Ladakh is a beautiful high-altitude mountainous region in the state of Jammu/Kashmir in the north-west of India. Nestled between the Karakoram range in the north and the Himalayan range to the south, it is an area of remote beauty and displays amazing geological features. The central area of Ladakh includes the Zanskar and Ladakhi mountain ranges. These are included in some of the popular trekking routes through Ladakh and typify the breathtaking arid beauty of the region. Ladakh is a great place to visit for those with an interest in trekking or mountaineering.
The region is also home to many Buddhist monasteries (referred to as gompas) which are renowned for their unique architecture and painted interiors.
The capital of Ladakh is Leh and this unique city hosts many cultural and religious festivals. There are also great markets featuring an array of Tibetan and Kashmiri craft items including pashmina scarves, thanka paintings and wooden carvings.
Ladakh is sometimes known as “Little Tibet” due to the strong influence of Tibetan culture in the region. Buddhism is the dominant religion and plays an integral role in the Ladakhi culture.
There are a number of prominent gompas in the region including Thikse, Alchi, Hemis and Lamayuru. Their interiors display the richly painted murals associated with mystical Tibetan Buddhism.
There is a significant Muslim minority in Leh as evidenced by the two large mosques in the main bazaar, and many Muslim bakeries and shops.
During the summer, outdoor festivals are popular and include local polo games, archery and folk dancing. Despite western Kashmir’s political issues, Ladakh has remained a peaceful region.
Leh has many great options for food, from rich Kashmiri style and North Indian thali houses to traditional Ladakhi cuisine. For those who enjoy delicious creamy dishes and delicate curry flavours a visit to one of the many Kashmiri restaurants is recommended.
Leh is a busy tourist town during the summer and visitors enjoy meals from all over the world, including great apple pies, coffee and delicious breads, as well as Italian, Greek and Israeli cuisine. Don’t miss the outstanding Indian chai and sweet shops, or try a Kashmiri tea flavoured with cardamom and mint.
Ladakh’s climate is one of extremes. Hot summer days see the mercury rising to the mid 30’s (degrees Celsius) whereas winter temperatures can drop to minus 30 C. During this winter period (November to March) roads are closed due to ice, snow and freezing conditions. The Ladakhi people work hard during the spring and summer months to plant and tend crops, and to harvest them in time to ensure food supplies are sufficient to last throughout the winter.
The best time to visit Ladakh is from late May to early October.