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Rather, the most sought after tourist destination is Pangong Tso in Ladakh region. It is the highest among the high altitude lakes in India which is filled with saline water but provides some awe-struck moments to the visitors with the unbelievable phenomenon of changing colours quite a number of times a day.
The reflections of the towering Himalayan peaks in the water add more charm to the lake. Currently, Pangong Tso is the favourite location for tourists as the banks of the lake give soothing bed to relax and the nearby places are enhanced by the beauty of this particular lake. The quiet lake is 134 km in length and 5 km in width is situated at an altitude of 14270 meters. But the major share of the lake lies in the area of China. Now, its recognition is spread everywhere in the world because it is termed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The highly saline water does not accommodate any water species not even micro-organisms. But the banks of the lake give space for several birds and animals very rarely seen in the other parts of India. It is an important breeding ground for many migratory birds as well.
Height: The lake is located at an altitude of 4250 meters above sea level.
Location: Pangong Tso is easily accessible as it can be reached after a five-hour drive from Leh and the travel would be on a rough and dramatic mountain road. You will cross the villages of Shey and Gya during the tour and go through Chang La as well.
Best time to visit: The months from May to September are the ideal time to visit the lake as the other seasons may cause challenges due to the heavy snowfall.
Something divine makes Nubra Valley close to heart and it is not an exaggeration but a fact that experienced and shared by the countless tourists visited the paradisiacal location in Jammu and Kashmir. Without touching the spectacular roads of Nubra Valley, a Ladakh tour will not be complete. The tri-armed valley has Diskit Village as its capital. Ldumra, a magnificent name is the original name of the valley as the local scholars insist. Ldumra means Valley of Flowers. The large valley is formed after the merging of Shyok River with Nubra or Siachen River causing the separation of the Ladakh and the Karakoram Ranges. The valley is located 10000 feet that is 3048 meters above mean sea level and those who cross the Khardung La Pass can easily come to Nubra Valley from Leh.
Except for the river beds, every other place in the valley shows scant vegetation and low precipitation levels. Most of the villages in the valley are occupied by Nubra skat speakers and in the villages, one can find lush greenery and farming which happen through the regular irrigation. Diskit is the place where native people are seen in abundance and Diskit Monastery is the centre of attraction as well. The Shyok River flowing on one side of Diskit has a captivating effect on the visitors. Nubra Valley unwinds a lot of surprising sights when you visit it and an unbelievable fact is that the valley was open to the public till Hunder until 2010. Beyond Hunder, it was the greener region in the lower altitude where the Turtuk village exists. Till 2010, the Government did not allow tourists to mesmerize themselves in the magnificent beauty of Turtuk where numerous apricot trees and other vegetation along with the tribal community were preserved as a virgin.
Height: 3048 meters above the sea level
Location: The paradisiacal Nubra Valley is located at a distance of 140 km from Leh and the main road access to the valley is through Khardung La pass where you have to show the photocopies of your travel permit to the soldiers camping.
Best time to visit: The months from June to September is the perfect period to visit Nubra Valley
To see the pure, rugged face of nature, One must visit Ladakh once in their lifetime.
Controversies regarding the proclamation that Khardung La is the highest motorable pass in the world is not yet diminished but Ladakh travelers still believe that it is the highest and most adventurous pass in the world. Despite the controversies, Khardung La keeps on attracting hundreds of adventure seekers every year, be it bikers, trekkers or visitors. Nestled amidst the most reverberating surrounding, the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’ is located at an altitude of 17582 feet. Near to the pass, the collection of awesome valleys will lure you and along with the natural extravaganzas, the Tibetan prayer flags are an additional charm.
The pass was constructed in the year of 1976 and later in 1988, it was opened to public and from then on, the pass was inviting uncountable bikers, trekkers and tourists. It is maintained by the Border roads Organization as the pass is highly significant and important to India because it was once used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. Recently, Khardung La became the hot potato of the town with a happy news that a ten member team of visually impaired people is going to conquer the pass through cycling in 2017.
Height: Khardung La is located at an altitude of 5359 meters. But there is an incorrect proclamation on the signboards appear here saying that the height of the pass is 18379 feet.
Location: The highest motorable pass in Ladakh is lying about 39 kms away from Leh. By road, one can reach the pass. The first 24 kms of the road are paved and from there to the North Pullu check post, the 15 kms of the road are filled with loose rock, dirt and occasional rivulets formed after the melting of snow.
Best time to visit: The season between May to October is the best time to visit Khardung La.
