Ladakh- A Himalayan Spectacle of Serenity

Rural landscape with himalaya mountains seen from Leh valley — Stock Photo, Image

The image shows Ladakh landscape

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Ladakh is everything remote, rustic, rugged, and even a little risky but there is nothing like its magnificent charm! Its magic lies in barren beauty, breathtaking lakes, pious and peaceful monasteries, and the warmth of the local Ladakhis. With the challenges of the terrain and the high altitude, coupled with a balmy air to satiate your very soul, there is no place quite like Ladakh.   

The image shows vibrant culture and pastel hued landscape of Ladakh  

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

The enigmatic ensemble of culture and traditions attracts many tourists who get pulled towards soul-searching escapades in these high Himalayas. The natural splendour that this place exudes keeps visitors wanting more and more with each visit. Ladakh is not a place you visit only once. It creates a deep connection, and you heed the call every time, after all, you are helpless and hopelessly in awe!

Plenty of colorful Buddhist prayer flags on the Stupa near Takthok gompa, Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, India — Stock Photo, Image

The image shows colourful prayer flags that dot whole of the rocky brown mountains

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The air of Ladakh seems as if singing words of the prayer in colourful hues and tones. The prayer flags that line the jagged hills make for quite the beauty and instill a sense of calm. Magnificence, in terms of picturesque valleys, snow-crowned peaks, vibrantly dramatic monasteries and so much more, is showcased in all its glory here. 

There is something for every soul in this Himalayan wonderland: adventure, peace, tranquility, exploration, nature at its finest best, and more. Whatever you are looking for, there’s plenty of it here. This ‘Land of high passes is a mini land of wonder!

How to get to Ladakh

Towering over a height of more than 11,000 feet is Leh, the capital of Ladakh. This is the focal point for you to begin the Ladakh experience. It is advisable to rest at least for two days to acclimatize to the high altitude. You have to get used to the thin air and low oxygen levels at all the places you’ll visit in your travel in Ladakh. You definitely need to have 8 days to visit Ladakh, out of which 2 days will be for acclimatization. After all, you have to be medically fit to enjoy to the fullest!

By Air

Accessing Leh in the shortest time is only possible by air. we can curate the best itinerary for Leh Ladakh by air for you.  There are frequent flights from Delhi to the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Leh Airport. The Himalayas make for beautiful scenery from the flight if the sky is clear. 

The roads are closed in the winter months from mid October to mid May owing to the snow. The only access to Leh then is via flights. 

By Railway

The nearest railway station to Leh is Jammu Tawi. It is also an option to reach Srinagar from Jammu and then take the Srinagar-Leh highway to reach Leh. 

By Road

There are two possible routes to reach Leh by road. 

Srinagar-Leh Highway

Straight Road In Leh Ladakh — Stock Photo, Image

The image shows Srinagar-Leh Highway

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The 420 km route via the Srinagar-Leh highway connects the valley to the capital of Ladakh. To reach Leh from Srinagar, a treacherous and high mountain pass called Zoji La has to be crossed. It is perched at 11,575 feet and remains closed for the winter months between December to April. It’s a stark change in landscape when you start from the green Kashmir valley to reach the rustic arid mountains. Kargil is one of the destinations enroute which is a sure attraction. 

 

Manali-Leh Highway

Leh Manali Highway Stock Image

The image shows Manali-Leh road

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This route is an adventure on its own. It is quite a contrast from the Srinagar route as almost all through the way, you will pass through the trans-Himalayan region. 

A visual treat that is this landscape only makes one marvel at nature almost throughout the journey. There are five mountain passes to cross to reach from Manali to Leh namely Rohtang pass, Baralacha La, Nakee La, Nachung La and Talang La. With the opening of Atal tunnel, the use of Rohtang pass is now reduced. 

Most of the tourism in Ladakh happens between June to September. During this time, the roads to Ladakh remain open from both Manali and Leh sides. In June, you might find a good amount of snow on the roads.

The best months to visit Ladakh, therefore, is from June to September. For the white winter experience, one can visit this cold desert even in the winter months with temperatures plummeting to as low as -20 degrees. 

It is also worth a mention that foreigners visiting remote places in the Ladakh region require an ILP or Inner Line Permit. The validity for this permit has extended from from 7 days to 15 days now. These are places closer to the border like the Pangong Tso Lake, Lake Tso Moriri, Nubra valley among others. 

