Set among mountain-backed badlands, low-paced Lamayuru is one of Ladakh’s most memorable villages and an ideal place to break the Kargil–Leh journey. Picturesque homes huddle around a crumbling central hilltop that’s pitted with caves and topped by the ultra-photogenic Yungdrung Gompa. Behind glass within the gompa’s main prayer hall is a tiny cave in which 11th-century mystic Naropa (AD 1016–1100) meditated. Before that, legend claims, this whole area had been the bottom of a deep lake whose waters receded miraculously thanks to the powerful prayers of Buddhist saint Arahat Nimagung. Sculpted by time into curiously draped erosion patterns, the sands of that former lake bed now form ‘moonland’ landscapes at the roadside around 1km east of town.
New roads to Wanla, Hinju and Photoksar challenge Lamayuru’s traditional role as a trekking trailhead, but if you’re reliant on public transport, Lamayuru still makes a possible starting point for classic hiking routes to Chiling or Zanskar with packhorses sporadically available for hire.