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Gravel road through high mountains with brightly colored flags at the side
Tanglang La mountain pass in Ladakh
Map of Kashmir with Ladakh highlighted in red[α]
Coordinates 34°10′12″N 77°34′48″E / 34.17°N 77.58°E / 34.17; 77.58
Country  India
State Jammu and Kashmir
Largest city Leh
270126 (2001)
3 /km2 (8 /sq mi)[1]
Official languages Hindi, Ladakhi, and Urdu
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
Area 86,904 km2 (33,554 sq mi)[2][β]
Infant mortality rate 19%[3] (1981)

Ladakh (Tibetan script: ལ་དྭགས་Wylie: la-dwags, Ladakhi IPA: [lad̪ɑks], Hindi: लद्दाख़, Hindi IPA: [ləd̪.d̪ɑːx], Urdu: لدّاخ; "land of high passes") is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of India. It lies between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Kashmir.

Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, Aksai Chin and Ngari, including the Rudok region and Guge, in the east, and the Nubra valleys to the north.

Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans–Kunlun territory of East Turkistan to the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It is sometimes called "Little Tibet" as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[6] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of the Kashmir dispute, the Indian military maintains strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh. A majority of Ladakhis are Tibetan Buddhists and the rest are mostly Shia Muslims.[7] Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of its religious and cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.[8][9]



Phyang Gompa, Ladakh, Kashmir

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh showing that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[9] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[10] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[γ] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[δ] Ptolemy,[ε] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[11] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang also describes the region in his accounts.[στ]

Hemis Monastery in the 1870s

In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the East and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes. Suzerainty over Ladakh frequently changed hands between China and Tibet. In 842 Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal representative annexed Ladakh for himself after the break-up of the Tibetan empire, and founded a separate Ladakh dynasty. During this period Ladakh acquired a predominantly Tibetan population. The dynasty spearheaded the "Second Spreading of Buddhism" importing religious ideas from north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The First Spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states, which led to the partial conversion of Ladakhis to Islam and due to Hindu Massacre in valley they took refuge in capital of India they are known as Kashmiri Pandit .[7][9][11]

King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means victorious in several Tibetan languages) which survives even today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[9] in the face of concerted attempts to convert the region to Islam and destroy Buddhist artifacts.[7][9] In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gompas, and the kingdom expanded into Zanskar and Spiti. Ladakh was, however defeated by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, but it retained its independence.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684.[12] Kashmir help restore Ladakhi rule on the condition of that a mosque be built in Leh and that the Ladakhi king convert to Islam[13]. The Treaty of Tismogang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh, but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogras under Zorawar Singh, a general of Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. Starting from the 1850s, European influence increased in Ladakh — geologists, sportsmen and tourists started exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh was undecided whether to accede to the Indian Union or Pakistan. Eventually, the ruler signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued and Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.[14]

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar to Leh from 16 days to two.[9] The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India on the one hand and Pakistan and China on the other. Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed 'Operation Vijay' by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian Government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops Indian Government was criticized by Indian public because India respects geographical co-ordinates more, than India's counters (Pakistan and China).[15]

The Siachen glacier area in the north-east corner of Ladakh is the venue of a continuing military standoff since 1984 between India and Pakistan and the highest battleground in the world. The dispute arose because on non-demarcation of the boundary in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point NJ 9842. Oropolitics by Pakistan and cartographic aggression by the United States Defense Mapping Agency in 1957 was eventually followed by a race to occupy the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the Siachen glacier.[16] Since then strategic points on the glacier are occupied by both sides, with the Indians having a clear strategic advantage.[17]

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in 1993. Most of Hindu-Muslim and Buddhist-Muslim riots were initiated by aggressive speech of Benazir Bhutto against Hindus and Buddhist, She asked local Muslims to attack and make Hindus and Buddhist evacuate Kashmir.[citation needed]


Ladakh region has high altitude.
Map of the central Ladakh region
Landscape in Ladakh

Ladakh is the highest plateau of the Indian state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[7] It spans the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the east, and Nubra valley to the north over Khardung La in the Ladakh mountain range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans–Kunlun territory of East Turkistan in Central Asia on the other side of the Kunlun range across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Running southwest to northeast, the Altyn Tagh converges with the Kunlun range in Kashmir which runs southeast to northwest forming a "V" shape which converges at Pulu. The geographical divide between Ladakh in the highlands of Kashmir and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the vicinity of Pulu and continues southwards along the intricate maze of ridges situated east of Rudok, wherein are situated Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri and culminates in the vicinity of Mayum La.