 

The image shows frozen river in the backdrop of snow-covered peaks in Ladakh

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

The stillness of time is a concept most felt in the serene environment of this laid-back land. You’ll get a chance to really communicate with nature and feel it respond to you in the form of prayer flags fluttering all over the barren valley dotting it with a colourful hue. 

 

Places to Visit in Ladakh

 

The most visited places in Ladakh are one too many and needless to say, each is unique in its own beautiful way. There are three primary regions in Ladakh- Leh and around which are part of the Sham Valley, Nubra Valley and Changthang. 

 

Places to see in Sham Valley

Let’s start from the Sham Valley which has access to the Alchi monastery, Nimoo confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers, Basgo Fort, and Magnetic Hill

The image shows the stunning confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers in Nimoo near Leh

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Confluence 

 

The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers in a village called Nimoo near Leh is a sight to behold. Leh local sightseeing is best witnessed here with the Indus river with clear bluish-green water mixing with the muddy Zanskar water at the meeting point. Zanskar river, otherwise has blue waters which gets muddy after June. 

 

Alchi Monastery

The image shows prayer wheel in Alchi monastery near Leh

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Alchi town is located at a distance of 66 km from Leh. It is a quaint little village that will blow your mind away with its sheer beauty. The Alchi monastery is located on a lowland, unlike the other monasteries on hilltops. It is the oldest monastery in the Ladakh region and definitely one of the best places to visit in Leh Ladakh. Big Buddha statues form part of the Alchi monastery complex with intricate carvings done on wood and the style is often compared to the baroque style. 

 

Basgo Fort


The image shows ruins at the Basgo fort located close to Nimoo in Ladakh

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Basgo Fort, situated about 40 km from Leh is among the best places to visit in Leh. It known to be a site of castle ruins and royal temples adjoining them. The complex structure of buildings has original murals dating back to the 16th century and are a treat to watch.

 

Magnetic Hill

The image shows the mighty Magnetic hill in Ladakh

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Magnetic Hill Ladakh, also known as the gravity hill is a wonder of its own. Located at a close distance from Nimoo near Leh, it is known to create an optical illusion of the hill. It is intriguing as the road is downhill but it appears to pull vehicles uphill defying gravity, which is not the case. 

 

Places to visit in Leh

A mighty lot to visit at Leh and beyond for Leh sightseeing like Shanti Stupa, Shey Palace, and Stok Palace.

Shanti Stupa

The image shows Shanti Stupa in Leh

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Perched on a hilltop at Chanspa in Leh is a white wonder of calm- the Shanti Stupa. Its architectural style is different from other Ladakhi structures. The Stupa is a major attraction owing not only to its religious importance but also of the panoramic views of Leh it provides. Be sure to add this to your Leh Ladakh itinerary. 

 

Shey Palace and Monastery

 

At a distance of 15 km from Leh lies the Shey monastery and palace. It is one of the best places to see in Leh. It dates back to the 16th Century and houses a 10 m high Buddha statue made of copper.  The top of the Shey palace is made of gold and happens to be the biggest victory stupa of Leh. 

The image shows the gold Buddha statue in the Shey monastery

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At present, the monastery is home to the largest gold Buddha statue. It is a three floor tall statue. The annual festivals of Shey are famous attractions- the sowing season called Shey Doo Lhoo and the harvesting season called Shey Rupla.  

 

Another reason to visit the Shey monastery is the Rancho school. Remember the school shown in the movie Three Idiots? The Skitsal School is located very close to this monastery. Due to this school and the popularity of the movie, Shey mo0onastery and palace is one of the top Leh Ladakh tourist places. 

 

Places to visit in Nubra Valley

Image shows Shyok river in Nubra valley

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

Next is the Nubra axis situated at the north end of Leh. From Leh, the Khardung La Pass opens into the Nubra valley. 

The image shows Khardung La Pass that connects Leh region to the Nubra valley

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com 

 

This cold desert is home to the double-humped Bactrian camels, sand dunes and starspersed night sky. The very quaint settlements of Hunder and Turtuk are the last Indian villages of the area. Panamik is a little known place that lies along the Shyok river axis. It has natural hot springs. 

