Leh Ladakh Tour


Leh Ladakh Tour

ABOUT LADAKH

Ladakhâ the land of high passes â is the Trans â Himalayan zone that marks the boundary between the peaks of the western Himalayan and the vast Tibetan Plateau. Since it was opened up to tourism in 1974 Ladakh has been known as 'the Moon land', 'Little Tibet', and even 'the last Shangri La'. The high culture of Ladakh is Buddhist, with its close culture and trading connections with Tibet. This particularly evident in the most populated region of Leh and the Indus valley, with its many whitewashed gompas (monasteries) and forts perched on top of sugarloaf mountains. Padum, the capital of the more remote Zanskar valley shares this Buddhist heritage. Likewise, ancient gompas and tiny white washed villages are found in the depths of this rugged, arid mountains cape.

Ladakh is a land abounding in awesome physical features, set in an enormous and spectacular environment. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Karakoram in the north and the Great Himalayas in the south, it is traversed by two other parallel chains, the Ladakh Range and the Zanskar Range. 

Dras, Zanskar and the Suru Valley on the Himalaya's northern flanks receive heavy snow in winter, this feeds the glaciers from which melt water, carried down by streams, irrigates the fields in summer. For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water. 

For nearly 900 years, from the middle of the 10th century, Ladakh was an independent kingdom, its ruling dynasties descending from the kings of old Tibet. The kingdom attained its greatest geographical extent and glory in the early 17th century under the famous king Singge Namgyal, whose domain extended across Spiti and western Tibet right up to the Mayum-la, beyond the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. 

Leh Place 
Leh Palace, looking for the entire world like a miniature version of the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet, Leh Place was built in the 17th century, but is now deserted and dilapidated. The place is just an amble up any old laneway at the back of the mosque.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, built in 1430, contains a fine storey high Buddha image and ancient manuscripts and frescoes. The steep laneway starts from the road to the Leh Palace. 

Sankar Gompa
Sankar Gompa, this interesting little gompa, which belongs to the Gelukpa order, has electric lighting so an evening visit is worthwhile. Upstairs is an impressive representation of Avalokitesvara (Chenresig, the Buddhist deity of Compassion) complete with 1000 arms and 1000 heads, a library, and great views from the roof. 

Shanti stupa
Shanti stupa, looming impressively, especially at night-time when it is well lit up, this stupa (Buddhist religious monument) was built by a Japanese, Indian-based man whose intention was to spread Buddhism by building temples throughout the world. 

Hemis Gompa
Hemis Gompa, also known as Chang-Chub-Sam-Ling (or the Lone place of the Compassionate person), Hemis Gompa, which belongs to the Drukpa order and was founded in the early 17th century, is 45 km from Leh. The gompa has an excellent library, well preserved frescoes, showing some Kashmiri influence, and good Buddha figures. 

Shey Gompa
Shey Gompa, 15 km from Leh, Shey was the former summer palace of the kings of Ladakh. The gompa is partially used, and is being restored. There is a small libraryand a collection of thangkas, and some stupas and mani walls nearby. 

Phyang 
Not far past Spituk, a long, roughish track off the main road leads to the pretty village of Phyang. Mani walls lead to the little-visited gompa which was built around the 15th century by king Tashi Namgyal, and now houses about 45 monks who belong to the Kagyupa order. There's a bronze Buddha statue reputedly almost 1000 years old, and some huge thangkas, one of which is unrolled once a year during the annual Phyang Festival held around July / August. 

Likir 
Located 5 km from the main road, just before Saspul, is another magnificent gompa, overlooking the village of Likir. Known as the Klu-Kkhyil (water spirits) Gompa, it was founded in the 14th century, and was the first gompa in Ladakh known to have been built under the direction of Tibetan monks. 

Alchi 
A busy village with several good places to stay and eat. It is a pretty place, especially at the end of summer when villagers are harvesting, and is worth staying to break up the long haul between Leh and Kargil or Srinagar. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the Alchi Gompa is that it is the only one in the Ladakhi region on flat ground, so no knee breaking climbing is involved. The gompa was founded in the 11th century by the Great Translator, Ringchen Zangpo, on his return from India, which accounts for the Indian and particularly, Kashmiri influences. 