Before partition, Baltistan (now under Pakistani control) was a district in Ladakh. Skardu was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over a period of 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[θ][18] The peaks in the Ladakh range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft), and increase towards south-east, reaching a climax in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

The Suru and Zangskar valleys form a great trough enclosed by the Himalayas and the Zangskar range. Rangdum is the highest inhabited region in the Suru valley, after which the valley rises to 4,400 m (14,436 ft) at Pensi-la, the gateway to Zangskar. Kargil, the only town in the Suru valley, is the second most important town in Ladakh. It was an important staging post on the routes of the trade caravans before 1947, being more or less equidistant, at about 230 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu, and Padum. The Zangskar valley lies in the troughs of the Stod and the Lungnak rivers. The region experiences heavy snowfall; the Pensi-la is open only between June and mid-October. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus river is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo, and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are situated close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh is the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, which still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram range to the east. At 70 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col (pass) on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,875 ft) at its snout. The passes and some dominating heights on the Saltoro ridge, which has a crestline having heights from 5,450 to 7,720 m (17,880 to 25,330 feet) are occupied by troops on both sides.

Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).

Monthly average temperature in Leh

The Ladakh range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (19,700 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,400 ft). The Pangong range runs parallel to the Ladakh range about 100 km northwest from Chushul, along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest range is 6,700 m (22,000 ft), and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas group (highest point 7,245 m, 23,770 ft), the Rimo group (highest point 7,385 m, 24,230 ft) and the Teram Kangri group (highest point 7,464 m, 24,488 ft), together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m, 24691 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,751 m, 25,430 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia, there is a triple barrier — Ladakh range, Karakoram range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding of the Indus river in the region has been attributed either to abnormal rain patterns, or the retreating of glaciers, both of which might be linked to global warming.[19] The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the 'Glacier Man', currently creates artificial glaciers as one solution for this problem.[20] [21]

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain virtually cut off from the rest of the country for several months in the year. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops in the lower reaches of the Suru valley. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from -3 to 30  °C in summer and from -20 to 15 °C in winter.[22] There is little moisture to temper the effects of rarefied air. Ladakh lies in the Very High Damage Risk cyclone zone.[23]

Flora and fauna

Yaks In Ladakh

The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s. Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[24]

The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the Black Redstart), and the Hoopoe are common in summer. The Brown-headed Gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the Brahminy duck also known as the Ruddy Sheldrake and the Bar-headed Goose. The Black-necked Crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the Raven, Red-billed Chough, Tibetan Snowcock, and Chukar. The Lammergeier and the Golden Eagle are common raptors here.

The endangered Black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Bharal or "blue sheep" is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region. However it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas.[25]. The Asiatic Ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened[26]. The Ladakh Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is however declining, and presently there are not more 3000 individuals left in Ladakh[27]. Urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by the animal. The population of this animal declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators.[28]. The endangered Tibetan Antelope, (Commonly known as chiru, or Ladakhi tsos) has traditionally been hunted for its wool, shahtoosh, which is the finest natural fiber and thus valued for its light weight and warmth status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan Gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet[29].

The Kiang, or Tibetan Wild Ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who held the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation [30]. There are about 200 Snow Leopards in Ladakh (of an estimated 7,000 worldwide). The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is especially a good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar [31]. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan Wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators [32]. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan Sand Fox has recently been discovered in this region [33]. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common [34].

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on August 28, 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on September 3, 1995. Kargil followed Leh's footsteps in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council - Kargil was established.[35] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the Block Headquarters in the presence of the Chief Executive Councilor and Executive Councilors.[36] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The current MP from Ladakh in the [current Lok Sabha] is Ghulam Hassan Khan of the National Conference (NC).[citation needed]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to get politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question into fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh.[citation needed] In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992. The Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF), which controls the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council - Leh, demands union territory status for Ladakh. The LUTF demands union territory status for Ladakh. A consortium of political parties formed in 2002 decided that a regional party shall be formed under a single flag and carry on with the struggle for the Union territory status for Ladakh. Things changed when few of the nominated candidates shifted sides and joined national and Kashmiri parties. Since then the political scene in Ladakh has been uncertain. While LUTF demands for the Union territory status of just the Leh district, the general consensus among the people in Kargil and Ladakh is that these districts be included in the demand for the Union Territory status. This Party lost its image after it indulged into narrowminded politics and also led to the suspension of prestigious educational movements like the Opreation New Hope, implemented jointly by Students' Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).[citation needed]


