Khardung la Top

Photo essay: A soulful journey through Ladakh

“Leh – 1 km away” – As soon as I saw the milestone, my face immediately broke into a wide smile. I was in Ladakh again, and this time for 20 days as part of an assignment for SaffronStays.

We’d taken the 434 km long Leh-Srinagar Highway to get there and the journey, though long and tiring, kept us staring out of our window in delight. I had seen it all before – the barren land dotted with colorful striking monasteries, steep curvy roads, high mountain passes, snow capped peaks, sand dunes, and unbelievably colorful lakes – but Ladakh had me spellbound and soulful again. Here is our journey in pictures –


The striking landscape of Ladakh that greeted us as we drove from Srinagar to Leh.



Leh is one place that really lets you soak up Buddhism. Every street corner gives way to a set of Buddhist Prayer wheels, which you can gently push, watch it spin and send across your quick message to God, and walk past.

Prayer Wheel Leh



During my trip, I was very excited about interacting with Ladakhi families. Living with them, observing their culture, and learning so much from them was a heartfelt experience. Their beautiful match-box like Ladakhi houses, with organic gardens, cosy rooms, hundreds of copper utensils, and the warm families living there, left a great impression on me.

P.S. Whenever you come across any Ladakhi, say ‘Juley’ and experience its magic.

Ladakhi House



I had always wanted to visit the Shanti Stupa at sunrise. We shook ourselves awake before dawn and made it there by 5:30 am. We were the only visitors, and watching the sky slowly turn blue and bright at the Stupa’s backdrop was quite a sight.

Shanti Stupa



Another place where I wanted to watch the sun’s magic is Thiksey Monastery.  Being the largest monastery in central Ladakh, it is spread over 12 stories on a hill top, and houses shops, hotel, restaurant, school, museum, temples and even a nunnery. A 49 feet high statue of Maitreya Buddha is also erected here. Spellbinding isn’t it?

Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery



Our journey onwards to Nubra Valley took us through Khardung La – the highest motorable road in the world.

When we reached the highest point of the Pass, I felt like I had reached the top of the world – it was a surreal feeling. There was a small cafeteria run by the Indian Military serving tea and coffee to travellers. Hats off to these soldiers!

Khardung la Top



In Nubra Valley, we were welcomed by a beautiful statue of Maitreya Buddha. The view of the valley from the statue is breathtaking.  The smallest village in the valley, Hunder gives you a chance to experience camel safari at a height of 10,000 feet!  This is the only place where you see a river flowing right next to you, sand dunes, barren land and snow-capped mountains – all at the same time.

Nubra Valley



 The last region of Ladakh that we explored was the magical Pangong Tso – situated at a height of 14,500 feet.

We crossed Chang la, believed to be the world’s third highest motorable road, to get there. We spent a night by the lake. I perched myself with hot bowls of soup and watched the sun rise and set and the colors of the lake change magically in sync.

Not like I had forgotten, but after this long and fulfilling trip, I am only assured of how much I love Ladakh and how no place can ever be as beautiful and  surreal as this.

Chang La

Pangong Lake



All photographs were taken by Kartik Mahajan



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About the authors: Greeshma Soley is an avid traveller, biker and adventure enthusiast and Kartik Mahajan is a professional Photographer and Videographer. They travelled together to Ladakh, Srinagar and Himachal Pradesh as part of the Travel Ninja programme of SaffronStays in July-August 2014.

About Greeshma Soley

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