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The State of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost in India is divided into three Divisions, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Ladakh forms the easternmost frontier and shares a border with Tibet.

Ladakh ‘Land of High Passes’ is a high altitude cold desert with most areas situated at above 9000Ft (2750Mtrs). Its barren landscape and snow covered mountains are an adventurer’s delight since there is no better way to explore this spectacular remote region other than on foot. Flanked by the Karakoram Range in the East and the Himalayan Range in the West, Ladakh also has some deep valleys formed by the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges in the north-north west. These high mountains, deep valleys and beautiful river gorges are filled with trade routes, passes and remote trails which can fascinate every kind of explorer.

Leh is the capital of this (Leh) district of Jammu & Kashmir and is surrounded by snow-peaks, monasteries, ancient palaces, roadside cafes and quaint souvenir shops. It has been the region’s capital since the 17th century Namgyal Empire. Though the capital is distinctly cosmopolitan, the region has a strong Tibetan culture and influence. The various ethnic groups like Mons, Dards, Ladakhis and Baltis show a strong connect with the Tibetans in their appearance and language. The prominent religion followed here is Tibetan Buddhism followed by Islam, mainly in the area bordering Kargil and Kashmir division.

Leh is the hub of all adventure activities. At 11500Ft (3505Mtrs) this high altitude capital can be reached by air and also by road. A small yet dramatically situated airport has many flights connecting Leh to Delhi daily and to Chandigarh and Jammu every week. The road from Manali via Rohtang Pass, Baralach-la and Taklang La opens up during summer (mid-May) and reaches Leh through a stunning landscape. Another equally stunning route is via Sonamarg, Zoji-La, Dras  and Kargil from Srinagar. Leh is connected by roads to other main towns of Ladakh like Kargil in the north, Padum (via Kargil) in the West and Diskit in the North. Each of these cities form sub-centers of treks and other adventure activities in the area.  There are good roads that connect Leh to the spectacular Lakes of Tso Moriri and Pangong.

Since most of the treks are in remote regions and away from human civilization, it is advisable to go with a guide or a trek group. At its altitude, even easy can be a very relative term and hence thorough acclimatization is absolutely a must. Being stark and barren, there are no rest / log huts for stay during treks. Camping is usually done out in the open or among locals in villages. Late-June to Mid-September is the best time for trekking and mountaineering. For those who want to push their limits, the frozen Zanskar river or the Chadar trek provides the ultimate adventure and thrill in winters.

You might think that the thin mountain air is making you delusional, but Ladakh will make you hear the silence and feel the infinity. A strikingly blue cloudless sky, the distant echo of a magpie flying high, aquamarine lakes surrounded by stretches of dry naked mountains, a cold wind so raw that it will shear your skin. Little vegetation, no soul and no sound of even the river which quietly flows by. Only the crunch of footsteps of fellow trekkers tells you that you really are at a place which is out of this world!

Ladakh is place which ‘cannot be visited’ but can only be experienced. There’s a sublime spirituality that pervades everything…and it will not leave you untouched. It’s less to do with religion than the sheer power of nature that you encounter here so closely. While the rest of the world followed the given path, we have explored new territories with every one of our treks here. Starting from the strenuous yet the most remarkable trek over Parang La (18500ft) to the exquisite Tso-Moriri, the experimental trekker’s first mountain summit of Stok Kangri (20500ft), the mystical cold desert of Nubra Valley to the most challenging trek of a lifetime - on the frozen Zangskar at the peak of winter; we have tried to experience the various shade of this beautiful region at all times.

Last year we explored a rare pass that connects the Nubra region to Pangong Valley as well as the trek over 4 passes in 6 days in Zangskar and Suru Valley. This year we will be exploring the remote borders with our neighbours and understand their life and culture as we try to walk across a trail that no one has touched for decades now.

Each of our journeys deep into the region has been new and different and each has left us more spellbound than the other. This is one region you should not miss, because only then you will know that what we have described here is just 1% of the truth that Ladakh truly is.

