Ladakh and its Hidden Gems
Surrounded by the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Karakoram, Ladakh is also known as “Land of High Passes”. Situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh has close cultural ties with Tibet. This high-altitude desert lies at the altitude ranging from about 9,000 feet at Kargil to 25,170 feet at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Monasteries and residential building derive their influence from Tibet. Ladakh has not only some of the most beautiful monasteries, but also a stunning landscape and picturesque natural beauty to offer.
Here are some of the hidden gems of Ladakh which should not be missed.
Site for the 17th century Buddhist monastery of the “Red Hat” Tibetan Drupka Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism, Hanle is also home to Indian Astronomical Observatory. Situated at an elevation of 14,764 feet, it is the second highest optical telescope in the world. The location of the village as well as the observatory are highly sensitive due to its close proximity to Chinese and Tibetan borders and special permission from the Indian Government is required to visit either of these places. But it is worth visiting atleast once in your life time!
This remote sparsely inhabited village on the “Line of Control”, the de facto border between Indian and Pakistan, is the closest you’ll get to Pakistan in India. Breathtakingly beautiful landscape, which look straight out of a postcard, taking a stroll in this laidback village is a pleasure. Take in the beauty of wheat and barley fields bordered by the apricot trees or just take in the virgin beauty of the valley as you get closer to attaining inner peace. Because of its proximity to Pakistan, you will need special permits before entering the village. Foreign visitors will need an Inner Line Permit to visit Turtuk, as for anywhere else in Nubra Valley.
3) Suru Valley
With the population over 25,000, Suru Valley is a picturesque location at the catchment of the Suru River, a powerful tributary of the Indus river. The greenery of the hills stand in stark contrast to the Himalayan glaciers. The apple, apricot and mulberry trees take you to a completely different world. Suru Valley is a popular trekking destination with Sankoo, Panikhar, Rangdum and Padum in the Suru and Zanskar Valleys being bases for various trekking routes. Winters are extreme and heavy snowfall are normal, and hence, best time to visit would be between April to September.
Chushul Valley in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir is historically significant for being the airstip used during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. This place boasts of the picturesque PangongTso Lake, which is about 45 km inside the Indian boundary, and across the lake is China. The lake has the most mesmerizing shades of blue you have ever seen. The crystal clear water changes colour according to its moods.
Best time to visit Chushul would be between June and August as it is covered by snow otherwise making it impossible to reach unless you hop on to a military convoy. The road conditions are not that great and the region is sparsely inhabited. Be sure to carry extra fuel and food and learn the basics of maintenance. Because of its close proximity to Indo-China border, you may require special permissions, which may be rejected by the Border Police anytime. Do check with the concerned officers before you visit.
6) Kiagar Tso
Situated at a height of 4,000 mtrs above sea level, Kiagar Tso lies in the Rupshu Valley in Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Falling midway between Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh, Kiagar Tso is the salt water lake and is surrounded by the mountain fauna like sheep, goat, yak and wild ass. However, due to shrinking glaciers on the surrounding mountains, the water levels in the lake are receding. July and August are touted to be the best months to visit the lake.
7) Markha Valley
Markha Valley, named after a tributary of Zanskar river that flows between the Stok and Zanskar mountain ranges, is one of the most famous and challenging treks of Ladakh region. Passing through some of the most beautiful Buddhist Monasteries, it is also one of the most interesting ways to get yourself introduced to the Buddhist Kingdom of Ladakh. The valley runs parallel to the majestic Himalayan mountain range leaving you with the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes. June to September is the best time to visit it. Do not forget to have fun while enjoying the spectacular views of the Indus valley and Ladakh range.