Srinagar Leh Ladakh
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Srinagar is the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and the largest
city in the Kashmir region.
The city has become safer to travel since 2003, however the streets are still lined with
armed soldiers. Any building of value will also have a sandbag bunker and razor wire for protection. If arriving from the airport, you will also notice hundreds of large, Western
style vacation homes. These were built before the current conflict when domestic travel
to Kashmir was booming. Currently most of these homes are empty, being squatted in or
have been usurped for military use. Most people visit the city in the summer months. The temperature at this time is cool to pleasant. Light sweaters may be needed for occasional
cool nights in the summertime. In winter, you will need full winter gear and expect snow
and few places to have hot water.
Many people take the train to Jammu followed by a taxi or bus ride to Srinagar. The
journey from Jammu to Srinagar is costlier in the summers because the capital is being shifted from Jammu to Srinagar on both the state buses and Sumos. State buses are safer
but take more time and are a bit uncomfortable.
Foreign travelers on visas are required to register upon arrival at the airport or to their
hotel or houseboat.
Sheikh ul Alam Airport (Urdu: ) (Hindi: ) is commonly known as Srinagar Airport (Urdu: ) (Hindi: ) It is an international airport (IATA: SXR) (ICAO: VISR).
A new terminal for arrivals and departures with air bridges and other up to date operational
facilities was inaugurated on 14 February 2009. International, domestic and seasonal Hajj
pilgrimage charters to Jeddah are operated from Sheikh ul Alam airport.
Flights are operated by Jet Airways, Air Deccan, SpiceJet, Kingfisher Airlines, Go Air, Jet
Lite and Indian Airlines  from Delhi and Mumbai to Srinagar, with or without a stopover
at Jammu. The frequency is once or twice a day by each airline. The cost is approx Rs
2,500 from Jammu, Rs 2,500-5,000 from Delhi one way and higher from Mumbai, depending on the season.
The airport is still heavily patrolled and you may see many soldiers or other armed security
detachments. Winter flights can easily be canceled due to weather conditions. Tickets are
easy to purchase in the city. The airport requires a ticket for entrance. A taxi into town should be Rs 550 and direct to Gulmarg is Rs 1,500-2,000
When departing Srinagar by air, make sure you have a printed copy of your ticket at hand,
otherwise you will not be able to enter the airport. Additionally, allow approximately 1 hr
to get from Srinagar to the airport. Security checks can cause traffic to bank up if there are a few flights leaving at around the same time.
Hiring a TATA Sumo SUV (fits up to 9 people, or 5 comfortably plus luggage)
from Jammu costs approximately Rs 3,900-4,700 depending on time of year or even time
of day. To reduce costs many people choose not to take an exclusive taxi, and share the
Sumo taxi with other travelers. This costs about Rs 700-1000 per person. For a
comfortable trip, try for a seat in the middle row - the front bucket seat is (sometimes uncomfortably) shared by 2 people, and the far back could be quite bumpy as the highway
is full of mountainous roads. The journey takes around 8-9 hrs.
J&K State Road Transport Corporation (J&KSRTC) operates fairly comfortable buses from Jammu costing around Rs 350 and do the journey in around 12 hr. 2 day buses run
between Srinagar and Lehstaying overnight in Kargil.
There are also direct buses from Delhi taking almost 24 hr to reach Srinagar.
Auto-rickshaws can be found everywhere. Taxis and buses area also available. Motorcycles
can also be rented for enthusiasts.
Negotiate a price with a rickshaw driver before getting in, or just act like you know and
pay the driver upon arrival. Drivers usually don't speak English but there will always be a
passer-by to help translate for you.
A rickshaw from Nigeen Lake to Boulevard is approx. Rs 70 depending on negotiation skills (August 2009 prices).
Usually private service buses run throughout the city and are well networked with major
The Mughal Gardens With terraced lawns, cascading fountains, paint-box-bright
flowerbeds with the panorama of the Dal in front of them - the three Mughal Gardens of Chesmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar are the Mughal Emperors' concept of paradise and are
today very popular places for picnics and excursions. The beauty of these gardens is at
their best during spring but the Mughal structure of these gardens lends them a unique
sense of beauty even when the flowers are not blossoming.
Nishat Bagh. Situated on the banks of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as
its backdrop, (11 km. from TRC), this 'garden of bliss' commands a magnificent view of the lake and the snow capped Pir Panjal mountain range which stands far away to
the west of the valley. Nishat was designed in 1633 AD by Asaf Khan, brother of Nur
Shalimar Bagh. the Mughal garden in front of the Dal lake built by Emperor Jahangir. edit
Chashmashahi. is another beautiful Mughal garden. edit
Hazratbal Mosque. the white mosque is breathtakingly beautiful but be careful, as
women can enter only the first part of the mosque. Also take a walk through the adjacent market area with a range of great fresh food and a thousand things deep
Ziarati Hazrati Youza Asouph. in the Khanyar area, about 150 m NW of Dastgir Saheb mosque & shrine. This tomb, also known as Roza Bal, is believed by some to
be the tomb of Jesus (part of the larger theory that he survived the crucifixion and
made his way to Kashmir where he lived until at least the age of 100). It has been
made popular by recent books such as Jesus Lived in India by Holger Kersten among
others. It's down a little side road - ask around, pretty much anyone in the area can point you in the right direction. It was closed in September 2011 and sealed,
photography and videography are not permitted. edit
Shankaracharya Mandir. Is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on a hilltop. It can be reached by a car or taxi. No cameras or cellphones are allowed within the temple
and you are supposed to leave them in the vehicle before entering the temple premises. Cigarattes, liquor are to be deposited with the police personnel before the ascent of the
hill as these items are against Hindu religion. Locals from Dal Gate say there are 250
steps to reach the temple but it is yet to be confirmed. The temple is visible from Dal
Lake Area. edit
Pari Mahal. Don't miss the breathtaking views of the city from here. edit
Nehru Garden, off Dal Gate (before Chasmashahi Garden). A well maintained park with lake by Dept of Floriculture with organised parking lot next to Park. The park
occupies a large area and has a beverage shop run by the J&K Tourism department. They serve hot and flavoured "Kahva", a traditional drink of Kashmir. A cup costs Rs
25. The nearby Tulip Park only has seasonal access. There is adequate parking adjacent
to the park.AdultRs 10. edit
About Trekking In Kashmir Valley. Trek Kashmir is a family run business that can show you the best that beautiful Kashmir has to offer.Whether youre after trekking adventure, hiking in Kashmir, hiking from Srinagar, skiing, fishing, a pilgrimage, a family holiday or
just a relaxing break.http://www.facebook.com/TrekInKashmir. Email
Old City, . Abdul is a friendly polite lifetime resident who is happy to meet and guide people to little known places including interiors in the old city. He speaks good
english and will not not try sell or act as an agent for sales. He does not charge a set
fee- he will accept whatever you feel his services are worth. He can be contacted at
[email protected] or through his
website http://riversongskashmir.webs.com/contactus.htm edit
Shikaras in Dal Lake
All the hotels organize excursions (1, 2, 4 days) to see the Himalayan mountains. Beside
that package tours by JKTDC can be a good option. Using an honest guide or fixer can
potentially save you money on goods and accomodation.
