“Please be a traveller, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” – Andrew Zimmern.
So true this is and yet only few manage to look beyond normal travel routines and discover places, people and food; taste real adventure. In today’s fast-paced world, people have less time to travel and even lesser time to actually explore new places which can enhance their experiences. And going beyond the usual sometimes makes all the difference between a traveller and a tourist. Tourists travelling to Leh Ladakh by air arrive at Leh which offers the first glimpse of Ladakh. The usual itinerary comprises popular sites like Khardung La, Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso, but there are host of other places which can offer uniqueness and sense of discovery to the traveller. So here is a list of such places for all you adventurous people and will bring out the traveller in you.
01. Turtuk (210 Kms from Leh)
Tucked in a corner towards Line of Control is this beautiful, peaceful and colourful village named Turtuk. It is the last point in Shyok Valley and 85 KM from Hundar. Shyok River follows you throughout your journey and offers some great and magnificent locations which will stay in your memory forever. The valley concisely tapers near tiny Changmar village after which the real changes start. Till 1971, Turtuk was part of Baltisan (now in Pakistan) which became part of India after the war. Culturally you will find Buddhists and Muslim-Balti but the inhabitants are originally of Buddhism religion which is the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. In the 8th century they were converted to Tibetan Buddhism and subsequently in Islam in the 13th century. There are 2 areas the Upper and the lower Turtuk both different scenically.
02. Dah Hanu (The Land of Aryans) (165 Kms from Leh)
The villages of Dah and Hanu are situated to the northwest of the town of Leh towards Lamayuru. One of the major attractions of Dah & Hanu is to meet people of Brogpa or Dard community. They are ethnically distinct from the rest of Ladakhis and they believe that they are a pure Aryan race which migrated from Europe about 1000 years ago. The language spoken within the community is Brogskad which is quite different from Ladakhi. Brogpa means mountain dwellers and their culture can be seen in a local festival Bona Na. Their ancient traditions and way of life are partly preserved through their songs, festivals and hymns. The location itself is extremely beautiful with the colorful flowers all over the village gardens overlooking the turquoise river Indus and golden Barley fields. It is a view that remains etched forever…
03. Chilling (60 Kms from Leh)
This is a quaint and hidden village where some of the famous treks in Markha and Zanskar valley either start or end. And I must tell you this is one of best small rides I have had in and around Leh. You can really feel the remoteness and experience some mind blowing views of the valley. It is extremely beautiful with Zanskar River flowing by your side, small and even smaller settlements, colour changing mountains and warm people. I can bet you would think and rethink before going back to your mundane lives. It definitely makes to our top 5 lists very comfortably.
04. Hanle (255 Kms from Leh)
This is a village in Changthang region and is notably the southernmost part of Ladakh. It is serene, calm, enchanting and is best for people who want to feel nothingness, vastness and awe amongst the majestic and pristine Himalayas. It is also home to Hanle or Analy Gompa of 17th century which belongs to a branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Hanle is known for its Indian Astronomical Observatory and it is now being equipped with Major Atmosphere Cherenkov Experiment (MACE) gamma-ray telescope being built here will be the world’s largest telescope at the highest altitude and the second largest gamma-ray telescope in the world. So all those astronomical guys out there, this is the place to be next season
05. Chushul (210 Kms from Leh)
It is another village in the Changthang region which is close to Pangong Lake. Home to beautiful salt marshes where you get to see Black Necked Cranes, an endangered species which migrate here every year. This is the place where fierce army battle has taken place in 1962 with Chinese army and our heroes once again proved their mettle. Nearby there are awesome views to follow including Mirpal Tso, another beautiful lake. You can also see the Spangur Gap which is a mountain pass on the Line of Actual Control from where a lake and Chinese territory is also visible. Bring on the respect for army by visiting the War Memorial and pay your salute as well. We have marked these locations for you in a map.
Even though we have just covered 5, Ladakh has many tiny, quaint and pristine locations and have a lot to offer for both travellers and tourists. The green oasis in such raw and unforgiving cold desert brings a different hue to our mind and thoughts. The only fact that still surprises me is how people have survived and have learnt to live with very little and still remain content and happy. The Land of High Passes is barren yet amazingly beautiful, poor yet culturally rich, distant yet feels friendly, similar yet contrastingly diverse, harsh yet soulful calming.
They say “the travel never ends but the road does”. So explore more, keep riding, be safe and do visit the one and only Leh Ladakh.