How to Plan Your First Ladakh Trip?

Ankita | Updated on May 16, 2022

Over the last few years Ladakh has become one of the most famous holiday destinations in India. A beautiful region that falls between the Karakoram range and the main Great Himalayan range, Ladakh is the perfect blend of spellbinding landscapes, stunning lakes, and friendly people that you won’t find anywhere else. Planning a trip to Ladakh can be tricky because it is located at a high altitude and the weather conditions are different from major cities of India. To avoid all the confusion, we have some tips that you will help you in planning your first trip to Ladakh. It isn’t only about packing bags and booking a flight but preparing your body for the change in weather and temperature as well.

Selecting the days of travel

Always travel during the off-season to save up on the hotel, restaurant, and cab prices. Few people visit during the winters, so you get to experience nature and Ladakh’s beauty without any disturbance. Before you book the train or flight tickets, get the calendar for moonless nights if you want to engage in some stargazing in Ladakh. If you are lucky, you will get to see the Milky Way in its full glory.

Adjusting to the cold weather and high altitude

After you reach Ladakh, spend at least two days adjusting to the high altitude and cold weather. You will experience most likely experience a heavy head but that’s only because of long travelling hours and the elevation. Some might even experience nausea, headaches, ataxia, brain fog, and restlessness.

Here are some tips that will help you to adjust the new environment:

1. Physical fitness:

The extreme weather in Ladakh will be physically testing, so you have to ensure you are fit enough to take up on the challenge. Also, the oxygen levels are low, so prepare for that as well. Go on runs for a month before the trip to improve your stamina and breathing capacity.

2. Hydration

Make sure to increase your water intake by one litre, so you aren’t dehydrated. You can start practicing a week prior.

3. Increase altitude gradually

Even though taking a flight to Leh Airport is the quickest way to reach the region, it isn’t the most practical because it will give you a heavy head and nausea. To avoid that, take a flight to Chandigarh and travel to Ladakh via road.

4. Medicines for Acute Mountain Sickness

Prepare a medical bag with stripes of Diamox, over-the-counter pain medication like paracetamol, and anti-nausea medications to fight Acute Mountain Sickness. If you don’t have high blood pressure, mix ¼ teaspoon of salt in two litres of water to get rid of nausea naturally.

5. Descend the height if you are extremely nauseous

Keep your plans flexible as you might not be able to bear altitude change. If you continue feeling nauseous after taking medicines and trying natural remedies, descend for the night or until you start feeling better and continue your trip.

Packing the right clothes and other things

Since Ladakh is located in Greater Himalayas, you will experience a huge decrease in temperature. If you visit during the summers, a warm jacket or pullover will do the job but winters are rough and will need a lot more warm gear.

Let’s take a look at the clothes and other things you should pack for your Ladakh trip:

1. Pack enough outerwear:

Take at least two jackets, three pullovers, and two pairs of woollen socks and hand gloves each along with you. Instead of packing bulky warm clothes, try layering to keep you warm. You will feel very hot after you descend from a pass, so you can simply take one layer off.

2. Invest in good quality waterproof shoes:

If you plan to go trekking or mountain climbing, you will need a good pair of waterproof shoes. If you are travelling to passes like Chang La and Baralacha La where the roads are a bit slippery. The shoes will help you in maintaining a good grip.

3. Pack a warm sleeping bag:

The temperature falls below zero degrees Celsius at night and the warm blankets won’t provide enough heat, especially if you are staying at a camp. Sleeping bags are easy to carry, fold into a small roll, and turn your bed into a mush of warmth, so you are toasty and comfortable throughout the night.

4. Undergarments and innerwear:

Pack a pair of undergarments for each day of the trip and some extras, in case there’s a rainstorm and you need to chain. You should also carry two sets of inner wear for extra warmth during the night.

5. Store accessories in a separate bag:

Make separate small bags for different types of accessories including skincare, makeup, camera gare, medicine bag, dry snacks and chocolates, mobile chargers and other electronics. The more organised your bag is, the less time you will spend finding things and more time enjoying the beautiful nature around you.

Preparing for the bad weather

In Ladakh, one can never be too sure about the weather so you have to be prepared for the worst. There are two things you should carry, no matter which season you plan your trip for — a raincoat and an umbrella. It is extra baggage but it will protect you from the cold, wet weather.

Special tips for bikers

If you are planning a Leh Ladakh bike trip, there’s nothing better than it. However, it is slightly risky and you need to take all required precautions.

Here are some tips you should remember:

1. Boot covers

You can either choose to wear gumboots or purchase boot covers that you can wear over your socks and shoes to protect them from getting wet. There will be some water near Khardung La and Chang La pass, which is very cold. One simple trick to avoid getting your boots wet is by crossing the stream from the middle and keeping your motorcycle in the first gear.

2. Pack a bike kit

This is the most important kit you will carry with you on the bike trip, so make sure you don’t miss out even on one item. Buy or rent a kit that you can attach to the bike, so you can access it easily. Things to include in the kit are a puncture kit, clutch wire, spare tube, gear oil, spark plugs, engine oil, and chain lock. You should also carry a petrol jar, especially if you plan to take the Leh – Manali Highway. After you refill in Tandi, you won’t find another petrol pump for the next 380 kilometres until Karu. The jar should comfortably store up to 20 litres of petrol.

3. Two pairs of waterproof gloves

Waterproof gloves are uncomfortable at first because they can make your hands sweaty but they will not only protect you from the rain but also keep you warm. After you remove them, make sure to thoroughly dry the gloves, so they don’t pick up body odour.

4. Keep a windcheater set handy

If you are taking the Srinagar – Leh highway route, you will most likely get rain. Keep a windcheater in your backpack, so you can wear it, and continue your journey again. You can carry an extra rain jacket to use it as a windbreaker. Tie it up on the front part of your motorcycle to avoid wet mud getting splattered on it when you drive across the Moore Plains.

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