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Leh

The pride of the Himalayan region

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. - Neale Donald Walsch

Few places in India have the tendency to both intimidate and awe travellers, both at the same time as mountain framed Leh. And it goes without saying that you will be overwhelmed by not just the snow capped peaks that almost seem to pierce the heavens but also the plunging valleys. Dotted with stupas and monasteries, Leh is not for people who travel to a place to do something, it’s for those who pine for the complete opposite. It marks your soul, makes time stand still and leaves you feeling insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

That being said, Leh is a place that is very easy to fall in love with, but we recommend you take things slow as your body requires some time to get used to the high altitude. Once that is done, you can safely start unwinding and focus on the things that matter: starry skies, crisp air scented with pine, the warmth of the sun in the day, and a campfire and loved ones close by at night.

How to get there:

Located in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir, Leh is best reached by road as rail and airways are currently not present. There are two roads that lead to Leh, one from Manali in Himachal Pradesh in the south, and one from Srinagar in the west. Equally spectacular in different ways, both these routes are time consuming with winding, narrow roads, and numerous military checkpoints.

The main advantage of taking the road from Srinagar to Leh (434 kms) is that it runs at a lower altitude and therefore reduces the risk and gravity of altitude sickness. Plus, this route is open for a longer duration (normally from June to October) and passes through many scenic villages and farmlands. However this route runs the risk of miltant attacks and takes two long days to reach Leh, with an overnight stop at Kargil. The price in buses range from between INR 370-470.

The route from Manali to Leh takes place over a distance of 473 km and is the normal preferrred route by tourists. With an overnight stop at either Keylong (or Sarchu), this route is a good way to reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Surrounded by wild rugged mountains, this route is not for faint-hearted as the road is pretty winding and narrow. This route was linked to Yarkhand, which was severed in 1962 during the India-china war and can be accessed only between June and September. The rest of the year, the road is blocked due to snow. 

If you do not want to take the bus, shared jeeps are also available. The road from Manali to Leh is often known as a Biker's Paradise and there are many bike rentals for those who wish to travel between these two places by bike.  

By Air: Nearest Airport is in Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (2.4 kms) and Srinagar Airport (806.7 km)

By Train: The closest train stations are Pathankot (738.2 kms) or Chandigarh (780.2 km), both at least three days away by bus. A new station added recently is Udhampur which is linked by rail to Jammu. 

By Road:

Manali to Leh: 473.4 km via Leh Manali Highway

Srinagar to Leh: 802.6 via Leh Manali Highway

Best time to visit:

The best time to visit Leh is between April and June. This is because crucial Srinagar-Leh highway opens up and all the major tourist attractions, including restuarants open up their business. Plus, many of these places have heavy discounts during this time so this is a good time to plan your trip. However keep in mind, that even though temperatures are warm, make sure you carry enough woolens and sunscreen. 

If you want to do some trekking in Leh, September to October is the best time to visit.Once it starts snowing heavily, generally by Novemeber, most of the roads to Leh close and it is best to wait for summers, before heading out here again. However, the Chadar trek is best conducted between January and mid-March, so there is one exception to the rule. 

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