Go for a Shikara ride in the Dal lake which costs around Rs 150 (off season) - Rs 500 (peak season) for the whole Shikara. For better views and a more peaceful ride in an area
devoid of other tourists, walk up a fair bit of distance till you can see the fountain and ask
the Shikara rider to take you for a ride to the fountain. It costs Rs 300 (off season) - Rs
600 (peak season). Make sure you bargain a little, especially in off season. If you are staying longer, you could go on shikara rides more than once... each time to a different
part of the lake. A must see is the "village" in the lake. Ask for a ride to the side where
locals live and see the floating vegetable market. The market is usually operational only
at sunrise and is easiest organised through an agent or your hotel/houseboat.
Parihaspora, Dewar (On way to Gulmarg). Visit the ruins located on the outskirts of Srinagar on way to Gulmarg. See the palaces of Kahmir's Buddhist and Hindu rulers and Buddhist places of worship. edit
You can buy nice leather products, or jewellery.
Cashmere (Pashmina) shawls Have been manufactured in Kashmir for thousands of years. Pashmina Shawls are very popular items for sale in the Valley, but make sure
to test the quality before purchasing. The test for a 100% pashmina has been warmth, feel and the passing of the shawl through a wedding ring. Costs on a true pashmina
can vary wildly, but usually start around Rs 8,000. Secondly, the weave pattern on a
good Pashmina is fainter than on a "silk Pashmina" or other wool Pashmina. There is
also lower grades of pashmina known as Semi-Pashmina (10-50% pashmina wool) and Half-Pashmina (50% pashmina wool) which are still of an exceptional quality but much
lower price (Rs 1,000-3,000). Also check if they are machine woven or hand woven
(look for irregularities in the wool to spot a hand woven), hand woven are stronger due
to the density of the weave and cost more.
Kashmir Shawl Museum (A labour cooperative in association with the J&K
government), 1st floor of the Auquaf Building at Dalgate at the end of The Boulevard in the centre of town (Near Dhar Medicate look for a tiny staircase heading up and a
big 1st floor sign), +91 194 242 4891. They will take you through in detail the types
of pashminas you can buy (and how to test them) and are fantastic in that they don't negotiate but offer a set price. edit
Government Emporia You can also buy embroidered felt mats called Namdahs but the colours of the wool may be a bit too bright in most shops. The Government Emporia
supplies might be better than some the private shops.
Chainstich rugs There are rugs in two styles; English design or Kilim design. It will be evident what is meant when you see them.
Paper Machie products Quite unique to Kashmir with colourful motifs and design on them. They are seen everywhere and resemble pottery in shape and design. Blooming
Dale in Dalgate area have a vast collection of Papier Machie products.
John International, 172 Old Gagribal Road (Near Nehru Park), +91 194
Hakim Jan Mohammad Shah, Rathpora, Eidgah, Srinagar, near Masjid
Bilal, 9906959611, 9858315306. 9am-6pm. For well designed contemporary striped
stoles.. 3500/-. edit
Cottage Industries Emporium, Boulevard, Srinagar. 10am-6pm. A very well organised nice collection of local arts & crafts at reasonable rates. edit
Jain Dry Fruits Shop, Kukar Bazaar, Lal Chowk, 9419006857. Rates. Rs.550/kg
for Badam and Rs.500/kg for Akruts. Contact Person: Anil Kumar Jain edit
Mr.M.Maqbool Jan, H.No.7, Mughal Mohalla, Lal Bazar, Srinagar-
190011, 09906412614. one of the veteran artisan who used to supply to Suffering
Moses and other leading stores.. edit
Mehboob Ali Beigh, Gazidoori, Alamgari Bazar, Srinagar-190011., 0194-2421832;
09797189872, . Sozni Shawls/Jamavars. edit
Fancy Art Emporium, Polo Market, Srinagar. Very nice collection well organized local arts n crafts and curios. Prices can be negotiated down by 20-25%. edit
R&A Designs, Rajbagh, Srinagar, 9906573224. edit
Suffering Moses, Lambert Lane, The Bund at Polomarket Intersection. edit
There are numerous bakeries in the city. Kashmiris are very fond of bakery products
especially pasteries and cakes and you can find these bakeries very crowded especially
around the times of major festivals. The more famous bakeries include
Jee Enn Sons
One more important point to note for tourists having passion for shopping is when you hire an auto rickshaw, please mention that you want to go to Lal Chowk
Ghantaghar only for shopping. As most of the Auto Rickshaws will insist you that there
is nothing in Lal Chowk and go to Whole Sale market instead. This is because, the
prices at the so called wholesale market are much inflated as they pay at least 20%
commission to those auto rickshaws. Also, there are very few shops.
