Much as I am smitten by the beauty of one of the most exotic mountain retreats in the world, Ladakh – the land of Lamas and monasteries is much more than what meets the eye. It is one of the coldest snow deserts has a lot more to offer. However, there are a few and very important things that you need to know, especially if you are a single woman (or even man) travelling for the first time across this heaven.
- Acclimatize: Perhaps the most important thing to do whenever you are travelling to high altitude is to acclimatize yourself well. Do not start your adventure the very morning you land in Leh. Plan your trip in such a way that you have at least 3 days (while it is advisable to acclimatize for a week) in hand. Take rest. Get used to the altitude, weather and water. Drink plenty of water and always keep yourself covered up. Even if you feel the slightest discomfort, consult a doctor. Remember to get your BP checked and do not indulge in extensive travelling if you have a high BP. You might feel dryness of throat and nose, which is okay.
- Layered Clothing: Always have layered clothing on. You might feel that just a T-shirt and jeans with a heavy jacket is enough to keep you warm but no, that’s not the way to go about it. Ladakh is a very windy place, and by windy, I mean the kind of wind that makes your eyes burn and bones freeze. Get your thermals on. Always wear socks and hand gloves. And the most important bit: keep your head covered – no matter how warm you feel already with all the clothes on.
- Shoes: Yes, all of us girls love to take our fancy boots out the moment we step into a cold hilly region. But Ladakh is not a place for fashion. Get thick soled lightweight trekking /mountain shoes. I would recommend only trusted brands like Woodland, Quechua, Solomon for this. If you really want to enjoy the region you might want to trek long ways. These shoes will help you get a solid grip and enough comfort while climbing uphill.
- Food and Luxury: if you travel in Ladakh you need to have an open mind. While places like Grand Dragon, Summer Harvest and Tibet Kitchen in Leh offer amazing food (especially Chinese), be prepared to taste anything and everything. Also recommended is this little café in Leh called Lamayuru Café, that serves some of the cheesiest pizzas ever. If you are travelling towards Zozila, do stop by at Zozila Residency at Kargil for some delicious momos and wazwan. However, you might not get the most luxurious places to put up at.
- Local Etiquette: While Leh is a very modern town and buzzing with tourists during the peak season, certain parts in the region may not be that happening. The barren terrain is home to Buddhists and Shia Muslims. The closer you move towards the Kashmir Valley you find the Sunni population dominating. It is advisable to respect the peace and nature. Cover your head. Do not show skin and be polite. These are very simple and friendly people who understand Hindi and English as well and are ever smiling and helpful. Do not take pictures of the local people without permission.
- Plan Well: Ladakh is not a place that you can visit just about anytime. Do your homework well. The NH1 and the passes connecting the region are usually cut off during winters. Zozila Pass opens only after May 15. The best time to visit is between June and August. July 26, celebrated as Op Vijay Diwas is a day one should be at the Kargil War Memorial in Dras. There are regular flights from Delhi to Leh, I usually prefer the early morning GoAir flight that takes off at 8.30 and takes 1hr 20 mins to reach Leh. The airport is small but pre paid cabs are available.
There is a lot more that can be written and discussed when it comes to this amazing land. However, I will let it rest here. Go ahead, plan a trip and have some of the best moments of your lie.