It won’t be exceeding at all how much you describe the beauty of Tso Moriri in Ladakh, a highly protected lake in Changthang Region and a significant portion of Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. It is the largest of all high altitude lakes in India especially in Ladakh and is located at an altitude of 4522 meters above the sea level. The length comes to 26 km north to south and 3 to 5 km is the width and the water is wholly brackish.
The water to feed the lake comes from the springs and melted snow from the nearby mountains. There are two major stream systems to lead the water to the lake. One in the north part of the lake and the other comes in the southwest part. Huge, extensive marshes are seen at both the entrances of the lake. Rupshu Valley, a breathtaking area is the guardian of Tso Moriri along with an array of the lofty Himalayan Mountains in the surrounding.
The number of people come to witness the beauty of this splendid lake is lesser when compared to that of Pangong Lake. It is because of the secluded location of the lake. Hence, it is a favorite home town for many migratory birds. They come to breed here especially birds like great- crested grebe, the brown-headed gull and the Brahmin duck. The rare Himalayan hares are also abundantly seen near the lake. Thus, the declaration of the lake as a reserved area is a right option to protect these species from extinction. Less human interference would keep their lives strong.
Height: The lake is situated at an altitude of 4522 meters.
Location: You can reach Tso Moriri via road from Leh. It is 150 kms away from Leh Airport. Kalka Railway station is the nearest one to the lake. You will get buses and taxis from the station as well.
Best time to visit: May, June, July and August are the peak season when tourists come to Tso Moriri in large numbers and other months will be filled with snow and have extreme cold conditions.
The white dome of Shanti Stupa is clearly visible from a far distance when you are on a tour of Leh. Peace Pagoda got its name like that because of many reasons mainly the silence persists in and around the pagoda always. This Buddhist prayer center is the most beloved attraction in Jammu and Kashmir. At a height of 4267 meters, the two storied stupa stands holding its head high and overlooks the bustling Leh town. The uneven mountain terrains in the surrounding gives the pagoda a remarkable shining. It is at a location which is 5 km away from Leh town and one who visits the stupa has to climb five hundred steps. The exotic view of the Himalayan peaks turns the beauty of the stupa also, a peace lover would dedicate his life to have such overjoying moments.
The stupa was constructed by both Japanese and Ladakh Buddhists. The construction was started in 1983, many Buddhists and Indian Government officials have supervised the procedures throughout.
Structure of the stupa
Among the two structures of the pagoda, the first level depicts the central relief of Dharmachakra which has deer on each side and the turning wheel of Dharma also has a golden image of Buddha at the center. The second level displays images which show the birth of Budhha and the death as well. In addition, both the level have smaller images of Buddha meditating. The stupa came into existence in order to spread the word of peace and harmony among people and it came into establishment as a commemoration of the valuable 2500 years of Buddhism.
Location: Any one can reach the stupa via road from Leh, only 5 kms from the town, a walk of fifteen minutes would require.
Timings: 05:00 am to 09:00 pm
Highlights: The sunset and sunrise views from the stupa are inevitably beautiful
Magnetic Hill is still a mystery yet a famed attraction that pulls the adventure lovers on a large scale toward it. A mystifying phenomenon which stunts the science and fiction together and exists as a magic to the normal people visiting here. Magnetic Hill is a trump card of every Ladakh tour because of the awe-struck moments it would promise the travelers. There is a sign board placed which says that the hill defies gravity completely and inviting everyone to experience the magical phenomenon.
If you keep your vehicle in neutral at a position marked on the road and wait, you will be surprised to see the vehicle starts moving uphill at 10-20 km per hour. And this is the unexplainable feature of Magnetic Hill that confuses the world of science. It is located on Leh-Kargil-Baltic Highway and on the east, the beautiful Sindhu River is flowing calmly. Near the hill there is a Sikh Gurudwara maintained by the Indian Army. Due to the natural attraction as well as the human architectural brilliance, the hill has gained popularity in a short term.
Not just the vehicles hitting the road but the aircrafts and helicopters crossing the radius which Magnetic Hill comes in would feel the same magnetic effect. If the aircrafts are going on a slow pace, then it starts jerking while they are in the circumference of the hill. So the only solution to escape from the clutches of this phenomenon is that the crafts should move at a greater speed.
Height: Magnetic Hill is located at an elevation of 14000 feet above the sea level.
Location: To reach the hill, you can hit the Leh-Kargil-Baltic National Highway and it is situated at a distance of just 30 kms from Leh town.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the Magnetic Hill is from June to October.
