Ladakh attracts thousands of tourists every year who are interested in cultural tours, to experience the centuries-old culture and heritage of the people of Ladakh, and to seek solace in the lap of nature. Indeed, there are many possible travel itineraries in Ladakh that can suit anyone’s interest. However, numerous tourists come to Ladakh searching for some adventure. And why not?
With thousands of acres of unoccupied lands surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and also the rugged terrain make Ladakh a perfect place for adventure-seekers. With the increase in the footfall of tourists over the last few decades, adventure sports have also picked up in Ladakh. From playing polo on fields to testing one’s skills on rough waters or climbing rugged mountains, sports have come a long way in the region.
In this column, we are going to highlight a few adventure sports that have gained popularity among tourists.
Crossing the treacherous Nimoo Ralpa on the way to Sham from Leh and watching numerous shacks that offer special rates for rafting on the Indus and Zanskar rivers, it is easy to see why rafting has emerged as one of the most popular adventure sports in Ladakh. Indeed, rafting is a great experience that you should not miss while in Ladakh.
Rafting is done on both Indus and Zanskar rivers, and both the rivers have rapid grades ranging from Grade I to V. However, tourists will find Grade III to IV levels of rapids in Ladakh. Beginners and the experienced can enjoy rafting as the agencies offering these services have well-trained raft guides. The best time to experience rafting on the rivers in Ladakh is from June till August when the water level of both the Indus and Zanskar rivers are high.
Some of the popular rafting routes are Phey to Nimoo, Chilling-Nimoo, Upshi to Kharu, Phey-Saspol, Kharu-Spituk, and Saspol-Khaltse. However, the Phey to Nimoo and the Chilling to Nimoo rafting routes are the most popular among tourists.
2. Quad Biking
Surrounded by rugged mountains, there is a natural inclination to explore these mountains. And what a better way to do it on an ATV quad bike. Quad biking has picked up among the tourists in the last few years. Quad biking is popular at Hunder sand dunes in the Nubra valley, Magnetic Hill and Shanti Stupa in Leh, and also in other parts of Leh.
3. Rock climbing
Ladakh is a paradise for rock climbers. Since there are mountains almost everywhere in Ladakh, you can choose a mountain hill and start climbing. However, it is strictly for experienced rock climbers. Beginners can get lessons in rock climbing at Shey. Like other adventure sports, rock climbing has become popular among tourists. Locals, especially the youth, are also taking to rock climbing. In fact, locals take part in large numbers during the Suru Boulder Fest that is organised annually in the Suru Valley.
4. Mountain biking
As rightly pointed out by someone, there is something for everyone interested in adventure sports in Ladakh. One of the adventure sports that have become popular among adventure-seekers in mountain biking. There are numerous shops in Leh that offer mountain biking services to tourists. While tourists can rent a mountain bike and ride wherever they wish to, nothing can beat the experience of cycling down the Khardung La road (Khardung La is one of the highest motorable passes in the world). Cycles are ferried to the top of Khardung La in a pick-up truck from where the cyclists ride down the serpentine road. As the Khardung La is a busy road due to the movement of taxis and army trucks, one has to be cautious while cycling down the road. The three-hour journey on the cycle to the base of Khardung La is nothing short of spectacular. Mountain biking has also become popular in Changthang and Sham valley.
Nothing can beat trekking when it comes to adventure sports. Trekking has and always will be the best adventure sports in Ladakh. The region offers several memorable yet challenging trekking routes to the tourists. The most popular trekking route among tourists is the Markha Valley trek that takes 5 to 7 days to complete. The trekking can be started either from Zingchen or Chilling. Trekkers should acclimatise to the weather before embarking on this endearing journey.