Ladakh - Roof Top of the world!

Ladakh is known as "Small Tibet in India" or "Roof Top of the world". Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two others, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Buddhism was brought Ladakh around 250 BC. probably under the order of Emperor Ashoka. through the missionary Madhyatika and his disciples. The first proven works of art originating from Ladakh, belong to the Gupta period of north India.

The lifeline of this region of monks and monasteries, which is still in mystery, is the river Indus stretching over 450 Kms. In the north is the Ladakh chain of mountains with summits between 6000 to 7500 meters and in the south, the mountains of Zanskar which rise upto a height of 6000 mtrs. Besides the main districts of Leh and Kargil, Ladakh consists of the Nubra Valley in the north upland region of Rupshu over 4500 mtrs. in the east and Zanskar in the south.

The Indus valley, Shoyok Valley and the side valleys, which form the main living space of Ladakh lie at a medium altitude . Leh is the chief town of Ladakh district. The land is, with the exception of a few river oasis at the Indus, barren and dry.

Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zanskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Manali to Ladakh, the Nubra valley, the Indus valley etc.

Ladakh was the connection point of Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century. Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter, or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border has been sealed by the Chinese government. Other less used routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, through the Zoji la pass (3,450 m, 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m, 9,022 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m, 12,140 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m, 13,450 ft.) This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times. However, with the rise of militancy in Kashmir, the main corridor for accessing the area has shifted from the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh route through Zoji la, to the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m, 13,050 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m, 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m, 16,600 ft), Tangtang la (5,325 m, 17,470 ft) and is open only between July and September, when snow is cleared from the road. There is one airport, situated at Leh, from which there are multiple daily flights to Delhi on Jet Airways and Indian, and weekly flights to Srinagar.

Buses run from Leh to the surrounding villages. There is about 1800 km of roads in Ladakh, of which 800 km is surfaced.[42]. The Manali-Leh-Srinagar road makes up about half of that, the remainder being spurs off it. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which, even today provide the only link between the majority of valleys, villages and high pastures. For the traveler with a number of months it is possible to trek from one end of Ladakh to the other, or even from places in Himachal Pradesh. The large number of trails and the limited number of roads allows one to string together routes that have road access often enough to restock supplies, but avoid walking on motor roads almost entirely.


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