The high elevation where Lamayuru Monastery is located at amuses every traveler comes here. Existing on Leh-Srinagar Highway, around 15 kms east of the Fotu La, the monastery is perched on a height of 3510 meters. The murals, frescoes and the images of Buddha have created an interesting setting inside this famous Buddhist temple.
Lamayuru Monastery was originally the monastery belonged to Bon and the name means Swastika which symbolized eternity. The history says that an Indian scholar named Naropa caused a lake to dry up and there founded Lamayuru Monastery. Seng ge Sgang is the oldest building surviving which is dedicated to the builder-monk, Rinchen Zangpo.
The structure of the monastery
There were actually five buildings in the beginning and still one can find the remaining of the four buildings located in the corner. In the past there, were up to 400 monks and currently there are 100 monks residing in the monastery. There is a small temple can be seen which is dedicated to Avalokiteshwara.
Location: The monastery is located at a distance of 127 km from Leh in the Lamayuru region. You can reach the monastery via road by bus or jeep.
Timings: It is open on all days from 06:00 am to 06:00 pm.
Entry fee: INR 30 per person
Highlights: There will be two annual Mask Dance festivals happen which is the most suitable time to visit the monastery.
After the endless mountain peaks, green valleys, high passes, monasteries in Ladakh are the prime factors behind the huge number of visitors to the paradise every year. Alchi Monastery, a group of Buddhist shrines is now a remarkable landmark and a must visit tourist attraction in Leh. The rugged valleys, uneven mountain terrains etc are creating a flamboyant view from the monastery and make the travelers feel elevated. Alchi is a part of the three villages that together constitute to the Alchi Group of Monuments.
Alchi Monastery and its current guardians are grateful the great translator Rinchen Zangpo who was the reason behind the construction of the monastery. He built it in the AD 1000 and there were 32 wood carvers and sculptors from Kashmir to help him. But when the Gelug sect decided to shift the activities to Likir Monastery permanently, it turned to be the administrative shrine of the Alchi Gompa, officially.
Structure of the monastery
Alchi Monastic Complex has three principal shrines named the Dukhang or Assembly Hall, the Sumtseng and the temple of Manjushri. Chortens have a special space inside the complex. The wall paintings seen inside are dating back to the spiritual and artistic nuances found in Buddhism and Hindu Kingdoms. Like we seen in other monasteries, here also, you will find the huge statues of Buddha and several wood carvings and art works appearing in Baroque style.
Location: The monastery is located in Alchi Village in the Leh District, 70 km from Leh.
Timing: May to September on all days: from 10:00 am to 01:00 pm and from 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm.
Entry Fee: For Indians: INR 25, For Foreigners: INR 50
Highlights: The views from the monastery have attracted a lot of film production sets. Good photographic location as well.
A nine storey high building displays the influence of Potala Palace in Lhasa is the famed Royal Leh Palace that stands with its head high on a cliff top overlooking the ravishing Leh town. Leh Palace is a must visit during anyone’s tour of Ladakh region as it has been standing there as a symbol of the old glorious days of the royal family lived here. The top floors accommodated the members of the regal community and the low floors were occupied by stables and stores.
In the 17th century, King Sengge Namgyal led the construction of Leh Palace and it gained fame in a short span of time. Later, it was termed as an architectural icon and the symbol of pride and glory of Leh. The history says that during the time when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh, Leh Palace was abandoned and the members of the family were asked to move to Stok Palace. The Archeological Survey of India has restored the valuable ruins of the palace and opened to the public as a remarkable tourist attraction.
Structure of the palace
There is a monastery behind the palace which is a part of the palace and there you will find the statue of a seating Buddha in there in the monastery behind the palace. On the walls of the palace, you will see the old pictures and paintings including Tibetan thangka.
Timings: The palace is open to the public on all days from 07:00 am to 04:00 pm
Entry fee: For Indians: INR 20 and for Foreigners: INR 100
Location: Leh Palace is closely located to the town. Visitors can reach the palace by walking from Leh town as it is about 5 kms away from there.
The Zanskar Range is the mountain range in Jammu and Kashmir that acts as the separating line between Ladakh and Zanskar. The Zanskar Range is a part of the Tethys Himalayas, formed with weakly transformed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is 6000 meters. It is an inevitable spot for adventure lovers during their adrenaline rushing trekking trips to the Trans Himalayas every year.
