Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ladakh Hill Station

Ladakh is absolutely unique as it is an altitude desert. It is flanked by the high mountain ranges of Himalayas and Karakoram. The Ladakh range and the Zanskar range also have their fair share of glory in adding to the beauty of this mountain desert. Agriculture is possible only in the summer months and the sole source of water is the melting snow that gushes down the hillsides in the form of refreshing springs. The Siachen Glacier in the north eastern side is a bone of contention between Pakistan and India and is the highest battleground of the world besides the infamous Kargil battlefield, which is in the western Ladakh.

Ladakh is situated in the northern most state of India, Jammu Kashmir. There was a flourishing trade in the ancient times with the neighboring countries of Tibet and other parts of China and Central Asia. Ladakh has been so much influenced by the Tibetan culture that it is also sometimes called the Little Tibet.

[caption id="attachment_949" align="alignright" width="384" caption="Complete view of Leh as viewed from Shanti stupa."]Leh Ladakh view from Shanti stupa[/caption]

How to reach

By road
Ladakh is well connected via roads to the other famous hill stations Srinagar and Manali. Regular buses ply from Leh, Ladakh’s capital. Srinagar-Leh road is a journey of around 434 kms, which is open for vehicles from June to November. Manali-Leh road is around 473 kms, which in turn is open from mid-July to mid-October. Hired cars, taxis, and jeeps are available; also buses ply regularly.

By air
Indian Airlines and Jet Airways have regular flights from Leh connecting Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, and Chandigarh.

Places to see
Leh Palace is a primary attraction. Apart from the sightseeingin Ladakh, there are several activities one can indulge in such as jeep safari, mountaineering, trekking, cycling, and yak safaris. Jeep safaris through some of the highest motorable roads to the remote areas exploring the wonders, mountain climbing the Zanskar or the Karakoram range, trekking in close proximity with Ladakh’s unique flora and fauna can all be really exciting. Ladakh is also an important place for Buddhist pilgrimage. There are several monasteries or Gompas of historical significance where Buddhist monks and nuns live and are worth visiting, such as Thiksey Monastery, Alchi Gompa, Spituk Monastery, Lamayuru Monastery, Phugtal Gompa, Likir Monastery, and Sankar Gompa.

Famous spots you must not miss
Magnetic Hill located 30 kms away from the Leh is at around 14,000 feet above sea level. The magnetic properties of this hill are so powerful that when a vehicle is left with engines turned off at a specific spot it will move up at a speed of 20 kms per hour uphill. This is an experience one of a kind. Shey Monastery is known for its picturesque setting and architectural splendor. It served as an abode of the Leh Kings in the earlier times. Drass, Rangdum, Zangla, Padum, Phugthal, Zongkhul, Sankoo, Suru Valley, Sani, Stondey are some other places in and around Ladakh that are worth visiting.

Curios and souvenirs apart from shawls, garments made of Pashmina wool, woolen socks, gloves, stoles, and caps are popular shopping items among tourists. Other takeaways comprise handicrafts such as prayer wheels, carpets, traditional Ladakhi jewelry, Thangka paintings, handmade rugs, and Buddhist masks. The Tibetan market on the Leh Road is known for clothes.

Places to stay
Hotel Dragon, Hotel Shambha-la, Hotel Laser Mo, Mandala Hotel, Hotel Mahay, Pangong Hotel, Royal Palace Hotel, Spic n Span Hotel, The Ule Ethnic Resort are some premium-range hotels in Ladakh.

Best time to visit
Summer months from June to November are the best time to visit Ladakh. Ladakh receives an influx of tourists from far and near during the festival times of Hemis, Losar, Dosmoche, Sindhu Darshan, and harvest festival. Special honeymoon packages are also available.

Temperatures in the summer months can go up to 30 degrees Celsius but winter temperatures can fall way below freezing point to -20 degrees Celsius.

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