How to reach Leh/ Ladakh?
There are three way to reach Leh Ladakh.
– Take the road journey from Manali to Leh via Keylong/Jispa, it takes two days travelling a distance of 474 kms with a night halt in Sarchu/ Jispa/ Keylong.
– Take a road journey from Srinagar to Leh, it takes two days traveling a distance of 434 kms with a night halt in Kargil.
Is Leh/ Ladakh safe?
Leh is one of the safest places in India. People are nice and friendly.
If you are traveling to Leh by road then you need to factor in road closures due to land slide or snow fall. You also need to factor in the fact that you would be traveling vast distances with no ground support ( lack of mechanics / medical ) facilities. It is recommend that you stock up the essentials for any such eventuality.
The Srinagar – Leh highways is the life line of the Indian Army and while you travel along the LOC it is perfectly safe. Just respect the local people/ culture. The Army is also a great support in case of any emergency need.
Passing Srinagar during Independence day/ Republic day and other religious events should be avoided as the chances are that a curfew would be in place to keep away any untoward event.
Is there lack of Oxygen in Leh/ Ladakh?
Anyone traveling above 10000 feet will find it little difficult to breath normally and do any kind of physical exertion immediately. Its is mainly because of low level of atmospheric oxygen, but the low atmospheric oxygen is absolutely not a cause to avoid Leh Ladakh. Within first day or two of taking it easy/ slow pace one will acclimatize to this low oxygen level and do things normally. It is highly recommended that you plan plan your Leh Ladakh trip with adequate days on hand and keep the initial few days as lazy days ( not too much travel / moving around ).
What is High Altitude Sickness, what are the symptoms and how can we acclimatize?
Acclimatization is the process of the body adjusting to the decreased availability of oxygen at high altitudes. It is a slow process, taking place over a period of days to weeks.
High altitude is defined as:
• High Altitude: 1500-3500m (5000-11500 ft)
• Very High Altitude: 3500-5500m (1150-18000 ft)
• Extreme Altitude: above 5500m
Practically speaking, however, we generally don’t worry much about elevations below 2500 m (8000 ft) since altitude illness rarely occurs lower than this.
Certain normal physiologic changes occur in every person who goes to high altitude:
• Hyperventilation (breathing faster, deeper, or both)
• Shortness of breath during exertion
• Changed breathing pattern at night
• Awakening frequently at night
• Increased urination
As one ascends through the atmosphere, barometric pressure decreases and thus every breath contains fewer and fewer molecules of oxygen. One must work harder to obtain oxygen, by breathing faster and deeper. This is particularly noticeable with exertion, such as walking uphill. Being out of breath with exertion is normal, as long as the sensation of shortness of breath resolves rapidly with rest. The increase in breathing is critical. It is therefore important to avoid anything that will decrease breathing, e.g. alcohol and certain drugs.
Despite the increased breathing, attaining normal blood levels of oxygen is not possible at high altitude. Persistent increased breathing results in reduction of carbon dioxide in the blood, a metabolic waste product that is removed by the lungs. The build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood is the key signal to the brain that it is time to breathe, so if it is low, the drive to breathe is blunted (the lack of oxygen is a much weaker signal, and acts as an ultimate safety valve). As long as you are awake it isn’t much trouble to consciously breathe, but at night an odd breathing pattern develops due to a back-and-forth balancing act between these two respiratory triggers. Periodic breathing consists of cycles of normal breathing which gradually slows, breath-holding, and a brief recovery period of accelerated breathing. The breath-holding may last up to 10-15 seconds. This is not altitude sickness. It may improve slightly with acclimatization, but does not usually resolve until descent. Periodic breathing can cause a lot of anxiety.
If periodic breathing symptoms are troublesome, a medication called Acetazolamide maybe helpful. Dramatic changes take place in the body’s chemistry and fluid balance during acclimatization. The osmotic centre, which detects the concentration of the blood, gets reset so that the blood is more concentrated. This results in an altitude diuresis as the kidneys excrete more fluid. The reason for this reset is not understood, though it has the effect of increasing the concentration of red blood cells and perhaps improving the blood’s oxygen-carrying ability somewhat; it also counteracts the tendency for oedema formation. It is normal at altitude to be urinating more than usual. If you are not, you may be dehydrated, or you may not be acclimatizing well.
What kind of medical support/ facilities are available in Leh ?
