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Michael Hardy

Ladakh Travel Guide

Situated in India's northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh is a mountainous region of extreme natural beauty. Ringed by rugged mountains, Ladakh is inaccessible by road between November and May - although hair-raising flights, that weave between icy mountain peaks, still operate during this time between Delhi and Leh. Known as 'little Tibet', Ladakh's primary draw card - apart from its outstanding scenery - is its strong Buddhist culture, which, due to its isolation, has remained largely unaffected by the ravages of colonialism and modernity.

Popular tourist destinations in Ladakh include Leh and Kargil, a town known for its ancient Buddhist statues and bright apricot orchards. Although Jammu and Kashmir has a reputation for being a 'dangerous' state, Ladakh is in fact a very peaceful place, a veritable 'Shangri-La', having seen virtually no violence since India gained her independence in 1947. For experienced, well-conditioned hikers, Ladakh is the perfect place from which to plan a trek into neighbouring Tibet.

An extremely popular tourist destination, Leh was the historical capital of the Kingdom of Ladakh, and remains, to this day, the perfect base from which to explore the region. In many ways a prototypical tourist town - chock-full of backpacker accommodation, roof-top restaurants, internet cafes and curio stalls - Leh's remarkable setting, in the heart of the Indus Valley, safeguards its thoroughly unique character. At almost 11,500 feet (3,500m) above sea-level, visitors might be forgiven for thinking that the cobalt hue of the sky above Leh is actually an effect of altitude sickness; medication for altitude sickness is a must. In the town itself, modern buildings give way dramatically to traditional mud-brick and timber structures. A must-see tourist attraction in Leh is the ruined Royal Palace: constructed in the 17th century at the foot of the Himalayas, the views it commands of the Indus Valley and its surrounding peaks are simply out-of-this-world.

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