If there is ever a great time to visit the serene Land of the Lamas, it is during the month of September. This is when the Ladakh Festival begins; transforming this quiet and peaceful land into one that hums and vibrates with energy, festivities and celebration.
Starting on 20th September with a grand inauguration in Leh, the festival continues till 26th September every year. Large processions, colourful troupes, regional performing artists, and masked dancers add to the joyous celebrations down the market streets. All the hamlets of the region participate in this festival that lends great insight into an otherwise little known culture of Ladakh.
In addition to the celebrations, the Chham dance performance, musical concerts, archery competitions, and polo are some must-experience highlights of the event. The exhibitions showcasing some of the best Thangka paintings and other local handicrafts are special tourist delights. One can even pick a few as souvenirs for friends and relatives back home. The festival is a great opportunity to sample some of the traditional comfort foods of the region, with momos, Thupka, butter tea, and Yak cheese being the delicious hot sellers.
Little known to many, September also sees the start of the Ladakh marathon, a little before the festival. If you are lucky to arrive a bit early, you can witness and even participate in the marathon run. The fifth edition of this marathon is on 10 September 2016. Over the last four years, the race has won the recognition of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.
The major highlights of the event include:
A 7 km Fun Race
This is the shortest run, but draws lots of participants It is not easy to run at 11,500 feet. Lot of locals participate in this though.
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Meant for fit and seasoned runners, it starts at the Shanti Stupa in Leh city and traverses through the picturesque city and its outskirts including the Choglamsar Village completing 21kms in all.
It is the main event meandering though the beautiful Ladakh villages surrounded by the mighty Himalayan peaks and the colossal Indus. The event starts and ends at Shanti Stupa covering 42 km. Only experienced runners and athletes can compete here.
Considered to be the mother of all marathon races, this 72 km run starts at Khardung Village and goes uphill through the world’s highest motorable road of Khardung La pass at 17,617 feet altitude. It is the fight of the fittest here and even professional runners struggle to the finish line. It is also named as the Khardung La Challenge.