Awesome ! Amazing ! Superb ! Brilliant ! Pristine ! Beautiful !
These are definitely needed before I even begin to describe the places in the Ladakh region of Kashmir. All of it is beautiful, and I mean not only the places but also the roads and rivers and valleys and snow covered mountains and everything in and around them.
They are ideal for a getaway from the rat-race that is city life. Not only are they unique in their beauty, you will be gasping with awe every time you see a mountain or a river, no matter how many times you have already seen them.
Here are some of the places I visited :
Srinagar : A bustling city, the gardens are a must watch. They are really beautiful and very well maintained. Staying in the house boats is a novel experience, even if they are half moored on land and don’t move about in the lake.
Sonmarg : A truly beautiful place. Lots of greenery,snow. Good place for adventure sports. The Thajwas glacier is quite nearby from here. A nice tricky place to climb up a snow mountain without much equipment 😉 If you are going somewhere and are passing through Sonmarg, it is best to pass Sonmarg before noon, as the heavy motor vehicles are let out at noon and they therefore hog the road.
The route from Sonmarg to Kargil has awesome sights, and nothing less than pictures can do full justice to it. On this road, the journey is literally more beautiful than the destination.
Drass : A town en route to Kargil. Reportedly the coldest inhabited place in the world. Non-vegetarian food is the major diet here.
Kargil : A small town which gained popularity after the 1999 Kargil war, there isn’t much to watch here except a museum which has war relics as well as a 5 Lakh note (currency, I don’t know :S ). It gets pretty cold here during the night. There is a memorial dedicated to Operation Vijay, which won us the Kargil War, some distance before Kargil.Almost all the mountains on which battles were fought can be seen from here.
On the Kargil – Alchi route comes the famous Maitreya Buddha statue, that of the Buddha to come.
The way from Kargil to Alchi is mainly rocky and barren mountains, but those mountains emanate a strange kind of beauty. They are beautiful in a special way,more beautiful than any kind of other moutains you will see.
Uley : Uley is a small village some way before Alchi,and is actually just a resort in the lap of nature. It is truly natural, with cottages surrounded by apricot and apple trees and overlooking the river. Its very peaceful and serene over there, away from everything. A perfect getaway. My previous poetry perfectly describes Uley. Oh, and those of you wanting to tweet from there about how great it is, there is no mobile network coverage there 😉
Alchi monastery is another famous monastery.
On the way from Alchi to Leh are quite a few interesting sights :
1. Magnetic hill : Keep you car on the white paint on the road, and the hill automatically pulls the car toward itself. Unbelivable, eh ? Try it, it works.
2. Pathar Sahib : This is the place where a demon threw a large rock on a meditating Guru Gobind Singh. The stone failed to do any harm on the Guru and a partial impression of Guru Gobind Singh can be found on that rock.
3. Hall of Fame Museum : All of the Indian army’s exploits in the mountainous north can be found here, including the adventures in Siachen and the Ladakh ranges. Commendable work and impressive show.
Leh : Leh is quite a big town, with a large part of the population there engaged in the booming tourism industry there. Agriculture is another important occupation here.The Ladakhi song and dance is truly light and beautiful.Don’t miss it.
Leh is the center for most tourist activities, and people generally visit the Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, Tsomoriri and Tsokar from here. Things worth seeing in Leh are the Leh Palace and the Shanti Stupa. Leh is a popular destination for cycling, motor-cycling,rafting and para-gliding. Likir and Thiksey are the famous monasteries en route Hemis.
Hemis : Hemis is a village a little ahead of Leh. It is famous for its monastery. It is the only monastery which holds its annual festival in the spring, when there is no snow, unlike all others which conduct them in winter, and therefore cannot be witnessed by most tourists. This festival is immensely colorful and attracts a lot of foreign tourists as well as locals. This festival consists of a complete village fair along with cultural and religious programs in the monastery. This festival generally happens for 2 days in a year in the beginning of July. I was lucky to catch it on the 2nd and 3rd of July.
Lake Pangong : A 5 hour drive from Leh, this lake is the highest inland lake in the world, and is shared with China. This is a real gorgeous work of art by God and shines with all the shades of blue and green when the sun shines on it. Truly worth watching.
On the way to Pangong lake is Chang-La Pass, the 2nd highest pass in the world (17586 Ft). It is generally snow covered and windy. A cool place to be 😉 It is difficult to stay there for more than 20 minutes due to breathing problems caused by the lack of oxygen at such a high altitude.
Nubra Valley : It is a beautiful valley at a 5 hour drive from Leh. On the way is Khardung-La, the highest motorable road in the world (18380 Ft).
The Hundur and Deskit villages are rest spots in Nubra valley, with camel safaris close by. The strange thing about this is that there are silver sand dunes right next to the river ! Apparently the J & K Tourism Department thinks that this has good potential 😉 The only lodgings here are tents. If you can find a camp by a river, you will get a real good chance of experiencing nature at its very best.
Sarchu : Sarchu is a beautiful place almost midway between Leh and Manali. Baralacha, Tanglangla and Nakeela are the lofty passes on the way. Also on the way are the Chandra Taal and Deepak Tal,lakes from where the Chandra and Bagha rivers originate. Sarchu is surrounded on all sides by mountains. There are camps on the flat land between the mountains which truly make you feel small 😀 The wind whispering in your ears all evening is an added joy. At night temperatures go down to 2-3 degrees so be prepared to face the cold.All said and done, Sarchu is a place worth visiting.
Its a pity Sarchu lies where it does.The route from Leh to Manali is the worst I have ever seen in my life. There are no pucca roads.In certain stretches visibility is a serious problem due to the dust the vehicles kick up. There is a 5 minute flat stretch for which the road literally disappears..All one sees is tyre tracks going everywhere and no kuccha or pucca road !! God help the inexperienced driver ! Also, there is no mobile network coverage once you leave Leh uptil Keylong. So if you are stuck, may other drivers help you !
All said and done, all of it makes you feel like you have come to a different world altogether. So if you get a chance, TAKE IT !! The beauty there is Leh-gendary !!