The Indus valley is the Ladakhi heartland, with the highest population density, and large amounts of agricultural land. Running parallel, roughly north-east south-west with it are a series of valleys and mountain ranges. North of the Indus valley is the Ladakh range, on the other side of which is the Shayok, and Nubra valleys. South of the Indus is the Stok range, clearly visible from Leh. On the other side is the Markha valley, a popular trekking destination. After a series of minor ranges and uninhabited valleys we come to Zangskar, with the Kargyak and the Stod rivers joining at Padum, to form the Zangskar river which bucks the trend and flows north through a narrow gorge to join the Indus. To the south of Zangskar is the Grand Himal range marking the southern limit of Ladakh.
To the east of this series of ranges is the Changtang, a high plateau home to nomads. It is known as Kharnak in the west, Samad Rokchen in the north east and Korzok in the south east. Not a true plateau it has a chaotic assortment of minor mountains ranges not much higher than the wide valleys between them. With no drainage leading out of this area, there are a number of beautiful salt water lakes that make popular destinations for tourists.
High and mighty though Ladakh is, it is easily approached either by flying directly to the capital Leh from Delhi (allow 3-4 days for acclimatization) or by road from Manali in Himachal Pradesh ( a 02 days trip).
Leh stands at 3,521m/ 11,552 ft. and the surrounding flat areas are on a par. It is warm in the sun but the temperature drops at night, even in midsummer.
Trekking in Ladakh is as unique as the land itself. Leh, the divisional headquarters, is accessible from Srinagar, Delhi and Chandigarh by air and bus. Ladakh is the land of insurmountable mountains and fascinating monasteries. It lies on the tri- junction of the historic ‘Silk Route’ from Sinkiang to West Asia and to the plains of India. There are a number of interesting places and monasteries to visit in and around Leh. Some of the important Tourist places are: Leh Palace, the monasteries of Shey, Hemis Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Lamayuru Monastery. Markha Valley trek over Gongmaru La and Gandha La is the most adventurous. Another trekking trail leads southwards from Alchi and after crossing Stapski La, turns around and reaches Nimu. Yet another trail towards north of Leh climbs over Khardung La and reaches the Nubra Valley.
For the purpose of trekking, the region can be divided into three – The area around Kargil, the Indus Valley and Zanskar.
KARGIL (LADAKH) -
This area lies just behind the Zoji La Pass, and the center is Kargil, a small town with cobbled streets surrounded by apricot groves. Good panoramas of the Himalaya can be obtained on 03-04 day treks from Sanko to Drass via Umba, and on the more demanding Sanko to Mulbek via the Wakka La Pass at 4,930m.
INDUS VALLEY (LADAKH) - At an average elevation of 3500 m is sand-witched between the Zanskar Range on its South and the Ladakh Range on its North, This is the geographical backbone, and the historical heartland of Ladakh. All major sites connected with its dynastic history are here, starting with Leh, the capital city. The bulk of the population resides along the Indus. Its main attraction are the numerous Buddhist monasteries, quaint villages, fairs , festivals and bazars. Air and road communications converage at Leh.
ZANSKAR (LADAKH) - One of Ladakh’s remotest regions. A 300 km long valley ringed by mountains, only accessible by high passes. The Valley of Zanskar is situated in the inner Himalaya and is higher than most areas of Ladakh. The climate is very Harsh and receives very little rain fall. The twin peaks of Nun-Kun, its Monasteries and its extremely rugged, awe-aspiring landscape are its main attractions.
BEST TIME TO VISIT LEH (LADAKH) - April to Mid - October