Thiksey Monastery

March 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thiksey Monastery is located 22km from Leh, along the Manali – Leh Highway and is one of the largest and most beautiful monasteries in Ladakh.

Thiksey Monastery was built in 1430AD by the nephew of Sherab Zangpo, Spon Paldan Sherab. 250 monks belonging to the Yellow Hat sect live at the 12 storey Thiksey Monastery, which also houses 10 temples.

From a tourist perspective, Thiksey is not only easily accessible thanks to its proximity to Manali – Leh Highway; it can also be visited while going to or coming back from Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri.

Add to that, Thiksey is not only beautiful to photograph, from both inside and outside.

thiksey-gompa

thiksey-monastery

It also offers great views, especially during the season, when the farms are lush with produce, against the backdrop of the barren landscape of Ladakh.

view-from-thiksey-monastery

Thiksey Monastery is also home to two storey tall statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, made of clay and gold paint and was constructed in 1980 to commemorate the visit of his Holiness, Dalai Lama.

Maitreya-statue-thiksey

Thiksey Monastery also has a guest house for visitors, who are interested in learning about Buddhism and staying at this serene and beautiful Monastery.

Additionally, each year sacred monastic dances are held in the monastery during the Gustor Festival, which is held on the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the 9th month of Tibetan Calendar. (see: Ladakh Monastery Festival Calendar 2013).

Pangong Tso

March 13, 2013 at 7:45 am

Pangong Tso is one of the biggest and most beautiful high altitude lakes in India and hence it is no wonder that it has been featured regularly in Indian as well as International Films, Songs, Commercials etc.; in fact Hindi Movie, 3 Idiots’ climax was shot at Pangong Tso (Tso in Ladakhi means Lake).

3-idiot-climax-pangong-tso

While one third of 135km long Pangong lies in India, two third of it is occupied by the Chinese. Due to this, one needs Inner Line/Protected Area Permit to visit this magnificent lake.

pangong-tso

Getting there

In order to reach Pangong Tso from Leh, one need to take the Leh – Manali Highway till the town of Karu (35km from Leh) and from the fork there, take the road going to the left, which will take you to beautiful Shakti Village, from where the ascend to the mighty Chang La pass begins.

From Chang La (80km from Leh) one descends all the way to Durbuk Village, where small eateries, guest houses and the sole mobile phone tower exists, making it an ideal pit stop for a cup of coffee and a call back home.

From Durbuk, one makes his way to the beautiful town of Tangste (34km before Pangong Tso), where several decent accommodation options exists and it also happens to be at a much lower altitude than the 14,000ft high Pangong Tso, thus making it an ideal night stop for anyone suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or traveling during winter, when accommodation near Pangong Tso isn’t easily available or for that matter, recommended, due to extreme cold.

However if you aren’t suffering from AMS, then head straightaway to Pangong Tso and if possible, spend a night near the lake at either Lukung, Spangmik, Man or Merak Villages. All of which offer accommodations for tourists, in the form of Eco Huts at Lukung, Hotel and Home stays at Spangmik and Home Stays in Man and Merak.

For those short on time, 155km journey from Leh to Lukung can be done in roughly 5 hours, making it possible to visit Pangong Tso during the day and come back to Leh by night. However, for this to happen, you need to begin your journey early in the morning and you would only be able to spend an hour or two at this magnificent lake.

Special Tips

Pangong Tso is accessible throughout the year, even in the dead of winter, when for a month it completely freezes (generally middle to late January) and even cars can be run on it. Access to Pangong Tso is only hampered in case of landslides en route or heavy snowfall at Chang La, which are generally cleared in a day or two.

If you have time in hand, please visit Man and Merak Villages, they offer completely different view of the Pangong Lake and will thus help you get photographs, which are vastly different from the ones we normally see.

pangong-lake

Only BSNL/MTNL Postpaid Connections will work in Durbuk and Tangste, there is no other mobile phone operator present at the moment, so if you are planning to carry mobile phone, make sure it is a BSNL or MTNL postpaid connection.

Please do not throw garbage in or around the lake, it is beautiful natural wonder and it is best to leave it litter free for the future generations.

Ladakh Festival 2013

March 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

Ladakh Festival is organized each year by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, in a bid to promote and represent Ladakh’s rich cultural heritage and will be held from 1st to 15th of September 2013.

