Ladakh is a high
altitude mountainous region bounded by the Karakoram Range from the north and
the Great Himalayas in the south. It is a land that abounds in awesome physical
features set in an enormous and spectacular environment. Often described as ‘Moonland’
on account of the unique lunar landscape, Ladakh was an independent mountain
kingdom for close to a millennium. Leh, the royal capital, was a major
crossroads of Asia and a stopping point on the ancient migration routes of the
trans-Himalayas, connecting Central Asia with the Indian sub-continent. From
here, the old caravan routes led westward through Kashmir to the Silk roads,
northward across the Karakorum Pass to Central Asia, eastward across the
Chang-thang highlands to Tibet and China, and southward through present-day
Himachal Pradesh to the plains of India.
Many migrants have
traveled through the region, some settling on the way, giving a distinctive
characteristic to its population - from the west, early Dard settlers and
later-day invaders from Baltistan; from the east, Tibetan settlers, invaders
and rulers; from the north, traders from Yarkand; and much later, Dogra
conquerors from Jammu in the south.
The people who
settled here established Ladakh’s centuries-old religious and cultural heritage:
the shamanistic Bon-po with roots across the Tien Shen to Southern Siberia’s
Attai mountains, and later, Buddhists from Kashmir some five centuries before
Buddhism reached Tibet. The 16th century saw the introduction of Islam to the
region and 19th century Moravian missionaries brought Christianity.
For centuries, Silk
Road caravans and devoted pilgrims passed through this crossroads, endowing the
region with a convergence of religious and artistic traditions, which find
expression in its monuments, monasteries, festivals, cultural traditions and in
the lifestyle of the people. Shielded by the high mountain ramparts, Ladakh
remains an unspoiled enclave of Tibetan Buddhism to date.
During the course
of its history as an independent kingdom, Ladakh became recognized as the best
trade route between India and Central Asia. For centuries it was traversed by
caravans carrying textiles, spices, raw silk, carpets, dyestuffs, narcotics
etc. On this long route, Leh was the midway stop, and developed into a bustling
entrepot, its bazaars thronging with merchants from distant countries. In 1834
AD, Gulab Singh, the ruler of Jammu sent his general Zorawar Singh to invade
Ladakh and gain control of this strategic region in the heart of Asia. As a
result of this conquest, Ladakh was incorporated, together with neighbouring
Baltistan, into the newly created Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir. Just over a
century later, the partition of India saw Baltistan becoming part of Pakistan,
while Ladakh remained in India as part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
Land of Festivals: In Ladakh,
cultural traditions and ancestral customs are kept alive and vibrant through
various festivals and celebrations, both religious and secular. Here, every
occasion - marriage, birth, farming and harvesting, even the flowering of
plants is celebrated with great fanfare, marked with feasting, dancing and
singing of folk songs that form part of its rich culture. In summer, most
villages hold archery festivals and thanksgiving events, while winter is the
period in which most of the religious festivals and social and cultural events
The festivals held
in the monasteries are the ones with which Ladakh is famously associated.
Almost all the major Buddhist monasteries hold annual festivals, mostly in
winter. These take the form of dance-dramas performed by Lamas, attired in
colourful robes and wearing fearsome masks. The most famous festival is that of
Hemis which is held in early summer and is dedicated to Padmasambhava, founder
of Tibetan Vjarayana Buddhism. Every 12th years, a huge Thangka of the saint is
ritually exhibited during this festival. Other monasteries, which have summer
festivals, are Lamayuru, Phyang, Tak-thok and Karsha in Zanskar. The
monasteries of Spituk, Stok, Thikse, Chemrey and Matho have their festivals in
winter between November and March. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) hold their annual
festivals coinciding with Leh Dosmochhe which is held in late February and is
one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar, which falls around the time
of the winter solstice.
