Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalayas and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range.
Ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake system, the vestiges of which still exist on its south - east plateaux of Rupshu and Chushul - in drainage basins with evocative names like Tso-moriri, Tsokar, and grandest of all, Pangong-tso. Occasionally, some stray monsoon clouds do find their way over the Himalaya, and lately this seems to be happening with increasing frequency. But the main source of water remains the winter snowfall.
For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water. As the crops grow, the villagers pray not for rain, but for sun to melt the glaciers and liberate their water. Usually their prayers are answered, for the skies are clear and the sun shines for over 300 days in the year. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2,750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 270 C in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to -200 C even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!
Prime Attractions of Ladakh
About 20-km south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzela Top (4,401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
Thanks to the Hemis Setchu festival - one of the few held in summer, when the passes are open - Hemis, 45-km southeast of Leh, is the most famous Gompa in Ladakh.
Sankar Gompa, 3-km north of the town centre, is among the most accessible monasteries in central Ladakh - hence its restricted visiting hours for tourists
The Baltoro glacier is situated on the southern slopes of the central Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir. The location of Boltoro is in a huge arena hemmed by high peaks.
On the long Manali -Leh road and providing a route across the Baralacha range is the famous Baralacha Pass. It is situated at a spectacular 16,400 ft above sea level. The pass itself is 8-km long, and is literally the pass "where many roads meet".
The Biafo glacier is located on the south-facing slopes of the Karakoram Range in the Baltistan area of Ladakh. It has a length of about 60-km and descends from a large glacial trough.
Dah and Hanu are places on the far side of the great Indus River on the far side of Leh. Surrounded by the great Hindu - Kush mountains and peopled by a hardy but gentle people who have a bank of strange legends to relate for the weary traveller's ears.
Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary
The Hemis High Altitude National Park includes the catchments of two valleys, which drain into the River Indus. It is named after the famous monastery -- Hemis, and sprawls over 600-sq-km in the Markha And Rumbak valleys.
The Karakoram Pass lies on one of the highest trade routes in the world for Yarkand in Central Asia.
Khardong La & Digar La Pass
The Khardong La pass is situated at an incredible elevation of over 5,800 m (18,680 ft). It lies on the route between Leh and the Shyok and Nubra valleys
Lakes in Ladakh
The Tso Morari Lake is one of the largest lakes in Ladakh region and is almost like an inland sea. At an altitude of almost 4,500 meters, the Pangong Tso is only 8-km wide at its broadest but is an amazing 134-km long. Kyaghr lake is the halting place for trekkers moving from the Kiangdum camping ground to the Tsomorari Lake.
After a cleansing trip to the hot springs, where two rooms each have a deep tub filled with piping hot sulphurous water, where's little to do in Panamic other than walk. A dot on the mountainside across the river, Ensa Gompa makes an obvious excursion.
Pangong Tso, 154-km to the southeast of Leh, is one of the largest salt-water lakes in Asia, a long narrow strip of water stretching from Ladakh east into Tibet. Only a quarter of the 130-km-long lake is in Ladakh, and the Indian army, who experienced bitter losses along its shores in the war against China in 1962, guard their side of the frontier.
While water levels are high, between the end of June and late August, Leh's more entrepreneurial travel agents operate rafting trips on the river Indus
The Siachen glacier lies in the extreme north-central part of Jammu and Kashmir near the border of India and Tibet. With a length of about 72-km, Siachen is known as the largest glacier in the world outside the Polar Regions.
Fairs And Festivals
The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn't preclude and immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakhi adhe-rents, and even solemn religious enactment's are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Many of the annual festivals of the Gompa take place in winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people.
They take the form of dance-dramas in the Gompa courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful masks, perform mimes representing various aspects of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyments of the party atmosphere, with crowds of women and men, the opportunity to make new friendships and renew old ones, the general bustle and sense of occasion.
The New Year Festivities
Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is set up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of 'Storma', ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleansed and made ready to welcome the New Year. Losar falls about the times the winter solstice, any time of the winter solstice.