During the 15 day long Ladakh Festival, various events like Polo Match, Village Archery, and Folk Dances are held along with monastic dances in the monasteries across Ladakh.

This gives an opportunity to travelers from India and Abroad to not only view the beautiful landscape of Ladakh in what is normally considered as lean season, but also see and experience the beautiful and rich cultural heritage of Ladakhis. And it isn’t just limited to areas in and around Leh, but across the Ladakh Tourist circuit like this small gathering of locals and tourists in Panamik Village in Nubra Valley, which I captured during one of my trips to Ladakh.

ladakh-festival

Add to that, places like Suru and Zanskar Valleys are at their beautiful best during the month of September, making it all the more enticing to visit Ladakh in this traditionally lean tourist month of September.

Ladakh Inner Line Permit

March 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

In order to visit certain parts of Ladakh, tourists need Inner Line Permit from the DC Office in Leh (Protected Area Permit in case of foreigners). This is due to the fact that these areas are located along the cease fire line with Pakistan and China and have heavy military presence.

Getting a Protected Area Permit (PAP) for foreigners is quite a straight forward affair, since Indian Government requires them to go through a travel agent to apply for permit in a group of two or more. This essentially means that you need to pay a travel agent or your guest house the required permit fee along with their commissions and a photocopy of your passport and they will take care of all the paper work and get you the permit at the end of the day. Even if you are traveling alone, you need not worry, they will group you together with others in order to get the permit. Once you have the permit, you can travel on your own, just make sure you carry 3-4 photo copies of the permit per sector, as you need to submit them en route.

Visitors from Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Burma need to apply for Protected Area Permit at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi. While those on a diplomatic or official visa, need to apply for the same via the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.

For those applying directly, you need to fill two inner line permit application forms, which are available at the photo copy shop behind the DC Office and also at most guest houses. You will need to write the name of all the individuals applying for permit, their father/guardian names, address, dates for which you require the permit and places you intend to visit eg. Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Marsimik La, Merak, Chushul, Tsaga, Loma, Nyoma, Mahe and Hanle etc. and along with the permit application form, you need to attach photo copy of a government issued ID card eg. driving license for all the individuals applying for permit.

Permit fee for Indians is Rs. 400 per person as environment tax + Rs. 20 per person per day as wild life protection fee + Rs. 100 Red Cross Donation.

Places in Ladakh which require Inner Line or Protected area Permit:

Nubra Valley, up to Panamik on the North-East and Turtuk, Pachathang and Tyakshi Villages on the North-West side

Pangong Tso Lake, up to Merak Village

Marsimik La.

Tso Moriri Lake, up to Mahe Bridge and Korzok Village. One can alternatively get permit till Loma Bend in Nyoma District, if you are planning to visit there.

Dah and Hanu Villages.

Permit for the following routes are issued by the Leh and Kargil DC Office:

Kargil – Khangral – Shaker – Chiktan – Leh

Dah – Garkone – Darchik – Batalik- Slimo – Kargil

If you are visiting off beat routes/places eg. Chushul, Hanle etc., then please leave a comment below with the places you intend to visit and I will reply with the list of places you will need to mention on your application form. Also in case you have any other queries, feel free to leave a comment below.

Likir Monastery

March 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Likir Monastery is located 62km from Leh, a few kilometers off the Leh – Srinagar Highway and is part of the famous Sham Valley Tourist Circuit.

likir-gompa

Likir Gompa was built during the reign of Ladakh’s fifth king, Lhachen Gyalpo (1050-1080 AD).

As per the folk tales, Likir Monastery was encircled by the bodies of two great serpent spirits, Naga-Rajas (Nanda & Taksako) and hence it came to be known as Likir (The Naga – Encircled).

Each year, votive offerings known as Dosmochey are assembled and sacred dances are performed from the 27th to 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar (see: Ladakh Monastery Festival Calendar 2014).

From a tourist’s perspective, Likir Monastery is a beautiful and peaceful gompa, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the main highways, overlooking lovely mountainous farms of Likir Village, in the barren moonscape of Ladakh.

likir-monastery

Main attraction at the Likir Monastery is this 75ft gold gilded statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha and is stunning to say the least.

buddha-likir-monastery

So if you too are planning to visit Ladakh soon, make sure to pay a visit to this beautiful and impressive monastery, because I know you will love it, like I did.