The core event of
the monastic festival is a ritual dance-drama known as ‘Chhams. These are
choreographed by the mystic dance master or Chham-spon strictly as per the
guidelines described in the dance books (Chhams-yig). The chhams is performed
mainly as ritual offerings to the tutelary deities of the monastery and its
guardian divinities by selected lamas of the concerned monastery, who are
trained as per the codified rituals. They wear elaborate brocade robes and
masks representing various divinities. As the ‘Chhams’ approaches its end on
the last day of the festival, the climactic scene is enacted in which a
grotesque human figure made from dough, is ritually cut into pieces and
scattered in the four cardinal directions. This figure symbolizes the
embodiment of the three cardinal evils in the human soul viz. ignorance,
jealousy and hatred.
festivals also provide the local people an opportunity for socializing, trading
and entertainment. On this occasion, makeshift markets spring up overnight near
the monastery to which people throng. For the more devoted villagers, however,
the event is essentially a pilgrimage to the monastery and its various temples,
for it is during this period only that they can see all the images and figures,
which are otherwise kept veiled.
Monuments: The Indus valley
from Upshi down to Khalatse is dotted with all the major sites connected with
the former kingdom's dynastic history, starting with Leh, the capital since the
early 17th century.
About 12 kilometers
up the Indus is Shey Palace, the most ancient capital, with its palace and
temples. Down river is Basgo Castle , right on the road, and Tingmosgang, a
short distance up a side-valley, both served as royal capitals when the Old
Kingdom was temporarily divided into two parts in the 15th century. Both these
places have the remains of forts and temples dating from the period of their
brief glory. Just across the river from Leh is Stok, the village which was
granted to the deposed royal family in lieu of the Leh throne. Stok Palace,
where the royal family now lives, houses a museum of artifacts associated with
the Namgyal dynasty.
Monasteries: There are about 35
Buddhist monasteries or Gompas spread across the entire region. The central
area of Ladakh has the greatest concentration of major Gompas. Of the 13 major
monasteries situated on or near the Indus, the oldest is that of Lamayuru,
which is believed to have been a sacred site for the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.
The monasteries of Phyang, Hemis and Chemrey were all founded under the direct
patronage of members of the ruling Namgyal dynasty. Hemis monastery, together
with that of Hanle was established at the instance of King Singge Namgyal,
while his widow founded Chemrey as a posthumous act of merit for him. Stakna,
dating from a slightly earlier period, was endowed by the Namgyal Kings at
various times. All these belong to the Red Hat (Kargyu-pa) sect of Tibetan
Gelugs-pa, or Yellow-Hat sect, is well represented in central Ladakh in the
monsteries of Thiksey, Likir and Ri-dzong besides that of Spituk, and its
branch monsteries at Stok, Sabu and Sankar. Ri-dzong, situated up a side-valley
from Uley-Tokpo, was founded just about a century and half ago by a devout layman-turned-lama,
with the purpose of following the strict monastic rules of the Gelugs-pa sect.
Tak-thok and Matho
Gompas represent the smaller but much older Nying-ma-pa and Saskya-pa monastic
sects respectively. Tak-thok, situated at the foot of the Chang-la pass,
incorporates one of the many caves in the Himalayas where the Indian Buddhist
apostle Padmasambhava is said to have rested and meditated on his journey to
Tibet. Matho Gompa is famous for its festival of the oracles(Matho Nakrang),
which is held usually in March.
monastic foundations Alchi holds pride of the place as a repository of a
millennium old art heritage. Known as Chos-kor, or religious enclave, it
comprises five temples, the richest in paintings and images being the Du-khang
(assembly hall) and the three-storey Sum-tsek. The murals dating from the 11th
and 12th centuries, pre-date the Tibetan style of painting seen in all the
other Gompas of the region. Some of them are presumed to be among the sole
survivors of the Buddhist style prevailing in Kashmir during the first
monasteries are repositories of exquisite murals, gilded statues, religious
icons, carvings, scrolls etc. built up through the ages. They remain alive with
the devotions of monks, young and old. Here it is possible to receive a lama's
blessing, consult an astrologer about your future, hear the wail of a horn
echoing from the mountain walls, and witness a lifestyle passed down intact
through the ages.
Note for visitors to
monasteries: The monasteries are the fountainhead of Buddhist religion and culture of
Ladakh. Visitors are advised to respect their sanctity and appreciate their
heritage importance. Shoes may have to be removed before entering some of the
temples, while ladies are not allowed to enter the Gon-Khang,Lhakhang or
the room dedicated to the guardian divinities. Smoking, loud action and
improper dress may disturb the tranquil ambience characteristic of such places
of worship and therefore unwelcome. Most of the region’s major monasteries are
open throughout the day and a caretaker Lama is available to show visitors
around. Some of the less visited establishments have special opening hours as
in the case of the Namgyal Tsemo, Shey Palace etc. Check the timings in the
Tourist Office before proceeding to these places.
