Leh Factfile

Leh (3505 m / pop: 28,000), the capital of Ladakh is a veritable kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. A quaint town nestling along the rugged slopes of the Ladakh range, it cradles a cultural legacy shaped at the crossroads of Asia on the Sub-continental Silk Route. For long a bustling crossroads of the migration & trade routes, Leh town is by itself a sightseeing attraction. It has many historic monuments, including the 17th century Leh Palace built by King Singe Namgyal on the hill overlooking the town. Higher up the hill called Namyal Tsemo, are the ruins of the earliest fort dating from 16th century which also houses the equally old Tsemo Gompa. Below, in the bazaar, the main sites to be noted are the 17th century Jama Mosque and newly built Jo-Khang.

Reaching Leh

Air Travel - Leh is well connected to New Delhi by a one-hour flight. Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines & Go Air operate regular flights on this route. Air India also operates shuttle flights once a week on Leh-Srinagar sector and twice a week on the Leh-Jammu sector. These flights tend to be heavily booked and therefore flight bookings should be made well in advance to get the best airfare package.

Road Journey from Kashmir - The Srinagar-Leh National Highway is the main overland approach to Ladakh from Kashmir. This 434-km long highway broadly follows the historic trade route between Central Asia / Tibet and India. It runs across the Zoji-La Pass (11,500-ft./3,505 m), in the Zanskar range of the Great Himalayas, which generally opens for vehicular regular traffic by Mid April / early May. Drass, the first township over the pass, inhabited by a population of mainly Dard origin, has the reputation of being the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Kargil, the second largest town of Ladakh and headquarters of Kargil district, is a major station on this road.

On leaving Kargil, the road passes through the valleys of Pashkyum and Mulbek, where you will be able to admire the gigantic rock carving of Maitreya Buddha, dating to the 7th or 8th Century. Two more passes, Namika-la (12,200 ft/3,719 m) and Fotu-la (13,432 ft/4,094 m), follow the exit from Mulbek valley. From Fotu-1a, the road descends in sweeps and turns, past the spectacularly sited monastery of Lamayuru and the wind-eroded "Moonland" down to the Indus at Khalatse. From here the road follows the river till Leh.

Road Journey from Manali - The Manali- Leh Road (473 km) is open from late May through September. For much of its length, it passes through barren areas that are entirely devoid of any settled habitation. The first major pass in this road, the Rohtang pass (13,000 ft/3,978m), cuts through the Pir Panjal range of the Great Himalayas, and connects Lahoul. Beyond Keylang, headquarter of Lahoul district, the road follows the Bhaga River up towards its source. Leaving the Bhaga Valley, it ascends the Baralacha-la (16,050 ft/ 4,892m) in the Great Himalayan Range, the watershed between the Indus and the Chenab River systems.

The Zanskar Range, which lies next on this road, is crossed through two more passes, the Lachulung-la (16,600 ft/ 5,059m) and the Taglang-la (17,469 ft/5,325rn). Between these two, there is nothing but rock and sand, rolling hills and broad plains. In this area, seasonal camps are set up at Serchu & Pang at various points along the road to provide basic services to travellers. From Taglang-la, the descent to the Indus starts. First it follows the Gya River down to Upshi, and then following the Indus all the way to Leh, passing the villages of Karu, Stakna, Thikse, Shey & Choglamsar, before entering the town.

Climate - The climatic conditions of Ladakh are mainly dry with little or no rainfall. Summer temperatures may touch 30 C while in winter they may even plunge to -25 C degrees Celsius. During the winter, most parts of Ladakh are snow bound and all the land approaches out of the region are closed.

Population Approx. 235,000 spread across the
two districts of Leh & Kargil.
Altitude Leh: 3505 M
Kargil: 2750 M
Summer 25 C 8 C
Winter - 5 C - 15 C
Rainfall 6" average annual

Where to stay - There's a good choice of accommodation types in Leh, ranging from comparatively high-end to budget hotels and guest houses. The Ladakh Hotels are classified into Deluxe-A, A, B, and C / Economy categories while Guest Houses are classified into Upper, Medium and Economy categories. The tariff for the upper category hotels generally includes all meals. In areas outside Leh town such as Nubra and Changthang (Pangong / Tsomoriri lakes) accommodation is available mainly in tented / fixed camps, or in guest houses.

