❒ Travel Tips for Leh Ladakh
Faraway from the heart of city Uttarakhand, lies Leh and Ladakh, it gives unforgettable barren alpine desert beauty, and are perfect for Himalayan trekking.
It is said that if Ladakh is heaven then Leh is its stairway to heaven. It is the land of bluer-than-blue lakes and stark grey mountains.
Getting to Leh
One can take a flight to Leh from major Indian cities via Delhi (there’s also a 4 am direct flight from Mumbai).
❒ Best Travel Tips 1 Self Drive:
If one is comfortable in driving then there are two ways of reaching there:
1. From Srinagar (415km): The Srinagar–Leh road is open from the first week of May till December, depending on snowfall. The roads are well maintained, the ascent is gradual—chances of mountain sickness considerably reduce—and there are beautiful villages on the way. Perfect for families with elder members and children. One can stop overnight at either Dras or Kargil, which are 140km and 200km from Srinagar respectively.
2. From Manali (482km): This high-altitude road is usually covered with snow for the most part of the year. It opens around the first week of June and remains active till October. It has got steep climbing, the roads brittle, and landslides are a real threat. Travellers usually take overnight stays at Jispa, about 140km from Manali.
3. Srinagar: One can also drive from Srinagar to Leh in a day. But one has to start early in the morning and the driver should be well experienced and should contain plenty of energy.
❒ Best Travel Tips 2 Local Means of transport:
One can book taxis through the hotel or a travel agent, and they charge as per the destination.
• The Leh main market also has a taxi stand—solo travellers can opt for shared taxis, which are cheaper and can be paid for on a per-person basis.
• Vehicles for overnight trips cost about 20% more than day trips.
• For reference, a day trip from Leh to Thiksey, Shey and Hemis monasteries and the Druk Padma Karpo School—of 3 Idiots fame—will cover a distance of approximately 100km and costs Rs 2,500 for a Mahindra Xylo and Rs 2,800 for a Toyota Innova.
• Most people don’t, but in case one wants air conditioning, it costs Rs7/km in addition to the aforementioned prices.
Many of Ladakh’s top attractions are a day trip away from Leh, in peak season these places are sold out at least a month in advance. Some of these attractions are:
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 1 the Grand Dragon Ladakh
It is centrally heated and has solar-powered rooms with views of the Stok Kangri mountains. (Doubles from Rs 11, 600)
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 2 Hotel Shangrila
This hotel contains 45 rooms and is a few minutes away from the airport and has a Tibetan-inspired restaurant that serves Ladakhi food. (Doubles from Rs 6,500)
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 3 Mahey Retreat
A short walk from Leh town, it has rooms overlooking sprawling gardens that grow most of the produce used by the restaurant. (Doubles from Rs 4,600)
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 4 Mogol Hotel
This hotel has very friendly staff and 19 spacious rooms with views of the mountains. (Doubles from Rs4,500)
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 5 Shaolin Guest House
Backpackers and solo travellers can opt for this hotel on Sankar road (starting Rs 800 per person).
Best Travel Tips for Hotels 6 Zik Zik Guest House
It is on Karzoo lane (doubles from Rs 1,000), which are homely, comfortable and also cheap.
❒ Best Travel Tips for Cuisines
Most of the restaurants are open throughout the season and are the best for food point of view.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 1 Jeevan Café: One can take a hot cup of cappuccino and can also ask for pizza and lasagne.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 2 Summer Harvest restaurant: One can take lunch at the value-for-money in Changspa and try their hearty thukpa (noodle soup).
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 3 Bon Appetit: They make great chocolate momos.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 4 Tibetan Kitchen: For a taste of Tibetan cuisine, one can have lunch here.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 5 Amdo Café: The old-fashioned restaurant in the main market, which serves steaming momos and thenthuk (noodle soup).
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 6 Pumpernickel German Bakery: On Zangsti road for fresh bread, cakes and cookies.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 7 Lala’s Café: One should not forget to visit the charming cafe, which is housed in a restored Ladakhi house and serves butter tea.
Best Travel Tips for Cuisines 8 Lamayuru Restaurant: Located on Fort Road is great for vegetarians and is the place to go when one is craving for Indian food.
❒ Best Places to Visit in Leh
Some of the places which one should not miss seeing are elaborated for one’s convenience:
Best Places to Visit in Leh 1 Art/history:
• Visit the Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace and the old town in Leh.
• See local art at the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation in the old town, which also conducts workshops on subjects such as textiles, design and writing.
• One can also take out time to see the colourful Hemis Festival.
• A two-day celebration in June/July, held at the 17th-century Hemis monastery, about 40km from Leh.
• One should join in for prayers at the Thiksey and Lamayuru monasteries, which are at a day trips away from Leh.
Best Places to Visit in Leh 2 Shopping:
• One who is fond of pieces of jewellery then the Leh main market is home to Tibetan antiques, jewellery and ornaments.
• One can also buy handcrafted carpets, rugs and pashmina shawls.
• One should visit the Ladag Apricot store in Zangsti for organic food and jams made with locally sourced apricots.
1 Best Travel Tip for Carrying Baggage
In addition to jackets and warmers, one needs to carry:
• Waterproof sports shoes
• Rainwear (rainproof pants + a poncho + raincoat)
• One should carry Sunscreen (or else, as Kshitij says, your skin will “peel off your face in two days”)
• Hats and sunglasses (for sun protection)
• Backpack/duffel bag to carry everything you need for smaller trips around Leh
• Medicine kit (with Diamox and regular medicines)
• The toolkit, if driving with a set of basic tools for the vehicle
2 Best Travel Tips to Keep in Mind before Commuting to Leh:
• Carry government-issued photo-identity proof—driving licence, Aadhaar card, PAN card, etc., which come handy at checkpoints and in case permits are required.
• Plastic bags are banned in Ladakh, so make sure one carry biodegradable/paper bags.
• In Leh the weather is changeable: it’s usually windy and can go from pleasant to chilly very quickly.
• It is better to wear layers instead of bulky warmers to stay comfortable at all times.
• One should keep in mind that most establishments in Ladakh are shut during the off-season i.e. the time when roads are closed.
• Carry waterproof luggage; this will ensure that the contents of one’s bag remain dry in case it rains unexpectedly or one needs to drive through water.
• Remember to take spare batteries for the camera, as it is at a high altitude, cold will drain them out quicker.
• When one is travelling around Leh, it’s best to avoid alcohol; drink water instead.
• When one is exposed to nature for a long time than breathing in dry air drains the moisture from the lungs, so make sure one consume at least 4–5 litres to stay hydrated.
• If one is driving one should know that driving here is different from driving anywhere else. It requires constant mental and physical stability, and covering more than 50km a day is a challenge for anybody who’s not a seasoned driver.
• Don’t push yourself more than one needs to, as if something goes wrong, one will fall 1,000ft into the valley. Drive slowly and enjoy the scenery.
• Prepaid SIM cards don’t work well in Leh, but postpaid do (Airtel, Aircel and BSNL are the best options).
• Most importantly, one should not try to do too much in too little time. Ladakh is not a place that one sees in a hurry.