1Which is the best time to visit Ladakh when all roads are open?
July and August are the definite peak months to visit Ladakh when all roads and passes are open. The weather is nippy with a sunny morning and afternoon making it fit for exploration. Expect the mercury to go up to 25 degree Celsius and fall to about 10 degree Celsius post sunset. For bikers too this is the best time to visit and experience all the wonderful colours the place is splashed in. Also the time when the popular Hemis Festival takes place.
2How long do I need to spend in Leh before heading out on a trek?
Give yourself a couple of days - but at best a day, before moving out to the higher reaches. Not only does Leh have an array of monasteries, palaces and other sightseeing spots, it will also let you acclimatise better when you go further up to a Nubra Valley or Chang La.
3How good is a jeep ride from Manali to Leh?
There are several shared as well as private jeeps running the 470-odd kilometres from Manali to Leh. Though shared jeep rides come cheap, they can be tad uncomfortable given the length of the journey which is nearly 24 hours with little scope to acclimatise. While the front seat-view (beside the driver) is enviable and puts you as close to the natural surroundings as possible, those on the back seat can have a rather bumpy, uneven ride and suffer motion sickness.
4Are there direct buses from Delhi to Leh?
Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) has direct buses from Delhi to Leh, leaving New Delhi’s ISBT Kashmere Gate daily at 02:30 pm and arriving into Leh in about 35 hours. To cover the 1050 kilometre, the bus halts overnight at Keylong before moving ahead to Leh. The bus route is Delhi to Chandigarh to Kullu and via Rohtang Pass to Keylong before arriving in Leh. The bus makes several pit-stops along the way for food and drink and lets you soak up the stunning scenery.
5What is there to shop in Ladakh?
Souvenir hunters have plenty of opportunities afoot in Leh’s Main Bazaar home to an assortment of curio shops selling Tibetan antiques, trinkets among other bric-a-brac. You can head into the Tibetan market to pick up unique silver jewellery, Pashmina shawls. There are several bookstores in Leh with a superb array of novels, travel books, guide books, and books on the Himalayas and Buddhism. Just by the jeep stand is a second-hand clothing market selling warm winter clothing, in case you desperately need to get yourself one. But if you have a trek planned out, do round up the trekking food shops selling powdered milk, instant noodles, chocolate, biscuit, granola bars and some dry fruits.
6How long does it take to get to Pangong Tso from Leh?
Pangong Tso at an altitude of 14,271 foot affords a dramatic mountain scenery that is starkly beautiful. In order to get to the blue-coloured Pangong Lake from Leh, you need to begin at the break of dawn so that you get there before noon. Typically it is a five-hour journey through the picturesque Chang La Pass, but the later you start more the difficulty in reaching the lake site since the road gets blocked by water from melting snow trickling in around 01:00 pm up until 08:00 pm. However, you do not have to return on the same day from Leh; you can stay the night at a guesthouse or hotel in the Tangtse village close to Pangong.
7Do I need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to visit Nubra Valley?
Yes, you need an ILP to visit Nubra Valley because it is close to the borders of Pakistan and China. It is easy to attain an ILP permit these days as you can go to the official ILP website, enter your details, furnish your identification proof, state the purpose of your journey and you will be issued an e-ILP. You need to produce a printout of the same at the site.
8Is the Khardung La pass open through the year?
Though the Indian Army keeps the world’s highest motorable road open through the year, it may not necessarily be possible to travel all year round. The best time to enjoy the beauty of the landscape and drive through is between April and June and then from September to October. The monsoon months in between make the stretch extremely treacherous, and in the months post November it goes under a blanket of snow. The road opens at 09:00 am and shuts by 05:00 pm everyday.
9How long does a bus from Manali take to get to Leh?
The Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation (HPTDC) buses take about 2 days to get to Leh from Manali. The 473 kilometre stretch warrants a night stay in Keylong or Sarchu before progressing to Leh. The road is extremely scenic and the slow pace of the journey helps you acclimatise better.
10Do local Ladakhis follow English?
While Ladakhi is a Tibetan dialect and can be difficult for a traveller to fathom, you can get around locally by speaking in Hindi and also English, courtesy the surge of foreign tourists. Across Leh, most people speak and understand Hindi and even English, but when you travel remotely into the villages, no other language but Ladakhi is spoken and understood. Keep the word ‘julley’ - a greeting in Ladakhi - handy and you can win both favour and friends.