Ladakh is a beautifully barren land nestled in the far reaches of India. As a tourist destination Ladakh is relatively new, having only been open to tourists since the 1970s. However, those that have visited and continue to do so gain an experience unlike any other. The majestic soaring mountains and rugged terrain make Ladakh an ideal destination for those that like trekking and hiking, with spectacular landscapes, and rich cultural and spiritual traditions.
Michael Kern, Craniosacral Therapy Educational Trust founder and founding trustee of the Drukpa Trust charity, has spent much time in Ladakh, taking in the unique sights and sounds of one of the world’s most ecologically sustainable environments. More information about the work of Drukpa Trust can be found in the PDF attachment to this post.
Religion and Lifestyle
Buddhism is woven into the cultural fabric of Ladakh and signs of this can be found all over the country, from the main town of Leh to the more remote mountainous regions. There are Buddhist Gompas (monasteries) located throughout Ladakh, many of which are open to the public. The Hemis Monastery with its huge painting of Padmasambhava is a big draw for tourists, along with the classic architectural delights of the Shey and Thiskey monasteries. There are people of other religions peacefully living in Ladakh, but Buddhism is a way of life for the majority. The lifestyle is mostly simple, but the citizens come alive at festivals and fairs throughout the year, celebrating in traditional dress.
In the infographic attachment you can learn more about some of the monasteries in Ladakh.
Most households in Ladakh are completely or mainly self-sufficient, with families living in large mudbrick homesteads and generating their own dairy products, fuel and barley. The barley is used to make a roasted flour called tsampa as well as the local barley beer, chhang. However, increasing numbers of visitors are beginning to threaten this traditional, sustainable way of life. Visitors should be prepared to be respectful of the environment when travelling or trekking in Ladakh; litter and noise pollution should always be avoided and visitors should try to source recycled and recyclable materials such as paper rather than plastic to help maintain the environment.
The Ladakh social structure has been historically patriarchal, with the first-born son holding responsibility for the family and maintaining family business. However, in recent years there has been a much greater sense of gender equality in Ladakh’s villages. The region also has a long history of religious tolerance and harmonious inter-faith marriages.
Getting There / Getting Around
The only airport is in Leh, which has links to Srinagar, Chandigarh and Delhi. Travel by rail and road is more complicated, with the nearest train station located in Jammu, approximately a two-day road journey away via Srinagar. However, the journey itself is dramatic, traversing mountain passes and taking in sights such as Lamayuru Gompa and the large Maitreya Buddha rock carving at Mulbek. A trekking tour is a great way to get around once you enter Ladakh. Some regions require special permits for tourists, but these can be acquired from the local authorities relatively easily. Visitors are strongly advised to acclimatise to the altitude before heading out on a trekking tour.
In the short video attachment, you can find out more about the Hemis National Park, located at Leh, ideal for wildlife spotting during a trek.