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LADAKH Introduction


If ever a place was a perfect blend of raw adventure and beauty, this is it. A perfect getaway. A place so tranquil, that it fills your senses and soothes your mind and yet every corner you turn is an exhilarating experience in itself. The place promises idyllic beauty, one which you are most likely to have never witnessed before, along with a journey that is a cliffhanger, quite literally.  This place challenges you, pushes you to bring out the hidden poet as well as the adventurer in you, one who revels, with equal gusto, in beauty as well as raw adventure. This is a call for you to rise above the treacherously narrow and bumpy mountainous roads, to say yes to the mission that is ‘Adventure Ladakh’. This is your opening to embark on classic Ladakh adventures, right from taming the world's highest drivable pass at 18,380 ft to tours that encompass exhilarating trekking expeditions, which help you connect with not only nature but also the culture and people of beautiful places like Leh and Ladakh, amongst many other. Are you ready to address the call and master this chance? We know a true Nomadier would.

About Ladakh
Welcome to Ladakh! Located in the vibrant country of India, Ladakh has always fascinated many a people, but has been truly explored by only a few adventurers. Being one of the highest altitude deserts in the world is just one of the many surprises this land has in-store for you. A land often spoken about for its beauty is also known among hard-core adventure enthusiasts as a goldmine of adventures, if you know where to look! Ladakh, a synonym for adventure beckons you with all its glory and adventure filled tours and trekking escapades.

A place that holds perfect balance satiates those looking for beauty and brawns alike. The one characteristic that stands out about this place is; no matter how many times you have been there, no matter how many times you have seen it, it still manages to amaze you. Landscapes that surround you are reminiscent of the surface on the moon as one knows it. This is a land that leaves you mesmerized. Its sheer beauty is bound to leave you captivated, as the monotony of the dry and barren is broken intermittently by pockets of green, around a river. Ladakh emanates an out-worldly feeling with its fields of barley, grazing yaks, apricot trees and farmhouses.

Distinct Geography

Ladakh Geography

The geographical location of the place itself offers tremendous scope to a Nomadier, looking for a respite and desiring to submerge in an escapade that not only thrills but also provides ample opportunities to mingle with serenity and enjoy a quiet time to introspect.

Ladakh, known as the ‘Land of High Passes’, is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of India. Ladakh is the highest plateau of India, with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It spans the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley. The geographical divide between Ladakh in the highlands of Kashmir and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the vicinity of Pulu. It continues southwards along the intricate maze of ridges situated east of Rudok.

Ladakh is a land of valleys, troughs, mountains, plateaus, glaciers and plains. The Indus River, which is the backbone of Ladakh, adds to the magnificence of the place. The varied landscapes present a wide array of adventure activities to satiate the need of a Nomadier. 

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over a period of 45 million years. The Suru and Zanskar valleys form a great trough enclosed by the Himalayas and the Zanskar range. Rangdum is the highest inhabited region in the Suru valley, after which the valley rises to 4,400 m (14,436 ft) at Pensi-la, the gateway to Zanskar. The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains. The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. It is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas with a length of 70 km. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level.

Unique WildlifeLadakh Wildlife
If you thought that geographical marvels are all that Ladakh has to offer, then you couldn’t be more wrong. Ladakh, with its distinct flora and fauna is any wildlife enthusiast’s delight.

For such an arid region, you would be surprised to know that Ladakh has a great diversity of birds, a total of 225 recorded species. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the Black Redstart), and the Hoopoe are common in summer. The Brown-headed Gull is seen in summer around the Indus River and some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the Ruddy Sheldrake (Brahminy duck) and the Bar-headed Goose. The Black-necked Crane, a rare species, is also found in certain parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the Raven, Red-billed Chough, Tibetan Snowcock and Chukar. The Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) and the Golden Eagle are the common birds of prey here.

Ladakh is home to the largest wild sheep in the world, the Tibetan Argali or Nyan. It measures an astonishing 3.5 to 4 ft at the shoulder with horns measuring 90–100 cm. Apart from the Nyan, Ladakh presents the perfect home for various unique ungulates (hoofed mammals). The ‘Blue Sheep’ or the Bharal is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region. The Asiatic Ibex, the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region, is an elegant mountain goat that is found in the western part of Ladakh. Ladakhi Urial, a unique mountain sheep indigenous to Ladakh, the endangered Tibetan Antelope, the Tibetan Gazelle (inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet) and The Kiang or Tibetan Wild Ass, (common in the grasslands of Changthang) are also found here.

