Ladakh, where is it?
Ladakh is a small territory belonging to India, which is located in the far north of the country, in a Himalayan region that was part of Jammu and Kashmir until October 2019 and which is now autonomous. This sector of India, landlocked between Pakistan and China, has long been cut off from the rest of the world and only opened up to tourism in the 1970s. Due to its proximity to Tibet, Ladakh has a Buddhist influence and desert landscapes. The region has welcomed many Tibetan refugees and is even nicknamed Little Tibet.
How to come to Ladakh?
First, you have to go to Delhi, and then take a domestic flight to Leh.
Several airlines serve Leh, such as Vistara (this is the one we took, no complaints, everything went very well), Air India, GoAir… The flight lasts 1h30 and flies over the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas (magical moment, book a window seat!). The price of the return ticket varies between 70 and 200€.
For those who have time, it is possible to reach Leh by local bus (via Manali), but it is very long! (Count at least 48 hours of travel on chaotic roads, and favor the summer season, because the roads are blocked by snow).
Anecdote: Leh airport is managed by the military, and their presence is very important in the region! Part of the city is surrounded by military camps for miles, this is due to its proximity to the Pakistani border. The military profession is the first career opportunity for young people in Ladakh, because it is the most accessible.
The ideal season for traveling and trekking in Ladakh
The best time to visit Ladakh is summer, from mid-May to late October. For trekking, the most suitable months are June, July, August and September (to avoid any risk of snow).
On the temperature side, it will vary depending on the altitude and the weather of the day. It is on average 20°C but sometimes the temperature rises to 30°C during the day, and can drop to 5°C at night during the trek (and sometimes 0°C… we had snowfalls in the middle of the month of August…!)
The winter season is nevertheless suitable for those who wish to walk on the frozen river of Zanskar (Chadar trek).
Getting around in Ladakh
The most widespread and economical solution is the local taxi. It’s very easy to organize and book a tour in Ladakh via one of the many travel companies based in Leh. For those who wish to organize themselves in advance, it is possible to book and pay for a taxi online before reaching Ladakh.
For the more adventurous, it is easy to rent a motorbike in Leh, and explore the long routes of the region on a road trip and bivouac, freedom assured! It is obviously necessary to have a motorcycle license, 2 years of experience, and a minimum age of 21 years.
The question of altitude: how to avoid mountain sickness
The whole region of Ladakh is located at very high altitude, and it starts as soon as you land in Leh, which happens to be at more than 3500 meters! During a trip to Ladakh, it is easy to find yourself at an altitude of more than 4500 meters, whether on a trek or on the roads. There are also the two highest motorable passes in the world: the Taglang La (5359 meters) and the Khardung La (5355 meters). You should know that each person reacts differently to altitude, some will acclimatize well, and for others, it will be more complicated. Acute mountain sickness (AMS), which occurs when you gain altitude too quickly, is therefore to be considered carefully. Its symptoms are headache, extreme fatigue, nausea, and in the worst cases, pulmonary or cerebral edema. So it’s not to be taken lightly!