Ladakh In Winter : Necessary Preparations
With 3 quarters of the year gone, one would say that the tourist season to Ladakh will be soon approaching its end. While this remains to be true if you literally use the word “tourist season”, the fact however is that there will still be tourists in Ladakh even after November. About a decade ago, Ladakh was a place that people would go to only in Summer and going to Ladakh in winter was not something to be considered. But off-late, the region has started to see tourists in Winter season as well, mostly the adventurous type or people who want to experience temperatures that aren’t available elsewhere in India. I have already started receiving queries from people who already have their flights booked to be in Ladakh in winter, in the months January and February. If you are also among such people, here is a little information that will help you plan your trip better.
Traveling to Ladakh presents its own set of challenges and if you are travelling to Ladakh in winter, these challenges multiply ten times. Practically everything needs careful planning and you will have to get yourself ready both mentally and physically. At the peak of Winter, the temperature in Ladakh can drop down to subzero at night, as low as -25 degrees Celsius. This is the time when even locals leave the area, moving to a warmer climate, and the number of tourists is just negligible. With that being said, let me caution you first. If you are someone who doesn’t work well with cold or have any kind of medical condition, please give up the idea of visiting Ladakh in winter and plan your trip next year in summer. The information you are going to read below is based on my own personal experience, knowledge of the region and also what I gathered over the net while I was planning my own trip to Ladakh in winter.
Precautions and planning is the most crucial part of this journey. Traveling to Ladakh in winter means you are going to a place where the weather will be unpredictable, basic amenities will be bare minimum, chances of getting stranded will be high and if you fall sick, you will be in serious trouble. Your planning should be in terms of preparing yourself physically and mentally and carry some of the basic but crucial items that I will list down further in this article.
Your second most important concern would be high altitude acclimatization. Several major airlines operate regular flights to Ladakh, all of which land in Leh in early morning hours. This would give you an entire day which I recommend you spend doing nothing but resting at the hotel. You also need to prepare yourself for the fact that when you get into that flight, it will be cold (moderately or maybe very) depending on where you are travelling from but the moment you get out of that flight, it will be extremely cold. Be prepared for a gust of cold wind to hit your face after poke your head of the plane when it lands. These two factors will greatly determine how your trip ahead is going to be so spend at least a day or maybe two at your hotel in Leh while your body and mind adjust to the high altitude and cold weather.
Best months to plan a winter trip to Ladakh would be January or February as I am sure anyone visiting there in winter is after snow, frozen lakes and live snowfall and chances of catching that are highest in these two months. December is when there will be snow but not that much. Same is the case with the months of March and after.
The next big question would be of where to stay. Majority of the hotels in winter would have closed down but a few remain open. I would advice that for a winter trip, make sure you book your stay in advance in a hotel that provides central heating. Please also be advised that the tariff you would pay for a winter stay would be higher than the normal hotel tariff so be ready to shed a little extra money.
After you have reached Ladakh and checked into your hotel, the next thing would be how you are going to travel. Do not even imagine of a motorcycle in that weather. You would not be able to rent a motorcycle there in the months of Jan and Feb but I still thought to mention it here if by any miracle you are able to manage one. You will freeze to death if you start riding around a motorcycle in Ladakh in winter season. Since you have reached there by air, the only option remaining would be to rent a taxi along with the driver. Yes I said driver because just for the sake of putting it here, I would advise against driving around on your own. Once again, chances of you finding a self-drive taxi in Ladakh in winter are negligible. But if by some miracle you are able to get your hands on the wheels of a taxi, please do not consider driving it on your own. No other part of India experiences so much snow, has such harsh weather conditions so we as Indians are not used to driving around at such a place or in such weather. Stay safe and let a local driver take care of the driving part. Taxi fares are anyways a bit high in Ladakh but in winter, expect these prices to be even higher. You will have to book your taxi in advance and have the driver pick you from the airport.
Please CLICK HERE to take you to the next part of this article to review a list of necessary items that you must carry for this trip. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and ask and I would be glad to answer.