Getting there and away
Most visitors to Ladakh will be travelling via Delhi, the capital of India. International flights will land at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The best means of travel to Ladakh is to take an internal flight from Delhi to Leh. As Leh is at 3500m, acclimatisation to the altitude is something to consider seriously. Getting to Ladakh by land will involve travel over passes in excess of 5000m and it is therefore recommended to fly in, and acclimatise for a return trip overland whilst there to avoid altitude sickness. Indian Airlines fly from Delhi and Chandigarh to Leh most days during the tourist season (May - September). Note that Indian domestic flights use Terminal 1 of Indira Gandhi International Airport and international flights use Terminal 2. It is a bus journey of approximately 25 minutes between the terminals which is free to ticket holders.
Overland travel into and out of Ladakh may be completed by bus or jeep taxi. Buses may be booked a few days in advance although schedules may be altered to meet demand - or more likely lack of it. Jeep taxis offer the best means of travel, although they are more expensive. The Taxi Union in Leh may be contacted on +91 1982 52723/53039. It is generally recommended to travel via Manali unless relations with Pakistan improve making the journey to Srinagar via Kargil safe.
The journey from Leh to Manali is 473km and wil typically take 2 days to complete by either mode of transport, usually stopping overnight at a tented village such as Sarchu. Once in Manali, there are a number of options and it is best to look around an book these once there. The options for return to Delhi involve a direct bus service (often overnight) taking 16 around hours, train travel via Chandigarh (this will involve catching a bus to Shimla or Chandigarh first), or flights from Kullu Airport (about 45 minutes bus ride from Manali).
The options are the same as those available for overland travel (above). A frequent bus service connects most of the towns and villages and jeep taxis are readily available. There are no rickshaws in Ladakh. Note that standard taxi prices are set by the Taxi Union in Leh. Contact them for the latest prices to check you are not being overcharged. Discounts on these prices may be available through trekking and travel agencies in Leh.
Although Ladakh caters well for trekkers, there are generally no more facilities on treks than tea tents and designated campsites. It is therefore essential that you are able to take tents, cooking equipment and food with you. Most visitors will use the services of local guides, cooks and horsemen. It is certainly possible to complete a trek without such assistance however although this would be much harder work. If doing this, you will need to carry all your kit and food, and will therefore be unable to move as fast as portered groups. My one word of warning would be that the altitude of the region will affect your performance significantly when carrying a large rucksack. You would therefore need to acclimatise properly before starting (three or more easy days in Leh for example). The days can also be incredibly hot which can make carrying a large bag quite hard. Some days you may be constantly going uphill for the whole day! Most parties will start walking early in the day and reach their next camp soon after midday allowing plenty of time for relaxation.
I would personally recommend that you do use the services of a trekking company in Ladakh. The local knowledge and English of the guides and cooks is generally very good and interesting. Many of the locals on the treks speak no English or other western language and the local guides/cooks are therefore useful in translating. We certainly found it interesting to explore the culture and find out about the locals rather than just walking through which you would invariably be doing if trekking independently. The Ladakhi cooking is excellent too - especially if you are buying food out there as it is more than likely Westerners would find it quite hard to cook a good variety of meals with the local ingredients. The locals are able to cook expectioanlly good food which is generally very palatable to a Western stomach. In terms of route finding, it would be possible do this yourself although there are several sections which could be quite hazardous without local knowledge due to landslides and rockfall.
An organised trek can cost from as little as $15 per day and will often included everything - horses, horsemen, guide, cook, food and jeep travel from Leh at the beginning and back to Leh at the end making. We used Footprints India who have an office on Fort Road in Leh. They have a website at www.trekinladakh.com. Although it is possible to make bookings in advance from home, it is probably easier to make arrangments once you have arrived. Just allow the guides, cooks and horsemen a few days to prepare before you commence on your trek.
There is much information contained in the other pages on this site to give you more insight into a trip to Ladakh. You may however find the following websites of further assistance in making plans:
You may prefer to buy a publication to assist with your trip. I would recommend Trekking in Ladakh by Charlie Loram
(published by Trailblazer). This is available on Amazon and covers every aspect of a trip to Ladakh including sections on
travel to the region and Delhi.