Ladakh is located in the most distant North of India, at the altitude of about 3500 meters. Encircled by Pakistan and Tibet, this region is as twice big as Switzerland and is part of the highest plateaux of the world. These mountainous landscapes delight the travelers: from the snowy summits, steep-sided gorges, turquoise lakes to the mineral desert. There is a hard winter climate in Ladakh which isolates this region for quite a long part of the year. Then from the month of May the easy living can be experienced again through the summer season until the end of October.
All along history Ladakh has been a crossroad between civilisations. Between the pilgrims heading to Tibet and the merchants taking the Silk Road with their caravans, the atmosphere of Ladakh reflects well this beautiful mixture of influences. Many wars between Kashmir and Tibet also impacted on this region. The arrival of the first Tibetan Dynasty dates from the 10th Century. Ladakh remained an independent kingdom till the 19th Century and then was annexed by Kashmir, before being attached to India in 1947 in the region of Jammu & Cahemire.
Ladakhi sedentary farmers live in oasis nearby mountain streams which irrigate their fields and wait for the summer to develop the necessary crops to face the long winter months such as barley and alfalfa farming and that of wheat. They build their dwellings with bricks made of raw mud. They also weave the wool. As for the nomads of the high plateaux, they move in search of pasturelands for their herds. They almost own nothing and their incomes originate from goat wool the well-known Pashmina. Their traditions and their way of life are mostly linked with the Tibetan Buddhism. Despite the very cold, harsh and dry environment, Ladakhi people demonstrate some considerable serenity and a tremendous ingeniosity.
Most of the Ladakhi people practice Tibetan Buddhism. A Muslim Community is also present for instance in Leh and Purig in the West. The form of Buddhism found in Ladakh comes from the relationships that have been maintained with Tibet. Monasteries and Palaces prevail in the valleys. Stupas, chortens and prayer flags can be easily seen in the landscape in Ladakh. Monasteries maintain their strong links with the villagers. The religious fervor can be found in each family through the daily prayers and religious festivals.
Tourism is becoming the first source of incomes in this region. In the past, the economy was mainly based on a subsistence agriculture and on the commercial relationships linked with the passing of the caravans on the Silk Road. Nowadays, things are changing. The market economy and the tourism boom are transforming the way of life and the culture in Ladakh. Leh is an unavoidable center for the young generations in search of a better future.