Every city has a heartbeat, a personality, an aura of its own. Every once in a while, it is essential to go to places where people still live in the old traditional beautiful simple way. Far far away from WiFi, the noise, the chase. Ladakh is one of those places you are bound to fall in love with. It not just has some beautiful treks, it also gives you a chance to get to know its Bhuddist culture, the vibrant and unique festivals, the beautiful traditions, the extremely warm and humble people and such beautiful landscapes. So, if you are heading here for a trek, keep a few extra days to explore the rest of Leh.
I am gonna show you some of my favorite places that I hopped around before and after my trek in here.
Let’s start with the Leh market.
The Leh Market:
The hustle and bustle of the Leh market is quite charming and such a great opportunity for photographers to capture the essence of the city. You’ll find shops with beautiful masks, yak wool stuff (like gloves, hats, shawls), Tibetan prayer essentials (prayer wheels, prayer beads etc.), amongst some of the other souvenirs. There are a lot of Tibetan refugee small markets on the main street too.
You will also find Ladakhi fruit and vegetable sellers out on the streets, gossiping about their daily lives and selling fresh produce, spices and stones found in Ladakh. But be mindful of the fact that they are really shy. Always ask for their permission before taking any pictures.
Monasteries and festivals:
There are so many monasteries for you to explore in and around Leh. There is one just a 20 minute uphill walk away from the Leh market, the Namgyal Monastary. Further up is also the Leh palace, from where you will get a view of the entire city.
I am not going to show you pictures of the other monasteries, I will leave them for you to explore on your own. How about we go inside a monastery and have a look at a festival istead?
Ladakhis celebrate life in the valley through numerous festivals throughout the year. There are festivals to celebrate a new year, prosperity, safety and well-being of the people, the oracles, victory of good over evil, Buddhist teachings and many more.
I was extremely lucky to witness one of the popular festivals at Thiksey Monastery, filled with masked performances that narrate a story and traditional music.
The beauty of these festivals is that they are not for commercial purposes, they are a celebration of life in Ladakh and you’re more than welcome to come and see and get inspired.
What else? Let me show you the landscapes now.
Hold on, I want to talk about something else first. The first thing I noticed in Ladakh was the clouds and the bluest of blue sky. On a clear day, if you look up, you’ll be amazed to see such beautiful cloud formations that you never get to see in the cities. If you are a nutcase like me, you could spend an entire day watching clouds formations and reading a book.
Ok back to the landscapes. Bear with me.
Here is Pangong Lake, one of my favorite spots in the entire world. Although, granted that due to movies like ‘3 Idiots’, it has lost its sense of peace and quiet, but it will still make a big impression on you. Here’s how you get away from the commercial tents and shops; find a quite spot a few kilometers away and pitch your own tent there. But do that only if you follow the 'leave no trace' policy. You would have to be quite heartless to trash such a special place.
For me, Pangong lake is 134km of endless blue and unforgettable beauty.
The above picture is upside down. If the car wasn’t there, would you have guessed that you are looking the reflection of the lake?
Here is another picture.
And this was our super peaceful campsite. Just us, and the lake, and a few seagulls.
We also rented motor bikes to go explore Nubra Valley passing through Khardung La on the way, which is on the highest motorable road in the world @18,380 feet.
And here is a high altitude cold desert (yup with sand dunes and everything), surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the Nubra Valley.
You’ll find two humped camels in here.
And that's me, all giddy for no reason whatsoever.
So if you want to have an adventure within an adventure (inception style), combine your treks with some of the other epic getaways in Leh.
It will be a crazy, bumpy, exhausting yet thrilling, fun-filled trip. You will have multiple stories to share after returning from this place.