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7 reasons to put Ladakh on your trekking radar

Admiring the view from the Zalung La pass in Ladakh | Brad Atwal
Admiring the view from the Zalung La pass in Ladakh | Brad Atwal

You might know all the popular treks of Nepal—Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Sanctuary, and others—but Nepal isn’t the only game in town when it comes to truly spectacular treks in the high Himalaya.

Ladakh is a wild and mountainous region in northernmost Indian that bumps up against Pakistan’s Karakoram and Tibet’s Changthang Mountains. It’s the highest plateau in India—most of it is over 3,000m—and the ancient Indus River slices through the middle of it. It's an area of exotic beauty, and if you're thinking of trekking someplace, this area might tick a few boxes in your must-visit list.

A Different Season

Ladakh is unusual because although it’s still part of the Himalaya, the season for trekking is quite different. The best time to trek in Ladakh is during the northern summer months when most of Nepal is under the influence of the monsoon. It means you can plan trekking when most people would be thinking of other activities.

 

Tibetan Buddhist heritage

This part of the Himalaya is often referred to as Little Tibet because of its long-seated Tibetan Buddhist heritage. There are its ancient forts and Buddhist monasteries and cultural traditions run deep. Exchanges between Ladakhi people and Westerners have been far fewer and less frequent than in other areas, so it’s one place in the Himalaya to get a true Tibetan culture fix. 

Fewer Tourists

Trekking in Ladakh also mean skipping the tourists. Compared to the crowded teahouse trail scene in Nepal, in Ladakh you would be hard pressed to meet more than a handful of foreign trekkers. 

A Geological Wonderland

The geology in Ladakh tells the story of the land. While the Indian tectonic slides under the Eurasian plate the resulting force is pushing the land up creating vertical folded layers. Geologists estimate the Himalaya here is rising as much as 1cm/year. It’s possible to imagine the changes taking place just by studying the tilted and folded rocks in Ladakh. If you watch carefully, you can see ancient sea-floor shells in the rocks around villages. Many Ladakhi use these fossilized shells in their traditional costumes and jewelry.

Geography and Views

Because of the extreme geology, Ladakh is literally a land of high passes that afford unrivalled views across the rugged mountain ranges and deep gorges that extend to the soaring peaks of the East Karakoram.

Exotic Wildlife

Ladakh has populations of secretive creatures like the Tibetan wolf, the Tibetan argali and the black-necked crane (all three are endangered). It also has the highest concentration of snow leopards in the world. While the chances of seeing a snow leopard in the summer are extremely low, there is a greater chance in the winter when the cats descend to the settlements.

Thankfully, Ladakh is a haven for a great number of bird species (many of which are migratory) and wild animals that roam freely in their natural habitat, including the bharal (blue sheep) and the Himalayan golden eagle. You might see any number of wild creatures as you pass through the region.

A Stonewalled Land

Interestingly, a traveller once wrote that she encountered a local who said there wasn't much in Ladakh except rocks. The visitor laughed and said rocks tell the story of both the landscape and the people. She noted that rocks are used for everything in Ladakh: building houses, making leopard traps, creating stupas (with lime), for rock art and as cairns for communication, and to create pools at hot springs for washing and relaxation. Look around and you'll see rocks used in dozens of creative and sensible ways.

Meals, camping and climbing equipment, experienced trekking and mountaineering leaders, as well as sleeping kit are all provided.

So, there you have it. A few reasons why this fascinating area should be on your radar as a trekking destination.

Ladakh trekking, Ladakh walking, Ladakh Himalaya, Ladakh culture

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