Some people asked me if it would be worthwhile travelling to Ladakh after the terrible cloudburst at Leh and deluge in rest of Ladakh that killed more than a hundred people. Until recently, I wasn’t very sure about the right answer to the question. While I knew that weather had improved and would not be a threat to travellers, I was trying to find answers to a few other questions that bothered me. Was Leh resourceful enough to handle tourists? Would tourists be benefiting the local economy that has now suffered a sudden loss of business or would they become a burden to a recovering Leh? Are there sufficient resource available for locals (food, water, transport, etc,..) so that tourists will not become a burden to the local population with more mouths to feed?
I spoke someone I know in Leh who responded positively to my doubts. He was a travel agent whose house was located in Choglamsar – the place that suffered maximum damages from the cloudburst. Half of his house, his garden and surroundings were washed away in the mudslide, but thankfully his family survived. Though he welcomed tourists and said that it will be good to have visitors, I still wanted to hear from someone outside the travel industry, just to be sure. A few recent threads on indiamike have finally provided an answer. With that, here is some useful information to anyone who wants to visit Ladakh now.
How is the weather in Ladakh now? Is it safe after the cloudburst?
The weather in Leh and most of Ladakh has stabilized. It is no longer raining like the day of the disaster and it should be reasonably safe to travel in Ladakh. My agent in Leh says some peaks are seeing occasional deposits of snow in the last two weeks, which means that chances of rain have reduced and precipitation, if at all, could be in the form of snow and will not be dangerous.
But on any given day in Ladakh, you can always run into a weather that blocks the high passes and gets you stranded for some time. This doesn’t relate to cloudburst or the excess rain that Ladakh saw this year; this could happen to anyone travelling to Ladakh any time and people have gone through some difficulties even in the earlier years, even during summers. Overall, it is safe to travel.
Are all the important places to visit accessible now? Are the roads and the passes in Ladakh open?
My travel agent in Leh says most of the well known places are now accessible. You can visit Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar Lakes, Lamayuru and the monasteries of Indus Valley (Hemis, Thiksey, Spithuk, Alchi, Likir, etc). Buses are plying between Srinagar and Leh, but not everyday as it depends on occupancy. Flying to Leh should not be a problem. Manali-Leh road has remained closed, since the stretch from Tanglang la to Upshi is damaged very badly and may take a long time to repair. According to an indiamike thread (see below), jeeps (not buses) are plying on the longer route via Tso Kar and Mahe Bridge.
According to this information, not every trek route is open as some bridges have washed away in places that are yet to be restored. If you are planning a trek, ask you agent very clearly if the entire route is open and safe.
Are tourist facilities in Leh open? What about basic amenities like power supply, water, etc?
As mentioned in discussion threads on indiamike, while some hotels and restaurants have shut for the season due to poor business, there are hotels and restaurants in Leh that are open to cater to you. Power supply is limited and is restricted to a few hours in the evening, since Leh is now running only on diesel generators and hydroelectric power generation has not yet resumed. Water supply too is intermittent but there seems to be no major crisis of water. Some excerpts by on recent threads on indiamike.
Indiamike user sbballer33 says on this thread
Buses are running to Srinagar (800 INR) though not every day and it depends on demand. Manali only jeeps and private minibusses are going via Tso Kar charging between 2000 and 3000 per person…
and according to user papillon in this thread
As a tourist you have to put up with a lot of dust, a not too regular water supply and power cuts. Means that if you don’t need a hot shower twice a day, wou will get along easily. Internet connection is slow, but there are three working ATMs… I haven’t heard one word about general food or water shortages.
How long are the roads open before the winter begins? Till when is it possible to travel to Ladakh?
Manali-Leh road is unlikely to reopen this year due to big landslides between Tanglang la and Upshi. The alternate route through Mahe bridge and Srinagar-Leh road may start seeing occasional closures due to snow fall after September and may close for the winter any time in October/November. Exact dates depend on the weather. But most passes within Ladakh (Khardung La, Chang la) will be kept open by the Indian Army through the winter, though they may close temporarily due to snow fall. If you fly into Leh, it should be possible to visit Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and monasteries of Indus Valley through the year. Keep in mind that winter temperatures fall below -20C in peak winters.