The main centre for health care in Leh is the SNM Hospital, which is well equipped and staffed by specialists to handle all problems. Elsewhere in the region, there are sub-district hospitals at block headquarters and medical dispensaries in major villages, which are staffed by qualified doctors. In addition, services of the private clinics and associated facilities are also available in Leh. Additionally, the Army’s General Hospital at Leh also extends its superior facilities to the tourists in case of emergencies.
Many chemist shops are open around the SNM hospital and a few in the main market. It is recommend that if you are already on a prescribed medicine then you carry the needful quantity with you.
What kind of people should take special care while visiting Leh/ Ladakh?
With proper acclimatizing most people will not face any issues but as precautionary measure people with
• high smoking intake
• emphysema, asthma
• anemia, diabetes
• high blood pressure
should consult a medical doctor before booking your trip.
What kind of Hotels to expect in Leh Ladakh, are there any 5 star / 4 star hotels?
Leh offers a variety of accommodations to suit almost every pocket or preference. Most hotels are family- run establishments and as such the services are more personalized than professional. Hotels are classified into A, B, C and Economy category while Guest Houses fall under Upper, Medium and Economy class.
The guesthouses are a less formal facility offering rooms is a part of a residential house or its annex, where the guests can share the family kitchen for meals. Apart from the low tariff offered for accommodation ranging from very good to merely basic, the guesthouse system also provides an opportunity for the tourists to see and experience Ladakhi life from the inside.
In the newly opened areas of the region-Nubra, Changthang and Dah Hanu-tourist infrastructure is not yet adequately developed.The State Tourism Department has started the development of accommodation facilities like Tourist Complexes and Hiker’s huts at Tangse, Spangmik, Sakti, Rumtse, Hunder, Panamik and Saspol. Tourists can also seek accommodation as paying guests in a few selected homes in these places though they would be well advised to travel fully equipped with personal sleeping bags and some tinned provisions to be on the safe side, especially when visiting the remote areas and while trekking.
There are also some Government run Tourist Bungalows located mainly along the Srinagar-Leh road. These offer the best value in the medium range, but room availability is uncertain unless you hold a confirmed reservation.
During the peak tourist season i.e. May to mid-September, it is advisable to book hotel rooms in advance. By late September, as the tourist rush starts to decline, advance booking is not necessary, as availability of accommodation becomes rather easy. However, tourist planning winter trips may have to book accommodation in advance so as to ensure provision of heating arrangements during the period of their intended stay.
Is traveling by road to Leh/ Ladakh worth it?
One of the best ways to enjoy a holiday is to drive there. A long driving holiday to a place like Leh in the Ladakh region is twice the fun, as the journey itself is more thrilling than the destination itself. Many people are in awe of the landscape and the terrain. Those who love the adventure of a Himalayan drive, road journey is the best way to experience it.
The drive to Leh from New Delhi via Manali is one trip that is very memorable for anyone who has made it. You cross five of the highest mountain passes in the world before getting to Leh and the views are simply spectacular.
The whole point of the driving holiday is to enjoy the drive. Take frequent breaks, enjoy the scenery and keep yourself hydrated. It will be a holiday of a lifetime.
What is so special about Leh/ Ladakh?
Leh Ladakh has so much to offer to the varied tourist interests. The spiritual minded gets peace of mind at the Gompas and the monasteries, for the adventure loving riding to Leh is the ultimate thrill getting you the best of man and machine while offering you absolutely stunning scenery along the way.
Leh is a trekker’s paradise offering you many trekking routes suitable to all categories of trek enthusiastic including the world renowned ‘Chadar Trek’, if you want more then try river rafting on Zanskar/ Indus or the summit to Stok Kangri/ many other Peaks. The place gets the photographer out in all of us and one can click away to glory with you yearning for more storage and battery charge. For wildlife buffs; visit The Hemis national park or catch life at TsoMorori and Pangong or try your luck spotting the elusive Snow Leopard.
Sitting alongside the Pangong Lake surrounded by mountains watching it change hues from morning till late night is such a mesmerizing experience and is a recommended must do. Catch the life, Culture and colors during the numerous festivals that happen throughout the year and for those of you ‘Been there done that’ kind’s Leh is a record of sorts, the highest airfield in the world, the highest motor able pass in the world, the highest saltwater lake in the world and more.
