In the seventeenth century the Mughal Emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir. While living in a houseboat on Dal Lake he said “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” If there is ever a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here it is here. The beauty of Kashmir is unparalleled and the valley boasts of many places to visit for sight-seeing and is a traveler’s delight. There are many places to visit in the three regions; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
Continuing on our journey of Kashmir, we are in the third part of our Must See Places in Kashmir series. Today we will be exploring the beautiful and most amazing picturesque lands of our state, the stunning and awe inspiring beauty of Ladakh region.
Ladakh, the land of high passes, is located at an average altitude of more than 3,000 meters above the sea level. It is sandwiched between the Kunlun mountain range on the north and the Himalayas to the south. It can be broadly divided into 4 regions of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Nubra. People who just see the pictures of Ladakh fall in love with the beauty and end up wanting to travel to this heavenly abode, and those who do visit, end up making it more of a yearly trip wanting to visit again and again.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh and also the largest town there. Leh was once the capital of Ladakh Kingdom and therefore has many historical places and monasteries. The city is famous for its heritage villages, and the ruins of The Royal Palace & Fort.
2. Royal Leh Palace
Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century the Royal Palace of Leh is a nine-storey high structure which offers a grand panoramic view of the town of Leh, Stok Kangri and the Indus River. It has a museum which displays rare collections of ceremonial crowns, dresses, jewelries, ornaments etc.
3. Shanti Stupa
Located on a hill in Chanspa, Leh, the Shanti Stupa is one of the most magnificent and peaceful Buddhist monuments you could possibly see in the extreme north of India. The Shanti Stupa was enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama himself and has relics of Buddha at its base. It’s amazing to know that the Shanti Stupa was built to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism.
4. Pangong Tso
Tso which means lake and this beautiful water reservoir is about 134 Km long and 60% of the lake falls under China. At an altitude of 14,270 ft. the clear blue water of the lake reflects the towering mountains all around. The scenic beauty with the tranquil and serene environment appears to be so unreal to the tourist. Pangong Lake may be perhaps one of the most beautiful high altitude lakes in the world. Drinking in the fascinating landscape one simply loses all sense of time and space.
Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh and lies in the west of Leh facing the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.. The town is a valley surrounded by mountain on all sides. There are many places to explore around Kargil. Kargil was once a busy town as it was within the trade route to and from China, Afghanistan, India, and Turkey. The town is home to a number of scenic attractions.
6. Khardung La
At 18,380 feet, claimed to be the highest motor able pass in the world, the ride up this road sure makes for an adventurous journey. This is one of the most famous landmarks of this place. The word La means “pass” in Tibetan. Khardung La is situated at around 39 km by road from Leh. The first 24 km lead to South Pullu check point. The pass offers some great views of the valley and the roads.
7. Magnetic Hill
The Magnetic Hill is at the height of 14,000 feet above sea level and is extremely close to Leh city. Located on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik national highway, the hill is said to have magnetic powers that are strong enough to pull cars uphill even when they are switched off.
8. Nubra Valley
The beauty of the Nubra valley is that it allows you to look over the Indus valley in the south and the mountain ridges of the Zanskar. You will get to see some rare and interesting plantations, quaint hamlets and high altitude desert landscapes. You will find the Siachen Glacier to the north of the valley and the Sasser Pass to the northwest of the valley.
9. Lamayuru Monastery
Situated at a height of 3510 meters and about 127 Kms from Leh this is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monastery and one of the largest monasteries of Ladakh. You will love seeing the beautiful caves carved out of the mountains at the monastery.
10. Zanskar valley
The Zanskar mountain range covers an area of 7000 sq. Kms and is without a doubt, one of the most desolate places in the Himalayan range. Zanskar is known for its awesome scale. The tributaries of the Zanskar River are famous for seasonal white river rafting. Deep gorges, snow glaciers and a number of small religious spots dot the Zanskar valley. Be careful of the time of the year you choose to visit Zanskar. It’s closed for a significant time due to extreme snowfall and winter.
11. Shey Palace
Situated in the upper parts of the Indus Valley, Shey is primarily famous for housing the Summer Palace of the kings of Ladakh. The Summer Palace, which was built over 555 years ago by the then king of Ladakh Lhachen Palgyigon, is also the home to the largest, gold-plated statue of Buddha in Ladakh.
12. Thiksey Monastery
The monastery is affiliated to the Gelugpa sect, and is a 12-storey high complex encompassing many traditional and contemporary artifacts and relics of Buddhism such as statues of Buddha, stupas, thangkas (a silk painting usually of a Buddhist deity), swords, and wall paintings.
13. Hemis Monastery
A small town to the southeast of Ladakh, Hemis is synonymous with the Hemis monastery. The largest and highly majestic monastery has a rich cultural heritage and is said to have been built in the 11th century. It was later reconstructed by King Sengge Namgyal.
On the way to Srinagar from Leh, a small town featuring exotic ruins, Basgo was once considered to be an important historical and political centre in Ladakh. The city now is basically renowned for its monastery and various temples.
15. Likir Monastery
Known for its Klu-kkhyil monastery, the small town of Likir is perched on a little hill. The population of the town is dominated by the Gelugpa sect, and the town itself was once an important stopover for traders.
16. Tso Moriri
Most tourists have described Tso Moriri as a piece of heaven on earth. The breathtaking natural scenery, the beautiful rippling lake, and the magnificent roads etched amidst nature, is what makes Tso Moriri worth visiting.
17. Tso Kar
Close to Tso Moriri, Tso Kar is another lake in the periphery of the valley of Rupshu. The brackish lake is located off the road to Leh from Manali, and is fast becoming a tourist hub due to the variety of birds that visit the wetland.
18. Diskit Monastery
The Diskit monastery in the Diskit village of Nubra valley is a 14th century structure and is considered to be the oldest monastery in the Nubra valley. There is a huge 106 ft tall statue of Maitreya Buddha in the prayer hall of the monastery. There is also a 32 meter high statue of golden Buddha out in the open just opposite the monastery on another hill.
Drass is a town in the Kargil region of Ladakh and is often called 'The Gateway to Ladakh'. In the local dialect “Baltic” Drass means “Hell”. It is at a height of 3230 m or 10990 ft. The mountain ridges however range from 16000 feet to 21000 feet. Drass is the second coldest places on earth after Siberia with temperature falling to 590 degrees centigrade during peak winter. Drass is a large village with small clusters of huts scattered over a valley. The inhabitants are Dards and Baltis.
20. Chang La
The Chang La is on the route to Pangong Lake from Leh. The name literally means "Pass towards the South" or "Pass in the South" (Chang = south, La = Pass). The Chang La at 5,360 m or 17,590 ft is the third highest motor able road in the world.
21. Padam Valley
Some 240 km from Kargil, there exists a beautiful valley by the name Padam which is approached through the only motor able road from Kargil passing through the picturesque Suru Valley and Panzila Pass (14400 ft.). The road remains motor able from 1st week of July till end November only.