Ladakh is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature, adventure, history and culture. It is also a must-visit place for those who love life.
The first time I visited Ladakh, the clear blue sky took my breath away. The turquoise blue torrents of the Indus River whispered into my ears to stay there forever. I could not stay, however, I have returned there from time to time ever since.
Ladakh, which was formerly a part of Jammu and Kashmir, is probably the most sought after destination for any Himalaya enthusiast. Bangladeshi tourists can easily visit Leh, the capital of Ladakh. Leh used to be an important part of the Silk Route.
You can visit several places around Leh along with the Zanskar River. But for certain places which are near the border, like Lake PanGong, Lake Tso Moriri and Nubra Valley, you need inner line permits.
Leh is a magical town situated at an altitude of 3,500 metres. It is a green valley in the barren Himalayas, extremely soothing to the eyes. You can fly to Leh from Delhi or take a night bus from Delhi to Manali and then take a vehicle from Manali to Leh where you will cross the infamous Rohtang pass at 3,978 metre (Rohtang means 'pile of dead bodies' in Ladakhi. Many died here while trying to cross it).
If you are travelling by road to Leh, you have to stay one night at a hotel and set out the next day for Leh. The road from Manali to Leh is one of the most beautiful roads in the world with breathtaking landscapes and turquoise rivers.
Ladakh is a paradise for people who are interested in Buddhism and Tibetology. If you want to see age-old monasteries, traditional scriptures and ancient murals, then this is the perfect place since it has more century-old monasteries than Tibet.
The first time we went to Ladakh was during the famous Hemis Festival, which is a pilgrimage for millions. It takes place at the Hemis Monastery.
It was a unique experience seeing so many people from different corners of the Himalayas come to join the prayers. The monastery has a great museum too and the largest Thangka (an ancient form of Budhhist art) in the world.
The next most interesting place in Leh is the Leh Palace, the former royal residence. It is 500 years old and nine storeys high.
Though it is not in a supreme condition, the museum holds a great collection of jewelleries, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns.
The historical 600 years old Namgyal Tsemo Monastery on the hill top offers one of the best views in Ladakh. From here you can see the snow covered mountain, the Indus River far away and the green Leh valley.
The view from the newly made, white-domed Shanti Stupa will probably lose its appeal as the monastery sits on a much higher ground.
One very important point about Leh for visitors is that you should not move too much on the first day of arrival. It is better if you stay at the hotel and eat warm soup and drink lots of water.
Because of the high altitude, if you do not take proper care of yourself, you can get sick easily. A headache is very common due to low oxygen levels.
Another important point is to choose the right time for visiting Ladakh. Usually September is the best time to get the best glimpse of the Himalayas, even May is a good time to go. There are almost no visitors during monsoon and winter, understandably.
One morning we went to see the Shey Palace, which was the summer capital of Ladakh and the residential place of the kings. The monastery has a giant Shakyamuni Buddha statue, which is the second largest statue in Ladakh.
For me, the sacred pond in front of the palace was more important, as it is a popular place for water birds. We saw several species of ducks and grebes there.
Thiksey is another ancient monastery city just 19 kilometres from Leh and it has the largest statue of Buddha (49 feet) in Ladakh. We were lucky to witness some rituals by the Lamas at the prayer halls.
Among all the monasteries in Ladakh, my favourite is Alchi, which has thousand year old murals and countless frescos (wall paintings) in its temples.
Alchi is 65 kilometres from Leh, so the best way to visit it is to hire a car for the whole day. After visiting Alchi, go to Lamayuru, which is 114 kilometres from Leh and right next to Moonland.
Moonland will offer you one of the most spectacular landscapes. It looks as if all the hills are made of gold and the colour changes from time to time with the sun. The ancient monastery of Lamayuru is still active with a few hundred monks in it.
Places such as these can be easily visited without any special permit.
The Leh centre has an antique charm and you can visit the old mosque and several antique shops, the Tibetan refugee markets and taste Tibetan foods.
When you visit the Indus River and go bird watching, you will find the Stakna Gompa, which is the smallest yet most picturesque monastery in Ladakh, situated just by the river.
Ladakh is that kind of place where after one visit you will count the days till you return there.
-Ticket price starts from Tk3,000 (approx.)
Hotels and homestays
The Bodhi Tree Hotel
Hotel Ladakh Retreat
Leh Stumpa (homestay)
-Room rate starts from Tk2,000 (approx.)