Ladakh is no longer a secret—it's the place to go if you want adventure or just to get away from it all. However, if you want to take your Himalayan expedition a notch further and really experience what it's like to live in a truly remote corner of the world, you should eschew hotels and lodges and knock on the doors of a homestay. There really are some secrets left in Ladakh and these homestays in picturesque, pristine villages are some of them. Here you can bask in the heart-warming hospitality of the villagers and live life like it is meant to be lived in these mysterious mountains.
And why do we say they are green? All the homestays listed below received solar electrification through Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) which was pivotal in improving the lives of villagers who otherwise relied on unsustainable and polluting kerosene lamps. The stay experience for tourists has been enhanced too as there are LED lights in the rooms and charging sockets for phones and laptops. Not just that: all the farming in these villages is totally organic and sustainable. The dry toilets at homes and cow dung provide the necessary natural fertilizers and the locally built cold storage rooms keep pests in check.
The single house of Yurutse
Strange it may seem, this "village" in Ladakh's Hemis National Park has only one family staying in their ancestral house. The family welcome visitors who pass through here either to trek in the summer months or spot snow leopards in winter.
The newly constructed rooms offer you a very warm and comfortable experience amidst a beautiful landscape.
Eduard Fischer, a passionate wildlife photographer, wrote about Yurutse in his book Chasing the Phantom. He stayed here for several days as he waited to sight the elusive snow leopard.
The most beautiful stay at Shingo
Hands-down our favourite place at the village of Shingo is Jigmet's homestay—Khangbu.
At this remote village, her homestay offers very clean and organised rooms and a beautiful dining area.
She also has a small greenhouse in her backyard where she grows vegetables. The solar electrification at Shingo in 2015 by GHE has changed Jigmet's life forever. She has successfully incorporated the changes and her homestay is attracting more tourists than ever. Many villagers are now following in her footsteps and improving their homestays as well.
Among the apple farms of Tsogsty
A vibrant little village, Tsogsty is surrounded by apple and apricot farms.
The Khangba eco-homestay is poised among these farms. The dining area is very well decorated with local plants and copper artifacts made by the skilled artisans of Ladakh.
Though the village is well connected by road, not many tourists visit here as it does not fall on any popular trekking route. Mountain Homestays started community-based trips to enhance tourism and empower the copper artisans and farmers of Tsogsty.
Mahe: The village of lakes
Mahe village is in Chanthang region of Ladakh. There are at least six lakes in the vicinity of the village. The aspect of this village is that it is run by women alone and men are a rather rare sight! Chrol is the village head (Panch) of Mahe and she runs a homestay as well.
Mahe was not open to tourism until 2010, but people are wising up and discovering the joys of staying at this pristine location.
Sumda Chenmo: The village of copper artisans
This is a lovely village where the ancient art of copper handcrafting is still practiced. Stanzeng Wangdus is one such artisan who also runs a homestay for tourists. Apart from perfecting his handmade artifacts, he takes care of around 15-20 tourists in his homestay every season.
Also at this village are 13th-century Buddha statues made of wood, which were excavated in 2008.
Don't forget to check out the water-based mill where farmers grind wheat.
Skiu's oldest homestay
On the popular route of the Markha Valley trek, Skiu has at least 12 homestays run by villagers. Gastak-pa homestay is one of the oldest in the village.
Among the wheat farms shadowed under a mountain, the homestay is at a scenic site and offers a great quality of stay to visitors. An advantage is that it has a satellite phone connection as well.