Leh and its surroundings : the Indus Valley
Leh and its neighbourhood could be summarized by Ladakh’s most important monasteries namely Phyang, Tikse, Stakna, Matho, as well as some of the biggest palaces and forts like the Leh Palace and other palaces of Stok and Shey. As this region is predominated with Buddhism, one can witness its big Buddhist festivals in winter as well as in summer.
The density of population in Leh is more important than other regions of Ladakh and the medium altitude of 3500m. The Indus River and its major tributaries allow people to have different type of farming along the valley.
The Sham region is reputed for the beautiful contrast between its green oasis, the magnificent fields of barley and almond trees, and the spectacular barren landscapes of multicolored rocks. A valley which is rich in culture and tradition, provides a base to several renowned and exotic monasteries namely Likir, Temisgam, Rizong etc. which are worth visiting.
This particular region not far away from the Indus Valley is therefore easily reachable from Leh. This area not only gives you the idéal opportunity to get introduced to the Ladakhi culture but also discover its traditions, the Buddhist culture and the simple living of village and monastery life.
The trek routes of this region are accessible to a large number of persons. In case you have little time to discover Ladakh, but you wish to experience the uniqueness of rich Ladakhi culture, Sham Valley has to be your destination!
Changtang / Rupshu
At the east of the route that links Leh and Manali, on southeastern Ladakh, lays the vast and spectacular highlands of Rupshu. This area is geographically part of Eastern Tibetan Plateau, The Changtang.
The valleys of Changtang/Rupshu are situated between 4000-5000m of altitude and the climate is cold and unpredictable. Because of its harsh temperature, a vast majority of land is too inhospitable for farming, but the region has several natural grasslands and a wide variety of more than 200 species of wild plants that grow in the higher pastures of this area.
In this sparsely populated region, one can meet the nomads of Changtang called the ‘Changpas’. Since the economy of their region is based around the livestock, these nomads move along with their flocks of goats, sheeps, dzos, and yaks that constitute their major source of income.
During the course of your trek, you’ll pass by the breathtaking crystal clear and deep blue color of the Tso Kar and the Tso Moriri Lakes. When you are in Changtang, you can decide to reach the Spiti, northern region of Himachal Pradesh, via the Parang La pass.
The Markha valley is famous for its beautiful, wild and barren landscapes. Gigantic rock and snow capped mountains too add to the large diversity of landscapes that changes from its scenic barren region to its green oasis.
Treks in the Markha valley are relatively easy however be prepared to overcome obstacles like crossing bridges, ford streams and mountain passes at high altitudes.
You’re going to discover numerous villages during your trek and you will completely soak into the Ladakhi culture with the breathtaking background of the mystic peaks of Stok Kangari and Kang Yatse.
Located between the high peaked Himalayas and the Indus Valley lies the region of Zanskar that offers outstanding and very scenic landscapes.
This region nestled at about 4000 meters high, has many trekking paths that lead you to secluded areas of the world. The most legendary trek of Ladakh-Zanskar, called the Great Trek of Zanskar, joins Darcha from Lamayuru through many mountain passes, villages and monasteries, and the famous plain of Padum, the capital of Zanskar.
Zanskar is known as one of the most isolated regions in the world, especially in winter. In this season the only way to reach Leh is via the frozen Zankar River, which is also known as Chadar. For the more adventurous, the trek on the frozen river is an unforgettable, unique and amazing experience.
Located on the north side of the Ladakh chain, Nubra is drained both by the Shyok and the Tseyatchen rivers. You will have to go through very high passes and desert to access it, including the famous Khardung La at 5600 m, the highest motorable pass in the world. This destination is made for the most reckless but is really worth it.
The climate of the Nubra valley allows farming (an average altitude of 3000 m).
The exploration of this valley is captivating especially for its Buddhist traditions and the many monasteries that you will find (Diskit, Hundar, Sumur and Tigger), but also for its desert landscape with many dunes, reminiscent of the landscapes of central Asia. It really reminds the peaks of the Karakoram chain nearby. The Nubra is a good alternative to the more touristic Indus Valley.
Nubra is one of the oldest portions of the legendary Silk Road. Until the mid-twentieth century, numerous caravans joined Kashgar (Chinese Turkestan) from Leh to the Nubra valley and then by a succession of passes, some of them at more than 5000 m high, that explains why you will see the camels of Bactria.
Although crossed by many rivers, this region of Himachal Pradesh is mostly desert and is one of the least populated destinations of India.
Surrounded by high mountains, Spiti lies on the border with Tibet and offers an unusual mineral universe. Originally from Tibet, the people are definitely friendly and will share their daily life and traditions with you.
Buddhist culture of Spiti is very similar from the Ladakh and Tibet ones; you can visit the monasteries, some of which are among the oldest of the Tibetan world, such as that of Tabo.
Very landlocked, Spiti is still not really touristic which allowed Spitians to keep their traditions almost intact until today. Our trek through the valley of Spiti : Easy / moderate treks