The Ultimate Travel Guide for Ladakh
Updated: 18 hours ago
Known as the ‘Land of High Passes’, tucked away in the confines of the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas, Ladakh is a natural wonder. Considered to be one of the most beautiful regions in India, Ladakh is clothed in glory with barren cold desert, snow-draped mountains, quaint gompas, striking blue water bodies, and multi-colored flags fluttering in the air and sightings of Bactrian camels traversing the deserts. It is spectacularly an embodiment of all things beautiful and serene.
The remoteness of the region coupled with rocky terrains of mountains and cold air breezing through is what makes Ladakh a perfect place for anyone seeking to experience some time away from the ordinary and revel in the extraordinary. A haven for adventure enthusiasts, the entire length of Ladakh is brimming with things to do, and places to visit and explore.
Here is a list of guides you might want to consider before you plan your trip to Ladakh:
When to go:
The most ideal time to visit Ladakh would be in the summer months from June to September. The roads of the Srinagar Leh highway and Leh-Manali highway open up by May to mid-July and hence serves as the perfect time to plan a road trip along this famous and magnificent road. The roads are also open during the monsoon months from end-July to August but the sludge on the highway proves to be very challenging. By October, the roads are closed off from the world due to heavy snowfall. The only way to reach the place is by flight. But winter in Ladakh is very mesmerizing and definitely an experience to cherish for a lifetime.
How to reach:
By Air: The Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh is the best option to reach Ladakh. It is well connected to other major cities of India. Flight bookings are available throughout the year.
By Train: Ladakh does not have a functioning railway station. However, the closest train station is Jammu Tawi in the city of Jammu. You can hire a taxi or bus to reach Ladakh from here on.
By Road: The road network in Ladakh is well connected to other major cities of India. However, the roads are only open for six months of the year, and from November to April, the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall. However, the Delhi-Manali-Leh highway and Delhi-Srinagar-Ladakh routes are famous for their captivating views which makes for a memorable road trip.
Where to go:
One of the most beautiful destinations in Leh, Ladakh, Nubra valley is a gem waiting to be explored. From aged old monasteries to bountiful orchards, this region of Leh, Ladakh is sandwiched between Kashmir and Tibet. The breathtaking view of the valley where sights of sand dunes coupled with herds of Bactrian camels can be witnessed is what makes Nubra Valley even more appealing.
An enchanting semi-desert region in Kargil, Ladakh, Zanskar Valley is truly a work of art. The sparkling clean rivers, snow-capped mountains, enthralling landscapes, and pleasant weather serve as a perfect destination to escape the hectic reality and relish in the best of nature. The mountain range of Zanskar is part of the Tethys Himalayas hence it offers a spellbinding view into the panoramic trans Himalayan region.
Pangong Lake or Pangong Tso is one of the most significant tourist attractions in Ladakh. Located at a height of almost 4,350 meters above sea level, it is said to be one of the highest altitude lakes in Ladakh. A beautiful water body so blue and serene that captivates anyone that visits the place, Pangong Lake also serves as a photographer’s paradise. The tall mountains surrounding the lake, ducks wandering on the banks, colored flags swaying in the wind, and the clear blue sky all add to the charm of the lake.
An emerald lake known for its spellbinding beauty, Tso Moriri is a must-visit place in Ladakh. The sheer beauty of this lake combined with the vast expanse of the blue sky and the tall barren mountains as the backdrop with marshlands and wetlands around the lake makes it the entire length of Tso Moriri majestic. Though lesser known than Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri rightfully stands as a tourist favorite for offering nothing but the best to its visitors.
What to do:
A thrilling and possibly one of the most exhilarating trekking experiences over the frozen ice carpet of the Zanskar river. Loved by adventure enthusiasts for its taxing yet exciting route, the trek is very strenuous and daunting even for experienced trekkers. The temperature drops below sub-sub-zeroes. Regardless of the difficulty, the nights spent in caves, sightings of exotic wildlife, traversing across frozen rivers with sparkling blue water flowing in gaps, and walking along the barren yet majestic mountains are what make this trek an experience to treasure for a lifetime.
