Ladakh Sulfur Springs – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism
Col Satish Singh Lalotra
“There are some who can live without wild things, and others who cannot”…Aldo Leopold.
What a statement to sum up some preferences in life, which not so often are guided by the call of nature for a man to discover his true self. Almost all of these preferences lie in the remote corners of the earth waiting to be unraveled by an unconditional and carefree Individual. India, the “wonderland” according to AL Basham, the world renowned Indologist, has hidden in its recesses many such wonders, each finer and better than the next. Ladakh, India’s newest union territory, famous for its cold desert, ibexes, Bactrian camels, snow leopards, azure blue skies and towering mountains, has been bubbling over centuries with springs hot sulfur that dot its bleak landscape. Ladakh, the quintessential ‘Rooftop of India’, like its cousin Tibet, is blessed with some of the most stunning hot sulfur springs in the Indian subcontinent, unmatched in its vividness and wilderness. The hot water sulfur springs have been a favorite getaway for tourists all over the world. Some of the world-famous sulfur-filled hot springs that instantly come to mind are the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and Onsens in Japan. However nothing better than the hot sulfur springs of Ladakh perched at an altitude that compels a tourist to prepare their physical prowess to match their splendor.
Located about 150 km north of Leh, near the Nubra Valley, is the small village of Panamik. It is the last border village near the Indo-Tibetan border as well as the highest battlefield in the world, the Siachen Glacier. It is also the last point of civilian human contact with the country. Perched at an altitude of 3183 meters, the sulphurous hot springs of Panamik are a welcome relief for tourists and Indian army soldiers trying to shake off their travel fatigue and war fatigue in a hot bath here. Although there are other sulfur hot springs in the country such as Mani Karan in Himachal and Bakreshwar in West Bengal, Panamik is reputed to be one of the few with an entire village known by name. and co-located along the source. Still, all other sulfur springs in India are self-contained and devoid of any settlement of human population named after the spring as such. Add to those mesmerizing views you can see while diving into the pools and you know why this is probably the first one you should check out. Although the whole area is blessed with breathtaking views, due to its proximity to the Siachen Glacier, you can enjoy stunning views like nowhere else. Self was lucky enough to bathe in the sulfur springs of Panamik in 1995/96, stationed in Siachen while on duty. The influx of tourists at that time was only a trickle compared to the current times, when Siachen was opened to tourist traffic as part of tourism to enjoy the blessings of nature.
Panamik spring water is enriched with large amounts of sulfur due to which it has medicinal properties. A dip in the sulfur spring of Panamik is said to have a lot of therapeutic value, which is why many locals and even tourists bathe there despite the water being warm enough to stay inside even for a few minutes. More on this later in the article. Panamik’s hot springs consist of separate pools for men and women, as well as cabins for changing and showering. A minimum entrance fee of Rs 20/per person is charged for the hot water bathing complex. Besides the hot springs, Panamik also offers nearby a green valley and snow-capped peaks. A tourist can visit the nearby Samstanling Monastery, besides this Panamik has a base for the 250-year-old Ensa Monastery famous for its Buddhist murals. The main attraction next to these are the world-famous Pashmina goats, double-humped Bactrian camels that are a heritage brought from Mongolia. As for shopping, Panamik offers a wealth of opportunities in the form of Pashmina shawls, Kashmiri and Tibetan items, woolen socks, etc., which are bought here like hot cakes by tourists, without forget horticultural products such as apples, apricots, almonds and walnuts. which are also very popular here.
