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Tourism in Ladakh

Ladakh a word which means "land of high passes", is a region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir of Northern India sandwiched between the Karakoram mountain range to the north and the Himalayas to the south. The Indian portion of Ladakh is composed of the Leh and Kargil districts. The Leh district is the second largest district in India, covering more than half the area of Jammu and Kashmir, of which it is the eastern part.


The only two roads into the area from outside are the Zoji-La Pass and Kargil route from Srinagar District in the Kashmir Valley, and the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The Manali-Leh road is open only from May or June to October or November when snow is cleared from several passes. The Srinagar-Leh road is open from April or May to November or December and is generally blocked by snow through the winter only at Zoji La Pass.

Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport at Leh has flights from Delhi year-round on Jet Airways, GoAir, and Air India. Air India also operates weekly flights to Jammu and Srinagar. Cancellations and delays for two or three days are not uncommon and can happen at any time of year, so travelers must plan for that possibility when scheduling their onward travel.

Roads within Ladakh, except to Zangskar, are open all year round. Khardong-La Pass to Nubra has an alternate day schedule, is closed Mondays, and can get closed by snow for several days in winter and spring. Chang-La pass to Pangong Lake rarely closes, and if it does, rarely for more than one day.

Buses serve the whole area from Leh and Kargil towns. Taxis are available in Leh and Kargil as well as in block headquarters like Tranghese, Diskit, and Khaltse. Shared taxis to Nubra, Kargil, Srinagar, and Zangskar leave Leh in the early morning.

If planning one direction by air and the other by the Manali-Leh highway, the option closest to safety guidelines is to fly into Ladakh and go out by road to Manali. All Manali-Leh runs involve the risk of having to step up to one thousand meters higher than Leh, with a high risk for severe altitude sickness. Travelers already acclimatized to the altitude of Ladakh, however, should suffer less and be able to enjoy the scenery.
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What is Zanskar River?

The Zanskar River is a north-flowing tributary of the Indus. In its upper reaches, the Zanskar has two main branches. First, of these, the Doda has its source near the Pensi-la 4,400 m 14,400 ft mountain-pass and flows south-eastwards along the main Zanskar valley leading towards Padum, the capital of Zanskar. The second branch is formed by two main tributaries known as Kargyag river, with its source near the Shingo La 5,091 m 16,703 ft, and Tsarap river, with its source near the Baralacha-La. These two rivers unite below the village of Purne to form the Lungnak river also known as the Lingti or Tsarap. The Lungnak river then flows north-westwards along a narrow gorge towards Zanskar's central valley known locally as guzheng Khor, where it unites with the Doda river to form the main Zanskar river. This river then takes a north-eastern course through the dramatic Zanskar Gorge until it joins the Indus near Nimmu in Ladakh.

Lower northern sections of that gorge are popular in summer with tourists making rafting trips, typically from Chiling to Nimmu. In winter when the road to Zanskar is closed by snow on the high passes, the only overland route to Padum is by walking along the frozen river, a multi-day hike that is now sold as an adventure activity called the Chadar 'ice sheet tree. This trek will eventually be rendered obsolete once the road from Chiling to Padum is completed
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What is Adventure travel?

Adventure travel is a type of niche tourism, involving exploration of travel in an “unusual, exotic, remote, or wilderness destination.” Travelers are highly engaged in involvement with activities that include perceived and possibly actual risk, and potentially requiring specialized skills and physical exertion. Adventure tourism has grown in recent decades, as tourists seek out-of-the-ordinary or "roads less traveled" types of vacations, but measurement of market size and growth is hampered by the lack of a clear operational definition.Association, adventure travel may be any tourist activity that includes the following three components: a physical activity, a cultural exchange, and connection with nature.

describes adventure tourists as, “explorers of both an outer world, especially the unspoiled, exotic parts of our planet and an inner world of personal challenge, self-perception, and self-mastery.”  Adventure tourists may be motivated to achieve mental states characterized as rush or flow, resulting from stepping outside of their comfort zone. This may be from experiencing culture shock or through the performance of acts, that require significant effort and involve some degree of risk (real or perceived) and/or physical danger See extreme sports. This may include activities such as mountaineering, trekking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, canoeing, scuba diving, rafting, kayaking, zip lining, paragliding, hiking, exploring, sand boarding, caving, and rock climbing. Some obscure forms of adventure travel include disaster and ghetto tourism. Other rising forms of adventure travel include jungle tourism

Access to inexpensive consumer technology, with respect to Global Positioning Systems, flashpacking, social networking, and photography, have increased the worldwide interest in adventure travel. The interest in independent adventure travel has also increased as more specialist travel websites emerge offering previously niche locations and sports.

Types of adventure travel

Cultural tourism

Cultural tourism is the act of traveling to a place to see that location's culture, including the lifestyle of the people in that area, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religions, and other factors that shaped their way of life.

