Number 7 on our list is probably a destination that most have never heard of. Ladakh, which means “Land of the high passes”, is at the base of the Himalaya’s in the far northern region of India in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It sits in a vast trough between the Suru Vally and the Zanskar Valley surrounded by four different mountain ranges; the Himalaya’s, the Ladakh, the Zanskar and the Karakoram ranges.
It covers an area of 33,554 square miles and has a population around 274,000 people. The average altitude of this area is about 11,500 feet.
The local language here is Ladhaki, which is a Tibetan dialect. Pahari, Hindi and English are also spoken here.
Ladakh boasts some pretty remarkable characteristics unique to this secluded elevation.
It is home to the double humped Bactrian Camel which is not found anywhere else in India.
The Zanskar Valley holds the record for the highest human settlement in the world at almost 20,000 feet above sea level.
Ladakh also has the highest desert in the world. Due to the surrounding high mountain ranges, it does not get the monsoon rains like the southern portions of India. The snowfall is the only precipitation the desert receives.
At 14,270 feet Pangong Lake is the highest (see a theme here?) saltwater lake in the world. During the winter the lake freezes over completely, despite being a saltwater lake, and is a major thoroughfare for the native people during those months.
The curious Magnetic Hill, or “Gravity Hill” as it’s known as located on Leh-Kargil-Srinagar highway at 11,000 feet above sea level. The way the road lays and the slope of the background give it the illusion that your car is drifting upwards. Very similar to Spook Hill found in Lake Wales Florida.
Ladakh is a land of many great Monasteries. The Hemis Gompa, Thiksey Gompa and Shey Palace are just a few of the many you can find in this region.
The two religions most common here are Hindu and Buddhism. Ladakh has many religious festivals every year including the Tok-Tok, Hemis, Sindhu, Losar, Darshan, Ladakh Festivals and many others.
Due to it’s high elevation, the area has one of the worlds highest observatories. The Indian Astronomical Observatory can be found here.
If you plan on making a trip here, there are a few things to keep in mind. Altitude sickness is no joke so take some steps to avoid it. Take a day or two to acclimate yourself. Drink plenty of water ad get lots of rest.
The best time to visit is in the summer, Early June to September are best. Many of the festivals are during this time. Summer temperatures in the lower elevations can get into the 70’s but as you trek into the higher elevations be prepared to dress warmly. Pack plenty of dry clothes just in case you get wet. There are many outdoor activities to do here including trekking, whitewater rafting the Indus river, snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, motor biking and wildlife tours and visits to the many monasteries in the area.
This pristine landscape is practically undiscovered in the modern era. Getting here can take a little time and patience but the experience will be like nothing you’ve seen before.