Although there are no hotels here in Panamik, but rest houses and homestays are all the rage with tourists who take advantage of any opportunity to get comfortable with the local surroundings. . All of these nursing homes and host families provide running water from the sulfur springs. The best time to visit Panamik is in the window of clear weather expected in July-September each year once the Khardungla Pass opens to road traffic. A tourist can reach Panamik by hiring a taxi from Leh or other major places from J&K. A permit is required to visit this place which can be easily obtained from the Leh District Magistrate’s Office. Ladakh has another sulfur spring up its sleeve which is 138 km from Leh at a place called Chumathang. A tourist will pass through this seemingly innocuous place while driving from Leh to Tso Moriri Lake if he is not careful with his sighting. If a tourist expects a noisy crowd to frolic here in the sulphurous spring, he is wrong. As one can surely miss this place if he is not observant as stated earlier, he must be on the lookout for the bubbling hot water holes along the Indus River about 30 km from Kiari, a point of important landmark where the Indian Army has a significant presence. On days with good visibility, a tourist can spot these bubbling holes from afar, but that’s about all the sulfur springs in Chumathang. Chumathang village is not suitable for tourist accommodation unlike Panamik. A large number of tourists will find a few small private guesthouses that can only hold a tourist’s attention for a short duration of a few hours no more than that.
The third sulfur spring that Ladakh can boast of is a little too hidden in a remote corner near the Chang Chenmo River, right next to the LAC. In the 1800s, Maharaja Ranbir Singh of J&K, at the request of his British counterparts, had developed the paths and tracks leading to this place in order to improve business relations with Yarkand in Tibet. This place was a favorite place for British army officers for rest and recuperation as well as hunting expeditions in the 19th and early 20th century. But nowadays, with the recent Indochinese confrontation, the place is strictly prohibited. In addition to the sulfur springs mentioned above in the Ladakh region, there are also some sulfur springs in the POK which deserve a mention here. Tatta pani sulfur hot springs and Tato field springs surrounded by the Nanga parbat massif in POK are worth a tourist’s visit. An interesting aspect of the sulfur springs at POK/Gilgit Baltistan was the discovery of thermophilic bacteria which were found in abundance in the soil and volcanic habitat here. These thermophilic bacteria have been very successful in their application of chemical feedstocks, fuel production, waste bioconversion, enzyme technology, and single cell production to name a few. Coming to the most important aspect of the health benefits of bathing in sulfur springs.
Sulfur is the most natural mineral and the steeping in water from sulfur springs can be traced back in history to Egyptian and Roman times. Sulfur springs are located all over the world and have long been a popular method of hydrotherapy. Although there has been no conclusive evidence that sulfur sources confer medical benefits, but various studies in Japan and Europe have proven that it has the potential to kill germs and viruses in and on the skin. , including psoriasis, dermatitis and fungal infections. Known as “Balneotherapy”, the term Balneo comes from the Latin word for bath and means soaking in thermal/mineral waters or medical hydrology. Very popular in France and the United States, balneotherapy is all the rage with the inhabitants of both countries. Balneotherapy is considered a medical science outside of the United States and is an integral part of allopathic medical practices and preventive medicine. In India, balneotherapy has not all gained momentum, perhaps due to the lack of any worthwhile exposure at the base of the country. It should be mentioned here that balneotherapy has not been recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a proven and reliable line of treatment for the masses.
However, the University of Maryland and the medical center state that balneotherapy or sulfur water treatment can cure several types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, etc. less inflammation/swelling/pain in their joints, especially in the neck and back area. These water treatments also include the “Mud treatment” containing sulphur. Interest in non-pharmacological and alternative treatment methods is growing worldwide and there is a desire for non-invasive and natural ways to treat certain medical conditions. This is where the sulfur water baths hold their highlight for everyone to see. It is also important to understand that soaking in sulphurous water or otherwise increases the hydrostatic pressure of an individual’s body, which is the compact pressure you feel when underwater. This improves blood circulation and can improve nutrition for your vital organs. A sulfur soak can also help remove toxins from our body, like soaking in your bathtub with Epsom salts. But a word of caution here, for anyone heading to the sulfur springs of Ladakh. Drinking water with high sulfur content can cause diarrhea and therefore small children, especially infants, should be kept away from these sources. It is also given to understand that sulfur sources should be avoided by people with high blood pressure and by patients on blood thinners, including pregnant women. Sulfur itself is not inherently toxic as a small amount is always present in eggs and chicken, but a tourist visiting Ladakh is always advised to consult a doctor before taking the plunge. pool of sulphurous water. In the end warnings, advisories, health announcements notwithstanding a tourist going to Ladakh will find his itinerary incomplete if he does not have a visit to sulfur springs on his list.