Ladakh’s beautiful scenery is its major attraction,
and local nature guides...
can take you looking for blue sheep.
Between the mountains of the Great Himalaya and the formidable Karakoram lies the high altitude kingdom of Ladakh. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from 2,750m to 6,670m, covering an area of 90,000sq.km. Today’s high altitude desert was once covered by an extensive lake system, the remains of which can be seen in the large lakes in the south-east. The population of eastern and central Ladakh is predominantly of Tibetan origin and follows Buddhism. Further west people are Muslims of more mixed origin. The area’s landscape and unique cultural heritage have been major attractions since Ladakh opened to tourists in 1974. In 2003, some 30,000 tourists visited Ladakh during June to September for a variety of activities including trekking, rafting, and sightseeing. Tourism related activities have grown rapidly over the past two decades, especially in and around the capital Leh that serves as the base for most visitors.
The primary destination for trekkers and other nature-based visits is Hemis National Park (HNP). In 2003, over 6,000 tourists trekked through the National Park during the summer months. The park is located south of Leh and covers 4,400 sq.km. and has a population of herders that share the area’s natural resources with the wildlife. The Park is divided into three valleys, namely Rumbak, Markha and the Shang valley that remain cut off from each other during winter by the Gandala pass (4,900m) and Kongmrula pass (5,150m) to the south. There are 15 villages with approximately 100 households in these valleys. Apart from the unique landscape and harsh beauty, the mountains are home to a variety of cultural resources such as local homes, monasteries, etc, and support a high altitude ecosystem with rare and endangered flora and fauna. The area is considered the best habitat in India for the elusive snow leopard (Uncia uncia) – an attraction for visitors whether you see one or not.
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