Ladakh is a place that every travel enthusiast wants to visit. If you want a truly authentic experience of the Himalayan desert region, this is your guide to getting the best out of a Ladakh trip.
When you think of a Ladakh trip, snow-capped mountains and barren high-altitude desert landscapes come to mind before anything else. However, Ladakh isn’t only about the rugged beauty of the Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges. The mountain desert region is also home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world, along with their diverse cultures and cultural symbols.
So, if you want your stay in the ‘land of the high passes to be the most authentic experience of the region ever, sit back and read on. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know to get the best out of your trip to Ladakh.
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Experience both the Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh routes
If road travel is your preferred way to get into Ladakh, you have two options. You can either travel on the Manali-Leh route that starts in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh or take the Srinagar-Leh route, which commences from Srinagar, the capital of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. We suggest experiencing both routes by entering Ladakh via one and exiting it via another.
The Manali-Leh route is one of the world’s highest motorable roads, traversing some of the highest passes, such as the Baralacha La and the Taglang La. The 400+ km route is a treat, taking travelers from Manali’s lush green landscapes to Ladakh’s beautiful barrenness.
The Srinagar-Leh route, although not as famous as the Manali-Leh route, is also a tantalizing treat for the eyes. This route also has several high passes, with the Zoji La being the most notorious. Also worth experiencing on this route are Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil, and Lamayuru.
A Ladakh trip isn’t just about Leh – Kargil’s a part of it too
Geopolitically, Ladakh is divided into two districts – Leh and Kargil. While the district of Leh, which is home to Leh town, has become a tourist hub, the same can’t be said for the Kargil district. The phrase ‘Leh Ladakh’ has also become quite popular thanks to tour and travel agencies, further pushing the Kargil district towards obscurity.
However, the fact is that the Kargil district has something different as well as something similar to the Leh district. The main difference is the predominant religion. In Leh, Buddhism is the religion of the majority. However, in Kargil, the majority follow Shia Islam. There are also certain valleys, such as the Zanskar, where Buddhism is harmonious with Islam.
Kargil is home to some spectacular sights as well. From the Drang Drung glacier and the Nun and Kun peaks in the Suru Valley to the Phuktal Monastery in the Zanskar Valley and the Aryan Valley – we could go on and on about Kargil and its spectacles.
Take your time and get to know the locals
Exploring Ladakh is no joke – the region covers a vast area. Tourists in Ladakh typically visit the most well-known places in the region, such as the Khardung La, the Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Shanti Stupa, and Leh Palace. However, the truth is that there’s much more to be seen in Ladakh.
We recommend setting aside at least three weeks to 1 month for your Ladakh trip to explore at your own pace. There are several villages, such as the enchanting Turtuk in the Shyok Valley, where you may want to stay for a day or two to take in all the surreal sights.
Also, acclimatization is essential, especially if it’s your first time in the high Himalayas. Rapidly gaining altitude may lead to elevation sickness, specifically acute mountain sickness (AMS) symptoms. So, always keep a few days in hand to ensure you’re traveling after acclimatizing to the heights.
Last but not least, try to stay in Ladakh homestays, as that will put some much-needed money in the pockets of the locals. After all, tourism in Ladakh isn’t a year-long affair – the winters are harsh, and very few tourists visit the region in winter. Additionally, staying in homestays will allow you to experience the authentic cuisine of the Ladakhi people, along with their charming simplicity.