Sham, literally meaning lower part, forms the lower Indus Valley. Contrary to its English meaning, it is very authentic! This valley is the most accessible part of Ladakh owing to the national highway (NH1) running through most part of the valley. It is also known for its rich cultural heritage, especially the monasteries such as Alchi, Lamayuru, Likir and Ridzong. Sham has unparalleled natural beauty such as juniper and poplar groves, forming oasis in the cold desert. The Sham also constitutes a very important snow leopard habitat. The birdlife is also very vibrant. Trekking trail, often touted as the ‘baby trek’ passes through some picturesque villages such as Liker, Saspotsey, Yangthang, Ulley, Hemis Shukapachan, Ang and Temisgam, all with homestay facilities. Most of the destinations in the valley are also accessible by road, giving an option for a short getaway from the hustle-bustle of urban areas. The altitude at the destinations ranges from 3,000 to about 4200 m asl.
The main Ladakhi monasteries are lying in the remains of the ancient Kingdom of Sham, while there are many astonishing sites around to visit, like
Sham Valley also known as “Apricot Valley” being the abode of Apricot Flower that blossoms in the valley in spring, is perhaps the easiest and most enjoyable trek around Leh. Sham Valley Trek tempts you with pleasurable walks to some of the remote villages in the Ladakh region passing through small mountain passes, streams, shady willows and barley fields, which gives out the traditional aroma of the Ladakh village life from the villages you come across on the way.
Duration: 4 – 7 days
Grading: Easy to Moderate
Altitude: 3474m to 4110m
Terrain: Alpine, Meadows, Snowy
Best Season: May to October
Distance from Leh:55kms
Tarutse lies at an altitude of 3,527m, just across the Likir River within walking distance of Likir monastery (gonpa). Tarutse and Likir lie under a beautiful mountain that is patterned with horizontal striations. Of the 25 houses here, four offer Himalayan Homestays. The Likir gonpa is believed to date back to the 11th century. Lama Lawang Lhotos later established the Gelugpa order here in the 15th century. This is one of the most active gonpas with 100 monks in residence. Its museum houses a fine collection of old thangkas(sacred scroll-paintings done on cloth that are used in worship).
Distance from Leh:64kms
Saspotsey is a beautiful village, which is one of the latest villages to join the homestays programme in Sham. The village is located at an altitude of about 3,700m above sea level. The village is full of wild roses along the fringes of the agricultural fields. The entire village turns pink in July, when the rose bushes are in full bloom. The villagers are very friendly and cooperative. You can explore the surroundings of the village with local guides who are well-conversant with the flora and fauna.
Distance from Leh:68kms
Yangthang is a pretty village located at 3,560m. Three households located in the lower half of the village near the Ulley stream have been offering Himalayan Homestays since 2004. The surrounds are rich in Ladakh urial, an important prey for snow leopards, and are occasionally visited by dhole (wild dogs), wolves and red foxes. The birdlife is also rich. Look for dippers, finches, partridges, golden eagle, lammergeier and many more. You can also see the Eurasian otter along the stream.
Distance from Leh:76kms
Ulley village offers spectacular vistas of the mountains: they cascade one behind the other as far as the eye can see. Situated at 4,050m, this is the highest village on the Sham route with seven houses surrounded by barley fields. Four of these offer Himalayan Homestays. Ulley suffers high livestock losses due to relatively high numbers of snow leopards and wolves. Villagers’ livestock constitutes yaks, dzos, horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats.
Distance from Leh:78kms
Hemis-Shukpachan is known all over Ladakh as the village blessed with sacred Juniper trees. Juniper leaves were used widely as incense in monasteries and unfortunately the number of junipers in Ladakh declined over the years. The village community has made a detailed plan to protect the last standing junipers around the village. Apples and apricots grow here. Above Hemis-Shukpachan is the Dakmar Hill (meaning ‘red rocks’) that has a hermit’s abode. The Rinpoche and monks from the Ri-dzong monastery are known to retreat here for meditation. The hills to the southeast and southwest are good habitat for Ladakh urial.
