Ladakh beyond the obvious
Ladakh is beautiful. The high mountain passes, the difficult terrain, the saltiness of the tea, the faded hues of the monasteries and the harshness of the climate. And to experience the real Ladakh, one needs to go beyond the Nubra Valley and the glamour of Pangong Lake. The beauty of Ladakh lies in its villages, away from the cafes of Leh and from the crowds of Khardungla. The villages of Ladakh gives us a rare glimpse into the lives of these tribes, who live away from the lure of this tourist swell that the land has recently seen. Here are a few villages that offer basic tourist facilities but provide us with an intimate peek into the culture of the land. And if you are heading to Ladakh this season, keep a few extra days just to cover one of them, and you will know exactly what we are talking about.
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This cosy village is located on the banks of the Indus River and is particularly famous for housing Ladakh’s most valuable heritage, the Alchi monastery. This village is also a pleasure to the eyes as it features a lot of lush greenery and apricot trees. From here you can also visit Lamayuru and Ule from where you can go rafting.
Dah and Hanu
Towards the north-west of Leh, lie the villages of Dah and Hanu. One of the highlights of these villages is meeting the people from the Brokpa or Dard community. Known to be the pure Aryan race that migrated from Europe over thousands of years ago, these communities ethnically differ from other Ladakhis. Along with having their own unique language, the Brokpas, meaning mountain dwellers, live a life preserving their medieval traditions through songs, festivals and hymns. This rich culture is topped with their stunningly decorated village filled with colourful flowers and breathtaking views of the Indus river and the scintillating fields of Barley – sights that you will cherish forever.
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This stunning, serene and vibrant village is one of the last villages towards Line of Control, and the last point in Shyok Valley. Believe it or not, the people here look completely different than the rest of the villages. This is because Turtuk was part of Baltistan (which is now in Pakistan) till 1971, and only later became part of India. However, other than Bali-descent residents, Turtuk is also famous for its apricots that are said to be the best in the whole world.
Located in the Changthang region, Hanle is a peaceful and charming village, perfect for those looking for the ultimate relaxing getaway lost in the captivating views of the immaculate and the breathtaking Himalayas. If you are an astronomy enthusiast, then you’ll also be happy to hear that Hanle is known for its Indian Astronomical Observatory, as well as establishing the Major Atmosphere Cherenkov Experiment (MACE) gamma-ray telescope, which is world’s largest telescope at the highest altitude and the second largest gamma-ray telescope in the world.
Located about 36 km from Leh, this once-prosperous town is now in ruins, that might look inaccessible at a distance. However, the real truth and magic of this place lies in these historic ruins. Housing a monastery and a royal palace, these structures offer a truly spellbinding view of the ghost town that somehow still manages to lure us into its charms. With temples scattering copper statues and wall paintings that depict the life story of Lord Buddha, you will actually feel like you stepped back in time.
Situated on the Leh-Manali highway, Upshi is usually the stop for people who feel tired or sick in the middle of their journey. Lucky are those as they get to discover yet another hidden gem of Ladakh. Ever bought or heard of the iconic and expensive Pashmina shawls? Well, those shawls are made from the wool of the pampered Changthangi goats with shiny, thick and long hair. Although, the scenic view of the Indus River valley and Tanglang La, as well as the warmest hospitality of the locals, is what makes Upshi so attractive and a must on our list!
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Zanskar – Lungnak Valley
The Lungnak Valley road leads you to an exciting trek along the Tsarap River. Passing by from Raru, all the way to Phuktal Monastery, the trek would also feature jagged red canyons, and colourful and vibrant landscapes and wildlife, including alluring floral beauty. It also offers an authentic insight into the lives of the Zanskaris.
Yet another in the Changthang region and close to Pangong Lake, Chusul is home to the magnificent salt marshes, featuring the endangered Black Necked Cranes. It also offers enchanting views of the beautiful Mirpal Tso, and a sneak into the Chinese territory through the mountain pass, Spanggur Gap, on the Line of Actual Control. Nonetheless, what makes this village truly iconic is that it saw the victory of our soldiers against the Chinese army in 1962.
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Author: Sudeepta Sanyal (@moonlitekingdom)
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