Dolkhar: Weaving Sustainability & Authenticity In The Land Of Ladakh

Rigzin Lachic,   FounderIn the mesmerizing landscapes of Ladakh, where majestic mountains meet the vast expanse of azure skies and crystal-clear lakes, lies a story of ambition and determination. It is the story of a young visionary named Rigzin Lachic, who embarked on a transformative journey a few years ago. Born in Ladakh but living in various parts of India, Lachic nurtured her love for her ancestral homeland through numerous childhood visits. However, it was in the ninth grade when her grandparents posed a thought-provoking question that planted a seed of purpose within her could her academic pursuits bring about positive change in Ladakh?

Lachic returned to Ladakh in 2013 after completing college. Conversations with her grandmother and the presence of an apple tree and an ancestral comb sparked a realization she wanted to create a meaningful impact in the area. And yet, owing to circumstances, she accepted a job offer from a gaming company in Tokyo. However, the corporate environment left her unfulfilled. Feeling a void, Lachic made the life-altering decision to leave Japan and join a startup in Delhi, fueling her entrepreneurial spirit.

Sustainable Solutions to Empower the Local Community
Eventually, driven by her deep-rooted love for Ladakh and a burning desire to preserve its unique culture and environment, Lachic took the plunge and founded her venture Dolkhar. “I wanted to create sustainable solutions that empowered the local community while overcoming the geographical barriers that Ladakh presented”, highlights Lachic. “And since my grandmother, Dolkar, always inspired me to solve Ladakh’s problems, I decided to name the venture after her. I added an 'h’ because 'khar' means palace in Ladakhi, thus translating Dolkhar to ‘Dol's Palace’ or my grandmother’s palace.”

Dolkhar aims to shed light on Ladakh's untold stories. Firmly rooted in their connection to the land, the Dolkhar team has revived many traditional construction techniques. Over 40 artisans have joined forces, weaving their craftsmanship into the venture, ensuring the authenticity and beauty of Dolkhar's structures.

Promoting Local Farmers & Preserving Agricultural Traditions
Today, Dolkhar offers a unique restaurant and villa experience in Ladakh, seeking to preserve Ladakh's heritage while providing visitors with an immersive and genuine experience. The villas reshape Ladakh's tourism dynamics, showcasing cultural diversity, language, and landscapes beyond tourist hotspots. Meanwhile, Tsas by Dolkhar, a plant-based restaurant, combines local ingredients with international culinary techniques. Tsas translates to garden or kitchen garden in Ladakhi, aligning with Dolkhar’s practice of sourcing produce from local kitchen gardens.

“When you spend money on food, it is not just about nourishing yourself, but also
supporting local farmers. Take buck wheat, for example, a vital grain deeply rooted in Ladakh's culture. Although buckwheat is cheaper online, we buy it from local farmers, ensuring our purchase benefits them and acknowledges their challenges. By doing so, we also contribute to preserving agricultural traditions in Ladakh and encourage travelers to do the same”, explains Lachic.

Dolkhar transcends the typical hospitality experience it embraces the local community, collaborating with artisans and creating opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in vibrant traditions

Supporting Traditional Crafts & Uplifting Remote Communities
Dolkhar transcends the typical hospitality experience it embraces the local community, collaborating with artisans and creating opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in vibrant traditions. Carefully considering the travelers' spending capacity and the potential impact on the local communities and ecology, Dolkhar directs them away from popular tourist destinations like Pangong or Nubra. Instead, the Dolkhar team helps curate experiences around artisans, sending guests to spend a day in a village, engage in craft practices, and share meals with the artisans' families.

“This approach not only promotes lesser known villages but also supports the preservation of traditional crafts, encourages the continuation of rural livelihoods, and counters the challenges of rural urban migration. By doing so, we aim to ensure even income distribution that benefits remote communities and their surroundings through responsible tourism practices”, states Lachic.

Dolkhar minimizes waste and utilizes natural materials, incorporating mud, wood, and stone in harmony with the landscape. By reducing plastic use and promoting locally sourced carpets, fabrics, and brass spoons, Dolkhar supports local communities and preserves traditions. Further more, Dolkhar leverages technology to raise awareness of Ladakh's potential. Besides engaging potential visitors with informative content, Dolkhar encourages locals to value their skills and products, leading to more even income distribution.

Recognizing the Potential of Winter Tourism
Unlike most properties in Ladakh that close during the peak winter season, Dolkhar operates yearround. With improved facilities and resources in Ladakh compared to five years ago, Dolkhar caters to passionate travelers seeking wildlife experiences and extreme adventure sports like ice hockey, skating, and climbing. “Recognizing the potential of winter tourism in Ladakh, we offer special winter discounts”, adds Lachic. Additionally, Dolkhar has partnered with platforms such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith, offering guests who book through them a complimentary bag of Ladakhi herbal tea.

Within a year since its inception, Dolkhar has gained recognition from reputable sources, including Time Magazine and Conde Nast. Looking ahead, Dolkhar envisions a future where conscious travel and responsible tourism create a positive and sustainable Ladakh. Dolkhar's story is a testament to the power of reconnecting with roots, honoring traditions, and creating a sustainable future. “We shall continue to inspire travelers to experience Ladakh's essence while making a difference one journey at a time”, concludes Lachic.