My Ladakh sojourn was mind-blowing in every sense. The festival, terrain, food, people, remoteness of the region, and the adventures it offered took my travel experience to new heights. In this post, I am sharing some highlights of my trip because traveling is all about experiencing and sharing those experiences.
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How to Reach
Leh is the capital of Ladakh region, which is a part of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is accessible by both air and road. However in winter due to heavy snowfall, Ladakh gets cut off from the rest of the country and the only option is to fly into Leh.
At 3256 meters, Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport is one of the highest airports in the world and due to security reasons very heavily guarded. Stringent security measures are followed here, so travelers are advised to reach the airport at least 2 hours prior to departure and usually with exception of a camera or laptop bag, any other hand baggage is not permitted. There is no international flight connectivity from Leh and only Air India, Go Air. and Jet Airways operate flights to this tiny Himalayan paradise from Delhi. From Srinagar, there is only one weekly flight by Air India (only on Wednesday) and this schedule is also intermittent at best.
By road, Ladakh is accessible from both Srinagar and Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Public transportation is avoidable for safety and comfort reasons but during the tourist season, there are innumerable group tour departures, shared jeeps, motorcycle, and car rental agencies operating to and from Leh to chose from both the cities. Biking or self-driving in Ladakh is a fantastic experience and it is a biker’s haven. The environmentally friendly should check out the newly established Ladakh shared taxi booking system which not only reduces transportation costs but also cuts down carbon footprint.
Take altitude sickness seriously
The biggest hurdle most Ladakh travelers face is altitude sickness and it is best taken seriously. Breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, unsteady walking are few visible symptoms and the first 2 days upon arrival should be only to get acclimatized. High altitude and low oxygen level contribute to this factor, so sleeping, resting and eating light meals for the first 2 days is very important. Alcohol, red meat and smoking increase chances of altitude sickness and most doctors recommend sipping warm water in Ladakh. Travelers with young ones should not have to worry much as studies have proved that children get more easily acclimatized than adults.
Ladakh adventures and activities
Ladakh and adventure go hand in hand and since forever, it has been drawing thrill seekers, spiritual hunters, and intrepid gypsies from all over the world. A mysterious landlocked high altitude cold desert it is steeped in folklore, myths, rifts, and urban legends. High terrain biking, river rafting, paragliding, yak safaris, rural homestays, camping, learning Tibetan Buddhism, and ancient Himalayan culture are the most popular adventure excursions. For those looking for more unique experiences, there is night sky watching (learning astronomy in Ladakh among the hottest thing in the adrenaline seekers), and the elusive snow leopard trail.
Volunteer in Ladakh
Ladakh offers excellent volunteering and Himalayan homestay options. Teaching English and computer science in local schools, learning the Himalayan way of living through Ladakhi home stays (which means forgoing television, daily hot showers, internet and mostly all modern facilities) offer excellent soul searching experiences. Ladakh is an extremely self-sustainable region and has the incredibly environment-friendly compost toilets. Meditation, Buddhist studies, yoga, and Shamanistic studies can also be learned and practiced here. There is a donkey sanctuary in a Korean temple in Ladakh, which offers unique volunteering options for animal lovers. This semi-rural sanctuary was founded in 1996 by a few entrepreneurs to protect the donkeys from mistreatment. Here the donkeys are well-looked after with a fodder of wheat and grass and visitors are allowed to gift fodder to the animals.
What to shop for in Ladakh?
Shopping and Ladakh are inseparable. Handbeaten copper samovars, Pashmina, Buddha relics, Buddhism scrolls, silk screens, carpets, Ladakhi masks, organic apricot jams, apricot oils, yak cheese, stone jewelry, traditional Ladakhi tribal headdress, costumes are some of the amazing things to fill your shopping bags with.
Recommended restaurants and local food
Tibetan Kitchen (excellent fried momos and trout dishes), Summer Harvest, Monalisa Restaurant(for wood fire pizzas) and Gezmo German Bakery are great places to indulge in traditional Ladakhi and multi-cuisine dishes. Butter Tea and Chang are traditional Ladakhi drinks and need an acquired taste.
Check out these Ladakh monasteries and save the festival dates
Monasteries are abundant in Ladakh and the most beautiful ones are Hemis, Padum, Diskit, Lamayuru. and Thiksey. Hemis Monastery Festival for the incredible masked dances and Thiksey Monastery morning prayers. Ladakh Festival organized by J&K Government and 2 days Ladakh food festival, hosted by Women Alliance are also interesting Leh based excursions. Many Ladakh Tour Packages revolve around the monastery dates.
Be aware of the permits required for Ladakh
Some areas in Ladakh require Inner Line permit and visitors are advised to be updated with the current tourism requirements. Pangong Lake, Tsomoriri, Dras Valley, Zanskar, Markha Valley, and Nubra Valley are some of the most beautiful places in Ladakh. For those looking for intrepid destinations can go for Kargil during apricot blossoming season in summer, Turtuk village and for Aryan village trips.
Aryan village sex tourism
The villages of Dha and Hanu, situated around 163 kilometers northwest of Leh, are infamous for Aryan tribe tours. Discovered and authenticated by some socio-anthropologists, the villagers of this region are believed to be the last race of Aryans. They have distinctly different features from the other mongoloid looking Ladakhi population and have their unique Drokpa customs and Indo Aryan language. Although there are quite a few villages there, only Dha and Hanu are open to tourists. The Aryan village tours of Ladakh shot to fame when a group of German ladies declared getting impregnated by pure Aryan seed through these villagers. After this, the villages have been closely guarded to avoid turning into a human zoo.
Some of my Ladakh expenses
Presenting some expenses incurred during my Ladakh trip in 2012
Hotel (comfortable with private bathroom, wifi, hot shower) – 60 USD
Bike rental daily (without fuel) – 40 USD
Dinner (with a soup, starter, and non-veg main course) – 10 USD
Group day tours – 15 USD
1 liter bottled water – 50 cents.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE