Apricot, known as "chulli " in Ladakhi, was introduced to the arid region of Ladakh over a century ago by Chinese traders passing through the area via the Silk Route. Now, in the 21st century, the fruit has become an integral part of Ladakh's culture, heritage and economy. The uniquely tolerant and highly stable plant of apricot has embraced the sandy soil of the cold desert and made it one of the largest producers of apricot in India.
There are four main varieties of apricot that grow in Ladakh: Halman, Safaida, Lakste-karpo and Khanteh. The most popular, however, are Halman and Lakste-karpo. Evidence of the apricot's essentiality to the Ladakhi culture can be found in its prevalence everywhere in their cuisine. Locals use fresh and dry apricot as a delicacy and offer it during religious ceremonies. It is used to add flavour to mutton dishes, and during winter when resources are scarce, dried apricot serves as an energy source for the enduring people.
Apricot farms can be found all around Ladakh, but lower areas of Sham Valley, Kargil and Skurbuchan are particularly abundant in the fruit. And here's what you need to know about the seasons.
Best season to visit
April – May: After a long spell of winter, apricot trees begin flowering with light pink and white flowers.
August – September: By now the trees are laden with yellow and orange shaped fruits. And start getting harvested to be sold around the world.
How to plan your trip
Several tour operators (call +91-9212777223, 24 for details) in Leh organise an apricot tour, which you can book while you are in the city.
You also have the option of taking a road trip tour by yourself. There are a few routes you can take to experience the apricot season in Ladakh, and the following road trip of 5 days is one of the best.
Leh – Alchi – Skurbuchan – Kargil – Lamayuru – Alchi
After properly acclimatising in Leh for a few days, start your apricot journey. Instead of rushing through villages like sign posts, I would suggest spending a day and night at these places to witness how precious apricots are to the Ladakhi people.