Once well hidden in the mighty mountains of the Himalayas and the Karakoram, the Ladakh region is today – at least in summer – easily accessible. Whether by land, along the high mountains and across even higher passes, or by plane, over those very mountains, even the journey is breathtaking.
And because one is missing then the breath literally, the first day should be taken calmly. After all, Leh, the starting point for many activities in Ladakh, lies at an altitude of 3500m. But quiet does not necessarily mean bored. If desired and if you are already fit enough, Leh, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Ladakh, offers a wealth of attractions. How about beginning with a delicious espresso or tea on the roof terrace of a beautifully restored building of the old town of Leh, from where one gets the first impressive view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Those who want to go a bit higher can walk through the old town up to the old Royal Palace. In the evenings the Shanti Stupa is a perfect location to watch the gorgeous sunset behind the mountains.
Also in close vicinity to Leh there is a lot to explore. There are all the different but always beautiful monasteries, which not only Buddhist enthusiasts will like. And also smaller hiking tours are possible.
Ladakh is located at altitudes between 2676m in Kargil to 7672m at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram Mountains. Here we will surely find a fitting trek for climbers who want to fly high, as well as far-sighted hikers. Be it in the West of Ladakh, with all the beautiful monasteries, in the east of the country, the nomadic area of the salt lakes or in beautiful Zanskar.
The villages of Zanskar are still more traditional compared to many in Ladakh, its inhabitants are wonderfully sociable and very hospitable. How would it be to stay here with a family and to look over the shoulders as the villagers do their daily work (or to join in if you like) to get a deep insight into the life of the local people. Also, Zanskar is very well suited as a starting point for many treks, be it in summer across the mountains or in winter on the frozen Zanskar River (Chaddar – Trek).
For those who decide to go back by car, the trip from the predominantly Buddhist Zanskar region leads through the beautiful Suruvalley. This region is part of the Kargil district and is inhabited mainly by Muslim Ladakhi. After two days of driving through very varied landscapes, you get back to the religious quite mixed Leh. Here live Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Sikh and Hindus.
Photos by: Olivier Föllmi