Ladakh Culture

Ladakh is popularly known as the “Land of high passes” and is one of India’s most sought after tourist destination for a very long time. It enjoys a favorable location, sandwiched between the Karakoram mountain range in the North and the Himalayas to the South. Ladakh is blessed with some of world’s most ancient and spectacular monasteries, fresh water lakes and high altitude roads, giving it a popular name of ‘Heaven on Earth’.

Ladakh is one of the finest examples of ancient Tibetan tradition and culture. The flourishing ideas in Ladakh stems from its long established trade routes through Tibet, Central Asia, Kashmir and plains of Northern India. It has always been the center for people, trade and cultures to intermingle with each other and its rich history gives a reflection of the influences from many surrounding places.

The original inhabitants of Ladakh are believed to be the ‘Dards’, or people of the Indo-Aryan race, followed by which the place came under the Buddhist dominance since the 7th century. While majority of the population in Ladakh is Buddhists, there are some clusters of Hindus, Christians and Muslims too. Leh Ladakh has been an apt depiction of nature and serene ambiance, reflecting a distinct Buddhist lifestyle. Large number of Buddhist Monasteries, or Gompa attract many travel enthusiasts and historians each year. All the monasteries are adorned in detailed ancient rock carvings, grand pillars and peaceful surrounding that promises a splendid retreat to all the travelers.

The Buddhist culture in Ladakh is also synonymous with quite a few adventure sports like Archery and Polo. People gather in open arena and accomplish these sports amidst singing and dancing. These sports gel beautifully in the ancient Tibetan culture and makes Leh Ladakh an incredible and exotic location for wanderers to explore.

Local People Of Ladakh

Each monastery is home to several monastic festivals held annually within the premises that give us a deep insight into a distinct socio-religious heritage. Locals and tourists congregate in large numbers to be a part of these festivities with utmost zeal. Colorful attires and decorative masks form the highlight of these festivals with monks and locals dancing to the melodious tunes of ethereal traditional music.

Local people of Ladakh, the rich Ladakh culture, particularly the Buddhists hold a firm belief in the influence of Gods and divine spirits. The monks, or lamas play a pivotal link between humans and the outside world. Some of them also consider themselves in the roles of astrologers, to whom a large number of locals and tourists seek advice for various important milestones in their lives. Ladakh is the melting pot of diverse vibrant cultures, with each culture having its own rich heritage and significance.

Ladakh Wildlife

The remoteness of Ladakh accounts for a rich flora and fauna in the periphery of the Leh and Ladakh valley. Rightfully termed as one of India’s most popular wildlife destination, Leh-Ladakh encompasses a number of exotic species of birds and animals that have made the serene valley as their natural habitat. Apart from the splendid wildlife, the region also attracts enthusiastic wildlife photographers to catch a glimpse of these exotic species and capturing them behind their lens.

Hemis National Park in the northern region of Himalayas, is a reserved area and is one of the popular national parks in India, being the second largest in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. The main attraction in the Hemis National Park is the Snow Leopard. Majority of the area of this park belongs to the Palearctic Ecozone. Snow Leopards come under a continuous threat of Poachers as their skin is prone to smuggling and selling in the local Tibetan market. Being an endangered species, Snow Leopard has been deemed as a protected animal inside the National Park.

Today, the region around Leh-Ladakh is home to more than 300 diverse species of rare animals. One of them is the Chiru, a rare Tibetan antelope, known for its quality yield of wool to make shawls. Yak, or the wild fox, is another exotic animal reserved to this area, with a distinctive appearance with curved horns and thick black hair. Some other rare species of animals found in the region are Kiang, Ladakh Urial, Wild Hare, Double Hump Camel and Himalayan Marmot, amongst many others. Also present is a diverse range of spectacular birds like Golden Eagle, Wall Creeper, Himalayan Snowcock and Black necked crane.

The exotic wildlife species that thrive in the regions around valleys of Leh and Ladakh bear the ability to adapt themselves to harsh and rigorous climatic conditions wherein they learn to survive on minimal vegetation, rocky terrain and extremely cold weather conditions. Animals like Marmots and Brown Bear find hibernation as an appropriate means to survive such extreme climatic conditions while some of the animals choose to migrate to less cold regions. However, the sprawling range of wildlife animals offer a breathtaking view for tourists every year and makes Ladakh all the more beautiful and praiseworthy.

