Ladakh- the Land of High Passes is a canvas of unparalleled beauty, breathtaking views, and cultural diversity of this Himalayan kingdom. A photographer’s paradise, Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and fascinating Buddhist cultures. Strongly influenced by Tibetan culture, it is also called “Little Tibet’.
Where is Leh-Ladakh located in India?
Ladakh is a Union territory located in North India which constitutes a larger part of Kashmir region. It is the highest plateau in India. Ladakh is located at a very high altitude. Its capital, Leh, is at 3,500 meters above sea level, and has many peaks reaching over 6,000 meters. Surrounded by the high Himalayan Mountains, Ladakh falls in the trans-himalayan region, making it a high altitude cold desert and one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions of India.
Ladakh extends far beyond Leh. It has two districts – Leh and Kargil. Some parts of Ladakh are so remote that they are accessible only by trek; a large part of it is high altitude Himalayan region and beyond civilian access.
Being the capital as well as the landing point for all tourists arriving by air, Leh town has the maximum tourist facilities. While enjoying these comforts, it’s important to take concern that Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert. Natural resources, like water and air are of great value. Wastage of anything here is a sacrilege.
How to reach Ladakh?
The easiest and the quickest way to reach Ladakh is to take a flight to Leh. The other option is by road via Manali or Srinagar.
There is good connectivity from New Delhi throughout the year. Especially in winters, the roads are closed due to snowfall and blockage, the flight is the only way to reach Leh. Sometimes flight get delayed or cancelled due to bad weather.
By Road :
Manali to Leh
To reach Ladakh by road, the most popular and scenic way is from Manali. After the construction of Atal tunnel,the distance between Leh and Manali reduces by 46 km saving a time of about 4 to 5 hours. The distance of about 427 km generally takes 12-13 hours to complete if there are no road blocks due to landslides. The BRO (Border Roads Organization) maintains the road very diligently but due to the challenges, it sometimes takes days to clear. You have to stop overnight at Keylong or Sarchu making it 2 days journey. This road is only for about 4-6 months (generally June to August) and the dates might vary based on the climatic conditions and how long it takes to clear the snow.
Srinagar to Leh
Another alternative to reach Leh is from Srinagar via Kargil and Lamayuru. Many travellers prefer this route due to the gradual acclimatization.
AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) / Altitude Sickness and Acclimatization
Traveling in Ladakh involves crossing high-altitude mountain passes. When we fly to Leh, we reach from sea level to 11500ft (3500 meters). Due to less oxygen, some people might get affected by AMS. You have to take some precautions to acclimatize your body to the new environment. You will feel dizziness or have a headache. Take proper rest. It will be fine.
As soon as you check-in at the Hotel, try to take rest and good sleep. For first few days, just take it easy. WALK, don’t RUN. And walk SLOW.
Don’t eat too much or too little, just take enough food that your body can digest properly. Drink a lot of water. Keep yourself hydrated. The cold weather means you don’t feel too thirsty but water is your best friend at high altitudes. It is advisable to drink a minimum of 3 litres of water per day (drink from your own bottle to keep a count)
Symptoms of AMS can be one or more of the following
- Poor appetite
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Difficulty to sleep
- Rest and take good sleep.
- Intake lots of fluids like water and juices. (Avoid alcoholic drinks)
- The local remedy is garlic soup.
- Acetazolamide (Diamox) – if you feel you will feel sick, take Diamox. Otherwise, avoid it; it has its own side effects.
- There is a hospital in Leh that is run by the Indian Army. There’s a separate tourist section in the hospital.
- For emergency situations, you can buy a small portable oxygen cylinder in Leh and keep it with you at all times, once you travel out of Leh to the remote parts of Ladakh which are at an even higher altitude.
Climate of Ladakh
Ladakh is a high-altitude cold desert in the rain shadows of the Himalayas with 300 days of sunshine and only 100 millimetres of precipitation annually. Even though it hardly rains in Ladakh, storm and localized heavy downpour can cause flash floods and mudslides. In Leh, at 3,500 metres altitude, the average temperature reaches 25°C during the day in summer while it dips to -15°C at night in winter. It can be significantly colder at higher altitude where night-time temperatures can drop below zero even in summer. Always take warm clothing and protect yourself from the strong sun when travelling in Ladakh.
Best season to visit Ladakh
The most popular time for visiting Ladakh is from May to end of September when temperatures are warmer. But there really is no bad time to visit Ladakh, as the weather is always sunny and each season offers its own enchanting sights and experiences. Ladakh lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas so monsoon rain clouds are blocked and the climate is always very dry.
Summer is the high season for tourism in Ladakh and this is the best time for those who want to do cultural tours, trekking, and attend festivals like Hemis and Lamayuru Tsechu. April and October-November combine the advantages of both high and low-season travel. Temperatures are still pleasant (between 10 and 15°C during the day) and there are fewer tourists which means that you can enjoy the famous cultural and natural sites without the crowd. From mid-January to mid-March, this is the time when you can trek on the frozen Zanskar river popularly known as Chadar trek. It is also the time when you can spot the elusive snow leopard which descends to the valley in search of food and mating partners, a photographer and wildlife enthusiast’s dream come true. Ladakh can be reached all year round by flight from Delhi.
Protected Area Permit for Foreigners
When traveling to Ladakh, foreigners need protected area permits to travel to inner line areas of Leh Ladakh, including Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, and Tso Moriri lakes. However, no permit is required to travel on Lamayuru, Manali Leh Highway, Srinagar Leh Highway, and Zanskar Valley. Indians also need Inner Line permit to travel to these tourist places in Ladakh. To apply for the Protect Area Permit (PAP), a foreigner must be in a group of two or more foreigners and PAP must be applied at DC Office, Leh with required fees through a registered Travel Agent in Leh or can be applied through the official website of Leh administration.
Registered travel agents can help with the groups if you are a single traveller, and you do not necessarily need to travel with that group after you get the permit. So even if you are a solo traveller, you don’t have to worry. Once you get the permit, make at least 8-10 photocopies as you need to submit them at the check posts on your journey to these inner line places in Ladakh. The duration of PAP is seven days and you need to re-apply permit in case you want to have an extended stay up there in Ladakh.
How many days for the Ladakh tour?
For foreigners, a flight to Leh is the best option to go and from Ladakh. Even if you are planning to visit only Leh, we will not recommend travelling for less than 5 days. To explore Ladakh, any itinerary of 10-15 days is good. In this, apart from Leh, you can explore Nubra valley, Lamayuru, Changpa nomads around Tsomoriri lake as well. Add one or two buffer days to your itinerary.
Places to visit in Ladakh
What to eat in Ladakh
The Indus and Zanskar Rivers give fertility to the land that allows agriculture to flourish. Ladakhi cuisine is mildly spiced with loads of butter to keep the body hydrated against the dry mountain weather. There are many local Chinese restaurants that serve Tibetan flavored Chinese food. The Hotels and restaurants in Leh mostly serve continental and Indian food. When you travel in remote areas of Ladakh, your homestay will provide you simple yet tasty home cooked food.
Need help planning your trip to Ladakh?
Do you need help in planning your trip to Ladakh? Tell us your requirements. We at “Photography tours in India” and “Indian maharaja Tours” are specialized in planning and operating off beats photography tour and cultural tour. Or you can join our recommended fixed departure Ladakh Photo Tour or Ladakh Cultural Tour.