Ladakh means the land of high passes. The mountain ranges of Ladakh, with 16,000 to 23,000 feet high peaks, were formed over a period of 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian plate. Ladakh lies in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northern-most state of India. It is sometimes called “Little Tibet” as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. Historically, Ladakh was a strategic location at the crossroads of important caravan routes, eventually leading to the Silk route. The Ladakh region was opened to tourism only in 1974 and it is only after then that outsiders came to know about the beautiful landscape of Ladakh and the rich culture of the Ladakhi people.
Ladakh has a blend of many different ethnic groups; predominantly, Tibetans and Mons. Most Ladakhis in Leh district and Zanskar are Tibetan Buddhists. The Changpa nomads who live in the Changthang plateau are more closely related to Tibetans.
Ladakh is bound by mountains and made up of mountains. From November to May, Ladakh is almost completely cut off from the outside world. Even in summer, getting here involves crossing the highest mountain passes in the world. The journey by no means is easy, but the highest roads in the world here are termed as the best riding destination in the world. From the millions of years of permanence, the Himalayas make the journey to Ladakh different and unpredictable every year. It is anybody’s guess on what the road would look like after being covered with feet of snow in winter. Mountain streams, high altitude passes, majestic plains and enormous mountain lakes have left a lasting impression on the lucky ones who have got a chance to travel to this remote Himalayan region.
Ladakh experiences heavy snowfall in the winter months (November to February) and the temperature can dip unto -35 degree Celsius. Summers are short (May to August) and the weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature in summer ranges from -5 to 35 degree celsius. The region receives very little rainfall, but when it does, it makes the whole affair of riding a motorcycle very cold. Hence thermal inner wear and waterproof riding gear is a must for a trouble free ride in Ladakh.
Flora and fauna
Ladakh has a fragile eco-system which sustains, besides the sparse population, some rare fauna and flora which are especially adapted to the peculiar environment. Among Ladakh’s most important fauna are the Ladakhi Urial, Blue sheep, Lynx, Red Fox, Siberian Ibex, Snow Leopard, Tibetan Antelope, Tibetan Argali, Tibetan Gazelle, Tibetan Wild Ass, Tibetan Wolf and the Wild Yak. And among its many indigenous and visiting wetlands birds the sight of the endangered Black-necked Crane is considered very auspicious by Ladakhis. Although wildlife sighting is a matter of luck, sightings of Blue Sheep and Tibetan Wild Ass are common. For avid bird watchers, it would be a treat to see abundant species at the Pangong tso lake.
Tour Ladakh with us on Ride to the Top of the World