 

Nubra valley

Nubra valley, Himalayas, India Stock Photo

Nubra Valley in Ladakh

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Nubra valley is like a breath of fresh air in the Ladakh landscape. Though rustic, the scintillating vistas of this picturesque valley are superbly inviting. Nubra lying at the northern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is interspersed with orchards, monasteries and rare Bactrian camels. It is also known for juicy apricots. 

The landscape of Nubra is so stunning and its summer scenery is full of greenery. In contrast to this in the winter, the valley gives a moon-like landscape, touting it as Moonland.  

The popular way to reach Nubra is through the Khardung La pass, known in the world as the highest motorable pass. The Shyok and Nubra rivers intersperse the Nubra valley as a criss-cross all through. The adventure enthusiasts also access Nubra from the Wari La pass. It is said to be one of the most dangerous roads. 

Hunder

Double humped Bactrian camel safari in Hunder

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Hunder is located in the middle of the Nubra valley known for its double humped Bactrian camels, sand dunes amid barren landscape and the beautiful natural vistas. The camels are native only to the Ladakh mountains and a ride is an experience in and of itself. 

The biomolecule-rich medicinal plant of sea-buckthorn is also found in Hunder. Known locally as the ‘Leh Berry’, it is full of vitamins and nutritive substances. 

 

Turtuk

Turtuk village, Diskit, Jammu and Kashmir, In Stock Image

The image shows Turtuk village in Nubra valley in Ladakh

Image courtesy: depositstockphotos.com

 

The area, though appearing arid, has cultivation of apricots, almonds, apples, walnuts and many other fruits and flowers. Apricot oil is another famous oil produced locally in Turtuk. 

The image shows prayer flags in the pretty Turtuk village

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

The unexplored offbeat haven that is Turtuk is like a village frozen in time. The Balti culture, experienced at very few villages in India, is truly showcased in this quaint hamlet of Ladakh. The locals are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature. 

Stay with us amid apricot orchards to take in the village Ladakh experience in totality.

Panamik

The image shows hot water springs of Panamik village in Nubra Valley

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Located on the Nubra river, close to the Siachen glacier, (the highest battlefield in the world), the Panamik hot springs are known to have healing properties. it is one of the hidden places to visit in Leh Ladakh. At a height of more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the Sulphur rich spring water is thought to have curative properties for rheumatoidism and other aches and pains.  

This place is also of importance as it is the furthermost point till where civilians are allowed. The area ahead of Panamik is the Siachen Base Camp that comes under the Indian Army. 

 

Places to see in Changthang

Pangong Tso Lake

The image shows the stunningly spectacular Pangong Tso

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God’s most beautiful canvas has given the Pangong Tso lake its bespoke beauty. The most stunning part of this natural marvel is the colourful hues across the spectrum that this lake displays. Every time you look at it, it displays a different colour. Dusk and dawn times are particularly mesmerising. 

 

Add Pangong Tso Lake to your curated itinerary with Offbeat Tracks

 

Tso Moriri

Tso Moriri lake in Indian Himalayas — Stock Photo, Image

The image shows crystal clear waters of Tso Moriri, the highest mountain lake

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Tso Moriri is a high altitude mountain lake in the Ladakh region. It is a visual treat to the hilt! The clear blue waters create a mirror image of the towering mountains creating a painting right in front of our eyes. 

Tso Moriri happens to be the highest high altitude lake in India and the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve is an ecosystem of numerous native flora and fauna species. it is one of the best Ladakh honeymoon places. Some spectacular bird species like the endangered black-necked cranes and bar-headed goose have this wetland as the only breeding ground in India. The rare great crested grebe and brown-headed gulls are spotted here. It is a visual treat for birdwatchers as many species of migratory birds visit this highland lake every year.  

Among the animal species, the rare Tibetan gazelle, Lynx, Nayan, the Great Tibetan sheep and Himalayan blue sheep are among the ones found here. This wetland is also home to the elusive snow leopard, also called the ‘Ghost cat’, mostly spotted in the harsh winter months of December and January. 

It is a protected wetland and therefore, we follow all the necessary protocols for responsible tourism in order to protect our environment. 

 

Monasteries of Ladakh

Thiksey Monastery

The beautiful ochre walls of the Thiksey monastery 

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

An important and beautifully located Thiksey monastery Ladakh at a distance of 19 km from Leh is certainly one of its kind. The largest statue of Maitreya Buddha in all of Ladakh is situated here. It is 49 feet tall. Visitors can experience staying in this Ladakh monastery and spend good time in the tranquil setting. 

