Ladakh is on the Adventure Bucket List of possibly everyone who loves trekking! But if you thought trekking was the only reason to Visit Ladakh (and if you thought that you cant spend your week long holiday only doing treks) – then there’s good news! Here are 10 things you can explore in Ladakh beyond the treks (or biking for that matter)!
Visit the town with no windows
The Old Town in Leh is characterised by houses with no windows. Walk through the narrow lanes, old and eroded stupas, old houses and shops and imagine the era when Leh was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley.
Visit ‘Rancho’s School’
The Druk Padma Karpo School (Padma – Lotus, Karpo – White) in Leh made most popular by the movie 3 Idiots (the school that ‘Rancho’ has set up in the movie). The school aims to maintain the rich cultural traditions of Ladakh while equipping the children for life in the modern world. The school has also won several awards for its eco friendly sustainable construction. So stop by this school when you visit Ladakh and while you’re there, grab a bite at ‘Rancho’s Cafe’!
Gorge on Ladakhi Food!
No travel is complete without sampling (read ‘hogging’) on local food! Don’t miss the signature Ladakhi food (most of it is not only delicious but also helps keep you warm in the cold weather). Try the Thukpa (noodle soup with vegetables and/ or meat), Momos made with vegetables and/ or meat fillings and sip on piping hot Po Cha (tea made with tea leaves, yak-butter and salt). And if you’re fond of dipping bread or biscuits in your tea, try the Khambir (Ladakhi naan/ bread) that is often savoured dipped in Po Cha! Ladakh of course is popular for it’s Maggi – something you would get back home too, but eating Maggi an experience you want on your Food Bucket List!
Experience Ladakhi Homestays
The people of Ladakh are known for their hospitality! When you visit Ladakh, stay at a home stay to experience a day in the life of Ladakh – as your hosts cook, pray and go about their daily chores. It’s a great way to have home cooked Ladakhi food and strike up conversations with your hosts! Most of these homes have solar powered lights and heaters (more dependable and of course eco friendly too!).
Shop in the traditional markets
Ladakh is a great place to shop for handicrafts, pashmina shawls and wood work. Head to the Leh Main Bazaar Road or to the Tibetan market for interesting local artefacts like wood carvings, paintings, Ladakhi turquoise jewellery, prayers wheels or the popular singing bowls used for meditation. Ladakh is also popular for its apricots and make for great takeaways when you head back home.
Visit Ladakh’s Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
This Gurdwara perched on a small hill on the Leh-Kargil road (that requires you to climb a flight of stairs but not really a trek), is looked after by the Indian Army. Legend has it, that locals in the region revered Guru Nanak – they called him Nanak Lama. The boulder in the Gurudwara, was thrown at Guru Nanak by a demon, however the boulder softened when it hit Guru Nanak and still contains the imprint of his shoulder, head and back.
Experience festivals of Ladakh
One of the many ways to experience Ladakhi culture is to witness their festivals. Ladakh has several celebrations through the year but some of the popular ones that are coming up this year, are –
- Sindhu Darshan festival (1-3 June), celebrates the River Sindhu (Indus) with many participants from across the country getting waters from rivers in their own state and immersing it in Sindhu (symbolizing the multi cultural identity of India).
- Hemis festival (14-15 July), one of the biggest festivals of Ladakh honouring Guru Padmasambhava with folk dances and ritualistic ceremonies.
- Phyang festival (31 July- 1 Aug), is held every year at the Phyang monastery. Special prayers are performed with sacred mask dances by monks. There is a display of the temple’s Buddhist artefacts to educate people about the message of Lord Buddha.
Visit a Pashmina Factory
Ladakh and (J&K in general) is popular for its Pashmina shawls made from the soft cashmere wool that comes from Changthangi (Kashmir Pashmina Goats) that naturally shed its winter coat every spring. Don’t just buy a Pashmina but pay a visit to a factory to see how its made. Witness the combing, spinning, weaving and finishing of a shawl – a single Pashmina shawl can take unto 180 hours to make.
Pay respects at the Indian Army Hall of Fame
A visit to Ladakh isn’t complete without paying respects at the Indian Army Hall of Fame that honours the soldiers of the Kargil War of 1999. It displays war memorabilia, historic photographs and biographies of defence officials.
Visit the Donkey Sanctuary
Yes, that’s actually a thing! Located inside the Korean temple in Ladakh, this sanctuary provides shelter to donkeys abandoned by owners (mainly due to old age, illnesses and disabilities of the animals). Cared for and fed with a diet of wheat and grass. You can visit and carry along carrots for the donkeys in this sanctuary in Upper Leh.
While Khardungla Pass, the Zanskar River and the Pangong Lake are not-to-miss on Ladakh itineraries, look up these interesting experiences when you visit Ladakh! Check out the Ladakh Getaway that The Itch List is facilitating just for its members!