Top Places to visit in Jammu & Kashmir

1. Dal Lake

Dal Lake

Lake Dal is also called the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” and “Srinagar treasure”. This is not only a tourist attraction, but also the main source of income for fishermen.

The coastline of the lake with a length of about 15 kilometers is equipped with parks, hotels, canals. A lake with an area of ​​18 square kilometers freezes at a temperature of -11 degrees. Also swamps, flooded fields, gardens and canals adjoin the lake. Its maximum depth is 6 meters.

The ecosystem of the reservoir includes macrophytes, phytoplankton, and floating plants. On the surface of the water grow Komarov’s lotus, white water lily, swamp flower, salvinia and other plants, which occupy up to 30 percent of the lake’s surface. In floating gardens, locals grow tomatoes, melons and cucumbers. Vegetables from floating gardens are thought to be juicy and delicious.

The lake is home to a lot of fish, which makes it an important part of the Kashmir economy.

2. Lake Tsomoriri

Lake Tsomoriri

Tsomoriri – the largest alpine lake in India, is known for its sapphire blue water and amazingly beautiful landscapes.

The length of the lake is 19 kilometers. The name of the lake is not simple – the legend says that one Buddhist nun rode on a yak, and accidentally ended up on the shore of the lake. Yak could not cross the lake, and began to sink. The nun began to call for help and shout in Tibetan ri-ri. The nun drowned, and the lake was named Tsomoriri.

Unfortunately, you can admire this beauty only in the summer months.

3. Pangong Lake

Pangong Lake

Pangong translates as “long Divine Ocean”, which is true: the lake is located at an altitude of 4250 meters, and its length is 154 kilometers. It is located in the Himalayan Mountains in two countries: India and China.

The salt water of the lake is practically devoid of life, and in winter it completely freezes. But life around is boiling with a variety of birds and animals.

Although the lake is not considered sacred, it can be called a place of amazing beauty and harmony, where you can be alone with nature.

The combination of multi-colored mountains, the vast expanses of dark blue water cause admiration and silent contemplation.

4. Lamayuru Monastery

Lamayuru Monastery

Lamayuru was founded in the 11th century by the famous Mahasidha Naropa. Initially, it consisted of five buildings, but only one has survived to this day. The monastery got its name from the plantation of the sacred grain, which mysteriously took the form of a swastika and symbolizes the new Bon.

Currently, Lamayuru belongs to the direction of the Buddhist school Drikung Kagyu, but for a long time was a refuge for followers of the Bon religion.

The oldest surviving building in the monastery is Senggegang, on the south side of the cliff. Its construction is attributed to Saint Rinchen Sanpo. He received from King Ladakh to build 108 monasteries in Ladakh and the surrounding regions.

Every year in Lamayuru Monastery, two dance celebrations are held, in which residents of nearby cities participate.

There is also a general gathering of the Lamayuru monks and neighboring monasteries for joint prayer.

5. Matho Monastery

Matho Monastery

The village of Matho is located in a deep gorge of the Zankarsky ridge, while the monastery is located not far from it, on the banks of the Indus. Matho Monastery was founded in the 16th century by the famous Lama Dugpa Dorje. It is the only monastery in Ladakh owned by the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The number of monks in it is constantly growing.

The village of Matho is located in a deep gorge of the Zankarsky ridge, while the monastery is located not far from it, on the banks of the Indus. Matho Monastery was founded in the 16th century by the famous Lama Dugpa Dorje. It is the only monastery in Ladakh owned by the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The number of monks in it is constantly growing.

The monastery is famous for its collections of thangkas and mandalas, carved wooden decorations of the facades. The small monastery museum houses llama costumes, their masks and outfits that they wear for their sacred dances during ritual ceremonies. Every year, the oracle festival takes place in the monastery, in which monks take part, having spent a long time in seclusion and meditation. Such llamas acquire extraordinary capabilities and demonstrate amazing feats with knives and swords, as well as the ability to walk blindfolded on elevations.

In the Dukkhang (assembly hall) of the monastery are the statues of Avalokiteshvara, Matreya and Sakyamuni. On the top floor of the building there is a small turret where you can see images of the Great Teacher Sakya Pandita and other lamas of the Sakya school.

6. Stakna Gompa Monastery

The monastery, founded in the 16th century by a scientist from Bhutan, Jamyang Padkhar, is located on the left bank of the Indus River in Leh County, in Ladakh, India. The name of the monastery means “tiger nose”, it is believed that it is located on a mountain resembling a tiger head. This monastery is interesting for its beautiful silver chortens, unique wall paintings, the meeting room (dukhang) is decorated with excellent thangkas. The monastery has the famous statue of Arya Avalokiteshvara from Kamrup, in Assam.

The oldest part of the monastery is Gonghang, which was probably part of the original building. From the gate you can go to the central courtyard. Dukkhang is located along the courtyard, and there is kept a turquoise inlaid silver chorten, many thangkas, which depict Sakyamuni, Amitayus, Padmasambhava, Tibetan Buddhist kings. Dukhang also has several statues of some of the Friend-pa lamas. The room behind the altar is decorated with beautiful wall paintings.

