If your heart goes out to those Brave soldiers who stand tall in the most extreme conditions in the world to provide peace in our country then this  ‘Hall of fame' is a must visit. Located in airport road, this museum brings us closer to the lives of soldiers in most treacherous glaciers like Siachin along with other information on people and culture of Ladakh.


Shopping spree:

Go to Ladakh and not shop would be a real waste of trip. Ladakh is popular for things like silver jewellery, torquiose jewellery usually worn by Ladakhi women, Thangka paintings on silk, prayer wheels, carpets, stoles, rugs, and woolen clothes. Head to main bazaar which offers umpteen number of stores to chose from. But be prepared about the prices as most shops have fixed price some more expensive than others. For a good bargain try visiting Moti market or Tibetan refugee market on old Leh road. Government run emporium could also be a good place to buy handicrafts, but they are little pricey.


Adventure sports:

Ladakh is a synonym of adventure in more ways than one. One can try many adventure sports like trekking, river rafting, mountaineering or less adventurous yet enjoyable sports like polo or archery. I tried my hands-on river rafting and trust me I would want to go back to Leh again not just for the sport, but for the unforgettable views I experienced while rafting. The picturesque views of hill top monasteries and trail of magnificent landscape had left a lasting impression for life. There are several packages to rafting ranging from level I to IV, all with either just rafting service or lunch/transport along with rafting, take your pick. Best time to raft is between June to August when the water level is high enough.




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Scrumptious Food:

Be a Ladakhi when in Ladakh. Although, Leh being a tourist place provides a range of options to satisfy our tastebuds from usual Indian to continental delicacies, I think the best bet is to try Ladakhi cuisine for authentic taste and flavours which is pretty much different from what we experience in our cities. Try Ladakhi bread called Khambir with butter tea or apricot jam for breakfast followed by noodle soup thenthuk or Ladakhi traditional meal skyu for lunch and steamed dumpling momos and noodle soup thupka for light dinner. Take the taste of Ladakh with you and savour it forever.



Traveling through the vast grim belts of valley with alien climate and yet with breath-taking views is something that cannot be expressed in words, but can only be experienced best. So, go ahead and live the adventure of a lifetime.


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