Market in Leh

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas, and keeping livestock, especially yak, cows, dzos (yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats. At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (10,000 to 14,000 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are scarce and water is in short supply. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment. The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.[7]

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items. Two items for export are apricots and pashmina. Currently, the largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as in the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal. Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.[7]

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan. A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.[9][37]

Leh Bazaar prior to 1871

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.[9] Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, tourism industry, and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking. This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[37] Today, about 30,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Manali to Ladakh, the Nubra valley, the Indus valley etc.


A vehicle on the Himalaya Highway 3

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[38] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[6] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter, or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border has been sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but as with the previous case, there is currently no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m, 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m, 9,022 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m, 12,140 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m, 13,450 ft.) This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. However, with the rise of militancy in Kashmir, the main corridor to the area has shifted from the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh route via Zoji la to the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m, 13,050 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m, 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m, 16,600 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m, 17,470 ft), and the More plains, and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.

Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh

Buses run from Leh to the surrounding villages. The Manali-Leh-Srinagar road makes up about half of the road network, the remainder being spurs off it. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which, even today provides the only link to most of the valleys, villages and high pastures. 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 one to string together routes that have road access often enough to restock supplies, but avoid walking on motor roads almost entirely.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi on Jet Airways, Air Deccan, and Indian, and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport.[39]


A Ladakhi woman in a traditional dress and hat

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different races, predominantly the Tibetans, Mons and the Dards. People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of Dha-Hanu, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards around Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh. They work as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters.

Unlike the rest of Jammu and Kashmir which is mainly Islamic, most Ladakhis in Leh District as well as Zangskar Valley of Kargil District are Tibetan Buddhist, while most of the people in the rest of Kargil District are Shia Muslims. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Shia Muslims in Leh District. There are some Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns, and also Padum in Zangskar. There are a few families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. Among descendants of immigrants, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism. There also a small number of followers of the Bon religion. Most Buddhists follow the tantric form of Buddhism known as Vajrayana Buddhism. Shias are mostly found among the Balti and Burig people. Ladakhis are generally of Tibetan descent with some Dardic and Mon admixture. The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Chang Thang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. Muslim Arghons, descendants of Kashmiri or Central Asian merchants and Ladakhi women, mainly live in Leh and Kargil towns. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language, and were Buddhists until the last few hundred years.

According to the 2001 population census of India, 47.4% of the population is Buddhist, 45.9% Muslim, 6.2% Hindu and 0.5% others. The regions population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. Leh is 77% Buddhist and Kargil is 80% Muslim.

A local woman, Ladakh

The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan dialect. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi/Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the racial composition as well as the language of Leh is enriched with foreign influences. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but recently a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English, although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past and has been decreasing since the 1980s.

The Total Birth Rate in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The Total Death Rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.[40]

School children performing a traditional dance
Population of Leh and Kargil districts
Year[ιζ] Leh District Kargil District
population percent of change females per 1000 males population percent of change females per 1000 males
1951 40,484 1011 41,856 970
1961 43,587 0.74 1010 45,064 0.74 935
1971 51,891 1.76 1002 53,400 1.71 949
1981 68,380 2.80 886 65,992 2.14 853
2001 117,637 2.75 805 115,287 2.83 901

The sex ratio for Leh district has declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district, it has declined from 970 to 901.[38] The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of (mostly male) seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages.[41] The average annual population growth rate from 1981–2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.[38]


Chorten in Ladakh

Ladakhi culture is similar to Tibetan culture. Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa, noodle soup; and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe, roasted barley flour. Eatable without cooking, tsampa 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 cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. Like in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt; it is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most surplus barley produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.[42]

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences, and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa (including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas). Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood, but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes.

