Ladakh - The Land of High Passes

The two of the world's most powerful mountain ranges - the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas - make Ladakh a much preferred adventure destination. The altitude in Ladakh ranges between 3505 m and 2750 m. Ladakh has been described as "The Last Shangrila", a living museum of Tibetan Culture.

Nestled high in the Himalaya and surrounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range.

Accessible by road just 2 months out of the year, this isolated ancient Tibetan Kingdom is home to one of the last surviving authentic Tibetan Buddhist cultures. It is magical, remote, with delightful gentle people. It is an otherworldly place with strange monasteries perched on soaring hilltops, ancient palaces clinging to sheer rock walls and landscapes splashed with small but brilliant patches of green.

Ladakh beckons for more than one reason. The raw beauty of its barren landscape ,its unique flora and fauna, its culture ,its clear blue skies and clean air ,' the land where snow never melts and only corn ripens', has more to offer : a good holiday.

Leh

Leh is located in the Indus river valley at a crossroads of the old trading routes from Kashgar, Tibet, and Kashmir. Its importance as a trading town slowed down with the partition of British India, and ended with the closure of the border in 1962 during the Sino-Indian war. Since the 1999 war with Pakistan, and the consequent development of the Manali-Leh highway, it has become a bustling tourist town, with large numbers of Kashmiri traders. It's a small town, easy to get most places by foot. The old town is a compact area of mud brick houses and narrow lanes directly to the east of Main Bazar. Changspa is the agricultural "suburb" northwest of the center, with many guesthouses. Its elevation is approximately 3500 meters (11,490 feet), so take it easy on your first few days there or risk possible altitude sickness. Even experienced high altitude travellers (Andes) might have some trouble.

Monasteries of Ladakh:

Thiksey Monastery Built some 600 years ago, Thiksey monastery consists of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in an incarnate lama's private abode at the summit. The Gonpa contains 10 temples, below the monastery itself is chapels and houses of monks stretching down the hillside. There are about 100 monks of the yellow- hat sect of Buddhism.

Hemis Monastery

Hemis monastery is one of the most famous and largest of all monasteries in Ladakh, 45 Kms south of Leh founded in 17th century belongs to the Drukpa order. the monastery was founded by Stagsang Raschegn who was invited to Ladakh by king Singee Namgyal. The king offered him religious estates and attended him as his principal guru. Hemis Tsechu (festival) assemble annually from 9th to 11th day of the 5th Tibetan month. The Gompa has well preserved Thankas and copper gilt statue of the lord Buddha, various stupas made of gold and silver and many auspicious objects. The largest thanka in Ladakh over 12 Mtrs. Long is at Hemis.

Spituk Monastery

Gompa is on the hill top near Indus, around 18 Kms from Leh. Which was founded in 11th century by Od-De the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od, the Gompa named Spituk (exemplary) when Rinchen Zangpo translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially it belonged to the Kadampa school then during the life time of king Gragspa Bumide made it Gayluk Pa order. the Spituk festival held every year from 17th to 19th days of the 11th month.

Phyang Monastery

Phyang is 17 Kms west of Leh on the blue hill, belongs to Dingung order, founded in 15th century by Chosje Danma Kunja Dragpa in the time of king Jamjang Namgyal. Phyang monastery is also called Tashi Chosang, which mark the first established of the Dingung to teachings in Ladakh. The festival of Gang-Sgnon Tsedub are held every year from 17th to 19th of the 1st month.

Lekir monastery

Located around 52 Kms from Leh, know as Klu-Kkhjil (water spirits) founded in the 14th century by Lama Dhwang Chosje a great champion of meditation. The site of the monastery was encircled by the bodies of two great spent spirits. Therefore, name became widely renowned as Lekir. In the 15th century the disciple of Khasdubje know a lhawang Lodos Sangphu caused the monastery to flourish. This monastery also belongs to Gaylukpa school. Every year from the 17th to 19th of the 12th month the Lekir festival is held.

Alchi monastery

Alchi Choskor is the only monastery in the Ladakh on flat ground, around 69 Kms west of Leh. Largest and most famous of all of the temples and built by the great translator Ringchem Zangpo. The temple was founded in 11th century which accounts for the Indian and particularly Kashmiri influences.

Rizong monastery

Rizong is also known as Yuma Changchubling about 73 Kms from Leh and around 6 Kms from main road, founded about 138 years ago by the great Lama Tsultim Nima. Gompa belong to Gelukpa order. Dress and food provisions are provided for all member of the community by the Governing body of the monastery. The monastery is sited in a most solitary positions and there is a nunnery place called chulichan down the monastery. The work of spinning wool, milking, extracting oil for the temple lamps has to be performed by all the nuns.
 

Lamayuru monastery

The oldest and spectacularly set Lamayuru monastery is about 125 kms. West of Leh, founded in the 10th century in 11th century the Mahasiddha Naropa came to this place. Then Rinchen Zangpo translator came and built many temples and stupas and then teaching of the Kadampa school came to flourish. Later Jamyang Namgyal offered it to Chosje Danma and Digung Kargyut school were introduced and named Yungdrung Therpalling. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 2nd Tibetan month.


The Drok-pas

Down the Indus, in the sun drenched gorge, between Khalatse and the Shayok-Indus confluence, live an ancient people, known as Drok-pa,a people of unknown origin but many scholars link them with off-shoots of some tribes who migrated from Gilgit on account of the language they speak1. .Drok-Pa are Buddhists by faith, but ethnically and culturally distinct from the rest of the Ladakhis.

Unlike the mongoloid Ladakhis Drok -Pa have pure Indo-Aryan features which they have preserved to this day. One curious feature is their abhorrence of the cow or any of its products.


The Nubra Valley

Nubra is applied to the region comprising the valley of the river Nubra and that of the Shayok. The route from Leh crosses over the Khardung-la, the highest motorable road in the world at an altitude of 18,300 ft. The view from the top is amazing. One can see all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Sasers massif (25000 ft)

The main village is Diskit. From Diskit, the route follows the course of the Shayok to Hundar, past an area of rolling sand dunes. There is a small population of the woolly double-humped Bactrian camels in Hunder which were used as pack animals on the Central Asian trade route, popularly known as 'The Silk Route'. Today visitors to Nubra can use these animals for going on camel safaris. Up the Nubra River and above village Summer, is the last human settlement of Panamik which was once a major trade centre and a resting place for caravans before crossing over the mighty Karakoram pass.

Pangong Lake

Pangong Lake is situated at an altitude of 14,000 ft.,6 to 7 kms at its widest point, and over 130 kms long, and bisected by the international border between India and China. Pangong Lake is the home of Chang-Pa, the sturdy gypsies who spend their summers on its northern shore with their flock of pashmina goats.. .

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