is a cold mountain desert situated on a high altitude plateau at India's
furthest frontier bordered by Pakistan, Tibet and China. Amongst its folds,
it preserves an ancient culture, vast swathes of land, deep valleys, roaring
rivers, wizened faces, rosy cheeks, dragons and zen Buddhism, prayer flags,
a dense concentration of monasteries, yaks and snow leopards, and an
ethereal magical medieval atmosphere. Ladakh's miles and stretches of mostly
barren dessicated land is dotted with quaint little vibrant green hamlets
oozing wild roses and lavender, groves of willows, fields of barley and
orchards of apricot. The Indus river snakes its way through its mountains
and valleys and provides the much needed water to this cold desert. Bounded
by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the
Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar
The capital city of Ladakh is also its biggest and most vibrant. Sitting
pretty in the shadows of snow crested peaks it is the hub of commerce and
culture in the exotic province of Ladakh.
The Dras Valley is formed by the Dras River which rises in the Machoi
glacier near the famous Zozila Pass. In summer, as the snow in the uplands
melt, the volume of this river rises considerably. The terrain is
characterized by rocks and stones, groves of willows and gurgling streams.
One of Ladakh's prettiest valleys, Nubra is clad in acres of wild yellow and
pink roses, in August when the roses are all gone the valley turns into a
carpet of wild lavender. Relatively warmer than other parts of Ladakh, Nubra
is where all the orchards are and the valley is also famously called the
orchard of Ladakh.
The Suru Valley is formed by the catchments of the Suru River, which rises
from the Panzella glacier, this beautiful valley with its lush carpeted
floor, spectacular rock faces and rushing waters makes an enchanting
Located on the banks of the Suru river Kargil is an important halt for
journeys to and from Leh. It was once an important trade destination as it
lay on the caravan trail that carried merchandise to China and beyond.
Zanskar is one of the oldest inhabited places in the world, situated in a
far flung corner of Ladakh it is a deserted and at the same time incredibly
beautiful valley containing a clutch of idyllic villages and crumbling
summer months from mid May to mid October see a lot of mountain sports and
adventure activities in this region. The most popular are trekking
expeditions through the valleys, cycling through the zig zag mountain roads,
mountain climbing, jeep safaris, camel safaris and even Yak safaris and
Ladakh has the highest concentration of monasteries in all of India.
Lamayuru is the grandest monastery here. The monasteries of Shey, Thiksey,
Hemis, Stakna, Matho and Stok lie along the Indus, south-east of Leh and the
monasteries of Spituk, Likir, Alchi, Rhizdong are in the west. A treasure
trove of religious sentiment and the rich Buddhist culture, these
monasteries are windows into the very soul of Ladakh.
Fairs and Festivals
Festivals in Ladakh are celebrated with much fanfare and merry-making. In
this deserted land festivals provide people with opportunities to interact
with each other, form new ties and renew old ones. The festivals include
dances and dramas in the gompa courtyards. Lamas, attired in colourful robes
and wearing masks, perform mimes symbolising various aspects of the religion
such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the
triumph of good over evil. The Hemis festival is very popular here, the
Losar festival and the Dosmoche festival, both celebrate the new year, the
Ladakh harvest festival and the Tak Tok festival are also some of the
popular festivals here.
The main shopping areas are the main market, Moti market, Tibetan market
and the Fort Road area. Here exquisite Kashmiri handicrafts, imported
jackets at a fraction of the original price, Tibetan turquoise, pearls, yak
bone beads, thangkas, apricots, wooden tea bowls, enamel mugs, Chinese
brocades and flasks are widely available.