Nubra Valley -Valley of Flowers
Nubra 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.
Down the Indus, on the route to Balistan, at an altitude of 2600 M, live a miniscule community called the Drok-pa. They are Buddhist - but also worship nature gods and spirits. Of Aryan origin, they are the last remnants of the Dards. Numbering a few thousands, they have preserved their racial purity through centuries. Located 162 kms from Leh, only two of the five Drok-pa villages are open to Tourists
The Nubra is a tributary of the Shyok River which flows parallel to the Indus on the northern side of the Ladakh range. Because of its lower altitude the valley has a mild climate and is therefore richer in vegetation. It is often referred to as the "Orchard of Ladakh".
In ancient times, the valley was part of the Caravan Route, today it offers unparalleled trekking opportunities and scenic landscapes. It is also the natural habitat of the double backed Bactrian Camel.
Buddhist monasteries flourished in the valley among which the famous Diskit Gompa. This monastery, over 350 years old, is the oldest in the Nubra region. It is also one of the largest.The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Sect. The Nubra valley is accessible from Leh via a number of high passes. One of them is the Khardong-la, the highest motorable pass at 5600 m.
¤ Diskit Village
The Diskit Village is located slightly off the little hamlet of Khalsar.
Dotted with apricot plantations, Diskit is amongst the larger villages in the region, and home to the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa – the oldest, and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley.
Diskit has a number of rudimentary hotels and guest houses, with an odd store here and there. On your Ladakh holidays, do carry ample supplies with you when you leave Leh, as Nubra has little to offer besides the very basic. The road between Diskit and the quaint little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes.
You could spend a pleasant evening around these natural marvels that border a stream, and have snowcapped peaks for a backdrop.
Keep your eyes open for the double-humped camels! Hunder also has some accommodation for travellers. Also ask around about families that rent out rooms, as these are by far the best places to stay. The Hunder Gompa has some old frescos and a statue of Buddha. The monastery is also the best place in the village for a view of the dipping sun.
¤ The Samtanling Gompa
The Samtanling Gompa at the relatively bigger Sumur Village is definitely worth a visit, and houses a fine collection of idols, frescos and tangkhas (painted and embroidered scrolls).
Sumur too offers basic holiday accommodations, and a few days spent in this busy little village can be a very pleasant experience.
There is a lovely campsite by the river, close to the village. The campsite, like some others in Nubra, offers good tents-for-two with beds and a table and common dining and wash rooms. Though a little steep on the pocket, the continental breakfast and the range of good food at the camp can be very tempting in Nubra, where a can of beans carried all the way from Leh is a delicacy.
Try living in the campsite for a day or two if you can afford it. Nights at the campsite are especially fascinating – the sky is studded with stars that seem oversized due to the altitude, and the countless shooting stars seem to fall slower than usual, leaving behind a long shimmering trail. Add to this the sound of the gurgling river as you drift slowly into a restful sleep.
¤ Hot Water Sulphur Springs
The waters of the hot sulphur springs at the village of Panamik, the last destination travellers are permitted to travel to in Nubra, are believed to have certain medicinal qualities that cure a number of ailments.
If you are in the mood for yet another monastery, you can walk to the Ensa Gompa that is over 250 years old
About 20 kms. South of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzila Top (4401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow covered peaks. As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the watershed to the head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar's main tributary valleys, the majestic "Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, the Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda River, the main tributary of river Zanskar, rises.
Zanskar comprises a tri-armed valley system lying between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountain; The three arms radiate star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse where the region's two principal drainage's meet to form the main Zanskar River. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region's 10,000 strong, mainly Buddhists population lives. Spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq. kms. High rise, mountains and deep gorges surround Zanskar. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy snowfall resulting in closure of all the access passes, including the Penzi-la. To-day, Zanskar has the distinction of being the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh, and one of the last few surviving cultural satellites of Tibet. Within the mountain ramparts of this lost Shangrila stand a number of ancient yet active monastic establishments. Some of these religious foundations have evolved around remote meditation caves believed to have been used by a succession of famous Buddhist saints for prolonged meditation in pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment.
