Also known as Little Tibet and Moon Land, the awe-inspiring high-altitude plateau of Ladakh is tucked between the world’s two highest mountain ranges, the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas. Politically Indian but geographically Tibetan, it shares age-old cultural and religious ties with the latter, and though it was closed to tourism until 1974, it’s now attracting visitors who are drawn to the region but put off by the troubles in Tibet to the north and east and in the Kashmir Valley to the west.

The flight to Leh, the region’s capital, is one of the most spectacular in the world of aviation sightseeing, and graphically illustrates the area’s otherworldly remoteness. Likewise the 305-mile ride from Leh south to Manali, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, is a hard-to-forget trip that crosses four mountain passes on the world’s second-highest motorable road. This can only be topped (literally) by the newly opened Nubra Valley, Ladakh’s “Valley of Flowers,” which requires a journey over Khardungla Pass—at 18,383 feet, it is the world’s highest drivable road.

WHERE: 75-minute flight from New Delhi to Leh.
How: Geographic Expeditions in the U.S. offers 6 different touring and trekking itineraries to the Ladakh area, originating from New Delhi and traveling over the spectacular Trans-Himalayan Highway.
WHEN: Leh-Manali road is usually open Jun to late Sept. Geographic Expeditions departures