High altitude travel to Ladakh: Be informed, stay prepared

High altitude travel to Ladakh: Be informed, stay prepared

As beautiful the high altitude region of Ladakh is, the challenges of traveling to Ladakh can be felt with the first breath on your arrival. A major concern of travelers visiting Ladakh is combating the rise in altitude and the many effects it has on our physiology. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) typically occurs at about 8,000 feet, or 2,400 meters, above sea level with early symptoms of dizziness, nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath. However, mountain adventure enthusiasts and travelers can take measures to train the body to acclimatize to the altitude. 


The human body is an epitome of adaptation and so it can take the altitude of Ladakh if we can pace the elevation rightly and restrict ourselves to limited bodily exertion and stress. Acclimatizing for the body for high altitude travel starts a week before your Ladakh trip with easy walks in the mornings to flex your muscles and the right cardio routine.


Acetazolamide or Diamox: Anti altitude prevention medication 

Anti altitude sickness pills or Acetazolamide can help and should be taken a day before your flight to Leh or your ride from Manali to Serchu. This pill can be taken at an interval of 6 hours (prescription of medical expert advised). Diamox is a popular Acetazolamide that helps in preventing acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). However, you should consult a professional medical expert before taking any prevention pills.   


Rest is best: 

On arrival in Leh, it is very important to avoid physical exertion and any stressful routine. Complete rest for the first two days with good sleep cycles and staying indoors for the first couple of days will allow your body the time it needs to adapt to the thin air, scarcity of oxygen and dryness. Moderating your routine from mild to heavy workouts or walks will allow the cardio muscular movements to adapt to the oxygen inflow. 


Proper diet and hydration: 

A good diet plan with an optimum intake of carbohydrates can help the body get energy and at the same time avoiding oily, fat-rich food stressing our digestive system is advised. One of the major physiological shifts our body goes through as we enter Ladakh is dehydration. Travellers tend to loose a lot of fluids in Ladakh and due to less perception they hardly feel thirsty. Travellers should keep sipping on water, soups and other fluids and keep the body adequately hydrated.  


Leave the beer: As we have already discussed how hydration plays an important role in combating mountain sickness, it goes without saying that alcohol is to be avoided strictly as it dehydration rates the body and can destroy your entire travel experience. You should cut down your consumption to a quarter of what you usually take only on the third day onwards. It is advised that for the first two days you should strictly stay away from any alcoholic drinks and bars. 


Prevention for skin: 

Apart from the thin air, being close to the sun is another change affecting our immediate health when we are traveling to Ladakh. Travelers don’t realize the impact of exposure to the Sun as the atmosphere does is not protecting them from harmful rays. There is a 10 present increase in exposure to rays at every 1000 feet. So a traveler coming to Ladakh from Mumbai or Ahmedabad will experience an increase of 100 percent increase in Sun’s rays affecting our skin. We suggest cold-pressed apricot oil, moisturizers, good brand Sunscreens with SPA 150 and above for all skin types to avoid burns or dryness. Also at this hight sunlight can be erring to the eyes, so don’t forget to carry a good pair of polarised, UV protected glares and hats to cover your head and eyes.   



The barren landscape of Ladakh makes it a dusty terrain and you never know when you will find yourself in the middle of a dusty breeze. Also contributing to this problem is the heavy infrastructure development Leh is going through. The roads are dug up, hotels and other tourism construction projects are coming up at every corner. We advise travelers to carry a pair of scarfs, strolls and face masks to escape from tiny dust particles from entering your nasal cavity. Also keeping the nose and ears moist helps in optimizing hydration of these parts. 



A journey can be explored better if we read and prepare about the destination before landing there. So keeping in mind the above measures will help you to acclimatized and enjoy the natural splendor of the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. Drink a lot of water, sleep well and avoid alcohol and you will be fine to explore the beautiful mountain terrain and you will come back for evermore.  


Author : Stanzen Namgyal
Date : 04 May 2017