Nestling in a side valley of the Indus, about 10 kms from the main course of the river, is the hill station of Leh, the most important town in Ladakh. Spread over dusty mountainsides with a main street and narrow winding by-lanes, Leh has a distinct character that transports you back in time.
The old palace perched on a hilltop guards flat roof houses and the main bazaar. A major trading point where caravans came in from distant lands of Yarkand, Kashgar, Tibet, Kashmir, and northern India, the market once bustled with activity. Locals sold tea, salt, wool and semi-precious stones.
Now, the town is crowded with tourists, jostling their way along the main street during the peak summer season. Due to its strategic importance for India, Leh also has a large military presence, and a major part of the town’s income comes from spending by the armed forces. Since Ladakh was opened up to foreign tourists in 1974, tourism has also become one of the major sources of income generation.
Sitting at 3,500 metres above sea level, the air is rarefied and outsiders need time to get acclimatised. After arriving, give at least 48 hours before undertaking any vigorous climbing or treks. The most common symptom of high altitude sickness is headache and nausea, which usually goes within a day or two.