Landscapes that redefine everything you thought you knew about scale. Monasteries beautiful enough to make you consider, just for a second, becoming a monk. Skies so big and empty you feel like you’ve shrunk. This is Ladakh, the barren, stark beauty of the Indian side of the Himalaya.
It’s the Himalaya, but in July and August. The Nepalese trekking season runs from September to April. But if you’re looking for a spectacular summer trek, then Ladakh’s short summer trekking season is the answer. Whilst the monsoon rains pour down on Nepal, in Ladakh the months June, July and August are perfect walking weather. Ideal if you thought you were unable to fulfil your Himalaya dream due to restricted travel dates.
Escape Your Mobile Addiction It’s a summer trekking destination when many places outside Europe are out of season – and the short-lived summer months are perfect for trekkers wanting to escape the modern world. This is a digital detox at the most extreme end of things – no phone signal, let alone WiFi. Welcome to one corner of the planet that the World Wide Web is struggling to infiltrate.
Become One With the Wilderness Camp For many the biggest surprise is the camping. You may not believe us now, but those short, sunny summers truly lend themselves to camping in the middle of the mountains. With nothing to separate you from the wilderness, this is some of the most remote, most exhilarating and utterly sublime camping you’ll come across. Sacrifice the facilities of the ablution block and you’ll be rewarded with something infinitely more valuable and memorable: views like this, with the whole mountain to yourself.
Rock Formations So Amazing, You’ll Wish You Paid More Attention in Geography Class Expect rainbow-hued rock towers, silent snow-capped summits and vast, empty plateaux. Whether it’s the reddish blush of the Stok La contrasting with tenacious green shrubs, the dramatic shards of rock in the Stok Valley towering high above you as they have done for thousands and thousands of years or the way the clouds furl and unfurl across the sky, casting shadows over the horizon – you’ll be awestruck.
Get the Mountains to Yourself The Indian Himalaya is wilder, quieter and more remote than its Nepalese neighbour. If you hate having to share, this is the spot for you – you’ll only share these peaceful peaks with a few locals. It’s not unusual to go trekking all day with seeing another soul across the wide plateaux and sacred summits.
See Ladakhi Life First Hand A rural homestay is a huge privilege and something you’ll never forget – a chance to meet a local family and get a glimpse into how they live. The toilets will be basic, and chances are you’ll be in a sleeping bag on the floor, but sharing a living room, dining table and an evening with a Ladakhi community is possibly the best way to get an insight into real life here.
Seek out one of the world’s most endangered species Snow Leopards: these elusive and majestic felines prowl the Himalayan heights of Ladakh. Despite their natural shyness, every winter the extreme harshness of the elements drives them to lower altitudes in search of food. For the patient and hardy, seeing one of these graceful predators slinking across the snow is the ultimate wildlife encounter in Ladakh.
Festival Fever Ladakhi monasteries look like they are simultaneously teetering on the edge of the world and also the most permanent, immutable structures around. The distinctive white buildings are imbued with thousands of years of ancient traditions, but perched precariously atop jagged hilly outcrops at dramatic vantage points. The festivals which take place with these monasteries as their spectacular backdrop are some of the most exciting in the world. The high altitude celebrations host hundreds of pilgrims, Tibetan Buddhist monks, masked dancers, and if you time it just right, you.