All you need to plan a trip to Leh-Ladakh
This is the second part of our two part Ladakh series where we will detail everything that you need to plan that ultimate Ladakh trip. For detailed itinerary read part 1 An incredible trip to Leh Ladakh.
Best Time to Visit
June to September (July, August being the busiest months)
This is the summer time when the days are pleasant and the cold is moderate. Many significant routes like the Manali – Leh and Srinagar – Leh start opening and chances of road blockage are less. As many Ladakhi festivals happen in this time including the Hemis Festival, expect a lot of crowd there.
Visit towards the end of August to avoid the summer crowd.
If you are an adventure seeker and love Solitude, then a visit to Ladakh in winter [December to March] is recommended.
Renting a taxi for the whole trip is the best way to explore Leh-Ladakh as the roads at many places are treacherous and need special expertise. On the other hand, if you have already driven in difficult mountain terrains, then car and bike are also available at Leh for rent. To have an estimation of the total taxi cost for the trip, you may have a look at the Ladakh taxi union rates for various routes. The rates are published every year and here is the rate chart for year 2018-19: Leh-Ladakh Taxi Rate
Book your taxi before the start of you trip (especially for the high season of May to August) for convenience and do not forget to ask the driver for a discount on the total taxi cost. They usually provide a 10-15% discount on the total amount.
Travelling solo or on a tight budget? No worries. There are shared taxis available from the taxi stand for various places including Nubra, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri.
Inner Line Permit (ILP) is required for Indian Nationals to visit certain places like Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and to Tso Moriri etc. You may obtain the permit from DC office in Leh or apply for it online through www.lahdclehpermit.in. Similarly, Foreign nationals need Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit some places in Ladakh and it can be obtained from the same website mentioned for ILP.
There are many accommodation options available in Leh-Ladakh for every range of traveler starting from budget and medium range guest houses to luxury hotels and tents. We suggest to check for their reviews on Trip Adviser before going ahead with the booking. But if you are keen on experiencing Ladakhi culture, then we suggest to go with the home stays and small guest houses that give you a feeling of being at home. These are the places where you can enjoy freshly prepared local dishes or special Ladakhi tea in the kitchen itself which is decorated with colorful bone china pottery and rows of beautiful bowls and saucer sets. This also gives you the opportunity to talk to fellow travelers from different places (even different countries) and to make new friends. We stayed in a medium range guest house in Leh and a home stay run by an old couple in Tso Moriri and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
For solo travelers or groups, there are dormitories with shared toilets available in almost all guest houses at reasonable price.
Stay in a tented accommodation in Nubra Valley among the apricot trees and enjoy the starlit sky at night. This may be a bit expensive than a medium range lodge/hotel, but we can assure you the experience will be well worth it.
The tents near Pangong Tso/Tso Moriri pack up by end of September or early October due to the onset of cold. Though this is the less touristy season to enjoy Ladakh, inquire about the accommodation availability at these places before planning your trip.
If you read Part 1 of our Ladakh blog series, then you must be aware that we made this trip Bangalore-Leh-Bangalore by flight only. But you can also plan a road trip starting from Srinagar to Leh and then be back by the Leh-Manali route. It is always advisable to start from Srinagar side instead of Manali as the gradual increase in altitude helps the body to acclimatize better. You need to ensure that these routes are open at the time when you are planning the trip. Here is an alternative 10 day itinerary for you including Srinagar-Leh-Manali.
Day 1: Reach Srinagar and stay overnight at Srinagar. You may visit Dal Lake, floating market and one of the beautiful gardens of Srinagar depending on your time of arrival.
Day 2: Srinagar to Kargil via Sonmarg and Zozi La. Visit Drass war memorial on the way and stay overnight at Kargil.
Day 3: Kargil to Leh via Lamayuru. Visit Lamayuru monastery, Moonland, Sangam, Gurudwara Pathar Saheb and magnetic hill on the way.
