The two of the world’s most powerful mountain ranges – the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas – make Ladakh a much preferred adventure destination. The altitude in Ladakh ranges between 3505 m and 2750 m.
Ladakh has been described as “The Last Shangrila”, a living museum of Tibetan Culture. Nestled high in the Himalaya and surrounded by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Accessible by road just 2 months out of the year, this isolated ancient Tibetan Kingdom is home to one of the last surviving authentic Tibetan Buddhist cultures. It is magical, remote, with delightful gentle people. It is an otherworldly place with strange monasteries perched on soaring hilltops, ancient palaces clinging to sheer rock walls and landscapes splashed with small but brilliant patches of green. Ladakh beckons for more than one reason. The raw beauty of its barren landscape ,its unique flora and fauna, its culture ,its clear blue skies and clean air ,’ the land where snow never melts and only corn ripens’, has more to offer : a good holiday.
Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders.
It’s a small town, easy to get most places by foot. The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural “suburb” northwest of the center, with many guesthouses.
Its elevation is approximately 3500 meters (11,490 feet), so take it easy on your first few days there or risk possible altitude sickness. Even experienced high altitude travellers (Andes) might have some trouble.
Routes from Kargil and Drass lead to the scenic Zanskar mountains, which have excellent trekking trails including the one from Padam over the great Himalayas into Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. Few of the high passes of Ladakh are clear of snow until July, and in certain remote valley areas it is better to cross the passes until the snow has fully melted. Nonetheless, most of the passes in the Ladakh can be crossed by the end of June, which is the best time to undertake an extended trek through Ladakh, Zanskar or out of Panikhar in the Suru valley.
The treks out of the Markha valley can be undertaken from the end of June when the snows melt on the higher passes. The Kongmaru La and the Dung Dung La remain open until the middle of October. However, a trek up the Markha valley could be undertaken throughout most of the year by avoiding the high passes and following the trail along the Zanskar River before heading up the valley.
If trekking over the Kanji La you must bring a tent. If traveling to the Zanskar valley at the margins of the seasons it is possible to trek over the Pentse La and find shelter in the villages en route to Padum, although you must bring your own food supplies. Before undertaking the trek over the Kanji La, it is important that you are well acclimatized. Plan on spending a few additional nights at Rangdum before crossing the pass. Trekkers better not make river crossings between Rangdum and the base of the pass in late June and July when the spring snow melt causes the rivers to flood.
The river Indus and its tributaries – the Shayok, Zanskar and the Drass are the only water supply sources of Ladakh. The source of the Indus is the sacred Mount Kailash. It enters Ladakh near Demchok and, for about 100 km, flows slowly through the open, desert like valleys, forming small channels with marshland conditions at some places. As the river flows towards leh through gorges, nature takes its course and makes splashes of purple, green, blue, yellow and crimson on the cliffs. It is a breath-taking sight that can never be forgotten, nor replicated anywhere else.
One more thing river Indus is famous for are rafting trips that happen on its water levels in between the end of June and late August. Rafters can take up two different stretches of the Indus river: one is from Spitok to the Indus- Zanskar confluence at Nimmu, and from Nimmu to the ancient temple complex at Alchi. Experienced rafters looking for more challenging route can try out the route between Alchi and Khalsi.
The Suru and Zanskar valleys provide some of the more spectacular and difficult climbing in Ladakh. The Nun Kun Massif is one of the most frequent climbing areas of the region and is booked out for months ahead, sometimes years, by climbing expeditions.
The approach to the twin peaks is from the Kargil-Padum Road, about 70-km south of Kargil. The main approach is either from Tangole or Gulmadong. Some expeditions have also approached from Parkutse along the Kangri Glacier. To reach the base camp for Kun it is for the climbers necessary to cross the Suru River.
The lakes of Ladakh are wondrous. The biggest and the most magically photogenic is Pangong Lake (14,000 ft.) It is 150 km long and 2 to 5 km wide. Only one third of it is in India; the rest is in Tibet and offers some great options of high altitude jeep safari in Ladakh.