Sunday, July 1, 2012

Jammu & Kashmir Valley Tourism Attractions | Summer cool destination Ladakh Valley | Kashmir - Leh Trekking | Leh Valley places to visit | Kargil - Valley of Flower visit | Zanskar Valley Visit | Nubra Valley - Ladakh places of Tourism

Jammu and Kashmir is southernmost state of India and situated mostly in the Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares its borders with, states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab of India to the south, China and Afghanistan to the Northeast and Pakistan administered territories to the West and Northwest respectively. Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions namely Jammu, Kashmir Valley and the Ladakh. Jammu & Kashmir - a distinct land has enriched both travelers and people by multifaceted culture, geography and history blend with the unsurpassed natural beauty in all the three regions. Srinagar is the summer capital of the state and Jammu is the winter capital. This shifting of capital’s during winter was started with the Maharaja's of Dogra Rule and continues till now, and so both the cities are quite developed and have many tourist attractions. Once considered as the center of Hinduism and Buddhism many Sufi saints and sages have Kashmir as their birth place. While the Kashmir valley is known for its beautiful mountainous landscape, the lakes and blue valleys rising to alpine passes, the Jammu’s region is abode of gods and goddesses for which it bears the name, 'city of temples'. The region has broadened the spheres of pilgrimage tourism for entire State. At the same time Ladakh, a living centre of Buddhism, possesses mystique landscape and rugged pinnacles lit up by the colorful traditions of the people, it is a dream of adventurers and explorers.


Ladakh also known for land of high passes is the largest province within the region of Jammu and Kashmir covering approximately 60,000 square miles (100,000 sq. km). It is surrounded and bisected by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Part of Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, is included in Pakistan territory.  Ladakh region is situated at the western edge of the Tibetan plateau, lies between the mighty Karokaram mountain range in the north and the Great Himalayas in the South. Running in a generally northwest to southeast direction through Ladakh, the great Himalayan Range separates the Vale of Kashmir from Ladakh. The height of these ranges prevents rain clouds from crossing into Ladakh and as a result, Ladakh receives only about 2 inches (5 cm) of rain per year. The aridity of the area is immediately apparent to the visitor, with Ladakh's long vistas of mountains without vegetation and valleys with only a few oases of green. It is one of the most sparsely populated region in Jammu and Kashmir. Landscape of Ladakh has been modified and sculpted into the spectacular shape by the wind and the erosion over the centuries. The Ladakh range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (19,700 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,400 ft). The altitude in Ladakh ranges from a close to the 11,350 feet (3,500 m) and some of the surrounding peaks reach height of  22,500 feet (7,000 m).  It is rightly called “the broken moonland” and “land of endless discovery”.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyl) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, Aksai Chin and Ngari, including the Rudok region and Guge, in the east, and the Nubra Valleys to the north. Present Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans–Kunlun territory of Xinjiang to the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It is sometimes called "Little Tibet" as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Dras, Zanskar and the Suru Valley on the Himalaya's northern flanks receive heavy snow in winter, this feeds the glaciers from which melt water, carried down by streams, irrigates the fields in summer. For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water. As the crops grow, the villagers pray not for rain, but for sun to melt the glaciers and liberate their water.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The Indus River runs through Ladakh and the 30-mile (50 km) stretch of the Indus River Valley between Spitok gompa (near Leh airport) and Hemis gompa is the heartland of Ladakh. Here are scattered some of the finest gompas in the region and here also is the town of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. It is one of the few remaining abodes of Budhism in South Asia, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bhutan and Sri Lanka; a majority of Ladakhis are Tibetan Buddhists and the rest are mostly Shia Muslims.

The main places of attractions are Leh District, Kargil river valleys, Zanskar range of mountains and Nuabra Valley.


Leh was once the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, is now a District in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India and is towards the eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh, with an area of 45,110 square km, is the second largest district in the country, after Kutch, Gujarat, in terms of area. The region gets its water from the Zanskar River, which flows into the Indus River just below.

The town is still dominated by the the nine-storey, now ruined, Leh Palace (Namgyal Palace) former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, and the Namgyal Tsemo (Vicotry peak), built by Tashi Mamgyal on his victorious reunification of the Upper and Lower Ladakh. Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 ft), and connects via National Highway 1D connects it to Srinagar in the southwest and to Manali in the south via Leh-Manali Highway.

