Ladakh Tourism

ladakh_1.jpgPopularly known as "Hermit Kingdom", Ladakh is a land of snow carved peaks, translucent Lakes, barren terrain and mystic culture. The district of Ladakh lies at the border with Tibet at the most eastern corner of the State of Kashmir. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, Ladakh is a land like no other. Ladakh is often referred to as the "Little Tibet", or the "Last Shangri-La". Ladakh is the trans-Himalayan region, which separates the western Himalayan peaks from the Tibetan plateau. In geological terms, this is a young land, formed only a few million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force against the immovable mass of Asia.

Guides to Ladakh - The land of endless discoveries. Information about Packages / Tours to Ladakh, Fairs & Festivals, Buddhism, Adventure Activities and others.History

LADAKH is a mysterious land shrouded in myth and legend. Much of its ancient history is known only through the mythology of its people as its written history is of very recent origin. Known for centuries as the 'land of passes' (La-pass; Dakh-land), Ladakh was described by Fa-hian, who travelled across its inhospitable terrain in 399 A.D., as 'The land where snow never melts and only corn ripens'.

A thousand years ago before the contol of Tibets rule, Raja Skitde Nemagon, ruled over Ladakh which was known as Muryul (Red Country), as most of the mountains and the soil in Ladakh wears a red tinge. In the 10th Century A.D Skitday Nemagon, along with a couple of hundred men, invaded Ladakh where there was no central authority. The Land was divided in small principalities, which were at war with each other. Nemagon defeated all of them and established a strong central authority. Those days Shey, was the capital of Ladakh became to be known as Nariskorsoom, a country of three provinces. The present Ladakh was divided into two provinces while the third comprised western Tibet. The area of western Tibet slipped away from the kingdom but was reunited in 16th Century A.D. by the famous Ladakhi ruler Sengge Namgyal.

During V to XV centuries, Ladakh was an independent kingdom assigned to Tibet. Little by little, due to tensions among local kings and the pressure of China over the Tibet, the relationship got worse. The ancient inhabitants of Ladakh were Dards, and Indo-Aryan race from down the Indus. But immigration from Tibet more than a thousand years ago largely overwhelmed the culture of the Dards and moped up their racial characters. In eastern and central Ladakh, todays population seems to be mostly of Tibet origin. Buddhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh. The area was the stronghold of Budhism before Islam reached Ladakh.

The dependence of Kashmir was greater and greater until Ladakh, comprising the areas of present Leh and Kargil districts, became part of the independent India in 1948. In 1979 when the reorganisation of the districts was carried out, the Ladakh district was divided into two full fledged of Leh and Kargil. In the present day it comprises the 60% of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but has an independent and own culture assured by the mountainous borders that separate Ladakh from the rest of India. In 1995, the ladakhians created in its region the Autonomous Development Council. This way, Ladakh has an autonomous organization that will try to improve the economical and social development of the region, marked by climate and tradition. For the last two decades, Ladakh has been increasingly exposed to modern influences, brought on largely by tourism and 'development'.

Fact Files

Full Name :     Ladakh
Capital :     Leh
Location :     30 degree to 36 degree east latitude and 76 degree to 79 degree north longitude
Area :     96,701 Sq.Kms
Altitude :     Ranging from about 2750m at Kargil to 7,672m at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram.
District :     Leh and Kargil.
Languages :     Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English
Population :     2 lakhs (approx)
Religion :     Buddhism, Islam. Hindu
Food :     Every sort of vegetarian and non vegetarian food is available in multiple cuisines to suit every budget. Restaurants of all hues and shades are available all along the Boulevard road. and other major spots. Foods suits all budgets and tastes.
Climate :     Winter : -30 C(Leh & Kargil) and -60 C in (Drass)
Summer( July and August) : 20 C to 38 C
Humidity : Ranges from 31 to 64 percent.
Rainfal :     529mm
Best season :     March to October
Clothing :     Light/Medium woollens in summers to Heavy woollens in winter
River :     Indus which flows in a north-west direction between Ladakh and Zanskar ranges & is joined by several major rivers like Zanskar, Suru and Shayok.
Attraction :     Adventure Tour comprising Trekking, Jeep Safari

People and Culture

People of Ladakh are mostly Mahayana Buddhists belonging to the sect of the Red or Yellow Lamas. The faces and physique of the Ladakhis, and the clothes they wear, are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than of India. Ancient inhabitants of Ladakh were Dards, and Indo-Aryan race from down the Indus. But immigration from Tibet more than a thousand years ago largly overwhelmed the culture of the Dards and moped up their racial characters. In eastern and central Ladakh, todays population seems to be mostly of Tibet origin. Further west, in and around Kargil, the people's appearance suggests a mixed origin.

Ladakh being a cold desert with a barren landscape and very limited sources of water, it has still been home to a thriving culture for more than a thousand years. Traditions of frugality and cooperation, coupled with an intimate knowledge of the local environment, have enabled the Ladakhis not only to survive, but to prosper. Ladakh is truly a self-sufficient land, producing all that it needs. This self-sufficiency is based essentially on an economy of small agricultural communities dependent on glacial torrents which, in wild and joyous tumult, come and meet the large Himalayan rivers. Desert conditions have forced the farmers of these celestial lands to develop unique irrigation systems. Canals draw water from far inside the mountains to guide them towards the fields which have been terraced to facilitate the work of the precious liquid. They sink into the rock, forming labyrinths stretching over several kilometers, a challenge to man, taken up 1500 years ago.