Day 4: In and around Leh: A few monasteries (Thiksey monastery, Hemis monastery) and palaces (Shey Palace, Stok palace, Leh palace) can be included here. You can also visit Hall of Fame on the same day and then spend the evening at Shanti Stupa.
Day 5: Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La: Visit Hunder sand dunes and overnight at Hunder.
Day 6: Visit Diskit monastery and head to Pangong Tso. Overnight at Pangong.
Day 7: Pangong to Tso Moriri. Visit Kiagar Tso on the way. Overnight at Korzok.
Day 8: Tso Moriri to Sarchu via Tso Kar. Overnight at Sarchu.
Day 9: Sarchu to Manali via Baralach la and Rohtang pass. You can visit Suraj Tal lake on the way. Overnight at Manali.
Day 10: Return back.
What to Pack
- Do carry a good sunscreen, sun glass and hat for Ladakh. The sun really hits hard there and you may not know when you get tanned really bad.
- Pack thermals, light woolens, wind cheaters, gloves, good socks and a good jacket. It gets really cold at night even in summer especially at places like Pangong and Tso Moriri. Layered clothing helps a lot in Ladakh as the weather changes unpredictably. Winter requires heavy woolens and jackets. We were there in the mid of August and believe us, even after layers of clothing, we needed hot water bags in Pangong to sleep at night.
- Carry all the basic medicines as you will not get medicine shops nearby anywhere apart from Leh.
- Carry some toilet paper for emergencies 🙂 You will find traditional Ladakhi toilets at most of the places which do not have water and the toilet paper will come really handy.
- Carry a lot of snacks and chocolates as you have to spend a lot of time on the road and food may not be available whenever you need.
- Do not forget to try the traditional Ladakhi butter tea which tastes ultra delicious in the cold weather.
- Leh berries and the juicy apricots.
- Egg Maggi – This is something we still miss after coming back. Loved the taste of it.
- Crystal clear mineral rich water from the streams.
The Not So Good things
Since we have discussed all good things about Ladakh, it is now time to tell you about the not-so-good things that you may need to be prepared about before visiting Ladakh. Because if Ladakh is the land of mesmerizing views and stunning lakes, then it is also the land of treacherous roads and landslides. So keep the following in mind when you plan the trip.
- Toilet Facilities: Public toilet in Ladakh is the worse in almost all tourist places. You will find faeces, sanitary napkins and papers scattered all over inside the toilets. So better to finish your business at the accommodation and at food joints in case of long journeys. Though the toilet facilities at food joints are not that great, but they are better than the public toilets. And in some routes, you may not get a toilet at all. I remember asking our driver on the way to Tso Moriri to stop at some toilet and his answer was hilarious. “Madam, forget about toilets, you will not even see a human in this route. Better go behind those bushes”, he said smiling.
- Rough roads, Landslides and road closures: The roads for certain routes are quite rough at places like the one from Leh to Khardung la resulting in a tiresome journey. Also, sometimes due to landslides the roads get blocked for a long time and you might be stuck for hours before it gets cleared.
Things to keep in mind
- Altitude Sickness: Since Leh is at a high altitude, altitude sickness is something most of the people experience there. We too got a bit sick both at Leh and Pangong lake. So it is advised to start taking Diamox tablets at least 2/3 days before starting your trip. Keep continuing it for a few days when you are in Ladakh.
- Availability of food: There are very limited options for food and sometime none once you go out of Leh, especially enroute Nubra, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. So be prepared to manage with instant noodles or some snacks when you travel between places.
- Phone Connectivity: Proper mobile connectivity is not available once you move farther from Leh. There are certain places like Nubra where only BSNL works, but places like Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri do not have any mobile connectivity.
A request to all of you
Ladakh is beautiful and we would like it to stay the same way for our future generation to see. But Ladakh is already facing the brunt of increased tourism in terms of management of garbage and water crisis. So it is our humble request not to use excessive plastic and to dispose the garbage responsibly.