Ladakh, India

Ladakh - the ‘Land of the High Passes’ - is among the most stunning parts of the Indian Himalayas. Wedged between Pakistan, Tibet and China and India’s Himachal Pradesh, North of Leh, Ladakh’s ‘capital’, lies a far-flung and austerely beautiful enclave cradled by rugged mountains.

Nubra valley is a dash of lush greenery in Ladakh's dessert and moonlike landscapes and slopes, being almost 3000m lower than Leh. Snuggled between the Karakoram Range and nourished by two rivers, Nubra is brimming with Sea buckthorns and Alfalfa.

During summers, the whole valley is carpeted with Pink and yellow roses and by Autumn in oodles of wild lavenders which, like almost everything around it, a sight beyond the simple natural beauty. To travel to this place, tourists require an Inner Line Permit, that they can obtain in Leh.

Changla La is the third highest motorable pass in the world and serves as a gateway to the famous Pangong Tso Lake. The arid landscape, snow-capped peaks and panoramic views of rolling valleys are the scenic attractions of this place. The site is situated at an altitude of 5,360 m above sea level and tourists can only stop long enough to have a hot cup of tea.

Khardung La Pass

Famously known as the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valleys in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the highest motorable pass in the world. It is filled with tourists crossing over from Leh and stopping long enough to click some photographs. Adventure bikers from all parts of our country and across the world visit this mountain pass on their motorcycles for an adventure soaked experience. Khardung La Pass is positioned on the Ladakh range, which is 40 km from Leh, at an altitude of 18,379 ft (5602 m).

Thiksey Monastery Located to the North of the Indus River on a hilltop, less than 20km from Leh town, Thiksey Monastery built in 1430 AD belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. Lakhang Nyerma a Temple dedicated to Goddess Dorje Chenmo is within the Thiksey monastery. Apart from Lakhang Nyerma there are a few more shrines inside the monastery complex. Thiksey Gompa hosts the Gustor ritual, organized from the 17th to 19th day of September. Celebrated on an annual basis the sacred mask dance is also performed during the Gustor ritual. The Maitreya Buddha statue here is probably the most photographed statue of the Buddha of the future! The 15 m (49 ft) magnificent high statue took over 4 years to craft.

The Pangong Tso Lake means a “High Grassland Lake” located in the Changthang region of Ladakh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 14,270 ft (4,350m). The Lake is 134km and 5km wide and a cross border lake between India and China. Considering the altitude of the Lake and its saline water the lake has very few flora and fauna. The barheaded duck and Brahmini Ducks are few common species found here. The lake was earlier an outlet for the Skyok River but was cut-off from natural phenomenon. The Lake is famous for its blue waters and is very famous for the Bollywood industry since the shot of the movie 3 Idiots where the climax was shoot. During winders the Lake freezes up completely and is amazing to be viewed from the top as beneth the lake resides different shades of blue.

Though threatened by a rapidly increasing number of visitors, Ladakh has much to teach the West regarding ecological sustainability. Most Ladakhis are cash poor yet their traditional mud-brick homesteads are large and virtually self-sufficient in fuel and dairy products.

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Siddharth Arora