5 things to do in Ladakh before the start of your trek
Ladakh is the closest to heaven, located at the northernmost part of India bordering Pakistan and China. A picturesque amalgamation of drylands, confluence of the crystal blue and emerald green river Indus, lush green pastures, cold deserts & high mountains is a sight for sore eyes and yet away from the crowds, makes you witness all forms of nature’s splendid beauty. There is so much to do that it becomes difficult to choose. I do hope this will help guide you to the 5 things to do in Ladakh before your Trek Starts.
Ladakh is also famous for the high-altitude lakes such as Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. Pangong Tso is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world at around 134 km in length. Due to the varying concentrations of salt in the lake, the water changes shades as the day progresses. You can witness shades the changing from a light blue to a dark green.
Buddhism is the most practised religion, Ladakh has many beautiful monasteries such as Thiksay and Lamayuru which draw tourists from all over the world to learn about Tibetan Culture and marvel at the ancient architecture and meticulous artwork. You can’t really claim to have seen ‘Incredible India’ without exploring Ladakh at least once in your life!
Be Aware of Ladakh’s High Altitude.
Trekking here is the ultimate experience for any trekker with amazing high-altitude treks such as Stok Kangri, Markha Valley and Kang Yatse. However, a holiday in Ladakh is adventurous and challenging considering the high altitude (11,000 ft in Leh). Before you head out on your journey to explore Ladakh, it is important to allow your body to adjust to the altitude and temperature. This process is known as acclimatization.
When you land here, you may experience some symptoms of Acute Mountain sickness (AMS) such as headaches, lethargy, nausea, loss of appetite and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually subside in a couple of hours. Acclimatization is the best way to prevent AMS.
One should restrict activity to a bare minimum for the first 24-48 hrs to allow your body to acclimatize properly and thus prevent AMS while on the trek. Once you land in Leh, you might feel the impulse to roam around but you should rest for a couple of hours before heading out. When you do head out, especially on the first day, avoid walking for too long and not making any significant changes in altitude.
Dehydration further adds to AMS. Keep sipping water from time to time; a minimum intake of 3L of water every day. Regular water intake throughout the day will maintain your body temperature, will give you more strength and energy and will help you to a large extent to adapt to the new environment.
The 5 Things to do in Ladakh before your Trek Starts.
Treks at Adventure-Pulse are organized in such a way that you get the first two days to acclimatize in the city and begin from the third day.
Here are a few suggestions on ‘Things to do in Ladakh Before your Trek Starts’:
1. Go for an Acclimatization Hike to Shanti stupa
Buddhism is an integral part of Ladakh’s culture and you can find prayer flags and stupas (important religious symbols in Buddhism) all over Ladakh. Stupas are symbols of peace and respect for human life. When you take a flight to Ladakh, it will be to its capital city, Leh. Leh is watched over by a large white Stupa, The Shanti Stupa. It was built to promote world peace and is a symbol of friendship between Japan and India.
With ornate Buddhist figurines and architecture, Shanti Stupa is a marvel of beauty. It is at a height of 3609m and climbing all the way up to it, gives you panoramic views of the city of Leh and on a clear day all the way across the valley. There’s also a small monastery, where you can sit and if you’re lucky, you might get to attend a beautiful Buddhist prayer ceremony. You are sure to feel very peaceful and relaxed in a sacred and gorgeous place like this!
The Shanti Stupa is at distance of 5 kms from the city of Leh. Going here is good acclimatization practice since it is at an altitude higher than Leh. One can climb up on foot or to make it easier, can also reach here in a vehicle. We would recommend visiting Shanti Stupa by road if you’re going there on your first day. It is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. for tourists and should be a must visit. It’s a must visit at night as an array of lights is switched on and in the clear night sky, this becomes a magical place!
2. Visit Leh market
When going to a new place, you must check out the locally made products which are unique to that region. They make great mementos to bring back home, keep them on display in your living room (signs of a traveler’s home!) or to even gift to family and friends.
Some of the best things that your inner exquisite shopaholic will spot here are colorful Tibetan handicrafts, silver jewelry and pashmina shawls. You can also purchase some excellent organic Apricot Jams, Pink salt and some Leh Berry juice (Sea buckthorn juice).
They’re quite fashionable with the leather jackets and embroidered t-shirts as well since so many travelers come here on bikes!
Also famous are the multi-coloured prayer flags that you can spot all over the city and often, tourists take these back home and decorate their bikes and cars with this. The ‘Main Bazaar’ in Leh is the most popular market here, so to say the ‘Champ Elysee’ of Leh. The main market is always full of energy and activity, in stark contrast with that of the rest of Ladakh.
Leh Market is also the perfect place to buy any trekking gear that you may have missed. With various options for a whole array of trekking equipment. Coming here in this vibrant market is a must do to get a close feel of their distinct culture.
3. Try the local cuisine
No holiday or adventure is complete without trying the authentic food of a place!
Ladakh’s food predominantly comprises of Tibetan food which consists of- Momos, Noodles, Chutagi (noodle soup), Vegetable or Meat Skew, Fried Rice, Butter Tea, Tapu (of organic apricots) and not to be missed- the lip-smacking Thukpa which is a brilliant discovery to humanity and a very satisfying noodle soup 🙂
You can find restaurants and small eateries which specialize in all these dishes in the ‘Main Bazaar’ or ‘Tibetan Market’ here. In summer, most of these places are open however, in winter; you’ll spot only a handful of these eateries open. If you’re looking for something closer to home, you can easily find eateries with excellent pizza, kebabs, many German bakeries and food from all over the world.
It is important to eat well and maintain a good appetite to avoid weakness and to keep up the energy levels. High altitude often decreases appetite, so it is important to eat well and enjoy the delicious food here!
4. Visit Leh Palace
A 9 story high palace, the Leh Palace overlooks the entire city of Leh. It was once a residence for the royal family of Ladakh and was constructed by a 17th century King of Ladakh, Sengge Namgayal. Midway in the 19th century, the Dogra Empire attacked the palace and the royal family was made to leave. It is a museum with an elaborate display of a variety of precious jewellery, crowns, ornaments and royal clothing.
The palace is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. so make sure you go here in the day. Restored by the Archaeological Survey of India, it has been maintained over the years. There are also some colorful gompas and beautiful stupas around the palace, which are a must see.
Set in the old part of Leh, close to the main city, a 20-minute hike up from the main market;
this is a must visit, is good for an acclimatization practice as well.
5. Visit Patthar Saheb Gurdwara
Another great spot to visit is the Patthar Saheb Gurdwara in Ladakh. It is a beautiful Gurdwara in the laps of the mountains, located at a height of 12,000 ft, 40 kms from Leh. Located on the road to Kargil, Patthar Saheb is an important Gurdwara for the Sikhs.
It is believed that Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikhism, visited the area to get rid of a demon. During the confrontation, a rock was thrown at the Guru, which melted and formed an imprint of the Guru. A rock with His imprint is placed in the Gurdwara. This gurdwara was later constructed in his remembrance and to pay respect to him. It is a popular tourist spot because of its sheer beauty and divine significance. You are sure to feel a sense of undisturbed peace and gratitude as you step in here.
Don’t miss the delicious langar provided by the Indian Army who maintain the Gurdwara and enjoy it with a view of the mesmerizing mountains!
I hope these tips & suggestions will be super useful to consider for your future trekking expedition to the fairyland of a place, Ladakh. Please feel free to put down your suggestions in the comments section and we will be happy to incorporate them into our list of recommendations
Author: Kriti Jain