The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit, as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former.[43] Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms.[44] Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots, and hats. The Ladakh Festival is held every year from 1st to September 15. Performers adorned with gold and silver ornaments and turquoise headgear throng the streets. Monks wear colourful masks and dance to the rhythm of cymbals, flutes and trumpets. The Yak, Lion and Tashispa dances depict the many legends and fables of Ladakh. Buddhist monasteries sporting prayer flags, display of 'thankas', archery competitions, a mock marriage, and horse-polo are the some highlights of this festival.[45]

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice in January. Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shenai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid-17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess.[46]

A feature of Ladakhi society that distinguishes it from the rest of the state is the high status and relative emancipation enjoyed by women compared to other rural parts of India. Fraternal polyandry and inheritance by primogeniture were common in Ladakh until the early 1940s when these were made illegal by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, although they still exist in some areas. Another custom was known as khang-bu, or 'little house', in which the elders of a family, as soon as the eldest son has sufficiently matured, retire from participation in affairs, and taking only enough of the property for their own sustenance, yield the headship of the family to him.[7]

Our Christian evangelist at Khalatse had become a father a few weeks before, and the people of the village had made presents of "flour-ibex" to him and his wife. He gave me one of those figures, which are made of flour and butter, and told me that it was a custom in Tibet and Ladakh, to make presents of "flour-ibex" on the occasion of the birth of a child. This is quite interesting information. I had often wondered why there were so many rock carvings of ibex at places connected with the pre-Buddhist religion of Ladakh. Now it appears probable that they are thank offerings after the birth of children. As I have tried to show in my previous article, people used to go to the pre-Buddhist places of worship, in particular, to pray to be blessed with children.

Tibetan medicine has been the traditional health system of Ladakh for over a thousand years. This school of traditional healing contains elements of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, combined with the philosophy and cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism. For centuries, the only medical system which was accessible to the people have been the 'amchi' who are traditional doctors following the Tibetan medical tradition. 'Amchi' medicine is still an important component of public health to this day, especially in remote areas.[48]

A number of programmes by the government, local and international organisations are underway to develop and rejuvenate this traditional system of healing.[48][49] Efforts are on to preserve the intellectual property rights of 'amchi' medicine for the people of Ladakh. Government has also been trying to promote the Seabuckthorn in form of juice and jam, as it is believed to possess many medicinal properties. It is also seen as a means of providing employment to the various self help groups in rural Ladakh.

There are many [NGO s][11] which are actively working to improve the life in Ladakh like [LEDeG][12], [Leho][13], [Leh Nutrition project][14], Women's alliance etc. [LEDeG][15] has been working actively since 1971 by installing Hydraulic rams to improve the water supply in the region. It has also been successful in setting up hydro power projects in the otherwise energy starved region.


According to the 2001 census, the overall literacy rate in Leh District is 62% (72% for males and 50% for females), and 58% in Kargil District (74% for males and 41% for females).[50] Traditionally there was little or nothing by way of formal education except in the monasteries. Usually, one son from every family was obliged to master the Tibetan script in order to read the holy books.[7]

The Moravian Mission opened a school in Leh in October 1889, and the Wazir-i Wazarat[ιε] (ex officio Joint Commissioner with a British officer) of Baltistan and Ladakh ordered that every family with more than one child should send one of them to school. This order met with great resistance from the local people who feared that the children would be forced to convert to Christianity. The school taught Tibetan, Urdu, English, Geography, Sciences, Nature study, Arithmetic, Geometry and Bible study.[10] The school is still in existence today. The first local school to provide western education was opened by a local Society called "Lamdon Social Welfare Society" in 1973. Later with support from HH Dalai Lama, and some international organisations, the school has grown to accommodate approximately two thousand pupils in several branches. The school prides itself in preserving Ladakhi tradition and culture.[51] The Druk White Lotus School, under the guidance of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual head of the Drukpa Order (the dominant Buddhist sect in Ladakh and traditionally, the state religion of Ladakh) located in Shey is another school which aims at helping to maintain the cultural traditions of Ladakh with its Missionary approach to teaching.

Schools are well distributed throughout Ladakh, but 75% of them provide only primary education. 65% of the children attend school, but absenteeism of both students and teachers remains high. In both districts the failure rate at school-leaving level (class X) had for many years been around 85–95%, while of those managing to scrape through, barely half succeeded in qualifying for college entrance (class XII.) Before 1993, students were taught in Urdu until they were 14, after which the medium of instruction shifted to English.

