land with rugged terrains, snow capped peaks chainting monks, chiming
monastery bells and colourful costumes, In Tibet, Ladakh is commonly
called La - Taj and Maryul Red Land It was called Kha Chan Pa Snow Land
by the old Chinese traveler Fa Hien Ladakh has been the dream of
adventure lovers and those in search of peace and solitude. For this
reason travelers call it " Little Tibet " Situated between 30 degree to
36 degree east latitude and 76 degree to 79 degree north longitude, with
altitudes ranging from 2750 m at Kargil to 7672 m at Sasar Kangri in the
Karakoram, Ladakh is spread over an area o 96,701 Sq.Kms bounded by the
great Himalayas and Karakoram Range, Ladakh remains closed between
November and June every year as Srinagar Ladakh and Ladakh manali
highways receive heavy snowfall.
town that served as the royal capital of the Old Kingdom, Leh boasts of
a nine storey palace built by King Singge namgyal in 17 century . It is
a miniatur replica of Potala Palace in Lhasa.
palace is the namgyal Tsemo . The ruins of Tsemo Gompa a part of the
earliest roy7al residence built by King Tashi Namgyal in the 16th
century. The associated temples are kept locket except during the
morning and evening hours, when monks from Shankar Gompa climb the hill
to light the butter lamps palace in fromt of the images.
Location: 70-km From Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K
Significance: The Du-Khang, The Sumtsek
Driving past on the nearby Srinagar Leh highway you;d never guess
that the culuster of low pagoda roofed cubes 3 km across the Indus
from Saspol, dwarfed by a spectacular sweep of wine coloured scree,
is one of the most significant historical sites in Asia, Yet the
Chos Khor or religious enclave at Alchi 70 km west of Leh harbours
an extraordinary wealth of ancient wall paintings and wood sculputre
miraculously preserved for over nine centures insides five tiny mud
walled temples, The site's earliest murals are regarded as the
finest surviving examples of a style that flourished in Kashmir
during the "second Spreading" Barely a handful of the monasteries
founded during this era escaped the Muslim depredations of the
is the most impressive of them all the least remote and the only one
you don't need a special permit to visit nestled beside a bend in
the milky blue Rive Indus amid some dramatic scenery
Location: Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K
Also Known As: Peace Pagoda
Opened In: 1983 By Dalai Lama
A relatively new addition to the rocky skyline around Leh is the toothpaste
white Shanti Stupa above Changspa village, 3km west of the bazaar.
Inaugurated in 1983 by the Dalai Lama, the "Peace Pagoda", whose
sides are decorated with gilt panels depicting episodes from the
life of the Buddha, is one of several such monuments erected around
India by a "Peace Sect" of Japanese Buddhists.
The Dusky Beauty
The site of the Stupa is particularly atmospheric at dusk, when the
drums played at evening Puja seem to set the pace of growing shadows
as the sun sinks behind the mountains in the west.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Shanti Stupa can be reached by car, or on foot via a steep
flight of five hundred steps, which winds up the ridge from the end
of Changspa lane.
SPITOK gompa rising
incongruously from the end of the airport runway, makes a good half-
day foray from Leh, 10km up the north side of the Indus valley. A
in the monotony appears 1km before Spitok in the from of the
Museum of Ladakh, Culture and military Heritage, a
self-congratulatory montage of Indian military achievements in
Ladakh, with tributes to the heroic road builders who risked their
lived to open Ladakh to the world. There are also a couple of token
rooms for 2000years of Ladakhi history.
The fifteenth century monastery, which tumbles down the sides
of a steep knoll to a tight cluster of farmhouses and
well-watered fields, is altogether more picturesque. Approached by
from the north, or from the south along a footpath that winds
through Spitok village, its spacious rooftops command superb views.
The main complex is of less interest than the Palden Lumo
chapel, perched on a ridge above. Although visiting soldiers from
the nearby Indian army barracks consider the deity inside the temple
to be Kali Mata, the key- keeper will assure visitors that what many
consider to be the black- faced and bloodthirsty Hindu goddess of
death and destruction is actually Yidam Dorje Jigjet. Colored
electric lights illuminate the cobwebbed chamber of veiled guardian
deities whose ferocious faces are only revealed once a year. If you
have a torch, check out the 600-year-old paintings on the back wall,
partially hidden by eerie chaam masks used during the winter
Location: 130-km West Of Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K
Main Attraction: Lamayuru Gompa & Trekking
First Monastery Dates Back To: 10th Century
The First Monastery Of Lamayuru
The first Lamayuru monastery was built under Rinchen Zangbo at the
end of the 10th century, under orders from the king of Ladakh , who
altogether had 108 Gompas built in west Tibet. It was built on the
broken mountain in the valley and consisted of five buildings, of
which only the central building stands today. One can still see some
remains of the four corner buildings to the west.
