Ladakh – India’s Secret Treasure

India’s Ladakh region is one of the hardest places to get to. There are literally just two roads in and out of the mountainous region in North India and both roads are closed for most of the year due to hazardous conditions, including poorly paved roads and extreme weather. Once you survive the treacherous mountain passes and arrive in Ladakh, you enter a place I can’t describe any better than as “heaven on earth.”

Mountains surrounding Ladakh.

Mountains surrounding Ladakh.

Due to its remoteness, Ladakh was previously visited by only the most adventurous of thrill seekers, but with the worldwide success of recent Bollywood megahit, Three Idiots (which was actually a pretty good film) and the proliferation of the internet and its subsequent sharing of stunning vistas from Ladakh, the region is seeing a boom in tourism, both domestic and foreign.

Tibetan influence in Leh.

Tibetan influence in Leh.

All roads in Ladakh lead to Leh, a small yet bustling Tibetan mountain village that has turned itself into an outpost for travelers with its numerous guesthouses, bakeries, shops selling trekking gear, and internet cafes (which don’t work half the time – and wifi? Might as well forget about it). There’s still a feel for authentic and traditional Ladakhi life in Leh, though I suspect with more tourism in the area, that may not last for very long.

Grab a local bus to venture deeper into Ladakh.

Grab a local bus to venture deeper into Ladakh.

To travel in and around Ladakh, travelers have basically two options: hire a private car/taxi or take the local buses. While the local bus is the more adventurous and exciting option, do keep in mind that the local buses are not exactly comfortable and are fully packed, you will need to bring your own toilet paper for the long and bumpy ride ahead, and be prepared to do your business anywhere – yes, I do mean, ANYWHERE.

The stunning view at Pangong Lake.

The stunning view at Pangong Lake.

The most famous place to explore Ladakh is Pangong Lake, a highly sacred (no swimming allowed) and gorgeous lake surrounded by the Himalayan mountain range. On sunny days, you can watch the water shift colors from blue to turquoise to green, and even violet.

Homestay with a Ladakhi family.

Homestay with a Ladakhi family.

While the boom in tourism is starting to show development of luxury camping options around Pangong Lake, the most common and affordable accommodation available is a traditional homestay. Bear in mind these are extremely traditional and rustic living standards: a majority of these homes have outdoor toilets, bucket showers, and limited electricity. Don’t be put off by this – it’s a great way to get back to basics and really get back into nature.

Sustainable stovetop fire and fuel.

Sustainable stovetop fire and fuel.

While there are plenty of trails and mountains to explore in the region, even the possibility of spotting snow leopards, you will undoubtedly spend most of your time in the kitchen, seated next to the stove for warmth. As the kitchen serves as the focal point of Ladakhi family living, you have a unique opportunity to learn more about them and their lifestyle. In the few days that I spent with the family, I helped make chapatis and even stoked the fire with lumps of goat (sheep, cow – I’m not sure) dung.

Changing water colors at Pangong.

Changing water colors at Pangong.

It’s an ever-changing world that’s moving towards overpopulation and tech-dependency. Not all of it is bad, but it sure is nice to know that there are still pockets in the world where the idea of an escape truly does still exist. With such staggering beauty around every corner, Ladakh is like no other place on earth.

Last look at Pangong Lake.

Last look at Pangong Lake.

Categories: India

4 Comments

  • Lily La says:

    Sounds and looks like a stunning place – the places that take hard work to get to always does. The lake sounds amazing. I’ve rarely heard of lakes where swimming isn’t allowed. Did you ever see it turn violet?
    Lily La recently posted…“Are you Buddhist or Christian?” How Burma got me back in touch with my heritageMy Profile

    • Connvoyage says:

      I was told that very specific conditions had to be present in order to see the lake turn violet and sadly, it didn’t work in my favor. Now there’s something to look forward to for the next time I’m back in Ladakh!

  • Julie K. says:

    This place is mesmerizing! How come I´ve never heard of it?? Trekking in Laddakh must be a magical experience:) I guess it takes several days to get used to the physical conditions of the place though..There´s got to be a relative lack of oxygen in that height, I imagine..

  • Connvoyage says:

    Hi Julie, yes, in fact there are plenty of treks to be done in Ladakh. Unfortunately, we caught the front end of the season and most of the trails were snowed over. We managed three days of village to village trekking before we lost the trail in the mountains. Probably smart that we headed back!

    I felt a little oxygen deprivation at that altitude level, but the two guys I was trekking with didn’t feel a thing. They were also much younger… =)

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