In 1994 the Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) launched 'Operation New Hope' (ONH), a campaign to provide 'culturally appropriate and locally relevant education' and make government schools more functional and effective.[52] The ONH works with the government, the NGOs, the teachers and the village communities. By 2001, ONH principles were being implemented in all the government schools of Leh District, and the matriculation exam pass rate had risen to 50%. A government degree college has been opened in Leh, enabling students to pursue higher education without having to leave Ladakh.[53]


  • The Kargil Number is a local newspaper of Ladakh which is readily available from newspaper shops.
  • Daily updated news of Ladakh can be accessed on


β^ This excludes Aksai Chin (37,555 km²), under Chinese administration.
γ^ He mentions twice a people called Dadikai, first along with the Gandarioi, and again in the catalogue of king Xerxes's army invading Greece. Herodotus also mentions the gold-digging ants of Central Asia.
δ^ In the 1st century, Pliny repeats that the Dards were great producers of gold.
ε^ Ptolemy situates the Daradrai on the upper reaches of the Indus
στ^ See Petech, Luciano. The Kingdom of Ladakh c. 950–1842 A.D., Istituto Italiano per il media ed Estremo Oriente, 1977. Hsuan-tsang describes a journey from Ch'u-lu-to (Kuluta, Kullu) to Lo-hu-lo (Lahul), then goes on saying that "from there to the north, for over 2000 li, the road is very difficult, with cold wind and flying snow"; thus one arrives in the kingdom of Mo-lo-so, or Mar-sa, synonymous with Mar-yul, a common name for Ladakh. Elsewhere, the text remarks that Mo-lo-so, also called San-po-ho borders with Suvarnagotra or Suvarnabhumi (Land of Gold), identical with the Kingdom of Women (Strirajya). According to Tucci, the Zan-zun kingdom, or at least its southern districts were known by this name by the 7th century Indians.
θ^ The Leh district is placed in Zone V, while the Kargil district is placed in Zone IV on the earthquake hazard scale
ια^ Early in the 20th century the chiru was seen in herds numbering in the thousands, surviving on remarkably sparse vegetation, they are very rare now.
ιζ^ Census was not carried out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1991 due to militancy

See also

This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.


