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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out! 

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh.

This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we could have spent a few days more, and explored more.

All the reading I did told me that altitude sickness was all about acclimatization, which would be easier if we did a road trip, making frequent halts along the way. The biggest issue with flying into Ladakh is the sudden change in altitude, and by driving, we would avoid that.

The second advice I got, from friends who had visited Ladakh, was to take things easy, and slow, and not to try to do too much. That was valuable advice for me, someone who likes to pack every day of travel with activities!

The third and most valuable advice was to stay hydrated, and to ensure we ate regularly, avoiding long gaps.

Two other things helped – our choice of car (an Innova) and keeping the window open through the entire journey. Keeping the window open is something I always find helpful. The AC doesn’t work for me, and I feel better feeling the wind on my face. In Ladakh, the air was particularly fresh, and this made all the difference. The choice of car also helped. Apparently, as I learnt post-facto, seats in an SUV are higher, and there is also more space. These two factors apparently help with motion-sickness, and also with altitude sickness.

We were on the mountainous roads from the 5th to the 15th of August. Not once in those 10 days did I even feel a tinge of motion or altitude sickness. (To truly appreciate this, you should know that I still throw up in the car every time I visit Tirupati, or Ooty, or any hill-station for that matter!)

So, that explains our choice of transport. Now for the planning itself.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you would know that I plan all my trips myself, down to the last detail, and make all the bookings myself. I was tempted to do the same for Ladakh, but this was a completely new region to me, one where I knew no one, and where I was more afraid of falling sick than getting lost. I didn’t want to go with a group. That, I’ve learnt, doesn’t work for me. Thus, I looked towards someone who could customize an itinerary for us, and handle all the bookings, including the transport. After quite a bit of research, and still unable to fix anything, I turned to friends for help. And Sudha suggested Ladakh Calling. Multiple conversations and emails later, I finally decided to go with them. Siddharth, the owner was extremely helpful, and we went back and forth till we finalized our plan. He arranged everything, from picking us up at Chandigarh airport, to dropping us at Srinagar, the homestays, the different vehicles we used along the way, the permits, everything. I didn’t have to lift a finger, which helped settle my qualms.

My instinct in going with them was validated when we had no issues all through the ten days of our trip, and he even accommodated us when we made sudden changes to our plan – like compressing the sightseeing in Leh to half a day because we wanted to meet Shankar’s friend, or adding Turtuk to our itinerary without any notice. Further, though our last driver was evidently worried about driving into Srinagar on 15th of August, the fact that he did, shows the professionalism. (Again, to give some context, on my earlier visit to Srinagar, we had been dropped unceremoniously at a crossroad in the city, because the driver refused to enter the main city where we had booked our accommodation).

Most of the places we visited were at Siddharth’s suggestion, and they worked perfectly, to give us a glimpse of Ladakh, which is what we wanted. If I planned the trip today, there would be additions/ changes I would make, but that comes from my first experience, which was entirely thanks to him and his company. I would recommend them to any of you planning a trip.

I have written in detail about our trip, but to help you plan, here is our itinerary, along with links to the blog posts…

Day 1 – Chandigarh to Manali (Around 300 Km)

Day 2 – Manali to Jispa (Around 100 Km)

Day 3 – Jispa to Leh (Around 335 Km)

Day 4 – Lehsightseeing – Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa

Day 5 – Around Leh – Stok Palace, Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Shey Palace

Day 6 – Leh to Nubra (Around 120 Km)

Day 7 – Nubra to Turtuk, Turtuk to Leh (Around 280 Km)

Day 8 – Leh to Pangong Lake (Around 225 Km)

Day 9 – Pangong Lake to Leh (Around 225 Km)

Day 10 – Leh to Mulbek (along the way – Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, Saspol Caves, LamayuruMonastery) (Around 200 Km)

Day 11 – Mulbek to Srinagar. (Around 240 Km)

All the homestays and camps we stayed at were arranged by Siddharth. Which is why I haven’t given their details. We chose mid-range stays, and all the ones we stayed at worked perfectly for us.

One other thing I should mention. This was the first trip where we went completely plastic free. Siddharth suggested we bring our own water bottles, and we did. We had no trouble refilling them, wherever we went. There were water filters everywhere and we were encouraged in our quest to remain plastic free over the two weeks we spent in the region. Mementos were wrapped in paper, and we avoided packing food that would require plastics. We carried our own garbage bags (as we anyways do) and we hardly had to use them. Since then, we have tried doing the same on other trips too, and though we have faced some issues, it does work, when we make the effort to. 

All in, the trip cost us about 50,000 per head, around 1Lakh in all, that included all the permits, the accommodation, and the transport. That was, of course, 4 years back. The costs work out way better when there are more people. It would have cost just a little more for a group of 5 or 6 people, which would have reduced per head costs. That explains why most people prefer to visit Ladakh as a group, or as a family. However, we enjoyed travelling together, without anyone else, so it was absolutely worth it.

And that concludes this long series of unbelievably delayed posts on my trip to Ladakh. I only hope I will be able to go again someday, and add to this series. 

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing the detailed account of planning the trip to Ladakh, Anuradha! It has so far cleared all my doubts about getting there. If I ever plan to visit Ladakh, I'll revisit your blog to prepare my itinerary. And visiting it virtually through the lens of your wandering mind was quite fascinating! I really enjoyed reading about, and discovering the gorgeous Maitreyas across the monasteries, the beautiful murals at Shey Palace, the picturesque village of Turtuk, and the stunning strech from Jespa to Leh, to name a few. :)

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    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Vishal. Glad this was useful and that you liked the series. The Maitreyas were indeed something special and there are many more to be seen. Hope you can go sometime soon.

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