Recently, I completed my third solo trip to Ladakh and came back refuelled with good energy. Here are some trip rules that I have gathered from my solo trip to the ‘Land of the Lamas’ that could help you out, my fellow solo women travellers:
We, women, are high on life but when in Ladakh, respect the prowess of nature because high-altitude issues are a reality. Getting on to a basic level of fitness with one-hour brisk walks a day for at least a month prior to the travel date is smart. No, we don’t expect you to scale Khardungla Pass at 18,380 feet on day one, but at an average altitude of 12,000 feet, walking short distances for the uninitiated can be challenging.
Sailing the clouds
A window seat is the place to park yourself as you fly over the magnificent Himalayas. The floating clouds and ever-changing magical hues call for them to be canned. Even the not-so-enthusiastic shutterbugs would reach out for their phones for those aerial shots. It’s irresistible. So, keep your phone and camera ready for action.
Off the wheels
As you drive from Leh Airport to your lodge, a brief drive through bazaars dotted with innumerable vendors and shops with fluttering prayer flags catch attention. You can spot apricots as your car meanders through Leh’s main market. Make sure to savour them once settled for the most healthy vegan breakfast that you can ever imagine!
I choose homestays as they give me a more authentic and comfortable option as a solo woman traveller. You may prebook homestays or hotels of your choice. If you choose a homestay, make sure to mingle with the women of the house. My love for cooking and good food follows me everywhere. So, I did learn to rustle up some lip-smacking thukpa (a noodle dish) and the classic, salted Ladakhi butter tea.
Not the famous television series, but a practical advice. Take it easy for the first 24 hours. You need to allow your body to acclimatise with the change in the altitude. Easy does not mean plonking yourself in the bed; actually, sleeping is a bad idea. Stay active for brief sessions, stroll in the garden of the hotel/homestay, gradually taking a slow walk to the local bazaar.
Wardrobe on the go
A woolen and a hoodie is an all-season must. Cap it up, or get yourself a floppy hat when out in the sun. Pull out those vivacious scarves using them as your style statement. A relaxed footwear is apt while travelling long distances in your car, while your fluorescent sports shoes and sturdier trek boots would work well while walking over rough terrain. Shorts, sleeveless tops are good for the outdoors, jeans and t-shirt are good for the monasteries.
In your knapsack
A mini-med kit and a good supply of UV protective creams go in first. Carry your shades. Sipping on water must be on top of your list. Nourish your skin with dollops of moisturisers that have sunscreen as high as 50 SPF or more. A good fruity or a cocoa butter lip balm is your best friend in Ladakh.
Soul food gathering
Aficionados of heritage, history, architecture, culture, Ladakh is just your kind of destination. Thiksey, Hemis, Alchi, Chemrey monasteries, to name a few, are a must-visit. Get thrilled with the gorgeous thangka and mandalas that adorn their walls and floors. I love sketching so if you love it too, spend an afternoon at Alchi or Hemis sketching some of the mandalas. They are great energisers.
Fill your soul tanks
Clock your visit with the daily prayers in the monasteries. Most of them have sessions twice a day. Soak in the chants and hymns with the monks, watch the boy monks play in the courtyards of the monasteries, and get mesmerised at the sight of an elderly monk with the most evocative zen face.
Reveal your adventurous self
Ladakh means outdoor adventures. Pangong Tso Lake is a must on your itinerary. Also check out Tso Moriri Lake and Nubra Valley. Public transport is scanty and unreliable, arrange for a cab through your accommodation facility; SUVs are a safer and durable bet for long distances, and one can also opt to hop into shared cabs. Inner Line Permits are required for trips to Pangong and Nubra.
Can it all
Photography is allowed in all monasteries except for a few ‘no photography areas’. Respect the rules written down, including the ones asking you to be dressed in proper attire while in a place of worship. For your daily dose of social media, remember to keep a spare battery and few extra memory cards for your camera. If you are a mobile phone photographer, keep charging cables even on your brief trips. Best time to shoot? Early morning till 10 am, and after 3 pm. The light dims instantly in this region. After 6 pm, it can get dark within minutes.
Happy solo travelling!