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Towards the Indo-China border near Tibet is situated the cold desert of Ladakh. It is also called the Land of Passes and Little Tibet. The stark landscape, the winding Indus river, the unpolluted environment and the different coloured mountains make Ladakh a place worth a visit. It is flanked by two of the important mountain ranges, the Karakorams to the North, the Himalayas to the South. Greenery is confined near the rivers---the Shayok, Siachen, Zanskar and Indus.
In geological terms Ladakh is a young land formed a few million years ago . Today a high altitude desert sheltered from the rain bearing clouds of the Indian monsoon by the barrier of the Great Himalayas, ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake system, the vestiges of which still exist in the south-east plateus of Rupshu and Chushul, in the drainage basins or lakes of tso-morori, Tso-kar and Pangong-tso. But the main source of water is the wimter snowfall.
Drass Zanskar and the Suru valley on the Himalayan northern flanks receive heavy snofall in winter and this feeds the glaciers from where the melted water is carried down by streams and irrigates the fields in summer. For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water.
Temperature in Ladakh
Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000ft at Kargil to 25,170ft at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram range. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 27C while in winter they may even plummet to minus 20 degrees even in Leh. Surprisingly though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes. It is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in shade suffer from a sunstroke and frostbite at the same time.
How to reach (Road journey)
By Air - Leh has a airport. The flight route to Leh presents visitors with a spectacular panoramic view of snow capped ranges spread out below and the thrill of identifying particular landmarks. The twin peaks of Nun and Kun stand out high above the others. Tso-morori lies intensely blue among bare brown hills. The Zanskar river snakes through the mountains and one route of flight takes you directly above the Zanskar valley, with villages and gompas clearly visible. far to the northwest the gaints of the Baltistan Karakoram dominate all the other peaks and ranges.
By Rail - No rail system
By Road (J&K Transport) - Deluxe and regular buses between Srinagar and Leh are available with a overnight halt at Kargil. Taxis are also available at Srinagar and Leh for the journey. The bus journet between Leh and Manali takes about 19 hrs or 2 days with a night halt in camps with basic facilities in Sarchu or Phang.
(Srinagar - Leh)
The main overland approach to Ladakh is from the Kashmir valley through the 434 kms Srinagar-Leh highway, which follows the historic trade route also known as the "treaty road". It generally remains open for traffic from early June to mid November. This road journey provides the best possible introduction to the land and its people.
(Leh - Manali)
The 473 kms Manali-Leh Road is open for about 3 months in the year from early July to September. For much of its length it passes through areas so barren that it entirely void of habitation. Lahaul district through which the road passes is a typically trans-Himalayan landscape. The first major pass in this road, the Rohtang pass (13,000ft /3,978m) which is crossed soon after departure from Manali cuts through the Pir Panjal range range of the Great Himalayas. Beyond Keylong the main town of the region, the road follows the Baga river up towords its source, passing a few more villages, the last till the territoryof Ladakh is entered. Now it hairpins up to the Baralacha-la (16,050 ft /4,892m), which is a tril junction, with a trail from Spiti also joining in from the south east. This is the crossing of the Great Himalayan range, the watershed between the Indus and the Chenab. Now the barren landscape becomes positively lunar with dusty plains stretching into the distance.
The Zanskar range which lies next on the road ahead has to be reahed by two more passes, the Lachungla (16,600ft/5,059m) and the Tangla - la(17,469ft/5,325m). Once over the Tangla - la, the descent of the Indus starts, and soon one passes the first village Rumtse. The road follows the Gya river down to the Indus at Upshi from where it is plain sailing to Leh, past the Indus valley villagers of Karu, Stakna, Thikse, Shey and finally theTibetan village at Choglamsar before entering the town.
Fairs & Festivals
Many of the annual festivals of the gompas take place in winter, which is a relatively idle time for a majority of the people. These take the form of dance dramas in the gompa courtyards. Lamas attired in colourful robes and wearing masks, perform mimes aymbolising various aspects of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events. The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals is that of hemis which falls in late June or early July and is dedicated to Padmasambhava. Every 12 years the gompa's greatest treasure a huge Tangka is ritually exhibited. Its next unveiling is due to take place 2016. Other monasteries also have their annual festivals as Lamayuru (July), Phang(July/Aug) etc
Planning a visit to J&K read through travelogues to plan your trip
This period covers three seasons in Kashmir i.e., spring (March-early May), summers (early May-late August) and autumn (September-November).
The blossoms of spring, the cool weather of summer and the gold and red hues of autumn all provide the peak season for Kashmir travel. From December to early March is the winter season for Kashmir, when the entire valley wears a white blanket of snow.