The Gompa has an impressive 11-headed, 1,000-eyed image of Chenrezig.
In its heyday up to 400 monks lived in the monastery but today there
are only 20 to 30 who belong to the yellow hat sect. Many Lamas from
Lamayuru now go out to other parts of Ladakh as teachers
Location: 6-km North Of Leh-Srinagar Highway, Ladakh Region, J&K
Also Known As: Lu-Khyil
Founded In: 1065 AD
Founded By: Lama Duwang Chosje
Five kilometers to the north of the
main Leh-Srinagar highway,
shortly before the village of Saspol, the large and wealthy gompa
of Likkir, home to around one hundred monks, is renowned
for its new 75-foot high yellow statue of the Buddha-to-come
which towers serenely above the terraced fields. A pleasant break
from the bustle of Leh, the village of Likkir now offers a small but
adequate choice of accommodation which, along with the sheer
tranquility of the surroundings, tempts many travelers to linger a
About Likkir Gompa
Founded in 1065 by Lama Duwang Chosje who was given the land by
Lachen Gyalpo, the fifth king of Ladakh , the Gompa originally
belonged to the Khadampa sect. In 1470 the Gompa was converted by
Lawang Lotos, a monk from central Tibet, into the Gelug-pa monastery
that is still here today.
The Gompa was extensively renovated in the 18th century and there is
little sign of the antiquity related to the site. The impressive Du-khang
is devoted to the three Buddhas - "Marme Zat" (past), "Shakyamuni"
(present) and "Maitreya" (Future), while the Gon-khang, decorated
with lavish murals of "Yamantaka" and "Mahakala" contains the statue
of the wrathful protector, "Tse-Ta-Pa".
Most visitors to Likkir continue on an excellent two-day hike from
here to Temisgang via Rhidzong, which provides a good and
comparatively gentle introduction to trekking in Ladakh. For those
with less time on their hands, a short acclimatizing three to four
hour walk from the Gompa leads to the top of the ridge west of
Likkur, providing great views of the Indus Valley.
gompa shelters a cave in which the apostle Padmasambhava is
said to have meditated during his epic eight-century journey to
Tibet. Blackened over the years by sticky butter-lamp and
incense smoke, the mysterious grotto is now somewhat ustaged
by the monasterys more modern wings nearby. As well as some
spectacular 35-year-old wall paintings, the Urgyan Photan Du-khang
harbours a collection of multicolored yak-butter
candle-sculptures made by the head lama. for a glimpse of
state-of-the-art Buddhist iconography, head to the top of Thak
Thok village, where a shiny new temple houses a row of huge
gleaming Buddhas, decked out in silk robes and surrounded by
garish modern murals.
during the annual festival, the village of Sakti is a
tranquil place, blessed with serene views south over the snowy
mountains behind Hemis. Accommodation is available in the J&K
Tourist Bungalow. There are also plenty of ideal camping
spots beside the river, although as ever you should seek
permission before putting up a tent on someones field. Nine
buses a day leave Leh for Sakti.
Southeast Of Leh, Ladakh Region, J&K
Main Attractions: Stok Palace & Museum, Stok Gompa
Built nearly 1580 by great scholar saint chosje Jamyang
Palkar during the reign of king Jamyang Namgyal. The Stakna
monastery is 45 Km south of Leh, founded on a hill shaped
Stakna (Tiger nose). Easily accessible from Leh town.
twenty minutes walk up the valley, boasts a collection of
dance- drama masks, and some lurid modern murals painted by
lamas from Lingshet gompa in Zanskar, the artists
responsible for the Maitreya statue in Tiske.
At the top of a huge moraine of pebbles swept down from the
mountains, the elegant four-storey Stok Palace stands under
the shadow of the intrusive tower, above barley terraces
studded with threshing circles and white washed farmhouses.
