Introducing Leh

Few places in India are at once so traveller-friendly and yet so enchanting and hassle-free as mountain-framed Leh. Dotted with stupas and crumbling mud-brick houses, the Old Town is dominated by a dagger of steep rocky ridge topped by an imposing Tibetan-style palace and fort. Beneath, the bustling bazaar area is draped in a thick veneer of tour agencies, souvenir shops and pizza restaurants, but a web of lanes quickly fans out into a green suburban patchwork of irrigated barley fields. Here, gushing streams and narrow footpaths link traditionally styled Ladakhi buildings with flat roofs, sturdy walls and ornate wooden window frames. Leh’s a place that’s all too easy to fall in love with, but take things easy on arrival. The altitude means that most visitors initially suffer mild headaches and breathlessness. To prevent this becoming full-blown Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), drink plenty of ginger tea and avoid strenuous exertion at first. Climbing Palace Ridge or Shanti Stupa on your first two days in Leh is unwise unless you’re already altitude-acclimatised. Similarly it’s wise to wait before trekking or taking jeep excursions over high passes (to Nubra or Pangong).

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