Ladakh History, Geography & Climate


The first settlements, along the upper Indus, were established by Mons, Buddhist pilgrims on their way from India to Mt Kailash in Tibet. The Brokpa tribe, who today live in Dha- Hanu, are the last Indo-Iranian people to still follow Buddhism. In the 9th century, Ladakh’s influence extended beyond the Indus Valley and during this time many forts and palaces, including Shey, were constructed. In the late 14th century Tsongkhapa, a Tibetan pilgrim, introduced to Ladakh a Buddhist order headed by the first Dalai-Lama. The new order, known as Gelupka, flourished and led to the founding of gompas at Tikse, Likkir and Spituk.

In the ensuing years, the Balti-Kashmiri armies launched various attacks against Ladakh, which in the 16th century fell subject to the rule of Ali Mir of Baltistan. But its fortunes were revived under the rule of Singge Namgyal, who in addition to territorial gains, established Leh as his capital and constructed a palace there. During the early 17th century, the Ladakhi royal family assisted Brokpa monks in establishing gompas at Hemis and Stakna.

Soon Ladakhi forces were called on to face a combined Mongol-Tibetan army and help was sought from the governor of Kashmir. This involved symbolic tribute to the Mughal Empire and the construction of the mosque in Leh’s Main Bazaar Road was the price Aurangzeb extracted. After the conflict with Tibetan forces, trade relations resumed and Leh was able to re-establish its influence over Zanskar

Ladakh’s fortunes changed again in the 1830s when the Dogra army from Jammu invaded Ladakh and exiled the king to the king to Stok. The Dogras were led by the famous general Zorawar Singh, who was appointed by the first maharaja of Kashmir, Gulab Singh. Ladakh became a part of the maharaja’s vast state in 1846and remained under the control of Jammu and Kashmir after Independence until some administrative autonomy was granted in 1995. Today Ladakh and Zanskar remain part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 


Ladakh is bordered to the south-west by the Great Himalaya Range, including the impressive snowcapped peaks of Nun (7135m) and Kun (7087), the highest peaks in the Kashmir Himalaya. North and parallel to the Himalaya is the Zanskar Range, which is the main range between the Himalaya and the Indus Valley. The region is drained by the Zanskar River, which flows into the Indus River just below Leh, and the Suru River, which flows into the Indus down- stream of Kargil.

The Stok Range immediately south of Leh is an impressive outlier north of the Zanskar Range, while north of Leh is the snowcapped Ladakh Range. North of the Ladakh Range, the Nurba and Shyok Rivers drain the huge peaks of the eastern Karakoram including Rimo 1 (7385m) and Teram Kangri 1 (7464m), which define the northern border of Ladakh.

In the east of Ladakh are several scintillating tsos (lakes), including Pangong Tso forming the border with Tibet, and Tso Moriri and Tso Kar set in a high- altitude desert characteristic of the Tibetan plateau. 


The temperatures in Ladakh are extreme; some people claim it’s the only place where it’s possible to sit in the sun with your feet in the shade and catch sunstroke and frostbite at the same time. The sun, which shines, on average, for 300 days of the year, is deceptively strong at this high altitude – bring sunscreen.

Over the past few years the climate has been changing, with moth more rain and snow, creating problems for inhabitants of a traditionally desert region. Average summer and winter temperatures are:




Dha - Hanu Region -3-29 C -15-15 C
Leh -9-30 C -20-17 C
Nubra Valley -3-28 C -15-15 C
Pangong Tso -12-18 C -25-18 C
Tso Moriri -10-17 C -22-6 C