Get Lost: Ladakh (Up In The Mountains)
If you’re a last-minute planner and a few days in July or August suddenly opened up, we recommend you head up to the mountains. As we draw toward the latter half of the year, these are the last few months in 2014 when you will be able to travel to Ladakh and access some of its most beautiful parts. We’re sure what you see below will be enough to tempt you and get you booking ASAP.
First stop: Leh. You will need to spend a day or so as you acclimatise to the weather and level of oxygen at this height. Consult your doctor and make sure you carry some medicine in case of any uneasiness. Also, keep physical activity to a minimum on your first day.
Uleytokpo is a few hours away from Leh. If you enjoy adventure sports, we highly recommend rafting down the Zanskar River to the point of confluence where it meets the Indus. The views as you go down the river will take your breath away, and the level 5 rapids will ensure you get a very refreshing workout.
Watch the sunset at Nubra Valley as you walk around on the sandy plains enclosed on all sides by mountains (snow-capped if you are there during the winter).
The highlight of travelling in Ladakh is the pristine beauty that you see when on you’re on the road. Untouched by too many tourists, you will find yourself clicking away on your camera as almost every bend in the road brings a new photo opportunity.
The blue waters of Pangong Lake will take your breath away. After visiting this spot, most of our 13-person group could say with confidence that this was the most serene and beautiful place they had been to.
Before You Book: Ladakh
HOW TO GET THERE
Leh is about 1,200km away from New Delhi and about 750km from Chandigarh. If you are keen to drive, then the road from Chandigarh via Manali is supposed to be beautiful. If you are short on time, we recommend you take the 1 hour 15 minute flight from New Delhi and leave the road travel to within Ladakh itself. Leh to Pangong and Leh to Nubra Valley are both long drives that will give you plenty of time to admire the landscape.
Leh: We’d recommend you stay at Hotel Grand Dragon. As Leh will be your base and you will keep returning here from your different adventures, this clean and comfortable hotel is a blessing. The garden view rooms have large balconies. Each floor has a carpeted lounge area with a balcony where your group can gather at anytime.
Camps and Retreats
Uleytokpo: We stayed at the Ule Ethnic Resort in Alchi, a beautiful property with cottages that are situated on a cliff overlooking the Indus. You can choose to stay in the tents as well, but the experience of staying in the cottages with windows facing the river is truly amazing. There are lots of apricot trees on the property itself. You can pick them from the trees or enjoy their homemade jams.
Nubra Valley: We stayed at Nubra Organic Retreat, a camp built around the theme of organic farming. A wonderful place to stay for all nature lovers, the comfortable tents and the simple and healthy organic food will win you over.
Pangong Tso: There are a few camps to choose from here. We selected Camp Watermark. The food and service was good, and the tents were new.
Food options will be limited when you are camping, so here are some fun places to dine when you are in Leh. Warning: make sure you reserve in advance. These places get booked out during peak season.
1. Bon Appetit (Chang spa road, opposite Moravian Mission school): Delicious food and great ambience. You can choose to sit indoors or dine and drink under the stars.
Phone: 01982 251 533
2. Penguin Garden Restaurant and German Bakery (Fort Road): Wood fired oven pizzas and Italian food, plus many other cuisines to choose from, this charming restaurant is a great spot.
Phone: 094191 78630/ 094690 49658/ 099069 99896
3. Tibetan Kitchen (Fort Road): Tasty Tibetan food, with plenty of options for vegetarians. If you are a pure carnivore, keep in mind that they do not serve meat on Tuesdays.
Phone: 096229 69578
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Visit Ladakh in the summer ie June to October, especially if you plan on trekking, rafting and camping out.
WHAT TO PACK
Bear in mind that the sun can be scorching during the day, so cover up and carry lots of sunscreen. The temperatures dip sharply at night, so make sure to pack plenty of warm clothing. Carry comfortable shoes and stay hydrated to have an excellent holiday!
Images courtesy: Anisha Brahmbhatt and Namrata Kothari