For those who are fascinated by the hunter rather than the hunted, Ladakh does not disappoint. Around 200 snow leopards, out of the 7000 present worldwide, are found in Ladakh. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian Lynx, mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zanskar, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. The very rare Pallas's cat, with looks similar to a house cat, is found here. The Tibetan Wolf, also known as the Woolly Wolf is thought by some scientists to be the most likely ancestor of the domestic dog. A characteristic unique to the Tibetan wolves is that they do not form large packs, and typically travel in pairs or threes. They feed largely on smaller animals like hares, marmots, pika and vole found in the region. The Suru valley and the areas around Dras are home to the Brown Bears. The Tibetan Sand Fox has also recently been discovered in this region.

Cultural VibrancyLadakh Cultural Vibrancy
The silent energy of this place is infectious. The vibes, definitely rub-off on you as you undertake a tour, experiencing the culture of this place. The people, the traditions, the delicacies, the way of life hold you in awe with the perfect blend of flamboyance and simplicity. The culture in Ladakh is similar to the Tibetan Culture; hence it is also called ‘Little Tibet’.

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being Thukpa (noodle soup) and Tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe (roasted barley flour). Skyu, a strictly Ladakhi dish, made from pasta and root vegetables should not be missed for the world. The seemingly simple activity of drinking tea would be an experience, we are sure; you would narrate innumerable times if front of your friends and acquaintances. Tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and is known as ‘Gurgur Cha’, taking after the sound it makes when mixed.

The architecture of Ladakh is reminiscent of the Tibetan and Indian influences and the monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach.

The music, festivals, sports in Ladakh are reflective of the attitude of the Ladakhi people towards life. The people here are genuine, content, good – humoured and cheerful in their outlook. Their zest for life and their deference for the spiritual are truly mirrored in these activities. The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. All major Ladakhi monasteries hold an annual masked dance festival, an ancient Buddhist tradition. The Ladakh Festival is held every year from September 1st to 15th. The festival is graced by performers adorned with gold and silver ornaments and turquoise headgear who gather on the streets. The Hemis Festival is one of the most famous monastic festivals to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The highlight of the festival is the unveiling of a huge thangka (religious icon) once every 12 years. It is considered to be the gompa's greatest treasures and is exhibited either as a painting or embroidered on cloth. During the festival the sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks or colorful brocades robes. The three-day festival takes place from 9th to 11th June. Losar (New Year) is celebrated in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar, two months ahead of Tibetan New Year. The Losar celebration is followed by Galdan Namchot, the birth anniversary of Tsogkha Pa, who introduced Gelukpa School of order. During Namchot people illuminate their houses, monasteries and mountains and make offerings in houses and monasteries.

The most popular sport in Ladakh now, is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice in the month of January. Archery, however, is a traditional sport in Ladakh and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of ‘Surna’ and ‘Daman’ (shenai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid-17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. For those who wish to have a relatively quite day and yet not miss out on the fun of mingling with the locals can participate in indoor games like carom, cards or chess. Besides this, Ladakh offers a ‘top of the world’ sporting experience for those who enjoy a good game of golf. The world's second highest golf course, at a height of 11,000 ft, is located at Leh. This 9-hole course, popularly known as ‘Dragon Golf Course’ is laid at the Choglamsar area of Leh district. So, just forget the worries of the world and get ready to tee off!

The Adventure Quotient 
Bike Safari There is another domain where Ladakh scores highly: Adventure. Ladakh with its barren and rocky highlands, steep slopes, frozen landscapes and icy choppy waters is just the kind of place that every Nomadier dreams of. Just the mere possibilities of various challenging escapades provide a great adrenaline rush to an adventure lover, leaving him/her craving for more. Right from an invigorating bike safari to an endurance testing cycle safari, and from an electrifying rafting experience to extreme trekking and mountaineering, Ladakh is a goldmine for those seeking the ultimate rush.

The magical land of Ladakh is waiting for you with its tricky terrains, its breathtaking views, and its life-infusing quietude.

And for all the Nomadiers out there, here is another engaging piece of information: Ladakh lies in the Very High Damage Risk Cyclone Zone. Tempted?