The 240 km long Kargil-Padun road, of which the first 90 km stretch is paved, remains opened from around mid July to early November. In June, the summer is at its height in the region and the climate is ideal for trekking along the route free from vehicular traffic of any kind and when the countryside is freshly rejuvenated into life after months of frigid dormancy.
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 travellers 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.
Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley across the sub-range separating the two valleys. This trek passes through some of the most beautiful upland villages and flower sprinkled meadows on both sides of the 4500 mts high Umbala pass, which falls enroute. The trek to the holy cave of Amarnath in neighboring Kashmir, which stars from Minamarg below Zojila, takes 3 days and involves crossing of 5200 mts high pass. Drass also offers numerous shorter treks and hikes to the upland villages.
Note : All Tourists to Ladakh travelling from Srinagar by road are required to register themselves at the Tourist Registration Centre at Drass.
Changthang – Land of Nomads
Changthang means Eastern Flat Land; it is the land of nomads located in the east of Leh on the Chinese border. The average altitude of the area is around 14600m above sea level. This area is also known as Rupsho valley. The main attraction of this area is Changpa nomads, wild animals, lakes and rare birds.
The Tsomoriri Lake is a beautiful mountain bounded expanse of water, around 240 Kms. from Leh in Rupsho Valley. The Lake is located at 14,000 ft. near a small village of Korzok. One can also visit the Korzok Monastery of 19th century that houses Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues. The Nomadic people are most outstanding feature of this Lake area, which graze herd of goats and yaks. About 76 kms from Tsomoriri is located another beautiful Lake, Tsokar (the salt lake) in this area.
Trip to these two Lakes can be organized in two to three days by Jeep and in two to three weeks by trek.
Pangong Lake is 40 miles in length and nearly 2 to 4 miles in width at a height of 4267m above the sea level. One third of the lake is in India and the rest comes under China. The colour of the water is the most striking feature of this lake that catches the first glance of one’s eyes, especially towards evening, when it is of rich deep blue, over the whole expanse which turns completely light blue at morning time. The water of the Lake is not that salty as sea water but it’s as cold as ice.
Pangong Tso trip can be organised in two days and overnight stay at Tangtse. Travellers are not allowed to pitch their tents near the Lake and only allowed to go upto Spangmik due to security reasons. The landscape on the way to Pangong is spectacular
KARGIL (2704 m), 204 kms from Srinagar in the west and 234 kms from Leh in the east, is the second largest urban centre of Ladakh and headquarters of the district of same name. A quite town now, Kargil once served as important trade and transit centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise comprising silk, brocade, carpets, felts, tea, poppy, ivory etc. transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand and Kashmir. The old bazaar displayed a variety of Central Asian and Tibetan commodities even after the cessation of the Central Asian trade in 1949 till these were exhausted about two decades back. Similarly the ancient trade route passing through the township was lined with several caravanserais.
Now, since 1975, travellers of numerous nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel-related activities. Being located in the centre of the Himalayan region with tremendous potentials for adventure activities, Kargil serves as an important base for adventure tours in the heart of Himalayas. It is also the take off station for visitors to the erotic Zanskar Valley. Tourists travelling between Srinagar and Leh have to make a night halt here before starting the second leg of their journey.
The town lies nestling along the rising hillside of the lower Suru basin. Two tributaries of the Suru River that meet here are the Drass and Wakha. The land available along the narrow valley as also the rising hillsides are intensively cultivated in neat terraces to glow barley, wheat, peas, a variety of vegetables and other cereals. Kargil is famous for the fine apricots grown here. In May the entire countryside becomes awash with fragrant white apricot blossoms while August, the ripening fruit lends it an orange hue.