What is the ideal time one should spend in Leh/ Ladakh?
If you are less exploratory in nature and want to just feel what ladakh is then you can spend 5-7 days by flying in and out of Leh.
If you want to drive into Leh then you should factor in 10-12 days.
• Take the road journey from Manali to Leh
• Take a road journey from Srinagar to Leh
• In case of Srinagar – Leh, a night at SonaMarg and another night at Kargil.
• In case of Manali, a night at Keylong and another night at Sarchu/ Pang.
If you want to trek then plan for 12-25 days depending on the trekking route you want to take.
One should also keep in mind that the most beautiful of Leh Ladakh attractions are at a distance from Leh and takes time:
• Pangong – 150 Kms . Takes ~ 5 hours to reach, while most do a day trip we recommend you spend at least one night here
• Nubra/ Hunder – 140 Kms. Take ~ 5 hours. You should spend 2 nights at Hunder and another night at Turtuk
• Tsomorori – 250 Kms. Takes ~ 9 hours and it is recommend that you spend a night here.
Do we require any special permit to visit Leh/ Ladakh?
Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India. This is a security measure and it is applicable for certain parts of Leh.
Tourists visiting Leh district, who are Indian nationals now onwards need not to obtain inner-line permits, their Indian passport, driving license, service identity cards with photograph, Election Id card PAN card, Aadhar card shall henceforth be treated as inner lime permits.
Inner line permits are required to visit
Inner Line Permits are not required for Zanskar and Suru Valley No permits are required to visit the local places near Leh town or Leh local sightseeing, places on Srinagar Leh Highway, places on Manali – Leh Highway and routes leading to
Leh — Khardung La — Khalsar – Hunder — Turtuk — Pachathang — Tyakshi
Leh — Khardung La — Trith upto Panamic,Leh – Saboo – Digger La – Khungru Gompa – Tangyar (trekking only)
Leh – Karu – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangtse – Lukung – Spangmik – Man – Merak (Pangong Lake)
Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Mahe – Puga – Tsomoriri Lake – Korzok – Loma Bend
Khaltse – Domkhar – Skurbuchan – Hanudo – Biama – Dha
are accessible for Indian visitors without seeking any permission.
Inner line permits are issued from DC office in Leh town. Timing of the Leh DC office are 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM, however the application forms needs to be submitted before 3 pm.
Self attested photocopies of valid nationality proof, Photo-IDs are necessary to procure Inner Line Permits. Besides permit application form, you need to write a request application letter addressing DC of Leh – Ladakh district for the approval of your permits. In the application, you need to express your interest to visit the places you wish to travel along with the dates you would be visiting these places in your Leh trip. Validity of the inner line permits are 3 weeks for Indians and 1 week for foreigners. However, there is no limit on the number of times you enter a place in the valid period provided you have the permits with you for that place.
In order to get the permits for Hanle and Changthang or to go to Tso Moriri via Chusul – Nyoma route from Pangong Tso you need to mention all places enroute so that you are not sent back from any post. These places are: Man – Merak – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Nyoma and hanle
What kind of food to expect in Leh Ladakh, are there good restaurants & Fast Foods joints?
Some of the recommended places to eat in Leh –
Ladakh’s local cuisine is unlike any other state or region of the country. This cuisine has developed due to the typical flora and fauna found only in the high altitudes. The ecosystem, agriculture and lifestyle of this Himalayan region are all very different from those in the plains. Farming practices are different and farm produce forms the main variety used in Ladakhi cuisine. Meat dishes that are a specialty to the region have also developed.
Mainly potatoes, pumpkins, beetroots, and beans are cooked in mild spices and accompany mutton and chicken dishes. The staple food of Ladakhi people are Sku and Thukpa (made of wheat flour), Pava (made of sattu) and khambir (local bread).
Thukpa is a thick soup with vegetables, a complete and wholesome meal that is now catching the fancy of tourists. Momos or steamed dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables with chili sauce are also hot favourites for food lovers. Many bakeries in Ladakh sell freshly baked bread. Visitors normally eat sandwiches made with apricot jam. Ladakh also holds a traditional food festival, where strict hygiene is observed to attract tourists.
Many restaurants in Ladakh offer Tibetan, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. Dry fruits (walnuts, almonds and raisins), spices (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, saffron, etc.) and spices (chilly and dry ginger) are used extensively in Ladakhi cooking. The food has a lot of aroma that instantly attracts your taste buds towards them.