Bactrian Camel Safari
A famous fun and adventurous activity that can be experienced in the cold deserts of Ladakh is the Camel Safari. The Bactrian Camel is popular for having a double hump and it is listed as a critically endangered species which makes it even more special. The thrill of riding the camels, especially during the sunset hours witnessing the cold and barren Himalayan ranges is a must-try activity that will definitely blow your mind away.
Biking at Khardrung La Pass
The Khardrung La Pass is one of the highest motorable road passes in the world. A bike ride, be it a motorcycle or bicycle, is not only thrilling but even more memorable. The ride along the pass makes one feels like they are flying high above the ground. As you drive with views of the high and mighty snow-capped mountains with multi-hued flags fluttering in the wind, you might as well catch a glimpse of paradise.
Visiting the Monasteries
The Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh are often called the heritage of Ladakh and are one of the striking sources of attraction to tourists. The monasteries in Ladakh are popularly known for their annual festivals, vibrant paintings, and pieces of Buddhist art that mesmerize the viewer. these Buddhist gompas are architectural marvels providing a soothing ambiance and alluring visuals.
What to eat:
Momos – One of the most renowned foods of the region, Momos are a Ladakhi staple that you cannot miss while in Ladakh. It is stuffed with minced meat or vegetables and covered in dough.
Nun Chai - A type of beverage associated with Ladakh is the buttered brew that is served at every sacred function, wedding, and festival. Butter and salt are added to brewed milk and infused with tea leaves.
Skyu – A traditional soup-based dish, Skyu is a Ladakh delicacy. It is made from wheat dough which is kneaded into pasta-sized bites and cooked in a broth with vegetables like carrots and turnips.
Tingmo – A popular street in the regions of Ladakh, Tingmo is a fluffy bun made with whole wheat. A staple breakfast and dinner food, it is eaten with dal and vegetables.
Festivals to attend:
Hemis Festival – Hemis Festival is celebrated on the 10th day of the lunar month on the Tibetan Calendar. It is hosted by the Hemis Gompa to commemorate the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, founder of tantric Buddhism. The locals dresses up in traditional clothes and the famous masked dance called Chaam is performed by the Lamas
Losar Festival – A month-long festival, Losar Festival is a time when the Gods, deities, ancestors, and even animals are fed the delicacies of the region. People make sacrificial offerings, rituals of the past are re-enacted by the locals, and the tradition of making snowmen are also practiced.
Saka Dawa Festival – Saka Dawa festival is the most important festival in Ladakh. This vibrant festival is celebrated during the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar. It was celebrated in the birth month of Buddha and also the month when he attended spiritual awakening. Monks from all monasteries change their flagpoles to mark the festival.
Sindhu Darshan Festival – A three-day festival in the month of June, Sindhu Darshan is a festival that is celebrated to commemorate the Indus River as a symbol of communal harmony and unity in India. Everyone regardless of their religion or region takes part in this festival.
Things to keep in mind while traveling to Ladakh:
The winter months in Ladakh are very harsh and the temperature usually drops below sub-zero degrees. So, it is always advisable to carry warm woolen clothes and jackets during the winter months. Summers are relatively pleasant but due to the high altitudes, the intensity of the sun’s heat is felt strongly due to thin air.
Given the elevated altitude of Ladakh, anyone visiting the region for the first time may experience AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. So, it is always advisable to rest a day or two before embarking on any strenuous activity.
Always carry a basic medicine kit like painkillers, oxygen tables, and tablets for headaches, stomaches, and fever.
Indian domestic tourists do not require any travel permit but if you are a foreign traveler, make sure to obtain the required permits through your travel agency and keep them handy.
Always carry adequate cash as there are not enough ATMs all around the region. Most of the hotels, homestays, restaurants and other service providers only accept cash.