Leh-Ladakh! The highest settlement in India in the northernmost state of Jammu And Kashmir is one scenic beauty that has been on every traveler's bucket list. The beauty of rugged Himalayas, mystifying lakes, charming monasteries and the aura of the festivities of the place is unmatched to any other in the country. The place has a lot to offer which increases by many folds the secrets and mysteries it holds. Not only is it the prime destination of the road trip, but in recent times has also become one of the most visited places in India.
Thus, a place as timeless as Ladakh is one such tourist destination in India that can be seen any number of times without getting bored. There's something new and amazing each time you visit here. So, if you are going to be a first-time traveller, have been to the place or it's on your bucket list, these 15 fascinating facts about the place will make Leh Ladakh even more captivating for you than it already is!
1. Prime Locations For Stargazing
Second Highest Optical Telescope In The World
Situated at an altitude of 4,500 meters, the Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle is the second-highest optical telescope in the world. Far away from the polluted urban cities and on such high altitude, the place had to be on top of the list of the best places for stargazing in India. The air is so dry and clear that the brightness of the Milky Way is spectacular. You could even photograph from the famous Pangong Lake and see the spectacular view in the reflection of the lake and in the brightest night sky lit solely by the light of stars. Tha village of Nubra is quite famous for the same too.
2. Cross Steep Bridges Over Cold Gushing River Water
The Highest Bridge In The World
Right between the Suru River and Dras River, the Bailey bridge was constructed in 1982 by the Indian Army in the rough Himalayan Ranges. This 30 meters long bridge is the highest bridge in the world at a height of 5,602 meters above sea level. It is a temporary bridge made up of lattice steel by prefabricated parts. Such bridges have great application in Military.
3. Difficult Yet Peaceful Living Arrangements
Highest Settlement In India
A large portion of the area between the Suru Valley and Zanskar Valley which is surrounded by the Himalayas and Zanskar Ranges is rough and largely inhabited. The main area that is inhabited is Rangdum. But after crossing Rangdum, at the height of 4,400 m at Pensi-la which is also the gateway to Zanskar, is India's Highest Settlement! A life at such a height has to be difficult and yet the most peaceful when amidst a beauty like Leh-Ladakh.
4. Agricultural Fields Far Above The World
Highest Fields In The World
While the highest settlement is at 4,400 m at Pensi-la, extremities are crossed further when it comes to agricultural fields. On the Tso Moriri Lake at Korzok where the altitude is 4,600 meters, you'll be witness to the highest fields in the world. One magnificent sight!
5. Unseen Captivating Wildlife
The rare twin humped camels
The Bactrian camel better known as the Two-Humped Camel is a large, even-toed ungulate native of the place. And Ladakh is the only place in India where twin humped camels are found. Their contrasting feature than the regular single-humped dromedary camels make them a major attraction in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh.
6. Blue Mystifying Grassland Lakes
Highest Saltwater Lake In The World
The blue and mystifying Pangong Lake gets its name from the Tibetian dictionary which translates to high grassland lake. Located at an altitude of 4,350 meters in the Himalayas, it is the world's highest saltwater lake. It is 162Kms long out of which 70% is in China and 30% is in India! This Enhorheic lake completely freezes in winters despite its salty water.
7. The Hill That Pulls Your Upwards
Mysterious Gravity Defying Illusions
The Magnetic Hill is a wide open stretch of a road, surrounded by tall and rocky mountains on the route from Leh to Kargil. If you want to believe that it is a mystery then try this - If you leave your car in neutral gear with the ignition turned off on the Magnetic Hill’s downward slope, it looks as if the car is going uphill. It's as if a very powerful magnetic device is pulling the vehicle uphill. Whereas the locals have an answer to it. The locals say that is just an optical illusion in a way that the path that looks like an uphill road is actually a slant running downhill, but due to the natural formation of the mountains, the horizon is distracted and our minds and eyes consider it to be an uphill stretched road.
8. A Desert With Soaring Wildlife
A Desert Which Is Home To Over 225 Species Of Birds
Ladakh is a cold desert that in the Great Himalayas with extremely low temperatures with very less vegetation. Most of Ladakh is brown and rugged which is very different from the usual hill stations that are always lush green. But even after being a dessert, Ladakh is home to over 225 Species of Birds. Some uncommon birds such as finches, robins, redstarts, and Hoopoe are found here in abundance. This increases the charm and natural beauty of the place by many folds.
