Leh-Ladakh – The Ethereal Cold Desert

“The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder’, said G.K.Chesterton. The very creation of the universe is wondrous and the creation of human beings with unique features with everyone is an eternal wonder. Creation of human beings with regard to art and architecture has been matters of great wonders from time immemorial. Leh evidences these features.

A prudent visitor’s eyes are always in search of something unusual, ancient and wondrous. Leh, the erstwhile capital of Ladakh has all such things in store for the inquisitive tourists. Located at 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali (HP), Leh is famous for Adventure Tourism from the days of British rule. The Tibetan-Buddhist culture is well-preserved within the two mountain ranges; Zangskar and Ladakh Mountain ranges.

Ladakh was divided to two districts, namely Leh and Kargil in 1979. But Leh district is synonymous with Ladakh and vice versa. Leh Palace was built by the Buddhist king Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. The nine-storied palace now stands in a dilapidated condition and is under restoration by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Standing on the roof of this, which is open to public, on can witness the panoramic view of the whole town of Leh.

Peace prevails in Leh in all its forms, either in its natural or artificial forms. Shanti Stupa, located on the hilltop of Changspa, close to Leh town is one such artificial form of peace. It was built by ‘The Japanese for World Peace’, a Japanese Buddhist organization for commemorating the 2,500 years of Budhism. In this nuclear era, World Peace is of prime importance and hence global concern.

The monastery Sankar Gompa draws visitors Sankar monastery houses the image of Tsong-kha-pa. Beside this image, stands the statue of Avalokaiteswara provided with 1,000 arms and 11 heads; more than what the mythical ‘Ravana’ had. Visitors would be baffled at such a bizarre human representation.

Ladakh lies between two mountain ranges; the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram. It has aliases such as Little Tibet, The Last Shangrila and Moonscape. Visitors would be enthralled with the rosy cheeks, images of dragons, Zen and an environment of serenity, quietness and stillness all around. No doubt, it is the most ideal place for peace-loving visitors.

Places of tourists’ interest include valleys named Suru, Markha, Salt, Nubra, Shavok, Indus and Drass. Other place worth visiting are Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Salt, Padum, Phukthal, Sani Monastery, Stongdev, Sankoo, Prominent treks are Manali, Pangong tso, Ladakh monastery trek, Trans Zangskar Expedition, Spiti to Ladakh, Spit to Pitok to Hemis, Kala Pattar trek and Padum to Manali.

Ecotourism is being pushed into Ladakh to reduce waste and water consumption and for using more environmental options, wherever possible. NGOs like Snow Leopard Conservancy, Women’s Alliance of ladakh (WAL) and India Trust’s Himalayan Homestays Program are insisting visitors to adopt ecotourism. Those opting for trekking are asked to stay with local families, instead of carrying tents and supplies.

Sight of anything wondrous thrills and excites. It gives pleasure by increasing the adrenalin. Visiting places of wonders relaxes mind and revitalizes the spirit of working.