Places to See:
Kargil mainly serves as an ideal base station for adventure activities like trekking, mountaineering, camping, river rafting etc. In high Himalayan Valleys. It is also a base for taking shorter excursions to Mulbek where the chief attraction is a 9-m high rock sculpture depicting the future Buddha. Kargil also offers some interesting walks along the river bank and up the hillside. The best among these is the one leading to Goma Kargil along a 2-km long winding road which, passing through some of the most picturesque parts of the town, presents breathtaking views of the mountain stream. A stroll in the bazaar might lead to a shop selling flint and tobacco pouches, travelling hookahs and brass kettles - handcrafted items of everyday use which find their way into the mart as curios. Most shops deals in common consumer goods, but some specialize in trekking provisions. The showroom of the Government Industries Centre near the riverbank displays and sell Pashmina Shawls, local carpets and other woolen handicrafts. The apricot jam produced here serves as a rare delicacy. Kargil's dry apricot has now become a souvenir item, which can be purchased freely in the bazaar
Along the Indus valley
Leh: Land Of Castles, Monasteries & Lakes
Leh is a beautiful barren desert situated at 3,505 meters above sea level in lap of the Great Himalayas. Leh is the main tourist gateway, its the largest town in the Ladakh region. It is ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure freaks.
The main highlights includes the breathtaking landscapes, the enchanting rivers, snowcapped mountains complimenting the blue sky, time stopping silence of the desert, temperature below zero and the Ladakh festival. In short is the nature's untouched beauty and incredibly attractive. Leh-Ladakh has so many monuments, monasteries, great options for trekking and mountaineering, river rafting, horse riding and polo.
Tourist Places of Leh Ladakh
Leh Palace - The beautiful nine story 17th century palace was the residence of the royal family. The royal palace resembles a mini-Potala Palace. The palace house Buddhist paintings on walls and artifacts. On the top of the Namgyal hill, the palace has the Victory Tower, built to commemorate Ladakh's victory over the Balti Kashmir armies in the early 16th century. The palace was built for King Singge Namgyal, It serves as Indian Government's archaeological conservation organisation office in Leh.
Leh Monastery and Gompa - The central area of Ladakh has the greatest concentration of major Buddhist monasteries or gompas. Of the twelve situated on or near the Indus, the oldest monastery is that of Lamayuru, which is believed to have been a sacred site for the pre-Buddhist religion known as Bon. The monasteries of Phiyang, Hemis and Chemrey were all found under the direct patronage of members of the ruling Namgyal dynasty. Phyang represents an act of penance by the 16th century King Tashi Namgyal for the violence and treachery by which he reached the throne.
Spituk Monastery - The gompa stands prominently on the top of a hillock, 8 Kms. from Leh, and commands a panoramic view of the Indus Valley for miles. Many icons of Buddha and five Thankas are found in 15th century monastery. There is also a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, and an awe inspiring image of Mahakal.
Shanti Stupa - Shanti Stupa (means 'World Peace' in Japanese) was built by a Japanese who harbored the ambition of spreading Buddhism across the world, in 1985 with aid from the Japanese Government. It is located at Changspa, on the hilltop, and was inaugurated by Dalai Lama in 1985. The art work attracts a lot of tourists to Ladakh and is spectacular to watch. The stupa is connected by a â€˜motorableâ€™ road and a steep flight of stairs.
Once on top, you can stop for a snack in the tea shop, then relax and enjoy the panoramic view of the chain of mountains and the peaceful little village of Changspa with typical Ladakhi houses built along a gushing stream, and the towering Namgyal Tsemo in the distance.
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa - The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa was built in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal on Namgyal Tsemo peak overlooking the town. The monastery contains a three-story high solid gold idol of Maitrieya Buddha (future Buddha also called laughing buddha) and a one-storied statue of Avaloketesvara and Manjushri along with ancient manuscripts and frescoes. The fort above this gompa is ruined, but the views of Leh from here are breathtakingly beautiful. The associated temples here remain intact, but they are kept locked except during the morning and evening hours when a monk toils up the hills from Sankar Gompa to attend to the butter - lamps in front of the images.
Sankar Gonpa - The Sankar Gonpa is a couple of kilometers away from Leh town. It belongs to the Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gonpa is a branch of the Spituk Monastery, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of Spituk)
Shey Gompa - 15 Kms upstream from Leh, the palace is believed to have been the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan kings. A 7.5 meter high copper statue of Buddha, plated with gold, and the largest of its kind, is installed in the palace.