Nubra Valley: North of Leh
is the Nubra Valley (alt: 2800 mtrs.) nestling along the foothills of the Great
Karakoram range and drained by the rivers Nubra and Shayok. The road to Nubra
runs across Khardung-la (18,300 ft./5578 M), the highest motorable road in the
world. Prominent places to visit here include the capital town of Deskit (118
kms) and, just across the rolling sand dunes, Hundar (125 kms.) which has a
small population of double-humped Bactrian camels, a legacy from the Central
Asian trade caravans that passed through the valley. North of Deskit, the road
leads into the valley of the Nubra River where Sumur (115 kms.) with its
picturesque hillside monastery of Samstaling is the main attraction. Further up
the valley is Panamik (140 kms.) famous for the hot springs, used as a
traditional spa by throngs of local people for curing various ailments to good
effect.Turtuk is recently opened for foreigner and domestic tourist
as well in last July 2010.It is unique Balti culture in Ladakh region.
Dah-Hanu: Down the
Indus, between Khalatse and the Shayok-Indus confluence, live a people, known
as Drok-pa, who are Buddhists by faith, but racially and culturally distinct
from the rest of the Ladakhis. Two of the five villages inhabited by them, Dah
and Biama are now open to foreign tourists. The approach to this area follows
the Indus down from Khalatse, past the villages of Domkhar, Skurbuchan and
Achinathang, along a fairly good road.
constitutes a small community of Indo-Aryan tribals, who appear to have
preserved their racial purity down the centuries. Their culture and religious
practices are more like those of the pre-Buddhist animist religion of the
Tibetan Plateau, known as Bon-chos. They have preserved the saga of their
ancient traditions and way of life partly through the celebration of the
triennial Bono-na festival, and partly through the songs and hymns. Their
language is derived from archaic Shina, a language still spoken in Gilgit, and
by the Shin immigrants now settled in Drass.
Pangong Lake: Pangong Lake,
situated at an altitude of 14,500 ft (4,267m) is a long narrow basin of inland
drainage, about 6 to 7 kilometers at its widest point, and over 130 kms long,
bisected by the international border between India and China. It presents
spectacular views of the Chang-chenmo range to the north. Spangmik and a
scattering of other tiny villages along the lake's southern shore are the
summer homes of a scanty population of nomadic Chang-pa herdsmen. They
cultivate sparse crops of barley and peas in summer. But in winter they unfold
their yak wool tents called rebo, and take the flocks of sheep and pashmina
goats out to the distant pastures.
The approach to
Pangong Lake is across the Chang-la pass (18,000 ft / 5,475 m) which is the
third highest motorable pass of the world. Tangtse, just beyond the foot of the
pass, with guest houses, camping sites and other transit amenities is a
convenient halting point on this circuit.
Circuit: The area traversed by the Manali-Leh road, containing lake
Tsomo-riri and other lakes, is a desolate and extensive region known as Rupshu.
It is a landscape quite unlike any other in Ladakh, or elsewhere in India. This
area is now open for tourists for visiting along two specified tour circuits
Tso-moriri is the most prominent lake of this region. The lakes are breeding
grounds for numerous species of birds. Chief among them is the bar-headed
goose, found in great numbers on the Tso-moriri, the great crested grebe, the
Brahmini duck and the brown-headed gull.
The first tour
circuit follows the Manali road over the Taglang-la upto Debring, a Changpa
camping place. From here it turns eastward on a rough track along the twin
lakes Startsapuk-Tso and the Tso-kar, crosses the Polokongka-la (about 16,500
ft /5,030 m) and descends to Puga valley at Sumdo , then over to the head of
The other route
into the area follows the the Indus to the village of Chumathang, where there
is a hot spring. At Mahe, about 17 km further ahead, the road crosses from the
north to the south bank of the river and then follows the Puga stream to join
and follow the first circuit to Tsomo-riri via Sumdo.
Korzok, situated at 15,000
ft (4,572 m) with its dozen or so houses and its gompa, is the only permanent
settlement in Rupshu, which is otherwise inhabited only by nomadic Chang-pa
herdsmen, who live in yak wool tents (rebo) all the year round, moving between
the pastures that exist in the region. The few barley-fields at Korzok must be
among the highest cultivation in the world. The lakes of Rupsho are breeding
grounds for numerous species of birds.