The Ladakhis cannot develop the production of yak cheese as is done in Nepal for their herds are too small. Products made from fresh milk are therefore important. Each family owns some goats, cows and dzos (yak-cow). The herds follow the mountain paths and return in the evening to the quiet villages, or they move to new pastures for a summer between sky and earth.
Ladakh is also home to some of the rare animals and plant species of the living world. These include the Mountain Goat (Ibex), and the Snow Leopard, Brong Drong (wild Yak), Kyang (wild Horse) and Nyan (large horned sheep), Musk Deer and the Tibetan Antelope, which is prized for its fleece used to make best quality shawls called SHATOOSH.


Budhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh. The area was the stronghold of Budhism before Islam reached Ladakh. It is difficult to establish when Buddhism was introduced into Ladakh. It is however definite that its first influence dates back to the start of Christian era or just a little before that, under the reign of the Emperor Ashok. It is not astonishing therefore that stories based of the lives of the Buddha are the predominant theme of the traditional theatre.

Drama is an essential part of the Ladakhi heritage. These stories, it is said, were related by the Enlightened one and they depict his numerous lives before he became a Bodisattva. The Gompas (monasteries) that dot Ladakh's landscape are an integral part of the lives of people living there. These Gompas serve as places of worship, meditation and learning schools. Some of the most spectacular fairs and festivals are celebrated around these Gompas.

Islam too came from the west. A peaceful penetration of mainly the Shia sect spearheaded by Islamic missionaries, its success can be attributed to the early conversion of the chieftains of Dras, Kargil and the Suru Valley. In these areas, mani walls and chorten are replaced by mosques, small unpretentious buildings, or Imambaras. There are also pockets of Sunni Muslims among which the Dards of Drass and the Arghons of Leh are the largest groups.

Accommodation Options

Ladakh offers a variety of accommodation to suit almost every pocket or preference.

Hotels : Hotels are classified into A, B, C, & Economy categories while Guest Houses fall under Upper, Medium & Economy classes. Tariff quoted in the A & B Category hotels include all meals, a system followed by most establishments.
  • Guest Houses : The Guest House is a less formal facility offering rooms in a part of a residential house or its annexe, where the guests can share the family kitchen for meals. Apart from the low tariff offered for accommodation ranging from merely basic to very good, the Guest House system also provides an opportunity for the tourists to see & experience Ladakhi life from the inside.
  • Tourist complexes & hiker's huts : In the newly opened areas of the region- Nubra, Changthang & Dah-Hanu- the tourist infrastructure is not yet adequately developed. However, some facilities developed by the Tourism Department are operational, like Tourist complexes & hiker's huts at Tangse & Spangmik on the Pongong Lake circuit; Korzok on the Tso-moriri lake, Deskit & Panamik in the Nubra valley, and at Biama in the Drokpa area.
  • Paying Guests : Tourists can also seek accommodation as paying guests in a few selected homes in Pongong Lake circuit, Korzok on the Tso-moriri lake, Deskit & Panamik in the Nubra valley, and at Biama in the Drokpa area.
Tourist are advised to travel fully equipped with personal sleeping bags and some tinned provisions to be on the safe side. During the peak tourist season, i.e., early June to mid-September, it is advisable to book hotel rooms in advance. By late September, as the tourist rush starts to decline, advance booking is not necessary. However, tourists planning winter trips may have to book accommodation in advance so as to ensure provision of heating arrangements.

How To Get There ?

Road Journeys
The main overland approach to Ladakh is from the Kashmir Valley via the 434 km Srinagar-Leh road which remains open for traffic from early June to November. The most 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. Regular bus services are available between Srinagar and Leh on this route with an overnight halt at Kargil. Taxis (cars and jeeps) are also available at Srinagar for the journey. Groups can charter buses for Leh, Kargil or Padum (Zanskar) at Srinagar. Since 1989, the 473 km Manali-Leh road has been serving as the second land approach to Ladakh. Open for traffic from around mid-June to early October, this high road traverses the upland desert plateaux of Rupshu whose altitude ranges from 3,660m to 4,570m. A number of high passes fall in route among which the highest one, known Taglang-la, is the world's second highest motorable pass at an altitude 17,469 feet / 5,325 m. The bus journey between Leh and Manali takes about 19 hours or two days with an overnight halt camps at Serchu or Pang. Gypsy and jeep taxis are also available, both at Manali and Leh.
Air Travel
Leh, the capital, has one of the highest airport in the world. It's almost the only way to access the area from november onwards until may, as mountain passes are closed. Indian Airlines operates regular scheduled flights to Leh from Delhi Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar. Some private airlines are also planning to operate air services between Delhi and Leh in the near future.

Internal Travel

The cheapest way to travel within the region is by public buses which ply on fixed routes according to fixed time schedules. The most comfortable and convenient though expensive rnode of travel, however, is by taxis (car, Gypsy), which are available for hire on fixed point to point tariff. For visits to the newly, opened areas of Nubra, Changthang and Dah-Hanu, it is mandatory to engage the services of a registered /recognized travel agency for making all the requisite arrangements including internal transport.

Tourist Information

The main centres of tourist information in Ladakh are the J&K Tourist Offices at Leh & Kargil. Kargil office also has a branch at padum (Zanskar). These offices help tourists prepare detailed itineraries to suite different pockets, preferences and time-frames. Tourists going on climbing expeditions, hard trekking, white water rafting etc. are advised to keep the nearest Tourist Office informed of their travel plan and routes:-

Deputy Director Tourism,
Leh-(Ladakh) 194101    

Tourist Officer,
Kargil (Ladakh) 194103

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