Soma Gonpa (Jokhang) - The Ladakh Buddhist Association in 1957 built the small Gonpa opposite to SBI, in the main Bazaar (market), which is open throughout the day for visitors. The Gonpa contains a statue of Joyo Rinpochey (crowned Buddha).
Leh Mosque - The striking green and white Leh Mosque, an exquisite work of Turko-Iranian architecture, stands in the Main Bazaar of Leh. This historical mosque was built in 1666-67 A.D. consequent to an agreement between the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and then ruler of Ladakh, Deldan Namgyal. The mosque is open only to men. This is also a good place to find out about the possibility of doing voluntary work with various organizations. If interested, inquire at the reception centre or simply check the information board.
Stok Palace Museum - 17 km from Leh town, this museum exhibits precious stones, thangkas, coins, royal crowns and dresses and prayer instruments.
The Nubra Valley - Known as a flowering den Nubra valley gets clad in endless bushes of yellow and pink wild roses. Once the valley is through with the season of roses around August, a carpet of wild lavender lies gently on it. Nubra is also a relatively warmer valley in Ladakh making it perfect for crops and fruits to grow.
Diskit Village located near Khalsar, dotted with apricot plantations is one of the larger villages of the Nubra valley. The road between Diskit and the quaint little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. A quiet and pleasant evening can be spent amidst nature with snowcapped peaks in the background.
Pangong Lake - This lake is situated at an elevation of 14,000ft. In the Eastern sector of Ladakh, at a distance of 154km. from Leh across Changla pass (17,000ft.). This lake is one of the largest and most beautiful natural Brakish lakes in the Country.
Down in the bazaar, the main sites to visit are the Jo-khang and a modern ecumenical Buddhist temple. Chang Gali, behind the main bazaar, is less bustling but has intriguing little shops selling curios and jewellery. Leh offers some delightful walks, especially around Changspa Village. Just take any of the cobbled lanes in the village and feel free to carry on as you please. There are several attractive destinations within a 10-km radius of Leh.
Sabu, a charming village with a small gompa, nestles between two southward-stretching spurs of the Ladakh range about 9 km away. In the same direction, but nearer town, is Choglamsar, with the Tibetan refugee settlement including a children's village, a handicrafts centre devoted largely to carpet-weaving, and the Dalai Lama's prayer- ground. And in the opposite direction, about 8 kms on the Srinagar road, is the turning for Spituk village and its imposing monastery.
The Lamayuru "Yungdrung" Gonpa is remarkably built on a rock, around 125kms. west of Leh, on the Leh Srinagar highway. Lamayuru belongs to the Drigunpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. The history of the monastery begins with the visit of Arahat Nimagung to this place, when there was merely a lake here. It is said that Arahat made a prophecy that "a monastery will come up at this spot" and he made offerings (prayer with grains of corn) to the Nagaserpent spirits. The corns mixed with the earth and formed in the shape of Swastika (Yungdrung), later it came to be known as Yungdrung Monastery. The Great Translator Rinchen Zangpo constructed a temple here in eleventh century
Naropa also visited Lamayuru and meditated here. Gelukspa or Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism initially looked after Lamayuru, but later; it was taken over by Digungpa Order. Its monastic festival is called "Yuru Kabgyat", takes place on 17th and 18th of 5th month of the Tibetan Calendar.
Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame museum is located on the road leading to the airport. Do make it a point to visit this museum since it not only contains relics and remains of the Ladakhi culture but also carries important vestiges of the struggle of the Indian army with their Pakistani counterparts.
GURDWARA SHRI PATTHAR SAHIB. The Shrine known as Gurdwara Patthar sahib is situated about 25 kms. Short of Leh town on the Leh-Srinagar road. Built in the everlasting memory of Shri Guru Nanak Dev, the great prophet who sanctified the place by his sacred visit during the year 1517 while on his second missionary tour. The Guru reached here via Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Yarkand and Leh after having spiritual discourses with the Sidhas at Mount Sumer (Central Himalayas).
Defying the Law of gravity. This place is close to the Gurdwara Shri Patthar Sahib. It has been noticed that when a vehicle is parked on neutral gear on this metallic road the vehicle slides up.