On the way to Zanskar Valley, one will come across the incredible Suru Valley which puts forth a decent trekking experience to adventure lovers. Zanskar is alluring always with its brightly shining mountain peaks and the presumably attracting villages, sometimes, it looks overshadowing the relishing Changthang Region as well. Tourism has caused a great enhancements on the economic side of the region like education flourished and the lifestyle of the people has changed but it took its toll on the fragile mountain environment.
Nevertheless, Zanskar is the favorite tourist destination still because of the vast area that is made beautiful by multiple hues, the distinct flora and fauna and the extremely variant climatic conditions. There are two main branches of the Zanskar River; one is Doda which has source near Pensi-La and flows south eastwards to reach Padum and the second one is formed by two tributaries called Kargyag River and it has source near Shingo La.
Height: The valley is situated at an average height of 6000 meters above the sea level.
Location: It is located at a distance of about 464 kms from Leh and would take around 10 to 11 hours to reach. Buses are available from Leh to reach the valley.
Best time to visit: The months of June, July, August and September are suitable to visit the Zanskar Range as the other months will cause heavy snowfall and the roads will be blocked.
Around 4400 sq.km is the area the prime attraction of Ladakh spreads into. We are talking about the renowned Hemis National Park named after the popular monastery in the region that is Hemis Monastery. The very rare species of wildlife is the reason behind its global recognition. Bharal and snow leopards are examples for the unseen animal collection found in Hemis National Park. The park is located on the west bank of the Indus River.
The animals, the flora, the birds and the nature in the park and its vicinity are coming under the highly protected areas and this is the only place in India where the protected snow leopards are seen in abundance. The Rumbak and Markha catchments were found to be protected with the discovery of the park in 1981 and it grew into 4400 sq.km in 1990 and becomes the largest national park in South Asia. Argali or the Great Tibetan Sheep, Shapu etc are the supporters of the prey base for the predators in Hemis. Asiatic Ibex, the Tibetan Wolf, the Eurasian brown bear and red fox are some of the endangered species found before and some are still present in the park. The crucial problem faced by the park is the regular animal-human conflicts because over 1600 people are living inside the park boundaries, mainly pastoralists living with poultry farming, goats and sheep.
Height: The elevation at which the park exists is 3000-6000 meters above the sea level.
Location: The park is located about 5 kms from Leh and Leh Airport is the closest airport to the park.
Best time to visit: To reach the park there are a number of trekking routes opened from Mid-June to Mid-October. But the best season to spot snow leopards is of course, in late winter.
Spituk Monastery in Ladakh has another name that is Pethup Gompa, very famous among the locals. It is located at a distance of 8 km from Leh and there are 100 monks inside the gompa. The major attraction at the monastery is the giant statue of Goddess Kali. The Buddhist monastery is at a site which was blessed earlier by Arhat Nyimagung.
Spituk Monastery was founded by Od-de. He was the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od. When he came to Maryul, he built the monastery and introduced the monastic community. But Lotsewa Rinchen Zangpo on his arrival said that an exemplary religious sect should be there and thus the name of the monastery was changed to Spituk which meant exemplary.
Structure of the monastery
There are three chapels in the gompa with numerous statues of Buddha and several thankas as well. The Dukhang Hall is the highlight and the two rows of seats running to a throne at the end are also something unique found here. Visitors will come across the beautiful sculptors and chortens.
Location: The monastery is perched on a thrilling hill top near Indus and about 8 kms away from Leh on Srinagar road. It is at an elevation of 3307 meters.
Timings: It is open on all days from 08:00 am to 01:00 pm.
Entry fee: INR 20 per person
Highlights: Gustor Festival held from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan Calendar and it is for two days with mask dance and prayers. Usually, the festival falls on winter time which guarantees the presence of natives in large but the number of tourists would be comparatively lesser.
Hall of Fame is a proud displayer of Indian Army simultaneously acts as the symbol of those dark days of India’s war against Pakistan. The museum that showcases seized arms and weapons of Pakistan army is located in Ladakh, the paradise of adventure lovers lying in the beautiful Himalayas. Moreover, the museum is considered to be a tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the war. To make it more appealing, the Indian Army has kept the photos and the things of those soldiers inside the museum. Also, the arranged items related to the history and culture of Ladakh, wildlife and vegetation have importance and amuses the visitors definitely.
There are things which enhance every Indian’s patriotic feelings as well as they let us appreciate the bravery shown by every Indian soldier during the wars, from the heart. Different quotes, letters written by the soldiers, the tools, aircrafts, weapons, tents and what all the soldiers have used during the period are preserved which give every visitor a minute to think and pay tribute to those brave hearts who lost their lives to help every one of us sleep in peace. Located next to Leh Airfield, the museum is opened on all days. Every day, visitors will be able to watch a detailed documentary on Operation Vijai or Kargil War screened.