Experience the morning prayer at the Thiksey monastery with us. It will certainly be an experience you will cherish for a lifetime. 

 

Hemis Monastery

Masked dance or Chham dance performed in Ladakh festivals 

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There are umpteen monasteries perched atop high peaks all over Ladakh. They are indeed a true reflection of Buddhist culture. Hemis monastery, being the richest and largest monastery in Ladakh, is famous for the Hemis festival which is a major attraction for people from all over the world. It is held every year in the month of June or July. Lamas perform the masked dance during the festival. 

 

Book your trip for the next Hemis Festival 

 

Diskit Monastery

Maitreya Buddha at the Diskit Monastery in Ladakh

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

The Diskit monastery lies in the Nubra region after crossing the Khardung La pass. It features a Crowned Buddha statue together with numerous murals. The Maitreya Buddha statue is 49 feet in height. Spituk, Likir, Alchi, Phyang are the other famous monasteries in the region home to Buddhist artefacts and colourful hand painted thangkas. 

 

Phyang Monastery

The image shows festival at the Phyang monastery in Nubra region

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The Phyang monastery is also called the cave monastery. It is a remote Tibetan monastery of Ladakh. This place has a unique aura, rugged and surreal. It is one of the famous monasteries in Ladakh. 

The image shows monks dancing at the monastery

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The striking feature of the monastery is that it isn’t connected by any road, one has to trek to reach it! Adventure to attain peace! Certainly:)

The image shows Phyang trek to reach the monastery

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Hanle 

A place less travelled to is Hanle Ladakh, at a  distance of about 275 km from Leh. It is famous for the Hanle monastery that promises an all-embracing view of the entire area. It also boasts of the World’s largest and highest optical observatory in the world at a height of 4500 metres. 

 

 

Culture and Language of Ladakh

The image shows Ladakhi festival depicting the rich and vibrant culture of Ladakh

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Among many other things, Ladakh is also known for its rich and vibrant culture. It goes without saying that the region has a very strong Tibetan and Buddhist influence. It is reflected in their attire, festivals, language, occupation, religion and overall lifestyle too. 

It is quite fascinating to observe the fact that a very significant part of their lives hover around the monasteries due to which their rich culture has taken a beautiful shape.  

The image shows the famous masked dance and celebration in Ladakh 

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

There are numerous festivals celebrated by the people of Ladakh like Losar, Saka Dawa and Ladakh festival and Tsechu. Hemis is the most popular one which marks the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. As a symbol of Buddhism, many locals are involved in making woollen clothes, stone jewellery and also mural paintings in the monasteries. Satisfaction and stability are the words that resonate most with the Ladakhis. They are also known to be very peaceful, friendly and tolerant.  

The main religion followed in Ladakh is Buddhism, though Muslims and Christians also dominate certain parts of the region. Ladakhi is the primary language spoken whereas Balti is also spoken in some areas of Baltistan

Tibetan Prayer Wheel Monks Hands Close Royalty Free Stock Images

The image shows a traditional Tibetan prayer wheel in the hands of a monk

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Souvenirs and Handicrafts 

Leh Ladakh region is also known for unique handicrafts depicting the heritage and culture this region boasts of. From pashmina shawls to hand prayer wheels and thangka paintings, there’s many signature style crafts of this Lama land. 

The image shows Ladakhi women adorning locally made ‘Perak’ 

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

Handicrafts of Ladakh like hand woven woollen clothes, tie-dyed woollen shoes with a leather sole, baskets are other handicrafts found here. The perak head gear worn by Ladakhi women is also locally made and quite a beautiful piece. 

There are also vibrant and intricate domestic and religious use articles made of brass, copper and silver. Kettles, bowls, teapots, lids, hookah base, lamps and so much more are also authentic to the region. 

 

Food of Ladakh

The image shows Ladakhi cuisine

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Ladakhi food has a lot of similarities to Tibetan food. The likes of Thukpa, momo, Thentuk, Skyu, etc which are common to other mountain regions like Lahaul-Spiti, Sikkim etc. are common here too. Among other foods are Ladakhi pulao, Khambir, saag, butter tea, phirni, kulcha bun, Cholak, Tigmo etc. 

Gorge on a traditional Ladakhi meal with us. Get in touch for the best culinary experience in Ladakh. 

