The Himalayas are more diverse than we realize. From vast lush green meadows, dense oak and pine forests, snow capped mountains to barren beige desert like isolated landscapes, Himalayas have all the colors one could imagine. Ladakh is the intense face of the Himalayas which defies the idea of flowery, pleasant Himalayas in our minds. Hence, this is what makes Ladakh stand out more than the northern Himalayan states.
The prime location of Ladakh has rich history and culture since ancient times. It was enroute the ancient Silk Route which subsequently influenced the region’s culture. Some of the locals of Ladakh are believed to be descendents of the Indo-Aryan group while others belong to Tibetan communities. The demographic majority consists of Buddhist population resulting in several monasteries and Gompas scattered around the state. Leh being the capital of Ladakh, it is one of the most important and largest and coldest cities in Ladakh. Despite being located at a roaring height of 11,000 ft, the capital city of Leh has its own commercial airport, Bakula Rinpoche.
The capital city is located at an altitude of 11,500 ft. This was a historical capital of the previous Tibetan kingdoms. The Leh palace, Shanti Stupa, Namgyal Tsemo, Zorawar Fort, Jama Masjid and more are some of the crucial local tourist spots in and around Leh. The Leh Palace is an architectural marvel of the Tibetan kingdom which now has been partly converted into a museum displaying the region’s rich history, culture and heritage. The monasteries and masjid are intricately carved with manuscripts and religious texts. The Leh local market is a good place to taste the state’s famous dishes like Thukpa, momos, Chang, butter tea and many other finger licking dishes.
Things to remember
Before entering the internal areas of Ladakh, there is a certain inner line permit, toll and acclimatization required. Due to its extremely high altitudes and climate, people visiting here need to get acclimatized for a day for their body to adjust to the exposed environmental conditions. There are oxygen cylinders sold in the local Leh market or at times included in the tour packages. The lack of oxygen here may cause certain discomfort to your health hence one is required to consult with a doctor before coming on this trip. Make sure you carry sufficient medicines in case needed.
Places to visit
Traveling outwards, the Zanskar Valley, Indus river, Kargil and sky high snow capped trans Himalayan mountains is just the view one cannot get tired of. The Nubra Valley, Sham Valley, villages like Turtuk, Spituk, Hemis, Shyok are an ideal place to witness and experience an authentic trans Himalayan village life. The locals are friendly and welcoming as you can share a laugh over some Ladakhi tea.
The high altitude lakes like Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso reflect the clear blue sky above and exude every shade of blue in its clear waters. Watch the best Himalayan sunset as you sit at the shore of these lakes. There are cafes and accommodation options near the Pangong tso where you can spend the time by the lake with a movie like background of the mountains. There are certain tour packages which offer a camp stay at the surreal Nubra Valley under the starry sky. Experience camping in the Himalayan desert around a bonfire and endless valley.
Experience the thrill of driving at the highest motorable road of Khardung La pass at 18,000ft. The terrain is lofty, barren, beige, empty nothing you, your vehicle and the Buddhist flying prayer flags. Another highest pass followed by Khardungla Pass is Changla Pass at 14,000 ft.
The adventure part of the Ladakh trip never seems to end. Be it biking in the Passes or trekking in the isolated Zanskar Valley. Ladakh is the epitome of hardcore survival and survivors.
The accommodations are up to standards and very friendly customer service. The best season to travel in Ladakh is between April to September as the climate is dry and unlikely to have landslides or disasters. The winters are extremely harsh where the temperatures drop to -40 degree celsius. Hence the roads and highways are blocked due to heavy snowfall making it impossible to have a road trip or a biking trip in the region.
Biking trips to Ladakh usually offer an overall Ladakh tour with sightseeing, HImalayan Bikes, Fuel, meals, accommodation, transfers, helmets, first aid kits, oxygen cylinders etc. The bikers usually travel interstate via Srinagar, Leh, Manali. They hit the road for 10 days with 10 drastically vibrant and dynamic views, people, roads, cuisine and challenges.