Published On: Wed, Nov 21st, 2018

Exploring Ladakh In The Indian Himalayas

One can’t get further north in India than Ladakh, and getting here means travelling on some of the world’s highest motorable roads. Ladakh is less populated than the rest of the country, and here it is possible to find the peace and quiet that is lacking in other parts of India. A subdistrict of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is also a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture.

Exploring Ladakh In The Indian Himalayas

Buddhist Monasteries In Leh

The capital of Ladakh, Leh, is a charming collection of guesthouses, Buddhist gompas (monasteries), Kashmiri souvenir shops and restaurants that serve Tibetan momos next to falafel and pizza. When the season in Leh starts in June, the town is busy with tourists who come here to visit Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in and around the town.

A hundred monks live in the Thiksey monastery, also home to a 15-metre high statue of Maitreya Buddha. Shey used to be Ladakh’s summer capital, and Hemis has a reputation of being the biggest and wealthiest of Ladakh’s monasteries.

The Nubra Valley

The Nubra Valley, 150 km north of Leh, is also known as the Valley of Flowers. Wild Lavender blooms on the banks of the Nubra and Shayok, the two rivers that make this valley so green and fertile in the middle of the brown and barren mountains. Most tourists visit the towns of Diskit and Hunder on one side of the valley and then cross over to Sumur on the other side. The northernmost point a foreign tourist can visit in India is the small town of Panamik, a short ride from Sumur. The road to the Nubra Valley crosses the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardung La.

High Altitude Lake Pangong Tso

The high altitude Pangong lake looks like parts Tibet: the water is clear and blue, and the sky is the brightest of skies. Pangong Tso lies at the altitude of over 4000 m, so the air is thin and the nights are cold. The lake is partly in India and partly in Chinese-controlled territory, and foreigners can only travel as far as the village of Spanmik.

The Buddhist Murals In Alchi

The temple complex in Alchi, 65 km from Leh towards Kargil, dates back to the 11th century. Its founder, the Great Translator Ringchen Zangpo, brought in artists from Kashmir to create Buddhist murals and sculptures. The walls of the small temples are covered with colourful, intricate and unique murals depicting Buddhist mythology, but unfortunately the murals have not been looked after and have suffered badly in Ladakh’s harsh weather. Alchi can be visited in a day from Leh, but it also offers accommodation in several nice guesthouses.

How To Get To Ladakh

There are daily flights from Delhi to Leh. The road from Manali to Leh is open from May or June to October (depending on the snow situation) and the trip can be done in a bus or a jeep over two days. The most adventurous tackle the road on motorbike.

There are also bus and flight connections to Srinagar in Kashmir, but this route can be problematic as the political and security situation in Srinagar can change overnight. Most of Ladakh is higher than 3000 m altitude and Acute Mountain Sickness is a serious risk.

Travel Permits In Ladakh

Tourists need an Inner Line Permit to visit the Nubra Valley and the Pangong Tso. Travel agencies in Leh can arrange trips and permits. Each permit should include four names, but travel agents can put together groups or fill permits with real or imaginary names. However, travelling without the group may lead to problems at checkpoints.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at knowledgeherald@gmail.com

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