In the later period, Leh became an important center for trade in Central Asia. Leh remained merely a headquarter of Ladakh district until 1974, when Ladakh was opened for foreign tourists. Over the period, after its opening by Government of India for tourists, Leh became the centre for tourism related activities in the region.

Leh in India is a beautiful destination with so many attractions and is the center of Tibeto-Buddhist Culture for ages. Its colorful gompas have attracted the devout Buddhists from all over the globe. Besides, it is also a favorite hiking locale and is known for some of the best hikes in the country. Travel to leh this vacation to enjoy its mystic beauty, nut before that acquaint yourself a little bit about the past and present of Leh India.

Leh is connected to the rest of India by two high-altitude roads both of which are subject to landslides and neither of which are passable in winter when covered by deep snows. The National Highway 1D  from Srinagar via Kargil is generally open longer. The Leh- Manali Highway can be troublesome due to very high passes and plateaus, and the lower but landslide-prone Rohtang Pass near Manali.

SrinagarLeh Highway 1D: The overland approach to Ladakh from the Kashmir valley via the 434-km. The Srinagar- Leh road typically remains open for traffic from June to October/November. The most dramatic part of this road journey is the ascent up the 3,505 m (11,500 ft.) high Zoji-la, a tortuous pass in the Great Himalayan Wall. The Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) operates regular Deluxe and Ordinary bus services between Srinagar and Leh on this route with an overnight halt at Kargil. Taxis (cars and jeeps) are also available at Srinagar for the journey.

Manali – Leh Highway: Since 1989, the 473-km Manali-Leh road has been serving as the second land approach to Ladakh. Open for traffic from June to late October, this high road traverses the upland desert plateaux of Rupsho whose altitude ranges from 3,660 m to 4,570 m. There are a number of high passes en route among which the highest one, known as Tanglang La, is sometimes (but incorrectly) claimed to be the world’s second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 5,325 m. (17,469 feet).

The places of attraction in Leh are:

Shanti Stupa.

Leh Palace.

Leh Trekking Trails.

War Museum.

Chamba Temple.

Jama Masjid.

Jo Khang Gompa.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa.

Sankar Gompa.

Stock Palace.

The Victory Tower.

Zorawar Fort.


The western parts of Ladakh comprising the river valleys, which are drained and formed by the Himalayan tributaries of the high Indus, constitute Kargil District. Kargil, the second town of Ladakh, is situated on the Suru River which flows at around 10,000 feet hight. Two other rivers that meet here are Drass and Wakha Chu.

Kargil town (2,704 m), situated midway between Srinagar (204 Kms) and Leh, (234 kms) on the Srinagar-Leh highway, is the second largest urban centre (approx. 8,000 inhabitants) of Ladakh and headquarters of Kargil district. Visible all around are lush green fields of barley and wheat, vegetable beds and rows of poplars and willows. A quiet town now, in the past it served as an important trade and transit centre for the Central-Asian merchants due to its unique equidistant location (about 200-230 kms) from Srinagar, Leh and Skardo. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand, Kashmir, Afghanistan and India. Since 1975, travellers of various nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel and tourism -related activities.

This area lies just behind the Zoji La Pass, and the center is Kargil, a small town with cobbled streets surrounded by apricot groves. Good panoramas of the Himalaya can be obtained from Sanko to Drass via Umba, and on the more demanding Sanko to Mulbek via the Wakka La Pass at 4,930m.

Kargil is convenient base for undertaking adventure activities like trekking, mountaineering, camping, river- rafting, etc. in the high Himalayan valleys. It is also a convenient base for taking excursions to the Wakha- Mulbek valley, where the chief attraction is a 9 m high rock sculpture of Maitreya, besides other monuments. Another tour option is to visit the beautiful Suru Valley to behold the gradually unfolding panorama of the impressive Himalayan landscape. Yet another interesting excursion option is to visit Drass to see its famous features like Tolo-ling, Tiger Hill and the Mushkoo Valley, well known throughout India on account of the extensively televised conflict on the LoC between India and Pakistan during May-August, 1999.