More about LADAKH

    A region of harsh and bleak winters, daily winds, notable paucity of rainfall or even winter snow
    The alpine zone in Ladakh has very little plant life and virtually no trees, except those that have been planted by people and the odd stunted Juniper that grows in protected places. All plants in this region are adapted to conditions of extreme dryness.
    Rugged but traversable parallel ranges running from northwest to southeast
    Passes across the northern Ladakh range between Shyok and Indus rivers are 17000 to 18000ft in elevation.
    Lowest elevation in all of Ladakh region outside the Suru valley (near Kargil) is higher than 9000ft
    Row of poplar or willow is a sight to be savoured in Nubra and Parts of Ladakh
    Atmosphere is extremely dry with the sun scorching in mid-summer

CULTURE

    “Ju’ le, Ju’ le” Welcome in Ladakhi. Actually a word for almost any kind of greeting.
    All Ladakhis or Zanskaris are of Mongolian extraction
    Most Ladakhi muslims live in Kargil district and along the Indus valley
    Ladakhi is a dialect of Tibetan
    For more than a thousand years Ladakh was a part of western Tibet
    Buddhism came to Ladakh before it went to Tibet
    Padmasambhava is the man responsible to spread Buddhism here
    Earlier religion was Bon Po which was shamanistic
    The gompas and monasteries were never destroyed as against in Tibet due to the Chinese invasion
    There is a royal family in Ladakh in Stok
    The mosque in Leh was built in the late seventeenth century. It is 300 years old.
    In early 19th century Ladakh was one of the several west Tibetan states.
    In 1834 Ladakh fell to a Dogra led by Zorawar Singh. Since then Ladakh has formed 70% of the total area of J&K
    Caravans from Turkestan, Tibet and Kashmir converged in Leh
    In Leh before the road was paved and there were no gutters, merchants would close their street-facing doors to permit bazaar-long polo games
    Beneath Leh’s castle, the old city’s narrow, twisting lanes and underpasses are reminiscent of any medieval town
    Coss: attractive maroon woolen gown
    Jibi or Sahru a cap worn in the countryside is a top hat cut out in the front with upturned ear flaps
    Perag is a larger head dress with rows of turquoise and a charm box called Kagu
    Tsaroo worn along with Perag is two wings of sheep wool joined on either side of the Perag
    Tsampa: roasted barley flour (also called Sattu)
    It was discovered that the population of Dras suffers from high blood pressure because, with nothing else to do, everyone drinks salted tea to an excess
    Monasteries were set up to propagate dharma as stated by Lord Gautam Buddha, the basis of which are the 4 noble truths

    Suffering
    Its cause
    Its suppression
    The eightfold path leading to its suppression

    The Vajrayana or Diamond Vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism has four schools or orders

    Nyingmapa
    Kagyupa
    Sakyapa
    Gelugpa

    Every monastery in Ladakh belongs to one of these subsects
    Monasteries around Leh

    Tingmo Gang near Nurla Village 10 Kms east of Khalatse; 70 Km from Leh
    Ri Dzong meaning mountain fortress; newest Gelugpa Monastery about just over a 100 years old.
    Alchi sits in a low valley unlike other gompas, 49 Km from Leh, is more than a thousand years old and was never devastated by invading armies
    Likir is a well kept Gelugpa Shrine; 43 km from Leh; the monks from here take care of the Alchi gompa
    Basgo is a palace in ruins and it sstill utilized shrine were once the centre of the largest Indus Valley state. It is the second oldest Gompa in Ladakh after Alchi
    Phyang, just 20 Km northwest of Leh has a Kagyupa gompa affiliated to Lamayuru
    Spituk monastery overtlooks the airport, It is a Gelugpa Monastery built on several levels of a solid rock crag above the Spituk village. Has an image of the deity Bhairava for the benefit of the locally stationed soldiers
    Stok has the only royal palace that has been maintained and lived in since 1842 Dogra invasion. The palace has many thangkas, ceremonial clothing, and other belongings of the royal family
    Shey is 11 Km from Leh and its ruined palace sits on top of a knife edge ridge. A temple here has a Buddha gilded in bronzeby eight Newari craftsmen of Nepal
    Thikse is a beautifully situated multi structured monastery halfway between Hemis and Leh
    Stakna
    Matho is the only Sakyapa monastery in Central Ladakh
    Chendey is a small Kagyupa Monastery connected with Hemis
    Trakthok means “top o fthe rocks”; is the only Nyingmapa monastery in this part of Ladakh; has a small cave at the based said to have been linked with Padmasambhava founder of the Nyingmapa sect of the Vajrayana Buddhism
    Hemis is the wealthiest monastery in Ladakh. A short hour of walk behind the Gompa up a side valley to Kotsang is a hermitage and shrine not directly connected to Hemis. The building have been constructed above a sacred cave the ceiling of which oozes a firm, sticky black substance called Shilajit. Shilajit is known to have curative properties and is taken orally or plastered on the skin. The High Altitude Hemis National Park is home to the Ibex, bharal, wolf and the Pallas cat.

    Ladakh was opened to Tourism in the late summer of 1974
    Ladakh was opened for tourism when the Indian Government removed Zanskar and much of central Ladakh from the Inner Line restrictions that had been enforced prior to mid-1974
    1978: Commercial flights began

 




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