Stories from Unexplored Ladakh

What is more intriguing, a 600-year-old tradition on the banks of Pangong Tso or a postman searching for petroglyphs in a remote valley while delivering mail? 

What is more fascinating, the stargazing ritual of a local community or the tale of flying fairies building monasteries in a single night? 

There exists an unexplored Ladakh, untethered by conventions, unabashed in celebrations and unapologetic in simplicity. This unseen Ladakh exists in Stanzin Dolkar’s pursuit of stars, Tsewang Dorje’s love of Deram Chenmo festival and Tsering Dorje’s connection with his roots. 

In this article, we present a curated collection of experiences that offer a glimpse of this life in Ladakh. Local storytellers share anecdotes, legends, and personal beliefs with an authenticity that is rare to find in this age of information abundance. 

Landscape of Ladakh: Rugged, stark, majestic. Photo: GHE

Read on to discover the unexplored Ladakh that can’t be found in Instagram posts or Facebook shares.  

Reaching for the Stars, Literally: A young astronomy enthusiast from the remote village of Maan shares her stargazing pursuits. Stanzin Dolkar’s heartwarming account of her journey to self-dependence while battling gender stereotypes will leave you inspired. 

A 600 Year Old Celebration on the Shores of Pangong Lake: Celebrating the onset of the farming season, the residents of Maan and its surrounding villages gather to witness the beauty of Pangong Lake and welcome the summer together. Tsewang Dorje gives us an insight into local customs and celebrations.

Letters from the Bronze Age: A postman’s fascination with the history of mankind led him to explore ancient petroglyphs, which gradually developed into a keen interest in ancient Tibetan scriptures. Explore the region of Zanskar through the eyes of Tenzin Choejor as he wonders about the secrets of evolution this valley holds. 

Petroglyphs – some dating as far back as the Bronze Age! Photo: Tenzin Choejor

A 1000-Year-Old Monastery That Was Built Overnight: No collection on unexplored Ladakh is complete without the mystical tale of flying fairies building monasteries overnight. Tsering Dorje takes us through the legend of the revered Sumda Chun Monastery of Markha region.  

A Lightbulb Moment in Ladakh: Gurmet Angmo takes us through her journey to self dependence while lighting (quite literally) the path for other women, not only in Ladakh, but across India.

The 2500 Year Old Cave of Liberation: They say the journey to liberation won’t come easy, but if you are on your way to the Phugtal monastery, it surely will be rewarded with infinitely beautiful landscapes in the middle of nowhere. Join Tenzin Choejor as he takes you on a visual journey to one of the world’s oldest monasteries. 

The Hanging Lifeline of Zanskar: The electrification of Phugtal monastery was made possible by the existence of a wooden bridge, built by putting together small twigs and shrubs in a dense formation. Shakeer Hussain gives us the first-hand account of it being one of the last five remaining ones in Ladakh.

A local celebration on the shores of Pangong Lake. Photo: Tsewang Dorjey

How a Remote Ladakhi Valley Transformed from Hunting to Conserving Wildlife: What does it take to run wildlife conservation programs? Elaborate plans? Specialize Government schemes? Turns out, it is the sustained effort of local communities under the guidance of a determined leader. Sonam Nurboo gives us an insight into how to bring change without alienating nature or humankind.

While travel is on hold, this is the best time to discover unexplored Ladakh virtually, and what better way to do it than through the lens of the very people we travel to meet?

We look forward to hearing your Unexplored Ladakh stories in the comments. 

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