The pristine land lost in time has become increasingly tourist friendly. Credit it to the movie 3 Idiots if you must, but thank the soul-searchers, backpackers and tourists who explored the land before you did and created a vivacious market for 'tangible memories of Ladakh' to carry home with them. From pocket-friendly tokens to pieces of sartorial luxury, and adornments for home, there is much for everyone's taste while shopping Ladakh.
Let's take a look at the zillion ways and places you can burn a hole in your pocket or come out unscathed from the shopping hysteria with your sharp bargaining skills!
What to Buy in LadakhA glance at all the things money can buy!
1. Tibetan Handicrafts & Wares
The huge Tibetan population that have made Ladakh its home provides not just a rich infusion to the local culture but also allows everyone a generous peek into their homes and traditions by selling handmade Tibetan artefacts and wares at the markets here. You will be spoilt for choice with intricately painted, eye-catching Thangka paintings that make for beautiful, sacred wall-pieces and meditational means; Buddha statues in different poses and sizes, each with its own significance; mountable Buddha masks; prayer wheels, beads, and flags for chanting or adorning your vehicle; brass and copper 'chang' pots with intricate carvings, traditionally used to serve tea or alcoholic beverages (your chance to be fancy at get-togethers?); carved wooden tables or 'choktse' that are painstakingly carved and painted in stunning colours or simply varnished; and bamboo work baskets and cradles of superior quality are some of the things to lookout for while shopping in Leh Ladakh.
2. Silver and Stone Jewellery
The stunning Ladakhi jewellery makes a gorgeous addition to your or your better-half's collection. Sift through the vast collections of pure silver jewellery, making sure it is hallmarked for authenticity, and vibrant turquoise and coral pieces worn traditionally by Ladakhis and Tibetans. You'll find a wide variety of necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets, and even key chains while shopping in Ladakh. We promise you will end up buying more than just one of each kind.
3. Pashmina Shawls And Woolens
The delicate, painfully beautiful, and very warm, Pashmina shawls made with fine Kashmiri wool can be found aplenty here. For normal woollens, look for socks, gloves, sweaters, caps and blankets woven with yak wool in the trademark local patterns. Additionally, while shopping in Ladakh you may lookout for the traditional warm robe 'goncha', made with wool or cotton, and the colourfully embroidered and embellished headgear 'perak', worn by the locals. If you have a weird sense of style or the ability to carry off everything with ease, you are sure to make a fashion statement with these local garments.
4. Rugs And Kashmiri Carpets
Ladakh is a one-stop shop for making your home an abode of resplendence! Don't miss out on crucial buys like Ladakhi carpets and rugs - naturally dyed and hand woven with wool in exotic patterns that include detailed dragons and floral representations. The sturdy, thick rugs make for great wall hangings and carpets. Kashmiri carpets, on the other hand, have more intricate designs woven with more exquisite wool and silk, which are available in various sizes and prices. Nothing adds a touch of regality and ethnicity to a room as, perhaps, a Kashmiri carpet with its amalgamation of vibrant colours and intricate patterns does.
5. Apricots' Jam, OilEnjoy the bounty of dried or freshly harvested apricots grown locally and abundantly in Ladakh and its neighbouring areas. You can also find organic apricot jam and oil while shopping in Leh Ladakh, to make the most of the luscious fruit!
Where to Shop in LadakhFrom dedicated, speciality markets to ones that address all your shopping impulses under one roof, there is no dearth of avenues to find the exploits as mentioned above.
Here's a glossary of places for shopping in Ladakh that you need to keep a note on:
1. Main Bazaar
As the name suggests, this is the chief street lined with shops and stalls frequented by tourists and locals and selling almost everything you may require. You can buy Tibetan souvenirs, handicrafts, antiques and woollens, and Ladakhi jewellery, at the numerous outposts here, and also pashmina shawls at competitive prices which require bargaining, nevertheless.
2. Tibetan Handicraft Emporium (Main Bazaar Road) and Tibetan Handicraft Community Showroom (Choglamsar)
Leh has a number of really fascinating handicraft shops run by Tibetan refugees and it is one of the best places to find handicrafts and antiques at affordable prices. These two make a one-stop shop for buying Tibetan handicrafts and wares, authentic Ladakhi jewellery in silver and stone, and exquisite gift items. Perhaps, more expensive than the shops lining Main Bazaar road, but you are likely to find more variety here making it a must-visit for shopping in Ladakh. Let your inner shopaholic run free amongst the snow-capped Himalayas and get yourself and your friends some souvenirs.
3. Ladakh Art Palace (Main Bazaar Road)
Another gem to select from and purchase a wide a variety of Ladakhi jewellery, Tibetan wares and artefacts, antiques. The place specializes in Ladakhi and Tibetan jewellery, so make sure you visit it if you are a jewellery connoisseur.
4. Cottage Industries Exposition (Changspa)
All the locally made handicrafts, shawls, hand-woven garments, carpets and rugs are exhibited and sold under its one roof.
5. Dalai Lama Charitable Trust Handicraft Emporium
This one deserves a special mention, for the proceeds from the sale of goods at the outlet are given to the local artisans to promote their craft and provide them sustenance. So, while you marvel at the beauty of local talent and handiwork represented in all their handicrafts, shawls, woollens, paintings and artefacts sold here, remember the artisan community's hard work needs support and encouragement, and purchasing goods here goes a long way in ensuring their needs are met.
6. Ladag Apricot Store
If your desire and appetite for apricots have not been met at the Main Bazaar, head to this store that deals only in apricots and all its derivatives - dried, fresh, jam and oil. The nutritious oil and finger-licking jam are much sought after by tourists while shopping in Ladakh.
7. The Ecology Centre (Changspa)
Here’s a place where you can learn about ecology conservation and get some souvenirs as well. As part of the Ecology Centre off on Changspa, the centre has a very well stocked library as well as a handicraft shop that promotes and sells locally made clothes, thangkas, bags, purses, shoes and much more.
8. Moti Market
This is one of the oldest markets in Leh and as the name suggests this is the place to go for gems, pearls(moti), precious stones. If you want some of the best traditional jewelry Ladakh can offer, you have to go here. Lamo Pearls in the Moti Market is one of the oldest shops you can find there that sells authentic pearls and stones.
Tips for Shopping in LadakhBefore you rush to fulfil your materialistic indulgences it would help to be mindful of a few things to ensure you don't feel ripped off at the end of your shopping spree. The keyword to remember while shopping in Ladakh is the bargain. The need for it cannot be over-emphasized. Even when a shop says the price is fixed, it is pretty flexible in reality, so don't hesitate to indulge in some good old haggling. Also, when you purchase silver jewellery, check that you aren't being passed off a fake at the price of genuine silver, by checking the hallmark on the jewellery.
That is it. Now, you're good to go shopping in Ladakh. We hope you return with bags full goodies and soul full of smiles.