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Northern India’s Ladakh, a region of Kashmir and Jammu, is a paradise for mountain lovers and nature enthusiasts. What Ladakh lacks in people it makes up for in jaw-dropping Himalayan peaks, jewel-colored lakes and miles and miles of trails on which to explore it all.
“Ladakh has a rugged and stark beauty, and visiting its many monasteries is the thing to do,” said Carole Cambata, president of Greaves Tours, a Travel Leaders location in Highland Park, Ill. “All are living, breathing and working places of worship, and seeing how the monks live together is incredible. If you get up early enough, you’ll be able to see them at prayer.”
Another highlight of Ladakh is a ride on the world’s highest drivable mountain pass, Khardung La, which towers nearly 18,500 feet high and leads to the Nubra Valley.
Though located in one of the most mountainous regions in the world, Ladakh is a suitable destination for all types of hikers and trekkers, whether they are looking for a bare-bones, back-to-nature adventure or something that swings more toward marble bathrooms and high thread counts.
“It is all dependent on what the client is looking for,” Cambata said. “Trekking and then sleeping under canvas is a great experience. There is usually a weight restriction, especially if you use mules during part or all of a trek, so being able to pack light is essential. You also get to feel as if you are part of the country and its environment when you carry your home on your back.”
For a more high-end option, Cambata’s company, a destination management company for the Indian subcontinent, works with Sherpas, or porters who carry clients’ duffle bags. By the time guests arrive at their campsite, tents are set up, the dining room is ready, food is being cooked and, in some cases, a shower awaits.
And for over-the-top luxury, consider companies such as The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC). This is glamping at the highest level, with beds, heating or air-conditioning and a working bathroom. Cox & Kings is one tour operator that works with TUTC to put together five-star itineraries for travelers to the region.
“To prepare for a trip in Ladakh, it is always easier if the client is somewhat fit and healthy,” Cambata said. “A couple of weeks before going, I suggest some kind of training, even if it is only going for long, brisk walks. There will also be jet lag, so allow some extra time at the beginning of the trek to acclimatize. Having a great pair of broken-in walking boots is also a must.”
In addition to hiking, Ladakh is a great destination for horseback riding, cycling, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. Clients can also go on jeep and motorbike safaris. The region’s temperatures are cool and sometimes chilly in the morning, so packing light layers is essential. Cambata also recommends a comfortable backpack and headgear for sun protection.
Cox & Kingswww.coxandkingsusa.com
The Ultimate Travelling Campwww.theultimatetravellingcamp.com