Travel

Paradise Found

On the crossroads of the historic Silk Route, Leh and its surroundings offer several rustic and heavenly sights. Satiate your soul and enrich your senses as you explore this enthralling destination, while making responsible choices to preserve its unique ecosystem.
By SAMEER UTTAMSINGH

For the longest time, Ladakh’s mountainous sanctum, Leh, was its best-kept secret. The locals survived on centuries-old traditions of subsistence agriculture and pastoralism. Life was simple. In recent years, however, the region has become an immensely popular travel destination, with an influx of tourists from all over the world. This has left its impact, often adverse, on the area’s ecology. Sustainable tourism is the need of the hour to reverse the damage. The locals are doing their best by maintaining a minimal-waste lifestyle, using compost pits, discouraging the use of electricity for heating, and returning to their self-reliant roots. Organisations like Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) are taking positive action,
as well, by focussing on renewable energy projects and installing community-based solar power plants. Now, it’s time for the traveller
to step up, too, and visit this beautiful region with an outlook that promises environmental consciousness and care.

Serene Landscapes

Set at an elevation of over 11,000 feet above sea level, Leh is one of the coldest deserts in the world. Dry arid mountains and narrow valleys with winding roads present a seemingly endless vista that stretches into the far horizon. And in the skies above, the clouds play aimlessly with the mountains, creating an ever-changing tableau of shapes and shadows. It is in the presence of such elegant majesty and mystical splendour that one realises the importance of humans learning to live in sustainable co-existence with nature to protect this wonderful creation.

Alchi Monastery

One of the world’s most sacred sites, this beautiful monastery is home to exquisite wood carvings and inscriptions. The artistic and spiritual accents of both the Buddhist and the Hindu kings of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh are reflected in the wall paintings here, many of which date back several centuries. But it’s the long rows of Tibetan prayer wheels that left me mesmerised. As I walk past them, feeling them turn with the touch of my hand, I’m filled with a sense of calm that comes when one develops a conscious connection with
one’s environment.

A Biker’s Utopia

Home to the highest motorable roads in the world, Leh attracts many biking enthusiasts looking to experience a rush of adrenaline! Life here is serene and sensuous, and the raw, rocky terrain captures your heart at first sight. The conservation ethos is strong here, and tourists need to be mindful that they don’t harm the breathtaking scenery they have travelled so far to admire.

Pangong Lake

One of the world’s most beautiful lakes, this exquisite waterbody mesmerises with its crystal-clear waters. Camping by its shore is possibly the best way to experience its surreal beauty. At night, the stars shine bright, illuminating the lake in an ethereal glow; the sun rising over the mountains is a sight one remembers for a lifetime.

Wild Himalayan Trout

Possibly one of the best ways to experience the local culture is through its cuisine. The luxury tent park we stayed at grew their own produce, which was used to prepare all our meals. Everything was fresh, organic, and grown right there. The Wild Himalayan Trout alone is worth making the trip for! It’s a mildly sweet, flaky fish that is light yet wholesome, and best had grilled.

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