There are a number of restaurants and cafes in Srinagar. Most of the good ones are located in Lal chowk or on Boulevard along the banks of the Dal Lake. Most of the restaurants will
serve Kashmiri, Indian, Mughlai and 'Indianized' Chinese dishes. Some pure veg
restaurants are also located along Boulevard. Among the veg restaurants 'Krishna Dhaba'
is the most popular for its Rajma-and-kheer.
Make sure you try dishes like Rogan-gosht (meat cooked in red gravy), Gushtaba(soft
meat balls cooked in natural yoghurt),Rishta (Soft Meat Balls in delicious
Gravy), Tabakmaaz(deep fried ribs of a lamb) and Kanti(small chunks of meat cooked with
a lot of onions). All these Meat Items are usually eaten with Rice, hence the gravy is not thick.
Another popular local delicacy called Seekh-tuji consists of marinated meat pieces which
are freshly barbecued and eaten with chutney. Most of these vendors are located in the
Khayaam region of the city. This place is usually teeming with the youth especially in the evenings.
Enjoy the grilled mutton available in Srinagar. This is referred to as a "tilli" or "tekh" and
mostly eaten by locals.
Kahwah is a traditional green tea recipe from Kashmir. The tea is made from green tea leaves with saffron strands, cinnamon bark and cardamom pods.Some varieties are made
as a herbal infusion only, without the green tea leaves. Generally, it is served with sugar
or honey, and crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts. There is another form of tea that
is quite famous amongst the locals, its called 'Namkeen Chai' or 'Nun Chai'. It is pink in color and is also called Pink Tea. It is made from black tea, cardamom, various spices,
salt and bicarbonate of soda. Also people like nune toath and dum toath which are very
famous among sufis. Nunetoath is nunechai without milk and Dumtoath is strong form of
If searching for a beer or other drink there is a small bottle shop on the Boulevard. It's at the base of a hotel about halfway up the street and looks like a mini-fort knox. Ask people
on the street and they'll point you in the right direction.
There, Alpine Ridge Hotel (In Gulmarg), +91 195 4254527. Inside the Alpine Ridge
hotel. 'There' provides western-style food and alcohol in a relaxed environment, with indie music and an innovative fusion of local kashmiri craft and scandinavian woodwork
in the decor. Aprs-ski option on the mountain. Open from 10AM onwards for the ski
season, Dec-March.ALCOHOL IS BANNED IN KASHMIR edit
Houseboats in Dal Lake at night
Srinagar is popular for its houseboats, which do not float free around the lake, but are
anchored off-shore. It is a great and unique way to enjoy your stay in the city. Houseboats are accessible either by road, or by a short "Shikara" boat ride. Each houseboat usually
has 2-5 bedrooms plus bath, dining room, living room, upper deck (good for sunbathing).
Many travelers tell stories of bad experiences while staying on a houseboat, others enjoy
their stay greatly. To avoid bad experiences do not pre-book a houseboat before arriving. With the security situation, the majority are empty and you should be able to get a better
price in person, and to get a better feeling of if you'll like the place and the owners. Boats
with land access have the advantage of allowing you to leave if you feel uncomfortable,
or just like going for a walk, although they tend to be noisier.
There are houseboats on Dal Lake and Nagin Lake. These can cost anything from Rs 1,000 (March 2008) - Rs 5,000 depending upon the time of the year. Houseboats on Nagin lake
are upscale and more expensive but are much more beautiful, and the Nagin lake location
is serene. Price on Nageen Lake per person in Sept 2005 was Rs 500 per night including
2 meals. Expect to pay up to Rs 3,000 for a couple on the deluxe boats. Boats on the Jhelum river are cheaper yet, but still comfortable, and close to the bus station, good if
you are just transiting Srinagar to or from Ladakh.
Be sure to take a 1 hour boat tour of the lake inlets to get a nice glimpse of life and wildlife
along the lake. Prices are about Rs 300-500 per trip. A few areas are geared up for attracting tourists, but most much of the area is still reasonably untouched.
There are a wide range of hotels around Dal Lake. Prices vary from Rs 500-5,000.
Grace Villa (Holiday Home), Srinagar, Kashmir, +919819832922.
checkin: 27/5/13; checkout: 2/6/13. A beautiful fully furnished bungalow available for
vacation rental stays. edit
Green Acres, Rajbagh, Srinagar, +91-9419407705, +91194-2313848
|Reservations: +91-9419006638, +91-9419213145, . Lovely homely bunglaw that
is so devotedly maintained with genuine warm hospitality by the family of Mr.Vivek
Wazir. 3500+. edit
Dal-Fog Guest House, Near Dal-Lock Gate, 01942480062. checkout: 12.00. Small
guest house run by two very friendly and honest brothers on backside bank of Dal Lake.
Room with shared bath Rs 400 and private bath Rs 600 (June 2013). Cheaper in low season. Contact [email protected] mobile +919018404949 edit
Veena Palace Group of Houseboats Price range Rs 600 to 2500.  Phone number: 9797056134. Email: [email protected] This is located opposite Hotel Welcome,
Gate No 7 | Dal Lake, Srinagar 190001, India. Quite, beautyfull, peacefull and most
The Shelter Group houseboats Price range Rs 600 to 3000.  Phone number: 0194 2310931. This is located near main town, away from the boulevard noise and close to the lal chowk area.
Noor Guesthouse is a budget option in the Old Market area near Dal Gate. Rooms rates are 250 per night (shared bath) and 600 per night (private bath). Email:
Hotel Paradise Room rates starting from Rs. 1600. . This hotel is located near Nehru Park amidst several other hotels and restaurants. Its also close to Dal Gate.
