Lamayuru started off as one of those frustrating one off stops you must make en route to your final destination – which in my case was Leh (still 130 km away).
We checked into Hotel Moonrock – a porta-cabin like structure – and one of the only hotels around. After dumping my luggage in the room, my backpack and I headed out to explore. Every additional minute spent exploring Lamayuru made me more and more enamoured by what was supposed just be pit stop.
For a girl who grew up in a city like New Delhi, what immediately hit me was the crispness in the air, the clarity in the atmosphere completely rid of haze and obviously, the lunar landscape of Ladakh. Though very few Indian travellers stop by here, Lamayuru is frequented by backpackers from outside the country who halt here on their way to Leh. The tiny settlement is flanked by quaint traveller’s cafes that offer great food, live music and needless to say, a breath-taking view (Anywhere in Ladakh, I should say, makes for a breath-taking view, a perfect picture or simply a awe inspiring screensaver for your desktop)
The monastery is the main edifice behind the settlement at Lamayuru. Founded in the 11th century, it is home to about 200 monks and is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh. What I noticed at first glance, was the bright red of the monks’ robes, contrasting perfectly with the cappuccino like landscape of the mountainside. Though much of the ancient monastery has not remained, it attracts many Buddhist followers. Luckily I happened to be visiting while the Annual Masked Dance festival associated with the monastery was taking place. It felt great to be able to witness their deep culture, tradition and performing arts. The collection of Buddhist tankhas and wall paintings is also a treat for anyone who has artistic leanings. The path that leads to the monastery has tiny stalls that have some extremely interesting things on sale from antique artefacts to girly trinkets.
Picture Tibetan food around a warm bonfire and meeting new people from across the world on a chilly evening at the base of an ancient monastery; Lamayuru and its gorgeous evenings had me entirely charmed and enticed.
In fact, after having travelled to what was supposed to be my ultimate destination: Leh, I found myself missing Lamayuru; the beautiful town that’s beauty lay in the fact that it provided me with an essence of Ladakh untouched by mass tourism.
Written by Marukh Budhraja
Photographed by Deepak Budhraja