Find `Little Tibet' in Ladakh
Jammu and Kashmir is India's northernmost state, bordering Pakistan and China's Tibetan plateau. It's three distinct regions - Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh - offer a rich diversity of landscapes, religions and people.
The predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley is a lush and mountainous area whilst Buddhist Ladakh has an almost moon-like barren landscape interspersed by oasis villages with monasteries and ancient palaces perched on lofty hilltops.
Jammu and Kashmir is India's northernmost state, bordering Pakistan, and China's Tibetan plateau. It's three distinct regions - Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh - offer a rich diversity of landscapes, religions and people.
Jammu is predominantly Hindu. Encompassing plains, mountains and foothills, Jammu boasts the famous hilltop shrine of Vaishno Devi, an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.
Lush and mountainous, the predominantly Muslim Kashmir Valley is a mosaic of forests, rice fields, lakes and waterways. Tragically, the state has been out of bounds for travellers for almost two decades as a result of an armed insurgency by Kashmiri separatists. Today, however, calm is returning and travellers are again flocking to stay on the famous houseboats on the lakes of .
Ladakh, the far-flung eastern corner of Jammu & Kashmir state, has an almost moon-like barren landscape interspersed by the green of oasis villages with monasteries and ancient palaces perched on lofty hilltops.
The friendly Ladakhis have preserved their Tibetan culture and religion which is now hard to find in Tibet itself, making Ladakh one of the world's most remote corners of Buddhism.
, Ladakh's capital, is built into the base of the snow-covered Karakoram range. It is a sprawling city at the foot of the nine-storey Tibetan-style Palace. In the past Leh used to be an important stop on the Silk route in Asia. Nowadays it is an important strategic centre for India as well as an important base for travellers to explore the rest of Ladakh.
After acclimatising to the altitude, you can use Leh as a base for making short trips to the adjoining valleys. You need one full day to explore the Indus Valley gompas of Shey, Tikse & Hemis. The Hemis monastery is the biggest and wealthiest monastery in Ladakh. Colourful flags flutter in the breeze from the four pillars in the courtyard.
You can also enjoy a white-water rafting excursion on the Indus or Zanskar rivers. The rafting is easy but floating in a rubber inflatable raft is a hugely enjoyable way to experience the valley's rugged and beautiful landscape. The season only lasts from early July to mid-September.
A visit to Ladakh is not complete without enjoying home hiking. The 4 day trek from Likir to Lamayura is a good introduction to trekking in Ladakh as it is at relatively low altitude, whilst the walking is fairly gentle with plenty of time to enjoy the views. July and August are the most pleasant months, and also most favourable for trekking. September and October are also good, but teamperatures get colder at night.