Leh Ladakh is a part of almost every traveler’s bucket list. It is a hidden gem and a barren stretch of different territory that offers people who dare to dream a unique experience.
Ladakh is called the adventure capital of the country, and rightly so! Its pristine beauty is like no other. It is the land of inclusivity and diversity. And being a lesser-explored and undiscovered crown jewel lying in Northern India makes it one of the sought-after tourist destinations.
The terrain studded with craggy peaks, enchanting vistas, winding roads, tortuous passes, hypnotic high-altitude valleys, shimmering lakes, and old Buddhist monasteries gives you once in a lifetime experience.
Yes, Ladakh is truly this fascinating land that is difficult to discover anywhere. There are many activities and locations to explore whether you are looking for adventure sports or simply want to enjoy the natural beauty.
But, how to be part of this adventure? How to get lost in this serenity?
Don’t worry, you were heard. Here to answer all your questions is the Travel guide to Leh Ladakh.
Planning Leh Ladakh - The first stage
Prior planning is important so that the fun is not interrupted once you finally hit the road. While in the planning stage, here are a few points you will need to keep in mind.
Budget for Leh Ladakh Trip
Making a budget for your entire trip is a crucial first step so that it does not hurt your pocket while having fun.
So, save up some money and plan a budget. This will help you to get an overview of the entire cost of your trip and you can choose the best of the options suitable for you.
When to Visit Ladakh?
Ladakh is a high-altitude cold desert and 'the land of high passes.' So, the region has a climatic state that is unlike any other. So, you need to choose wisely what will be the season time for you to travel to Leh Ladakh.
Ladakh has the best weather during the months from May to September. The days are warm, clear, and fresh. Unlike other parts of India, the place receives little rain occasionally. So being the rain shadow area, it is also possible during the monsoon months. Also, many local festivals are held during these months giving you the best experience.
Winters are very cold and most roads and high mountain passes remain closed as they are drenched in snow. Nighttime temperatures rarely drop below -5°C.
Therefore, it will be recommended to plan your visit in between the months of May-Aug depending upon your itinerary activities. You will be able to enjoy the trip much more comfortably.
How many days are enough in Leh Ladakh?
Itineraries can be created depending upon the travelers’ choice of activities, motives, route of transportation, and places to cover. The days might range from 5 days to months. However, it is recommended that you plan your stay to be of at least 7 to 14 days, keeping in mind acclimatization for two days (at least). You can make your itinerary shorter than this, but with this time frame, you can rest assured that your trip will not be rushed, that you will see everything there is to see, and that you will make the most of your time.
Of course, you can come back again anytime you want to. But why leave something for the unforeseen tomorrow when you can have it today?
Check our best pre-designed itinerary:Leh Ladakh Tour
Now that we have come to know important things and information that are needed while planning, lets us look into the ways to reach this mysterious place nestled in the Himalayas.
How to reach Leh Ladakh?
There are different modes to reach Ladakh. You can choose the best route depending on your traveling preferences, budget, and the amount of time you have.
Below are all the routes and modes of transport that you can choose to reach Ladakh.
Leh Ladakh traveling by Air
Traveling via air is the most convenient mode for the majority of visitors. As it takes much less time and you can also enjoy the aerial view of mountains from up above.
You can check if a direct flight is available from your city to Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport located in Leh. It is most likely for it to be available. If not, you can board one from the nearest city airport from where a direct flight is available.
There are direct flights to Leh from the capital Delhi on a regular basis. There are also flights from Srinagar, Jammu, Chandigarh, and other popular Indian destinations such as Mumbai, Kolkata, etc. International travelers too can easily board a flight from any of these main cities. All popular airlines- Air India, GoAir, SpiceJet, and Vistara Airlines have operational flights to Ladakh from all the main cities of the country.
The flight journey depends on the weather situation on your day of travel and the place where you are flying from. The overall flight journey takes one and a half hours from the capital in good weather conditions days.
The ticket prices range from ₹3,000-to ₹10,000 (INR) per person.
Leh Ladakh travel by Road
This mode is the most preferred one by travelers. And if you have the time, traveling by road is recommended as you will be accompanied by the amazing scenery. Additionally, the moderate rise will aid with acclimatization.
