Ladakh is our best kept Himalayan secret. A high altitude desert, at one end of the Himalaya, dotted with traditional villages and dramatic monasteries that separates the Great Himalayan range from the mighty Karakoram range to the North. The largest town of Leh, sits at an altitude of 3500m overlooking the Indus River and is surrounded by peaks well over 6000m high. The region is known for it's breath taking landscapes, high mountain passes and infinite dark skies. The staggering beauty of the region along with the friendly and welcoming nature of the local people, makes Ladakh one of the most incredible destinations you will ever visit and one of the few places where you can still see and learn about authentic Tibetan culture, language and religion. Our trekking in Ladakh is both a physical challenge and a cultural immersion, because this hidden gem of the Himalayan range is little known and therefore its traditions and cultures still stand strong with little influence from the rest of the world. If you look up at the peaks when you are trekking and fancy trying to summit one, then in Ladakh there is also the option to summit Kang Yatse II, a brilliant first mountaineering peak. With our experienced guides you know you are in really safe hands.
How to get to Ladakh
In order to reach Leh it is necessary to fly first to Delhi and then take a domestic flight up to Ladakh. For those traveling from the UK, there are direct flight to Delhi from London Heathrow with Air India, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. From Manchester or Glasgow, there are indirect flights to Delhi with Emirates, Lufthansa and KLM.
For travellers from the east coast of the US, there are direct flight to Delhi with Air India from JFK and United Airlines have a direct flight from Newark. From the west coast, Air India also have direct flights from San Francisco and there are indirect flights from LAX with KLM, Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines.
Domestic flights from Delhi to Leh depart in the mornings and take roughly 1 hour 20 mins. Remember that if you book your international and domestic flight separately, you will need to collect your luggage and check in again for your domestic flight. Be sure to allow enough time for this in between flights! There are a range of domestic airlines proving flights to Leh including Spice Jet, Vistara and Indigo. Most flights depart between 6am and 11am daily.
If you are changing airlines or re-checking your luggage at an airport on route, please ensure you leave a minimum of 3 hours between flights. This will account for any delays on arrival, travel time across airports (this can take longer than you think) and time taken to re-check baggage.
Ladakh is the perfect place to trek in the Himalaya when Nepal and Bhutan are out of season. Our treks here are:
MARKHA VALLEY AND KANG YATSE II | For seven days we hike through the remote and beautiful Markha Valley bordered by the Zanskar range on one side and the Stok range on the other. The local inhabitants live a traditional life, defined by their Buddhist religion and the seasons of their mountainous and high altitude home. Our journey through the mountains and villages of the region culminates in an ascent of 6250m Kang Yatse II for unforgettable views of the Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakoram ranges.
THE INDUS VALLEY | This trip soaks up the culture of mountainous India without the strenuous climbs of a summit route. Taking a steadier, people and places orientated approach, we visit the traditional villages and monasteries of the Indus Valley, before donning our trekking boots and exploring on foot the unique remoteness of the Sham Valley.
CHANGTANG LAKES TO SPITI VALLEY | Spend three weeks trekking through luscious greenery, set within ochre-streaked peaks, where nomadic herders swaddled in traditional dress, are the only other people you will meet for days on end. Winding your way over ancient glacial moraines and past the divine Changtang Lakes, experience a remote landscape that dominates the tiny villages set within it.
When to trek
You can find detailed advice on when to trek in our Ladakh Travel Guide.
This a brief summary. The beauty of Ladakh is that they don't have a wet season, so when it is the wet season in Nepal and Bhutan, Ladakh is still a viable option for travelling to the Himalaya. Once the snows have melted in April/May and the temperature begins to rise above freezing, the intense sun allows daytime temperatures to increase to between 10°C and 25°C on sunny days. June to September is Ladakh's peak season with comfortable trekking temperatures and a lack of snow cover.