Hotel Ishfan, Kohnkhan, Dalgate, Srinagar. Mid-range hotel with double room starting at Rs 2,500. In off-season, rooms can even be bargained upto Rs 400. The in-house
restaurant serves North Indian food as well as chicken delicacies.
Blooming Dale Dalgate, near Dal Lake. A small place with a lush green lawn suitable for families and individuals. Typical kashmir hospitality.
Hotel Sadaf-The Pearl, 45, Exchange Road,Regal Chowk,Srinagar, ([email protected]), . checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 12 noon. Centrally located
hotel. Quiet with mountain views, 3 min drive from the Dal Lake and the local bus stand
and 7 km from the airport. edit
Swiss Hotel Kashmir.  +91 0194 2472766, +91 0194 2477640.
Shankrachraya Temple and stones throw distance from world famous Dal Lake is this
beautifully located hotel. It is a commission free hotel.
United Continents Group, Bishember Nagar, RIEC, Near Ikhwan Hotel, Srinagar
190001 Kashmir, India, +91 194 2474814, . Rs 3,500.00. edit
HOUSE BOAT MEHRAJ :- (Special Accomidation, Reasonable price/, Trekkine/Hiking also done by us, Dal Lake, Gate # 1, Boulevard Road Srinagar, 190001 KASHMIR J&K,
India, Mobile # +91 9796362023, E-Mail ID : [email protected]
Prince Group Of house boats 'This is the man can offer you good and cheap and best place to stay in Kashmir.With neat and clean room's and with attach bath room's.In this place
tourist will be satisfied.With his service,With his help to get Bus or air tickets To
delhi,Leh,Jammu etc.Hustle free place.Peace full place. Email [email protected]
Butt's Clermont Houseboats, ([email protected]). Moored on northwest edge of Dal Lake nearby to an old Mughal Garden believed to have been built by Emperor Akbar and called Garden Of Breeze. Butts houseboats have had some very famous guests, including Ravi Shankar, Galbraith, Rockefeller, and Yehudi
Lucky Star Houseboats, Golden Dal Lake, +91
9797941033 ([email protected]), . > Rs 3,500.00. edit
New Shaheen, A house boat at Raj Bagh Ghat is a luxury and economical and as well as serene for those who wish to stay in house boat yet far from noisy area. In off
season you can bargain to ~Rs 600 for a double room with breakfast and dinner
House Boat Taj Mahal: Houseboat located offshore in the open area of Dal Lake gives
a view of mountains and the life around the lake. +91-941 9061672, +91-941
9060091, +91-941 9062480271
Young Bombay, 00 91 99 06 38 03 27 ([email protected]), . A
houseboat in the middle of the Dal Lake, in the Golden Lake part (close to the Boulevard). Actually a complex of several boats of various classes, from deluxe to C,
with varying classes. Spacious rooms with bathrooms, lake views, cable TV, internet,
original Kashmiri cuisine and European food prepared by the owner's family. Advance
reservations and airport or bus station pickups are available. Land line: 00 91 19 42 47 70 94 edit
There are also some houseboats on quieter Nagin Lake.
Peacock Houseboats  ([Email:[email protected]]) These houseboats are on Nagin Lake across from the Nagin Club. Made of cedar and furnished
with antique wooden furniture. Carpeted sitting room and dining room. Bedrooms have
western bathrooms attached. Cushioned veranda looks out over lake. Western breakfast and choice of Kashmiri, Indian or Western lunches/dinners are served by the
houseboy. Can arrange tours.
Other houseboats can be found on Jahlul river near Information center and Bus station.
New LaLa Prince 00 99 06 47 51 33. [Email:[email protected]] Houseboat owner Yousuf is a friendly and wise man who respects your freedom.Carpeted sitting room and dining room. Bedrooms have western bathrooms attached hot and cold
running shower. Trekking and camping in Kashmir can be arranged. Prices are around
700 - 800 rupees including breakfast and dinner.
'Shahs hut' A perfect place to be at located below the hills of kralsangri chemashahi . a quite comfortable place with all the conveniences at a small distance quite and a perfect place for a nice vacation . [email protected] tel 9797288682
Leh/Ladakh Jeeps leave daily except Sunday taking 2 days with an overnight stop in Kargil.
Jammu Jeeps leave daily as well as buses, be aware that J&K bus company quite often go on strike. Jeep costs Rs 350-450 and takes approx 8 hr.
To see around one should take the package tours offered by the JK tourism, situated in
Tourist Information Centre. Also one can get the return ticket to Jammu or elsewhere from
JK tourism, as they are reliable and safe.
Ladakh is a mountainous region in northwest Jammu and Kashmir in north India and in the area known as the Trans-Himalaya, (the lands beyond the
Himalaya:Tibet, Xinjiang and northern Pakistan). It's slightly smaller than Scotland, the
settled population live between 2700 m and 4500 m, and nomadic encampments even
higher, and it's the largest and the least populated region of Jammu and Kashmir. The
people are a mixture of Buddhist and Muslim 50% of each. Buddhists are the majority in the east close to the Chinese border and a slight majority overall while Muslims have the
majority in the north and west. Travellers are likely to see more of the Buddhists as the
majority of the tourist attractions are in the east and directly related to Tibetan Buddhist
Choglamsar - a village with a large Tibetan comunity, almost close enough to Leh
to be a suburb.
Kargil - key to access to Zanskar area, and a necessary stop along the way from Leh to Srinagar and the Vale of Kashmir. A mostly Muslim town. Blossoming apricot
orchards in summertime.
Leh - a medium sized town, very picturesque. An excellent base for exploring
Ladakh. Good guest houses and restaurants.