Lamayuru 
It comes as a surprise to find that Lamayuru is a scruffy little place. But it is completely overshadowed by one of the most famous and spectacularly set gompas in Ladakh. The gompa, part of the Kagyupa order, is not as interesting as others; it's location that makes it special. The oldest known gompa in Ladakh, dating back beyond the 10th century, it has been destroyed and restored several times over the centuries.

NUBRA VALLEY
Nubra is applied to the region comprising the valley of the river Nubra and that of the Shayok, both above and below their confluence, where they meander in many shifting channels over a broad sandy plain, before flowing off to the north-west to join the Indus in Baltistan. 

The Shayok and Nubra rivers drain the east and west sides of the Saser sub-range of Karakoram. The route from Leh crosses over the Khardung-la, the highest motorable road in the world. The line of the road is different from that of the old pony-trail, longer and actually higher (18,300 ft 5,578 m). The view from the top is amazing. One can see all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif. For several kilometers, on each side of the pass, the road, covered by deep snow in winter, is rough. For the rest of the way the road is good. At the confluence of the two rivers there is no dearth of water, but the sandy soil is not suitable for agriculture, which is confined to the alluvial fans where side streams drain into the main valley. The valley floor itself is covered with dense thickets of a thorny shrub, which the villagers use for fuel and for fencing, though there is now less need for this than there was in the days of the caravan trade with Central Asia when up to 10,000 horses a year are said to traverse the district. The villages are large and prosperous, and have thick plantations of willow and poplar. The altitude is a little less than that of Leh, varying between 10,000 ft (3,231 m) at Hundar, and 10,600 ft (3231 m) at Panamik. Summer temperatures vary between 15oC and 28oC. 

The main village is Deskit, which has a bazaar comprising of single line of shops, and a gompa situated on a rocky spur above the village with a commanding view. From Deskit, the route follows the course of the Shayok to Hundar, past an area of rolling sand dunes, with their contours liable to shift with every gale. There is a small population of the shaggy double-humped Bactrian camels, which in the old days were used as pack animals on the Central Asian trade route. During the past 50 years, they have been bred for transport purposes in Nubra. Today visitors to Nubra can use these animals for going on camel safaris. 

The other circuit proceeds up the Nubra River, taking in the pretty villages of Tirit, Lukung, Tegar and Sumur. Nubra's other major monastery. Samsta-ling is situated on the mountainside just above Sumur. This was the route taken by the trade caravans. Panamik, the last village on this circuit, was at that time a busy center, being the last major settlement before the caravans entered into the mountains of Karakoram and the Kun-Lu. Here they halted for a few days to make final preparations for the journey across the mountains, or to recuperate on the way back. The Government maintained a granary to sell food grains for the men and even for the horses. But this arrangement was insufficient for the amount of the traffic, and the villagers made huge profits, selling grain and fodder and letting out their fodder-fields for the horses to graze in. Today, Panamik is a sleepy village, its inhabitants quietly going about their work in the fields. On the mountainside above the village, hot water bubbles out of the earth in thermal springs, reputed to have therapeutic qualities. Across the river, clinging to the mountains, are a few trees rooted among the rocks surrounding the tiny Ensa gompa.

PANGONG LAKE
This route proceeds past the picturesque villages of Shey and Thiksey, and turns into the side-valley of Chemrey and Sakti. The Ladakh range is crossed by the Chang-la (18,000 ft / 5,475 m) which is one of the easier passes remaining open for much of the year even in winter. Tangtse, just beyond the foot of the pass, with an ancient temple and a Tourist Bungalow, is a convenient halting point on this circuit. 
Pangong Lake, at an altitude of 4,267 Mt. is a narrow long basin of inland drainage, six  to seven Km. at its widest point and 130 Km. long, bisected by the international border between India and China. We can go up to seven kilometers, as far as Spangmik village which falls on southern shore. It affords spectacular views of mountains of Changchenmo range to north, their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lake's brackish waters. Above the Spangmik are snow-capped peaks of Pangong range. The villages along the southern shore are the summer home of a scanty population of Chang-pa, the nomadic herds people of Tibet and south-east Ladakh. The route passes by picturesque Shey and Thisy, turns off the Indus valley by the side-valley of Chemrey and Sakti. The Ladakh range is crossed by the Chang-la  (5,475Mt. which despite great height is one of the easier passes. The major town across this pass is Tangtse, from there onwards are various picturesque villages and hamlets. 