Carved stone tablets, each with the inscription "Om Mani Padme Hum" along the paths of Zanskar
  1. ^ "Census 2001". Roof of the World. Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh. 2001. Retrieved 2006-08-23. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Wiley, AS (2001). "The ecology of low natural fertility in Ladakh". Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University (SUNY) 13902–6000, USA, PubMed publication. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 
  4. ^ Jina, Prem Singh (1996). Ladakh: The Land and the People. Indus Publishing. ISBN 8173870578. 
  5. ^ Francke(1926) Vol. I, p. 93, notes.
  6. ^ a b Rizvi, Janet (2001). Trans-Himalayan Caravans – Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh. Oxford India Paperbacks. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Rizvi, Janet (1996). Ladakh - Crossroads of High Asia. Oxford University Press. 
  8. ^ "Kargil Council For Greater Ladakh". The Statesman, August 9, 2003. 2003. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Loram, Charlie (2004) [2000]. Trekking in Ladakh (2nd Edition ed.). Trailblazer Publications. 
  10. ^ a b Ray, John (2005). Ladakhi Histories - Local and Regional Perspectives. Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. 
  11. ^ a b Petech, Luciano (1977). The Kingdom of Ladakh c. 950–1842 A.D.. Istituto Italiano per il media ed Estremo Oriente. 
  12. ^ See the following studies (1). Halkias, T. Georgios(2009) "Until the Feathers of the Winged Black Raven Turn White: Sources for the Tibet-Bashahr Treaty of 1679-1684," In Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques, ed. John Bray. Supplement to Rivista Orientali, pp. 59-79; (2). Emmer, Gerhard(2007) "Dga' ldan tshe dbang dpal bzang po and the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War of 1679-84," in The Mongolia-Tibet Interface. Opening new Research Terrains in Inner Asia, eds. Uradyn Bulag, Hildegard Diemberger, Leiden, Brill, pp. 81-107; (3). Ahmad, Zahiruddin (1968) "New Light on the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War of 1679-84." « East and West » XVIII, 3, pp. 340-361; (4) Petech, Luciano(1947) "The Tibet-Ladakhi Moghul War of 1681-83." « The Indian Historical Quarterly», XXIII, 3, pp. 169-199.
  13. ^ See Islam-Tibet, Cultural Interactions (8th-17th centuries) [2]
  14. ^ Menon, P.M> & Proudfoot, C.L., The Madras Sappers, 1947-1980, 1989, Thomson Press, Faridabad, India.
  15. ^ Bammi, Y.M., Kargil 1999 - the impregnable conquered. (2002) Natraj Publishers, Dehradun.
  16. ^ See
  17. ^ "Indians have been able to hold on to the tactical advantage of the high ground. Most of India's many outposts are west of the (Siachen) Glacier along the Saltoro Range. Bearak, Barry (May 23, 1999). "THE COLDEST WAR; Frozen in Fury on the Roof of the World". The New York Times.,%201999%22%20%22Roof%20of%20the%20World%22&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  18. ^ "Hazard profiles of Indian districts" (PDF). United Nations Development Program. 2003. Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 
  19. ^ Strzepek, Kenneth M.; Joel B. Smith (1995). As Climate Changes: International Impacts and Implications. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521467969. 
  20. ^ OneWorld South Asia - Glacier man Chewang Norphel brings water to Ladakh
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^ "Climate in Ladakh". Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  23. ^ "Hazard profiles of Indian districts" (PDF). United Nations Development Program. 1999. Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  24. ^ "Flora and fauna of Ladakh". India Travel Agents. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  25. ^ Namgail, T., Fox, J.L. & Bhatnagar, Y.V. (2004). Habitat segregation between sympatric Tibetan argali Ovis ammon hodgsoni and blue sheep Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Journal of Zoology (London), 262: 57-63[4]
  26. ^ Namgail, T. (2006). Winter Habitat Partitioning between Asiatic Ibex and Blue Sheep in Ladakh, Northern India. Journal of Mountain Ecology, 8: 7-13.[5]
  27. ^ Namgail, T. (2006). Trans-Himalayan large herbivores: status, conservation and niche relationships. Report submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx Zoo, New York.
  28. ^ Namgail, T., Fox, J.L. & Bhatnagar, Y.V. (2007). Habitat shift and time budget of the Tibetan argali: the influence of livestock grazing. Ecological Research, 22: 25-31.[6]
  29. ^ Namgail, T., Bagchi, S., Mishra, C. and Bhatnagar, Y.V. (2008). Distributional correlates of the Tibetan gazelle in northern India: Towards a recovery programme. Oryx, 42: 107-112.[7]
  30. ^ Bhatnagar, Y. V., Wangchuk, R., Prins, H. H., van Wieren, S. E. & Mishra, C. (2006) Perceived conflicts between pastoralism and conservation of the Kiang Equus kiang in the Ladakh Trans- Himalaya. Environmental Management, 38, 934-941.
  31. ^ Namgail, T. (2004). Eurasian lynx in Ladakh. Cat News, 40: 21-22.
  32. ^ Namgail, T., Fox, J.L. & Bhatnagar, Y.V. (2007). Carnivore-caused livestock mortality in Trans-Himalaya. Environmental Management, 39: 490-496.[8]
  33. ^ Namgail, T., Bagchi, S., Bhatnagar, Y.V. & Wangchuk, R. (2005). Occurrence of the Tibetan sand fox Vulpes ferrilata Hodgson in Ladakh: A new record for the Indian sub-Continent. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 102: 217-219.
  34. ^ Bagchi, S., Namgail, T. & Ritchie, M.E. (2006). Small mammalian herbivores as mediators of plant community dynamics in the high-altitude arid rangelands of Trans-Himalayas. Biological Conservation, 127: 438-442.[9]
  35. ^ "Official website of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil". Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  36. ^ "India". Allrefer country study guide. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  37. ^ a b Weare, Garry (2002). Trekking in the Indian Himalaya (4th ed.). Lonely Planet. 
  38. ^ a b c "State Development Report—Jammu and Kashmir, Chapter 3A" (PDF). Planning Commission of India. 2001. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  39. ^ [10]
  40. ^ Anth-SI-01-02-Bhasin-V.p65
  41. ^ "Rural population". Education for all in India. 1999. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  42. ^ Norberg-Hodge, Helena (2000). Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Oxford India Paperbacks. 
  43. ^ "Masks: Reflections of Culture and Religion". Dolls of India. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  44. ^ "Living Fabric: Weaving Among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalaya". Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  45. ^ Jina, Prem Singh (1994). Tourism in Ladakh Himalaya. Indus Publishing. ISBN 8173870047. 
  46. ^ "Ladakh culture". Jammu and Kashmir Tourism. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  47. ^ Francke (1914), pp. 95-96.
  48. ^ a b project on medicinal plants of importance to amchi medicine
  49. ^ A government of India project in support of 'amchi' medicine
  50. ^ "District-specific Literates and Literacy Rates". Education for all website. 2001. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  51. ^ Brochure on Lamdon school.
  52. ^ Justin Shilad (2007-09). "Education Reform, Interrupted". Himal Southasian. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  53. ^ "Education in Ladakh". Visit Ladakh Travel. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 

