Introduction to Ladakh
Ladakh, word which means "land of high passes", is a mountainous region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, northwest of India.
Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Today, about 18 000 tourists visit Ladakh every year especially at summer time, as it lies on the rain shadow side of the Himalayas.
For nearly 900 years, from the middle of the 10th century, Ladakh was an independent kingdom, its ruling dynasties descending from the kings of old Tibet.
The kingdom attained its greatest geographical extent and glory in the early 17th century.
Gradually, Ladakh became recognized as the best trade route between the Punjab and Central Asia. For centuries it was traversed by caravans carrying textiles, spices, raw silk, carpets, narcotics, etc...
On this long route, Leh was the midway stop, and developed into a bustling entrepot, its bazars thronged with merchants from distant countries.
Ironically, it was this lucrative trade that finally spelt the doom of the independent kingdom.
It attracted the covetous attention of Gulab Singh, the ruler of Jammu in the early 19th century, who sent his army to invade Ladakh in 1834. There followed a decade of war and turmoil, which ended with the emergence of the British as the paramount power in north India.
At that time, Ladakh was incorporated into the newly created state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Ladakh is a montainous region. People live between 2700 and 4500 meters, and nomadic encampments even higher.
The Indus valley is the Ladakhi heartland, with the highest population density, and large amounts of agricultural land. Running parallel, roughly north-east south-west with it are a series of valleys and mountain ranges.
The 240 000 Ladakhi living in Ladakh are a mix of Buddhist and Muslim, 50% of each. Buddhists are the majority in the east close to the Chinese border while Muslims have the majority in the north and west.
Travellers are likely to see more of the Buddhists as the majority of the tourist attractions are in the east and directly related to Tibetan Buddhist culture.
Ladakh lies on the rain shadow side of the Himalayas. Indeed, precipitation is very low with an annual level of 12cm mainly inform of snow. The district combines the condition of both arctic and desert climate and this is why it is often called “the cold desert”.

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Special Permits
No special permit is required to visit most of Ladakh, including Leh and Kargil towns.
Permits are required for both domestic and foreign tourists to visit the "Inner Line" areas (Nubra Valley, Panggong Lake, Durbuk, Tso-Moriri, Tsokar Lakes, the area along the Indus River east of Upshi, Dha-hanu and the area along the Indus River northwest of Khalatse).
Permits are not available, and foreigners are not allowed, in the far reaches areas close to the borders with Pakistan and China also called Line of Control.

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