Ladakh Travel Information

LADAKH TRAVEL INFORMATION

GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION

INTRODUCTION 

Ladakh, is a Tibetan word which means “land of high passes”, Ladakh is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir of Northern India sandwiched between the Karakoram mountain range to the north and the Himalayas to the south. The Indian portion of Ladakh is composed of the Leh and Kargil districts. The Leh district is the largest district of India, covering more than half the area of Jammu and Kashmir, of which it is the eastern part.

 Ladakh, often branded as the land of numerous passes, mystic lamas, the broken moon and the last Shangri La, beckons tourists to discover its mountains, gorges, winding rivers, glacial slopes and Shimmering lakes. The Vast wilderness, here, have its own charm and mysticism.

Before the Indo-Pak ceasefire between India and Pakistan the Ladakh region comprised the three districts of Leh, Kargil, and Skardo.Later the districts of Skardo and a part of Kargil become the territory of Pakistan Occupied  Kashmir(POK) and Ladakh remained with Jammu & Kashmir state. During the 1962 war between China and India, a part of Leh district was also usurped by China.

A BRIEF HISTORY

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar,Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India. It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil. Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh’s cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

 

 

LOCATION :

34° 10′ 12″ N,

77° 34′ 48″ E

34.17, 77.58

AREA: 86,904 km2

ALTITUDE : 3,000 m (9,800 ft).

 

TEMPERATURE:

 3 to   35 °C in summer

  -20 to -35 °C in winter.

RAINFALL :

Average Annual Rainfall : 100 mm (4 inches) per year(Since it dry desert area)

BEST SEASON TO VISIT:

June end up to mid October.

LANGUAGE SPOKEN:

The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakh is usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English.

NEAREST RAILWAY STATION:

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NEAREST AIRPORT:

Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport

CLOTHING REQUIRED:

Light woollens and tropicals in summer  and heavy woolens in winter.

 

IMPORTANT ROADS:

The only two roads into the area from outside are the Zoji-La Pass and Kargil route from Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley, and the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh.

The Manali-Leh road is open only from May or June to October or November, when snow is cleared from several passes. The Srinagar-Leh road is open from April or May to November or December, and is generally blocked by snow through the winter only at Zoji-La Pass.

 
 
PLACES OF INTEREST
Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Razi khar (Chiktan Khar), Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phuktal, Sani Monastery, Stongdey, Shayok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley. Popular treks are Manali to Ladakh, the Nubra valley, Pangong tso, Tso moriri, the Indus valley, Markha valley, Ladakh monastery trek, South Zangskar, Trans-Zangskar Expedition, Spiti to Ladakh, Spiti to Pitok to Hemis, Rupshu, the Great Salt lakes, Chadar Ice trek, Padum-Phuktal, Padam to Darcha, Panikhar to Heniskot, Padum to Manali, Lamayuru-Martselang, Lamayuru – Alchi, Kala Pattar trek, Pahal
Leh

The Leh town is the headquarter of the Leh District. It is located to the north of the Indus River at an altitude of 11,500 ft. The town is dominated by the nine-storey Namgyal Palace and Namgyal Tsemo(Victory Peak), above the Palace, built by Tashi Namgyal on his victorious reunification of the upper and lower Ladakh.

Leh become the capital of Stod(upper Ladakh) during the reign of king Graspa Bum-Lde, Who ruled Ladakh from 1400 tp 1430 AD. In later period, Leh become an important centre of Trade in central
Asia. Leh remained merely the headquarter of Ladakh district untill 1974 AD. When Ladakh was opened for foreign tourists. Since then Leh become the centre for tourism related activities in the region.

Places of tourist interest with leh are as follows:

Tsemo Gompa, Tisuru Stupa, The Namgyal Tsemo(Victory Peak), The Leh Palace, Sankar Gonpa, Shanti Stupa, Jokhang, Leh Mosque, Thiksey Monastery, Hall of Fame etc.

 

Drass Valley

Dras is a town in the kargil District of Jammu and Kashmir on National Highway 1D (India) NH 1D. It is often called ‘The Gateway to Ladakh’. The town shot into prominence in the summer of 1999 following Pakistani army incursions into Jammu and Kashmir. The Kargil War saw the town being shelled by the Pakistani army and the war ended with the Indian Army recapturing the areas surrounding the town and the Kargil district.

The Dras valley starts from the base of the Zojila pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. For centuries, its inhabitants have been known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the riskiest period (in late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms) to transport trading merchandise and to help stranded travellers traverse the pass. They thereby established a monopoly over porterage during the heyday of the pan-Asian trade. A hardy people enduring with fortitude the harshness of the valley’s winter, the inhabitants of Dras can well be described as the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway.

 Suru Valley

The Suru valley is a valley in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, which is drained by the Suru River (Indus), a powerful tributary of the Indus river. The valley’s most significant town is Kargil.

