Ladakh, “The land of Passes“. Most of tourist attractions in Ladakh relate to Tibetan Buddhism, and to the stunning landscape. Ladakh is not only the home to some of the most beautiful, ancient and serene monasteries you’ll ever see, but it is also rich in natural beauty – and it’s this natural beauty that hits adventure hunger people like you so hard, because it’s a barren beauty. Many travelers find themselves at a loss to understand how something so barren can yet be so beautiful. Be respectful, these are holy places and active monks in most of them. Must-see sites include “Moon-land-view” (the area around Lamayuru) on the Leh-Kargil highway.
Many places in Ladakh need an inner line permit which is available for free in DC’s office in Ladakh. A travel agent can also arrange the permit for Rs 100 per person within an hour on any working day. Starting May-2014, no inner line permits are required for Indian tourists to visit popular tourist places like Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley and Tso-Moriri Lake. However, they do need to fill up an application form easily available with taxi drivers and also in shops.
Some of the major tourist attractions in ladakh, starting from Leh which entail driving 200-400 km round-trip out of Ladakh.
Pangong Lake (Leh-Karu-Chang La-Tangtse-Pangong Tso, 158 km, 5-6 hrs one way): This is a popular trip to Pangong Tso Lake and can be done by taxi/bike. Most people do it as a day trip starting early in the morning and come back in the evening. However, there are arrangements for the stay near the lake in Lukung & Spangmik and one can stay overnight either in tents or at several guest houses to enjoy this place at a slower pace. Takthok and Chemeray/Chemeday monasteries can be covered en-route by taking 3-5 km detours.
Nubra Valley (Valley of Flowers) (Leh-Khardung La-Diskit, 118 km, 4-5 hr one way): This is another popular trip but difficult to do in one day. Nubra Valley may not be as beautiful as is touted to be, and is the second favorite for tourists as a trip out of Leh. Some people return from Khardung La (18,380 ft), which is claimed to be the highest motorable pass in the world. It provides excellent views of Ladakh Range as well as Karakoram Range on the other side. Accommodation is available along the way and in Nubra Valley at various places. The places to visit in Nubra Valley are Diskit(regional hub with a nice monastery), Hunder (9 km from Diskit, white sand dunes, camel ride, several mid to high range camping options), Sumur (monastery, camping), Panamik(hot sulfur spring, avoidable) and the recently opened Turtuk(inhabited by Balti people, was part of Pakistan up-till 1972, 5 km from Pakistan border, wonderful scenery and comfortable home stays).
Tso-Moriri Lake (Leh-Upshi-Tso Kar-Tso Moriri, 211 km, 7-8 hrs one way): This is another trip which covers two smaller lakes Tso Kar and Tso Moriri. There is accommodation available in Korzok(Tso Moriri) but camping near the lake is not allowed. Those who want can head out to Manali (444 km) doing a night halt at Sarchu or Pang.
Sham Valley (Leh-Lamayuru, 109 km or up-till Alchi only, 66 km): This is an easier drive along Indus river towards Kargil and one can also see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar on the way. The places to visit en-route are Hall of Fame war museum, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, Basgo ruins, Likir Monastery, Alchi Monastery(oldest Buddhist monastery of Ladakh region founded in 11th century AD, wonderful architecture and extensive collections of thangkas) and Lamayuru Monastery.
Various monasteries-around Leh: There are few big monasteries which are part of major tourist attractions in Ladakh and can be covered in one day. Most important of them are Shey(previous capital of Ladakh), Thiksey Monastery(beautiful location and architecture), Hemis(most important monastery or entire Ladakh region). Others are Spituk, Phyang, Stakna, Matho(stunning location) and Stok Palace & Museum(current residence of the deposed king of Ladakh).
One needs to acclimatize to the altitude in Leh (3500m) before heading out as AMS (acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness) can ruin the entire trip.
The Hemis Monastery: This is the largest monastery of Ladakh. Tourists can find at least 150 lamas living in the monastery, at any point of time throughout the year. Hemis is famous for a huge painting of Buddha, which is brought to the public or displayed to the public only once in 11 years of the time period.
Padum Valley: Padum is located at an altitude of 3505 m from the sea level. It is the capital of the ancient Zanskar and presently administrative headquarter of the Zanskar region. Podium has a population of around 1500-1600. Padum is a very scarcely inhabited valley in the Zanskar. Padum is one of the famous trekking destinations for trekking lovers, Zanskar.
Zanskar Valley: Zanskar is one of the remotest regions of the Ladakh. Zanskar is spread in around 300 km of area, which is only accessible through high passes. This valley is higher than any other valley in Ladakh region and located in the inner Himalaya. Here the rainfall is very less and the climates are very harsh.
Parang La Trek:
Parang La Trek is one of the most challenging and adventures trekking trail. This trek is located on an isolated route far into the mountains with many rivers to be crossed.
Kang Yatse This trek is located in the south east part of the leg, in the Markha valley. This valley is a dream for every trekker and everyone wish to trek the Markha Valley for at least once.