Leh And Ladakh- Into The Cold Desert Town Of India

Placed in the Himalayan range, enveloped by natural charisma, is the cold desert town of Ladakh. It is one of the most popular tourist magnets of the country, attracting a large enormous number of trekkers and mountaineering enthusiasts throughout the high season. History, nature and religion all amalgamate in this interesting location to offer a mesmerizing experience to travellers. If a unique week off is what you are looking forward to, Leh and Ladakh is just the perfect place to be at.

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Places On Your Leh And Ladakh Check list

Khardung la pass

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The Khardung La Pass is also known as the ‘Khardzong La’ that happens to be nothing short of paradise for mountain bikers, hence a must on the checklist of bikers. Seated at an elevation of 5359 metres, this pass acts as a connecting pathway between India and the Siachen glacier. The Khardung la pass is .remains closed from July to August and November to February due to extreme weather conditions.

Kargil

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In the Kargil district of Leh region lies the town of Kargil that lies along the bank of the Indus river. This place has become a unique seat in the history of warfare as you might all know already. After the LOC war of 1999 between India and Pakistan, the town became the talk of the town for years. However, Kargil is not always political, it is also a haven for adventurers due to amazing trekking and mountaineering avenues.

Shanti Stupa

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Popular for its architectural magnificence, the Shanti Stupa is an intricate symbol of the Tibetan culture and is perhaps the first tourist spot for all travelling into Leh and Ladakh. The Stupa faces the amazing Leh Palace and was constructed with joint efforts of a Japanese Buddhist and buddhists of this region. As you reach the grounds of the Stupa, you will be rewarded with amazing views of entire Leh and Ladakh.

Zanskar Valley

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Zanskar valley represents mystic beauty and boasts of steep terrain and giant mountains dripped in snow. With such captivating panoramic views, no wonder this valley has caught up a lot with travellers. Zanskar valley rests between two lakes with quite a few attractions in the surrounding valley. Water sports is something you can try in this region. Zanskar experiences heavy snowfall throughout the year and even so, it continues to be one of those continually coldest inhabited places in the world.

Pangong Lake

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Pangong is a Tibetan word for highland which sounds true for its origin as the lake rests at an astounding height of 4350 metres and freezes entirely during winter months. It’s one of the most magical places in the entire country as it changes colours throughout the day, from light blue to hazel blue to complete green at a time, if it gets moody, it can turn grey too! So, if you miss this one from your Leh and Ladakh checklist, your trip will be a huge failure!

Leh Palace

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The Leh palace is also known by the name ‘Lhachen Palkhar’. The palace is a nine storey building and acts as a symbol of the Namgyal Dynasty’s presence in the region. Overlooking the entire town of Leh, it is most fun to be here during the Galdam Namchot festival in December as the entire place is lit and decorated during this festival. Although, the palace used to much more royal in the 19th century, it is still a sight to relish. Its upkeep and maintenance has been taken care of by the Archaeological Survey of India. 

Tso Moriri

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Tso Moriri is one of the most beautiful lakes of the region and happens to be a twin of the Pangong Lake that spreads over 28 kms in length. Yes, no kidding! As called ‘the mountain lake’ Tso Moriri is entirely wrapped by mountains and serves as a home to several migrating birds like the goose, the grebe and the brown headed gull. Unlike its twin, its popularity is less, hence it is calm and tranquil. An absolute place to seek solace in Leh and Ladakh.

Nubra Valley

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First things first, tthe Nubra valley is under military supervision as it lies near the Line of Actual Control so you need to arrange permits to visit the location. This valley that was once a trading route connecting eastern Tibet with Turkistan via the famous Karakoram Pass, has been opened for travellers not so long ago. The trip to Nubra itself is unforgettable as it takes you on a ride through the world’s econd highest motorable road, aka the Khadungla pass. The never-ending landscapes, giant mountain faces, crazy trails with the musical Shyok river flowing amidst the valley will steal your breath away at first sight.

Namgyal Monastery

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Namgyal Tsemo monastery or the Namgyal Gompa is a popular Buddhist monastery in Leh that dates back to the year 1430 founded by King Tashi Namgyal with a grand three storey statue of Maitreya Buddha sitting on a hilltop that overlooks the entire city. There is an entry fee of INR 30 and it s a climb uphill, but it is worth every bit of it.