There are three modes of transport via the road that you may avail of- Bike, Jeep, taxi, or a JKSRTC bus (bus operators connecting Kashmir with the rest of India). These buses can be found pretty easily as it runs at regular and frequent intervals, from Kargil and between Leh and Srinagar.
There are two routes to reach Ladakh via road, you can choose either one of them as per your liking and ease-
- Manali Leh Highway- You can set on your journey from your place and follow the following route: Delhi—Manali—Keylong—Jispa—Le
- Srinagar Leh Highway- You can again start from Delhi and then follow the route: Delhi—Jammu—Srinagar—Leh
You will be able to travel via road to Ladakh only during the summer season (May-September) since roads and highways will remain closed during the winter as a result of heavy snowfall. The Srinagar-Leh Highway is open from June to November, whereas the Manali-Leh Highway is open from June to October.
Leh Ladakh trip by Air and Road
Another option is to travel by air till Srinagar and then from there, you can start your road trip to Leh by renting a bike or car, whatever you prefer.
Leh Ladakh trip by Train
There is no train station in Ladakh, thus you can't get there by train directly. Jammu Jammu Tawi (700 miles from Ladakh) is the nearest railway station, having connections to Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. To get to Ladakh from Jammu, you can rent a cab or take a JKSRTC bus.
Thus, Air travel is the most comfortable choice. However, if you're searching for some adventure, a bike trip or a jeep excursion are recommended. Choose your travel option taking into comfortably quality, season, and cost.
Places to Visit in Leh Ladakh
Your experience in Ladakh shall be unique and memorable, as even the best of words cannot do justice to its beauty. Here are some of the top places that you cannot afford to miss while visiting Ladakh. Also, find exciting and popular activities to do in those particular spots!
1. Leh Palace
Leh Palace used to be the home to the royal family of Leh, back in the days. The Leh Palace, perched atop deserted Tsemo Hill, is steeped in history. It is a 9-story palace, made of stones, wood, mud, and sand. The complex houses some stunning artistic ruins on display to show travelers how the royals lived. A very popular fact about this palace is its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The palace's interesting mix of Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist cultures and architecture is an added bonus for visitors.
Things to do around in Leh Palace
- You will get to witness the admirable view from the top that once the royal family had.
- The 9-storied Palace’s architecture is such a treat to the eyes, especially if you enjoy analyzing historical matters.
- The Palace also has a museum that you can visit. This museum now holds all the royal belongings.
2. Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa or peace pagoda is a white-domed Chorten on a hilltop in Chanspa. The walls have lustrous panels that depict the life of Lord Buddha. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place to visit to gain some spiritual energy and pay your respects if you are a follower of Buddhism. This is only 5KM from Leh, and the panoramic view of the mountains across Leh from this Stupa is the main attraction of this spot.
Things to do around in Shanti Stupa:
- Practice meditation in the hall
- As mentioned before, the stunning view from that height is the main attraction
- You can circumambulate (Parikrama/Kora) around the stupa.
3. Nubra Valley
The ‘Valley of Flowers’ is the literal translation of Numbra Valley which has mountainous and surreal scenery. The valley is a cold desert at the confluence of the Shyok and Siachen rivers giving a spectacular panoramic splendor. The main attraction for this place is the white sand deserts, the double-humped camels, and incredible trails.
Things to do around in Nubra Valley:
- You can ride on the back of the double-humped camels who work very hard to offer you the best experience.
- Buy Kashmiri and Tibetan antiquities, Pashmina shawls, woolen socks, almonds, apricots, apples, and other Kashmiri specialties.
- Admire the surroundings and capture them in photographs.
4. Pangong Tso Lake
The Pangong Tso glacial lake, located in the foothills of the Karakoram Range, is one of the most beautiful spots to visit and one of the main attractions in Leh Ladakh. This lake, which is only five hours from Leh, is home to migratory bar-headed geese and Brahmi ducks. This spot offers breathtaking snow-capped peaks, crystal pure water, and a stunning bright sky. The beautiful clear blue waters of this lake turn rock solid during the winter season, a great place for ice skaters to have fun. The place gained popularity after a blockbuster movie named 3 idiots’ short scene was shot here.
