Must know things before you visit Ladakh

Ladakh is a land of many extremes. The cold there can freeze you to death and you run the risk of suffering a sun-stroke as well. An old Ladakhi saying perfectly sums up Ladakh in one line, “The Land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or Our best friends would want to visit us“. What it also means to someone who wants to visit Ladakh for the first time in practical terms is, you cannot do an impromptu visit to Ladakh. In order to enjoy your trip to this magical land in the laps of the Himalayas, you should have some idea about how to prepare for Ladakh before you actually embark on your trip.

At the Gate of Ladakh, Sonemarg

At the Gate of Ladakh, Sonemarg

I share here few points that had helped me enjoy my first trip to Ladakh to the fullest.

Research: When I went to Ladakh back in 2012, believe me or not, I had been reading and reading and reading about it since almost 3 years! Okay! I don’t want to scare you here and no you don’t have to read that much but the point is, you should read as much as you can. About travelling to Ladakh, travelogues, travel-tips, whatever. BCMTouring helped me a lot during my trip’s planning phase and is by far the best travel resource repository about travelling to Ladakh. Spend as much time as you can in the Ladakh travelogues section.

Number of days: Doesn’t matter if you easily clock 500-600 kilometres in a day on your vehicle in the plains or even in the hills. Things change when you are up there in those grey and arid mountains. Out there, don’t expect to be able to cover anything more than 200-250 kilometres a day. Even less on some days. But hey! You are going to see and enjoy the beauty and not to run for the who reaches Ladakh first race, right? So take it easy. Also, always keep a buffer of a day or two. Mountain roads are very unpredictable. If you are on a tight schedule, a land-slide here, a traffic – jam and your plan can go for a toss within hours.

Desert in the sky, Leh - Manali Highway, Ladakh

Desert in the sky, Leh – Manali Highway, Ladakh

Choose the right route: If you have done even a little bit of research about travelling to Ladakh, you must already be knowing that there are two roads that connect Ladakh to the rest of India. One is the Srinagar – Leh highway and the other is the Leh-Manali highway. While both these routes are blessed with heavenly vistas and majestic mountains, choosing one of them is one of the most critical things of the trip. The Manali-Leh highway is shorter but the ascent in this route is steeper compared to the Srinagar-Leh highway which passes through some of the most beautiful vistas and lively colourful houses that you will ever see. I personally prefer and always suggest people to take the Srinagar-Leh highway. Even though a little longer, the height you gain on this route is more gradual thereby giving your body enough time to adjust at lower oxygen levels. And hence, lesser chance of being attacked by Acute Mountain Sickness (more on AMS soon here All you should know about Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)).

Beauty of the Leh-Manali Highway, Pang ladakh

Beauty of the Leh-Manali Highway, Pang

Be fit and don’t exert: Once you have reached Ladakh, the most important thing is to make sure you do not exert yourself. If you do, your body will not get enough time to acclimatize and it is almost certain that you will be stuck by AMS. And be warned, it takes only a few hours for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) to turn fatal. If attacked severely, the only way out is to rush to lower altitude. So make sure you are fit enough, in other words, your lungs are big enough to suck in as much air as they can, be relaxed in whatever you do, don’t jump, don’t run, take frequent stops, drink lots of water and you will be fine.

Remaining Connected: Pre-paid phones from outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir do not work in Ladakh. If you wish to remain connected, a BSNL post-paid connection is the best way out. You will be able to remain connected for the most part. Airtel is the next best in terms of coverage. Mobile internet services will remain patchy throughout. Also worth noting is the fact that at Sarchu on the Leh-Manali highway, where in all probability you will spend one night whether going to or coming back from Manali has no connectivity of any sort.

Keep enough Cash: Leh has only few ATMs, Kargil has two and rest of the places in Ladakh have none. And, more often than not there’s no ‘link’. When it is online, there are long ques. So it is advised you always keep enough cash with you.

Appreciate Nature, Respect Nature: Ladakh is one of those rare places where nature blesses us with its most beautiful colors, with its best of almost everything. You go visit Ladakh then come back and tell me if you have ever seen or been to such a place. Ladakh is such a magical land. But it will not be like this forever if we don’t value, respect and do our bit to preserve it, for the generations to come. Small things go a long way. If only every person pledges not to litter at places whose ecology is so fragile, half of the job of keeping the place as pure and beautiful as it is would be done. Remember that you are here because the place is unique and beautiful. If we don’t care now, we will have no ‘Ladakh’ tomorrow.

Do your bit!

Did you find the information above helpful? Do you want me to talk about some other aspect as well? Leave me a comment below and I do my best to help you with your doubts.

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14 thoughts on “Must know things before you visit Ladakh

  1. Am leaving to Ladakh in a couple of days. It is not a road trip, am going via flight. I would like to know the essential clothing that I should carry, I am looking at options to buy at Ladakh still skeptical. Can you throw more light on clothing and accessories?

    • Okay so the most important thing to do if you are flying to Ladakh would be to take complete rest for the first half of the day.

      No taking chances with AMS! Post that, you can walk up to the Moti market. You will get all you will ever need there.

      For now, things to take for ladakh woukd be: couple of woolen socks, gloves, multiple layers of clothing including fleece jackets and not so heavy sweaters.

      Important stuff that you must carry are, screensaver, shades and lip balms.

      Drink lots of water or Ladakhi tea and take things easy.

      Feel free to shoot more questions in case you have any 🙂
      Have a great trip!


  2. Rajiv, Nice pointers buddy.
    I would suggest not to spend much time on hi alt passes also. Like K top and Changla. Probability of hitting my AMS grows when one spends too much time.
    Also we should take symptoms of AMS like headache etc lightly. people should seek help immediately or descend.

  3. Great post Rajiv. Yes Ladakh is one place for which you need to prepare. I remember even I had done the same. Tried to collect as much information as possible from as many resources as possible!
    I totally agree with the last point, we really need to appreciate and respect nature. Hope we all do our bit!
    Apart from the gorgeous views in Ladakh, one more thing which I really liked about this place is the fact that the people over here are very friendly and courteous. Something which is really hard to find these days.

    • Thanks Arun, so glad that you liked it. About the ‘taking care’ part, I think it is us who are responsible to take care of it, no one from another world is going to come and do it.

      I have always found people in remote areas humble, helpful and friendly. The ‘development’ have taken over us, the ‘more civilized’ people.

  4. Great tips. We visited Ladakh last year and had a great trip mainly due to proper acclimatisation. Some folks are prescribed tablets called Dimox for the duration of the trip. Being physically fit helps. As you have said respect the elevation of the place!

  5. Pingback: AMS Guide | Rajiv Verma

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