Distance from Leh: 45kms
Elevation: 3556 mtrs
No.of Homestays: 5
Ang is located at about 3,500 m asl. Of the 27 households here, eight offer Himalayan Homestays. The village lies above the larger village of Temisgam that is known for its 14th-century fort. Temisgam Fort served as one of the capitals of Ladakh in the 15th century, under the rule of Graspa-Bum. It is one of Ladakh’s important pilgrimage sites. Though most of the fortress is now in ruins, three temples are still in use.
Distance from Leh:88kms
Derives name from ‘Ting-Sgang’ (on a raised platform). After Ladakh’s division in 14th–15th centuries, the lower kingdom was controlled from Basgo and Temisgam. Little remains of it’s glorious past ; the castle is in ruins but still there are two gompas (Tseskermo and Chenrazik; with a famous statue of Avalokitesvara) which can be visited, on the hill behind the village.
Distance from Leh:92kms
Tia is a relatively larger village comprising of 234 households divided in six wards-Khaling, Charchar,, Sogra, Sara, Pharka, and tongton. It is situated at 110 KM from Leh and 20 Km from Khaltse (the block headquarter ) and is accessible from Leh-Srinagar Highway at Nurla and through Temisgam. The village has adequate water fed by its glaciers but has limited cultivable land. There is a Gonpa and Nunnery in Tia. The HP has two primary schools, a high school, an MAC, a community hall and a Panchayat Ghar.
Distance from Leh:108 km
There are two meanings of Skindyang. One meaning is (Spit-ring) which translates to a long spring season as compared to other villages in the Sham region. The other meaning is Skindiyang which means happy village. This implies that in this village there is great prosperity and even happiness in the smallest things, people are happy with what they have. Many great lamas were born in our village. For example, one of the incarnation of H.H Bakula Rimpoche, H. E Bakula Rangdol Nima Rimpoche (previous ), Lama Thinlay Otzer, Dupspon Thinlas Thirchen Rimpoche, Lama Stsondus, Lama Choter.
The villagers are fortunate to have these great Lamas who graced their land with their blessings and also took and are still taking initiatives in educating the locals in the village.The village is blessed to have adequate and timely rainfall and snow which helps them in the good harvest and due to that the people are warm, kind and work together as a community to live a holistic and happy life. As of now, they do not face any significant water shortage and people are able to sustain themselves through natural resources.
The village is located approximately 108 km away from Leh. There are 40 households and all villages primarily practice organic village. There is one Gompa located in the centre of the village. There is also a small temple called Lama Guru- this place is of great significance to us as we are able the see the foot prints of Guru Rinpoche inside this temple. This is also the reason that we have many monks who visit this place from different regions of Ladakh and even from outside Ladakh. On the backside of this temple, the mountain ranges are dyed in red- this spot is particularly famous as a place of worship (Nyasri). There is another meditation centre called Tsamskang which literally translates to “small meditation centre”. There is a mani wheel inside the centre which runs through the power of flowing water, Joni Tsamskang is the meditation cave. One day hiking route and their easily able to see the Snow leopard.
Wildlife in the region: wolf, Himalayan fox, Snow leopard, Marmot, Ibex, mountain vessel, (Kogar),
Sham valley trekking link road culminates in the Domkhar village. This route is linked via Skindiyang.
Distance from Leh:78kms
Mangyu village is approximately 80km away from Leh.Total area of Mangyu is approximately 30sqkm spreading from Serlachan in the west to Dakar in the east and Farka in the north to Spangyal Phu in the south.The village is beautiful,surrounded by rocky hills,houses and fields in the centre along with the streams flowing through the village.Mangyu derives its name from Sman-gyu;Sman in ladakhi is medicine and Gyu meaning the source,hence the original name Smangyu.The village pastureland or Phu constitutes abundance of medicinal plants along with diffrent types of fauna.It has one of the oldest monastries of ladakh,Gonpa-Nambar Nangzaat,which was founded by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo in the 11th century,who also founded the famous Alchi Choskor.Mangyu has also two hot springs that are used for curing acidity and joint diseases .