 

The image shows Ladakhi in-house dining meal platter

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Skyu is a main dish made from root vegetables that is a staple. Ngampe or roasted barley flour is commonly used as trekking food as it can be eaten without cooking. Their food has organic flavours and is made from mutton, yak meat and chicken. Chhang which is the local brew is a fermented barley drink that is alcoholic and taken on festivals mostly. 

The image shows local Ladakhi women preparing food for festivals. 

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

Ladakh Treks

Ladakh is a stunning mountain region and needless to say, haven for the trekking enthusiasts. There are numerous treks in this region and happen almost all throughout the year. The difficulty level of Ladakh trekking differs from beginner to advanced level. The best time for trekking is from May to October in Ladakh. But there are some treks that are not accessible in winter, starting September due to heavy snowfall. 

The image shows frozen Chadar Lake in Ladakh

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

Winter treks are the Chadar trek which is a difficult trek on the frozen Zankar river and the Snow leopard trek to spot the elusive Himalayan cat.

A more popular one is the Markha valley trek that is organised in the Hemis National Park in Ladakh.

 

Offbeat Experiences

THIKSEY, NORTHER INDIA - SEPTEMBER 1, 2016: Two Tibetan Buddhist monks blowing conches Stock Photo

The image shows morning prayer call at Thiksey monastery

Image courtesy: depositstockphotos.com

 

Morning Prayer and Meditation at Thiksey Monastery

For a blissful experience, we will arrange for you to attend the morning prayer and meditation at the Thiksey monastery. Immerse yourself in complete tranquillity at the Thiksey monastery with Offbeat Tracks, an experience you will cherish for a lifetime. 

Hike to undiscovered Tar

The image shows young Lamas at Tar village 

Image courtesy: istockphoto.com

Home to an enigmatic landscape, rivers meandering through it and nature at its best, the Tar village houses very warm and hospitable people. The only way to access the Tar village is going through the mountains on a hike. One can reach it by crossing the Nurla wooden bridge across the Indus river and then accessing via the Kargil-Leh highway. 

Experience the traditional Ladakhi way of life in the beautiful Tar village with us.

Heritage Walk in Old Ladakh

The image shows Old Ladakh area where we can arrange a Heritage walk for you

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Another experience that holds a special mention is a Heritage walk arranged by us in Old Ladakh. Learn facts and stories about the early Ladakh settlements. Get in touch with us for an immersive Old Ladakh experience. 

 

Stay amidst Apricot orchards in Uley

The pretty hamlet of Uley has amazing apricot orchards and is situated along the Indus river. It makes for a scenic setting. 

The image shows apricot orchards at Uley, a mesmerising hamlet in Ladakh

Image courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org

Meal at Stok 

A traditional Ladakhi meal awaits you at the Stok village in Ladakh. The village’s beauty and tranquility will leave you spell bound. The Stok Monastery and Stok palace Ladakh are worth visiting. 

The image shows authentic Ladakhi meal at Stok village 

Image courtesy: offbeatracks.com

 

How We Impact

 

A fascinating place, Ladakh, has its visitors hooked. The eternal and ethereal beauty that one comes in contact with cannot be forgotten and the heart yearns for more. This is also the reason Ladakh has a major influx of tourists.

 

One needs to understand that the environment on a whole is hit by overtourism, and Ladakh is no doubt a fascinating place. We provide a carefully crafted experience to all our guests, while also keeping in mind the impact on the environment. 

 

This is where responsible tourism at Offbeat Tracks comes in. Not only are we creating employment opportunities by boosting village tourism, but also partnering with local communities at homestays and service providers to create a self-sufficient ecosystem. 

 

We completely support local, whether it is food, homestays, experiences, artisans or the communities. Aligning our impact with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals 7, 8 and 12, we at Offbeat Tracks work on clean and affordable energy, economic growth and responsible consumption-production in all our travels.   

 

Take a deep breath and let the spiritual serenity in Ladakh take over your senses. It’s unlikely you’ll experience anything like it anywhere else in the world.

  

 

Author

  • A traveller and a dreamer, Apra is an avid reader and has an inherent passion for writing. She likes to travel to new places and appreciates the company of people wherever she is. A happy-go-lucky person, her mantra is to take life as it comes and believes in going with the flow. She enjoys knitting and swimming too! She joined Offbeat Tracks as a Content Writer in May 2022 and has immense love for her job.

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