Built early in the 19th century by the last ruler of
independent Ladakh , it has been the official residence of
the Ladakhi royal family since they were ousted from Leh and
Shey two hundred years ago.
Tso is a lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4250 m
(13,900 ft). It is 134 km (83.3 mi) long and extends from India
Tibet. Two thirds of the length of this lake falls in the People's
Republic of China. It is 5 km (3 mi) wide at its broadest point. In
winter, the lake surface freezes completely despite being salt
Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it
on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road traverses the
third-highest pass in the world, the Changla pass, where army
sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The spectacular
lakeside is open during the tourist season, from May to September. A
special permit is required to visit the lake. While an Indian can
get his individual permit at Leh, non-Indian nationals need to be in
a group of at least four. For security reasons, no boating is
allowed. There is a small hostel as well as campsites and houses
with primitive guestrooms in the village a few miles towards Tibet.
The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar
Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be
the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention
Famous for the
large herds of kiang, or wild ass, which graze on its
shores, the lake of
southeast of Leh, lies in the sparsely populated region of
Rupshu. The area has only recently been opened to foreigners
so you need a permit to travel here, which most visitors do via
a jeep safari out of Leh.
Nestling in a
wide valley flanked by some of the highest peaks in Ladakh
Lungser Kangri (6666m) and Chanmser Kangri
(6622m) - the twenty kilometer-long lake is home to flocks of
bar-headed geese, as well as occasional herds of pashmina goats
and champs of nomadic herders. Located on the shores of the lake
at an altitude of 4000m, Karzok the only large village
in the area is a friendly place with a small gompa, but
the ill effects of tourism with its accompanying litter are
beginning to show. To help protect the fragile ecosystem, a new
directive stipulates that no habitation can be built within 700m
of the shoreline. Visitors should bring their own food supplies
and make sure they take all rubbish away.
Valley is situated about 150 km north of Leh, the capital town of
Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The common way to access this valley
is to travel over the Khardung La from Leh where one will first
encounter the Shyok valley. To enter the Nubra valley, one must cross
over the Shyok river via a small bridge and pass through a military
checkpoint. An "Inner Line" permit is required to pass. The Nubra valley
contains the small towns of Sumur and Panamik. Sumur has a Buddhist
Gompa or monastery while Panamik is noted for its hot springs.
region passed into the administrative hands of Leh Nubra's ancient kings
ruled from a palace in in Charasa, toping an isolated hillock opposite
Summur home to the valley's principal monastery. Further up the Nubra
River the host springs of Panamik .
Valley unfolding beyond the worlds' highest stretch of motorable road as
it crosses the Khardung La can be visited with a seven day permit which
gives you enough time to explore the stark terrain and trek out to one
or tow gompas. The Valley's mountain beckbone looks east to the Nubra
River and west to the Shyok River which meet amid silver grey sand dunes
and boulder fields. To the north and east the mighty Karakoram Range
markes the Indian border with China and Pakistan. In the Valley its
relatively mild though dust storms are common whipping up sand and light
debris in choking clouds above the braod riverbeds.
Administering the Valleys of Suru , Drass, Wakha and Bodkarbu, Kargil
lies midway between the alpine valleys of Kashmir and the fertile
reaches of the Indus Valley and ladakh. The region is politically part
of India, ethnically part of Baltistan and geographically an integral
part of Ladakh.
1947, Kargil was an important trading centre linking Ladakh with Gilgit
and the lower Indus Valley. There were also important trading link
between the villages of the Suru Valley and the Zanskar Valley and even
20 years ago it was not uncommon to see yak trains making their way for
Padum all the 3way into Kargil Bazaar . Kargil next to the roaring Suru
River, is the second larget town in Ladakh.
See and Do
Kargil mainly serves as an ideal base station for adventure activities
like trekking, mountaineering,
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.
kms East of Kargil on the road to Leh, Mulbek (3230 m) in an area
dominated by the Buddhists. It is situated along either banks of the
Wakha River, which originates. Many monuments of the early Buddhists era
dot the landscape and are accessible from the road.
Shergol : Another picturesque village of the Wakha River valley,
Shergol is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. The
main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a
white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it
appears to hang out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist
nunnery with about a dozen incumbents. The village is accessible by the
motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km
short of Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek
across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the approach
base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside
the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valey.
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,
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.