Ladakh is a famous tourist destination, also adjudged as one of the most adventurous and full-filling journeys of all times throughout the world. There are a great number of things to do in Ladakh and there is a long list of top Ladakh attractions. Here is a list of top reasons to visit Ladakh, before we embark on our annual Escape to Ladakh this year from 20th to 30th June.
Cold desert – La-dakh or the land of high passes is a cold desert in the northern part of India. The land lacks basic rainfall for being on the rain-shadow side of Himalayas, has very little vegetation (apart from few products that are grown closer to river Indus), lacks water and other natural resources and the temperatures dips to sub-zero for most of the year. Despite all the challenges, Ladakh has a rich culture and the natives here are warm and welcoming.
Altitude – Being in the lap of Great Himalayas, Ladakh features over a dozen high-passes and some of the highest motorable roads in the world with Khardung La being the highest motorable pass in the world standing tall at 18,380 ft. There are claims about other passes being higher, like Marsimik La at a height of close to 19000 ft is unofficially the highest motorable pass in the world. Other important passes include Tanglang La – the second-highest at 17,582 ft, Chang La – the third-highest at 17,590 ft, Wari La at 17,400 ft, Lachulung La at 16,616 ft, Namshang La at 16,568 ft, Pensi La at 14,436 ft, Fotu La at 13,478 ft, Namik La at 12,139 ft and many others that you have to cross to get across Ladakh.
Sand dunes – Once you cross-over from Leh to Nubra valley, you are greeted with white sand dunes at Hunder. Not only that, you also get to see and ride on the double-humped Bactrian camels which is one of the most favorite things to do in Nubra valley for tourists. The road further leads to Diskit monastery with the largest statue of Maitreya Buddha and then leads-on to Turtuk and Thang the northernmost villages of India just before the LOC, international border with Pakistan.
High Lakes – The land of high passes also features some of the highest lakes in the world such as Pangong Tso, Tso Kar, Tso Moriri each with a distinct beauty. As ‘La’ means pass, ‘Tso” stands for Lake in Ladakh. In a day’s trip you can get from the sand dunes of Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake via Shyok making you marvel on the distinct beauty of Ladakh. While Pangong Tso is famous, Tso Moriri is equally or more beautiful as it is still lesser explored. Tso Kar falls on the route when you come back from Chushul towards Moray Plains.
Two International Borders – In a day’s drive you can go from LOC (International border with Pakistan) to LAC (Line of Actual Control with China) while the surreal landscapes keep you company. You need inner-line permits to travel to these areas and foreign nationals are not allowed to visit beyond a point. As you drive between these two international borders, the topography changes vividly and the army posts just make you feel more Indian than ever with the history and war memorials.
Warm and welcoming locals – There is so much about the spirit of Ladakhi locals that make you wonder what are we complaining about. A day in the life of a local Ladakhi, especially those living in the far-fetched areas away from Leh will educate you that they are no less than super humans. Despite all the challenges and struggles for basic amenities, you will still be greeted with warm smiles and an indomitable spirit of hospitality by the locals. Much to learn for the city dwellers.
Food – Ladakh doesn’t grow its food much as it is mostly limited to wheat, barley, peas, fruits such as apples, walnut and apricots. Despite the lack of vegetation, there are a number of food items that are famous such as Thukpa, Chutagi (dumpling soup), momos, Ladakhi breads etc. As Leh is a tourist place, it offers a very world-cuisine with the best of German bakeries to cake shops to Tibetan, North Indian, Mughlai food and much more.
Adventure – Road trips to this cold desert with a rugged terrain are known for being the toughest in adventure and 4by4 travel across the world. Ladakh is home to some of the most treacherous roads in the world. Biting cold, scary altitudes, lack of oxygen, acute mountain sickness etc. are some of the factors that make Ladakh an epitome in adventure travel for guests from all over the world. There are a number of adventure activities one can choose from while in Ladakh ranging from river rafting, trekking, trekking on snow (Chadar trek), camping, quad sand-biking, safari etc.
Surreal and Lunar landscapes – Ladakh is a land of surreal landscapes with gigantic mountains with different shades, sometimes covered with snow, sometimes just mud and stones. This cold desert has many important spots which make you feel out of the world like the magnetic hill effect, sand dunes after huge snow cover, lakes stretching for hundreds of kilometers. There is a region in Ladakh called Lamayuru which is especially famous for its lunar landscapes.
Highest war memorials – These war memorials will stir up a number of emotions in you. The most prominent ones are the war memorials at Kargil, Drass and Rezang La, each with its own war stories to share. The war memorials have pictures from the war- era and serve as a reminder and a tribute for all those who lost their lives fighting for their mother country. Ladakh has its own history with the past wars and has seen many international wars from the front line.
Buddhism influence – The population of Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist and Ladakh has been deeply influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, which follows the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. The early religion of Ladakh and Zanskar was the animistic Bon, worshipping spirits and mountains. 77% population of Ladakh is Buddhist. Some of the famous monasteries of Ladakh include Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Diskit, Likir, Spituk Monastery, Stakna Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Takthok Abbey, Sumda Chun among various small gompas and monasteries.
A trip to Ladakh warrants a new experience of travel, adventure and more importantly of selflessness, that is the need of the hour. To book your Escape to Ladakh talk to us.
At the same time, we need to be responsible, respect the region and its challenges and not pollute the region any more.
About Author: This article is written by Sumit Singh Jamwal. Sumit is the MD of Escape Route, an experiential travel company, loves to explore off-beat places and share Escape stories with the world through Escape Route.
Follow him at www.instagram.com/jamwal_saaaab/ on instagram and Escape Route at https://www.instagram.com/escaperoute.co.in/. You can also watch Escape Route videos at https://www.youtube.com/c/escaperoutein