You cannot visit Ladakh just once – the pull is so strong that if you have been once, you will want to go again. And again. perhaps every year.
I have been to Ladakh twice, and every year in season, I think about going again.
Ladakh is remote, bleak, for sure – but there is also a stunning beauty, an otherworldliness about it.
There are a million reasons to love this land and people find their own – culture and festivals, gorgeous homestays and guesthouses, trekking and rafting, local food…
These are mine, presented as a photoessay, since images do speak better than words in case of Ladakh.
1. The landscapes
I don’t think I have seen any land with more diverse landscapes, with all the stunning colours and dramatic settings to go with it. Mountains are a constant presence, menacing and protective at the same time.
I call this image chocolate chip ice cream…
2. The journey
Although I have heard that the drive from Manali to Leh is one one of the best road journeys in the world, I have never gone that route, flying into Leh both times.
It has its own charm, an unmatched view of these mountains from the top. Some times you see blue skies and pristine snow, and sometimes only swirling clouds and grey mountaintops…
3. The people
Ladakhis are some of the most cheerful, friendliest people I have seen, always ready with a smile and a Juley! The children are especially a delight to photograph, as are sometimes the shy women who open up slowly to the camera.
4. The lakes
Less famous than Pangong lake, but Tso Moriri is still a marvel, stretching on for ever and ever, in the deepest shades of blue known to mankind.
What can I say about Pangong that has not already been said a thousand times – inviting; blue, bluer, bluest; 3 idiots; tents.
And the road to Pangong, that passes through the high and mighty (in a good way) Khardungla pass…
5. The monasteries
After the friendliness of the people, it is the allure of these monasteries that makes Ladakh so special to me. Some of the more popular ones are easily accessible from Leh, while others are well hidden – and some like Lamayuru here are set in dramatic backdrops.
These wall murals featuring Buddhist themes are a common feature of Ladakh monasteries – I usually have a local guide to explain these motifs, which seem so startling at first sight.
A visit to any of these monasteries is always a soothing experience, especially during prayer time, like here in Thiksey – or when the monks are engaged in other spiritual activities, like the time we came across four of them silently making a mandala, working at it for hours without losing focus.
Above all, they are home to some of the most delightful little monks, who live up to the fact that they are in fact, onlylittle boys, despite the severity of their robes and surroundings.
6. The art of zen
And not being the adventure seeking types, I am happy to just practise the art of chilling when I travel, and there is no better place for this than Ladakh. Walking up and the down the Leh market road, sitting for hours at German Bakery chatting with other travellers, people watching at the village squares…