The lower part of the valley, at altitudes below 3,000 metres (9,843 ft), is one of the most agriculturally productive parts of Ladakh with two crops a year being harvested, watered by the run-off from the very heavy winter snowfalls,] and even plantations of willow and poplar trees making it a relatively lush and very attractive area, but around Rangdum the landscapes are stark, flat moorlands ringed by arid crags. The spikey white topped mountain peaks of the Nun-Kun massif, topping 7000m, are visible from several places in the valley.

 Kargil

Kargil is a city in the Kargil district of Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the second largest town in Ladakh after Leh. It is located 60 km and 204 km from Drass and Srinagar to the west respectively, 234 km from Leh to the east, 240 km from Padum to the southeast and 1,047 km from Delhi to the south.

Kargil has an average elevation of 2,676  metres (8,780 feet), and is situated along the banks of the Suru River (Indus). The town of Kargil is located 205 km (127 mi) from Srinagar, facing the Northern Areas across the LOC. Like other areas in the Himalayas, Kargil has a temperate climate.

 Zanskar

Zanskar is a subdistrict or tehsil of the Kargil district, which lies in the eastern half of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative centre is Padum. Zanskar, together with the neighbouring region of Ladakh, was briefly a part of the kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet.

The Zanskar Range is a mountain range in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that separates Zanskar from Ladakh. Geologically, the Zanskar Range is part of the Tethys Himalaya, an approximately 100-km-wide synclinorium formed by strongly folded and imbricated, weakly metamorphosed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is about 6,000 m (19,700 ft). Its eastern part is known as Rupshu.

It also separates Kinnaur District from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. The highest peaks of Himachal are in the Zanskar Range.

Zangla

Zangla is a place in Zanskar tehsil of Kargil district, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located 32 km from Padum. The town is the nodal point on the popular Padum-Strongdey-Zangla-Karsha-Padum round trip. Zangla Monastery is located on a hill top right side to village at a distance of one km belief of 11th century.

Rangdum

Rangdum is in a valley situated 3,657 m (11,998 ft) above the sea level, in an isolated region of the Suru valley in the Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On one side are the colorful hills while on the other side are rocky mountains and glaciers, notably Drang-drung.

Rangdum is located midway between Kargil and Padum. It is about 100 kilometers from Kargil. The road conditions are very bad near Rangdum. A JKTDC bungalow is available at Rangdum. Restaurants and hotels are also available here. There is no access to electricity, phone or internet.”Rangdum, with its gompa and the attendant village of Juliodok, is the last inhabited region in the Suru valley; it is also the destination of the nomadic herdspeople called Bakarwals, who trek up every year from the Himalayan foothills near Jammu, bringing their flocks of sheep and goats to grow fat on the rich summer growth of grass. From Rangdum the valley rises to 4400 metres and the Pensi-la, the gateway into Zanskar.”

The country surrounding Rangdum Monastery is very bleak and crops sometimes cannot ripen in the brief summer. The locals depend on their flocks and supplies from lower down the Suru Valley or over the pass from Zanskar. 

 Padam

Padum is at the centre of the tri armed Zanskar valley. It has an average elevation of 3,657 metres (11,998 feet). There are several villages to the north-east of Padum leading to Karsha monastery.

Padum is named after Padmasambhava. It is the only town and administrative centre in Zanskar. It was historically one of the two main capitals of the Zanskar Kingdom, the other being Zangla. It is 240 km away via the link road from Kargil town (National Highway No. 01D).

 
Salt Valley

The Salt Valley is a wide open area in the Rupshu region, a valley in southeast Ladakh, India. The valley has a length of about 20 km and a maximum width of about 7 km. Its average elevation is 5,000 m. It can be approached from Leh across the Tanglang La pass.

 
Phugtal Monastery

Phugtal Monastery or Phugtal Gompa (often transliterated as Phuktal) is a Buddhist monastery located in the remote Lungnak Valley in south-eastern Zanskar, in the autonomous Himalayan region of Ladakh, in Northern India. It is one of the only Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can still be reached on only by foot. Supplies to the monastery are brought on horses, donkeys, and mules in the warmer months, and in the frozen winters, they are transported through the frozen Zanskar River. A road is expected to be built up to the monastery, however, for now, it is a day’s walk from Dorzang, the end of the road leading from Padum.

The Phuktal Gompa owes its legacy to powerful and renowned scholars and teachers who resided in the cave, around which the monastery has been built, and has for long been a place for retreat, meditation, learning, and teaching. This is reflected in its name Phuktal, which is derived from Phukthal, made up of Phuk meaning ‘cave’, and Tal or Thal meaning ‘at leisure’ in the endangered Zangskari dialect of the Tibetic languages. An alternate spelling of Phuktal is Phukthar, where Thar means ‘liberation’. Hence, the name Phuktal means ‘the cave of leisure’ or ‘the cave of liberation’.

