Ladakh is a hauntingly beautiful land which holds a magnetic attraction for tourists all across the world. The fiercely cold climate and the rocky terrain of Ladakh had cut it off from the rest of the civilization for a long time which is why very little is known about its hidden jewels.
Location: 80 km from Leh
Basgo was actually the capital of Lower Ladakh just before the kingdom was united at Leh. Basgo is a proclaimed world heritage site and is visited by many foreign tourists. The Basgo welfare committee and UNESCO are working hand in hand to revive this beautiful place and the old but crumbling Citadel. The Chamba Gompa of Basgo is one of the most beautiful monuments in India and the inside of the Gompa has been restored using traditional colors, major painting aids and intricate techniques. Fascinating images of Bodhisattvas cover the entire ceiling. If you are planning to visit Basgo then you must select Nimmu (2 km nearby) for accommodation and food. Basgo will take you straight back in time as its frozen in the history of the great Indus Valley Civilization.
Location: Capital of Ladakh with its own Airport
Leh is easily the most populated and the most glamorous town of Ladakh situated as it is as the joining point of lower and upper Ladakh. Leh was the trading capital of Ladakh and merchants from Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar, North India travelled to Leh to conduct trade in jewels, spices, silk and saffron. If you are somebody who is not comfortable with tackling the harsh weather and the rough terrain of Ladakh but still wants to enjoy its beauty then Leh is the best option for you. The colorful Gompas and the quaint shopping culture of Leh will capture your imagination while the delicious Buddhist-Tibetan food will keep you satiated. Visit Leh for the centuries of tradition and culture that has seeped in the city and given it a distinct aura.
Location: North of Leh
Nubra Valley lies on the famous trading Route that connects the east part of Tibet and Turkistan through the Karakoram Pass. Translated in English Nubra Valley means the land of flowers and in summers all you can see is color of every conceivable variety flooding the valley while apples, apricots, berries and orange load the trees with their weight. There are ruins of palaces and Gompas around Nubra Valley which makes it a paradise for history lovers. The only issue with this place is that it lies at an altitude of 10,000 feet and is cut from the rest of the world during the winter months. The Khardung La Pass, Diskit Monastery and Hunder Sand Dune Park are some of the best attractions of Nubra Valley.
Location: 50 km from Leh
Phugtal is the most visually stunning Monastic Complex in the whole of Ladakh. The complex of Phugthal erupts out of the mouth of a gigantic cave which is situated in the face of a huge mountain and a laterally running gorge along the Lingti Tsarap River. Early 12th century saw the establishment of the fine monastic town of Phugthal. There are amazingly beautiful Frescos, Murals, Thangkas, Chortens and paintings in Phugthal many of which are classified as world treasures. There are about 100 monks residing in Phugthal and they all belong to different communities.
Location: 42 km South of Kargil
Sankoo lies near the war front of Kargil and yet it is one of the most peaceful and serene places you will ever have a chance to visit. There are colorful rocky mountains all around Sankoo which are flanked by deep forests of poplars, myricarea, willows and wild roses that bloom around this small town. This area is well watered by two tributaries running from Suru River. Sankoo is a great place to be if you are an avid hiker as some of India’s best trekking routes are n this area. The trekking route bends through alpine forests populated by mountain hares and fields of fragrant edelweiss. There are little Tibetan shops dotting Sankoo that sell colorful murals and Buddhist artifacts. The Muslim Saint Syed Mir Hashim had his shrine in Sankoo.
Zongkhul is a must visit place in Ladakh as it has the world’s only cave monastery. The location of Zongkhul is on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking trail. The position of the Monastery is like the nest of the swallow on the rocky side of the gorge named Ating. The frescos inside the Zonghkul Cave monastery date back to more than 500 years and as such they are a huge source of interest to historians and archeologists. Zhadpa Dorje who is the celebrity scholar and painter has contributed much to the intricately designed murals which are designed and kept inside Zonghkul.
Location: Furthest Corner of the Suru Valley
Rangdum has an exotic and wild beauty about it that will haunt you long after you have left the place. Rangdum is actually shaped and placed like an elliptical plateau which is flanked by colored hills on one side and glacier crested rocky spaces on the other. The chief attraction of Rangdum is the famous Rangdum Monastery which is believed to have been built in the 18th century. Rangdum is also geographically important as a good trekking base because of its plateau like structures. This is an agricultural village so most of the villagers still practice agriculture amongst which plums, apricots and saffron are the main products.
Location: 60 km west of Kargil
Drass is situated about 60 km to the west of Kargil en route to Srinagar. Drass is situated right in the center of the Drass valley and it occurs right next to the treacherous and the famous Zoji La Pass. Drass holds a special place in world History as it’s known as the second coldest inhabitable place on earth. In winters the temperatures are known to hit less than -45 degrees. This town of Drass is isolated from the rest of the world for most of the time which is why the cuisine and the culture of the place are distinctively different. Drass offers tourists a unique glimpse of the traditional and culturally distinct life of the Ladakh tribes who live there.
It’s a shame that the name Kargil has now become synonymous with battle lines as Kargil is an intensely lovely land. The town of Kargil lies on the lower part of the Suru basin and is quite fertile as its drained by two tributaries of the Suru River. A lot of different types of vegetables and cereals are grown in the Kargil Valley. Some of India’s finest crop of Apricots grows here and in the summers the air is heavy with the faint fragrance of apricot blossoms. Central Asian and Tibetan Commodities are best purchased from the picturesque Kargil Bazaar.
Location: Centrally located in Zanskar
Padum is the capital town of Zanskar Valley and represents the harmonious existence of Buddhists, Sunni Muslims and Hindus. This place is an education in peaceful co –existence as different cultures merge here in bliss and peace. Karsha Gompa in Padum is a 150 year old Gompa that commands a lot of interest in the tourist circles. The three day old Gustor Festival is particularly famous as it represents a lot of dance and music forms of Ladakh. The isolated Gompa of Phugtal near Padum is also generating a lot of interest for its historically significant Chortens.