Approaching Ladakh from Himachal Pradesh over the Rohtang Pass transforms one's image of the Himalaya. Bare-rocked deserts, a stark landscape, eroded gorges and pinnacles twisted into startling shapes by wind & water, endless snow and majestic mountains. The layers of tortured rock are reminding that it is here where the Indian sub-continent folds up against the heart of Asia.
Lakes, rivers and passes at incredible heights. The
state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) consists of Jammu, Kashmir and
Ladakh as separate entities. Ladakh, the land of the high passes, separates
the West Himalaya from the Tibetian plateau. The Indus Valley with its
white-washed monasteries is often called 'Little Tibet' for its cultural
similarities with nearby Tibet. Ladakh, once known as the end
of the habitable world, saw the first car in 1948. It was an
army jeep, carried in by plane. The animals were so scared that they used
to run for their life when spotting the vehicle. Until the late sixties
only Indian Air Force planes carried travelers to Ladakh, strapped to
benches and equipped with parachutes. It was in 1974 when the region opened
up to tourism.
Central Ladakh along the Indus Valley consists of villages along the river Indus or at the rivermouth's and streams falling into it. A lot of well preserved and famous gompas (monasteries) include Lamayuru, Alchi, Likir, Spituk, Leh, Shey, Thiksey and Hemis. In summer, between June and September, many festivals are held in this region. Ladakh is almost the 'roof of the world' at an altitude around 3500m, surrounded by peaks beyond 7000m. Here is the sandy desert full of granite-dust which you will know instantly after arrival. This arid land with its mountain wilderness, blue skies and dramatic contrasts has attracted, fascinated and overpowered many travelers from all over the world.
Which its rich cultural heritage and strategic position, Ladakh enjoys a unique importance in India. In no other place in the country Buddhism exists in its pure and undistorted form as here. Devoted to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, the friendly and hospitable Ladakhis have for centuries successfully strived to live in peace. If you leave Leh and visit the numerous small villages along the Indus' you encounter that the peoples daily life is ordered by religious belief. Prayer wheels turn without ceasing in the hands of the market-people while prayer flags wave from the roofs of the houses and the summits of the mountain passes. Prayer lamps burn everywhere. In the houses of the noble and the tent of the nomad. In most of the families at least one of the sons is dedicated to the cloister in reverence for the Church and to give a child a good start in life. Rarely anybody doubts the truth of Buddha's teachings.