Ladakh (La-Dags – “land of high mountain passes”) is mainland India’s most remote and sparsely populated region, a high-altitude desert cradled by the Karakoram and Great Himalaya ranges and crisscrossed by myriad razor-sharp peaks and ridges. Variously described as “Little Tibet” or “the last Shangri-La”, and culturally and administratively separate from the rest of India, this area is one of the last enclaves of Mahayana Buddhism, which has been its principal religion for nearly a thousand years. This is most evident in Ladakh’s medieval monasteries: perched on rocky hilltops and clinging to sheer cliffs, these gompas are both repositories of ancient wisdom and living centres of worship.

Set in a sublime landscape and crammed with hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, this atmospheric little town, a staging post on the old Silk Route, is most visitors’ point of arrival and an ideal base for side-trips. North of Leh, across the highest driveable pass in the world, Khardung La, lies the valley of Nubra, where sand dunes carpet the valley floor. It is also possible to visit the great wilderness around the lake of Tso Moriri in Rupshu, southeast of Leh, and to glimpse Tibet from the shores of Pangong Tso in the far east of Ladakh. For all these areas you will, however, need a permit. West of Leh, beyond the windswept Fatu La and Namika La passes, Buddhist prayer flags peter out as you approach the predominantly Muslim district of Kargil. Ladakh’s second largest town, at the mouth of the breathtakingly beautiful Suru Valley, is the jumping-off point for Zanskar, the vast wilderness in the far south of the state that forms the border with Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh.


Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook