My trip to Ladakh.
Ladakh ("land of high passes") is a region in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kunlun mountain range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture.
The barren beauty of Ladakh with snow capped peaks and clean azure sky have attracted the intrepid traveler since the region was opened to tourists in the 1970s. Since then, Ladakh has become a favorite haunt for trekking and mountaineering enthusiasts. The rugged terrain and the majestic mountains around, make an exotic cocktail for an adventure sport lover. But before you decide to fly away to the land of Buddhist monasteries and brave people, it is imperative to understand that you need at least a week to enjoy your tour to Ladakh. Since, acclimatization it self needs at least a few days in Ladakh.
Salt lake Tso Kar in Himalayas
Leh is the nearest airport, which is connected to Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar. The nearest railway station to Ladakh is Jammu. From Jammu you can head to Srinagar by road and then to Ladakh, which is some 434 kilometers away. It is about a two-day journey from Srinagar with a night halt at Kargil. On the road from Srinagar to Leh you will cross the high Zoji La Pass, and travel past Mulbek where there is a giant image of the Maitreya Buddha. The Namika La and Fotu La Passes and the Spituk Gompa are scenic attractions on the road from Srinagar to Leh. You can also approach Leh Ladakh from Manali. On the road from Manali you will cross the Rohtang Pass and the Baralacha La Pass. Stop overnight at Sarchu Serai and on the next day travel through Tanglang La and Lachulung La passes to Upshi and onward to Leh. Along the way you will see many ancient monasteries and Buddhist structures.
The Big Maitreya Buddha statue
I must say that even the road leading to Ladakh has its own appeal. When you’re about to reach Ladakh, the very first glimpse of this snow laden heaven brings a twinkle to your eyes! Just imagine looking down on a silent, placid, greenish blue lake – beautiful, isn’t it? Or imagine the sight of magnificent mountains greeting you – that was a welcome I can never forget. There's nothing more enchanting than nature's handiwork in Ladakh.
Flying to Ladakh
The days where the itinerary was covered presented Ladakh in its true shining colors. It's a world of rugged valleys, snow-covered mountains, endless hills, barren lands, clean and curvy roads and the mystical Lamas where centuries old monasteries have still maintained their charm. The confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers is a rare sight. One can clearly differentiate between the two waters from a distance. The rare phenomenon of Magnetic Hill leaves everyone astonished. For the uninitiated, the hill possesses magnetic properties that can pull cars uphill and compel passing aircrafts to increase altitude in order to escape the magnetic interference.
Taglang La Pass. Taglang La Pass nestled at an altitude of 5328 m above the sea level, in the Zanskar range, Taglang La pass is the second highest mountain pass in Ladakh, the first being Khardungla Pass. It is the residence of the nomadic Changpa herdsman who can be seen herding their cattle and goats. The pass is adjacent to the Leh-Manali highway and is reached via 21 Gata loops. The two nearest settlements to this pass are Sarchu towards Manali and Upshi towards Leh. Upshi is a stopover on the route to Leh where tourists halt for a cup of tea. From Upshi, Leh is just a half an hour drive.
The pass provides for a scenic view as it sways away from the main highway. Ample vegetation on both sides further cools the already chilled air and at times, the sharp bends provide just the adrenaline push adventurists crave. It is important you take someone who’s been on these roads before. Tanglang La’s pass can get particularly harrowing for first time riders. There is a holy temple and a number of sign boards to help you out where one of the sign boards give details about the altitude of the pass and the other tells that from the pass, Leh is around 111 kms.
Keep in mind that you will be travelling through some of the most challenging roads so if your driving experience is not that much, do not risk being at the wheel on your own. It applies to both motorcycles and cars. If you have been driving or riding just for a little while, or have never been up in the hills, Ladakh is not the place where you would want to do it for the first time. In this case, you are better off using public transport services throughout your trip. If you must however travel in your own vehicle, then take an experienced driver with you. There are not many ATMs in Ladakh and as a matter of fact, there are no other ATMs except for the ones in the city of Leh. You need to plan your cash in hand and by that I mean do not straight away carry Rs. 20,000 from home, because if you lose your bag or wallet, then your trip is over. Carry enough that will last until the next ATM. Withdraw some from Manali that should see you in Leh comfortably, then withdraw from Leh before going to visit the nearby areas. Ensure that you are carrying all your necessary paperwork with you and by that I mean a valid identity proof, a residence proof with your complete address on it and copies of your permits. If there is a medical background involved, ensure that you are carrying all required paperwork in case you need medical assistance during your trip. If you are planning a solo trip to Ladakh, then you must plan it in either July, August or September as these are the months of peak tourist season. All hotels/guest houses at this time are functional and you will have no trouble finding a budget hotel. Also, if you are traveling by public transport, then this is the time when you will easily find a shared cab in Ladakh. In terms of travel partners as well, your chances of finding one will be highest in these three months.