The Ladakh region of India is steeped in beauty of the Himalayas, and in the culture of the Indo-Aryan and Tibetan people. Buddhist spirituality can be felt everywhere: in the tiered gompas (Tibetan monasteries) that flow up the mountains; in the magnificent Shanti Stupa inaugurated by the Dalai Lama; and in the hilltop monastery in the Nubra Valley.
The people of Ladakh live in large, comfortable, traditional mud-brick homes. They are mainly self-sufficient in fuel and food, using dairy products, organic vegetables, and growing barley to make flour and beer. The growing season is short, arable land is limited, and the water supplies are precious, but the people here have perfected the art of agriculture.
The mountain scenery is dramatic with unforgettable views. Sometimes the roads and passes are treacherous, and many close during the snowy season from October to May. Outside of this season, Ladakh is an adventure paradise. Many tourists take incredible treks through the mountains, exploring and sleeping in the fresh Himalayan air. The Zanskar River offers thrilling white water rafting activities. Camel trekking, polo and archery are more sedate options, but just as fun.
The enchanting city of Leh is a hassle-free way to spend a few days acclimatising to the thin mountain air. The Old Town is a delightful mix of stupas and mud-brick houses, with a dramatic Himalayan backdrop. The Tibetan-style palace and fort is worth visiting, with its interesting story of how bodies of Mongol invaders are entombed within the temple’s foundation to ward off future attacks.
It is easy to fall in love with Leh: exploring the lanes and irrigated barley fields, and eating at tandoori pizza restaurants. The bazaar area will take care of all your souvenir and tourist needs. And there is another reason to fall in love with the place: there are many stories here of Buddhist-Muslim mixed couples fleeing from their communities to the love haven of Leh.
Around Leh are many beautiful places to visit. Monasteries abound, including in Shey , the ancient capital, with its monastery and huge gold statue of Buddha Sakyamuni. Thiksey Gompa is an impressive tiered complex rising above a village, and Hemis Gompa is the largest monastery of the Drukpa Kagyu Order built in the 17th century.
Trekking through the mountains takes in incredible scenery and remote villages. Many treks pass the Karakoram and Stok ranges with their dizzying views. Look out for wildlife including cuddly, friendly marmots, and rare wild flowers including Edelweiss.
The Nubra Valley is a fantastic journey from Leh over Khardung La, which proudly claims to be the Highest Motorable Road in the World. 18 men lost their lives building this road, and Bailey Bridge, the highest bridge in the world, with its one end resting on glacial ice.
Nubra is the valley of flowers, but also a desert landscape, at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level. People live their beautiful lives in these extreme conditions, in tiny villages that are dotted throughout the countryside.
Any visit to Ladakh in India will leave you with a buzzing spiritual energy, a head full of memories, and a desire to one day return to this enchanting place.