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Tradition and Sustainability in the Heart of the Himalayas

  • Destinations
May 14, 2024
Karakoram suite interiors – Beautiful Homes

At Ladakh Eco Resort, ancient rammed earth architecture techniques meet modern sustainability measures against a serene backdrop of untouched landscapes

In the rugged and captivating terrain of Ladakh, where the air whispers spellbinding folklore and the mountains stand as silent sentinels, lies Ladakh Eco Resort. Built solely with rammed earth—a construction technique indigenous to the region—it stands as a testament to the harmony between traditional wisdom and modern innovation. “My father was one of the first travel agents who started his business here in 1974, when the government opened Ladakh for tourism. Being locals in the travel industry, we’ve seen the region transition over the past decades, especially with tourism. It’s going through its toughest phase with humans causing havoc to our lands and water. So, we thought of building a place with natural materials, using sustainable measures, to inspire guests who stay with us to adopt this way of life while keeping our environment clean and green,” shares Norboo Wangchuk, the managing director of the resort.


Located in the village of Spurka, which today comprises under ten homes, the Shingstak-style woodwork on the structure has been inspired by Norboo’s ancestral home, a stone’s throw away from the property. While building plans were being made, he recalls stumbling upon a house in Leh which was built completely with raw earth. “The walls had a smooth finish without the lines one would see in a brick wall. I really liked the look and feel of that house, and went inside to find out more about the building technique, which I discovered was rammed earth…only to realise it was built by the homeowner’s brother—Sonam Wangchuk!,” he explains of the construction method which has now been further refined and reintroduced in Ladakh with modern technology by the Magsaysay award-winning engineer, innovator and education reformist. 

What is Rammed Earth?

“The rammed earth building method is an ancient traditional technique to construct load bearing walls made out of earth that’s available near a site,” says Sonam, pointing to the sandy soil near the resort, which he describes is best suited for this type of construction. “The method involves placing loose earth in formwork and compressing it with a rammer to a density ranging from 1,900 kg/m3 to 2,300 kg/m3. This density almost starts resembling stone densities, and rammed earth structures can be found in a lot of ancient forts and monuments here, such as Leh Palace.”

Lungmar cabin exterior – Beautiful Homes

Lungmar cabin made from rammed earth building method.

Because of its even and visually striking finish, the biggest advantage with this method is that there is no need for further plastering or painting the walls in a rammed earth structure. The trickiest challenge with this technique, however, is the design foresight it requires before the casting takes place, “because all the pipes, wiring and holes have to be laid inside the formwork, and then rammed upon. So, a keener eye for details is necessary,” he warns.


Norboo explains how he had to be “dead sure” of where he’d want each electric point in the room to be, because “once the conduit pipes have been pounded along with the wall at a certain location, the switch box has to be placed there—and there is no way we can change it. This can make incorporating modern amenities and creature comforts a little difficult within this form of architecture.”


Sustainably Wrapped Within the Himalayas

Nestled in the heart of the serene and majestic landscape of Ladakh, the ruddy hues of the multi-storeyed concrete resort visually melt into the surrounding mountains that wrap around it. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the main town, each room looks out to the region’s flora and fauna, and herds of grazing cattle that move across the property through the day.

Lungmar cabin interior – Beautiful Homes

The interiors of Lungmar cabin pays homage to Ladakh’s traditional architecture.

To compliment the raw earthy walls inside, Norboo approached his friend and furniture designer from Leh, Rabga, an alumnus from NID Ahmedabad to design the solid wood furniture for the space. “At that time, he was heavily inspired by the American woodworker, architect, and furniture maker, George Nakashima, and this echoes through all the pieces in the bedrooms and the dining area.” These are complemented with old paintings of Ladakh by a British traveller who had visited Ladakh in the 1850s.

And the core of the resort’s design is sustainability, which one can find even in the smallest of details here. While the entire resort is plastic-free, with refillable glass water bottles and toiletries, the entire property functions in sync with the local ecosystem, serving only a locally seasonal menu and retaining a zero-waste cycle across all its offerings. “And Sonam’s vision for heating the entire place by using good old sunlight is the cleanest and the most genius idea that one could ever come across. Sustainability is a belief; a process. It’s not just something we do because it’s trending or cool. It’s our attempt to give back to the land that nurtured us,” he relates.

Paying homage to Ladakh’s traditional architecture built through the ages that displays a strong use of natural materials, several modern constructions in the region have now begun to use a local mudbrick called pakbu and stone to build sturdy and long-lasting houses. “Slowly but surely, people are realising that concrete is not made for this place and are switching back to traditional techniques for making houses with mud. And, these days, mud houses are not as basic as they used to be. By combining modern technology with age-old building techniques, mud houses have the strength and build quality of any modern concrete home,” muses Norboo.

Karakoram suite interiors – Beautiful Homes

The entire resort is plastic-free, with refillable glass water bottles and toiletries.

Things To Do When Visiting

Ladakh Eco Resort is a 20-minute drive from the main Leh market in Gangles village. The resort arranges a day hike to Phyang village from the property, which takes about four hours to complete. They also organise custom activities on and off the property, such as picnics at monasteries or by the stream that flows nearby; as well as visits to Nubra Valley, walks around Gangles village, spring water tastings, tea-trailing, cycling tours, farm-to-table experiences, open-air barbeques or star gazing.



Ladakh Eco Resort is open from May to September. 

Contact details: 9971820745

Outdoor design ideas – Beautiful Homes
Each room of the resort looks out to the region’s flora and fauna.
Wooden furniture design ideas – Beautiful Homes
Furniture designer Rabga has designed the solid wood furniture for the space.
Rgyalung cabin at Ladakh Eco Resort – Beautiful Homes
The Rgyalung cabin at Ladakh Eco Resort.

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