15 January 2012

Ladakh the Cold Desert

Ladakh is a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is called "Little Tibet" for its mountain ranges and Buddhist culture. Situated at an altitude of about 3500 meters of altitude, cold desert is nestled between two mountains, the Himalayas and the Karakoram. Ladakh is virtually cut off from the rest of the world from the months of November to May making the region an inhospitable place and freezing cold to live. Even during the summer months you have to cross some of the highest mountain passes in the world to reach Ladakh. But this inaccessibility has acted as a boon, helping to preserve the culture and unique landscapes.
First inhabitants of Ladakh were nomadic Yak herders. Buddhism was brought by Buddhist pilgrims traveling to Tibet. Until the 16th century Buddhism prevailed, falling briefly the Muslim invaders, but bounce back. Ladakh is now sub-district of Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh is a paradise for climbers. Several tour operators offer adventure-based hiking and climbing trip to the mountains. Due to its high altitude, tourists often experience symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS), including headache, lethargy, dizziness and nausea. It is always best to acclimate to the altitude, avoiding the effort for the first 24 hours of arrival and drink plenty of water. Leh is the main city to visit in Ladakh.
The main landmark in Leh is the Royal Palace that resembles the Potala Palace in Tibet. There are a few Gompas stupas in and around the city. Namgyal Gompa Tsemo is situated above the Leh Palace and has a three-storey high image of Sakyamuni. Sankar Gompa has a collection of ancient murals and statues of Buddha Maitreya and Avalokiteswara. Chowkhang Gompa is a modern hotel next to the main market. Shanti Stupa is reached by a steep staircase, but the view from the top is superb. Depending on the Shanti stupa stupa of the ruins of the 11th century, the stupa Tisserru. The only way to reach Ladakh in winter is to take a filght at the airport in Leh. Indian Airlines has daily flights between Delhi and Leh.
During the summer months from May to November, buses are available from the main bus station of Manali, Keylong, Nubra, Kargil and Srinagar. A visit to Ladakh is incomplete without engaging in retail therapy. The wonderful items on offer range of thangkas, Ladakhi hats and jewelry coral Tibetan artifacts. Remember to try Tingmo (steamed bread) and Thukpa (noodle soup), local specialties. Much of the hotels are closed during the winter months, adjustments difficult. Most mid-range hotels are located near the main market of Leh.