Caravan Travels is associated with some of the best available accommodation facilities in different parts of Ladakh as well as in the Kashmir Valley, which are selected on the basis of service quality and comfort-level for its patrons. These include hotels, resorts / camps, exclusive guest houses / Homestays etc. in Ladakh as well as Super Deluxe Houseboats and A-Class hotels in Srinagar. :

Acclimatization - If you are traveling by air to Leh (alt: 3505 M / 11505 ft.), you must allow a full day of complete rest for getting used to the high altitude and low level of atmospheric oxygen. High altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a risky condition faced by tourists who do not allow sufficient time for acclimatization upon reaching Leh by air.
High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACO) are very serious forms of acute mountain sickness and can be contracted by anyone not sufficiently acclimatized to the altitude. These are life-threatening ailments and require immediate medical attention.

The most common symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are: breathlessness; coughing; disturbed sleep, headache, inability to concentrate; lassitude, loss of appetite, nausea etc.

The following precautions are necessary to avoid such problems:

  • Take complete rest at least for a day after arrival;
  • Move about slowly and breathe deeply till your body get used to the lower oxygen level.
  • When trekking, do not permit your trekking guide to go any faster than you (and your group) can comfortably move.

Remember: You might feel 'normal' when you land at Leh, but that's an illusion as the effect of the altitude and low oxygen level hits slowly. It is important that you do not exert yourself on the very first day, as your body needs time to acclimatize itself. If you neglect to do this, then you might fall sick and spoil your much awaited holiday.

Inner line Permits - For visiting Khardungla, Nubra Valley, Pangong and Tsomo-riri Lakes and the Dah-Hanu area of Leh District, it is mandatory to obtain Protected Area / Restricted Area permit from the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Leh. These permits are to be routed through a Registered Travel Agency. For Diplomatic personnel, such permits are issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India.

Banks & ATM - State Bank of India, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, Punjab National Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank & Central Bank of India have their branches in Leh. These also have their ATM outlets in different parts of the city centre.

Mobile Phone Service - Mobile phones with post-paid connection of BSNL are operational in most parts of Ladakh region. In Leh Town area postpaid connections of Airtel & Vodafone Networks also work fairly well. Please note that prepaid mobile connections do not function in Ladakh.

Healthcare & Hospitals - The main civil hospital in Leh is called SNM Hospital, which is fully equipped to provide all kinds of emergency medical assistance to visitors. Additionally, the Army’s General Hospital at Leh also extends its superior facilities to the tourists in case of emergencies

Social Code of conduct - In Ladakh, you will find a culture in transition, yet one in which the traditional values are still largely intact. In order to make your visit to Ladakh more pleasant, both for yourself and for the host community, the following code of conduct for yourselves are suggested:

  • Dress Code: Please avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts, blouses, tops, undershirts etc. in public and especially in monasteries, mosques, temples, gurudhwaras, and churches. The same holds true on the trekking routes. While short clothing is acceptable in camp-sites away from human habitation, they should be changed for trousers, slacks and sleeved shirts or blouses in villages where you might stop. Under no event should swimwear (and for women bikini tops) be worn in public as these may be taken as sexually provocative and be a cause of possible harassment.
  • Behaviour Code: Please keep your affection for your partner as a private matter and confined to your own rooms or tents, but not for public display, on the street, in religious buildings, in restaurants or at public events.
  • Photography: Please do not take photographs of local people without seeking permission, nor of, or within, any religious building and of any religious ceremony, without permission of the official in-charge of the concerned religious place. Remember that the intense light of flash photography is damaging to ancient wall paintings and tapestries.
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