Where do you find an absolutely out-of-this-world breathtaking mountain pass at 17480 feet? Where would you find an endothermic lake at 14270 feet, the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia? Where would you discover the white yaks that give you the world-famous Pashmina shawls and double-humped camels? Welcome to Leh, the capital of Ladakh in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
A visit to Leh is an unforgettable experience for any tourist. You will find breathtaking views from one of the world’s highest traveled roads at Khardung La pass. The entire district is a mountainous one with three parallel ranges of the Himalayas viz., Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakoram. The rivers Indus, Shyok and Zanskar flow through the valleys between these mountain ranges forming absolutely spectacular landscapes with eye-catching flowers all the way.
Rangdum village, at 11998 feet gives a stunning view, with the mighty Drang-drung glaciers (average elevation of 15680 feet, maximum length 23 kilometers) on one side and green meadows on the other side where sheep graze lazily; under the watchful eyes of nomadic shepherds called Bakarwals. About 30 monks live in the Rangdum monastery where Tibetan Buddhism is followed.
As many as 225 species of exotic birds including the famous black-necked crane and brown-headed gull can be found around Tsomoriri lake, an awesome wetland at 15075 feet. The stunningly beautiful lake attracts a large number of tourists during summer. Many pilgrims visit the 300-year old Korzok monastery located on the banks of the Tsomoriri Lake. At this place one can find wildlife apart from cows, yaks and donkeys roaming freely. The Manali-Leh road winds through Taglang La at 17480 feet, which is one of the highest motorable passes in the world. Tourists need to take a permit at Leh to visit Tsomoriri.
Indian nationals must carry a photo identity card which serves as an inner line permit, while foreigners need to take the same from the District Magistrate in Leh (authorized tourist agents would be able to help in getting this for foreigners).
Ladakh, also known as the hermit kingdom, offers un-spoilt natural beauty par excellence. It is connected through the Leh-Srinagar and Leh-Manali roads. Every year, scores of motorbike and bicycle enthusiasts travel through this absolutely mind-boggling road to reach Leh. Some of the finest spots can be seen through this stretch. The monastic festivals, held almost throughout the year are a big attraction among tourists who get to see the local folks in colorful traditional attire.
Leh has over 250 hotels and guest houses to suit every pocket. The absolutely stunning Pangong Tso Lake that completely freezes during winter attracts a large number of tourists every year. Polo and Archery are popular sports played in Ladakh.
Due to the relatively lesser amount of oxygen, it is advisable to spend at least a day acclimatizing to the height to prevent high altitude sickness.
Truly, Leh can be considered as paradise on earth, something not to be missed by anyone.