The region of Ladakh in Kashmir is known all over the world for its otherworldly beauty. The great plateau is known as a high altitude desert as the Himalayas block the rain clouds from entering the region creating what is known as a rain shadow. As a result, the climate and geography of Ladakh has evolved into something unique, with giant glaciers and sand dunes cohabiting the space – creating a sweeping, magical landscape along the way. Add to that the gigantic lakes, the tallest mountains in the world, a colourful montage and a distinctive culture, Ladakh is an absolute pleasure to explore. Customize your itinerary and get the most out of your vacation in this one-of-a-kind place. Here is a list of the best places in Ladakh we think you absolutely must check out during your trip there:
The riveting Zanskar valley is one of the remotest places in the world that is only seasonally accessible. But the courageous souls who do go there witness an indescribably beautiful landscape of gushing rivers and tall snow covered peaks dotted by monasteries. The Zanskar river freezes over during winters, and allows travellers to walk over it for the famed Chadar trek. Visitors get a chance to see the mesmerizing Drang-Drung glacier and the Panikhar fort that borders the neighbouring Suru valley.
Pangong Tso has recently received a lot of attention after being featured in the bollywood film Three Idiots, but the stunning lake has always been an iconic spot on the Ladakh landscape. One of Asia’s largest saltwater lakes, Pangong covers an area of almost 100 kilometers right on the Indo-China border. Two third of the lake lies in the Tibet region administered by China while the rest lies in Eastern Ladakh. The giant lake freezes over during winters and becomes the site of a grand ice skating festival that adventure enthusiasts must not miss at any cost.
Khardung La has the distinction of being the highest motorable road in the world, with an altitude of 5359 meters above the sea level. It is also known as the gateway to the majestic Nubra and Shyok Valleys that are known for their astoundingly beautiful high altitude desert landscape. But the journey through the pass itself is no small thing – you will pass through steep gorges and stunning panoramas and experience the sheer adventure of traversing the legendary pass of the lower castle or Khardung La.
The historical site of the war between India and Pakistan in 1999, Kargil is known today as the place to be for adventure junkies in Ladakh. The second largest town in Ladakh region after Leh is famous for its trekking routes and rock climbing spots around the Mulbekh and Suru valleys, a vibrant market famous for turquoise ornaments and pashmina shawls and the war memorial itself.
Located around 150 kilometers from the town of Leh, you reach the Nubra valley after crossing the fabled Khardung La pass. Nubra Valley is a tri-armed valley that is the home to the stunning confluence of the Siachen and Shyok rivers. But it is most known among travellers for its white sand dunes that almost magically appear between the snow capped mountains. Imagine riding on a two humped camel on giant dunes of white sand in the middle of the Himalayas! That’s Nubra valley for you.
Hemis National Park
The eclectic climate and geographical conditions of Ladakh means that it is home to some of the most exotic species of flora and fauna. The Hemis National Park, built in an effort to conserve these beautiful lifeforms, has the distinction of being the largest national park in South Asia. It is home to animals like the snow leopard, Asiatic ibex, red fox, Tibetan wolf and the Eurasian brown bear among others. The truly serene atmosphere and the experience of being in the wildlife of one of the remotest places in the world make it a must-visit place for all nature lovers coming to Ladakh.
The giant Shanti Stupa is a sight to behold between the great Himalayan mountains. Located just 5 kilometers from Leh, it was commissioned by a group of Japanese monks to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism in the world. Situated on the Chanspa hilltop, it overlooks the Leh town providing warmth and solace. Its beautifully gilded walls hold intricate murals depicting the life of Gautam Buddha.
Built in the 16th Century, this majestic nine storey high palace was the home of the Royal family of Leh for many generations. The family of the King occupied the upper storeys of the palace, which offers stupendous views of the nearby mountain ranges including Zanskar and Ladakh. The now ruined palace has been meticulously preserved by the Archeological Survey of India and houses a museum that holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, Thangka paintings and murals.
The largest alpine lake in India is the stunning Tso Moriri, located about 15,000 feet above the sea level in the lap of the Greater Himalayas. The high altitude and treacherous path means that it is relatively isolated, but the neighbouring village of Korzok is the perfect base camp, and the sunrise over the lake is one that you would never forget.
A true wonder of the world, Magnetic Hill is one of those unexplained phenomena that you just have to see to believe. Located about 30 kilometers from Leh on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik National Highway, the Magnetic Hill is basically a hill that exhibits strange properties. If you park your car on neutral on the side of the hill, it moves upwards instead of going downwards! People attribute this to the magnetic properties of the hill, so much so that even the aircrafts flying above it are said to increase their elevation in order to escape its magnetic field!
These are some of the magical places in Ladakh that you must visit during your trip there. If you wish to know more and for help in planning your customized Leh Ladakh itinerary, get in touch with TripFactory!