Ladakh is a popular tourist destination for adventure seekers, and mountaineering enthusiasts in India. This rugged and beautiful landscape is a part of a long-running political battle, and is sometimes known for its armed conflict between India and its neighbouring countries. It is a land of mountain passes, or “las”. Ladakh means “many pass” in the local language (La = pass, Dakh = many).
Do you still think you know a lot about this beautiful land high up in the mountains? We take you to the lesser known facts that you need to know about Ladakh:
1. A Cold Desert With Wild Bactrian Camels
In an oasis in the cold desert of Ladakh, you will find the two humped Bactrian camels used since time immemorial of Central Asia. With over 2 million of these kinds of camels found globally, a majority of them are used as pets. Only one or two wild feral populations of camels are found. You can find these double-humped ‘Ships of the Desert’ in the Nubra Valley, located at Ladakh.
2. A Land For Mountain Biking
A Biker’s Paradise, Ladakh is one location that most bikers ache to go to. But did you know that it is also a destination for hardcore cycling mountain bike enthusiasts? Imagine pedalling away across slopes and climbs at over 3,000 metres above sea level, with low oxygen in the air. It is certainly not for the faint at heart!
3. Ice Hockey, On Ponds and Lakes!
Hockey may be considered the national sport of India by many (this is actually wrong, India does not have an official national sport), but the locals here have their own radical riff to the game. Compared to the Canadian version of hockey, which is played on ice with skates’ and not just on land, but also over the water, the extreme cold here changes the surface of lakes into thick ice sheet! Why go to Canada, when you can enjoy a game of ice hockey here.
4. The Largest National Park And A Haven for Birds
The Hemis National Park is spread over 4,000 square kilometres, and is home to the very elusive and rare Snow Leopards. Nearly 200 of these extremely graceful animals live on this harsh land. A veritable bird watcher’s paradise, with nearly 200 species of birds, this national park is a must-visit on your trip.
5. A Lunar Landscape
Want to travel to Moonland? A nature’s paradise, the village of Lamayuoro in Ladakh is known as Moonland, and is around 127 kilometres away from Leh. The soil around this place resembles the colour of soil on the Moon! You could actually climb a nearby hill and have a full panoramic view of this alien looking landscape. Apart from catching this splendid view, it is said to be a sacred monastery of the ancient Buddha, known as the Lamayuru monastery.
6. Not Just The Land Of Glaciers, But Also The “Glacier Man!”
Ladakh is home to the “Ice Man” or “Glacier Man”, the world’s foremost expert on creating artificial glaciers. Chewang Norphel is a native and a retired civil engineer by profession. Norphel had a “eureka moment” when he noticed that a small stream near his home had frozen solid under the cover of poplar trees. That’s when he associated himself with watershed development. He figured out the process to create artificial glaciers and has built over 15 artificial glaciers here. His largest creation being 1,000 feet long! It will support an entire village of 700 people, which costs only INR 90,000 in today’s world!
7. The Only Home Of Indus in India
Get a chance to visit the beautiful Indus river in Ladakh
India owes its modern name to the Indus River, from the ancient Hindu name for it, the “Sindhu” river. A sacred river for the Hindu civilisation, religion and culture, Ladakh is now the only territory in modern India through which the main Indus River flows. The rest of this river flows through the state of Pakistan, as a result of the partition of 1947.
8. An Astronomer’s Paradise
The skies here are absolutely clear and devoid of all kinds of pollution. Situated at above 3,000 metres, this region provides a clear view of the sky, becoming an important hotbed for astronomical observations. At 4,500 ft, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics is home to the second highest optical telescope in the world.
9. Not Just the Home Of the Himalayas
This entire region is situated on one of the highest plateaus in the world. It is marked as a junction between two great mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Kunlun mountain range. The Kunlun is to the Chinese what Himalayas are to the Indians. This 3,000 kilometre long range runs through the heart of China and is a source of most Chinese mythology.
10. A Land Of Many “Highs”
Ladakh is situated over 3,000 metres above sea level. It includes, the highest bridge – Bailey Bridge over Suru and Dras rivers, the highest salt water lake – Pangong Tso, the highest farmed fields – near the Tso-Moriri lake at Korzok, and the highest battleground on earth – at Siachen Glacier.
Ladakh Fact File
Location: A high altitude plateau region in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India; extending between the Kunlun Mountain range and the Great Himalayas
Connectivity and Access: The Leh Airport has daily flights to Delhi, and weekly flights to other airports in the state of J&K, in Srinagar and Jammu. There are several military airports in Ladakh; only two motorable roads connecting Ladakh to the rest of India – from Srinagar in Kashmir valley, and the newer Manila-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh; roads usually close during the winter months (October/November – April/May) due to heavy snow fall and adverse weather conditions; there are no railway connections to this part of the country. Local buses and taxis are the best way to travel in the region. Many people also use Jeeps and motorbikes.
Official Language: Ladakhi, Tibetan, Urdu, Balti; Hindi and English also spoken
Currency: Rupee (INR)
Time Zone: India Standard Time (IST), GMT +5:30
Climate: High altitude cold desert climate, with dry winds and hot and humid summers
Food & Drinks: Non-vegetarian and vegetarian cuisine; local favourites include thukpa, yakhni, momos, roghan josh, and drinks like qahwa
Interested in holidaying in Ladakh?