You know you’re on a trip of a lifetime when you touchdown on an airstrip surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides!
Located in the western Himalayas (and the subject of much dispute between India, Pakistan, and China since 1947), Ladakh is home to breathtaking river valleys, high mountain slopes, unique flora and fauna, old Buddhist monasteries, and myriad nomadic tribes. It is arguably one of the most beautiful (and sparsely populated) destinations in India and has been at the crossroads of important trade routes in the past. Its name is derived from La-dwags (ལ་དྭགས) which means “land of high passes” in Tibetan and Ladakhi, and is fondly referred to as “Little Tibet.”
A popular destination for high-altitude trekking, climbing, and biking expeditions, as well as monastery-hopping and a few cultural festivals, a conventional 10-day itinerary typically covers Kargil, Leh, Khardung-La, Diskit, Hemis, Nubra valley, Pangong Tso, Thiksey, and Tso Moriri.
While I had around the same time at hand, I decided to experience Ladakh a bit differently and gave most of these places a miss.
Instead, I volunteered at an alternate education school near Leh, enjoyed white-water rafting at 11,000 feet, spent time with nomadic tribes in their makeshift homes in the mountains, learned how to harvest peas, and met the shepherds of the glaciers in one of Ladakh’s earliest settlements!