At an average altitude of over 11,000 ft Ladakh (literally – “Land of High Passes”), nestling in the Himalayas, is a place like no other. Its raw beauty, unique people and the prevalence of Buddhism in their culture brings many travelers to this mystical land.
Vast mountains studded with whitewashed monasteries, verdant valleys that surprise you with their splash of vivid green, incredibly blue skies, remote monasteries built on hilltops, air so clear you can literally see for miles…are some of the unique gifts bestowed to this land.
The People…The people of Ladakh are the land’s most unique asset. It has a mix of Buddhists and Muslims, with many monasteries and mosques in the region. Their friendly and peace loving nature is reflected in a harmonious lifestyle. A warm Jullay (welcome) is refreshing to the ears and they happily share a slice of their lives, brimming with hospitality and a cup of namkeen chai.
Living in isolation, this arid region opens up to the world for a mere 4 months in the year. Ladakh comes alive during the summer months from June to September. Its festivals in monasteries, during which the people come out with a unique style of dressing, coupled with fun filled archery and polo competitions in open arenas and a wide variety of cultural performances are some of the highlights in summer. During the other months, Ladakh is covered under a blanket of snow. Among the highest inhabited places in the world, life here flows with the seasons.
The Places…Ladakh is known for its monasteries, stupas and gompas along with its quaint but bustling market. The main Leh town is dominated by a nine-storey palace built by King Singge Namgyal, in the grand tradition of Tibetan architecture, which is said to have inspired the famous Potala in Lhasa built about half a century later. The towering Shanti Stupa a little away from the town area is a sight worth seeing. The beautiful monastery of Tiksey is situated about 20 km far from the town of Leh and ranks among the most important monasteries in Ladakh.
There are many more places to explore out of the main town in Leh. Lamayuru, Kargil, Drass and Zanskar are a must see for every visitor. If the highest road pass in the world behind Leh, the Khardung La, is open, one can have the privilege of experiencing its vivid beauty.
Getting There…Flying into Leh airport, which takes two hours from Jammu, the cold desert land, over the magnificent Himalayas is a beautiful and scary experience at once. Even though one can drive to Leh form the Srinagar- Kargil route, it is much too tiring and long (two days) a route and does not give you the exclusive opportunity of an aerial view of Ladakh.
After being immersed in the virgin beauty of Ladakh, it is the toughest thing to bid farewell to this tiny kingdom in the sky. The memories cannot be replaced for eternity.