What To Keep In Mind When Traveling To Leh During Covid
A harsh land that’s breathtaking and exudes an otherworldly feel, a culture that’s unique and a place where adventure beckons from every corner… that’s Leh for you. The capital of Ladakh, this town would captivate you with its history and the Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the cold Himalayan breeze. This is a destination that must be on the bucket list of every traveler, but when there’s a pandemic around, is traveling to Leh during Covid safe?
Well, there’s a risk involved in traveling anywhere during Covid, so we’ll recommend holding onto the travel plans until the situation gets better. But there are ways you can travel safely, so long as you follow the Covid safety norms.
Getting To Leh
After being closed to tourists for months on end, Ladakh reopened its gates from September, but with certain travel restrictions. Here are the different ways in which you can travel to Leh.
If you’re traveling by air, Leh has one airport, the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, which is just outside the heart of the town.
The road to Leh is very scenic, which is why it’s well sought after by motorcyclists and is considered the epitome of riding in India. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can travel to Leh via two routes – the Srinagar to Leh approach or the Manali to Leh approach. But keep in mind that you may need to check beforehand as the routes may be closed in the winters due to heavy snowfall.
Given how social distancing should be your priority, we recommend traveling in your personal vehicle. But if the route seems too challenging, best hire a cab instead of traveling in a bus.
There aren’t any interstate travel restrictions in Ladakh, so whatever your mode of transport, you don’t need to get an epass, permits or online registrations when traveling to Ladakh. However, you must bring a Covid negative certificate from an ICMR-approved test facility (taken 48 hours before arriving at Leh Airport or the Ladakh border check posts). Not bringing said certificate would result in you being quarantined for 7 days, after which you’ll be tested again.
All those arriving at Ladakh will be compulsorily administered the Rapid Antigen Test, failing which there’ll be a mandatory quarantine. You must also have the Aarogya Setu app installed on your phone, and you’ll be quarantined for 14 days if your status is ‘Suspect’.
Please note that Ladakh doesn’t have a rail service, with Jammu Tawi being the nearest railway station (about 820 km away). However, you can hire a cab or board a bus from Jammu Tawi to Ladakh.
Places To Visit In Leh
This is a lake that’s sacred to the Ladakhis which is located in a secluded spot away from Leh, and nestled between the high mountains of the Himalayas in the Rupshu Valley. The Tso Moriri lake is about 29 km long and 8 km wide. At an altitude of over 4522 meters above sea level, this lake also has the distinction of being among the highest Ramsar sites in the world.
Ramsar sites are wetland sites, and as such, Tso Moriri is also a place where you can observe a variety of bird and animal species. The elusive snow leopard also has been reportedly seen around Tso Moriri. If you’re a nature lover and would love to spend time in a quiet and beautiful place, then Tso Moriri is for you. The ones who love a lakeside visit can also go to the nearby Tso Kar Lake.
You’re sure to be mesmerized by the tranquil azure waters of the Tso Moriri, especially in the warmer months when the lake thaws. Those who are in for thrills can also set out on the popular Rumtse to Tso Moriri trek. It would be challenging, sure, but just as rewarding.
Distance: 220 km from Leh
Khardung La Pass
These two locations are easily among the most popular locations in Leh, and are accessible almost all-year round. The Khardung La Pass, at an altitude of over 5359 meters, is among the highest motorable roads in the world. So naturally, this pass attracts a huge number of motorcycle enthusiasts who are up for a real challenge. This road is used by the Indian Army to carry supplies to the hostile Siachen Glacier, which, by the way, has been opened up for tourists!
The Khardung La Pass is also the gateway to the scenic Nubra Valley, which is interspersed with deserts and apricot orchards, the beauty of which will leave you spellbound. As the valley is at a lower altitude, this is also a good place to get acclimatized to the extreme terrain of Ladakh. The adventurous souls can even set out on the Nubra Valley trek, the trail of which passes through the Khardungla Pass.
Distance:40 km from Leh
Hemis National Park
If you’re a wildlife traveler with a taste for the extreme, a visit to Hemis National Park to experience the hardy flora and fauna of Ladakh is a must.This national park is spread over a massive area of 4400 sq km and is the largest in South Asia. The place may look desolate but don’t be tricked by it, as it’s home to over 200 snow leopards. They share this space with other animals, some of which include Tibetan wolves, Eurasian bears and the Shapu.
If you’re a bird watcher, however, the summer months are the best time to visit Hemis National Park. But the winters are the time to go on snow leopard safaris. As vehicles aren’t allowed in the park, you’ll be going on foot. The landscape of Hemis National Park attracts trekkers and adventure travelers too. So if you’re one of them, set out from the Hemis Monastery to the Gotsang Gompa.
Distance: 50 km from Leh
Covid Safety When Traveling To Leh
There’s no denying that Leh-Ladakh is breathtakingly beautiful. But at the same time, its terrain and climate are no joke. Add the Covid pandemic to the mix, coming prepared along with being physically fit is a necessity. Here are things you need to remember when traveling to Leh during Covid.
Follow social distancing norms always. Also, you must wash your hands regularly with soap and water or a hand sanitizer with over 60% alcohol.
Stay home if you’ve got flu-like symptoms.
Those below 10 and above 65 years of age are discouraged from traveling to Ladakh.
Avoid interactions with other people and for transactions, opt for cashless methods.
You must inform your accommodation provider/tour operator well before setting out towards Ladakh. Keep in mind that the local populace may not want tourists visiting. If that’s the case, respect their decisions.
Look for accommodations that are Covid-ready and follow government-issued protocols.
You must be updated with the latest Covid travel guidelines of Ladakh and of your home state.
In case you develop Covid symptoms before or even after the trip, get medical help immediately. Also inform the accommodation staff as well as your travel buddies so that everyone can take all the necessary safety measures.
A Guide To Traveling To Leh During CovidTraveling To Leh During The Coronavirus Pandemic