India is famous for its chaotic cities, palaces and Hindu temples. But in the far north of the country you’ll find a completely different world.
In Ladakh, located in the Indian Himalayas, you will find high mountains and spectacular landscapes, as well as a well-preserved Tibetan Buddhist culture. Here you’ll get the chance to get acquainted with the life of the friendly Ladakhi people. To welcome you to the beautiful Indian Himalayas, here are tsome Ladakh travel tips from Suchie, our travel expert in for Ladakh.
Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama
The journey to reach Ladakh is a highlight in itself. You can choose to fly directly to the capital Leh, but travelling from Delhi to Leh over a few days is a more spectacular option. The road leads through some of the world’s highest accessible and most beautiful passes. Nature changes from green coniferous forests to the bald, but colourful mountains of the Trans Himalayas, while the culture changes from Hindu to Buddhist. On the way you can make special stops. One option is spending a few nights in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama, along with many from the exiled Tibetan community. Dharamsala is located in the foothills of the Himalayas and the nature is extraordinary. Dharamsala has several Tibetan monasteries which you can visit.
Ladakh travel tips – High mountain passes
From the hippie town of Manali, located at 1800 m altitude, you can start a two or three-day trip to Leh. The road rises higher and higher as you cross five high passes. The last one is 5300 m high. The views are spectacular, and it is worth stopping regularly! After a long day of traveling, you can stay in a small village or high tented camp. Most of the journey will take you through an immense plain, where the Tibetan nomads go with their yaks and goats. Eventually you’ll descend into the Indus Valley with its idyllic oases of white-clad houses, surrounded by bright green barley fields.
Ladakh Travel Tips – Getting used to the height
Leh, Ladakh’s capital lies at an altitude of 3500 meters. If you arrive by plane, it takes some time to get used to the altitude, so it is recommended to take it easy the first few days. The atmosphere here is very different from India. The influence of Tibet and Turkmenistan is very evident as the silk road lies nearby. A small museum shows how Leh used to be a strategic point on the old caravan routes. Long before the arrival of tourists you could hear five different languages on every street corner in the town. Leh is a wonderful place to wander through the narrow streets and to nose around the many shops selling Kashmir and Tibetan artefacts. The many cozy restaurants offer everything from typical Ladakhi dishes such as Thukpa (soup with vermicelli pasta) to south Indian Dosa’s (thin rice flower pancakes).
Monasteries and walks
In the surroundings of Leh there are several important monasteries, where you can get acquainted with Tibetan culture. The Ladakhi mountains are a paradise for hikers, and the multi-day treks are especially worthwhile. You camp in the most beautiful places, and walk along rivers and over high mountain passes. You pass through villages where it seems as if time has stood still. If you prefer not to campi, staying in a cozy guesthouse or homestay in a village outside Leh is highly recommended. Being welcomed in people’s homes is a great way to get to know more about daily life in the countryside.
Ladakh Travel Tips – Untouched Nature
In terms of nature Ladakh has a lot to offer. In the middle of a beautiful valley, between the Himalayas and the Karakoram Mountains, lies Shyok River Lodge. Here you can experience village life and take hikes through the mountains. You stay witha local family in a traditional Ladakhi house, with excellent rooms and western standard bathing facilities. From the lodge you can take a trip to Pangong Tso, a large deep blue salt lake bordering Tibet. Travel further down the river to Nubra Valley, where you find some very atmospheric monasteries. Here the local population lives in small villages tucked away between waving willows and apricot farms, with a stupa or mural on almost every corner of the street.