Travel Guide to Leh and Ladakh
Travel Guide to Leh and Ladakh
In the northernmost tip of India, Ladakh near the Indus Valley lies the town of Leh at 3,500 meters above sea level. Leh a remote town has become a popular tourist destination since it was opened to foreigners in 1974. It is gorgeous and one of the standard entry point to the Ladakh region.
Bordered by two of the world’s most extensive mountain ranges and surrounded by high altitude desert. Leh’s dry, arid landscape is full of historic Buddhist monasteries, which makes it an incredible sight to watch.
Several flights operate to Leh from Delhi regularly. There are also flights to Leh from Srinagar and Jammu. Two highways connect Leh for a few short summer months when the snow has melted on the high passes.
Each year the highway from Srinagar to Leh is open from Late May to November, and the Manali-Leh road is open from June to October. Bus, Jeep, and taxi services are available for the overland journey. The overland trips take a relatively comfortable two days or on a very long journey of 18 hours driving on the challenging terrain. If you are in good health and not in a rush, the overland journey is a must for at least once in your life to enjoy the stunning scenery.
Best time to Go
The best time to visit Ladakh is between May and September when the temperatures are at its warmest. Ladakh is in the rain shadow, and it is not supposed to rain there like most places in the Indian Subcontinent experiences. However, due to climate change, it has started to rain a bit more than 15 years ago, and occasionally there have been rare flash floods, which were quite catastrophic.
Attractions and Places to Visit
Ladakh’s Buddhist monasteries and historical monuments are the biggest attractions for travelers. The Shanti (peace) Stupa, just outside of the center, is one of the monuments that stand out in Leh. The 800-year-old Spituk Monastery, also known as the Kali Mandir to the Hindus, houses a fascinating collection of masks. One can stop to spin a large prayer wheel over there. The imposing 17th century Leh Palace was modeled after the Potala Palace in Lhasprovides, a captivating view of the town.
Thikse Monastery, which lies southeast of Leh, is the place to witness amazing sunsets. The Hemis Monastery is the oldest wealthiest and most influential monastery in Ladakh.
Festivals in Ladakh
The Ladakh Festival is held for the first two weeks of September. The opening ceremony is a spectacular procession through the streets of Leh.
Villagers get dressed in traditional costumes, dance, and sing local folk songs that are backed by an orchestra. The festival also showcases musical concerts, Buddhist monks perform mock wedding ceremonies and masked dances.
One of the most popular Hemis Festival takes place during June / July, the birthday of the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet – Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is full of colorful handicrafts for sale, colorful masked dances, and traditional music. The Hemis Festival takes place for two days.
Adventure Activities Ladakh
Nature lovers and adventurers will find a new and exciting opportunity to paraglide around Leh. Trekking has been a long-standing outdoor adventure activity in Ladakh. There are trekking options such as the Sham Trek for beginners along with more extended trekking tours such as the Lamayuru to Alchi, the ever so famous Markha valley trek and numerous treks that are two to three weeks long.
Here is a list of some of the best treks in Ladakh.
For those who seek more adrenaline rush can opt for the mountaineering trips to either Goleb Khangri, Stok Khangri, and Khangyatse.
Whitewater rafting is another outdoor activity that can be done during July and August on the Indus River in the Leh area, as well as the Shayok River in the Nubra Valley and Zanskar River in Zanskar. One can partake on a camel safari in The Nubra Valley, as well.
Trips outside of Leh
One of the most amazing short side trips outside of Leh is the journey towards the Zanskar River. You can see hanging glaciers, the oasis of green villages amidst the arid landscape, Buddhist monasteries, and Himalayan peaks. The Nubra Valley, via Khardung La pass, another unforgettable trip. The Indians love to claim the road to Khardung La as the “highest motorable road in the world”; if you did not know it already – https://jalopnik.com/the-worlds-ten-highest-roads-1561766761
A trip to Nubra Valley is rewarding with the beautiful streams, rivers, grazing yaks, ponies, the dunes, and the Bactrian Camels.
Foreigners need to get a protected area permit (PAP); this can be obtained through licensed travel agents in Leh. No Permits are required for local sightseeing around Leh, Zanskar, or the Suru Valley.
Places to Stay
Changspa, once a backpacker hub, has a combination of guest houses and upmarket hotels. There are a growing number of homestays in this area. It is just a short walk from the central Bazaar area. There are also many restaurants, some with charismatic gardens to chill out in. This area is a favorite place for homestays.
Padma Guesthouse and Hotel, on Fort Road, has rooms for all budgets and a fabulous rooftop restaurant.
The Spic n Span Hotel on Old Leh Road, close to the main town center, is an excellent hotel with modern amenities, and rooms prices start from around 5,000 rupees per night.
The Hotel City Palace is well recommended. Room rates start from 5,000 rupees per night for a double.
When on a trek, an excellent option available on some trekking routes is to go for homestays rather than camping. It gives you a delightful experience of staying with a Ladakhi family, sampling local food, and mingling with other trekkers if you do not mind the company of others. Some of these areas have initiatives to enhances the livelihoods of the villagers you visit or stay with.
Give yourself enough time to acclimatize to altitude after arriving in Leh, especially if you are flying in. Keep exertion to a minimum for the first day or two. Increase water consumption to avoid confusion between Acute Mountain Sickness and dehydration.
Electronic devices’ batteries drain in that kind of altitude and temperatures, especially if you just flew in from Delhi or Jammu. Some laptops and hard drives have crashed in elevation. This happens due to the thin atmospheric pressure, and the moving parts get displaced.
Leaving Leh by flight has just been made easier recently, the passengers do not have to identify their baggage before the luggage get loaded to the aircraft due to security reason. The demand for flights is high and expensive during the peak season, so book your flights well in advance. The flights can get canceled because of weather conditions. It is advised to book well in advance and try to book on the earlier flight to avoid getting stranded in case the weather turns for the worse. Hand luggage is allowed on board with the passengers; only laptops and cameras are permitted as hand luggage.