|Ladakh a hub of Buddhism has achieved a recognition as one of the oldest Buddhist Destination where one can find old monasteries situated on the cliffs of mountains. These monasteries are not only the educational and spiritual institutions but many have museums that showcase the history of Buddhism in Ladakh and life of Buddhists to thousands of tourist who visit this land. An ideal place for pilgrimage tourism you can find around 100 Gompas and monasteries that belong to Mahayana and Hinayana Sects of Buddhism.
Hemis Gompa is the largest monastery and Sankar Gompa and Likhir Monastry are the two monasteries built in 11th century and are considered as a land mark. You can also find a three storey monolithic statue of Lord Buddha that was built at Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, built in the year 1430. Plan tour to this region exclusively to visit the Gompas and monasteries it will be an ideal experience to know about the Buddhist culture and their eight fold path of Lord Buddha.
Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture which was established as early as the 2nd century. This has given rise to the appellation “Little Tibet”, as it has strongly been influenced by the culture of Tibet.
Despite its rugged terrain and remoteness explorers, preachers, spies, soldiers and tourists have traversed the region for centuries. Many of them have written books based on their observations and experiences which provide wealth of information about social , cultural and political life of the region for different periods.
During its long history, Ladakh was exposed to the cultures of its neighboring regions and its centuries of composite culture has found expression in its monuments, monasteries, folklore, oral literature, art forms and festivals. With the passage of time, it evolved its own unique culture and it possesses a vigorous cultural identity.
The monasteries of Ladakh are treasure-house of rare statues exquisite wall paintings, ancient thankas (Painting on cloth) , precious antique pieces and artifacts.
This area lies just behind the Zoji La Pass, and the center is Kargil, a small town with cobbled streets surrounded by apricot groves. Good panoramas of the Himalaya can be obtained on 03-04 day treks from Sanko to Drass via Umba, and on the more demanding Sanko to Mulbek via the Wakka La Pass at 4,930m.
Indus Valley, At an average elevation of 3500 m is sand-witched between the Zanskar Range on its South and the Ladakh Range on its North, This is the geographical backbone, and the historical heartland of Ladakh. All major sites connected with its dynastic history are here, starting with Leh, the capital city. The bulk of the population resides along the Indus. Its main attraction are the numerous Buddhist monasteries, quaint villages, fairs , festivals and bazars. Air and road communications converge at Leh.
One of Ladakh’s remotest regions. A 300 km long valley ringed by mountains, only accessible by high passes. The Valley of Zanskar is situated in the inner Himalaya and is higher than most areas of Ladakh. The climate is very Harsh and receives very little rain fall. The twin peaks of Nun-Kun, its Monasteries and its extremely rugged, awe-aspiring landscape are its main attractions.
Padum Valley, Padum the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar, Padum (3505 m) is the present day administrative headquarters of the region. With a population of nearly 1500, Padum can be described as the most populous settlement of Zanskar, otherwise a very scarcely inhabited valley. Incidentally, it is only in Padum that there is a community of Muslims constituting nearly half the township’s population, its origin in the area dating from mid 17th century. Lately, Padum has become a famous as a major trekking base and a popular tourist destination. Several places of tourist interest in the vicinity of the township can be visited in the course of entertaining walks. The nearest monument is a set of ancient rock carving on a huge boulder near the river bank, just below the old township. These dates from the 8th century and provide epigraphic evidence that the region was under the influence of North Indian Buddhism since ancient times. The Starrimo monastery with about 30 resident monks clings to a tree-covered ridge above the old town. Across the expanse of cultivation lies the old village of Pibiting, dominated by its picturesque hilltop monastery, a superb manifestation of stupa architecture.
Drass (3230 m), 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is a small township lying in the centre of the valley of the same name. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world by virtue of the intense cold that descends upon the valley along with repeated snowfalls during winters. Winter temperature is sometimes known to plummet to less than minus 40 degrees.
The Drass valley starts from the base of the Zojila pass, the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh. For centuries its inhabitants are known to have negotiated this formidable pass even during the most risky period in the late autumn or early spring, when the whole sector remains snow-bound and is subject to frequent snow storms, to transport trader’s merchandise across and to help stranded travelers to traverse it. By virtue of their mastery over the pass they had established a monopoly over the carrying trade during the heydays of the Pan-Asian trade. A hardly people enduring with fortitude and harshness of the valley’s winter, the inhabitants of drass can well be described as the guardian’s of Ladakh’s gateway.
Suru Valley, 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 — are Muslims who had converted their Buddhist faith around the middle of the 16th century. The upper valley reaches of the valley, particularly around the Sankoo bowl, the Panikhar expense and the higher stretch beyond, present a spectacle of breathtaking features-majestic mountain ramparts crowned by snow capped peaks, undulating alpine slopes draining into wild mountain streams of foaming cascades of pristine water, awesome glaciers descending along the Himalayan slopes to the river bed in riverine formation, Quaint villages of adobe houses straggling dry hillocks surrounded by large tracts of lush crops downward the patches of alpine pastures uphill. The beauty of this region is further enhanced by the sheer contrast provided by the towering peaks of Kun (7035 m) and Nun (7135 m) which loom over the skyline in their crystalline majesty.
The 160 km trip to Pangong Lake from Leh is a wonderful experience. It begins with Thiksey village famous for its huge monasteries covering an entire mountain ridge. Beyond this remote village there is nothing but the extreme mountain ridge. Beyond this remote village there is nothing but the extreme mountain ranges for company. The topography throughout the journey shoots up so abruptly that they throw off all calculations of distance – what looked to be a ten-minute crossing easily required an hour or more. At times, it appeared as if so many of nature’s forces were warning us away at the steep slopes and uneasy bends and not to forget the great chunks of ice appearing static and frozen in time. At Darbuk village near Tangste Valley stood a chain of war memorials with Regimental Insignias in commemoration of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. Some of the army bunkers and trenches are still in use. Villagers can be seen here along with their large herds of Pashmina sheep and long tailed yaks.
The placid Pangong Lake is not just a tourists paradise but a geologist’s domain too and if one is to brush up with political history, the place is a melting pot of confusion and for sure it in no fun for the army in the biting cold to take care of the strategic landscape.
Tsomoriri or “Mountain Lake” is situated in the middle of the elevated valley of Rupshu surrounded by 6000 m peaks which completely surrounds the lake. This valley is inhabited by a small scattered population of “Changpas” nomadic shepherds who also engage in trade and work in caravans in Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti. The Area is rich in wildlife including the “Kyang” (wild ass), red fox and the rare, highly endangered, snow leopard. Black necked cranes and geese flock to the lakeside for breeding during the summer months. It also houses 350 years old Karzok monastery which has about 33 resident monks.