Hidden away in the north eastern corner of India, Ladakh is a sanctuary of Buddhist calm. Cradled between the two highest mountain ranges in the world, the Himalayas and the Karakorum, Ladakh is so remote that you can take a walking holiday here with almost a total absence of western influences. Ladakh is India’s highest plateau. Literally meaning ‘land of high passes’ it’s made up of desolate empty plains surrounded by jagged mountains and steep passes. The only way to get around Ladakh - unless you want to carry your own food and firewood at over 4,000 metres above sea level - is on a trekking package. Once you’re set with your local guide and your donkey get ready to explore this incredible wilderness land.
Trekking and Walking Holidays in Ladakh – Four High-Altitude Highlights
1. Lounge around in Leh
The capital, Leh, is the base camp for most trekking holidays in Ladakh, and once you’ve got used to the altitude it is a breath of fresh air. A million miles away from the claustrophobic charm of most Indian towns it is a haven for weary travellers. Quiet and charming, wander round the old town filling up on carbs (you’ll need them!) at one of many delicious bakeries, or visit the ancient Royal Palace currently under restoration.
2. Visit Hemis Gompa
How could you not want to visit a place known as ‘the Lone Place of the Compassionate Person’? Ladakh’s most picturesque monastery, Hemis Gompa is approached via a spectacular gorge walk.
3. Trek The Markha Valley
Regarded by many as the classic Ladakhi trekking holiday, this trail follows the Markha River up into the peaks to the Zanskar mountain range. You start of walking through fields of barley and mustard, deep gorges and remote villages. Jaw dropping scenery unfolds as you hit the rocky slopes. Buddhist prayer flags mark the way towards the jagged horizon peaks. You might glimpse the fleeting purple robes of a Buddhist monk at one of the obscure shrines, or blue sheep and Ibex scrambling over the rocky escarpment.
4. Party like its 1599
Ancient culture and Buddhist tradition form an integral part of daily life. The Ladhaki social calendar is full of religious festivals and fairs, featuring masked dancers, yang music and sporting contests. In other more tourist oriented destinations you could be forgiven for thinking some of these are put on purely for the crowds, but here in Ladakh they remain a vital part of the culture. The vibrant mix of sights sounds and smells gives a fascinating insight to the Ladakhi way of life, while providing a colourful contrast to the imperious nature of the landscape.