Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is breathtaking. The cold desert land, over the magnificent Himalayas is a beautiful and scary experience at once. Leh Palace illuminated by huge halogen lamps looks like a bewitching castle on a hilltop set ablaze in the dark nights of the Leh. Drive in the city is as exciting as the wonders it has in its lap with the long isolated winding road that opens up into a sheer expanse of arid flatness in burnt sienna. There is blinding sun at the top and perhaps at the first impression, a visitor is not likely to appreciate the blessings of the land fully.
Bon and Buddhism rule the lifestyle and culture of the people here. The Chortens (Stupas) and enchanting Gompas (Monasteries) adorn the city with their presence. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and there is an ominous beauty in the stark surroundings of Ladakh. The Hinayana Buddhist way of life lends a benevolent spirit to the very air of the region. Sightseeing of the historic monuments and major Buddhist gompas (monasteries) are the main attractions of Ladakh. The capital, since the construction of its nine-storey Leh Palace in the early 17th century, A few kms up the Indus is Shey Palace, the most ancient capital, with its palace and temples. Down river, Basgo, right on the road, and Tingmosgang, a short distance up a side-valley, both served as royal capitals when the Old Kingdom was temporarily divided into two parts in the 15th century. Leh offers many excursions such as Hemis Monastery which is one of the largest and famous monasteries belonging to Dukpa Order. Likir Monastery belongs to Gelukspa Order and Lamayuru Monastery belongs to Drigunp order are a splendid sight.
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, Kullu etc. these valleys are believed to have served as the initial recipients of successive ethnic and cultural influences emanating from the neighbouring 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.
The Zanskar valley is noted for its high ranges, fine Gompas and gentle people. The most isolated of all Himalayan valleys, Inaccessible for 8 months in a year, it is now popular destination with trekkers. Set in a plain where two swift flowing tributaries join to form the Zanaskar River. Padum the main habitation and the sub divisional headquarter. Close to the town area of ancient rock carving and two picturesque monasteries, the stagrimo and pibting gompas. And two hours trek from padum takes one to karsha and other interesting monasteries
This valley of flowers is perhaps the most inexplicably beautiful place you can ever dream of visiting. Once a trading route through the Karakoram ranges from Tibet to Turkistan, it was only recently opened to tourists. The road to the valley, inaccessible for most of the year, is wild and treacherous, and at the same time breathtaking -with its arresting view of the stately Karakoram Mountains. There is only one road to Nubra valley: the road from Leh, through Khardungla pass, the world's highest motorable road. At 18,380 feet above sea level, this road is under snow cover all through the year. As you drive at that dizzy height, with a sheer fall on one side, you'll know what it's like to be driving through the mountains that are among the worlds highest
The drive to Tso-moriri seems eternal. Once you drive off the tarred road along the Indus you're faced with miles and miles of land running through the mountains with nothing on the way, save a few refreshment tents flapping away in the scorching afternoon wind. The drive to Tsomoriri is no doubt grueling and long; but where you reach at the end of it all is probably worth a hundred such journeys. When the lake is just round the next mountain, it yet can't be seen, but you know it's there as you are suddenly hit by a blast of chilled air. And the rough, dusty brown landscape starts easing out into shades of green; Small marmots peek over rocks at passing cars like a Disney animation, the snowcaps fade into view and the cold breeze continues to blow
The only thing India and China have in common: its blue, brackish waters extend across the Indo-Chinese border. It was only few years ago that the government decided to allow tourists to visit this natural beauty. The Lake is 134 km long and only 40% of it lies in India, while the rest extends into China.
Its mesmerizing, serene beauty captivates everyone as it stays in your minds long after youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re returned home -those white sands crunching under you feet, marmots peeking over rocks and dancing on small patches of green, the bar headed geese forming patterns in the heaving waters, the birds returning home as the golden orb (bigger than you've ever seen) dips into the water, your feet taking strange shapes as the transparent ripples coalesce at the surface - these images and sensations stay on long after memories of the rest of your trip have faded away.
One of the most beautiful regions of Ladakh, the Suru Valley forms the mainstay of Kargil district. Lying nestled along the north-eastern foothills of the great Himalayan Wall, it extends from Kargil town, first southward for a length of about 75 Kms Upto the expanse around Panikhar, thence eastward for another stretch of nearly 65 kms upto the foot of the Penzila watershed where the Suru valley rises. Its composite population of about 30,000 -- mainly of Tibeti-Darad descent -- is Muslims who had converted their Buddhist faith around the middle of the 16th century.
Monasteries of Ladakh
Then there are the Buddhist monasteries (Gompa), treasure troves of images and artifacts, of which about a dozen are situated on or near the Indus River. Upstream of leh are the monasteries of Thiksey, Stakna, Hemis, Chemrey, Takthok, Matho, Phyang, Likir, Alchi, Rizong and Lamayuru