Things to do around in Pangong Tso:
- Take part in the ice-skating festival held here when the waters are frozen.
- Enjoy a nice picnic/bonfire in this area.
- If you are a nature lover, you will enjoy bird watching from this place.
5. Khardung La Pass
Now, this is the place all the adventure enthusiasts (mainly bikers) fall in love with the most. Khardung La Pass at around 5600 meters above sea level is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. This pass is also known as the Gateway to Nubra and Shyok Valleys. The road winds its way through the mountain summit, allowing us to take in the breathtaking splendor of Leh town and the huge mountains that surround the valley.
Things to do Around in Khardung La Pass
- Enjoy the Tea and refreshments from the Army canteen nearby.
- Enjoy the captivating view and rugged journey on your motorbikes.
6. Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey monastery, the largest Tibetan monastery in Ladakh is one of the top tourist places that you will want to visit. The detailed architecture of the monastery housing stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, and much more and the richness of the Buddhist culture are a treat to the souls of the ones who visit here.
This 12-story monastery, which is located at a height of 3,600 meters, is home to over 500 monks. The highlight of this place is the Maitreya Temple which was built back in 1970 to honor the 4th Dalai Lama.
Things to do Around in Thiksey Monastery:
- You can attend the Gustor Festival in October/November to witness the cultural programs of Ladakh.
- Interact with the locals.
- Enjoy the peace and sanctity of the place.
7. Lamayuru Monastery
Famous for its moon-like terrain, Lamayuru lies between Kargil and Leh. It is the oldest and one of the largest monasteries in the Ladakh region. The Lamayuru Monastery houses some of the most artistic chortens and stupas, as well as colored rocks carved with elaborate prayers. Many bright and vibrant antique paintings of the cardinal kings/rulers may also be found throughout the monastery.
Things to do Around in Lamayuru Monastery:
- Witness the unique moon-like landscapes.
- Explore around the valley.
- If you wish to, you can stay in a homestay for a day.
8. Magnetic Hill
Yes, this hill is known to have magnetic qualities, as the name suggests. This hill's magnetic attraction is so strong that it can even pull a neutral vehicle uphill. Even the planes raise their height to prevent probable interruptions caused by the hill's magnetic characteristics.
Things to do here in Magnetic Hill:
- Definitely witness the power of the hill.
- Explore the places around.
- There’s a Gurudwara nearby maintained by the Indian Army, you may visit that too.
9. Hemis National Park
Hemis National Park is the only national park in northern India that protects the endangered Snow Leopard. In fact, it is called the Snow Leopard Capital of India. You will get the chance to see this beautiful creature as well as go a little deeper into nature.
Things to do here:
- Witness the Snow leopards.
- You can also visit the Rumbak valley which is located near the National Park.
10. Tso Moriri Lake
Tso Moriri is a picture-perfect lake located in the lovely Nubra Valley. It is known as the largest alpine lake in India. It features a desert landscape with mountains and a beautiful sunset. If you don't like crowded tourist attractions, this could be a perfect area for you to relax and enjoy nature. It is a less frequented place because most people avoid it due to the high altitude and difficult route.
Things to do here:
- If you are into camping, there’s a nearby village- Korzok where you can set your camp
- Witness a mesmerizing sunrise.
- Click great pictures as the scenic beauty is already straight out of a photograph.
Top things to do in Leh Ladakh India
Adventurers, nature lovers, knowledge seekers, and those who simply want to get away will find paradise in this promised landmark. Apart from sightseeing and exploring the famous landmarks as mentioned above, you can do various adventures here such as:
• Motor Biking around in Leh Ladakh
It wouldn’t be fair if Motor Biking is not mentioned while talking about the top things to do in Leh Ladakh. Indeed, Leh Ladakh is reckoned as one of the best places for motorbiking journeys in the world.
Ladakh literally translates to "the country of high passes," and many ardent riders include there on their bucket lists. There's something to be said for overcoming Ladakh's hostile dramatic scenery on two wheels, with nothing between you, the agonizing road, and the hostile yet magnetic landscape. Negotiating the winding roads surrounded by towering massifs one minute and huge expanses of verdant plateaus the next is an unforgettable experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.
