Ladakh vs. Nepal
Ladakh vs. Nepal
Two trekking destinations not often compared – both stunning but very different.
It should be noted that comparing the whole of Nepal with one region of India is not that fair but Ladakh is quite special and therefore worth highlighting.
The really good news is that they are trekked at different times of the year, so you can do both in the same year! Ladakh sits in the monsoon shadow (considered an ‘alpine desert’) and is therefore very much a summer months season (Jul/Aug) whereas Nepal’s season conforms generally to spring and autumn.
Scenery – you would think all mountain scenery is the same right? – Not a chance.
Nepal’s massive and impressive array of 7000 and 8000m snow covered peaks seem almost routine no matter where you trek whereas it is the extremely colourful geology that strikes you in Ladakh. Even non geologists cannot fail to be impressed by the rock formations and stark colours.
Trek in either location and the scenery is jaw dropping stuff, it really is.
Nepal’s huge peaks dominate the skyline
Trekkers cannot fail to be impressed by Ladakh’s geology
The trails of both regions are well established.
Nepal’s trekking terrain is far more varied and ranges from the alpine desert of Upper Mustang, to the thick rhododendron forest of the lower Annapurna region to the moraines of Everest Base Camp. Lots of rocks and steps built by the locals where the need is there (and they are very good at it). The footfall is higher in Nepal.
Ladakh’s trails are far smoother by comparison, mainly solid paths that meander their way up and over the high passes. One strength of Ladakh is that it is remote and isolated; wonderful if you like quiet trails. The footfall along both the Markha Valley Trek and the more challenging 6000m Stok Kangri Trekking Peak is low, very low.
Moraine terrain close to Everest Base Camp
Tracks in Ladakh tend to be ‘smoother’
Nepal’s community culture is often what brings people back to Nepal. It’s very strong. Even as high as 5000m, the tea houses (lodges) of Nepal litter the trekking trails supporting trekkers on their adventures. They supply everything from accommodation to food to water and even medical support in some strategically placed villages. Whilst mules and yaks are used (often for the larger groups), it is the famous Sherpas (or porters) who are mainly prominent in carrying supplies and in the tea houses overnight, you see and feel the real community spirit.
Ladakh is a Buddhist enclave and therefore their community spirit is not in question. It’s not as visible on the trail as the accommodation is all camping. There is virtually no accommodation available to trekkers in villages save for the odd homestay. The campsites are usually based around small villages but some are remote; nothing for miles. It’s open, free, high and beautiful. Virtually all food supplies are carried from the outset by pack animals.
Whilst camping treks in Nepal are not uncommon, tea houses are the prime supporting feature. Treks in Ladakh are virtually all camping.
Nepal’s Tea Houses; communal hubs
Tents in Ladakh; beautiful scenery
Suitability of Treks?
Your ability, experience or fitness level doesn’t really matter where Nepal is concerned; it has something for you. High altitude, low altitude, long treks, short treks, camping, tea houses or even a series of day walks out of hotels. It’s a matter of choosing the right trek for you. We can advise you based on the information you provide us with.
Ladakh is a high altitude destination (see below) with nothing under 3500m. It doesn’t have the variation of treks that Nepal can offer but what it does have is remote, quiet and beautiful routes that invariably cross at least one very high altitude Pass (typically 4800m or above) with wonderful views across the Karakoram. The Markha Valley and Stok Kangri treks are superb examples.
How To Get There & Get Going?
Nepal – decent international flights from London to Kathmandu (KTM) take between 13 – 16 hrs (1 stop). After 1 night in Kathmandu, you can be on your way to your trekking area by domestic aircraft or road depending on what trek and preference.
Ladakh – an international flight to Delhi, over night hotel followed by a 90 min early morning domestic flight Delhi – Leh (Ladakh). One thing to remember with Ladakh is that it is a ‘high altitude’ entry destination. Leh (the airport) sits at 3500m and it is not uncommon for those arriving to feel unwell within a few hours due to the effects of the altitude. Most itineraries take this into account and allow 2 nights on arrival to acclimatise. You’ll be on your way after those 2 nights.
Can you train for high altitude?
Comparisons are not about winners and losers. Both are superb trekking destinations for their respective pros and ones to be enjoyed. Variety is good and I would encourage anyone to spread their wings to both to enjoy them.
Nepal is a well trodden path but still a superb experience no matter where you go. The scenery, community, trekking is all fantastic.
Ladakh is the least populated state in India and its footfall on the treks follow that pattern. I have no idea why! The trekking there is excellent and is for anyone who loves an adventure in open country with a bit of high altitude thrown in. With access through Delhi, it opens up a lot more too if you fancy it.