Adventure Tourism: Ladakh offers
many challenging options for adventure tourism. Trekking is the main activity
and is done during June through September. The 10-day Markha Valley trek is the
most popular, while the 18-day trek from Hunuphata to Darcha (HP) via the
Zanskar Valley is the longest and involves crossing of several major mountain
ranges including the Zanskar and the Great Himalaya. Many other trekking
options are available to suite various time-frames and degree of challenge. The
most challenging and unique of these is the week-long winter trek between Leh
& Zanskar along the Chaddar formed as a result of the freezing of the Zanskar River.
options are aplenty in Ladakh. The Indus is the most popular river for this
activity. For the amateur tourist, the stretch of the Indus between Karu and
Spituk offers half-day scenic floating amidst beautiful landscape and rural scenery.
For white water expeditions, River Zanskar provides the ultimate challenge,
comparable to the Colarado river flowing through the Grand Canyon.
another activity for which Ladakh is very popular. The most popular peaks are
those of the Nun-Kun (7135 mtrs.) massif situated in the Suru Valley (90-110
Kms. ex- Kargil). The base camps are easily accessible by road from Kargil. In
the Leh, the nearest peaks are in the Stok Khangri massif (6150 mtrs.), which
has 5 known peaks. Mountaineering in Ladakh calls for organized expeditions
with proper clearance from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), New
Delhi and branch office Zangsti Leh.
Environment: Ladakh has a fragile eco-system which sustains, besides the sparse
population, some rare fauna and flora which are especially adapted to the
peculiar environment. This is aptly described in the document brought out by
the WWF (India) under the title “Saving a prized gift” which reads as under:
“For long years,
the region had remained relatively isolated and untouched by developments in
the world beyond. A unique genetic pool has evolved in the region, specially
adapted to the harsh environment. The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
recognizes most of the species found in the region as endangered.”
Among Ladakh’s most
important fauna are the: Bactrian Camel, Brown Bear, Ladakhi Urial, Lynx, Red
Fox, Siberian Ibex, Snow Leopard, Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Argali, Tibetan
Gazelle, Tibetan Wild Ass, Tibetan Wolf, Wild Dog, and the Wild Yak.
Climate : The Himalayan
range bordering the south of Ladakh blocks the monsoon rains, resulting in a
stark desert environment. Rainfall in Leh averages a scant 110 mm (4.3 in) per
year. In central Ladakh, the lower elevations receive only a small amount of
snowfall during the winter, but Zanskar and western Ladakh can receive heavy
snows. The high passes are usually closed during the winter due to heavy snow,
isolating the various valleys from each other and the rest of the world. Snow
can fall in the higher elevations at any time during the year.
In the summer, the
daytime temperature in Ladakh rises to a comfortable range in the mid 20’s
degree Celsius (75-80 F), but the nighttime temperatures can be cool,
particularly at the higher altitudes. In the winter the temperature rarely
rises above freezing.
Home stay in
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
WITH LOCAL PEOPLE
beauty and caring for the environment – how often does one get an opportunity
like this you come holidaying in Ladakh .With AL-Badar Tours &
Travels, you can. Here’s a concept that wraps travel, tourism and ecological
development into one attractive and out-of-the-world experience.
AL-Badar offers you a unique opportunity to stay
with and share the culture of the Ladakhi people in remote villages, while
trekking through the rugged habitat of the endangered snow leopard.Its
authentic interactions with Ladakhi people and exploration into the core of
Ladakhi culture provides a perfect opportunity that you will never forget in
We have extensive
experience organizing the following activities:
Home-stays in rural Ladakhi villages, where you stay with
Ladakhi families while helping them with the barley farming and apricot
harvests. Stay in village homestays that allow you to experience authentic
village life while contributing to the village economy.
Stay in a village in Changthang with nomadic people at over
4000 meters above the sea where you help the nomads with how to milk yaks and
Stay in a Nunnery in Wakha or Chulichan village, where you
get an opportunity to practice meditation with Ladakhi nuns and help them nun
in the common kitchen, local garden and other chores.