Entry fee: For Indians: INR 10, for Foreigners: INR 50
Timings: 09:00 am to 01:00 pm and 03:00 pm to 07:00 pm
Highlight: Evening parade or march is a major event happening here
Location: 4 kms from the main town, on the way to Magnetic hill via Leh Srinagar Highway.
Tips: Camera and video are allowed inside but at an additional cost.
Rohtang Pass is quite famous among Ladakh travelers but the unpredictable avalanche and severe climatic conditions make it scary some times. Nonetheless, it had made adventure seekers’ tour of Ladakh mind-blowing. A high mountain pass at an elevation of 3978 meters above the sea level, Rohtang is just 51 km from Manali. It is a part of the proud Pir Panjal Range of the mighty Himalayas.
It acts as the connecting link between Kullu Valley and Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Being an ancient trade route, it was well maintained by the natives. The generic name of the pass suggests that either the pass was the oldest and the most used pass. With the increase of visitors every year, the fragile mountain ecology will be in threat, environmentalists worry.
But the exciting beauty of the mountain terrains seen from the top of the pass is indescribable and flamboyant. The Indian Government started building a tunnel which is 8.5 km long to bypass Rohtang pass in order to reduce the travel time and distance to Keylong, Lahaul and Spiti and Leh.
The tunnel promises to reduce the distance by 50 km and the time by five hours between the south and north faces of Rohtang pass. Currently, the time taken to ascend and descend the pass itself is 5-6 hours.
Height: Rohtang Pass is located at an altitude of 3978 meters above the sea level in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.
Location: The pass is located about 51 kms away from Manali and you can reach the pass if you take Leh- Manali Highway.
Best time to visit: The pass will be open from the months of May to October as the snow starts melting and the paths will be cleared.
Apart from Khardung La or Baralacha La, Ladakh has numerous other passes at great heights which stand as Ladakh’s pride for centuries now. The glitters of other passes may be diminished by Khardung La mainly but all the other passes are equally important. Lachulung La is a single example.
The elevation of this pass is 5059 meters above sea level which is considered to be a dangerously exciting height for any pass after Khardung La. Lachulung La is on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Also, it separates the valleys of Tsarap Chu and Tozay. If you take Leh-Manali highway, you will be able to cross this pass that has other names such as Lachalung La, Lungalacha La etc.
A fact that to be remembered before you head to visit this pass is, it is open only for four and a half months during summer. Any traveler should be prepared not to fall sick during the conquering of Lachulung La because its geographic status, the height, the rugged pathways and the remote villages it goes through may cause dramatic influence on your body. Being one of the most adventurous passes in Ladakh, Lachulung is a favorite stop avid adventure lovers.
Also, the surroundings are quite fictional as the towering Himalayan passes and the nature lying in correspondence to them are creating soothing visuals. Trekkers should be very careful while climbing the altitude up as altitude sickness is assured at the top and keep hydrated to maintain your body conditions with respect to the climate. But the descent is smooth and easy so that you will feel overjoyed till the end.
Height: 5059 meters
Best time to visit: May to October
How to reach: Take Leh-Manali highway, from Sarchu 54 KM and from Pang, 24 Km
Tanglang La is a high mountain pass, the glorious pride of Ladakh, the favourite tourist spot for bikers and trekkers. 5328 meters above the sea level is the dream like height of this pass which happily poses some threatening adventure to those who try to climb up the top. The road leading to the pass on Leh-Manali highway, from Upshi to Tanglang La is completely paved. A 500 meter long section of the road is the only part which is unpaved. Tanglang La is also beautifully paved to the make the climb easier.
There are a lot of confusions existing regarding the position of Tanglang La in the list of world’s highest motorable passes and the world believes it to be the second highest which is proven to be wrong. The local sign on the top of the pass shows the altitude of the pass is 17582 feet or 5359 meters. But now, it is said that the sign board gives a wrong impression but the original height of the pass is 5328 meters. The pass is made beautiful by the innumerous Buddhist prayer flags despite the fact the road is tough to conquer and any type of traveler will fall for the scenery at the pass and adventure lovers would love to try their energy level by climbing up to the top. But remember, the oxygen level will be decreased as you cover the altitude and reaches to the half of what you feel at sea level.
Height: 5328 meters of 1248 feet
Best time to visit: May to October
How to reach: The pass is close to Leh-Manali highway and can be reached via 21 Gata loops
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