Leh - Ladakh - Dropped Piece of Heaven
Ladakh is one of the three provinces in Jammu and Kashmir with its
capital at Leh. Situated at an average altitude of more than 3000 m
above sea level, Ladakh is India's highest plateau and most elusive as
well. The name Ladakh means 'land of passes' and it is located in
between Karakoram mountains in north and Himalayas in south. Some even
refer to Ladakh as 'Little Tibet'. Ladakh comprises of two districts,
Kargil and the capital of Leh. Leh district has the distinction of
being the largest district in India. The face of Leh is dotted with
few of the most imposing structures in Ladakh. The city is also famous
for the magnificent Leh Palace that will remind you of the renowned
Potala Palace. You will also find the world's highest observatory in
the Village of Hanle in the eastern part of Ladakh. Almost the entire
population here is a follower of Buddhism. But in the Kargil district,
major population is of Muslims.
Adventure is by far the most alluring aspect of tourism in Ladakh. Right from the first stone in Ladakh to the last, there are numerous options for adventure. To name a few, trekking, mountain climbing, river rafting and yak safari can be done here. Although apt time for many of these adventures is in the month of summers. The climate here is entirely different from other regions of India due to the mountain cover that is there all around it. The humidity is low at around 10 percent and the rains are quite less. In fact for Irrigation, Ladakhis heavily rely on the waters due to the melting snow off the glaciers. The summers are quite pleasant but nights do get a bit cold. There is so much to see and do that you can easily spend more than a week exploring Leh and the surrounding areas.
Attractions - Easily The Best
In Ladakh, most of the attractions are Buddhist monasteries and palaces. Almost every few kilometers you will find a monastery still well preserved displaying its rich architecture and great Buddhist culture. Ladakh is a province that is full of natural beauty and you don't have to go to a specific place to admire its allurement.
Thiksey Monastery was built in the fifteenth century and it belongs to the Gelugpa Sect. Situated around 20 km from Leh, the structure of the monastery is the most impressive and grand in all of Ladakh. The monastery is located on the top of a hill and overlooks many small villages that are present in the valley on the foot of the hill.The monastery is still very lively and has around 10 temples inside the premises. Inside the monastery, you will find the one of the most photographed image in Ladakh, the 15 m tall Maitreya Buddha. It was built to immortalize the visit of Dalai Lama in 1970. If possible, try to come to this monastery in early morning or at noon. That is the time when prayers are held in the monastery. Accompanied by rolling drumbeats and Tibetan horns, the prayers are not to be missed.
Currently the biggest and the wealthiest monastery in Ladakh is Hemis Monastery, built in the year 1630 by King Senge Namgyal. It is also called 'Chang Chub Sam Ling' which means the solitary place of the compassionate one. The monastery stands hidden deep in a gorge and a walk to the monastery will take you across many shortens and small walls. The monastery today belongs to the Kagyug Drukpa Red Hat sect and is home to Drukpa Kagyug lineage. Inside the monastery, you will be spellbound to find the largest thangka in the world, which stands as tall as two floors in length. The thangka is displayed only once in 12 years and the next display will be in 2016. The monastery is also famous for the three day Hemis festival that is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava on every 9th, 10th and 11th of fifth month according to Tibetan calender. During the festival you will see Lamas and laypersons performing a sacred dance dressed in century old masks and traditional clothing portraying gods and demons and depicting triumph of good over evil.
First look of the palace reminds you of the famous Potala Palace situated in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. It looks like a miniature model of the real Potala Palace. Also known as Lhachen Phalkar, the palace was built in 17th century by Dharamraja Singey Namgial. This once abode of royal family till 1830s is now the Ladakhi branch of the Indian Government's archaeological conservation organization. The palace is located by the edge of a hill and just above the palace is a victory tower build to commemorate the Ladakhi victory over Balti Kashmir. Inside the palace you will find exquisite artwork on Thangaka paintings.
Adventure In Ladakh
With the number of options for adventure, Ladakh is literally a heaven for adventure lovers. In case of landscapes, Ladakh has everything that makes for a good adventure destination, rocky hills, steep falls and valleys, snow covered slopes. In Ladakh, mountain climbing and trekking are the most indulged in activity but the time period for these activities is limited to summers as Ladakh receives a huge amount of snowfall. Although highly experienced trekkers can possibly trek in snow capped slopes as well. Apart from these, you can also look for camel safari, yak safari and cycling on high slopes.
Where to Put Up
Ladakh is full of options for accommodation. There are lot of hillside resorts and hotels that cater to travelers of all kinds. The city sees a lot of business travelers as well and to satisfy their work needs, many hotels also have good business facilities. Few good hotels in Ladakh are Hotel Dragon, Royal Palace Hotel, and Hotel Mahay. You will also find many govt. run bungalows and tourist complexes in Ladakh.
Leh has its own airport. Indian Airlines and Jet Airways both have regular flights operating to and from Leh. The city is also well connected to other major cities of India.
Leh is having a road connection to Srinagar and Manali. The route to Srinagar is open from June to October, whereas route to Manali is open from July to September.
Buses are the main mode of transport in Ladakh. You will also find jeeps and taxis for hire.
The Monasteries Of Ladakh - By Manav Mishra|
First hand experience of a traveler's visit to barren landscape of Ladakh and its monasteries.