Further reading

  • Allan, Nigel J. R. 1995 Karakorum Himalaya: Sourcebook for a Protected Area. IUCN. ISBN 969-8141-13-8 PDF
  • Cunningham, Alexander. 1854. Ladak: Physical, Statistical, and Historical; with notices of the surrounding countries. Reprint: Sagar Publications, New Delhi. 1977.
  • Drew, Federic. 1877. The Northern Barrier of India: a popular account of the Jammoo and Kashmir Territories with Illustrations. 1st edition: Edward Stanford, London. Reprint: Light & Life Publishers, Jammu. 1971.
  • Francke, A. H. 1920, 1926. Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Vol. 1: Personal Narrative; Vol. 2: The Chronicles of Ladak and Minor Chronicles, texts and translations, with Notes and Maps. Reprint 1972. S. Chand & Co., New Delhi. ([16])
  • Gillespie, A. (2007). Time, Self and the Other: The striving tourist in Ladakh, north India [17]. In Livia Simao and Jaan Valsiner (eds) Otherness in question: Development of the self. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
  • Gillespie, A. (2007). In the other we trust: Buying souvenirs in Ladakh, north India [18]. In Ivana Marková and Alex Gillespie (Eds.), Trust and distrust: Sociocultural perspectives. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
  • Gordon, T. E. 1876. The Roof of the World: Being the Narrative of a Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian Frontier and the Oxus sources on Pamir. Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint: Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company. Tapei. 1971.
  • Harvey, Andrew. 1983. A Journey in Ladakh. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
  • Knight, E. F. 1893. Where Three Empires Meet: A Narrative of Recent Travel in: Kashmir, Western Tibet, Gilgit, and the adjoining countries. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. Reprint: Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company, Taipei. 1971.
  • Moorcroft, William and Trebeck, George. 1841. Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara... from 1819 to 1825, Vol. II. Reprint: New Delhi, Sagar Publications, 1971.
  • Norberg-Hodge, Helena. 2000. Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. Rider Books, London.
  • Peissel, Michel. 1984. The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas. Harvill Press, London.
  • Rizvi, Janet. 1998. Ladakh, Crossroads of High Asia. Oxford University Press. 1st edition 1963. 2nd revised edition 1996. 3rd impression 2001. ISBN 019 564546 4.
  • Trekking in Zanskar & Ladakh: Nubra Valley, Tso Moriri & Pangong Lake, Step By step Details of Every Trek: a Most Authentic & Colourful Trekkers' guide with maps 2001–2002 [19]


  • Francke, A. H. (1914, 1926). Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Two Volumes. Calcutta. 1972 reprint: S. Chand, New Delhi.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers.
The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers.

Ladakh is a mountainous region in Jammu and Kashmir, northwest 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 culture.

  • Leh - The capital of Ladakh, a medium sized town, not many "sites", but very picturesque and makes an excellent base for exploring Ladakh - good guest houses and restaurants.
  • Choglamsar - A village with a large Tibetan comunity, almost close enough to Leh to be a suburb.
  • Kargil - Ladakh's second town has very much things intresting for tourists.a budha statue erected at mulbekh,another one at sankoo are the ones worthy wathching.kargil provides excellant sites for treking ang mountaineering like the nun kun massif , also there is large scope for river rafting in zanskar region op kargil district.kargil is known all over india for its rich apricot orchards,during summer the entire valley changes into beautiful orange colour.this region has very seren environment. For tourists, it is an important transit hub. It is also noteworthy to know that it is the only Muslim majority area and one of two districts of the Ladakh division in India.
  • Turtuk - A remote village, part of kargil district inhabited by ethnic Muslims on the 'line of control' between Pakistan and Tibet. Once a part of Baltistan, shared strong economic and cultural ties with Tibet.

Ladakh is unique in India.

