Stepping off the beaten track can often be harder than it might first seem – after all, it often feels like there are few places not crammed with tourists these days! Happily, there are still a few hidden gems out there, like Ladakh in India.
Ladakh – an overview
Ladakh is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and it’s somewhere that’s only been open to tourists for a few years. As well as being off the radar of most travellers, it’s also one of the most sparsely populated regions in the state, meaning you can do a lot of travelling without bumping into a single soul.
Moreover, the landscapes you’ll discover here are seriously impressive – think towering, rugged mountains, the Indus River and age-old monasteries precariously teetering in improbable locations. It’s this quietness, paired with the wonderful mix of landscape and heritage, that makes exploring here such an adventure.
Places to visit during your trip
This website is a brilliant resource for finding out about all the different types of itineraries you can explore Ladakh on. But I’d really like to give you an impression of the kind of experiences you can have, so below you can read about some of the sights to see as you make your way to Leh, once the capital of the Ladakh region.
Presuming you’ll fly into Delhi and make your way to Ladakh from there, we recommend calling in at Dharamsala, which is the current home of the Dalai Lama. You can see some great things in this town, which sits on a spur of the Dhauladhar mountain range, including a sanctuary preserving Tibetan culture and art (the Norbulingka Institute) that’s built in the style of the Dalai Lama’s former summer residence in Tibet.
It’s also worth visiting Manali and exploring the beautiful Old Town. Additionally, I’d like to point out that these stopovers aren’t only a nice way to break up the journey and see that little bit more, but they also serve a practical purpose – namely acclimatising you to the high altitude.
Leh is a real treasure trove of things to see – think old monasteries and stupas, not to mention some incredibly unusual natural phenomena. Historically, Leh was a really important trading post between Tibet and India, and as I mentioned above was once the capital of the whole region.
If it’s historical buildings and monasteries that interest you most, make sure you take a trip to the Shanti Stupa, which is just outside the town. Situated at an incredible 4,267 m, this stupa isn’t just an attraction for its history – in fact, this is one of the very best places to get views over Ladakh. Plus, the sunrises and sunsets here are outstanding.
Should natural wonders be more your thing, check out Magnetic Hill. Eerily, cars here will be pulled uphill even with their ignition turned off – a unique sight well worth seeing.
The Ladakh region is also an amazing one in terms of wildlife, and I thoroughly recommend a trip to Hemis National Park. Often referred to as the snow leopard capital of the world, it offers visitors a 50/50 chance of spotting one – something that’s pretty impressive when you consider just how rare they are.