Turtuk - a remote village inhabited on the "line of control" between Pakistan-
administered Baltistan and Indian-administered Kashmir.
Ladakh was an independent kingdom for nine centuries, but it was very strongly influenced
by Tibet and the neighbouring Muslim region. Linguistically Ladakhi is very closely related
to Tibetan. Tibet has always been where Ladakhi Buddhists would go for higher religious
education, which since the incorporation of Tibet into China has meant the Ladakhis have made the much shorter trip to the Tibetan monasteries in India. The architecture of Ladakh
is almost identical to that of Tibet, both of residential buildings and of the monasteries.
The class structure, or more precisely the lack of a sharply defined class structure, is
common to Tibet and Ladakh, and is in sharp contrast to the rest of India. Related to this
is the relatively high status, freedom and outspokenness of Buddhist women in Ladakh
Importantly, a set of cultural practices that keep the population from growing to be more
than the land can support, and to prevent a farm from being divided up and thus being
unable to support a family, is common to both cultures:
Monasteries: these would take large numbers of the monks and nuns and thus keep
the population at a stable level.
Polyandry: a practice where one woman marries all the brothers of a family to prevent the family's land from being divided, was common in both Ladakh and Tibet
until into the 20th century.
Primogeniture: a system where the inheritance after a man's death (primarily the
land) would pass to his oldest son in order to keep farms large enough to support a
family. Khangbu: the little house to which the father and mother would retire once their
eldest son married and took over the management of the farm, inheriting the main
house along with it.
However, Tibet was far from the only influence on Ladakh. Where Tibet was largely closed
off to outside influence, Ladakh was a nation where the caravan trade played an important role. Traders from the neighbouring Muslim lands (both Kashmir and East Turkistan, now
the Xinjiang province of China) were a common sight in Leh's bazaar until the 20th
century. The folk music is based on the styles of the Muslim parts of the Western
Himalayas; likewise polo was imported from these lands and enjoys popularity to this day
with Ladakhis regardless of faith.
Over the couple decades the relationship between Buddhists and Muslims in Ladakh has deteriorated. Possibly due to the complex roles of the communites as minorities relative
to each other. Muslims are a minority in Leh, majority in J&K, minority in India; Buddhists
a majority in Leh, minority in J&K to Muslims, in India to Hindus. Possibly due to the
importation of identity politics from the rest of India. Whatever the reason, it has never erupted into the kind of violence seen elsewhere in India at times, but it still may take the
sheen out of a place that seems remarkably idyllic, when a new friend says something
that's hard not to hear as racist.
The Indus valley is the Ladakhi heartland, with the highest population density, and large
amounts of agricultural land. Running parallel, roughly north-east south-west with it are
a series of valleys and mountain ranges. North of the Indus valley is the Ladakh range, on the other side of which is the Shayok, and Nubra valleys. South of the Indus is the
Stok range, clearly visible from Leh. On the other side is the Markha valley, a popular
trekking destination. Farther south-west is a series of minor ranges and then uninhabited
valleys we come to Zangskar, with the Kargyak and the Stod rivers joining at Padum, to
form the Zangskar river which bucks the trend and flows north through a narrow gorge to join the Indus. To the south of Zangskar is the Grand Himal range marking the southern
limit of Ladakh.
To the east of this series of ranges is the Changtang, a high plateau home to nomads. It
is known as Kharnak in the west, Samad Rokchen in the north east and Korzok in the
south east. Not a true plateau, it has a chaotic assortment of minor mountains ranges not much higher than the wide valleys between them. With no drainage leading out of this
area, there are a number of beautiful salt water lakes that make popular destinations for
The animals of Ladakh have much in common with the animals of Central Asia generally,
and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau.
An exception to this, are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India
to spend the Summer in Ladakh. Birds are also, rather predictably, the easiest form of
wildlife for tourists to see, and the only thing tourists who don't leave the paved roads, and villages, can be sure to see. For such an arid area, Ladakh may surprise you with the
variety of birds, a total of 225 species have been recorded.
The Indian redstart, and Hoopoe, both summer in Ladakh and are very common.
Surprisingly, the Brown-headed Gull is seen in summer on the Indus, and on some lakes
of the Changthang. Other migratory water birds, include the Brahimini duck, Ruddy
Sheldrake, and the Barhead goose.
The Black Necked Crane is famous due to its extreme rarity. It is found only in Ladakh
and Tibet. Other specifically high altitude birds are the Tibetan Raven, Red-Billed
Chough, Snow-cock, and Chukor.
There are two main raptors in Ladakh. The Lammergeier, a vulture, is relatively common
here. It's unusual in that its head has feathers, unlike most vultures. The Golden Eagle,
is also found in Ladakh, is closely related and outwardly the same as found in North
Hunting by British so called "sportsmen" during colonial rule, and more recently unofficially
by the Indian army, has taken its toll on the wildlife population. In recent years however things have been improving due to greater popular awareness of the value of wildlife, an
awareness that has spread as far as reaching some members of the army.
The Ibex is found in high craggy terrain, it still numbers several thousand in Ladakh, and
trekkers often spot them.
The Bharal, or Blue Sheep, is even more common, ranging in the Himalayas from Ladakh
east as far as Sikkim. Its unusual in that it is neither a true sheep nor true goat, but has
characteristics of both.
The Shapo, or Urial, is a goat, found at lower elevations, mostly in river valleys, and
therefore is often directly in competition with domesticated animals. They are now rare,
numbering about one thousand.
The Argali, or Nayan, is a relative of the Marco Polo Sheep of the Pamirs. They are
impressive animals with huge horizontal curving horns. They are extremely rare in Ladakh,
numbering only a couple hundred, however they do have a wide range throughout
mountainous areas of the Chinese Provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Gansu.
