Ladakh, which is the name given to the eastern two-thirds of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is a true Hidden Gem of India’s Kashmir and High North region. A vast highland desert lying between the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, Ladakh’s capital is the ancient city of Leh.
Described as ‘Little Tibet’ and sometimes as ‘The Last Shangri-La’, Ladakh is characterised by its desolate moonlike landscape and the snowy peaks of the surrounding Himalayas. With rainfall levels as low as that of the Sahara, Ladakh is extremely dry; the surrounding mountains preventing rainclouds from reaching it.
When Tibet was swallowed by China in the 1950s, the Chinese did their best to dilute the local culture. But Ladakh’s Tibetans have carried their traditions forward unimpeded, and some regions still feel as if they’ve been unchanged for centuries. Take a look at details of the Ladakh Festival – a true showcase of the local culture and traditions.
Leh Palace offers fantastic views of the surrounds, and actually resembles Tibet’s Potala very closely. Above Leh Palace is Namgyal Tsemo gompa (monastery), which along with Leh old town and Leh gompa offers visitors the perfect opportunity to get in touch with the local culture. For more stunning examples of traditional gompas, head out of Leh to the surrounding regions, where you’ll find Shey, Hemis and Tikse monasteries.
Stok Palace, which is also just outside Leh, is the home of the erstwhile Ladakhi royal family, now housing a small museum and Stok gompa.
Read more about Leh and Ladakh here.