LADAKH - THE INDIAN HIMALAYA
Sandwiched between the vast ranges of the Karakorum and the Himalaya in the far north of India is the highest, least populated, most remote and most beautiful region in the whole country. Lying in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, Ladakh is an ideal summer destination that enjoys plenty of sunshine. To Exodus Leader Valerie Parkinson, it is the most wonderful place on earth and the world’s best adventure travel destination. Here she takes us on a ‘virtual tour’ of some of her favourite places.
Ladakh has an inherent beauty made up of multi-coloured landscapes, chaotic ridges, azure blue lakes, snow-capped peaks, deep gorges and the vibrant green oases of the villages. Remote Tibetan Buddhist monasteries dot the hillsides, there are wild trekking routes and spectacular drives; Ladakh really has something for everyone.
Most Exodus trips to Ladakh begin with a spectacular flight over the Indian Himalaya to Leh, the capital. At 3,500m, everyone needs get used to the altitude. Acclimatisation time is used to explore the spectacular hilltop monasteries, try rafting, go cycling or visit the Khardung La by Jeep; at 5600m it is reputedly the highest road pass in the world.
Our Ladakh trekking holidays take you through spectacular mountain ranges that have remained relatively unexplored by outsiders. All treks are fully supported camping trips. Many of our Nepali Sherpas can be found working in Ladakh in the summer and the service is operated to the same standard that you find in Nepal.
From the easier Markha Valley Trek, which explores villages and valleys around Leh to the ascent of Stok Kangri – one of the technically easier 6,000m peaks in the world – there is something for all abilities. If you really want a challenge the Grand Traverse of the Indian Himalaya takes you across many high passes to remote high latitude lakes into Spiti. For those who prefer to cycle, the Manali to Leh Ride is a great challenge with no fewer than five spectacular passes across the Indian Himalaya. The trip is unparalleled for sheer scale and mountain beauty.
Ladakh is not only for trekkers; culturally akin to Tibet, the Buddhist culture and way of life is alive and kicking in this part of the world. Colourful masked dance festivals and some of the most spectacular roads in the world beckon the adventurous traveller. Our trip from Leh to Amritsar covers a whole host of cultures and scenery. From the barren mountains of Ladakh we drive across the Himalaya to the lush forests of Manali from where we visit Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama before finishing the trip at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar. You cannot fit much more into two weeks!
Although Ladakh is primarily a summer destination, few people realise that it is possible to go there in winter when very few other tourists are there. As temperatures plummet, it becomes cut off from the rest of the world. BUT this is the time when the elusive Snow Leopard descends to the valley floor in search of food.
The In Search of the Snow Leopard trip transports you to Ladakh in the height of winter. Wonderful walking, a visit to Matho festival to see the state oracle and the chance of spotting a Snow Leopard, this trip is a photographer and wildlife enthusiast’s delight. On the March 2011 departure, clients were lucky enough to get two sightings of Snow Leopard in the Tarbuns Valley; it is just another reason why I love coming here again and again.