12 Mar A Heavenly Slice of Solitude in Ladakh, India
Written by Zoe Silverberg and Maverick Behl, 2015: India Program Leaders
A destination that will always remain etched in a traveller’s mind, Ladakh, India is a slice of solitude right here on Earth. You might be skeptical or nervous to visit because of its high altitude and remote location, but there are so many unbelievable gems to explore in this corner of the world. And who knows when you’ll get an opportunity like this again?
We thought you might need a little convincing, so here’s just a taste of what makes us want to strap on our backpacks and hop on the next plane heading to this mighty destination!
1. Its sweeping scenic beauty
Enclosed in between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, the Ladakh region is a highland that is layered in spectral colours of red, orange, brown, green, and grey with large crystal blue bodies of water. Just imagine the rugged landscape under the stark blue sky aligned with snow crested peaks and some lush green patches of vegetation along the valleys formed by the perennial streams. Ladakh is just straight up surreal, scenic beauty. So if you think that Ladakh is just a barren landscape with not much to offer… I’m afraid, you are going to miss this piece of heaven.
2. The lip-smacking, mouth watering momos and thukkpas
You might have tried some momos and thukkpas in your city at some Indo-Tibetan restaurant or at any edge eateries but it’s just not the same! And if you haven’t tried these delicacies at all, well…you’re in for a heck of a treat! Out there in the mass of indigenous Indo-Tibetan sphere you will just relish each bite of momos and slurp of thukkpa. Just imagine that there is a mystical spice hidden in the valley that tops the steamy momos with a sprinkle of red chilli in the bowl of thukkpa. That yummy kick will just counteract the chilly and dry winds of the region giving you the best feeling ever.
3. The vibrant and indigenous festivals and Buddhist culture
The indigenous culture of the Indo-Tibetans is incredibly unique; their lifestyle, rituals, and festivals is something to be experienced firsthand. What a feast for your senses if you visit during the festivals of Losar, Hemis, Naro Nasjal, Kalachakra,Dosmoche, Tak, and Phyang! These festivals captures the drama performance like no other with a fusion of drums, trumpets, and thumping steps of the masked Lamas. It’s just one of those things you gotta see and feel to believe!
4. Letting loose in this expansive space
Once your body has adjusted to the altitude, why not spend a bit more time to explore the barren and rugged beauty dispersed throughout the region. Inhale, exhale…and breathe the freshest air you’ll ever breathe.
5. Brushing up on our photography skills
The mountainscapes, desertscapes and riverscapes..they all offer a wonderful scenic frame to brush up on your photography skills. Here you’ve got a chance to snap countless candid moments: those heavenly horizons, unplugged landscapes, majestic wildlife, and sparkling blue lakes.
6. The thrill of conquering the highest mountain roads and passes
Ladakh is quite popular for historical mountain passes that once served as trade routes between India and China once upon a time. It’s not for the feint of heart but once you conquer one of these mountain passes, rest assured that you’ll be rewarded with the best bird’s eye view of the distant valleys and remote villages tucked in the midst of the Trans-Himalayan ranges. This isn’t something everyone sees everyday…or even in their lifetime.
7. It’s home to ancient Buddhist monasteries and gompas
Home to some of the ancient Buddhist monasteries and gompas that chronicle the footsteps of Buddhism in India, Ladakh offers a rich religious and historical experience. The artistic décor, ancient manuscript,s and antiques like statues, thangkas and murals are simply going to take you back to the pre-historic era. Some of the notable Buddhist monasteries and gompas in the Ladakh region are the Hemis monastery, Alchi monastery, Matho monastery, Spituk monastery, Thikshey monastery, Stakna monaserty, Stok monastery, and Lamayuru monastery. It’s so steeped in history, you’ll feel like you just traveled through time!
8. Practicing backpacktivism and volunteering with the 17,000 ft. Foundation
When traveling with Operation Groundswell to Ladakh, you’re not just a tourist, you’re a backpacktivist. You’ll have the opportunity to volunteer your time, skills, and energy at a remote village in Ladakh and help bring in some much needed focus and attention to some very remote villages and schools. We will take you to some incredibly beautiful villages, with warm hospitable people and a tiny school, where you can help to conduct one of many workshops. Get ready to help local teachers in their day to day work – a truly fruitful experience!
9. Immerse yourself in local life with homestay families
There’s nothing quite like skipping the more traditional style of accommodations and getting right into local life by living with trusted homestay families. You’ll be challenged to connect and communicate, but when you do…it’s an enriching experience like no other.
10. Unplug and live life like a real nomad!
Overlooking the sparkling blue Pangong Lake, an overnight camping in one of the most remote areas of the world is something to really soak in and value in our tech-absorbed world. Or you might want to camp at the Hunder Sand Dune amid the towering mountains. Just step into the wide open space of nature and unplug, get exploring, and live life a nomad!