The very mention of Leh Ladakh brings associations of grandeur. The land has been bestowed with divine magnificence in gigantic proportions. It is difficult to find anything in Ladakh that is petite in its proportions - well, anything except its people. Warm, rosy cheeked and ever smiling, the populace of this cold desert infuses the land with a warmth that is beyond compare.
Traveling in and around Leh Ladakh opens up the unknown vistas of your mind - vistas that you didn't know existed. The exalted mountains, the plunging gorges, the extensive valleys, and the never ending almost level barreness, redeemed only by a few shrubs and bare carcasses of once green trees - leave you to experience feelings that are holy and yet unnamed.
As is common in India, all places have little stories or meanings attached to their names. Ladakh is not any exception. The word 'Leh' in Ladakhi language means 'pass' and hence Ladakh is the 'land of passes'.
Inspite of its inhibiting heights, relentless topography and extreme cold, the great Himalayan Ranges have quite a few passes that incise through. These passes are largely inaccessible except the short summer months, as for natural reasons they remain ice clogged. Plan a trip to these Himalayan Passes and it's a sure bet that you shall never regret it in your life.
Some of the more famous ones among the many Himalayan Passes are:
- Zozi la Pass: Traveling down the 434 km long road that links Srinagar to Ladakh, will take you via one of the most famous of the great Himalayan passes, the Zozi la Pass. Located at an intimidating 11,500 ft or 3505 mts, the passage through this Mountain pass will make it really difficult for you to hold your heart from racing and of course, your fingers from the clicking away at your camera. The scenery on the other side of this pass is magically different from the forested hills of Kashmir, where you started your journey. The pass leads you to the barren mountains of the Drass region.
- Barcha la Pass: Located at a towering height of 16,050 ft or 4892 mts, you encounter this pass while driving down the Manali - Leh highway. The pass is the meeting place for three roads, issuing forth from Manali, Leh and Spiti respectively.
- Khardung la Pass: Reputed to be the world's highest motorable pass, the Khardung la Pass, stands tall at 18,380 ft or 5,602 mts. The pass is located at a distance of 40 kms to the north of Leh, capital of Ladakh.
- Namika la Pass: Located on the road linking the Lamayuru monastery to the Mulbek valley, the Namika La Pass is at a height of 12,200 ft or 3,719 mts.
- Fortu la Pass: Starting at a height of 13,432 ft or 4094 mts, the mountainous road commencing at this pass descends to the Lamayuru monastery and finally to the Indus River.
- Lachung la Pass: Found at a height of 16,600ft or 5059 mts, in the Zanskar Range, a person standing here is provided with a splendid view of the surrounding undulating, hilly areas and the Ladakh valley below.
- Taglang la Pass: Known to be the haunt of the nomadic herdsman called Changpa, who migrate from place to place in search of green pastures, with their herds of goats and sheep, this Himalayan Pass sits pretty at a height of 17,469 ft or 5,325 mts, in the Zanskar range.
A portrait of unconventional beauty, painted in stark hues, the land of Leh Ladakh is like none other. Its haunting beauty is tough to ignore, and creates perfect symphony with the heartbeats of the die hard romantic. The passes in Leh Ladakh are not only hotbeds of tourism, but also some of those rare places, where you can truly realize your place in the Universe.