Ladakh was an independent kingdom for nine centuries, but it was very strongly influenced by Tibet and the neighbouring Muslim lands. 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 and Tibet.

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 tourists.


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 America.


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 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 also help.

Other cats in Ladakh are even rarer than the Snow leopard, if not as impressive, the 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

Small Animals

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.

Further Reading

Leh's many excellent bookshops offer a wide variety of books on Ladakh, Buddhism and Islamic history; general reading. They are well worth visiting, and have many titles not available outside India. Some recommended titles on Ladakh are:

Ladakh, Crossroads of High Asia: Janet Rizvi, an entirely enjoyable, meticulously researched overview of Ladakhi Culture, History, economy and Geography. It never lets its precision and accuracy get in the way of its approachability and personalness.

Ancient Futures: Helena Norberg-Hodge, A passionate explanation of, and plea for, the preservation of the traditional values of Ladakh. A remarkable work despite its occasional lack of balance, it is an influential book and a must read for all visitors to Ladakh.


The language of Ladakh is Ladakhi a Tibetan dialect that is different enough from Tibetan that Ladakhis and Tibetans often speak Urdu or English when they need to communicate.

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.

Get in

Buses run directly to Leh from either Manali or Srinagar. The sensible choice from Manali is to take the bus that goes as directly as possible as there are few sites worth visiting until near Leh. 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 in the night. Buses, however, stop overnight in Sarchu. Coming from Srinagar there are a few interesting places to stop on route (Lamayuru and Alchi that offer accommodation). Status of both roads can be checked anytime at the official Leh website

Daily flights to Leh are run by Indian, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Red 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 motorcyle too.

Bikers usually follow either of the 2 routes

1. Delhi -> Chandigarh -> Patni Top -> Srinagar -> Kargil -> Leh

2. Delhi -> Chandigarh -> Manali -> Sarchu -> Pang -> Leh

Get around

By bus

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. Download bus timing and fair Bus Timing and Fair

By taxi

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.

By truck

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.

By motorcycle

In Leh there are a number of shops that will rent motorbikes, mostly the world famous Royal Enfield 1948 model, 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 certainly 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. Also be careful though, this are mountain roads and will surely encounter a great number of Indian army vehicles to and fro.

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.

By bicycle

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-Srinagar road 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.

By foot

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 petrol pumps).

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 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 highway;

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 roundtrip out of Ladakh.

1.) Leh-Karu-Chang La-Tangtse-Pangong Tso & Back: This is a pouplar trip to Pangong 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 by the evening. However, there are arrangements for 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 second favourite to 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 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 found 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 bring to the public or displayed to the public only once in 11 years of 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. Padum has 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.

Zanskar Valley: Zanskar is one of the remotest regions of the Ladakh. Zanskar is 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 rain fall is very less and the climates is 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 to the south east part of the Leh, 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 2011.
  • 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.
  • Zanskar Trek


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 use.
  • 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. This map was also known under the name of Olizane map until recently but is now more edited, replaced by the new "Ladakh Zanskar Trekking Map Series" of the Editions Olizane (see below).
  • 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, and looks like it could be an excellent topographic map, with lots of detail (accuracy to be confirmed).


Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being: Thukpa, noodle soup; and Tsumpa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe, 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 with veggies even in villages without road access, and it's standard in Leh.

  • 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 to sake.
  • Kargil Number is one of the local news paper of Ladakh which is easily available from news paper shop.

Stay safe

Ladakh is one of the safest parts of India, and the most basic precautions are enough to keep you and your possessions safe.

Stay healthy

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 and of dehydration due to altitude.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Simple English

Ladakh (ལ་དྭགས་, IPA: [lad̪ɑks]; लद्दाख़, لدّاخ, ləˈdaːx; "land of high passes") is situated in the disputed territory, that is currently an Indian organized state of Jammu and Kashmir between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south. Ladakh is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and ethnic Ladakhis closely related to the Tibetan heritage,[1]. It is one of the least populated regions in the area. Ladakh has an infant mortality rate of 19%.[2]


  1. Jina, Prem Singh (1996). Ladakh: The Land and the People. Indus Publishing. ISBN 8173870578. 
  2. Wiley, AS (2001). "The ecology of low natural fertility in Ladakh". Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University (SUNY) 13902–6000, USA, PubMed publication. Retrieved 2006-08-22. 


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