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Tourist attractions of Ladakh; the Land of High Passes or Little Tibet in Jammu & Kashmir

Updated on January 25, 2017

A mysterious ride through the remote, cold, desert passes is a hilarious thrill craved by a nature lover. Ladakh, popularly called as Little Tibet is a land of high passes where you may find such a sojourn. The blend of dry views and a cold climate is the exemplary characteristic of Ladakh. Meander through its ways and explore another unique veil of nature to pamper in your memories!

Ladakh | Source

This hub is the third part of the expansion of my ultimate dream vacation in Jammu & Kashmir. Ladakh is a region of India in the state of Jammu & Kashmir that lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the North and the main Great Himalayas to the South. This sparsely populated region is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. The remote mountainous beauty of deserts with Indus River meandering in between having bright hues sketched in some interior spots makes Ladakh, a truly exotic extravaganza. Buddhist Chortens and monasteries bless the place with a peaceful ambience. The main attractions of Ladakh are:

1. Leh

Leh | Source
Buddhist Gompa  in Leh
Buddhist Gompa in Leh | Source

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Ladakh has so many chortens and gompas of Buddhism. The tranquil horizon sometimes gives the perception of the presence of Lord Buddha here.

It is a district in Ladakh spanning a large area with a historical kingdom of Tibet. There are so many attractions in this eloquent region that deserve to be elaborated in another hub. Leh welcomes the wayfarer with

  • Shanti Stupa - a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa. Surrounding panorama really establishes the presence of Sri Buddha here.
  • Leh Palace – Overlooking the Leh town, this palace is in its ruin built in Tibetan architectural style.
  • Hemis gompa – a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Hemis.
  • Leh trekking trails- There are several treks through the valleys where snow-clad mountain passes, lakes and cold deserts can be explored.
  • Chamba temple - Chamba Temple of Leh is dedicated to Maitreya in Sanskrit, also known as Jampa in Tibetan – the ‘future Buddha’ or ‘the Buddha to come’.
  • Jama Masjid – Situated in the heart of Leh, favorite mosque of Muslims.
  • Jo Khang gompa- Located in the main bazaar of Leh, this Buddhist monastery houses the crowned Buddha.
  • Sankar gompa – Another Buddhist monastery in Leh.
  • Stok gompa or palace – This Buddhist monastery was the residence of Ladakhi royalty for some time.
  • Zoravar fort- Built by the brave Dogra Rajput King Zoravar Singh
  • Magnetic hill – The gravity hill, a type of optical illusion created by the rising and descending terrain.

2. Nubra Valley

Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley | Source
Maitreya Buddha statue
Maitreya Buddha statue | Source

This large valley is formed by the result of the confluence of rivers Shyok and Nubra. Scant vegetation in this region makes way for brilliant color combination of sand and blue waters in the higher altitudes. The Khardung La pass from Leh town is the only way to access Nubra valley. Diskit town in the valley is the main congregation centre of people and has got several Government offices with basic facilities. The 32m Maitreya Buddha statue is the landmark of Nubra valley managed by the Nubra monastery. The secluded valley is serene where another facet of nature is unveiled.

3. Lake Moriri

Lake Tso Moriri
Lake Tso Moriri | Source
Tibetan ass at Moriri Lake
Tibetan ass at Moriri Lake | Source

This mountain lake is another distinctive enhancement to the aura of Ladakh. Deep blue water beneath barren hills in snow-covered mountainous backdrop is how Lake Moriri got designed by the eternal hands of God. Rupshu Valley in Changthang plateau is the residence of this lake that has brackish water with marshy lands.

Open only during summer season, Lake Tso Moriri also has several Gompas of which Torzok monastery is 400 years old. Nomadic herders of goats, yaks, and cows live in the lake's vicinity. The diverse fauna of this region is commendable with several species of birds and animals including Tibetan sheep and ass. Camping is allowed here and some tourists would stay here for luring the serene shadow of this remote, cold mountainous belle.

4. Pangong Lake

Lake Pangong
Lake Pangong | Source
Ducks in Pangong Tso
Ducks in Pangong Tso | Source

Adding to the placid lakes in the higher altitudes of Ladakh, Pangong Lake stretches from India to Tibet. The Line of Actual Control passes through this lake that is a delicate border point. Situated in the upper reaches of Himalayan ranges, the most interesting feature of Lake Pangong is its ever changing hues. Deep blue water engulfed in dry hills with rocky lakeshores is the usual appearance of this lake. A ramp like formation of land into the lake is another favorite spot of the tourists. During winter Pangong Lake freezes completely despite being saline. But in summer, this long, narrow, enchanted lake is in its sublime glory with ducks and gulls floating over it.

