Location: In the extreme northern state of India, Jammu & Kashmir.
Main Tourist Attractions: Zanskar Valley, Hemis Monastery, The Thikse Monastery, Alchi, Dah-Hanu, Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary, Nubra valleys
Best Buy: Tibetan handicraft items
Best Activities: Trekking, Mountaineering, River Rafting, Archery, Polo
Best Time To Visit: May to October
Nearby Tourist Destinations: Leh, Manali, Srinagar, Pahalgam About Ladakh
Ladakh was a kingdom in its own right since the 10th century. Under King Singge Namgyal, Ladakh flourished and rose to fame as a travel junction. Caravans carrying textiles, spices, raw silk, carpets, and narcotics from Amritsar to the Central Asian towns of Yarkand and Khotan would pass by Leh. In fact, Leh was the midway stop, and developed into a bustling commercial settlement.
You can't miss the nine-storey Tibetan-style Leh Palace, built by King Singge Namgyal in the 17th century. This is said to have inspired the famous Potala Palace in Lhasa built about half a century later. Above Leh Palace, on the Namgyal Tsemo Hill lie the remnants of the royal residence built in the 16th century.
Ancient temples have been preserved carefully. They are closed to the public except during Zanskar River the morning and evening hours, when a monk from Sankar Gompa hikes up the hill to light the butter-lamps.
About 15 km from Leh is the historic Shey Palace, the most ancient capital of the Ladakhi kings. It houses a temple with a three-storey high statute of the Buddha. Another page out of history is the Stok Palace, where the deposed royal family now lives. A part of the palace has been made into a museum where you can browse through artifacts that date back to ancient times.
For Adventure Freaks
The mountains and the rivers offer plenty of opportunities for river rafting, mountaineering and trekking. Be warned that all these sports are to be done under professional guidance.
Indus and its tributaries offer challenging rafting opportunities. The real challenge is negotiating the unruly Zanskar River. It is the most difficult and requires expedition-like arrangements.
The most popular and the easiest is the Nun-Kun in the Himalayas. Other options are the Stok-Khangri south of Leh or the Karakoram Range north of Leh, which requires subject permission from the Government of India. The climbing season extends from mid-May to mid-October. However, the ideal period is June to September when the monsoons do not dominate the Himalayas.
Non-Indians need to get permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for climbing all listed peaks. It takes a minimum of six months for processing and granting of permission.
Air: Leh nearest Airport. There are regular flights to Delhi and Srinagar, and less frequently from Chandigarh and Jammu.
Train : There is no rail head in Ladakh.
Road: There are two land routes to Ladakh: from Srinagar and from Manali.