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India

Highlights

People & Culture
Culture
Packed with history, art and culture, the princely state of Rajasthan is a treasure-trove of exquisite palaces, enchanting forts, and finely curved temples - a standing testimony to the imperial grandeur of its recent past. Each of its cities is a great tourist attraction with pride of place going to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Ajmer. Most visitor see Rajasthan on a jeep safari, but to really get a hands-on feel of the desert state, there's no beating a camel safari out into the surrounding deserts and this is what most visitors came for.

The large region of Ladakh and Zanskar with its high, arid lunar landscape and Buddhist culture is geographically and culturally an extension of western Tibet. Ladakh and Zanskar still retain the monastic Buddhism that was forcefully suppressed within Tibet for the last two generations. In fact, the image of Tibetan culture most Westerners imagine to exist in Tibet is perhaps now more appropriate to Ladakh than to Tibet itself, since the monasteries and gompas of Ladakh were never systematically destroyed or closed as they were in Tibet following the Chinese invasion in 1959.

The People
The people of Ladakh and Zanskar are pretty unique too. Being Buddhist and staying in the remotest of regions, they have long had the reputation of being very tolerant, inoffensive and non-violent, not to mention, the friendliest and most hospitable of people. The inhabitants are a happy-go-lucky sort who live a romantic life in primitive villages contented with herding their prized yaks in the summer pastures.

Trekking In Ladakh & Zanskar
Trekking through Ladakh and Zanskar is not easy - its harsh, rugged terrain, inhospitable climate, and high passes up to 5500-m is enough to tax the most seasoned of hikers - but once you've walked these trails, you could easily get hooked for life.
For Zanskar, there's no way to get there but walk with the most popular trekking route starting (or ending) at the monastery at Lamayuru near Leh with the trail passing through the "capital" of Zanskar at Padum, a village of mud and stone where yaks crowd the main square. There are no facilities whatsoever-no motorized transport, not even food to buy. You must carry everything you will need with you for the duration of your trip, except sand and rocks. Although maximum altitudes are not unusual by Himalayan standards, you'll spend weeks at a time above 4,000-m. The sun is broiling hot by day, the air frigid at night, so be prepared. For more info on trekking in the Himalayas, click here.

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