The Chiru, or Tibetan Antelope, (known in Ladakhi as Tsos) is also endangered. It has
traditionally been hunted for its wool, which must be pulled out by hand, a process done
after the animal is killed. The wool obtained from the Chiru is called Shahtoosh, and is
valued in South Asia for its lightweight and warmth, but more than anything else, as a
status symbol. Early in the 20th century the Chiru was seen in herds numbering in the thousands, surviving on remarkably sparse vegetation, they are sadly very rare now. The
owning or trading in Shahtoosh is now illegal in most countries.
The Kyang, or Tibetan Wild Ass, is one animal that visitors can expect to see from the
comfort of a vehicle, if they take a Jeep tour on the Changthang. They favor the rolling
grasslands of this area, and with their natural curiosity makes them fairly easy to spot, despite the relatively low numbers, about 1500 individuals. They often seem to be drawn
by their curiosity toward a jeep, or trekkers, only to be overcome with shyness and run
away. The tendency to repeat this a number of times is most endearing.
None of the predators of Ladakh are a safety concern to trekkers, it is people who are a
danger to these animals.
The Snow Leopard, is justifiably famous. It once ranged throughout the Himalaya, Tibet,
and as far as the Sayan mountains on the Mongolian, Russian border; and in elevation
from 1800m to 5400m. They are extremely shy, and very hard to spot, and as such not well known, it is believed there are about 200 in Ladakh. While tourists are unlikely to see
the cats themselves, during winter sightings of the footprints and other marks are not
uncommon. Tourists that want to see Snow Leopards should visit during the winter, as at
this time the cats descend to lower altitudes, and are more active as prey is harder to find, befriending one of the biologests who come to Ladakh to study Snow Leopards would
Other cats in Ladakh are even rarer than the Snow leopard, if not as impressive,
the Eurasian Lynx, numbering only a few individuals, and the Pallas's cat, who looks
outwardly like a house cat.
The Tibetan Wolf is the greatest threat to the livestock of the Ladakhies and as such is
the most persecuted, there are only about 300 wolves left in Ladakh. They look
unremarkable, and outwardly the same as Wolves seen in Europe and the Americas.
There are also a few Brown Bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. They are
not a threat to trekkers
Marmots are common; you can even sometimes see them from the road, although they don't look different enough to the marmots common to other mountainous areas of the
world to be of much interest.
There are also plenty of voles, hares, and several types of Pika.
The language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan dialect with written Ladakhi being the same
as Tibetan. Tibetans can learn Ladakhi easily but Tibetan is difficult to speak for Ladakhis.
Spoken Ladakhi is closer to the Tibetan spoken in Western Tibet. Ladakhi language is a shared culture platform which brings the Muslims and Buddhists together as one people
of this Himalayan region.
Ladakhis usually know Hindi and often English, but in villages without road access neither
can be expected. A high quality Ladakhi phrasebook, Getting Started in Ladakhi, by Melong
Publications, is available in Leh and well worth getting. Not only will any attempts you
make to speak the language be appreciated, it will be useful.
Buses run directly to Leh from either Manali or Srinagar. Enroute to Leh one can stop in a number of places , most will get off in Keylong , the administrative center for Lahaul.
Overlooking Keylong is the Kardang monastery. This is the choice that most travelers will
want to take due to the tense security situaton in Kashmir, however the road is only open
from June to mid October due to snow fall. There are shared taxis from Manali which start early in the morning and reach Leh early next morning.Tourist buses from HPTDC and the
local HRTC buses, stop overnight in Keylong.There are also minibuses and shared cabs
that makes a overnight stop in Sarchu - this comes with a high incidence of altitude
sickness , since Sarchu ( also dubbed "The Vomit Hilton") lies more than seven hundred
meters higher than Leh , at 4253 meters. Coming from Srinagar there are a few interesting places to stop en route : Kargil at 2693 meters ( where the buses stops , the best choice
for altitude acclimatization) , (Lamayuru and Alchi that also offer accommodation). The
opening and final closing of both roads, but no major events in between, are announced
on the the official Leh website. Srinagar-Leh news updates are found here, Manali-
Daily flights to Leh are run by Indian and Jet Airways from Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu and
elsewhere. These are, however, subject to inclement weather and may be cancelled at
any time, keep your schedule flexible. Altitude sickness is also a worry given the altitude.
You can ride in to Leh between June and Mid October (when the roads are open) on a
Bikers usually follow either of the 2 routes
1. Delhi -> Chandigarh -> Patni Top -> Srinagar -> Kargil -> Leh
2. Delhi -> Chandigarh -> Manali -> Sarchu -> Pang -> Leh
Ladakhi buses run from Leh to the surrounding villages. They are often overcrowded and
generally disorganised and poorly run. Daily buses or mini buses run to Alchi, Basgo, Dha-
Hanu, Likir, Nimmu, and Saspul; twice daily to Chemray, Hemis, Matho, Stok, and Tak
Tok; hourly or more often to Choglamsar, Phyang, Shey, Spituk, Stakna, Thiksay.
You will find in Leh a number of local taxis, that will take you to the surrounding
monasteries much faster and more comfortably than Public transport. Rates are fairly
steep compared to elsewhere in India.
Trucks often stop for hitchhikers, who are usually expected to pay half the bus fare, bargaining may be necessary. They are slower than the buses and sometimes stop for
long periods to unload cargo.
In Leh there are a number of shops that will rent motorbikes, mostly the Royal Enfield,
still made in India today (350 and 500 cc model). Rents are fairly cheap, and if you are
are used to old bikes and left hand side driving, it is certainly a great way to move around
if short of time, and far cheaper than local taxis. Be sure to check your rented bike before you leave so that you don't end up getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. As always
in India, drive carefully, as other drivers often lack caution.
Things to note
1. In most sections of the journey, the road are in a bad condition but in certain conditions
the roads are literally non-existant. Bottom line is that BRO (Border Roads Organisation)
has done a good job, with what ever little resources that are available, in making these
difficult terrains accessible to vehicular traffic.
