About Ladakh

General Information

Area: 96,000 sq. km (excluding Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin)
Capital/Main City: Leh (30,000 inhabitants)
Population 130,000 (1979)
Time GMT +5.5hrs
Government Indian administrative union at the district level
Religion 50% Buddhist 45% Muslim
Power 230-240V (Limited supply)

Ladakh occupies the western end of the Tibetan plateau and is often referred to as ‘Little Tibet Indeed, its Buddhist people are of Tibetan origin and many still wear the traditional robes, stove pipe hats and curious felt boots with turned-up toes.



To the north of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Zanskar are parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir although they are outside the area affected by the Indian Pakistan border dispute. They lie north of the main Himalayan chain and are geographically part of the southern edge of the Tibetan plateau. At an altitude of between 8,200ft/2,500m and 14,800ft/4,500m, with peaks of over 23,000ft/7,000m the landscape is barren and desert like. There are several major rivers in the area including the Indus, the Zanskar, the Suru and the Shyok. The Indus river runs roughly east to west across the centre of Ladakh, and is bordered by the major population centres. To the north of the Indus Valley is the Ladakh range, to the south the Zanskar range. Zanskar itself sits to the south of the Zanskar range in the Zanskar river valley. Its southern border is the Greater Himalaya Range


After the demise of the first Tibetan empire, Tibet was divided among three brothers in 1020. One of them moved to Ladakh and founded the first royal dynasty there. When Tibetan Buddhism in the eastern neighbouring kingdom of Guge experienced a new high point, this rejuvenation affected Ladakh. Its temple monasteries and the manner in which religion sharply pervaded the people's way of life gave clear evidence of this. In many cases, old shrines of the earlier Bon religion were transformed into Buddhist monasteries.

In the following centuries, the Ladakhi kings extended their ruling territory. Lhachen Utpala (1080 to 1110) expanded his kingdom up to the realm of the related dynasties of Purang and Mustang (in present-day Nepal). New importance was attached to the culture of the Ladakhi monks when the reform sect of the Gelugpa created by Tsongkhapa led to the reestablishment of monasteries in the 15th century.

Family fueds ended at the beginning of the 15th century with the division of the empire. Lhachen Bhagan unified Ladakh in 1470 and founded a new dynasty, Namgyal. His successor was able to stand ground against an invasion from East Turkestan, but over the years Ladakh was to be plagued repeatedly by plundering, ravaging Islamic armies. During the reign of the powerful kings Sengge Namgyal (ca. 1570 to 1620) and Deldan Namgyal (ca. 1620-1660) the empire was not only further extended, but blossomed anew culturally in Ladakh. It came to an end when the great fifth Dalai Lama of Tibet (Nawang Lobsang Gyatso 1617-82) convinced the Mongolians, whom he had converted to Lamaism, to enter a military campaign against West Tibet and Ladakh. Their king, Delegs Namgyal, turned to Kashmir for help. In the Battle of Basgo (ca 1685) the Tibetan-Mongolian army was stopped. Yet, from then on Ladakh remained under the rule of the Islamic empire of the great Moguls. Its history remained unalterably tied with the history of Jammu and Kashmir, but the country did not forfeit its Lamaistic tradition.

Zanskar’s history has been linked to that of Ladakh from the time of Sengge Namgyal, one of whose sons became the ruler of Zanskar. Thereafter the fortunes of Zanskar followed those of Ladakh, although the former’s remoteness meant that it resisted Muslim encroachment better than its northern neighbour. Under the Dogras Zanskar was divided into two puppet kingdoms, and there remain two kings to this day.



Ladakh and Zanskar are peopled by various groups who have entered and settled in the area over the years. The largest is the Champas, nomads who have settled in the central and eastern area of Ladakh. Buddhism was brought to the region by Mons settlers who populated the Indus Valley. The predominant religion in Ladakh and Zanskar is Mahayana Buddhism. The gompas, often situated on prominent outcrops and on the tops of hills are a feature of the landscape. There is also a significant population of Shia Muslims. Conditions in Ladakh and Zanskar are extremely hard, and the people have adapted their houses and lifestyles to deal with the extremes of temperature. The region has only been open to tourists for the last twenty years or so.



Altitude: 3521 M
Population: 30,000

The small town of Leh is approximately five miles north of the Indus. It originally grew as a trading and market centre and is now, since 1974 the main tourist staging post in the region, and an important garrison town. Overseeing the town is the Royal Palace, now being restored under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. It is easy to find one’s way around, with the Fort dominating the town to the North, the main street running south from the Old town at the foot of the fort and the road to the airport heading south out of the town past the New and Old Bus Stands.

Padam Zanskar

Altitude: 3658 M
Population: Seasonal

Padum is the unremarkable administrative centre of Zanskar, and has few remaining signs of its historical status as capital of the Kingdom of Zanskar. Since the completion of the vehicle route from Kargil it has became the roadhead town, used by visitors as a re-supply station on the trekking routes through the region.


Temperatures in Ladakh and Zanskar can drop to -50 degrees C. in the winter. During the visiting season, July to September, they can rise into the 30’s, and plenty of sun protection is needed. Rainfall is very low, with snowmelt providing water for cultivation.


  • Zanskar Ladakh Dream Trek from Europe to Europe
  • indus valley with stok kangri accent
  • Bodhkharbu to Kartse Khar
  • Mentok Kangri Expedition
  • Rangdum to Padum
  • Hemis Shukpachen To Domkar Trek
  • Kanji to Barandi Nala
  • cultural tours
  • Kanji to Padum
  • Hemis shukpachan Tia village Largyab Trek
  • Rupsho Kharnak Trek
  •  Sikkim Tour / Kanchenjunga and Rhododendron Trek