Eternal Creation (first floor, Raku Complex, Fort Rd.; tel. 96-2296-9570; www.eternalcreation.com) is a fair-trade boutique with colorful and beautiful garments for women, children, and babies. Designed in Australia, but with workshops in Dharamsala providing employment for 80 people (Tibetans, Nepalis and Indians), this is as close as it comes to dressing up for a good cause. Fabrics are generally bright and big-patterned, well suited to the summery dresses and gorgeous kimonos; the silk-bordered shawls and accessories are also great buys.
You could spend a whole lot of your time in Leh dodging overbearing Kashmiri salesmen hawking everything from carpets to gold jewelry. Occasionally their hard-sell tactics are enough to send you screaming into the mountains. Operating with a completely different set of ethics is L'Araba Fenice (Zangsti Rd.; tel. 01982/25-4516 or 94-1921-9341) where the mild-mannered George Sher Ali (who also came here from Kashmir many years ago) sells a wide assortment of Rajasthani miniature paintings executed on silk and paper. Besides the usual subjects, he also commissions special Ladakh-influenced scenes and unusual designs that may include gorgeous white yaks or a snow leopard, painted from photographs by artists who have never stepped foot in the Himalayas. Look for the shop (one of the few in Leh without a merchant looming in the doorway) at the edge of the main bazaar and set aside some time to listen to George explaining the intricate process of miniature painting. For books, look no further than the well-stocked Ladakh Book Shop (Main Bazaar, near State Bank of India; tel. 01982/25-6464 or 98-6811-1112) which carries trekking maps, books on spirituality, coffee table glossies, local guidebooks, and everything in between, including plenty of good Indian literature.
Do also make a point of dropping by the Ladags Apricot Store (LBA Shopping Complex, Zangsti; tel. 01982/25-1222 or 94-1917-7529), an eco-friendly shop specializing in organic products grown by Ladakhi farmers. Dried apricots are a must, and they also sell apricot nut kernels (which are known to have cancer-fighting properties) as well as yos, a traditional Ladakhi snack food made with roasted barley -- it's a perfect accompaniment on a long drive.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.