All the pictures are clicked by me. Please do leave your comments or queries if you have any.
The land of high passes with the highest motorable road in the world, renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture (sometimes called Little Tibet because of the Tibetan influence on its culture)
For all you explorers out there... come share your experiences in Leh - Ladakh, the land, the people, the treks... and help others plan their trips to Ladakh...
Ladakh is the land of spirituality, of Buddhist monks and monasteries, of mystic maroon, a land where thousands live a simple life of prayer. Ladakh is also a land of snow capped mountains, glacial rivers, barren terrain, a land where the mightly Himalayas is brought to its knees by the winds and melting snow, a land that remains frozen for at least 6 months of the year during which life almost comes to a standstill. Ladakh is nature at its starkest best, a place where nature envelops and captures you in a way that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world.
My experiences in Ladakh are too many and varied to be described in a few words. All the same, here is a glance
at some of the experiences that made my trip unforgettably enchanting:-
River Beas in Manali
We stayed in Manali for a day & left at 2 am in a Scorpio Jeep for Leh :)
The Scenic Mountains en-route
Beautiful Mountains, Breath-taking View :)
The Future Buddha Temple..
This a monastery. On top is the temple and below small houses are where the priests or the lamas stay.
Picturesque Pangong Lake :)
Another spectacular view..
The local temple
Shanti Stupa - One of the most calming places you can be.. You need climb like 500 odd steps to get up here.. and its gonna be more tough than you can imagine.. because of the altitude your almost out of breath at 5-10 steps :) It gives you a 360 degree of the whole LEH city.
Shanti Stupa -My friend and others lost in its serenity. Best place to unwind your thoughts.
Khardungla Pass - at 18580 ft. Altitude. Its World Highest motorable road :)
Nubra Valley - This Photo has all its life form captured. You can start by viewing the Wate, Vegetation (grass), Animal (life), Desert (land) , Mountains (also some covered with snow caps) and finally the beautiful clouds & sky.
Sunset at Nubra Valley
Sunset at Nubra Valley- Another View
Hundar - The desert land. It has cute & modest Mongolian Camels. They got 2 humps. They would give you a lovely 15-20 min tour of the sun basking desert.
The Ride :)
Child Monks playing outside a temple at Hundar.
River Rafting at Indus River ( You can view the Indus & Zanskar river meet) Its a must do activity.
A Ladakhi lady dressed to attend a ceremony where all the high scholars/priests had gathered at Alchi.
FAQ on Ladakh
These 'Frequently Asked Questions' merely attempt to lift the veil on some of the doubts that arise on the minds of the wanderer making his/her foray into one of the most fascinating regions on earth. By answering these questions on Ladakh, I am leaving a lot unsaid too, hoping each traveller would be able to unravel the mystery of these high mountains and its people during the course of one's own travel. Ladakh is definitely one of favourite destinations on 'the road less travelled'…
When can I visit Ladakh?
Tourists generally visit Ladakh in the summer from June to September. During these 4 months, the days are warm and sunny at Leh and the surrounding areas (20-30 deg C) and quite chilly at night. The two most popular months are July/August for culture tours and high altitude treks.
How can I reach Ladakh?
The three most popular routes of entry into Leh are as follows:
a) By air: The Leh airport is connected by IC flights to Delhi 4 times a week on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun
Jammu (Mon, Fri), Srinagar, and Chandigarh (both once a week). These flights are heavily booked in July-August by foreign groups months in advance. .
b) By Manali-Leh highway: (Recommended) This 475km highway is considered to be a classic journey over the Himalayas. It crosses 4 high altitude passes including the 2nd highest motorable pass in the world (Tanglang La) and is a visual treat of spectacular river valleys, barren rock formations and desolate plateaux.
This journey by bus/jeep is done over 2 days (10-12 hrs each day) with a night halt at Sarchu/Pang. Sarchu makes better sense due to the altitude (14,000ft) and its ½ way status. Accommodation at Sarchu is in tented camps with bare minimum facilities and shared loo.
However We travelled at a stretch of a single day... it was 23 hour journey in a Scorpio Jeep. The Manali - Leh route via Rohtang Pass.
c) By Srinagar-Leh Highway: This 470km journey passing near the LOC is another spectacular road journey passing through Zoji La Pass, Drass (the second coldest inhabited place on earth after Siberia) and Kargil. This too is a 2-day journey (10-12 hrs each day) with a night halt at Kargil. Accommodation at Kargil is in hotels. This road is of vital military need and is kept open as long as the possible, although snow in the passes on this road is heavier than on the Manali-Leh highway.
What problems can I face on my tour to Ladakh? How can I overcome them?
