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Leh Ladakh Holiday Package
The Great Himalaya makes Ladakh what it is; in as much as its glorious heights prevent monsoon clouds from crossing over to this area, putting it in the `rain shadow’, making the terrain a `mountain desert’. This land transforms geography from a boring school subject into a superb drama of altitude and expanse, absolutely poetic and enchanting, without any fear and only with pleasant and joyous surprises! Are you ready for the mysterious opening on the Leh-Ladakh Holiday Package!
Ladakh, or La Tags, or Land of the High Mountains passes beyond such heights that the shades of mystical grey in the sky just cannot seem to cross over to pour on the land! Today, this area repeatedly referred to as Tibet, is an impossible fairyland which is possible for a destination! The Indus River bisects the floor of the valley and summer makes this river grey and silt-laden and in autumn the water is turquoise and acquamarine, waving through golden banks of tall poplars and tumbling willows. The villages are mostly written along the route of the river as it flows, fed by many small glacial streams!
Ladakh may also be described as a high-altitude cold desert in the trans-Himalayan eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir, bordered to the north by Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and to the east by Tibet. The famous Buddhist monastery-villages around, lie more or less along the Indus River, an oasis in the central part of this mountain-desert. Leh is now the imperial capital of Ladakh, basically rooted in the Namgyal Empire. The lower levels of oxygen in this region may make you feel a bit uncomfortable; hence tourists are advised to rest and drink a lot of water. A hat, dark glasses and a good sun-block are a must.
Tiny Leh is itself a thing to `do’, either by whiling away the hours in some rooftop restaurant, gazing at the snow of the Stok Kangri Range while your sizzler or kahwa appears, or walking about in a quiet suburb like Changspa and the lush fields and dancing streams in it, or by taking a taxi to the gorgeous monasteries around!
You may start your trip with The Temple of the Garden Deities (Tsemo Gompa), which is built on the Namgyal Tsemo Hill and is a part of a fort, with the King’s court scenes adorning the walls and recognised as the first royal residence to be built in Leh. The nine-storeyed Leh Palace also exists here, an imitation of the great Potala in Tibet. A pristine white stupa inaugurated by the Dalai Lama called Shanti Stupa has a beautiful, calm ambience and fabulous views of the Zanskar Range and you may quickly visit the General Zorawar’s Fort which is a mud edifice encircled by a shallow moat and has some stables and rooms, which are occupied by the mules and ponies of the Indian Army.
There are monasteries around Ladakh, such as the Shey monastery which is a pretty spot with numerous chortens and graceful willows that dip their leaves into a pleasant lake. The area has extensive remains of a fortress on a hill and also a palace resings on it. Most of the buildings here are in ruins but the two temples enclosed within the palace enclosure; possess some awesome old paintings and a very large statue of the Buddha dating back to the 17th century. The Stok Palace Museum is now like a large Himalayan Haveli with the museum wing open to the tourists, and contains swords, shields, quivers, bows and arrows and matchlock guns, old coins and seals, old photographs and fine old thangkas. Close to Shey, is the Thiksey Monastery, which has maintained its murals and paintings very well. A huge three-storey Maitreya Buddha is housed here. There are wooden bookracks holding ancient manuscripts and the mystical smell of ghee and incense is omnipresent, with an enchanting view of the Indus Valley and the Stok Range being visible from the rooftop. Though small, the photogenic Stakna (Tiger Nose) Gompa dominates much of the Upshi-Leh drive along the Indus, perched on an isolated hill offering an all-round astounding view of the valley.
If possible to accommodate, you may visit another site nestled in the cleft of the Zanskar range, wherein lies the largest of the Ladakh’s gompas called Hemis, which is most popular for the annual Hemis Festival in the summer. The two-day popular pageant is dedicated to Padmasambhava, held with monks dressed up in masks, both benign and wrathful, dancing in slow rhythmic motion to the sounds of clashing cymbals and the great trumpeting of long horns. Gymnasts dressed up, cartwheel about providing comic relief! Every twelve years, an enormous embroidered thangka of Padsambhava, embellished with pearls, is ceremoniously unrolled to a delighted audience. The whole ceremony is a symbol of the purification of the self and the dissolution of the self into the whole.
