Exploring the Otherworldly Beauty of Ladakh by Motorcycle
Situated between China, Tibet, and Pakistan in the northern tip of India, the Ladakh region offers travelers a fascinating mix of cultures, sparsely populated landscapes, and the world’s highest road.
The Belgium-based photographer Yuri Andries visited Ladakh, India, in 2017. He spent five weeks traveling the region on a motorcycle without a fixed itinerary, photographing people and landscapes. He discovered extremes everywhere he turned: May temperatures ranged from 86 degrees during the day to 20 degrees at night; apricot trees bloomed pink against stark gray hills; and warm, generous people brightened the lonely, sometimes inaccessible roads.
For Andries, traveling around Ladakh was an escape from his own fast-paced life. He was able to experience a place where locals share values of self-sufficiency and a strong relationship with nature. “There is the time and space to just be,” he says. “The experience was meditative.”
Starting at an altitude of about 8,400 feet, the union territory of Ladakh—which opened to foreign travelers in 1974—retains characteristics of centuries past, when it became a flourishing site of Tibetan Buddhism and an important stop on the ancient Silk Road. Gompas, or Buddhist monasteries, jut out of hilltops in their red and white shades.
It is hard to look away from the harsh realities the region faces today. Its sensitive location, alongside China, Tibet, and Pakistan, has meant the constant presence of the Indian army. Himalayan glaciers, a major source of water for Ladakhis, are melting at a significant rate.
Despite these challenges, Andries says he intends for his pictures to “translate the calmness and tranquility of the place” that he experienced: “This is a love letter to Ladakh.”