The Phuktal Monastery is built around a natural cave, which is believed to have been visited by numerous sages, scholars, translators, and monks around 2,550 years ago. The remote location of the monastery was ideal for monks looking for peace and solitude to meditate. The present Phuktal Gompa, of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, was established in the early 15th century by Jangsem Sherap Zangpo, a disciple of Je Tsongkhapa. Tsongkhapa was the founder of Gelug, which is one of the newest schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Razi Khar

The Razi Khar (Chiktan kahr/Chiktan Palace), which is situated 76 km from Kargil and 180 km from Leh is situated on the highway from Kargil to Leh, is the first Palace of the then ruler Thatha Khan. Its historic importance in the history of Ladakh and its ruler is very significant. It is said that the Leh Palace was built by the same architect after the completion of the Razi Khar, with his left hand because the king than cut his right hand so that he cannot built such a beautiful palacea after it. Although it a little bit wrecked now, but the scenery from the top of the palace is unbelievable, especially on a full moon.

Shyok Valley

The Shyok Valley is the valley of the Shyok River situated in Ladakh. The valley is close to the Nubra Valley.

Khardung La on the Ladakh Range lies north of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley.

Sani Monastery

Sani Monastery is located next to the village of Sani where the Stod Valley broadens into the central plain of Zanskar in Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. It is about 6 km to the northwest of the regional centre of Padum, a gentle two-hour walk. Like Dzongkhul Monastery, it belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the only one of this order in Zanskar which has nuns. It is thought to be the oldest religious site in the whole region of Ladakh and Zanskar.

Stongdey Monastery

Stongdey Monastery, often written Stongde, Stongday, Tonday or Thonde, is a flourishing Buddhist monastery in Zanskar, Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, approximately 18 km north of Padum, on the road to Zangla, India.

The gompa was founded in 1052 CE by Naropa’s disciple, the famous translator Lama Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097). It was taken over by the Gelugpa about four centuries later and became dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa.

It is the second largest monastic institution in Zanskar, with a community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. Every year the Gustor Festival is held on the 28th and 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar.

There are seven temples in all. The Tshogs-khang is decorated with exquisite painting including some with deities on a black background outlined in gold.

Sankoo

Sankoo is a township in India that is 42 km south of Kargil located in a bowl-shaped valley drained by large tributary streams of the Suru River, the Kartse and the Nakpochu. As the richest flourishing and most verdant valley throughout the entire region of Laddakh, the village of Sankoo Valley is known as the Laddakh’s own Gulmarg (“meadow of flowers”).

Sankoo is an upcoming township with a small bazaar (42 km south of Kargil) and numerous villages around. Dense plantations of poplars, willows, myricarea and wild roses fill the bowl shaped valley, giving it the ambience of a man-made forest tucked within the mountain ramparts. Two side valleys drained by large tributary streams of the Suru river, the Kartse flowing from the east and the Nakpochu descending from the west, open up on either side of the expanse. Sankoo (42 km), the next major expanse of the Suru Valley, is a picturesque township surrounded with numerous villages and colorful rocky mountains all around.

Sankoo is very popular among local picnickers who throng the area from Kargil town and other places. Locally it is also popular as a place of pilgrimage to the ancient shrine of a Muslim scholar-saint, Sayed Mir Hashim, who was specially invited from Kashmir for imparting religious teachings of the region’s Buddhist ruler, Thi-Namgyal of the Suru principality, following his conversion to Islam during the `16th century. The shrine is situated in the village of Karpo-Kharon the outskirts of Sankoo where the Chief had his summer palace.

Summers are warm in Sankoo but the winters are extremely cold and harsh. Temperatures are most comfortable April and September, so this is the best time to visit Sankoo.

Nubra Valley

Nubra  is a tri-armed valley located to the north east of Ladakh valley. Diskit the capital of Nubra is about 150 km north from Leh town, the capital of Ladakh district, India. Local scholars say that its original name was Ldumra (the valley of flowers). The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. The Shyok river is a tributary of the Indus river. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. i.e. 3048 metres above the sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town. Foreign nationals are required to get a Protected area permit to visit the Nubra Valley. Since 1st May 2014 Indian citizens are no longer required to get an Inner Line Permit to visit the valley.

Like the rest of the Tibetan Plateau, Nubra is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. The villages are irrigated and fertile, producing wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts, including blood apples, walnuts, apricots and even a few almond trees. Most of the Nubra Valley is inhabited by Nubra dialect or Nubra Skat speakers. The majority are Buddhists. In the western or lowest altitude end of Nubra Valley near the Line of Control i.e. the Indo-Pak border, along the Shyok River, the inhabitants are Balti of Gilgit-Baltistan, who speak Balti, and are Shia and Sufia Nurbakhshia Muslims.

