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  Leh Ladakh Tour

Area: 97,000 sq kms out of which nearly 38,000 sq. kms are under Chinese Occupation since 1962.
Population: Approx. 2.40 lakh in the 2 districts of Leh & Kargil.
Languages: Ladakhi including Balti / Purgi, Shina or Dardic, Urdu / Hindi.
Ethnic composition: Mongoloid/Tibetan, Dardic and assorted Indo-Aryan elements.
Altitude: Leh 3505 m, Kargil 2750 m

Geographical Introduction

Ladakh is a land abounding in awesome physical features, set in an enormous and spectacular environment. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Karakoram in the north and the Great Himalaya in the south, it is traversed by two other parallel chains, the Ladakh Range and the Zanskar Range.

In geological terms, this is a young land, formed a few million years ago. Its basic contours, uplifted by tectonic movements, have been modified over the millennia by the process of erosion due to wind and water, sculpted into the form that we see today.

Location: Ladakh, J&K

Significance: Capital Of Ladakh.
Main Attractions: Bazaar, Old Town, The Leh Palace, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Shanti Stupa, Ecology Centre, Sankar Gompa
Best Time To Visit: June To September
As one approaches Leh for the first time, via the sloping seep of dust and pebbles that divide if from the floor of the Indus Valley, one will have little difficulty imagining how the old trans -Himalayan traders must have felt as they plodded in on the caravan routes from Yarkhand and Tibet: a mixture of relief at having crossed the mountains in one piece, and anticipation of a relaxing spell in one of central Asia's most scenic and atmospheric towns.

Sightseeing

Sankar Gompa : This is small but more interesting place to visit than the Leh Gompa and can easily be visited on foot. The Sankar Gompa is an under Gompa of Spitok Gompa. At the most only 20 monks live here and few are permanently in residence although the monastery itself is fairly active. Thus the Gompa is only open to the public from 7.00 am to 10.00 am and from 5.00 to 7.00 pm. It is, however, well lit, so an evening visit is worthwhile. At these times the monks will welcome the visitors and may offer one yak butter tea, 'Tsampa' and boiled and spiced mustard plant.

Chamba Temple :
One place definitely worth walking through the putrid smelling puddles to visit, however, is the Chamba temple. It's not easy to find on your own; ask at the second row of shops on the left after the big arch for the key keeper (gonyer), who will show you the way. Hemmed in by dilapidated medieval mansions, the one roomed shrine houses a colossal image of Maitreya, the Buddha to come, and some wonderful old wall paintings.

Leh Palace
 : The old palace of the kings of Ladakh overlooks the town from the southwest slope of the Tsemo hill. It has eight storeys and was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 16th century, at much the same time as the famed Potala of Lhasa - which it resembles. The damage to the palace, one side is gaping open, stems from the Kashmiri invasions of the last century. Like the Shey palace the Leh palace still belongs to the Ladakhi royal family, who now live in their palace in Stok.

Leh Gompa  :
 The Leh Gompa stands high above the palace and also overlooks the ruins of the older palace of the King of Tagpebums. The Red Gompa also known as Namgyal Tsemo Gompa was built in 1430 by King Gvags-Pa-Bum-Ide and has a fine three-storey high seated Buddha figure flanked by Avalokitesvara on the right and Manjushri on the left. In all there are three Gompas at the top of the hill, the topmost one is in a very ruined condition but offers extremely fine views over Leh and the surrounding countryside. To the right of the palace one can see a Buddha painted on the rocks, a remnant of an earlier monastery.

Other Leh Gompas

There are a number of lesser Gompas in the old town of Leh - such as the Guru Lakhang to the left of the palace, beneath the large Chorten. The Chamba Lakhang, south of the palace, and the Chenrezig Lakhang, to the southeast, are similarly less famous since they contain little of interest compared to other more splendid Gompas around Leh. In the centre of Leh the Buddhist association of Ladakh in 1957 built the new monastery or Gompa Soma or Jokhang. It contains an image of the Buddha Sakyamuni that was brought form Tibet. Meetings of the Buddhist association are held in this monastery.
 

Kargil Town & Around
Kargil town (2,704 m), situated midway between Srinagar (204 Kms) and Leh, (234 kms) on the Srinagar-Leh highway, is the second largest urban centre (approx. 8,000 inhabitants) of Ladakh and headquarters of Kargil district. A quiet town now, in the past it served as an important trade and transit centre for the Central-Asian merchants due to its unique equidistant location (about 200-230 kms) from Srinagar, Leh and Skardo, all well known trading outposts on the old trade route network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand, Kashmir and Baltistan. Since 1975, travellers of various nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel-related activities.

Zanskar

About 20-km south of Rangdum stands the Pazila watershed across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans Himalayan Valleys. The Panzela Top (4,401 m) is the picturesque tableland adorned with two small alpine lakes and surrounded by snow-covered peaks.
As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of the watershed to the head of the Stod Valley, one of Zanskar's main tributary valleys, the majestic "Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, the Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda River, the main tributary of river Zanskar, rises.

How to Reach Ladakh

By Air: The nearest airport is Leh. There are flights from Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar.

By Road:
There are two overland routes the Srinagar to Leh road remains open from early June to November. The Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation operates regular deluxe and ordinary bus services.

Manali - Leh road remains open from mid June to early October. Himachal Pradesh tourism, HRTC and Manali private bus union, operates a daily bus services, which takes two days to reach Leh, after a night halt at Sarchu or Darcha.

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