Food Joints And Local Market Of Ladakh

Ladakh is home to delectable Tibetan, Indian and Continental cuisines that perfectly cater to diverse plethora of tourists from all parts of the world. Local Ladakhi cuisine is quite popular too with its rich aroma and sumptuous taste. Barley forms the key ingredient used in Ladakhi foods and is used in the form of roasted flour called tsampa. It serves as an ideal food item to shield tourists from cold weather.

Ladakh is also famous for its thukpa, or noodles in Tibetan language, primarily a thick broth with fresh vegetables and meat variants. Steamed dumplings, or momos and ‘Khambir’, the Ladakhi bread are equally popular. Butter tea forms the staple for locals and is made with tea leaves, salt and yak butter, churned in wooden pots.

For those of you with a more elaborate food palette, there are a large number of widely popular restaurants in Leh and Ladakh. The most exemplary restaurants are the Tenzin Dickey Tibetan, and Tibetan Kitchen that serves local delicacies, Lamayuru and Chopsticks for Chinese, as well as Pan Asian food joint for Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. Not only that, there is a Pumpernickel German Bakery that specializes in homemade cakes, tarts and a sumptuous range of breakfast.

The local population is also blessed with fresh produce and large variety of fruits and vegetables that form the staple food for most local cuisines in Ladakh. Apart from the quintessential instant noodles, many other popular dishes are relished by locals and tourists alike, including Chhupri, particularly cheese derived from Yak’s milk and Tigmo, fermented bread served with thick vegetable stew.

Each monastery is thronged with many local food joints, offering a delicious range of Ladakhi cuisines, which is splurged with mild and delicious native flavors. Come and visit Ladakh once and invite yourself to a delectable range of local and International cuisines that is sure to satiate your inner taste buds.

Climate Of Ladakh

Ladakh is not only an epitome of splendid landscapes and serene ambiance, it is also blessed with rich and diverse climatic conditions. The climate is vivid and distinctive during summers and winters. During summers, Ladakh has a desert type of hot and humid climate, with dry winds blowing throughout the day. The climate changes to an extreme cold one during the months of October to March, dipping below zero degree Celsius. The cold winter climate attracts mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts year after year. Although the tourists’ population drop down during these months, it is advisable to carry winter shields and woolen wears.

Summers offer the best time of the year to visit the region of Leh and Ladakh. The temperature goes up to as high as 30 degrees, making it a bit inconvenient for sightseeing during the day. Nights are accompanied by cool breeze accounting for perfect time to visit the region.

Months between June and September are considered to be the ideal time to visit Leh and Ladakh, as during this time the passes leading to the region are accessible to outsiders. Clear skies promise a breathtaking and panoramic view of the ambiance and towering mountain ranges. Highways are mostly open up to the end of April, and are most suited for road and rail transport. Temperature during the daytime is around 16 degrees while during the night, it can go down to as low as 3 degrees. Months of December and January are the periods with minimum tourist population due to severely cold weather.

Festivals In Ladakh

Intensely affected by Buddhist and Tibetan culture, Leh has a wealth of devout celebrations. In spite of the fact that numerous celebrations include comparable sorts of festivities and have a tendency to rotate around the festival of life and ceremonies to avert detestable and pull in peace, they each have a profound and rich history of their own regularly held in memory of the colossal Monks who established their cloister.For complete list of festival and when they are celebrated read more.

How To Reach Ladakh

The barren landscape of Ladakh is not as accessible all the year round. Most of the highways towards Leh are accessible only between the months of May and October, since it is snow laden for the rest parts of the year. Leh-Ladakh can be reached via Air, the nearest airport being at Leh, which has a decent connectivity with Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar. Alternatively, rail travel is another option as the nearest train station is Jammu Tawi which is nearly 700 kms away from Ladakh. It is also possible to reach Ladakh by road as it is within a radius of 500 kms from Srinagar and Manali.