The marble statue of Avalokitesvara, brought from Assam, is the most famous statue in the gompa, and in the small museum you can admire a magnificent collection of weapons.

About 30 monks and tulkus live in the monastery, to which the gompas Stakrimo, Bardan Gompa and Sani Gompa obey. According to the tradition, the llamas of the monastery are considered reincarnations of Stakna Tulku.

7. Zoji La Pass

The road on the pass rises to 3527 meters, so it is the second highest pass in India. People do not live there, and animals on the contrary feel comfortable in the highlands. As you approach Ladakh, the landscapes become more deserted, contrasting with the green colors of Kashmir.

It often happens that on one side of the pass the sun is shining, and on the other for several days it has been pouring continuous rain. The road at the pass is narrow and one-sided, so transport cannot go right in both directions. A few hours drive there, and the next few back.

The opening season for the road falls at the end of May and ends at the end of October, sometimes depending on the weather, it is extended for a couple of weeks. At any time of the year, the pass is closed from 16.00 to 4.00 in the morning.

8. Nubra Valley

Nubra Valley

The valley was opened to tourists in 1994, and used to be part of the Central Asian route, known as the Silk Road. The road connecting Leh with Yarkend and further to Central Asia and Mongolia passed along it. The population of bactrian camels, leisurely walking along the valley, reminds of those times.

Nubra Valley is a rather deserted space with several oases of vegetation and settlements, the main among which are Diskit (administrative center), Sumur, Hunder and Panamik.

In addition to the natural beauties in the valley there are several Buddhist monasteries. The main and largest monastery is located in the village of Deskit and stands on top of the mountain. Here, in this village there is a school of Buddhist iconography and a museum of “tanks”.

9. Hemis Monastery

Hemis Monastery

Hemis Monastery has never been the most beautiful and picturesque or the largest. However, his name is known not only in India, but throughout the world.

And the monastery is famous for its legends and bright holidays held within its walls. One of these festivals is the festival dedicated to the birth of Padmasambhava. It is believed that he lived to increase the level of spirituality of people. Padmasambhav was born on the tenth day of the fifth month of the year of the monkey, which means that the festival is held once every 12 years. During the festival, an altar is created on which people bring gifts: holy water, rice, incense sticks and incense. Musicians play traditional musical instruments, and the monks perform a ritual dance that identifies them with enlightened beings.

The last festival was held in June 2009, that is, the next one will take place only in 2021, but the monastery is interesting to visit just like that, when it is quiet and deserted, and the atmosphere is conducive to peace and meditation.

10. Likir Monastery

Likir Monastery

Likir was founded in the 11th century by Tibetan monks. The main attraction of the monastery is a huge gilded Buddha statue – Maitreya. It is located in the courtyard of the monastery. Another feature of Likir is the museum, which contains medieval weapons, musical instruments, jewelry, historical documents, thangkas, coins, Ladakh suits and utensils belonging to the kings of Ladakh.

But first of all, Likir is a monastery. Here live 150 monks who, in their free time from prayers, conduct tours of the monastery.

11. Shey Monastery

A three-story Buddha statue, covered with five kilograms of gold … You can see this miracle by visiting the Shey monastery in the city of Leh.

A huge statue 12 meters high occupies almost the entire monastery, namely its three floors. On the first floor are the feet of the Buddha, “the soles pointing upwards”, on the second – the body, and on the third – the head of the Great, surrounded by lamps that constantly burn in a sign of purity and divinity of the place.

The walls of the entire temple inside are fully decorated with frescoes and murals. They depict the Buddha in all the diversity of his lives and rebirths.

Near the monastery is a field where locals cremate the dead. First, the monks chant the deceased at home according to special rituals, then they burn it and sing ashes over the water to sing the lamas.

Shay Monastery is also the epicenter of the two main holidays of the year. The first takes place in July-August and marks the beginning of the sowing of the crop. On this day, residents of the surrounding villages come to the monastery, and the monks conduct special ceremonies to ensure that the harvest is good. The second holiday is harvest day. The villagers bring part of their harvest to the monastery as a gift to the next sowing season.

12. Spituk Monastery

Spituk Monastery was built almost 550 years ago in the vicinity of the Indian city of Ladakh, on one of the cliffs towering above the village of Spituk. There are two ancient temples, one of which is more than 900 years old. According to legend, the name of the monastery means “worthy of imitation.” It was meant that the monastery community would live and serve here, setting an example for others. Or, conversely, is already an example.

In the temples of the monastery you can see a variety of relics – weapons, collections of masks, canonical texts, murals, images of deities on the walls, statues of Buddha, gods and goddesses. And in the largest Gonkhang temple, towering above the rest, tantric masks are stored. They are still used during the main Gurstor festival in the middle of winter, which ends with the sacrifice of the sacred cake.

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