Drass Valley

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The ‘gateway to Ladakh’, Drass valley lies in the Kargil district, just about 2 kms away from the Drass city. It is India’s coldest inhabited place and the 2nd coldest in the world with a stark temperature of -45 degrees Celsius, in winters. Bone drilling. Need more? Drass recorded a temperature of -60 degrees in the year 1995. Despite this unbeatable challenge, it is a marvel to wonder at. For the intrepids, you must know it serves as a base for many long treks like the Suru valley and Amarnath Cave. A must on the Leh and Ladakh checklist for ardent hikers.

Ladakhi cuisine- Best of the best

Phirni

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This is a sweet delicacy made up of milk, sugar, vermicelli and rice. Not only is it popular in Ladakh, it has earned quite a name worldwide. But Phirni can be tasted at its authentic best in Ladakh. It is a milk based sweetmeat and gets its inspiration from the Iranian rice pudding. Phirni is prepared and then served chilled in an earthen pot.

Butter tea

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Ever heard of this one? It is a popular beverage in Ladakh. Tea in Ladakh is prepared in a special wooden vessel and is incomplete without chunks of butter. But, you won’t find that on the restaurant menu as it is an authentic homemade traditional drink.

Qahwa

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Qahwa is as popular in Ladakh as it is in Kashmir. People of Leh Ladakh drink it in small portions throughout the day. It is a preparation of cinnamon, saffron, sweetener and boiled water. It keeps the body warm and is an essential drink of the hilly region. If you like it, you can buy packets of Qahwa powder to take back with you.

Mothuk

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This dish is a combination of soup and momos. Since at high altitudes, soup is a prerequisite, people of Ladakh combine it with momos and it tastes really amazing. Vegetables are added to the soup and then momos to top it all. All dumpling lovers, your Leh and Ladakh checklist should check this one out definitely.

Paba

Paba is a signature delicacy of the area and is a dough made from barley flour and Ladakh black peas and is served with buttermilk and vegetables.

Things You Must Explore In Ladakh

Leh and Ladakh is the land of endless adventure. There are abundant activities to keep you busy for an entire month, but you have to select a handful as per the duration of your trip. Here is an assorted list of things you just cannot afford to miss while on a trip to this amazing high heaven.

Hemis festival

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This Hemis festival is the most anticipated occasion for all Ladakhis. Participants perform a beautiful traditional dance called the Chhamas that you just cannot afford to miss. There are colourful clothes, vibrant masks, and  dramatic theater. Celebrated annually in the month of July, the festivals celebrates the victory of good over evil.

Try Yak Cheese

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Yak cheese is a specialty of hilly and mountainous regions. A few people in Ladakh rear Yak among the cattle and so, its kind of an old tradition and delicacy of this region. Sources vouch for it- it is way more delicious and creamy than the usual cheese with a rich texture. Its local name is Chuppri.

Visit Monasteries

Visit monasteries and meet the locals in Leh Ladakh- morning prayers at the monasteries will give you a soul soothing experience in the hills. You can even stay overnight. It’s rightfully said, ‘you can find nirvana here’. Meeting the locals will let you into the realistic interiors of Ladakh. This way you can experience the culture at its closest best

Magnetic Hill

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Wondering why this place didn’t rank higher in the list? It deserves even a better place! The magnetic hill literally pulls vehicles uphill whereas in fact, it is being pulled downhill and it is no magic. It is a scientific phenomenon. Although, the magnetic hill is not really a hill, but appears to be like one due to its surrounding slopes.  So, if you wish to defy gravity for once, you get your chances here.

Drang Drung Glacier

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Wondering why this place didn’t rank higher in the list? It deserves even a better place! The magnetic hill literally pulls vehicles uphill whereas in fact, it is being pulled downhill and it is no magic. It is a scientific phenomenon. Although, the magnetic hill is not really a hill, but appears to be like one due to its surrounding slopes.  So, if you wish to defy gravity for once, you get your chances here.

Biking Around Umling la Pass

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The Umling la pass is the highest motorable road in the world at an altitude of 19,000 ft surpassing all other passes by a huge difference. And, if you are visiting Ladakh, you just cannot miss biking here. A lot of bikers visit Ladakh just to live their dream driving through the Umling la pass.

Best Time to Visit Ladakh

There are two distinct time spans to visit Ladakh, one is during April- May. During this time, you can visit almost all locations and destinations withot much trouble. This time span is also the high season when tourists flock in on huge numbers. The other best duration to visit Leh and Ladakh is September- October. It is the perfect time to explore the outdoors, and you can enjoy plenty of adventure sports during this time- mountain biking and Jeep safaris through the high passes, ice hocky in the cold deserts and river rafting in the Zanskar and Indus rivers. Trekking trails too, are almost open all around the region. 

So, all said and done, what are you waiting for?