Ladakh, a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in north India, is a high altitude desert that is made up of two districts, Leh and Kargil. Leh covers an area of 45110 sq km, making it the largest district of India in terms of area. With an altitude of 3524 meters, the town of Leh is dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, built in the same style and around the same time as the Potala Palace in Tibet. As the capital of Ladakh, it is the most popular tourist destination and offers decent accommodation. Actually, the hotels in Leh and Ladakh do not vary too much in terms of class, though luxury hotels are slowly coming up. Home-stays are extremely popular among tourists since they get a true flavor of the region by staying with a local family.
Ladakh is known for its remote mountain beauty and rich culture; a culture that is strongly influenced by Tibet. No wonder it is popularly called ‘Little Tibet’! The landscape is dotted with monasteries, pristine lakes, snow capped peaks and remote valleys, topped by a crystal blue sky. Leh offers one of the most exciting hiking trails in India. Due to its high altitude, getting to Leh can test one’s endurance!
Leh became the regional capital in the 17th century when King Sengge Namgyal shifting his court from Shey (15 km southeast) to be closer to the head of the Khardung La-Karakoram corridor that leads to China. Soon, the town blossomed into one of the busiest markets on the Silk Route. It was only in 1974 that Leh was opened for foreign tourists. Hotels in Leh are quite reasonable since they fall in the medium and budget class. Tariffs vary from Rs.1500 to Rs.3000, usually with meals included. Guesthouses are quite economical and can be rented for just Rs. 100 to Rs. 1000 per night.
Since this area combines both arctic and desert climate, Ladakh is often referred to as a ‘Cold Desert’. It gets relatively hot during summers and rather cold in winters. During summer, the temperature soars to around 33 degrees centigrade, while in winter the temperature falls to -20 degrees centigrade. Though Ladakh remains open for tourists throughout the year, the best period for trekking is between June to October. Most of the trekking routes are closed after November due to heavy snowfall in the high passes. If you are planning a trip to Ladakh during winter, it is better to make an advance booking at one of the hotels in Leh and Ladakh. And do ensure that they have adequate provision for heating! Enjoy your trip!