There’s a reason why veteran travellers go misty-eyed at the mention of Ladakh; the mountainous region of India – at an altitude of over 11,000 feet – with its forested valleys, snow-capped peaks and high altitude lakes is an unforgettable destination.
Although – as part of British India – Ladakh was absorbed into the independent India in 1947, its history, geography and culture have their roots in Tibetan Buddhist culture. Bordering Tibet, Pakistan, China’s Xinjiang Province and India’s Himachal Pradesh region, the area was of strategic importance historically as the crossroads of various trade routes. Since the 1970s the Government of India has encouraged tourism to Ladakh and travellers are drawn to its majestic scenery and vibrant culture.
From the jaw-dropping beauty of its scenery to its Buddhist culture, we highlight our five reasons to visit Ladakh this summer…
The friendliness of the Ladakh people is legendary. In a culture where houses are left open and visitors are greeted with warmth, it is the memory of the kindness shown to them that lingers in the hearts of visitors. Tourism is a mainstay of the Ladakhese economy and visitors can enjoy homestay accommodation, dining on traditional momos (steamed buns) and thukpa (noodle soup).
There are a number of recommendations we can make and we’d be delighted to help you put together a special programme. One fantastic (and highly recommended) option is to stay in one of Shakti’s Village Houses, which have been carefully restored to provide comfortable accommodation whilst retaining the charm of the original houses. Shakti has six village houses in Ladakh and – if trekking in the area – the company also offers domed tents.
The Ultimate Travelling Camp also has some very special luxury tented camps, allowing for some incredible highlights.
Given its strong ties to Tibet, it’s unsurprising that Buddhism is the dominant religion in Ladakh. The region boasts numerous monasteries; whilst some lay in ruins, others are significant centres of religious and spiritual activity. Situated in a spectacular location in the Indus Valley south-west of Leh, the Thiksey Gompa (Tibetan monastery) is one of the largest and most architecturally impressive monasteries, with exquisite wall paintings of Buddha. It also offers the opportunity to stay overnight and experience monastic life.
Don’t miss the opportunity to witness early morning prayers at Diskit Gompa. Arrive before dawn to hear chanting monks and climb up behind the monastery for stunning views of the Shyok Valley.
As well as their religious significance, the monasteries are worth visiting for their wondrous architecture. Some contain exquisite art collections and Buddhist relics ranging from paintings and statues to scriptures. With many monasteries situated in hilltop locations, they are a commanding presence in the Ladakh countryside.
Even if you’re not religious, visiting – and in some cases – staying at these monasteries allows a glimpse into a world far removed from our own.
The region’s traditional festivals bring a burst of colour to Ladakh and many of the festivities centre around the Buddhist monasteries during the summer months. Arguably the most well-known is the Hemis Tscechu, a three-day festival held in June in which participants perform a sacred dance drama wearing brocade robes and traditional masks.
Celebrating the significance of the Indus River, the three-day Sindhu Darshan festival recognises the role of the river in maintaining cultural harmony.
The sight of monks donning traditional silk costumes to perform a sacred mask dance awaits you at Phyang Tsedup. During the three-day festival in June, monks perform dramas (known as ‘chhams’) to depict the teachings of Buddha.
With Ladakh meaning ‘The Land of the High Passes’, road trips are a breath-taking experience. For the ultimate high-altitude road trip, travel along the Khardung La, one of the highest motorable roads in the world and the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys. The road traces a former caravan route, along which 10,000 horses and camels used to pass.
The landscape of Ladakh is truly unique. Bordered by the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, it offers scenery of unparalleled beauty. If you choose to fly from Delhi to Leh, you’ll be treated to one of the most stunning flights in the world; on a clear day the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat, Gashrbrum and the Nun Kun Massif are all visible.
If the views above are jaw-dropping, those on the ground are equally impressive, with turquoise lakes glimpsed through mountain passes. Visit Pangong Lake – at a height of 4350 m – which stretches from India to China and is one of the most visited places in Ladakh.
If you’re looking to experience a completely different side of India, Ladakh offers a completely unique and unforgettable experience.
If you’d like to discuss a visit to Ladakh in more detail, please contact us to explore and find out more.
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Or by telephone on 01937 520677.