Ladakh offers innumberable number of trekking options and needs no elaboration.  However one subject which is very important is to be aware of AMS.  Before going on any trekking expedition just be aware of AMS.  Lets see what it is…

Altitude Sickness

When you arrive in Leh, remember that you are at an altitude of 3500m. Rest for the first 2 days – great excuse to read a book, sit around and chat, drink lots of water. If you must do something, try to wait until the second day and use taxis to get around. Explore Leh on the third day and see how you are feeling. Listen to your body! Do NOT start a trek until at least the third day, preferably the fourth day. Allow your body the time it needs to acclimatise.

Causes of Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also known as AMS (acute mountain sickness), is caused by a lack of oxygen at high altitudes (3,000m and above). It occurs as the result of our bodies’ inability to adapt to a sudden increase in altitude. If given time, our bodies will adjust and a gradual ascent will decrease the possibility of altitude sickness.

Prevention of AMS

You need to drink a lot of water, pay attention to the sensations of your body and just relax and not be in a hurry.  If symptoms occur you have climbed too far for the day. Rest at the same altitude will give you time to acclimatise and usually relieve mild symptoms. Mild symptoms include: headache, nausea, loss of appetite, mild shortness of breath with minimal exertion, difficulty sleeping, dizziness or light-headedness, mild weakness, fatigue, a general unwell feeling. More serious symptoms include: inability to recover from shortness of breath with rest, severe persistent headache, low urine output, vomiting, confusion, delirium, loss of coordination. These require immediate descent as acclimatisation will not take place at the same altitude. The best way to avoid AMS is to walk slowly, carry a light pack and just take it easy.



Forts and Palaces in Ladakh, India

Ladakh is known as the land of  gompas and is known for its monasteries.  However, Ladakh was a kingdom for many centuries and the kings over the centuries have built forts and palaces, some of them are in ruins but few are in good condition.  Here are listed some of them.

Leh Palace, Ladakh.

Leh Palace is a former royal palace overlooking the town of Leh. It was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, modelled on the Potala Palace of Lhasa in Tibet. It is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and storerooms.

The palace was abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid 19th century, and the royal family moved to Stok Palace. The ruined palace is being restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. The palace is open to the public and from the palace, one can get a panoramic view of the entire town and surrounding areas.

The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns. Tibetan thangka or sooth paintings which are more than 450 years old, with intricate designs, retain bright and pleasing colours derived from crushed and powdered gems and stones.

Stok Palace, Leh.

The four-storey structure of the Stok Palace demonstrates both modern and ancient architectural styles. The lower floors are now converted into a museum, where royal ornaments, ceremonial dresses, crown and ancient jewellery and other royal antiques. The most popular are the knotted swords on display here.

Tsemo Fort, Leh.

Tsemo Fort is visible from anywhere in Leh. Situated at top of Palace ridge, it’s a small omnipresent fort with flapping prayer flags all about.

Zorawar Fort.

Named after Zorawar Singh Kahluria, a royal of Dogra Rajput family, this fort was built to admire his legacy. Indian historians consider him as the ‘Napolean of India’ for he conquered the highest land of Ladakh as well as West of Tibet upto Lake Mansarovar. He died in Tibet, defeated by “general winter”.

Old Leh Town.

The old town of Leh is characteristic of the old world charm. Stairs, small alley-ways, mud-brick houses, and ruined gompas, make it a perfect place to re-live the history of the world’s coldest desert. A peculiar feature of the houses here is that they do not have windows. The old town of Leh was added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 most endangered sites due to increased rainfall from climate change and other reasons. Neglect and changing settlement patterns within the old town have threatened the long-term preservation of this unique site.


Famous Monasteries in Ladakh

Buddhism in Ladakh is ancient and widespread and a popular theme for cultural tours in Ladakh. The population of Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist and Ladakh has been deeply influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, which follows the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. There are about 35 Buddhist monasteries spread across the region which thrives on donations made by tourists and the local people of the region but now the government plans to develop these monasteries. Some of the popular Monasteries are mentined here.

Chamba Temple

Chamba Temple. Dedicated to ‘future Buddha or Maitreya’, a reincarnation of Buddha, this temple is located on the road up to Leh Palace. It was built by King Tragspa Bumde in 15th Century.

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa. This majestic monastery was founded by King Tashi Namgyal in 1430 AD. Located behind the Leh Palace, this monastery offers the view of the whole countryside. It is renowned for its three-storey high solid gold idol of Maitreya Buddha. The monastery boasts of a rich collection of ancient manuscripts and wall paintings. There are a number of other small temples within the complex.

Soma Gompa

Soma Gompa. It is a small gompa built in the main bazaar. It’s open throughout the day for visitors and houses a statue of the crowned Buddha.

Spituk Gompa

Spituk Gompa. This monastery is located in village spituk, at a distance of appx 8 kms from Leh. The monastery dates back to 11th century coming in by air.

Thiksey Monastery.

Thiksey Monastery is located at a distance of 18 kms from Leh. The monastery founded in 1430 AD, has 80 monks residing here. The complex houses various important Buddhist artifacts such as swords, tapestries, thangkas and statues.

Phyang Monastery.

Phyang monastery is located 40 kms to the west of Leh. It was established in 1515 and houses ancient thangkas, wall-paintings and murals of Mahakala. There is also a museum inside the monastery, which has 900 year old collections of idols, thankas, Chinese/Mongolian and Tibetan firearms and weapons. The festival of Gang-Sngon Tsedup is held every year where monks dance to the beats of sacred drums.

Karma Dupgyud Choeling.

Karma Dupgyud Choeling monastery is run by Karmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhdhism; the monastery works to propagate Buddhist culture and takes in many followers who wish to study Buddhism or learn about it.

Sankar Gompa.

Sankar Gompa is located at a walking distance of only 3 kms from Leh. This is the official residence of the Ladakhi Head Lama Kushok Bakula of the Gelukpa Sect. The complex some 20 buildings, beautifully painted with wood-works and rich engravings.

Hemis Monastery.

Hemis monastery is located 47 kms from Leh town. Famous for its Hemis festival, this monastery is considered the biggest and the wealthiest of monasteries in all of Ladakh. You can see the colours of Buddhism in full splendor here. The monastery has rich collection of ancient relics. Hemis is also famous for the scroll “Life of Isa” made famous by Nicholas Notovitch in 1887 when he came across it during his visit to Leh.

Shanti Stupa.

This magnificent shanti stupa was built by a Japanese Buddhist Organisation named “Japanese for World Peace” to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and world peace. It is the biggest stupa in Ladakh. It is the best stop to witness sunrise and sunset in Leh. It is even more beautiful when illuminated with lights during the night.

Jama Masjid.

A small mosque built near Main square of the city, it is frequented by Sunni Muslim population of Leh. It certainly provides a change in view from Buddhist monasteries.

Gurudwara Patthar Sahib .

The Gurudwara Patthar Sahib was built in the memory of Guru Nanak Dev. It lies on the outskirts of City of Leh on Kargil road. This place is revered both by Buddhists and Hindus alike. It gets its name from age-old legends of stone boulders found here with footprints and silhouette of a guru meditating, engraved in it.