March 21, 2023
Travelling to Ladakh is a dream come true. For most people, it is the opportunity of a lifetime and a major tick on their bucket lists. But Ladakh is no ordinary destination and even before you plan your trip, you should do your research carefully and find out everything you can about this high-altitude heaven.
Ladakh is nestled snugly in the Himalayas. It is a remote mountain-top kingdom that has been protected from the ravages of industrialization by its relative inaccessibility and the thick blanket of snow that surrounds it for most of the year. To see Ladakh, you must first overcome this protective layer of adverse weather conditions and high altitude.
Elevation: Ladakh is not just another hill station that requires an extra jacket. Here, the weather conditions can be extraordinarily harsh and peculiar. In fact, Ladakh is one of the coldest places on earth with elevations of 8000 to 22000 feet. Nature does some strange things here and therefore; special care needs to be taken by all who venture, even in the summer.
Temperature: At the height of summer, temperatures at night can dip below 0 Degrees Celsius in some places and hover around 10 degrees Celsius during the day. Paradoxically, summer sunshine here can also be strangely harsh here as the high elevation and thin layer of atmosphere allow direct sunlight to beat down with surprising force.
Travelling to Ladakh in the winter or during the monsoon season is not for the faint of heart. It is a serious expedition that requires special equipment, a lot of preparation and some strength of character. If you can pull it off, your efforts will surely be rewarded.
Preparing for your Trip
For first-time visitors, it is advisable to visit Ladakh in the summer. Even then, it is recommended that visitors pack carefully to ensure that they have everything they need to be comfortable and make the most of their trip. Simply put, when it comes to being prepared, it is better to be over than under. Here are a few tips on how to prepare and what to carry:
1. Carry Winter Clothing: One must carry winter clothing like thermal inners, a thick jacket, insulated socks and other winter wear for a safe and comfortable trip. Depending on your itinerary, you can also carry hiking shoes, mountain climbing equipment, a walking stick, protective goggles, mufflers, gloves etc.
2. Carry Oxygen cylinders: Due to its high altitude of over 1000 ft. and lack of greenery, oxygen levels are low in Ladakh. To overcome this obstacle, you must give your body time to acclimatize and travel slowly. If you are flying into Leh, plan to spend a few days there before moving forward. This will give your body time to adjust and adapt.
If you are fit and acclimatize properly, you may not need oxygen cylinders at all. But to be extra safe, it is advisable to carry oxygen cylinders or plan to rent them in Leh. There are several places in Leh where you can rent cylinders of different sizes at reasonable prices.
3. Consult a doctor: It is also advisable to consult your Physician or family doctor before planning your trip and ask if you need any special care or caution for your travels. Generally, a physician will conduct some medical tests and give you a clean bill of health or advise some precautions and preventive care.
4. Carry AMS Medication: In the rare case that you do feel sick during your trip, it is important to carry medication for AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) with you as shops in Ladakh are few and far between. One such medication is Diamox, which is readily available.
5. Carry Permits: Once you reach Leh, you also need to undertake some formalities required to visit areas near the border. For visiting the fabled Nubra Valley, Siachen and other areas in the interior, you will need special passes called PAP or “Protected Area Permits,” which can be easily obtained in Leh and should be carried on your person at all times. To know more about PAP, click here.
6. Carry Cash: Many places in Leh and Ladakh only accept cash and do not accept other forms of payment, especially in the interiors and in rural places. To be on the safer side, it is advisable to carry hard currency so that you can easily purchase food, rent equipment, buy gifts and make payments.
What to do in Ladakh
Ladakh has a lot to offer. To get the most out of your trip, you should know beforehand what you are interested in and what you plan to do. Depending on your plans, you can prepare accordingly, instead of completely winging it, which can be dangerous in Ladakh.
Adventure Sports: Many people come to Ladakh for adventure sports. They like to spend time in nature and engage in hiking, climbing, river rafting, biking, paragliding and a host of interesting activities that allow you to explore this winter wonderland to the fullest. For these activities, you will need special equipment, clothing and arrangements.
Ladakhi Culture: Others are more interested in Ladakhi culture, Buddhist Monasteries and Yoga. For these activities too, you need to make arrangements ahead of time and ensure that you are well-equipped with the right knowledge and clothing. To experience authentic Ladakhi culture, click here.
Siachen War: Yet another section of visitors are interested in the historic Siachen conflict and the army installation in Ladakh. To visit the Army outpost, one needs to learn about the rules, protocols, permissions and opportunities that Ladakh presents to visitors. The more you know, the further you can go.
Where to stay in Ladakh
Your overall experience of Ladakh will depend heavily on where you stay. This is an easy decision because, as most insiders know, there is one place that is truly extraordinary and stands out, even in a destination as special as Ladakh. This is Nubra Valley.
Nubra is a magical and historical spot that lies at the confluence of the Shyok and Nubra rivers. Centuries ago, this was the last stop on the fabled Silk Route and still remains a pristine pleasure palace like Xanadu, dotted with surreal orchards, ancient Buddhist Gompas and patches of brightly coloured flowers that seem oddly out of place.
In this pristine valley, there lies a resort that is famous for providing a truly authentic and memorable experience to its guests. This is the Lchang Nang Retreat – The House of Trees and is easily the best place to stay in all of Ladakh.
Lchang Nang exemplifies the best of Ladakh and offers all the things that make this region the Kohinoor in the Crown of serious wanderers. Run by a prominent family from Nubra itself, the resort is an incisive peek into the culture and traditions of the last remaining untouched civilization on earth.
Armed with the right kind of knowledge and a natural curiosity to explore, travelling to Ladakh can be a very rewarding experience. Even a few days here have been known to change people’s perspectives and enrich their understanding of nature and our place in its midst.