One trip might not be enough to experience all the beauty which is trapped in the womb of Leh Ladakh. This cold desert stretches very long into the mountainous region and has a variety of categories of places to visit from lakes to glaciers to mountain passes to temples. For the trek lovers, this place is the closest place to heaven on earth. One of the most unique characteristic about the journey is that there is not a lot of specific destinations to visit, it is more like that your journey is your destination. Still, if you want some recommendations that you should visit, then let us start from some lakes and then we’ll head on to next category. Pangong Tso Lake is one the most popular places to visit due to its ability to change color every hour of the day ranging its spectrum from emerald green to varying tints of blues and violets. Other beautiful lakes are Tsomoriri Lake and Tsokar Lake.
(1) Tso Moriri Lake
Located in the Changthang area of Ladakh, this breathtaking high altitude lake is located 4,595 m (15,075 ft) above sea level. The drive to Tso Moriri from Leh (the largest town in Ladakh) is long – 7-8 hours, and the last couple of hours are a bumpy dirt track affair. One should stay in the tents located along the shores of the lake to enjoy the beauty of the amazing Moriri. They are comfortable enough & protect one well against the fiercely cold winds which sweep across the lake after dusk. A visit to the Korzok village with its quaint monastery is recommended. Tso Moriri is a restricted area and requires a permit to visit which can be obtained in Leh itself.
(2) Nubra Valley
The Nubra Valley is set amidst a most surreal landscape – high altitude sand dunes, mountains of every conceivable Hue, an ancient dried river bed, enchanting monasteries, and endless winding roads. There is some basic accommodation at some of the villages in the Nubra valley where you can set up for the night and watch the sun go flaming down beyond the golden capped mountains. Take a picture with a shaggy double humped camel, run around on the crazily patterned sand dunes, visit the monasteries, there’s plenty to do at the Nubra Valley. And even if you’re in the mood for nothingness, there’s no place more serene than Nubra.
(3) Thiksey Monastery
This monastery is situated 25 kilometres south of Leh. The monastery complex is spread out over a rocky outcrop and provides a cool photo op. Thiksey Gompa is a 12-story monastery that gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the Indus Valley and the looming mountains around it. The Thiksey Monastery Complex consists of ten temples and shrines, a school, a museum, a medical clinic, a restaurant, a hotel and shops. On the slopes below the actual monastery are the houses of the 120 resident monks. Thiksey is one of the biggest monasteries in Ladakh. Tourists often visit very early in the morning just to watch the monks recite their morning prayers. Reaching Thiksey on your own is easy – the main road passes just below and buses are frequent.R 100 for others
(4) Pangong Tso Lake
Pangong Lake is a beautiful lake situated at an altitude of 4350 metres. The water is cold and clear and its colours are said to shift by the hour. The lake is surrounded by bald mountains, some that are snow-capped even in summer! Pangong Tso is a 134 kilometre long lake, but it is only 5 kilometres wide at the widest points. More than 60% of the lake is situated in Tibet. You need a permit to visit Pangong Lake that can be arranged by any travel agent doing bookings in the region. Most people only do day trips, but it is really worth camping there overnight if you can. That way you will be able to experience the glorious, shifting colours of the lake and surrounding landscape in all the different levels and directions of light.
(5) Leh Palace
Leh Palace known as the ‘Lhachen Palkhar’ is a former royal palace of the Leh Kingdom. Located in Leh city. It is one of the biggest tourist attraction of Leh city. The 17th century Palace, Leh Palace is also one of the tallest buildings of its time with nine story’s. The palace provides spectacular views of Stok Kangri and the Ladakh mountain range as well as town and surroundings. The palace is now in a run-down condition being maintained and restored by the ‘Archaeological Survey of India’ (ASI).
(6) Shanti Stupa
The Shanti Stupa is white-colored domed-shaped structure, located in Chandspa which looks extremely beautiful during night when it is illuminated. This peace pillar was built a ‘peace sect’ of Japanese Buddhist organization to celebrate the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism and for the promotion of world peace. It was inaugurated by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in 1985. This pillar is known for its gilt panels depicting the life stories of Lord Buddha. It is just 5 kms away from the main city of Leh and is surrounded the traditionally built houses of the locals and snow-covered mountains. Take the steep slights to reach the Stupa that offers beautiful sunrise and sunset views.
(7) MAITREYA BUDDHA
Close to the oldest monastery of Nubra valley in Ladakh, Diskit monastery, lies the impressive statue of Jampa Buddha. Along the other attractions of Nubra, this mighty Buddha statue surmounted on top of a monastery, is one of the prime and is deeply appreciated for its architecture. Facing the Shyok river, the statue sits tall with a height of 32 meters and was constructed with the help of the natives of the valley.
Gold to be used in the construction of the statue was donated by the heads of other major monasteries around. The idea behind the construction of Maitreya Buddha is to promote peace and protection in the region.
(8) Khardungla Pass
Situated at an altitude of 18,379 ft. above the sea level, Khardung La makes one feel on the top of the world. It was once believed to be the highest motorable pass in the world, but facts prove it is among the highest motorable passes in India. This mountain pass in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir was prepared for motors in 1976 and opened in 1988 for the public.
Khardung Pass (as ‘La’ implies ‘pass’ in Tibetan Language) is the gateway to the remote Nubra and Shyok valleys. The mountain pass holds a special significance as it is the way to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. It offers astonishing views of the twisting roads up the mountain and the awesome valley.
Alternatively known as the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’, Khardung La is the inspiration of motorbike, automobile and mountain biking expeditions. This makes it adventure aficionados’ paradise indeed. A visit to Khardung La is one of the must things to do in Ladakh. The picturesque panoramas and pure air lures tourists from every nook and corner of the world.
Timings: 7 AM – 8 PM
(9) Hemis Monastery
Beautifully adorned, Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan monastery belonging to the Drukpa Lineage. Counted as one of the iconic monasteries in Ladakh, Hemis is perched on a mountain along the west bank of Indus River. People eagerly await to marvel at the numerous paintings or Thangkas that are carefully preserved here and are displayed on the famous Hemis Festival. A visit to the Hemis Monastery is one of the highlights of planning holidays in Ladakh.
The ancient Hemis monastery is said to be have existed before the 11th century. Naropa, the teacher of the translator Marpa and the pupil of the yogi Tilopa, are regarded as the founding fathers of the Kagyu-lineage of Buddhism, with, Hemis is its main seat. The first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso founded the monastery in 1630 when he was invited to Ladakh by the King Singay Namgyal.
(10) Hemis National Park
n Ladakh, your eyes meet sights which you knew existed but didn’t know where exactly. Snowcapped mountains, with their barren slopes, stand next to lakes which appear as divine as ever. Monasteries with their fluttering flags seem to stand there since times immemorial. While the various passes and valleys set you off on an adventure like never before. Hemis National Park lets you see yet another side of Ladakh region, a side which you most probably would be unaware of.
Did you know that Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir state is also home to fascinating wildlife and wild vegetation? If you did not, then you are missing out on a special experience. The next time you visit Ladakh with your friends and family, take some time out and visit Hemis High Altitude National Park. The park is bounded by the Indus River on the north and includes parts of the Zanskar Range as well. You will know what makes it so special and why this place should be visited by every person taking a trip to Ladakh.