Training for your trek in Ladakh
Trekking in Ladakh is not dissimilar to Nepalese treks in terms of difficulty. With a trek for all levels from the more relaxed Indus Valley journey to the three week long Changtang Lakes and Spiti Valley. We have even thrown a peak in there for those wishing to bag a summit. What makes trekking in Ladakh challenging is the altitude - you will be at a high altitude for the majority of the treks. The lack of oxygen in the air has a range of effects on the human body, but the most obvious is breathlessness. At Kang Yatse Base Camp there is half the oxygen content in the air that there is at sea level. This makes any exertion a lot harder, so the most important thing you can do is go slowly. Exerting yourself too hard is a great way to bring on altitude sickness.
In order to avoid getting altitude sickness you also have to limit the altitude gain in any day. This sometimes results in days when you can only walk for 4-5 hours before you have to stop. So in terms of distance walked and the altitude climbed, a day's trekking in Ladakh will be no more difficult than a typical day's hiking at home. However, doing this for upwards of 12 days consecutively and at altitude do combine to make any trek a tough challenge and you will need to be really fit when you arrive.
Accommodation and food in Ladakh
In Leh, we stay in basic but comfortable 3 star hotels in double or twin ensuite rooms. The hotel will have hot water and WiFi available. Please be aware that 3 star standards in Ladakh may be lower than you would expect in your home country. Power cuts and internet outages are common in Ladakh and you should be prepared for the possibility of this. In Lamayuru, we will again use a 3 star hotel with ensuite rooms, hot water and WiFi.
During the trek you will have a 3 man tent to share with one other person in your group. You will be provided with a foam camping mattress to sleep on and should bring your own sleeping bag with a comfort rating of -20 degrees centigrade. We will also provide a large dining tent with a table and chairs that is used for taking meals but also as a communal space to relax in the evenings. Hot water in a bowl can be provided by your support team so you can have a wash in the evenings. The camp is setup and taken down each day by our local support team and an all terrain vehicle is used to transport all the equipment along the trekking route.
Fixed camps at Changtang Lakes provide large, canvas tents for two people, equipped with comfortable beds (real mattresses), pillows, sheets and towels. Each tent has a private bathroom with cold water. Hot water in a bowl can be provided here as well so you can have a wash in the evenings.
The toilet situation is something a lot of our guests want to know about! In Ladakh, the hotel we use has western flushing toilets. Toilets in Ladakh have a mixture of hoses and toilet roll for cleaning purposes. If using a hose is not your cup of tea then it might be worth bringing your own toilet roll. On the trek itself, toilets at the campsites will be very basic with a hole in the ground covered by a small toilet tent for privacy and on route this will be a case of finding somewhere hidden, off the path and going wild. We can guarantee it will be the most scenic toilet break you've ever had!
To see the latest conversion rates visit xe.com
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee (INR). India has a closed currency which means Rupees cannot be imported or exported from the country. You can exchange money at the airport in Leh on arrival, or at banks and some larger hotels. The State Bank of India and the J&K Bank have their main branches in Leh and foreign exchange is also available at the Tourist Information Centre located in the Dak Bungalow Complex in Leh. It is worth noting that there is no foreign exchange facility outside of Leh. Credit and debit cards are generally widely accepted. If you are planning to carry a credit card for emergencies, please inform your card provider in advance. US Dollars and GB Pounds are the easiest currencies to exchange.
In Leh, the price for a taxi shared between 6 people is around 850 INR ($10) per person. A meal will vary in cost dependnig upon where you choose to eat. Dhaba tents are the local, and slightly cheaper, option offering traditional lentil curry and flatbread dishes. A meal in a Dhaba tent will generally cost between 50-70 INR (~$0.7) per person, crazy cheap! That said, a meal in one of the cafes on Changspa Road in Leh will still only cost between 150-170 INR (~$2) so eating out will not be a costly affair. Similarly, the cost of souvenirs will not break the bank, particularly if you are prepared to haggle down the price.
In India, tipping is a common practice and highly appreciated. The amount you tip depends on the level of service you feel you have received.
We recommend budgeting roughly USD50 per person per week for tips. The amounts given below are not exact and are only given as an indication.
- Guide - $4 per person per day
- Drivers and assistants - $3 per person per day
- Porters - $2 per person per day