• Trekking around in Ladakh
Ladakh is also known for its wonderful trekking trails. It's a pleasant experience to walk around Ladakh's hot spots and take in the gorgeous vistas of this beautiful area. Moving through tight passes, through deep valleys, traversing rope bridges, and enjoying the gleaming snow-capped summits makes it simple to feel at one with nature.
In the distant settlements that haven't lost any of their unique charms, the ancient way of living in symbiosis with nature is still maintained. Interacting with the warm and welcoming folks reaches deep into one's spirit and leaves lifelong memories. Overall, walking on the virgin natural route while taking in the tranquil magnificent vistas is a pleasant experience.
• Take part in a Festival in Ladakh
Being a witness to a monastic celebration is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is well worth planning your trip around. Buddhist festivals are vivid and colorful gatherings that focus on the celebration of life as well as ceremonies to ward off evil spirits. Each festival is also commemorated in honor of the monks who founded the monastery.
Hemis Tsechu's masked celebration, Matho Nagrang's oracle festival, the ubiquitous Dosmochey festival held at Likir, Diksit, and Leh monasteries, and the popular Chemrey Angchok, which culminates in a boisterous masked parade moving through Leh's main market, are just a few events to consider.
• Rafting in Ladakh
Although river rafting may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Ladakh, it is an activity that you should definitely try. Ladakh's white water rafting offers breathtaking views of snow-capped mountain peaks, quiet monasteries, and hillside pleasant settlements. River rafting is available on two outstanding rivers: the Indus River and the Zanskar River. It's an experience that many people may enjoy, with rapids ranging primarily from grades I to III.
Things to know before traveling to Leh Ladakh
Traveling to Leh Ladakh requires Permits
Once isolated from the outsiders, a rising number of places in Ladakh are now open to both domestic and international visitors which require some specific permits to enter. Permission is not required to enter Leh city, but it is required to visit other regions such as the Nubra Valley, Pangong, Tso Moriri Lake, Khardung La Pass, Turtuk, Tyakshi, Digger La, Tangyar, Chang La Pass, and a few more.
Indian nationals: Indian nationals must first get an Inner Line Permit. It is good for three weeks and allows the possessor to enter several times.
Foreign nationals: The Protected Area Permit is the Inner Line Permit required for foreigners, and it is valid for 7 days from the date of issuing.
Note: If you're beginning the journey from Manali, you'll also need to obtain the Rohtang Pass permit.
How to apply: Permits can be obtained online or at the Deputy Commissioner's office in Leh, which is less convenient. Enlisting the assistance of a nice hotel receptionist or a travel agency to minimize additional stress and delays is an appealing choice.
Mobile Network Connectivity in Leh Ladakh
A BSNL/ MTNL/Airtel postpaid mobile connection is recommended while you are in Leh Ladakh because prepaid connections do not work here. Therefore, make sure to get yourself a SIM card that works, to retain connectivity, beforehand or as soon as you land there.
Take Time to Acclimatize in Leh Ladakh
Acclimatization is a vital element of planning your Ladakh trip. The first two days after arriving in Leh should be used to acclimate to the high altitude. Do not expect to arrive and then immediately depart for Nubra or Pangong. You could develop AMS, which can cause severe headaches, nausea, restlessness, difficulty walking or thinking, and even ataxia, all of which would completely destroy your holiday. AMS can affect even the healthiest individuals. So, don't rush it. Give your body time to acclimatize to the low air pressure.
Carry Basic Medications
Ladakh is known to be one of the world's remotest regions. Medical supplies can be difficult to come by in some parts, so it's better to come prepared. Carrying a first-aid kit as well as any medications you take on a regular basis is highly recommended. Carrying Diamox (medicine for AMS) could come in handy when needed.
Note that before setting off on this trip make sure to visit your regular physician and ask them to prescribe you some medicines for possible issues you might face.
This was an overview/guide to help you plan your next trip to Leh Ladakh. We tried our best to cover all the information so that you can plan and enjoy your trip the best way. We hope these guidelines will help you and that you have a great experience on your trip. Happy Traveling!