Much beloved by India travellers, predominantly Tibetan-Buddhist Ladakh is a beautiful, high altitude area of mountain deserts that was seriously affected by landslides and mudslides on August 6, with a death toll to date of 185.
Roads, TV and phone links were cut across much of the area adding a sense of doubt and panic amongst those unable to contact relatives and friends. A week later, communication to some mobile phones has now been restored and fortunately it seems that the damage, while very significant, has been more localised than previously thought. So what should you do if you were planning to visit?
Here's a quick rundown on the situation. Though, as always, consult up-to-date information whenever planning your next step.
If you were planning to go overland, don't attempt the trip yet. For now Leh remains totally cut off by land and even if the roads are restored, the repairs are liable to be somewhat temporary fixes at least in the next week or two.
If you already have a return air ticket to Leh and you are prepared for plenty of unpredictability, it doesn't seem entirely necessary to cancel. From (admittedly sketchy) reports that we are receiving, it appears that food and water resources aren't unduly stretched in the traveller areas of Leh. And apparently guesthouses are operating relatively normally.
Once you are in Leh it is currently unclear as to how much you'll be able to see of the rest of Ladakh from there but reportedly the popular Nubra Valley and the Pangong Lake excursions are likely to be operational again once permits issuing resumes. Your financial contribution is likely to be helpful to the community.
If you were planning to go in September, wait and see. Presumably if you were planning to go so late in the season you were already building in plenty of contingency times for early snow falls (severe snow disruptions are occasionally possible in later September) so you are likely to be less concerned than those on tight schedules.
If you planned to go trekking, be prepared to alter your plans. Case by case things will vary but probably you won't be able to reach the trekking points by road and the trails themselves might have become unstable or dangerous. Take local advice once you arrive and consider having a more sedentary holiday if things don't work out as planned.
If you have an air ticket to Srinagar and planned to continue to Ladakh you can still get fly in but the road to Ladakh from Srinagar is still closed beyond Kargil. The road to Zanskar - while reportedly reopened - remains somewhat precarious and is not recommended without first-hand advice. Srinagar itself is in the midst of an unrelated series of politically based strikes and curfews. These don't usually result in actual danger for most foreign visitors but can cause annoyance and inconvenience (shops, banks and restaurants closed, army presence significant, ATMs empty or with long queues). Click here for details on reaching Srinagar airport.
Seeking out alternatives. For those whose treks have been cancelled in Ladakh or Zanskar, there are plenty of fabulous Alpine alternatives in Kashmir (notably out of Aru/Pahalgam) but these tend to cost significantly more money than equivalent treks in Ladakh - and reaching Pahalgam requires a certain degree of sensitivity as the road there from Srinagar passes through Anantnag, one of the worst hotspots in the Kashmir protests. We had no problem going through Anantnag at dawn yesterday (travel early for safety) but many windows in Anantnag are broken from 'stone-pelters' and while Pahalgam itself is calm, the army presence on otherwise idyllic mountain trails can be disconcerting.
Today (August 13) Srinagar is again 'shut' with strikes and reportedly a curfew in the city centre.
For more detailed on-the-ground information in Ladakh and Srinagar, read this article.