You may then move towards Spituk, another monastery to the west of Leh, picturesquely perched on a hill, and off the main complex is the isolated shrine to the Tantric deity, Vajra Bhairav. A chapel devoted to Tara has images of her various manifestations and speaks of superb craftsmanship. Basgo which used to be the capital of a branch of Ladakh’s Namgyal dynasty currently stands majestically tall on a hill with its ruined temples and fortifications rising dramatically into the sky. Acknowledged as the most outstanding shrine, the Maitreya Temple has the only surviving original 16th-century murals of Ladakh. Likir gompa enjoys a splendid location and has a great collection of old thangkas and manuscripts. An ancient centre of learning, you can happily spend some time studying frescoes and loafing under the apricot trees at Alchi. The Du-khang or assembly hall has cloisters marvellously decorated with murals of a thousand Buddhas, a large sculpture of the eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara, walls painted with elaborate mandalas and painted scenes of secular life, on either side of the main entrance. The Sum-Tsek temple’s architecture is unparalleled in the Himalayan region, as its mud walls raise very high, housing the giant figures of the three four-armed Bodhisattvas. This complex has no electric lights for fear of damaging the paintings and a flashlight is essential. A unique gleam in the eyes on this Leh-Ladakh Holiday Package!
Down a spectacularly carved road, lies the earliest surviving monastery of Ladakh, Yung-Drung or the Swastika, sitting high above Lamayaru village, enclosing the Naropa’s cave, in the area of Lamayuru. On entering the temple, a life-sized image of Vairochana Buddha is based with murals of mandalas and deities and a carved door. Ladakh is the ideal landscape for high-altitude treks, full of trails that connect remote villages spread along ancient trade routes. Central Ladakh is home to long-standing traditions of Vajrayana Buddhism, fascinating to visitors for its tantric elements, colourful art, mystical feel and erotic imagery.
Panoramic and colourful, remote and mystical, the three great high –altitude lakes of Ladakh are an unmatched experience of beauty, geography, ecology and culture. Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar, all lie within Ladakh’s Changthang Cold Desert Sanctuary. The area is sparsely populated by nomads, with their herds of yak and goat, living a difficult existence. From the shore, Pangong Tso seems an unending expanse of blue, and having got used to the dry moonscape of Ladakh, the sight of the electric blue lake takes you by surprise. Stroll around the area to dwell in its enchanting avenues and then commence a slow and periodically breathtaking ascent to the Chang La at a high altitude, being one amongst the highest motorable passes in the world. Chang La Pass is a huge water body, though even in summer, parts of the mountains would be gloriously swathed in snow and as the drive becomes slow, the first glimpse of the lake projects itself as a metallic blue strip in the distance, tucked in between barren mountains, though when you approach it more closely, the water reveals more and more shades of blue and green. The shores are strewn with magnetic shells of freshwater species. A place to remove the clutter wherever it exists and get a sense of rejuvenation as the beauty and silence of the lake swiftly takes over and you find yourself amidst that amazing company of water on this Leh-Ladakh Holiday Package!
Tso Moriri Lake has mountain ranges with high altitude towering peaks guarding the region and this waterland is fed by springs and snow, creating extensive marshes around it. The Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve has been recognized as a Ramsar site, because along with the Tso Kar Wetlands, it is the only breeding ground of the bar-headed goose and the only place where the globally endangered black-necked crane nests around. It also serves as the settling area for waterfowl including bar-headed geese and the ruddy shelduck. The surrounding plains are also home to kiang or wild ass, and if you are lucky you might see a herd racing across the plains. You might find some blue sheep in the higher areas or spot some marmots as they pop out of the ground after their winter hibernation. Tso Kar is actually two water bodies, Startsapuk Tso and Tso Kar, and also called the White Lake because salt used to be extracted from the Changpa nomads. The basin is a breeding area for the great crested grebe, brahminy duck, bar-headed goose, brown-headed gull and the common tern.
For shopping, souvenirs, carpets, jewellery, woollens and handicrafts are distributed throughout the main Leh bazaar and the Tibetan market is set up off the Fort Road area with an array of curios, handicrafts and ornaments, besides high-end gems like turquoise, ruby and lapis lazuli. There are thangkas, ceramics, Tibetan wall hangings, metal craft in brass and copper, bronze, carved furniture, besides art deco in stone, silver and gold finished products.
Leh’s rooftop restaurants offer Indian, Italian, Kashmiri foodstuff and pancakes, sizzlers, burgers, pastas, beer, brownies, apple pie, lemon tarts, cinnamon rolls as well as a profusion of Continental and Mughlai eateries all over the place. Decent pizzas and Israeli and Thai meals are also available throughout the area, including soups, noodles, momos and steaks, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian!
There is plenty of choice for desserts such as ice cream and sundaes, and beverages such as cold coffee and hot coffee, milk shakes and smoothies! Yummy delights on the Leh-Ladakh Holiday Package!
The weather is cold in summers and the best time to visit this region is from June to September, when the passes are open, to travel within by road. However, flights make a bitterly cold winter retreat possible, as you could find a change from your hectic routine and hustle bustle, just by remaining indoors and visiting monasteries and strolling around the areas with your comfortable heavy woollens! Recommended for a visit throughout the year!