2. Though there are many mechanics in Leh who deal with many bikes, the availability of
spares is limited. So before you leave please be sure to get your bike serviced (also get all cables checked/ changed, set chain, get oils topped up, brakes inspected etc.) and also
carry all necessary spares (cables, chain link, bulbs etc.)
3. Make sure to carry the originals of all your bike's documents.
4. Glaciers tend to melt as the day progresses and flow (at some places across roads). So
be sure to plan to reach and cross these glacier melts commonly known as Nalas (for
example Pagal nala, Khooni nala, Whiskey nala, Brandy nala etc.) during the earlier part
of the day, when the flow is low and the depth depth of the water is still easily passable.
5. When you encounter a Military convoy, always pull over and let them pass. It might be
a good idea to find out from the locals as to when the convoy goes uphill and downhill and
try to time your trip accordingly.
The scenery would be magnificent at the pace of a bicycle, however one would need to be
well prepared with full camping equipment. There is a bit less than 1000 km of paved
roads in Ladakh. The Manali-Leh-Srinagarroad makes up about half of that, the remainder being spurs off it. As such it's not possible to string together a loop, and the only route
that would avoid backtracking would be to follow the Manali-Leh-Srinagar road. You would
need to check the current situation and think carefully to decide if travling in Kashmir at
bicycle pace is more of a risk than you want to take.
In addition to the paved roads there are some trekking routes that would be possible to ride a lightly loaded sturdy mountain bike on, perhaps hiring a horse and handler to take
your baggage. Padam to Darcha, via Shingo La (pass) would be a good route for this,
though you would still need to push your bike over the pass itself. Ask trekkers in Ladakh
for more options.
For the traveler with a number of months it is possible to trek from one end of Ladakh to
the other, or even from places in Himachal Pradesh . The large number of trails and the limited number of roads allows you to string together routes that have road access often
enough to restock supplies, but almost entirely avoid walking on motor roads. See below
in the Do section for more info.
If you plan to drive/ ride in to the Ladakh region in your own car/ bike,
1. Carry enough spares and all the required tools.
2. Try and learn basic vehicle maintainence before you start on the trip.
3. Carry spare fuel. (There is a 380km strech on the Leh - Manali highway which has no
4. You will need to get permits to visit certain places (For example Khardung La)
The main tourist sites relate to Tibetan Buddhism, and to the stunning landscape.
Ladakh is not only home to some of the most beautiful and serene monasteries you'll ever see, but it also a land of rich natural beauty - and it's this natural beauty that hits you so
hard, because it's a barren beauty. Many travelers find themselves at a loss to understand
how something so barren can yet be so beautiful. Be respectful, these are holy places and
active monks in most of them.
Must-see sites include "Moon-land-view" (the area around Lamayuru) on the Leh-Kargil
Many places in Ladakh need an inner line permit which is available for free in DC's office
in Ladakh. A travel agent can also arrange the permit for Rs 100 per person within an
hour on any working day.
There are some regular tourist circuits which entail driving 200-400 km round-trip out of
1.) Leh-Karu-Chang La-Tangtse-Pangong Tso & Back: This is a popular trip to Pyongyang
Tso Lake and can be done by taxi/bike. Most people do it as a day trip starting early in
the morning and come back in the evening. However, there are arrangements for the stay
near the lake in Lukung & Spangmik and one can stay overnight to enjoy this place at a
slower pace. Camping is also possible.
2.) Leh-Khardung La-Nubra Valley(Valley of Flowers): This is another popular trip but difficult to do in one day. Nubra Valley may not be as beautiful as is touted to be, and is
the second favorite for tourists as a trip out of Leh. Some people return from Khardung
La (18380 ft), which is claimed to be the highest motorable pass in the world. It provides
excellent views of Ladakh Range as well as Karakoram Range on the other side.
Accommodation is available along the way and in Nubra Valley at various places.
3.) Leh-Upshi-Tso Kar-Tso Moriri: This is another trip which covers two smaller lakes Tso Kar and Tso Moriri. There is accommodation available in Korzok(Tso Moriri) but camping
near the lake is not allowed.
4.) Leh-Lamayuru-Leh: This is an easier drive along Indus river towards Kargil and one
can also see the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar on the way. Lamayuru is a beautiful
place and is home to the oldest monastery and one of the most important in Ladakh. One
can stay in the monastery or in the surrounding village.
5.) Various monasteries-around Leh: There are 4-5 big monasteries around Leh and can
be covered in one day. Most important of them are Thiksey, Hemis, Spituk, Stok and Shey.
One needs to acclimatize to the attitude in Leh (3500 m) before heading out as AMS (acute
mountain sickness or altitude sickness) can ruin the entire trip.
The Hemis Monastery: This is the largest monastery of Ladakh. Tourists can find at least
150 lamas living in the monastery, at any point of time throughout the year. Hemis is
famous for a huge painting of Buddha, which is brought to the public or displayed to the
public only once in 11 years of the time period.
Padum Valley: Padum is located at an altitude of 3505 m from the sea level. It is the
capital of the ancient Zanskar and presently administrative headquarter of the Zanskar region. Podium has a population of around 1500-1600. Padum is a very scarcely inhabited
valley in the Zanskar. Padum is one of the famous trekking destinations for trekking lovers,
Zanskar Valley: Zanskar is one of the remotest regions of the Ladakh. Zanskar 1is spread
in around 300 km of area, which is only accessible through high passes. This valley is
higher than any other valley in Ladakh region and located in the inner Himalaya. Here the
rainfall is very less and the climates are very harsh.
Parang La Trek:
Parang La Trek is one of the most challenging and adventures trekking trail. This trek is
located on an isolated route far into the mountains with many rivers to be crossed.
