Desolate moonscapes and wastelands, a bastion of the arts and a unique lifestyle
The 434 kms drive from Srinagar to Leh takes 2 days and the flight about 40 minutes. The road journeyis preferable for many reasons. The drive passes through an extraordinary range of scenery and crosses three major passes: Zoji La at 3529 meters, Namika La 3718 meters and Fatu La at 4092 meters. The landscape changes from the fertile green valleys and forest hillsides of Kashmir to the bare hillsides of Central Asia. The two days drive also allows the body to acclimatize to the change of altitude. The road climbs over Zoji La, 110 kms from Srinagar. The first is village Drass (one of the coldest inhabited places in the world in winter). The road then drops slightly to the district of Kargil at 2650 meters. Once a trading town on the ancient caravan route, it is a night halt on the road to Ladakh (lot of hotels available).
The village of Shargol has a small gompa (monastery) but the town of Mulbekha is more often thought of as the Gateway to Ladakh.A little beyond Mulbekh a huge rock carving of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, towers over the road. After crossing Namika La and Fatu La the road looks down on the incredible Lamayuru gompa perched on the opposite hillside, with a village at its base. The first monastery was built on this site in the 10th century and a part of the central building serves as home to about 30 lamas (monks). After Lamayuru the road joins the Indus valley at Khalsi and follows the river upstream to Leh. There are numerous places of interest en route but the 11th century Alchi gompa, a few kilometers south of Saspol (70 kms west of Leh) is among the most important. The temple wall paintings and frescos are among the most beautiful and best preserved examples of Ladakhi Buddhist art. Most of the paintings in monasteries show the stages of the Buddha’s life, royal personage, figures of various Bodhistavas and tantric deities.
Leh was long an important stopover on the ancient routes between Kashgar, Tibet, Kashmir and the Indian plains. The 16th century deserted and damaged palace on the slopes of Tesemo hill rises above the town. The view south from the roof across the Indus valley and towards the Zanskar mountains is worth the climb. Leh is the most convenient place from which you can explore many interesting monasteries and gompas.
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Treks in Ladakh: Itineraries available on request.
Visit Ladakh and enjoy the traditions of Ladakhies.