Camping In Ladakh – Self camping & Camp sites
Camping in Ladakh, whether self or staying at a camp site, is always one of the key factors that I am sure everyone looks forward to while planning their itinerary. It doesn’t matter if it is your own tent or you are planning to stay at a camp, the experience is enough to last a lifetime. The charm of Ladakh, the feeling of being amidst mighty Himalayas, silence all around under a star lit sky, the cold weather, cool breeze, the fluttering sound of the tent; put this all together and it gives you a night to remember. If you are planning a trip to Ladakh, below is some general but useful information to ensure that your trip remains pleasurable and event-less.
Based on the emails I have received in last few years, the three most common questions I was asked were, 1. Can you camp in Ladakh? 2. Where can you camp in Ladakh? 3. Is it allowed to camp in Ladakh? The answer to the last two questions is yes and the answer to the first one depends on if you are looking for a camping site or carrying your own tent.
Self camping in Ladakh Vs Staying at a camp site
It is really hard to say which on is better because they both have pros and cons. While self camping can be more fun, it is also a tedious task of going through the entire hassle of putting the camp up. Then there are also concerns related to washroom facilities, sundries, food and carrying the entire stuff along with you. While staying at a camp site will avoid you all this hassle, you are bound to what the camp is providing and choosing a site of your own choice is no longer an option. In my opinion, if you have your own camp and do not mind carrying it along, then by all means do it but where to pitch it is a question you must pay heed to. I will try to provide details in this article that can help you decide.
If you are carrying your own camping gear, you can pretty much camp anywhere you like. Ladakh is a barren wasteland where you will not come across a living soul for miles so the ground is pretty much open to your taste. You are free to find a site that you like and camp there for as long as you want. With that being said, I would highly advise against self camping in Ladakh just anywhere or in the middle of nowhere. You should always look for a place where there is a camp site, a dhaba, a chadar tent or maybe a small village nearby. This is beneficial in several ways. Almost all the camp site owners will allow people to pitch their own tent in exchange for a small cost and in return, they will allow you to use their washrooms.
Secondly, in case you are not in a mood to cook, you can always pay the camp site and they can arrange for your dinner as well. If you are camping in fields or near a village, you will definitely need permission from villagers. It is not at all hard to give in exchange of a small tip if required.
Ladakh is a region of several beautiful lakes but please ensure that you do not camp too close to the lake. The first reason for not doing so is that some of these lakes, like Tso Moriri and Pangong are considered a wetland reserve and camping close to the banks is forbidden by the law. Second reason of course is your own safety. Fact cannot be denied that some wild animal may come to the lake at night and you may land in trouble which also adds another point here that you must clean up before calling it a night. Do not leave any eatables outside and before bidding each other good night, make sure all the food is properly cleaned and there is no scent in the air that may attract a wild animal. There were talks of an incident in 2006 or 2007 when a foreigner couple were camping somewhere in Moore Plains and were attacked by a wild animal, possibly a bear at night. Dogs too in Ladakh are quite aggressive (not the ones in Leh but in nearby villages) and you may run into a pack of aggressive too which will be extremely dangerous. These dogs are not used to seeing strangers or motorcycles so often so you got to be very careful while self camping in Ladakh. Click on the link below to read my story of an encounter with dogs in Ladakh.
Another important point to consider is to not camp at an open place at an altitude, like at a hilltop because at night, fierce winds from all around would make it unbearable cold and may even unfasten your camp in the night. Check your camp and make sure that all the hooks and the ropes are secure. In case you start a bonfire, please do not leave the fire lit outside. When you are done, put off the fire completely, may even use water to ensure it is completely extinguished.
For your camping gear, make sure that your sleeping bags are rated at least a -10 otherwise they will not remain warm enough considering that even in months of June and July, temperature can drop to freezing points at several areas in Ladakh. Please also carry plenty of drinking water, preferably bottles of mineral water as the water from the streams may not always be the best to drink for several people. There is also the fact that the water in streams is freeing cold so drinking it directly is quit tough and you may even catch cold. Keep your bottles within the camp under sheets so that the water remains moderately warm to drink.
It is more of a personal opinion but you may even consider buying a Tarpaulin sheet or in simple words, a “Tirpaal” of good thickness that you can spread on the ground where you pitch the tent. It would be very beneficial in terms of providing insulation from the cold or moisture from the ground, will also save the thin material of your tents from sharp rocks, pebbles and of course. It will also be an extra layer that will definitely prove comfortable while you are sleeping. While you are buying the tarpaulin, make sure it is at least a feet larger on all sides than the size of your tent.
Last but not the least is the condition of your own body. At a place at such high altitude, with oxygen levels low, doing a job of putting up a camp can be quite exhausting. If you are not feeling too well, if there is any sign of acute mountain sickness, please do not camp at all or at least do not camp in the middle of nowhere. Keep your smoking and booze under check and trust me, I mean it. You drink too much and if your body is not able to comprehend, you will be sick in middle of the night and will have nowhere to go to. My honest advice would be to not booze at all but if you must, then just take a little to to enjoy.
The above points would be regarding self camping in Ladakh. Now let us move on to camping sites. The first question that comes to mind is where can you find a camp site in Ladakh which I will cover towards the end of this article. Second question is how much a camp site in Ladakh costs? Well it depends really but at an average, a moderately comfortable camp site with meals included would cost you anywhere between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000 per person, depending upon your negotiation skills. Some of the sites will agree to even as less as Rs. 1000 per person and some of these may go up to as high as Rs.3500 to Rs. 4000 per person (or even higher than this).
Which site you decide to camp at will be as per your choice of location and budget but a few things to check are the condition of the tents, bedding, washrooms and hot water facility. Before you decide to check in, make sure the tent that you are being allotted is in a good condition and after you close the flap at night, there is no direct wind coming in that you will give you an uncomfortable sleepless night. Check the bedding to ensure they are clean and there is no smell. Some of the camps have attached washrooms and some have common but in both cases, take a look at the condition of the washrooms. Please also have a word with the site owner to ensure that they are providing hot water because the last thing you need in Ladakh is going to your daily routine in the morning with cold water. Food of course is not something you can check before hand because you will only know about it once its cooked and you taste it so no comments about that.
Now the question is where can you find a camp site. I have covered this information in another article at the link below with name and contact information of some of the known camp sites.
Camp sites in Ladakh with contact information
You may chose to contact them before hand and book in advance but I would advice against it. A better option would be to just walk in and strike up a deal. If you book in advance, you cannot negotiate and will end up paying a little more in form of the quoted price. Secondly, since you have already paid, you cannot stay at some other camp site that you may like while you are in Ladakh.