9. Rich Cultural History And Royal Palaces
Leh Palace Of The 17th Century AD
One of the most famous sightseeing places in Leh Ladakh is the Leh Palace. This grand palace was built by King Senegge Namgyal in 17th century AD. A royal palace with a huge collection of treasures such as Jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns which are still intact and kept in the museum of the palace has been converted into one of the restored sights of Archaeological survey of India. Where Leh-Ladakh is called the 'Roof of Earth', this 9 storeyed palace is the 'Roof Of Leh'.
10. Land Of Festivals
Maximum Number Of Festivals Than Any Other Place In The Country
With a minimum of 2 festivals each month, Leh Ladakh is truly the land of festivals. These festivals are all about traditional dancing, singing, and colorful masks. A very strong influence of Buddhism and Tibetian culture can be seen in their festivals. No matter what time of the year you choose to visit the place, you can be part of the festivities. From dance, drama, and processions, the festivals are rich and unique. Some of the most famous festivals are Losar festival, Ladakh festival, Hemis Tsechu festival, Sindhu Darshan festival.
11. A Confusing Yet Interesting Calendar System
Tibetian Calendar Is Followed Instead Of The Regular World Calendar
Although it's a part of India, some things such as the calendar system are nothing like the rest of the country. People of Ladakh follow Tibetan calendar. Their year consists of 12 months each of 30 days for two consecutive years and the third year consists of 13 months. The extra month is added in between on the day considered auspicious. The months are not even names, just numbered. Whereas days of the week are named after the sun, the moon and five visible planets. Also, another weird thing is the fact that some days of the week are omitted during a month which is considered inauspicious and the word Chad (cut off) appears on the calendar. The Tibetan New Year begins with the rising of the new moon in February or March depending on when the extra month is added. Now, this is one confusing and inconsistent system which seems really interesting.
12. Home To Strong Self Empowered Women
Kung-Fu That Even Nuns Are Taught
Under the age of 25 usually (not a compulsion), women practice the art of Kung-Fu in the Drukpa nunnery in Ladakh. These self-empowered women encourage many other women to participate in the same and especially encourages nuns to train in Kung-Fu. Not only that but further for those interested are taught at par with monks of the land to seek enlightenment. BBC also went on to make a documentary on their life.
13. Best Chance For A Road Trip
Highest Motorable Road In The World
The Khardung La Pass in Ladakh which is at an elevation of 5,359 meters is claimed to be the highest motorable road in the world. For all the motorbike lovers who crave a road trip every chance they get, this is the one you need to conquer! With stunning beauty and challenging roads ahead, the trip is worth taking.
14. Touch The Clouds With Your Bare Hands
The Highest Plateau In The State Of Kashmir
The state of Jammu Kashmir is the Northern most state of India, and Leh-Ladakh is the highest plateau region in the very state. It is over 3,000 m and extends from the Himalayas to the Kunlun Ranges including the upper Indus River valley!
15. Adventure Sports Of A Lifetime
Hardest Trek In India
Irrespective of the harsh conditions, January is quite a popular month for all the adventure travelers for the Chadar -Trek on the frozen Zanskar river in Leh. It usually starts late-December, early January and batches go on till February. The trek is the hardest one in India and also in the top 10 Hardest treks in the world. For all the hikers it is a dream to achieve! The Chadar trek is a once in a lifetime opportunity which if you can, you should not miss. The temperature remains sub-zero almost the entire month.
Leh-Ladakh truly is a timeless beauty with unbeatable rich landscapes which keep you captivated. So, the next time you need to decide a place to travel to, you know where you need to go!
Q. Why is Pangong lake water salty?
A. It is an endorheic lake i.e. it is connected to no river basin and so there is no chance of salts outflow from this lake making the water saline.
Q. Why is Ladakh a Desert?
A. Desert lands with extremely low temperatures are called cold deserts like Antarctica, which is the largest cold desert in the world. Ladakh in India is a cold desert that lies in the Great Himalayas on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also known as Khapa-chan, which means snow land.