Kang Yatse This trek is located in the south east part of the leg, in the Markha valley.
This valley is a dream for every trekker and everyone wish to trek the Markha Valley for
at least once.
Volunteer: There are numerous NGOs in Ladakh, mostly centred on Leh, many of which take foreigners as volunteers if you can commit to a stay of a few months.
Meditate: There is a meditation center in Choglamsar, with an office in Leh, that
offers meditation courses and retreats for various levels of experience.
Festivals: In late June and early July, the whole Ladakh region comes alive with festivals. Some are held at the local cricket and polo club in Leh, while others are
held at the monasteries. Reserve a place well in advance as they get very crowded.
Some of the festivals are only held every 12 years, (such as one at Hemis) and at
that time the monastery will display its greatest treasure, such as a huge thangka (a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth). Festival Calendar till 2014.
Trek: Ladakh is an excellent trekking area for experienced trekkers. The
infrastructure is nowhere near as developed as in Nepal, necessitating greater
preparedness on the part of the trekker. Most trekkers go with a guide and some
pack horses, which is easy to organise, and if arranged in Leh quite affordable. It is possible to trek independently, but this should not be undertaken lightly and without
much consultation with locals. People do go missing and die on those trails!
Below are a few selected routes:
The Baby Trek
Duration: 2-3 days
Season: Year round
Get In: The trail starts at Likir, there are a few buses from Leh daily.
Description Ladakh's one "tea house trek" is, despite the name, hard work because of the steep and frequent assents and descents. Its highest point is 3750 m (unusually low
for Ladakh); it passes through frequent villages, allowing the traveler to sleep in guest
houses or peoples' homes every night, it is a good introduction to trekking in Ladakh, and
way to acclimatize to the altitude. The main attraction of this trek is the large villages of beautiful well made houses, among good agricultural land; the mountains and views from
the passes are relatively unimpressive.
Route Likir village - Phobe La (3580 m)- Sumdo village - Chagatse La (3630 m) -
Yangthang village - Tsermangchen La (3750 m) - Hemis Shukpachen village - Mebtak La
(3720 m) - Ang village - Tingmosgam village.
The Markha Valley Trek :This trek is among the easily accessible and popular trek in Ladakh. This trek also leads to a large Diversity of landscapes. Markha Valley is
surrounded by the high altitude mountain Kangyatse which is at the height of 6400
meters from the sea level. Tourists will pass through colourful villages and beautiful
valley where they can experience the enjoy the tradition and culture of Leh Ladakh.
General traveling maps showing the roads and tourist sites are commonly available in
India and abroad.
The best quality trekking maps are nowhere near the quality of maps covering trekking
areas of Europe or North America. Note that high quality maps of the border regions of India/Pakistan/China are technically illegal in India for security reasons, your map may be
confiscated if you allow security personel to see it. (despite very high quality maps of
Indian J&K and the LoC being available from the Survey of Pakistan in Islamabad!)
Survey of India produces a very out of date (early 1980s) trekking map of J&K;
it's cheap, and could be useful for planning a route with an experanced guide.
US Army Map Service. (1:250000) - produces out of date (1950s and 60s)
topographic maps of whole india, easily available on the Internet.
Soviet Military Topographic Maps (1:200000 & 1:100000) - maps produced in the 1970's and 1980's which are now easily available on the internet but expensive.
They provide a good information but all the labels are in Cyrillic script limiting their
Artou (1:300000) - based on satellite imagery. Until recently the best available, it
is satifactory for pre-trek route planning, but not good for navigation. A pirated
version is available in Leh.
Trekking Map of Ladakh by Sonam Tsetan (approx scale 1:600000) is very accurate for what it shows: the trails, village names, and water courses. It lacks
topography but has the most accurate place names of all the maps, making it a very
useful planning tool. It's available in Leh for about 200 Rp.
Leomann (1:200000) - may have better scale than the Artou, but it actually
contains less information and is less accurate; however the series does cover a lot
more of Ladakh and elsewhere in the Himalayas.
Ladakh Zanskar Trekking Map Series by Editions Olizane (1:150000) - recently
introduced, an excellent topographic map, with lots of detail.
Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being:
Thukpa, noodle soup; and Tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngamphe, roasted barley flour,
eatable without cooking it makes useful, if dull trekking food.
A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables.
As Ladakh moves toward a less sustainable, cash based economy, imported Indian foods are becoming more important. You are likely to be served rice, dal (lentils) with veggies
even in villages without road access, and it's standard in Leh.
In leh town you can taste a vaste range of cuisines- which include north Indian, Tibetan,
Chinese, Italian and even Korean. Bakeries are plenty in Leh town. Strangely they all claim
to be German Bakeries. They serve seasonal fruit pies, tarts, brownies and a variety of
Tea it traditionally made with strong black tea, butter, and salt, it is mixed in a
large churn and known as gurgur cha, due to the sound of mixing it. Similar to tea traditionally drunk elsewhere in Central Asia, it's more like soup than tea elsewhere,
it can be refreshing and invigorating if you can get use to it. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo)
is common now, made Indian style with lots of milk and sugar.
Beer (chang) is traditionally made from barley; it has a yeasty taste slightly similar
Ladakh is one of the safest parts of India, and the most basic precautions are enough to
keep you and your possessions safe. The locals are very friendly and humble. Most of the
region is dotted with military cantonments every 50-80 kms, but mainly because of its strategic position on international border between India and China. The army plays major
part in rescue and aid efforts and that is why you will require to produce identification
documents or written permission from local authorities before entering some remote
Carry any and every medication (for specific health problems) that you may need. Ensure
that you are physically fit if you intend to ride or trek in the Ladakh region.
Leh is above 3500 m (over 11,000 feet) and other parts of Ladakh are higher yet. There
is risk of altitude sickness due to the rapid shift in altitude.