A clean and
comfortable room, lit by candles or solar light and furnished in traditional
Traditional Ladakhi meals, cooked hygienically using Eco-friendly
Boiled spring water to drink and bathe.
A clean, traditional dry-composting toilet.
Local nature guides in villages to show you around the village and take
you on wildlife tours.
Special snow leopard treks in winter, led by local naturalists.
Day 01: Arrives in
Delhi and transfer to Hotel in Delhi.
Day 02: Arrives in
Leh and transfer to Local home.
Day 03: Full day
Day 04: Visit to a
local NGO in Leh.
Day 05: Drive to
Day 06: Exploration
around the village.
Day 07: Local
Day 08: Join local
people and try to learn some traditional stuff in the village.
Day 09: Same
activities as above.
Day 10: Trekking
Day 11: Drive back
Day 12: Sightseeing
in Shey –Thiksay-Hemis.
Day 13: Flying back
to your home with sweet memories of your tour with AL-Badar Tours &
Duration: 11 Nights
– 12 Days
Best Time: June – Oct.
Day 1): Leh – Rumtse –
We will drop
you to the Rumtse by Taxi and will be a formal introduction with the Treking
Crew at Rumtse. Trek to Kyamar (4420 m) in 4 h. We enter a magnificent and vast
area, where the Changpas - nomadic herders take their yak to pasture. We follow
the ancient salt trade route along the green Kyamar valley.
Day 2): Kyamar –
Tisaling via Kyamarla ( 4850 Mtrs )
We reach Kyamar in
5h 30. We start through beautiful color gorge towards Chorten Sumda. Easy walk
for one hour then ascend towards Kumur La. From the top one can see the
beautiful view of the chain of Kangyatse (6400 Mtrs ) and the chain of Mountain
Day 3): Tisaling –
Pangunagu via Shibukla (4850 Mtrs )
Pangunagu (4800 m) in 5 h. From the pass we get a panoramic view of the Tsokhar
Lake (4400m) and the Rupshu valley. Then descend towards the lake, from which
the nomads collect salt from the Tso-kar lake it was the only source of salt in
Ladakh region. We will camp near the winter camp of nomad of Chanthang
Day 4): Pangunagu –
We reach Nuruchan
(4630 m) in 5 h. Today we have an easy trek along the lake. Tsokar area have
the wast area of wet land where you can see lots of Migratory birds come here
for the breeding in summer, On the way you can also see Wild ass
(Kyang) of Ladakh and Tibet plateau. At the end of the lake the trail goes
right and enter the Nuruchan village.
Day 5): Nuruchan –
We reach Rajungkaru
in 4 to 5 hrs, Today its an easy walking by the side of river, We camp Little
before the camps of nomads as they keep very aggressive dogs along with them.
Nice camping area.
Day 6): Rajungkaru -
Reach Gyamabarma in
5 hrs in the way we cross Kyamayurila ( 5300 Mtrs ) and reach to broad valley
then to Gyamabarma. Where we can find nomad camp.
Day 7): Gyamabarma -
We reach Korzok in
7 hrs by crossing the yalung nyau la (5400 Mtrs ) from the top of pass you can
see the beautiful and Heart-throbbing Panoramic view of high-Altitude
fresh water lake of TSOMORIRI , After steep descending we reach to Korzok phu
where we can see the biggest nomad camp which is also called Head Quarter of
Changpas. After one and half hours we reach to Korzok Village situated on the
bank of Tsomoriri Lake.
Day 8): Korzok – Base
After breakfast we
gradually Trek to the base camp of Mentok Kangri at 5400 Mtrs. It takes about 6
Day 9 & 10 ):
Summit day Mentok Kangri 1 & 2 6150 Mtrs & 6100 Mtrs
This is a lovely
peak on a long ridge running south of the Korzok village to the shore of the
Tsomoriri lake. Mentok in Ladakhi language means FLOWERS, In summer the Korzok
valley blooms with wild medicinal flowers giving the name of its peak. When you
reach to summit its a magnificent and heart throbbing view of entire Changthang
rgion. Then we descent back to the base camp.
Day 11): Base camp -
After the Break
fast we will descent back to the Korzok. Overnight in Tent.
Day 12): Korzok – Leh
Break-fast we will travel back to Leh. Overnight in Hotel.
Wildlife safari -