5. Zanskar

Zanskar | Source
Phugthal monastery
Phugthal monastery | Source

This secluded, sparsely populated region is the neighbor of Ladakh that gets separated by the Zanskar Range. Zanskar is the sub-district of Kargil with its capital Padum. Here, one may come across several Buddhist gompas and Chortens on the rocky mountain ridges. One may feel that the real way to attain salvation is here because of the hefty isolation in the uplands from the outer world of all comfort and company.

The people of Zanskar called as Zanskaris live in villages surrounding the valleys. They depend upon their livestock especially, the yak. Buddhism is the religion of the major population and several monks reside in monasteries. Sani monastery built in a flat plain land is said to be the oldest religious site in Zanskar. Phugtal and Bardan monasteries also have significant historical importance with huge statues and stupas.

6. Hemis gompa

Hemis gompa
Hemis gompa | Source

This Tibetan Buddhist monastery is situated at Hemis in a magnificent backdrop of rocky mountains. The Ladakhi ruler Sengge Namgyal re-established it that is famous for the annual Padmasambhava festival held in early June. He is venerated as the Hemis representative re-incarnating Sri Buddha. Believed to have been born on the 10th day of 5th month of the Monkey year, he had a noble intention of improving the spiritual condition of all living beings. This day is celebrated every year in the courtyard of the monastery with great ferver. Lamas perform splendid colorful masked dances and plays to the accompaniment of drums and long horns. The Thangka ( Chinese painting) of Padmasambhava, said to be the biggest in Ladakh is displayed to the public once in a cycle of 12 years during this festival.

Hemis National Park, a reserve of the en-dangered snow leopard is also nearby.

7. Thikse gompa

Thikse monastery
Thikse monastery | Source
Maitreya Buddha statue in Thikse
Maitreya Buddha statue in Thikse | Source

Anchored in a hilltop in the Valley of Indus, Thikse resembles most of the Potola Palace of Lhasa and hence called as ‘Mini Potola’. This monastery belongs to the sect Yellow Hat (Gelugpa). Thikse gompa is a massive structure of several buildings in 12 storeys built in the ascending order of their importance. If the foothill buildings comprise of dwelling units, upper roofs house the monasteries and the official residence of the Chief Lama.

Thikse gompa also has a wonderful stock of Buddhist art. The Stupas, statues, Thangkas and wall paintings catch our attention with their elegant dexterity. A 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, covering two storeys of the building is deified in the monastery. A nunnery is also part of the complex.

Thikse celebrates Gustor festival in the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar during which special mask dance, Cham dance is performed.

8. Stok gompa

Stok palace
Stok palace | Source

This is another Buddhist monastery in Leh district that was the residence of Ladakhi royalty once. Stok gompa has a notable library including 108 volumes of Kangjur (a loosely defined list of sacred texts of various sects of Tibetan Buddhism). A ritual dance-mask festival is held annually.

9. Spituk monastery

Spituk monastery
Spituk monastery | Source

Owing its inception to Od-de, this monastery contains about 100 monks and a giant statue of Devi Kali. Devi is unveiled during the annual Spituk festival that is held during the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar.

10. Gurudwara Pathar Sahib

Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib | Source

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Do you like this cold desert Ladakh? If yes, would you love to visit the Buddhist gompas?

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This temple of Sikhs is dedicated to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. It stands at a place where it is believed that he vanquished a demon while meditating. Albeit Buddhist pre-dominancy in Ladakh, Gurdwara Pathar Sahib is worshipped and venerated by Tibetan Buddhists in the name Guru gompa Maharaj and Nanak Lama. The temple is now maintained by the Indian Army. It has become a tradition for vehicles passing by to stop and pay homage to the sacred Guruji in this beautifully built temple on rocky hills.

Ladakh, the land of high passes can be another beholding sight in your souvenirs. This cold, secluded, barren upland has a mysterious story to tell the daytrippers with a twist of suspense always.

Ladakh tour

Ladakh Range, 194201

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Nubra Valley:
Nubra Valley, Jammu and Kashmir 194401, India

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Tso Moriri:
Tso moriri, 194404

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Pangong Tso:
Pangong Tso

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Zanskar 194302

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© 2013 Radhika Sreekanth


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