A stroll in the bazaar might lead to shops selling flint and tobacco pouches, travelling hookahs and brass kettles, handcrafted items of every day use that find their way into the marts as curios. Kargil is also famous for its apricots and mulberries. In month of June, it presents a rare sight of fragrant white apricot blossoms while in month of August, the ripening fruit lends the countryside an orange hue. Tourists to Leh by road make a night halt at Kargil before starting on the second leg of the journey.


The Zanskar, in the kargil sub-division of Ladakh, spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq kms of mountainous territory and surrounded by high-rise mountains and deep gorges is tehsin of the Kargil District, which lies in the eastern half of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located between the Great Himalayan Range to the south and the Indus Valley to the North. The Zanskar Range is a mountain range in the Indian state of Jammu nad Kashmir that separates Zanskar from Ladakh. The average height of the Zanskar Range is about 6,000 m (19,700 ft). Its eastern part is known as Rupshu.

Zanskar river, which flows through it, joins the Indus a little below Leh. The whole Zanskar Valley is situated in the inner Himalaya and is higher than most other areas of Ladakh. The Climate is very harsh and the area receives precious little rain. The great attractions are the Buddhist culture, beautiful monasteries, awe-inspiring barren montainscape and the twin peaks of Nun(7135m) and Kun (7077m).

Towards the western end of the Himalayas a series of continuous mountain ridges, comprising scores of 6000 metre (20000 foot) peaks, forms an effective barrier between the Indian provinces of Lahaul and Ladakh. Linking these contrasting mountainous regions is a trekking route that provides one of the great challenges of the Indian Himalaya.

Padam is the Head quarter of Zanskar and can be reached by a rough road from Kargil. Along this highway are glimpsed unforgettable sights of Nun- Kun, Barnaj, Doda and other high Peaks, and views of several glaciers, such as Ringdom, Pensi, Darung, Drung and kange.

Tourism is probably the major disruption that Zanskar has experienced during recent times. The opening of this region to foreigners has brought benefits such as the financing of schools and the restoration of monasteries and roads, but has also taken its toll on this fragile mountain environment and its population. The campsites along the trekking routes look more and more like junkyards at the end of the tourist season. The nearby places which could be visited are Sani, Karsha, Strongday, Zangla, Bardan, Phugthal, Zongkhul. Some of these villages falling on the trekking roads offer Spectacular cave monastery, monastic establishment and castles.

Nubra Valley

This valley is popularly known as Ldumra or the valley of flowers is the geographical backbone, and historical hearland of Ladakh. . The Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass lie to the northwest of the valley which connect Nubra with Xinjiang. Previously there was much trade passing through the area with East Turkestan and Central Asia. It is situated in the north of Ladakh between Karakoram and Ladakh ranges of Himalayas. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La from Leh where one will first encounter the Shyok Valley. To enter the Nubra valley, one must cross over the Shyok River via a small bridge and pass through a military checkpoint. Non-locals require an "Inner Line" permit (easily obtained in Leh town) to pass.

Nubru lies at average altitude about 10,000 feet above sea level. Deskit is the sub-division HQ of Nubra. Deskit Gonpa is also situated at a height of about 200 mtrs. Above the village on the spur of rocky mountain and at the most commanding point, having clear view of the entire central part of Nubra, Samstanling Gonpa is situated on the North facing Deskit Gonpa. Both these Gonpas have historical remains.

The Nubra valley contains the small towns of Sumur and Panamik. Sumur has a Buddhist gompa or monastery while Panamik is noted for its hot springs. Most of the people are of mixed Tibetan and Central Asian origin and speak varieties of the Balti language.

Buddhist monasteries flourished in the valley among which the famous Diskit Gompa. This monastery, over 350 years old, is the oldest in the Nubra region. It is also one of the largest. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Sect. The Nubra valley is accessible from Leh via a number of high passes. One of them is the Khardong-la, the highest motorable pass at 5600 m.

The nearby villages are Khardong, Khalsar, Tirit, Sumoor, Tegar, Pinchemik, Chamshein, and many other, all fall along the traditional silk route. The caravans traveling to and from Central Asia and Kashmir through Nubra valley used to stay at these villages. Panamik was the most important place for halt of Caravan. It served as last major village where the caravan landed, before they negotiated Saser and Karakoram pass towards Central Asia.