India is filled with incredible places. You can easily go from one state to another and get absorbed by the cultural differences and the fantastic diversity. One area that should definitely be on your bucket list is Ladakh, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh is sometimes missed by travelers who prefer to focus on the famous sites of Rajasthan, the temples of Tamil Nadu or the beaches of Goa. But if you are a fan of mountains and if you want to explore the mysticism of Mahayana Buddhism, then make your way to Ladakh.
- How to get to Ladakh
The capital city of the region is called Leh, and it sits proudly at an altitude of around 11,500ft high. You can reach it either by taking a very scenic flight, one that will take your breath away by spoiling you with tons of snow-capped peaks and hidden valleys; or, if you have time, you can choose to get there by road. One of the highlights in Ladakh is arriving by car from Manali to Leh, a route that will take you through high passes, the highest point being at around 17,400ft. By road, it will take you two days to get to Leh.
- When to go to Ladakh
The best season to visit Ladakh is between May to September-October. During the winter some of the roads will not be accessible, and you will also have trouble finding proper accommodation as the guesthouses are not heated. However, people are visiting it during the winter as well and even go trekking on the famous frozen river of Zanskar.
- High altitude sickness
If you are like most people and don’t live at high altitude, most likely you will experience some high altitude sickness symptoms once you reach Ladakh. From this point of view, you are more exposed to symptoms if you are going by plane. This is because you land straight at a high altitude. Some of the most common symptoms are dizziness, headaches, lack of appetite, fatigue. What you should do at least in the first 48 hours is take it really easy, try to avoid doing any physical effort and drinks tons of water. It has been proved that staying hydrated helps to fight with the altitude. However, if your symptoms get worse or do not improve you should definitely get medical assistance.
Leh has started to develop at a breakneck pace during the last few years. If ten years ago there were only a handful of places where you could stay, now it is full of them. It is actually incredible to observe the changes from one season to another, having accommodation options ranging from budget guesthouses and homestays to luxury hotels or retreats. But if you go during the high season, especially during July and August, make sure you book ahead as the good places get occupied very fast.
Because Ladakh has started to see more and more tourists in the last few years, the variety of services has improved. This includes food options. You can easily spoil yourself with some Ladakhi traditional meals, strongly influenced by Tibetan culture, with momos and thukpa among a bunch of other things, but also enjoy Western food, from pizza all the way to steaks and burgers. So nom for sure you won’t go hungry in Ladakh.
- Banking facilities
When visiting areas of Ladakh remember to take enough cash with you. You will only find bank facilities in Leh and in a couple of other larger towns. However, if there is a power cut, something that happens frequently in Ladakh, the ATMs will not work. As such, make sure to always carry a sufficient amount of money with you so that you don’t get stuck due to lack of funds.
PLACES TO VISIT :
Leh – the capital of the region, is a vibrant place, filled with all sort of activities and sightseeing opportunities. You can enjoy walks through the old town, under the majestic sight of the Leh Palace that sits on top of a hill and is visible from any point. Take a tour of the market to observe the local fruits and vegetables, have a coffee at one of the new places that boast delicious aromas and attend a Buddhist ceremony at one of the monasteries.
Pangong Lake – you cannot leave Ladakh without seeing this famous turquoise lake hiding at an altitude of 14,270ft. A scene shot here in the Bollywood movie “3 Idiots” has made it widely known among Indians. The best way to enjoy it is to take a tour from Leh and spend at least one night in the tents installed near the lake.
Nubra Valley – this valley is famous for its sand dunes where you can even spot the two-humped camels. And getting to Nubra will also mean that you will go through the highest pass in India, the Kardung-La at 17,582ft, one of the highest motorable passes in the world.
Hemis Monastery – Ladakh is filled with incredible Buddhist monasteries. But one of the most majestic ones is Hemis, where if you plan accordingly you can enjoy the Hemis Festival when the monks dress up in colorful garments, wear masks and perform intricate dances that represent the fights with the evil spirits.
Markha Valley – if you are a trekking fan, then you should head to the incredible valley of Markha. The trek will take you through a diverse landscape, you will sleep in homestays with local families, and you will reach the maximum altitude of around 17,000ft.
Walk on the moon – close to the imposing monastery of Lamayuru you will find an area that resembles the Moon so much that you will think that a spaceship dropped you there. Although it is ar around 100km distance from Leh, it is sure worth the effort of getting there.
Tso Moriri Lake – Pangong is not the only famous lake in Ladakh. Its rival, Tso Moriri is less visited given that it takes almost one day to reach it from Leh. But this doesn’t mean that it is less impressive, providing its visitors jaw-dropping views.
All you have to do is plan your next trip to Ladakh and make sure you don’t forget your camera. It will definitely be a trip to remember!
Andra writes about her travel stories on Our World to Wander, a travel blog that focuses on backpacking, trekking, cultural experience, with a soft spot for the Indian subcontinent. Her one year spent travelling around Asia and New Zealand with her husband is the inspiration behind her writing. You can also follow her stories on Facebook.