Siachen Glacier lies to the north of the valley. The Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass lie to the northwest of the valley and connect Nubra with Uyghur (Mandarin : Xinjiang). Previously there was much trade passing through the area with western China’s Xinjiang and Central Asia.

Tsomoriri Lake

Tsomoriri Lake  is a lake in the Ladakh part of the Changthang Plateau (literally: northern plains) in Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. The official name of the land and water reserve here is the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.

The lake is fed by springs and snow-melt from neighboring mountains. Most water enters the lake in two major stream systems, one entering the lake from the north, the other from the southwest. Both stream systems include extensive marshes where they enter the lake. It formerly had an outlet to the south, but this has become blocked and the lake has become a endorheic lake. The lake is oligotrophic in nature, and its waters are alkaline.

Accessibility to the lake is largely limited to summer season, though Karzok on the northwest shore and the military facilities on the eastern shores have year-round habitation.

Pangong Lake

Pangong Tso “high grassland lake”, also referred to as Pangong Lake, is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to China. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not part of Indus river basin area and geographically a separate land locked river basin.

The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention.

Pangong Tso is in disputed territory. The Line of Actual Control passes through the lake. A section of the lake approximately 20 km east from the Line of Actual Control is controlled by China but claimed by India. The eastern end of the lake is in Tibet. After the mid-19th century, Pangong Tso was at the southern end of the so-called Johnson Line, an early attempt at demarcation between India and China in the Aksai Chin region.

The Khurnak Fort lies on the northern bank of the lake, halfway of Pangong Tso. The Chinese has controlled the Khurnak Fort area since 1952. To the south is the smaller Spanggur Tso lake.

 THINGS TO DO IN LADAKH
 Treks  
 Tours  
 Paragliding  
Mountain Biking
Rock Climbing   
Rafting   
Nature Study Camp   
 Adventure Camp  
Bike Tours   
One day Camping    
DO’S and DON’TS
DO’S 
Always travel with a guide where it necessary.  
Respect our local culture and use taking permission for restricted places before taking photographs.  
Dress modestly. Be aware of the customs and manners and culture of the local people.  
follow designated route and trails.  
It is customary to leave a donation at a monastery and to circle shrines in clockwise direction.  
Avoid littering and deposit garbage at designated places.  
Keep all pollutants away from streams and lakes.  
learn local culture and spread it.  
   
 

DON’TS
Don’t spit in a religious area   
Don’t pluck plants or flowers.  
Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or talk loudly near sacred places.  
Don’t buy endangered species or antiques.  
Don’t disturb wildlife or its habitat.  
Don’t make any type of bad comments about religion, and politics.
 HOW TO REACH LADAKH
Ladakh , a word which means “land of high passes”, is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir of Northern India sandwiched between the Karakoram mountain range to the north and the Himalayas to the south. The Indian portion of Ladakh is composed of the Leh and Kargil districts. The Leh district is the largest district of India, covering more than half the area of Jammu and Kashmir, of which it is the eastern part.

Nearest Airport:

Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport at Leh has flights from Delhi year-round on Jet Airways, GoAir and Air India. Air India also operates weekly flights to Jammu and Srinagar. Cancellations and delays for two or three days are not uncommon and can happen at any time of year, so travellers must plan for that possibility when scheduling their onward travel.

Nearest Railway’s Station:

The nearest railhead is Jammu Tawi connected with all major cities and towns in India.

 

Leh is connected by good motorable roads to all major places in India. Leh is: 1047 km from Delhi, 434 km from Srinagar, 230 km from Kargil, 494 km from Manali, 380 km from Keylong, 118 km from Deskit (Nubra Valley), 690 km from Jammu.

The overland approach to Ladakh from Kashmir Valley via Kargil is approximately 434 km, which remains open for traffic from early June to November. The dramatic part of this road journey is the ascent up the 11,500 feet 3,505 m high Zoji-La, the pass in the Great Himalayan Wall that serves as the gateway to Ladakh. There is also a motorable route between Manali and Leh which is 473 km long. Manali-Leh Road has been serving as the second overland approach to Ladakh. Open for traffic from around mid-June to early October, this high road traverses the upland desert plateau of Rupsho, where altitude ranges from 3,660m to 4,570m. A number of high passes fall en route among which the highest one known as Taklang-La is the world’s second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 17,469 feet/5,235 m. Both the Himachal Pradesh Tourism (HRTC) and J&K State Tourism (SRTC) operate daily deluxe and ordinary bus services between Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh. The bus journey between Leh and Manali takes about 19 hours or two days with an overnight halt in camps at Serchu or Pang. And the Srinagar-Leh trip takes 17 hours.