Ladakh is a district located in the extreme north of India, specifically in the state of Kashmir. The main towns of Leh and Kargil are disctrict, located respectively at 3500 and 2800m altitude. This whole region is in the Himalayas. Ladakh is a part of India very different from the rest of the country as very close to Tibet. Proof is the nickname of “Little Tibet” frequently given to this area!
Unlike the rest of India, this region has the advantage of not suffering any monsoon during the year. Thus, when in summer the entire Asian region is sprinkled with water spouts, Ladakh is spared. As a result, the region is very dry and poor in flora.
When to go?
During the months of July and August, temperatures can reach up to 30°C day at 3500 m altitude and rarely below 5°C at night. In winter, temperatures are, however, very low and can reach -25°C. The climate is dry, whatever the season, so the region accumulate very little snow. However, snow falls in abundance in the Himalayan foothills from the September / October, which condemns all access to Ladakh by road. The months of July and August are the best months to visit this beautiful area, but June or September are better suited if we want to avoid the tourist season!
How to get there?
To reach Ladakh, it is necessary to visit one of the major northern cities of the country: the most direct flight and the fastest is the one for the city of Delhi (capital of India). In 2005, the price of a France-Delhi flight was around 550 euros TTC. Today, for the cost of a flight, you can use this excellent comparison flights.
Attention, it is absolutely necessary to obtain an Indian visa from his country of origin or departure from his country! You can not get it at Delhi airport without a visa, you can not enter the territory of India. For more information on obtaining it, you can see the “Indian Visa and permits for access” below.
The district of Ladakh lies about 700 km north of Delhi. Also, to reach Leh (capital of Ladakh) from Delhi, three options are available:
*The most expensive and yet most comfortable, is to take a flight from Delhi-Leh airport “home”. The aircraft is dependent on the weather, we must bear in mind that cancellations are possible, so do not plan too precisely your trip!
*An alternative, slightly less expensive, is to take a taxi or better by taxi 4×4.
*The last option is the bus, really cheap.
It is also possible to combine bus and 4×4. For example, you can take the bus to start up Manali to Leh and then a 4×4 (the 4×4 around 350 €). The road is passable only in summer and it will take a minimum of 3 days away. In winter, it snows a lot in the Himalayan foothills and passes close as early as the September/October. In summer, Manali-Leh highway is beautiful but challenging and tiring! So take your time, and if possible, make this trip at least five days, with a pause and several stopovers at Manali to Leh. You can, for example, make a few detours lakes Tso Kar and Tso Moriri.
The main route through two passes over 5000m above sea level! Beware of altitude sickness because it can be very uncomfortable (headaches), and have consequences far more serious (nausea and loss of consciousness)!
I advise you to make a go by road or by air, then return by other means. A Delhi-Leh flight costs about 120 € TTC, one of the airlines (Jet Airways) has a branch in Paris, which makes the booking (Tel. 01 49 52 41 15) or you can use this comparator tickets plane.
Indian visa, permit access?
Ladakh is a district of India, it is governed by the Indian government. To visit India on a tourist visa is required. The visa must imperatively be established before the trip to the country from whence we come (eg, France). Indeed, several days (or weeks) are needed for its establishment. In France, it must be requested at the Indian Embassy in Paris. Several possibilities exist: to move the embassy to apply by mail or through an agent with some additional cost. We opted for registered mail sent to the embassy at a cost of 50 € for the visa + 6 € for the cost of return mail + shipping costs by registered mail.
Note that the deadlines for obtaining and sending exceed more than a month, then you better do it soon! Tourist visas are generally established for 6 months from receipt of your application (approximately), what does that leave you more than five months in India. For more information, visit the website of the Embassy of India in Paris. You’ll find everything you need to know about the visa “Consular services – The services of Visa.”
It should also be aware that access permission is required to travel in parts of Ladakh. If you’re traveling in these areas, the access permit can be established in Leh or Manali town (between Delhi and Leh) within a period of 24 hours at most agencies. Curiously, it is generally necessary to be at least 4 people to get a license, but obviously, this is an easily circumvented dixitagencies!
What to do in Leh?
Leh, Ladakh’s capital, represents a virtually obligatory to visit Ladakh. With more than 15,000 inhabitants and a growing number of tourists every year, there is almost everything:
Accommodation, restaurants, bakeries, bars, small grocery stores. After a voyage in 2007, Pierre, internet visitor site (thank you to him) told us that there are now two bank cash machines (one downtown and one near the center)!
The center of Leh is noisy and polluted, but the surrounding areas are quiet (Changspa, for example). You can find rooms at 5€. In the village center, on top of a hill, stands the monastery “Leh Palace that can be visited. From above, the view is splendid.
Do not forget that Leh is already (about) 3500m above sea level and if you arrived by plane, it is strongly recommended to proceed first few days without physical effort to acclimate his body to the altitude high; Leh is a good step in this acclimation.
What to do in Ladakh
Around Leh, several sites to visit in less than an hour away. Here are some examples: Shey Monasteries, or Tiksey Spituk.
But to discover the district of Ladakh in more detail, it is best to stay in several locations. The choice is great because Ladakh almost 100,000 km², or about 1/5th of France! The scenery is breathtaking and differ from one place to another… Many beautiful lakes are also discovered in the south-east of Ladakh. There’s even a mini desert with camels in the north! You will be captivated by the breathtaking peaks that rise everywhere, the most famous are in the region of Zanskar. There are also many monasteries, each more beautiful than the others (example: Lamayuru), authentic villages and very friendly people. You can also direct you to the far west, near the Pakistani border, but beware, this area is unfortunately subject to tensions between India and Pakistan.
To discover Ladakh, two solutions are possible: by car or on foot.
By road, you will simply places most frequented by tourists. Many agencies offer tours on site or just rent a 4×4 (with driver preference). The region is sufficiently grid of roads and tracks to avoid boredom for several weeks!
If you choose to walk, you can either hold small steps for the day, a trek that is to say a course over several days and several stages, taking his own package. A trek you will discover remote locations away from the crowd and close the premises. Again, many agencies offer to organize your trek (rental equipment, tents, guides, horses or donkeys, porters,…). For the more adventurous, the solution is to go on individual package on his back. The treks have differing degrees of difficulty from one to another (hiking, mountain passes, climbing or mountaineering), then ask about the difficulty of the route before your final choice. In all cases, it is recommended to have good walking shoes and suitable clothing to cold and heat (you can rent everything there).