Snowed in roads, high passes, magnetic hills, freezing cold, picturesque views, “insanely cool” Facebook profile photos – These are the things that come to our mind every time we hear the word “Ladakh”. But, do you really think these are the only things which make Ladakh such an awesome holiday destination? Well, there is no wrong answer, but you will only discover the secret of the insanely cool pictures when you actually go to Ladakh. Your photos are all going to look like they were taken at the same location even if they weren’t. Wait, you don’t want that to happen? Well, then here are the things you need to know before you leave for that long awaited Ladakh trip:

1) There is not one but 2 road routes by which you can reach Ladakh

Unless you are too boring a person to take the road and prefer a flight; then you should stop reading this article right now, it’s not for you!

So the first route, as you all must be familiar with, is the Leh-Manali highway. No, it’s not called the Rohtang Pass. The Rohtang pass is just one of the 5 passes on this highway. The other is from Srinagar-via-Kargil. Not only is it better in terms of road conditions, it’s unmatched view-wise, as well. So, if you don’t want your photos to look repetitive and boring, you must try both these routes.

2) Motorbikes and Scorpios are not the only cool ways to get to Ladakh.

Try local buses for a change! Not kidding, seriously. Not only they are super cheap; it’ll be an experience on its own! You still think I am joking, don’t you? Well, I took my one and only Ladakh trip so far on a local bus and man, do I miss that! Imagine sitting in the last seat of the bus, next to a window and you see the whole world passing by; that sense of calmness, that relief you get every time your bus DOESN’T fall off those cliffs along the world’s second & third highest passes, those experienced-looking drivers refusing to take their eyes off of the road, which actually is saying something considering how “responsible” our public transport drivers are. And then, a night stay in Keylong, which sort of is a ghost town, where no one seems to care about tourists at all! You can literally scream standing in the middle of the street and nobody will even look at you. During the whole journey you gasp at the constantly changing geography making you wonder in the most clichéd way ever – if this is India at all!? The best part of the whole journey is that you get to meet so many new people who, if you are nice and kind and friendly, might become your travel buddies for the whole trip.

3) Hitchhiking is super easy!

Since there is just one single road, you will always find trucks, tempos or even bikers who would be happy to drop you off, maybe not all the way to Ladakh, but a little further ahead on the way. You, of course, need to be careful about who you get the lift from, but usually people are friendly and helpful. That’s another adventure you can have if you decide to sacrifice a bike trip to Ladakh. So unless you’re sure of your biking skills, you can hire bikes in Ladakh itself and visit many other places nearby where there would be better views and less dangerous roads.

Photo credit: Linda Bergauer

4) Magnetic Hills are such a waste of time!

There, I said it. They are not worth visiting at all. You probably believe the experience is something “magical”, but it really was the biggest disappointment of my whole trip. Whatever you have heard about the so-called Magnetic Hills, it’s just a made-up story by those who met with the same kind of disappointment as I did. It’s nothing but a cool spot where you can park your bikes in the middle of the road and take photos “Roadies-Style”. I don’t know if that’s even a style but the photos look cool.

5) Ladakh is High and Dry

Ladakh is located at about 3500 meters above the sea level, which is kind of high and it’s not just that, there are many high passes in and around Ladakh which you have to pass through if you want to visit other areas nearby. It’s also a cold desert. That means you need to take extra care of your health. Make sure you eat regularly and drink at least 4-5 liters of water a day. You can try altitude sickness preventive pills but then, as the name suggests, they help you in prevention of altitude sickness; they don’t cure it. So you need to take them before you start your trip. And don’t forget to carry a good sunscreen lotion and lip balm. Because of the altitude and clearer sky, you are more prone to sunburn and cracked lips irrespective of your skin type. True story.

6) Don’t forget to carry a Map

Get a map of Ladakh. A good one. It will help you a lot. More than you could ever imagine. It will give you a good idea of all the places you can or want to visit. There are so many villages, lakes & monasteries to explore and there is no way you can remember all those names. That’s why you need a map. And don’t forget to encircle the places as you visit them. You will feel really good about yourself at the end of your trip, trust me.

7) Don’t miss out the camels!

You’re probably wondering what’s so special about the camels? Let me tell you, the camels in Ladakh ARE special. They are actually the remnants of the famous silk route. They are shorter than the normal hot desert camels but the unique thing about them is the double hump. Double humped camels walking through the sand dunes (yes, there are sand dunes too), surrounded by snow covered mountains at an altitude of 4000 m! Tell me if that’s not special. The best place to enjoy a camel ride is Hundur in Nubra Valley.

8) The Lakes – Pangong & them some more…

Everyone has heard about Pangong lake, all thanks to the famous bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. It is indeed spectacular, there is absolutely no doubt about that. You see all shades of blue and the lake shore actually feels like a sea shore with waves, birds and a beach. For a better experince, I would recommend having a home stay in the villages of Mann and Merak which are about an hour and a half drive more from the main camps near the lake. Other than Pangong lake, there is Tso Kar and Tso Moriri Lake which are equally beautiful and even more quiet and peaceful than Pangong, since not many people visit these lakes. Location? Well, that’s when your map would come handy!

9) Mountain Biking and Zanskar River rafting:

These are two adventure sports which everyone will be talking about when you reach Ladakh. But since, the writer of this blog is not a travel agent and is actually concerned about the readers, you should know that the river rafting is kind of extreme. There had been some mishaps while I was there. So you are advised to follow the full safety instructions given by your rafting instructor and not do anything stupid like let go off the ropes while you’re in the river. The downhill mountain biking, on the other hand, is highly recommended. It undoubtedly is one of the most memorable experiences of my whole trip. You are dropped off at the highest pass, the Khardung La, in a motor vehicle and from there you ride a bicycle back to the city which takes about 5 hours. During that time, you pass through all sorts of road-types, from super bumpy to extra smooth while riding through the beautiful and spectacular mountain ranges. You will want to stop at every turn, every corner not just take photos, but also to close your eyes and feel the sense of freedom and serenity.

10) Julley or D’juleh!

Remeber this word. You will see it everywhere, you will hear it from almost everyone. It is a Ladakhi word for not just Hello but also for Thank You, Good Morning, Good Bye, etc. It’s basically how they greet each other. And there isn’t one but many ways you spell “Juley”. When I was there, I saw 5 different spellings but they all sounds the same. So, yeah, don’t forget to smile and say “Juley” whenever you go to any restaurant or guest house or wherever you see a local. You probably won’t get a discount but you would get to witness one the best smiling faces in the world.

Photo credit: Linda Bergauer


He is a filmmaker, daydreamer and apparently, a blogger too. Enjoys traveling, watching movies, complaining, meeting new people, doing accents and laughing at his own jokes. Hates human contact, people who talk during the movies, too much food on his plate and talking about himself in the third person. Follow him on twitter and facebook to find out what all is he bitching about currently.

therookie traveller – who has written posts on WAH Blog.