Heaven on Earth: Ladakh in pictures

To attempt to capture the beauty of this land through a lens is like trying to catch a passing cloud. But here’s our pick of 10 stunning images to give you a glimpse into Ladakh’s many facets that will surely tempt you to plan a trip there later this year!

‘La’, in the local tongue of Ladakh, a dialect of Tibetan, is a mountain pass, and ‘dhak’ means numerous. So, the name Ladakh literally means the ‘Land of High Passes’. This area is truly unique. I have been there five times and will definitely plan many more visits.

I have seen landscapes around the world, but I don’t think any place compares to the transforming terrain of Ladakh. From brown mountains to snowcapped peaks, the moonscapes, the waterfalls, the green farms, the lavish textures, the frozen lakes, the sand dunes, the cold desert — Ladakh literally has every kind of landscape. It is the land of Lord Buddha’s followers, monks, and monasteries. You can witness here a dazzling showcase of composite culture and rich heritage that will leave you totally enthralled.

I have clicked countless images of Ladakh in my travels across the region but even that does not seem to suffice. I aspire to click many more! Be it scenic panoramas or more intimate shots of the interiors in a typical Ladakhi home, the droning calm inside a monastery or the lapping waters of a mountain lake, from the smiling faces of young monk-initiates to the character-filled lines on a Ladakhi woman’s face. Each of these are ones I treasure and, today, I’m sharing a few with you.

Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
En route from Jispa to Leh. The road to Ladakh is a journey, whose experiences span a lifetime. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
‘Julley!’ says a monk, welcoming people into the moonland monastery of Lamayuru. You’ll hear this warm welcome everywhere you go in Ladakh. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
Thiksey monastery, which is known for its resemblance to the Potala palace in Lhasa, in Tibet, stands at 11,800 feet in the Indus valley at Leh. It has been the subject for several of my shoots, and is one of my favourite monasteries in the Himalayan region. I have shot it from almost every angle possible, and it seems that each angle accentuates the stature of the captivating Thiksey in a unique manner. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
A monk in prayer inside Thiksey monastery. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
Basgo, 40 km off Leh, is a place where silence is paramount. The three colourful and well maintained Buddhist stupas near Basgo castle are in sharp contrast with the 15th century castle-monastery, which is almost in ruins. The ancient town below is noted for its Buddha statue and murals. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
Ships of the cold desert too, these double-humped Bactrian camels enjoy a short sit-down time Nubra Valley. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
The mountains looming large above and a long winding road do not deter this elderly woman from walking miles to fetch groceries for her family along the high-altitude route of Khardungla. When I met her, she was on her way home and even managed to reciprocate with a smile that took my breath away. She belongs to one of the many nomadic tribes that live in this region. The Changpa nomads have been using the land for long to graze their livestock. Ladakhis are irrepressibly happy; they seldom retreat into themselves due to fear, insecurity or sorrow. What a beautiful irony, given that everything around them is harsh and seemingly insecure. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
Pangong Tso lake, a stretch that became especially popular after the film ‘Three Idiots’, has also been the site of international skirmishes. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
Lamayuru is known as the ‘moonland’ as it’s surrounded by scapes that resemble those on the moon. The Lamayuru Monastery is probably the oldest monastic sites in Ladakh. It symbolises an endearing blend of faith, history and myth. Historians talk about traces of pre-Buddhist culture that still exist here. As a matter of fact, the presence of the sprawling Lamayuru Monastery further uplifts the beauty of the moonscapes. If you ever had a picture of what a Himalayan Gompa should look like, this would surely be it, perched on the top of a hermit cave-pocked sheer cliff-face, overlooking the scenic valley and the moonscapes below. Image: Hema Narayanan.
Ladakh, landscapes, people, photo feature
These peaks of the Himalayas have almost never stepped upon by humans, since this view is seen only from the air. This aerial shot of the majestic mountains was taken soon after the take-off from Leh. It almost felt like they were speaking to my soul, enticing me to come back soon. Image: Hema Narayanan.

Read more.

Hanle Village in Ladakh soon to be declared as a ‘dark sky sanctuary’

Jispa: A journey through stupas and snow-laden mountains

Now, even you can feel like God on a Harley