All you need to know Ladakh


| January 16, 2014

Thiksey Monastery

THE BACKGROUND 

LOCATION: Strategically located in the trans-Himalayan region, with Pakistan to the west and China to the East, Ladakh lies at the northern extremity of India among a series of high Himalayan ranges and is one of the highest inhabited plateaus in the world.

LANGUAGES: Ladakhi is the most common language, but English and Hindi are widely spoken in Leh and other tourist areas. Purik and Tibetan are spoken elsewhere.

POPULATION: 280,000 (District of Ladakh).

TIME ZONE GMT: +5.5 hours.

CURRENCY: Indian rupee (INR /Rs) = 100 paise. £1 = Rs 98.5.

VISAS Required for British passport holders and should be obtained prior to departure from the UK.

POTTED HISTORY: Ladakh’s early history remains obscure but its location along the ancient silk route meant it served as an important overland trade centre. Historians suggest that the region was a melting pot of political, cultural and religious influences from Central Asia, Tibet, China and mainland India. Due to its location, the region was at the heart of several internal wars and external aggression and so remained closed to foreign visitors after Indian independence until the 1970s. Despite a tumultuous history, Ladakh’s distinct culture with Tibetan roots and rich heritage has survived to this day.

TOP TIP
Between June and September, Leh and the surrounding villages celebrate many vibrant, colourful monastic festivals, which highlight the region’s rich cultural heritage and include traditional performances such as masked dances, archery and polo. Speak to one of our experts for the dates as they are based on a lunar calendar and so vary each year.

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
WHEN TO GO
June to September is the best time to travel around Ladakh, when the weather is pleasant during the day and the region is accessible by road as well as by air.

WHAT TO READ
Ladakh – Crossroads of High Asia
by Janet Rizvi
An informative book that goes beyond the region’s history and culture and dedicates a section to discussing life in Ladakh in the late 20th century and the challenges facing the region, including the impact of tourism.

A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism
by Andrew Harvey
A fascinating and a compelling read, for those interested in Tibetan Buddhism, this book narrates the spiritual journey of one of the first foreign visitors to Ladakh, after the region was re-opened in the 1970s.

BEING THERE
WHERE TO STAY
Chamba Camp, Thiksey
Nestled in the shadows of an ancient 15th-century monastery, the Chamba Camp, Thiksey, near Leh, showcases the wild beauty of Ladakh. The camp features individually designed, air-conditioned luxury tents with en suite facilities and private butler service.

Hotel Grand Dragon
Located just outside Leh with superb views over the valley, this is the first superior class hotel to be built in the Ladakh valley. The traditional architectural style combined with modern furnishings make the Grand Dragon an excellent base from which to explore this wonderful part of India.

WHAT TO EAT
Traditional Ladakhi food has a lot of similarities with Tibetan food. One of the key ingredients is barley with roasted barley flour used for making either momos (steamed vegetable or meat dumplings) or tsampa (noodle soup) and the fermented form for making chang, a homemade beer. The famous Ghur Ghur cha’ also better known as salted butter tea is either served on its own or with tsampa.

FESTIVALS
Kalachakra Festival In 2014, the Kalachakra festival, with a history dating back to the 6th century and traditionally associated with the promotion of world peace, will be celebrated in Ladakh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama will lead the initiation ceremony.

Hemis Tsechu Held in the courtyard of the Hemis Gompa, this annual festival commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Tibetan Buddhism. Colourful masked dances re-enact magical feats and the triumph of good over evil.

THROUGH A WRITER’S EYES
“The inhabitants of these villages must surely be some of the happiest on the face of the earth.”
Marco Pallis, 19th-century British mountaineer, author & explorer

SET YOUR COMPASS
Leh Palace Abandoned and left to ruin in the 19th century, Leh Palace, currently under restoration, remains a fascinating place to visit with its maze of dark corridors and hidden stairways.

Alchi Higher in the Himalayas and surrounded by dramatic scenery is the village of Alchi, which is noted for its 10th-century monastery perched dramatically above the River Indus.

Thiksey Monastery Overlooking the flood plains on the east bank of the Indus, the 500-year-old Thiksey Monastery is one of the largest and most imposing monasteries in central Ladakh, and was part of the Gelugpa order in the 15th century. The impressive 12-storey monastery has 10 temples, a nunnery and 60 lamas in residence.

TRAVEL WITH COX & KINGS
RECOMMENDED TOUR
Ladakh: Land of the Lamas (Luxury Tented Camp) is a Private Journey exploring the stunning scenery and centuries-old culture of Ladakh, staying in the luxurious tents of Chamba Camp.

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