Ladakh is situated in Jammu & Kashmir and is the highest inhabited region of India. Ladakh, referred by multiple names such as The Last Shangri-la, Little Tibet, The Land of Numerous Passes, The Land of Mystic Lamas, The Broken Moon and Moonscape (the Moon Land), is a remote yet popular tourist destination characterised by placid blue lakes, freezing winds, barren landscape and multi-hued mountains.
Situated in a high altitude cold desert at about 3500 meters above sea level, Ladakh is tucked in between the world's greatest mountain ranges, Great Himalayas and the Karakoram. It is also traversed by two other parallel ranges, Zanskar and Ladakh.
As per geological studies, Ladakh was once a submerged portion of a large lake a few million years ago. Powerful tectonic movements pushed up the submerged mass to become the Ladakh of today. This is evident from the drainage basins Tso-moriri, Tsokar, and Pangong-tso, which are situated on the plateaus of Rupshu and Chushul of south-east Ladakh.
Historically, Ladakh had a kingdom of its own towards the 10th century and was ruled by dynasties, which were descendants of the kings of Old Tibet. The Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh reached the summit of its glory during the reign of King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century.
The silk route, which connected the plains of India to Central Asia and West Asia, flourished during this period. Textiles, spices, raw silk, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics were the goods traded by the merchants during this period. Leh, the capital city of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, gradually became a bustling entry point in this trade route.
Later, the kingdom of Ladakh, along with the neighbouring province of Baltistan, was incorporated with Jammu & Kashmir in the 18th century. Post Independence, Baltistan became a part of Pakistan whereas Ladakh remained with Jammu & Kashmir.
Ladakh is famous for its dramatic landscape and Buddhist heritage. Ladakhi, Purig, Tibetan, Hindi and English are spoken in the region. There are many picturesque hamlets in Ladakh situated on the banks of the Indus River. All these villages have Buddhist monasteries or gompas, which are located atop hillocks in their vicinity.
Buddha Purnima, Dosmoche, Galdan Namchot and Losar are the most celebrated festivals in Ladakh. The Dosmoche Festival is also another of significant festival of the region. The two-day event involves dramatic dance performances by monks and offerings made by them to ward off evil spirits and ill fortune and draws many tourists to the region.
Leh, the principal town of Ladakh, is bordered by Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west, China in the north & east, Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pradesh in the south-east and Stok mountain range in the south. Today, Leh is an important Buddhist centre and it houses a settlement for Tibetan refugees.
Shanti Stupa, Hall of Fame, Hemis Gompa, Shey Palace, Stok Palace and Museum, Thiksey Gompa, Alchi Choskor and Lamayuru Gompa are chief attractions in Ladakh-Leh. Leh also offers travellers a chance to participate in adventure sports like mountaineering, white water rafting and trekking. For the same, tourists can opt for Ladakh holiday packages.
The region has many small restaurants and pit stops run by locals, which serve traditional Tibetan food such as momos and thukpa. The butter tea served here made with yaks milk is a must-try. There is not much to shop in Ladakh except souvenirs from local stores.
The best time to visit Ladakh is during summers from the month of June to September. Tourists are advised to carry a lot of woolens, as it tends to get extremely cold even during the summer season. The best way to reach Ladakh is by road. Tourists can drive down from Manali to Leh or also enter the region via Srinagar.
The best way to get around Ladakh is either by hiring a taxi or renting a bike. Tourists visiting the area generally travel to the destination in their own vehicles. Since the terrain is rough and unpredictable, tourists are advised to carry spare parts and other essentials while visiting Ladakh.
Hotel options in Ladakh include budget, lodges and luxury hotels. Tourists visiting Ladakh can also opt for other accommodation options, ranging from guesthouses to resorts.