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Traveling Ladakh: Land of Many Passes
By Stanzin Wangtak

Abundance of Natural Beauty and Adventure Makes Ladakh an International Tourist Destination

Everyone in the world these days has a common question; when will Corona end? While we wait to get back to our normal lives and travel again after we get over Covid 19 we can best utilise this time planning how and where to travel after corona is over.

South Asia has plenty of  interesting options for post pandemic travel. One such must visit place is Ladakh. Situated in the extreme north of India, in the Himalayas, 10,000-15,000 feet above sea level, Ladakh, is a place with bounty of nature as well as adventure.

Why should you travel Ladakh

Not one but many reasons to visit Ladakh. Ladakh literally means a land of many passes. Ladakh has plenty of landscape and is full of lakes and natural treks. Not only the tracking routes, Ladakh has high mountain peaks to climb, river rafting, spectacular lakes, Monastic culture and sunny warm weather during  summer and extremely cold weather during winter. The best time to visit is from June to August.

Ladakh is a vast land spread across 59,146 km square and has many interesting border areas and landscapes explore. It touches Tibet in the east, Kashmir in the west, Indian state of Himachal Pradesh in the south, and Xinjiang province of China in the north. It is basically a cold desert. It was an independent kingdom until the Dogras of Jammu captured it in 1834 and subsequently became a part of India in 1948. 

Places to Visit in Ladakh

Nubra valley 

Diskit, the capital of Nubra lies 120 kms north of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The other places of interest in Nubra are Hunder, where there are sandunes and double-humped camel rides; Turtuk, the beautiful village just at the border with Pakistan; Panamik hot springs; and you can now even go till the base camp of the Siachen glacier, the highest battleground of the world.

Nubra valley 
NUBRA VALLEY 

On the way from Leh to Nubra you cross the Khardong pass, the highest motorable pass in the world, where there is snow beside the road throughout the year. 

Pangong Pso Lake 

This beautiful lake lies in the eastern Ladakh region of Changthang, about 160 kms from Leh. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Only one-third of this lake is in India, the rest lies in China. Therefore, being on the border, there are no boat rides here, but you can swim in it, if  cold water doesn’t bother you. Once again, being in the land of passes, you have to cross the Chang-la pass to reach this lake. 

Tsomo-ri-ri Lake 

This lake is also in Changthang. It lies about 230 kms from Leh. The main difference between this lake and Pangong is that this lake is just beside an inhabited village of Korzok, and it is the breeding ground of many migratory birds, especially the protected Black-necked crane. Here too there are no boat rides, but you are free to swim. 

Zangskar

Beside these three places, you could visit Zangskar, in south-west Ladakh. This area is visited less by tourists and therefore is more traditional (Ladakhi) than Leh. But to reach Zangskar during summer, you have to first go to Kargil, as there is no direct road from Leh.

But during winter you can reach Zangskar from Leh by walking on the frozen Zangskar river, which is famous by the name of the Chadar trek. Enroute, you stop at night in caves beside the river! Wow. 

Da-Hanu

In the western lower reaches of Leh district, there lie twin villages of Da and Hanu. These two villages are inhabited by people of the Aryan race, quite different from other Ladakhis, who belong to the Chinese-Mongolian race. These villages have a distinct cultural and appearance. The traditional Da-Hanu people can be easily recognised by the flowers they wear in their head-dress.

Beside these places you can get a taste of the Monastic culture of Ladakh by visiting villages around Leh town, like Sanker, Spituk, Shey, Stok, Matho, Thiksey, Stakna, Chemre, Takthok, Hemis, Phyang, Liker, Alchi, etc.

Da-Hanu
DA-HANU

Interested in Ladakhi history? you can visit the museums at Hemis and Stok. And if you are interested in war memorials, you can visit the Hall of Fame near Leh town or the Kargil War Memorial in Drass, 300 kms from Leh.

In the Leh town area you will also find the 16th century Leh palace, Japanese monastery- Shanti Stupa and the revered Tsemo monastery. 

How to travel Ladakh 

Leh is connected by flights to Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar, Chandigarh, and during summer with Mumbai. The flights to and from Delhi are most frequent.

If you are adventurous you could drive or ride to Ladakh from Srinagar or Manali, but these two roads remain open only during the summer. 

Where to stay

There are no classified hotels or other accommodations in Ladakh. But you will get decent hotels to stay in Leh town at prices ranging from Rs 1500 to 4500 per night with breakfast. There are cheaper guesthouses for as less as Rs 500 per night for room only.

In Nubra valley there are mostly tented accommodations, guesthouses, and a few hotels, best among them being The Stone Hedge in Hunder.

Only a few hotels in Ladakh remain open during the winter due to extreme cold. Though there are some tented accommodations near the Pangong lake, stay there if you have your own extra warm bedding, because there is no heating and it gets very cold even at the peak of summer.

Near the Tsomo-ri-ri lake there are guesthouses and tented accommodations available. You can also carry your own tents, to be set-up at rented space.

In Zangskar and Da-Hanu there are a few guesthouses. You may also find some home-stay facilities here. 

Visit Ladakh: But a little caution

As I mentioned Ladakh is situated at the altitude of 10,000-15,000 feet. I would like to stress, persons with breathing problems avoid visiting Ladakh. The air here is rarefied and many people develop signs of high altitude sickness.

The only solution to avoid this is to get used to the high altitude by resting for the first 48 hours after landing in Ladakh, or choose to travel by road. And yes! Be prepared for a bumpy ride on the high passes, where the snow keeps melting in summer and eats up the road. Happy journey! Welcome to Ladakh!

(Stanzin Wangtak is Ladakh based writer and businessman)

(The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, beliefs and view point of the owners of asiannewsmakers.com)

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