The main attraction of this circuit is the Pangong Lake, situated at an altitude of 14,000 ft (4,267m). It is a long narrow basin of inland drainage, hardly 6 to 7 Km at its widest point, and over 130 Km long, and bisected by the international border between India and China. Spangmik, the farthest point up to which foreigners are permitted, is about 7 Km along the southern shore from the head of the lake. It presents a spectacular view of the mountains of the Chang-chenmo range to the north, their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lakeâs brackish waters. Above Spangmik are the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Pangong range. Spangmik and a scattering of other tiny villages along the lake's southern shore are the summer homes of a scanty population of Chang-pa, the nomadic herdsmen of Tibet and southeast Ladakh. The Pangong Chang-pa cultivate sparse crops of barley and peas in summer. It is in winter that they unfold their yak wool tents called rebo, and take the flocks of sheep and pashmina goats out to the distant pastures.   

ZANSKAR
The western parts of Ladakh comprising the river valleys, which are drained and formed by the Himalayan tributaries of the high Indus, constitute Kargil district. Prominent among these are the spectacular valleys of Suru and Zanskar, which lie nestled along the northern flank of the Great Himalayan wall. The smaller lateral valleys of Drass, Wakha-Mulbek and Chiktan constitute important subsidiaries.

This region formed part of the erstwhile Kingdom of Ladakh. In fact it is believed to be the first to be inhabited by the early colonizers of Ladakh, the Indo-Aryan Mons from across the Great Himalayan range, assorted Dard immigrants from down the Indus and the Gilgit valleys and itinerant nomads from the Tibetan highlands. Also, being contiguous with Baltistan, Kashmir, Kulu etc. these valleys are believed to have served as the initial recipients of successive ethnic and cultural influences emanating from the neighboring regions. Thus, while the Mons are believed to have introduced north-Indian Buddhism to these valleys, the Dard and Balti immigrants are credited with introducing farming and the Tibetan nomads with the tradition of herding and animal husbandry.

About 15,000 sq. Km. in area, Kargil district has an agrarian population of approximately 120,000 people, who cultivate the land, along the course of the drainage system, wherever artificial irrigation from mountain streams is possible. About 85 % are Muslims, mainly of the Shia sect, Islam having been introduced to the original Buddhist population around the middle of the 16th century by missionaries from Kashmir and Central Asia. Their descendants, locally titled Agha, are mostly religious scholars who continue to hold sway over the population, even as the age-old traditions of Buddhist and animistic origin are discernible in the culture. Many elements of the ancient supernatural belief systems, especially many traditions connected with agricultural practices, are still followed with subdued reverence. 

KARGIL:
About 20 Km south-east of Rangdum stands the Panzila axis, across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys. The Penzila pass (4,401m) is a picturesque tableland surrounded by snow-covered peaks.As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of Penzi-la to the head of the Stod valley, the majestic " Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, "Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda tributary of the Zanskar River rises. Zanskar is a tri-armed valley system situated between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountains, the three arms radiating star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse. Here the Zanskar River comes into being by the confluence of its two Himalayan tributaries, the Stod/Doda and the Lingti-Tsarap rivers. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the regionâs approximately 14,000 strong, mainly Buddhist population, live. 



General Information

Area

97,000 sq Km out of which nearly 38,000 sq. Km are under Chinese Occupation since 1962.

Population

Approx. 2.40 lakh in the 2 districts of Leh & Kargil.

Languages Ladakhi including Balti / Purgi, Shina or Dardic, Urdu / Hindi.
Ethnic Composition Mongoloid/Tibetan, Dardic and assorted Indo-Aryan elements.
Temperature

Summer 25oC 8oC, Winter (-) 5oC (-) 5oC

Rain-fall

15cm, 6" (annual average)

Clothing Cotton & light woolens in summer and heavy woolens including down-filled wind proof upper garments in winter.
Altitude

3505 meter

STD Code 01982