Ladakh hosts ‘Wazawan’ like other parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Wazawan combines meat dishes with dum aloo and chaman preparations, korma sag, saag (hak), lotus root and apricot jam. All popular vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes of India are available in Ladakh.
Non-Vegetarian Specialties are thukpa (noodles cooked in mutton soup), skieu (made with veggies, mutton and flour), yakhni and tabaq naat (made of fried ribs). There are several restaurants and hotels in Ladakh that are known for their specialties. Ladakh serves the choicest selection of vegetarian and non vegetarian meals. The rich and aromatic flavor of the cuisine of Ladakh draws a number of tourists from all over the world. The special gurgur tea of the snow desert is famous which is prepared by yak-milk and special spices for the tea.
What kind of tourist vehicles are available? Is there local means of transport ?
Leh has fortunately good quality tourist vehicles. Mainly Toyota Innova & Mahindra Scorpio vehicles are used.
Are there any budget hotels and is advance booking required?
Most of us want to make the best of what we spend for our holidays and work with a budget. Ladakh has a range of options on accommodation and travel and with some research and booking in advance you can ensure you get very good rates. One should be realistic and also clear on what kind of accommodation would be appropriate for you . Places range from around Rs. 500/1000 a night for basic accommodation to 4000/5000 per night for a nice hotel with good facilities and food to almost 10,000/- per night for the star category.
Be realistic, if you are travelling with a family and children you would want to have a good hotel booked in advance. You also need to get enough rest and ensure you acclimatize to the thin air in this region. The lower budget would be more suited to guys, those who are more adventurous and don’t mind sharing rooms and taking any available accommodation when they reach their destination.
The weather is cold and most days the journeys are long by road to places like Pangong and Nubra. You would want to ensure you have a clean and nice place to spend the night, hot water and food, and get enough sleep and rest to enjoy the rest of your journey.
The weather and terrain sometimes do force you to make changes in your schedule to accommodate delays or roadblocks, if you have booked trough a trusted and reputed travel company then these changes will certainly be accommodated wherever possible. In places like Pangong and Nubra there is no phone connectivity and though there are a lot of places to stay, in peak season these should be booked in advance. You would rather have booked a place and ensure that you spend most of your time relaxing and enjoying the place rather than frantically looking for shelter. Advance booking also ensures that you get the best possible camps/ hotels to stay and do not struggle to find a decent place to stay.
Saving is good but not at the cost of the experience and comfort while traveling to such a far off place which most say is a once in a life time wish for them
What kind of clothing should we bring?
Cotton & light woollens in summer and heavy woollens including down-filled wind proof upper garments in winter. Summers in the past have been maximum 25 degree Celsius to minimum 5-8 Celsius and winter maximum around -5 (minus) and minimum – 20 degree Celsius, last couple of years we have seen the summer temperature during mid day reach the 30′s, despite been a rain shadow area last few years have seen a decent bit of rain fall during summer months.
During May – August you can move around in cotton T-shirts with a light jacket for mornings and evenings. In winters Oct – March/ April it is advised that you dress in layers with one of the layer been a thermal and then cottons followed by a medium Jacket/ Sweater. It is also advised that you do carry a warm/ heavy jacket along.
While what you wear is entirely your personal choice, we recommend you include the following while packing:
• Sun Glasses preferably good brand and with UV protection
• Sun block lotion – the higher the SPF the better, carry couple of these
• Bacalva / Monkey cap
• Water proof wind cheater
• Water proof multi terrain shoes
• Thick socks, multiple pairs
• Gloves, in winters a light woolen glove followed by another
• Comfortable clothing, do not carry tights as you might need to dress in layers
• Lots of cottons
• Leh ladakh is not the place to carry high heels, short and revealing cloths
• Personal toiletries and sanitary items
Which is the best period to visit Leh/ Ladakh ?
The tourist season is Mid May until August. With the increased interest in Leh Ladakh a lot of people have started visiting Leh all round the year with winter months having a different charm all together, if you want to see real Ladakh with less tourist around then Winter is the best time to visit (From Nov – March).
During winters the town is quite peaceful. Depending on the snow levels at the passes it is possible to do a day trip to Pangong or visit the Nubra valley also. Winters also gives you the chance to see a lot of Ice Hockey actions with local as well as international teams playing.