High altitude does take its toll in these mountains. The harsh, barren Manali-Leh highway is so desolate that its possible to drive for many miles at a stretch without seeing any signs of habitation or crossing any other vehicle. Most of the altitude is above 12,000ft on this highway reaching upto 17,000ft ft and over 10,000ft in the rest of Ladakh. Leh itself is at 11,500ft. Because of the high altitude there is a scarcity of oxygen and AMS is all too common. The symptoms of AMS are acute headache, breathlessness, cough, loss of appetite, restlessness, lack of sleep, tiredness, nausea, vomiting etc. However, if you are going over Manali, the 2 night stay there combined with the journey over these high passes gets you acclimatised in phases.
If you are flying in to Leh, then normally, the symptoms of AMS set in AFTER 48-36 hours and not immediately on arrival. Doctors advise COMPLETE rest for the first 24 hours after arrival and complete or partial rest thereafter depending on one's health for the next 12 hours. Thereafter, sightseeing can commence. For trekking, I would advise 4-5 days at Leh for acclimatisation before you set out for trekking. HAPE deaths do occur amongst trekkers but that is a very small percentage and mainly those who do not heed proper medical advise. Throughout one's stay tourists should drink as much water as possible (2-3 ltrs a day). For acute AMS, one should take the tablet Diamox after consulting a doctor.
The sun shines severely at this altitude and it may be quite hot during the day. A wide hat should be used and sunscreen lotion must be applied. Its said that its the only place on earth where one can die by getting a sunstroke & a frostbite at the same time.
Flight ticket confirmations during July-August are very difficult to get and if no confirmation comes through one should be prepared to undertake the road journey through Manali.
Electricity is erractic in Leh with power failure for long hours. Many hotels do not have gensets, and once again one should be at peace with the darkness!
What kind of accommodation is available?
All hotels in Ladakh are graded as per A,B,C categories by J&K Tourism. There is no star system.
However the best option would be Guesthouses which we chose. They give a you a warm friendly feel of staying with a local family & is budgeted.
One must be prepared to adjust in order to enjoy the land and its people.
What about food, drinking water?
There's a wide choice of food at Leh. One can try out Kashmiri, Ladakhi and Tibetan food alongwith Indian, Chinese and continental food. Some of the places I ate in and could recommend in Leh are Summer Harvest (Kashmiri, Indian, Chinese etc), Budshah Inn near the Masjid (for Kashmiri food), Amdo (for Tibetan and Ladakhi dishes), High Life near Rafika for assorted fare and a good ambience. For drinking water, I recommend bottled mineral water (Rs.10-20 depending on how far away from Leh you are at any given point of time).
What are the must-do places on one's itinerary in Ladakh?
For those interested in nature and culture tours I'd recommend the following circuits:
Leh and around: This would be a 5-7 day circuit covering the monasteries at Likir, Alchi, Ridzong; Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Stok, Stakna, Thak Thok; river rafting from Phey to Nimmu on the Indus.
Nubra Valley: 3 nights & 4 days jeep safari ex-Leh crossing Khardungla (highest motorable pass in the world) and covering Disket, Hundar (with a camel ride from Hundar to Deskit on the Bactrian camel Rs.300-500 per person for the 1-1/2 hr ride depending on the season and availability of camel). Your travel agent there will find you the accomadation. You can Travel by bus too but the bus visits to & from on alternate days.
Pangong Tso Lake: You can either do a 1N2D jeep safari with overnight camping ex-Leh Or Like we did... Half a day is enough too :)
Tso Moriri Lake: This is a favourite with bird watchers.
Da-Hanu: 1N or 2N jeep safari to meet up with the Drok Pas, of Aryan origin and take a look into their unique lifestyle and culture. En route one could visit Likir and Alchi. Stay is arranged at Alchi or Uletopo Camp.
How long should my tour be?
Whether it is a nature or a culture tour, the minimum duration of a tour in Ladakh should be one week and could extend upto 3 weeks.
Can I combine Srinagar with Ladakh?
This makes for a tremendous circuit and one could do it as under: Fly Del-Srinagar. Drive Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Manali-Delhi. Or fly leh-Del/Jammu/Chandigarh or by road too as mentioned above.
What are the most popular festivals in Ladakh?
Most popular are Hemis Tsechu (July 11-12); Lamayuru (Jul 18-19); Karsha (Jul 18-19); Phyang (Aug 1-2); Thak Thok (Aug 9-10). These fall in the tourist season and hence see a lot of tourist crowd.
Do we require permits?
All tourists require Inner Line Permits to visit certain restricted areas like Nubra Valley (upto Hundar and Panamic), Pangong Tso Lake, Tso Moriri Lake, Da Hanu etc. These are issued by the DM's office for a period of 7 days. These would be arranged by any local travel agent there.
How good are the communication facilities?
Internet facility is available in Leh. But most of the time the power is more 'down' than 'up'. They charge around Rs.2-3 per minute or sometimes 5rs for calls. STD booths are found all over Leh.