Reaching Leh by flight is straight forward with options from Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar.
By Road from Kashmir
The Srinagar-Leh highway (No.NH 1D) is about 430km. It crosses the first La (Pass) at Zojila (3500m) where once highest tank battle was fought. This pass remains closed from about November till April (depends upon prevailing weather too). Dras, the first major village is the second coldest inhabited place. Nearby is also the 'Kargil' War memorials surrounded by Tiger hill and Tololing. Kargil town is about halfway and is a major town of transit and refueling. It has another two passes: Mankila and Fotula to finally descend in the Indus valley. Despite passing through mountains, most of the stretch is a smooth ride.
By Road from Manali
The Manali-Leh highway is about 470km and remains open from May through September (depending upon prevailing weather condition). Well, this highway is not only a ride but an adventure. The road negotiates several high passes like Rothang (3980m), Baralacha La (4890m) passing the Great Himalaya Range, lachung La (5000m) and finally Taglang La (5325m) passing the Zanskar range. More than 40km ride through one of the vast and desolate highaltitude plains of Skyangchu Thang is an experience. There road is little tough, particularly in early and late season. There are various temporary transit points providing basic services to travelers.
Landmarks: Presence of the Buddha
Ladakh is dotted with some Buddhist monuments, and since many do not understand the meaning, the land has also become 'mystic'
Stupa, locally known as Chorten, is one of the most significant landmarks of this land. Chorten may be interpreted as 'support for worship' and even equated with the Sanskrit term 'stupa'. These may be standing singly or in sets of 3 or even 108 in a row. Many are erected for religious merits, some for protection, others as 'memorials' or even as tombs of spiritual masters. Prayer flags are also common, on mountain tops or on houses. Mantras are inscribed on these, as well as on stones or boulders. As the cloth of a prayer flag wears off, it is believed that all the prayers written on the cloth have been spread in all directions.
People of Ladakh has its own culture and heritage which survived in this remote part of the Himalayas since thousands of years. Life is infact tough at this altitude, and hence the survival strategy of Ladakhis make them unique with their culture and tradition. Most of the Ladakhis are Buddhist by faith, which has also changed the way of life. Despite tourism trade fuelling the economy, agriculture is the basic source of livelihood. Many traditional innovation are made to grow their food source in a very short season of around four months.
Changpas are the nomadic community of Ladakh, inhabiting the Changthang region. Changthang is the vast eastern region, bordering Tibet and China. Due to its altitude, it is inhospitable to agriculture. Therefore, the natives are nomadic stock-herders.
Another community considered to be pure Aryan, and that once flourished throughout Ladakh, is also found in pockets of West Ladakh, called Drokpa. The Drokpas of today are actually Dards who remained Buddhists but at the same time retaining their own peculiar traditions with many pantheons, of Bon-chos, a pre-Buddhist religion. Because of the peculiarity of their origin, Drokpas are world famous, especially among anthropologists. The Drokpas are also different in their body features. They have more prominent nose and blue eyes. They also wear lot of silver jewellery and natural flowers on their caps.
Today, for different sets of tourists, Ladakh has different things to offer. For adventurers, it has plenty of adventure sports like mountaineering, trekking on frozen river and river rafting etc. For a biologist, there are some rare, elusive and magnificent species of plants and animals in the wilderness of Ladakh. For a conservationist, traditional culture, archaeological sites and the fragile ecology will be their concern. A wild jeep-safari through the plains of Changthang will be your last chance for a practice-drive for "Dakar-rally". Lastly, for pikers, the calm serene valleys will give the languor of a siesta on a hot summer day with a cool breeze. All said, yet "Adventure is not outside a man; it is within" says David Grayson, and this may be the edge of your world if your 'within' matches aptly with the 'outside' here in this part of the world, in the lap of the Great Himalayas.