At a staggering 3,500m, the ‘Land of High Passes’ literally takes your breath away. After an unquestionably stunning flight from Delhi to Leh, located in India’s north west, nestled in Jammu & Kashmir, the first thing you’ll notice is how thin the air is. It certainly takes some acclimatisation. Its high season is July and August, as snow covers the roads in and out of the region at all other times, making them impassable. Depending on accessibility, and your capacity to withstand cold weather, you could brave a trip in February, when it is known best as the place to spot endangered snow leopards who favour the high hills.
The town itself is adorned with prayer flags. The impressive Leh Palace dominates the ridge overlooking the town, with the white fort at its crown. While there, I attended a vipassana meditation course, as well as regular yoga classes. Leh is an excellent place to explore your own peace, with cafes sporting amazing views around every corner and on every strip.
But it’s also a wonderful place for adventure. From jeep safaris to trekking, Leh boasts an impressive powerhouse of adventure activities. My first activity was white water rafting, which you’d think wouldn’t be possible in a Himalayan desert, but Ladakh is full of surprises. After a white knuckled trip in the car to the starting point in Chilling, 26km of snow melt in a yellow raft to Nimu was a riot. It’s also at a similar altitude so a good choice if you’re feeling a little puffed.
The highlight for me, however, was the cycling. Dropped to the top of mountain K-Top (5,602m) in a jeep – there were some very brave souls ascending on bikes if you’re that way inclined – we had the day of a lifetime cycling down through the valley along the highest motorable road in the world.
We didn’t have enough time there to be able to do a trek, but once you’ve settled into the air – which broadly translates to intaking half the amount of oxygen as you would at sea level – there are a number of gratifying moderate to serious treks in the Himalayas around.
No matter what your skill level, laziness factor, or penchant for risk, Leh will have something exceptionally fun for you to do. I’ll be back for those snow leopards.