The highest plateau in the country, also known as the ‘Land of High Passes, Ladakh is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Among the many reasons behind its huge popularity are its breathtaking scenic beauty and rich natural biodiversity. An absolute delight for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and mountaineers, Ladakh has its admirers and visitors from all over the world. Apart from all this, Ladakh is also famous for its considerable number of tourist spots, which make this place even more special. This article gives an insight into some of the popular places one can visit in Ladakh.
High Mountain Passes:
Rightly known as the ‘Land of High Passes’, mountains in Ladakh happen to have a significant number of high altitude passes. These include places like the Khardung la pass, Parang la, Chang la, Baralacha la, Zoji la, Taglang la, Lachulung la and so on. Most of these passes lie on different trekking routes and are usually visited by trekkers, mountaineers as well as bikers. These high mountain passes traditionally act as bridges between different places. The Khardung la pass (altitude: 5,359 metres) acts as a gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys, and also has the world’s highest all season motor-able road. The Parang La pass (altitude: 5,540 metres) connects the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh to Changthang in Tibet, and the Chang la pass (altitude: 5,391 metres) lies between Leh and the Shyok river valley. What makes these passes special is the panoramic views of the snow-laden mountains and valleys that they offer. The unique geographical features of the mountains and terrains add to the charm and appeal of climbing these passes.
A beautiful valley at an altitude of about 3,170 metres, the Nimmu valley is where the Zanskar river from the northeast meets the Indus river. It also provides opportunities for adventure sports like river rafting and has the highest river rafting point in the world. The area is semi-arid and has very little vegetation, owing to the harsh climatic conditions at such a high altitude. The ideal time to visit this place is during the months of June to September when the weather remains relatively pleasant.
Sham Valley, Nubra valley and Shyok valley:
Usually traversed by mountaineers and bikers, these valleys lying along the river beds are amongst the most visited places in Ladakh. Among the places that one can visit in the Sham, the valley includes Gurudwara Pathar Sahib (a revered Sikh shrine), the Cyclop’s hill (popularly known as the Magnetic hill) where nature defies gravity, the Bags palace, the Chilling village etc. Main attractions of the Nubra and Shyok valley include the Turtuk village, Hundar, Panamic, and monasteries like Diskit and Ganden Sumtseling. Apart from all this, these valleys are also known for their spectacular views to the Zanskar and Karakoram mountain ranges, and the rich and diverse flora and fauna of the region. The unique features of the terrains are also very evident as one visits these places.
Hemis National Park:
Known to the world for its snow leopards, the Hemis National Park in Ladakh is the largest notified protected area in the country. It is believed to have the highest density of snow leopards in any protected area and is also home to many other rare and endangered animals like the Asiatic ibex, the Shape (a wild sheep native to central and south Asia), the Eurasian brown bear, the Tibetan wolf, the Himalayan marmot and so on. A paradise on earth for bird watchers, it has species like the golden eagle, the lammergeier vulture, the brown accentor and robin accentor, the streaked rosefinch and many more. Among the notable plant species found here are dry and alpine forests of juniper, birch and fir, and other alpine vegetation. The park also has a number of trekking routes and remains open for visitors during the months of June to October.
Ladakh has emerged to be one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the country in the past years, owing to developments in connectivity and accessibility. Apart from the scenic beauty of the mountains and valleys and the rich variety of flora and fauna of the region, another special feature of Ladakh is the rich cultural heritage and age-old tradition of the small picturesque villages. Despite the difficulties and challenges that one usually faces due to its high altitude and adverse climatic conditions, it is favoured by nature lovers and adventure seekers; and what gets in return is a real reward for all the physical exhaustion and fatigue.