Jullay from Leh!

I groggily board the flight to Leh at an unearthly hour. Waking up irritably to the flight attendant’s announcement, the view outside my window quickly changes my mood. We are flying precariously close to the snow-covered Himalayas, and would soon land in the cold mountain desert of Ladakh. Three years after my first solo trip to Spiti, I am back in the trans-Himalayas, still dreamy and wide-eyed, a little nervous, and hoping to find solitude in the mountains. It feels like life has come a full circle.

Leh Ladakh pictures, Ladakh weather, India Himalayas
The snow-capped Himalayas from my flight.

At first glimpse, Ladakh feels majestic and harsh, and immediately introspective. Mighty snow-capped peaks and stark, barren mountain slopes stand in striking contrast against a surprising amount of greenery. I’ll later find out that cultivating this dry desert in the strong sun and harsh winters has taken centuries of careful water management by the locals – something that has been heavily compromised for tourism needs in the last two decades. The shy but friendly locals, their cheeks reddened by the strong sun, make me feel right at home with their welcoming greetings of jullay, the Ladakhi word for hello, welcome and thank you.

Ladakh himalayas, Leh photos
The Himalayas are love.

I find my way to my first home Tsermang, on the outskirts of Leh, across a shaky wooden bridge covered with Tibetan prayer flags. In the distance lie the colossal snow-laden peak of Stok Kangri and the small village of Stok, home to the current king of Ladakh. At my doorstep, the pristine Indus River flows gently. I have read much about the ecological imbalance in Ladakh, but knowing that my home, lovingly run by my French friend and his Meghalayan wife, is solar-powered and uses all things organically and locally sourced, I feel at ease. That I would find solitude and my own personal piece of paradise on day one, despite the sheer number of people travelling to Ladakh in the summer, delights me.

Ladakh buddhism, Leh places to visit
Fluttering prayer flags over the Indus River.
Tsermang Eco Camp, Leh eco camp, Leh eco friendly accommodation
My first home in Ladakh, at Tsermang Eco Camp.
Tsermang Eco Camp Leh, Nomads Land Camps, Ladakh camping
Eco luxury at Tsermang Eco Camp.

I lay on the banks of the Indus, letting its soothing hum put me into a deep slumber. In the roasting sun, I wake up to see the snow-capped mountains far beyond covered in a thick black mist. The melodramatic skies and the pure mountain air have such a calming effect on my mind after weeks in the maddening city life of Bombay, that I barely feel affected by the change in altitude.

Indus river Leh, Indus Ladakh, Leh photos
Acclimatizing by the Indus River in Leh.
Ladakh weather, Leh Ladakh weather
Dramatic skies in Leh.

I slowly make my way to the bridge, this time to sit and soak in the tranquility of the prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Gazing at the surreal scenery, I tell myself that I’m finally in Ladakh, and will one day make it to Kashmir (maybe via ekashmirtourism.com). Just then, the wind carries to my ears the afternoon prayer chants from a distant monastery. I stroll along to the sparsely populated Palam village, watching kids come skip home from school and women at work in their farms. And as though I’ve lived here for years, they merrily greet me: Jullay!

Ladakh villages, Leh life, Indian villages
I be following shepherds in Palam village.

Where were (are) your first impressions of Leh?

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  1. Soham Banerjee says:

    It is nothing short of a paradise. I went there in 2013. Was completely mesmerized by its sheer natural beauty. I intend to go to Spiti in 2015 on bike. Lets see what happens. Also Stok Kangri is on my trekking list. Need to tick that off my list. Keep it up Shivya n keep inspiring us. Kudos to U.

  2. Your post & pics remind me so much of my Ladakh trip in 2010. Brings back fond memories, will never forget the people & the mountains! Jullay! 😊

  3. What a beautiful place… heaven is the only world that comes to my mind. 🙂 I wish I could visit it someday.

  4. This post is beautiful! Would love it if you could share a few more pictures 🙂

  5. The title brought a smile to my face. Apparently the month ‘July’ is spelled as ‘Juley’ in Leh. At least that’s what I was told by the t-shirt vendor 😀
    I now have a t-shirt that reads “I was at Khardung La. Juley 2012”

  6. I just came back recently from a long trip to Ladakh… Really loved the place… 🙂

  7. Excellent..which is the place by the Indus? I just couldn;t find a peaceful place by the Indus, when I was there.

  8. You know I’m listening to some random romantic numbers while reading your post…it’s an amazing feeling. Ladakh is magic.

  9. rachit puri says:

    Seeing your pics reminds me of my wonderful trip to ladakh. Excellent pics 🙂
    Waiting to see pangong lake, sanchi stupa, magnetic hill and khardungla pass. Have a great trip !

  10. Sarah@Travelcake says:

    Stunning! That eco-lodge: gorgeous! I’ve never been to Leh, but I would love to! When it happens, I’ll be sure to look for that eco-lodge!

  11. Did a road trip to Ladakh first in 2010, only to be back to the place twice. And yes I must admit the love for the place has only grown with the time. Now a visit in winters is on the list, with a dream of being on Chadar 🙂

  12. Perfect. Just in time for our trip to Laddakh later this month 🙂

  13. Nayan Ghildyal says:

    Compliments for an article so well written that it takes one back in time.
    Life in Ladakh has been simple and shall continue to maintain its tranquility.
    As a suggestion you might like to tell the world how the locals sustain themselves round the year , a day in the life of a buddhist monk etc.

  14. Pingback: Jullay from Leh! | The Talking Sloth - Asia
  15. Chaitali Patel says:

    Beautiful place and stunning photos… what a delight to go to Ladakh with you!

  16. kullumanali282 says:

    Awesome post Shivya in the pics really leh is looking like heaven in the earth

  17. Hi Shivya,

    I just discovered you blog, I love it! Beautiful stories and photos!

    I am travelling to Ladakh next month, and I would like to spend time visiting the Indus valley. I want to do a trip by car during 2 days, I need to choose between 2 options.

    I really don’t know which one to chose, I really want to see Lamayuru (the most beautiful monastery in Ladakh), but Pangang lake also look awesome…

    What would you suggest?


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