Disaster tourism

Disaster tourism is the act of traveling to a disaster area as a matter of curiosity. The behavior can be a nuisance if it hinders rescue, relief, and recovery operations. If not done because of pure curiosity, it can be cataloged as disaster learning.


Ecotourism is now defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education". The objective of ecotourism is to protect the environment from detrimental impacts such as human traffic and to provide educational information by promoting the unique qualities of the environment. Additionally, ecotourism, “should attempt to move Eco-tourists from a passive role, where their recreation is simply based on the natural environment, to a more active role where their activities actually contribute to the health and viability of those environments.”

Ethno tourism

Ethno tourism refers to visiting a foreign location for the sake of observing the indigenous members of its society for the sake of non-scientific gain. Some extreme forms of this include attempting to make the first contact with tribes that are protected from outside visitors.

Two controversial issues associated with ethnic tourism include bringing natives into contact with diseases they do not have immunities for, and the possible degradation or destruction of a unique culture and/or language.
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Trekking in Ladakh

Ladakh “land of high passes” is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kunlun mountain range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north.

In the past, Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the  Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh, followed by Kargil. Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh’s cultural differences with predominantly Muslim KashmirLeh, followed by Kargil.

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times. Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards, who find mention in the works of Herodotus, Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny, Ptolemy, and the geographical lists of the Puranas. Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practicing the Bon religion. The 7th-century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts. In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the East and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes.[citation needed] Suzerainty over Ladakh frequently changed hands between China and Tibet. In 842 Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal prince annexed Ladakh for himself after the break-up of the Tibetan empire and founded a separate Ladakhi dynasty. During this period, Ladakh acquired a predominantly Tibetan population. The dynasty spearheaded the second spreading of Buddhism, importing religious ideas from north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper. According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred SteinTransport
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What is Zanskar Gorge?

Zanskar or Zangskar is a subdistrict or tehsil of the Kargil district, which lies in the eastern half of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The administrative center is Padum. Zanskar, together with the neighboring region of Ladakh, was briefly a part of the kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet. The Zanskar Range is a mountain range in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that separates Zanskar from Ladakh. Geologically, the Zanskar Range is part of the Tethys Himalaya, an approximately 100-km-wide synclinorium formed by strongly folded and imbricated, weakly metamorphosed sedimentary series. The average height of the Zanskar Range is about 6,000 m 19,700 ft. Its eastern part is known as Rupshu. It also separates Kinnaur District from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. The highest peaks of Himachal are in the Zanskar Range.


Zanskar appears as “Zangskar” mostly in academic studies in social sciences anthropology, gender studies, reflecting the Ladakhi pronunciation, although the Zanskari pronunciation is Zãhar. Older geographical accounts and maps may use the alternate spelling "Zaskar". An etymological study Snellgrove and Skorupsky, 1980 of the name reveal that its origin might refer to the natural occurrence of copper in this region, the Tibetan word for which is "Zangs". The second syllable, however, seems to be more challenging as it has various meanings: "Zangs-Dakar" white copper, "Zangs-maker" copper palace, or "Zangs-skar". Others claim it derives from Zan = copper + skar = valley. partly shares this interpretation but suggests that the origin of this name might also be "Zan-mK her" food palace because the staple food crops are so abundant in an otherwise rather arid region. The locally accepted spelling of the name in Tibetan script is zags-Dakar. Some of the religious scholars of the district, also cited by Snellgrove and Skorupsky, hold that it was originally "bzang-dkar", meaning good or beautiful and white. "Good" would refer to the triangular shape of the Padum plain, the triangle being the symbol of Dharma and religion; "white" would refer to the simplicity, goodness, and religious inclinations of the Zanskaris. Thus, even if etymologically it would be more correct to use "Zangskar", the most frequently found spelling for this region is undoubted "Zanskar".


Zanskar covers an area of some 7,000 square kilometers 2,700 sq mi, at an elevation of 3,500-7,000 meters 11,500–23,000 feet. It consists of the country lying along the two main branches of the Zanskar River. The first, the Doda, has its source near the Pensi-la 4,400 m 14,450 ft mountain-pass and then flows south-eastwards along the main valley leading towards Padum, the capital of Zanskar. The second branch is formed by two main tributaries known as Kargyag river, with its source near the Shingo La 5,091 m 16,703 ft, and Tsarap river, with its source near the Baralacha-La. These two rivers unite below the village of Purne to form the Lungnak river also known as the Lingti or Tsarap. The Lungnak river then flows north-westwards along a narrow gorge towards Zanskar's central valley known locally as gzhung khor, where it unites with the Doda river to form the Zanskar river. For locals and trekkers alike, the Shingo La is technically one of the easiest 5000m passes in Indian Himalaya, involving no glacier trekking or steep climbs.
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