Top 7 Places in Ladakh, Temperature, Best Time to Visit, Hotels etc. – A Complete Guide
Demerged off-lately from Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh in India with snow-capped peaks and the clear azure sky has continued to attract intrepid travelers. The scenic destination has maintained its spell since the region was opened to tourists in the 1970s.
Since then, Ladakh has become a favorite haunt for trekking and mountaineering enthusiasts. Furthermore, it lures a number of biker groups, seeking an adrenaline rush, to mount the peaks on two-wheelers. The rugged terrain and the majestic mountains around, make an exotic cocktail for an adventure lover.
The wide expanse of the sky, the land, and the mountains make you realize how tiny and insignificant we are in the whole grand design of the universe. The land might be a barren beauty, but it comes alive with the people here whose love for their land and simple joys infuse the landscape with life.
After the breakup of the Tibetan Empire in 842 A.D., Nyima-Gon, a representative of the ancient Tibetan royal house founded the first Ladakh dynasty. This was the period in which Ladakh underwent Tibetanization, eventually making Ladakh a country inhabited by a mixed population.Ladakh was claimed as part of Tibet by Phuntsok Wangyal, a Tibetan Communist leader. During Dogra rule, Ladakh was administered as a wazarat during the Dogra rule, with a governor termed wazir-e-wazarat. It had three tehsils, based at Leh, Skardu, and Kargil.
Ladakh has been contested by India and Pakistan since the dissolution of British India in 1947; after the cease-fire agreement of 1949, its southeastern portion went to India and the remainder to Pakistan. China gained control of its portion of Ladakh when its forces entered the region in the early 1960s.
The land is bestowed with mountains, valleys, snows, cold deserts, frozen lakes, trekking routes, rivers, mountain passes, and so on. If you have picked Ladakh as your next destination, you are in for an exciting vacation. t is a beautiful example of co-existence between tradition and modernity and man and nature as well.
How to reach
Ladakh is a wonderland and is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in India. Tourists cross the high mountain passes and enter into the valley which is encompassed between Himalayan ranges and Karakoram ranges. So, if you have doubts about how to reach Ladakh then here we have given few options.
The easiest way to travel to Ladakh is by air. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport located in Leh. It receives flights from Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar, Jammu, and other major cities of the country. However, not all cities have daily flights to Leh. You can find a few taxis outside the airport to reach the required destination.
The airport is a military terminal and thus, the security is a bit strangling. It is important to have all your documents ready when you enter Ladakh via the airport. It is better to have a hard copy of your e-ticket. Booking your accommodations in advance is a major thumbs up.
There are government and private buses from Srinagar and Manali. If you are choosing Srinagar, you will pass through Zoji La Pass to reach Ladakh and you will scale Rohtang Pass to reach Ladakh from Manali.
The Srinagar path is open from June to October for bus entries. The Manali route is open for bus routes from June to September. If you are planning to hire a bus from New Delhi, it will take a minimum of four days to reach Ladakh.
The nearest railway station to Ladakh is in Tawi, which is 700 km away from Ladakh. This railway station receives trains from many important destinations like Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, and others. From the station, you can find cabs to reach Ladakh.
Other nearest railway stations are Chandigarh and Pathankot. It would take at least three days to reach the railway station to Ladakh. This is the most inconvenient method to reach Ladakh.
Most tourists visit Ladakh by bike. The place has the world’s top three highest mountain passes that can be scaled on a vehicle. Biking along with the mountain passes and stopping for a steaming cup of tea is the iconic activity of this place. If you are planning to travel to Leh via bike, you can choose one of two routes.
Leh – Srinagar Highway
Srinagar is 434 km away from Leh. The route covers Sonmarg, Zozi La, Drass, Kargil, Mulbek, Lamayuru, and Saspol before reaching Leh. This route is open from May to October. It is the most scenic route with many attractions in its path.
Leh – Manali Highway
This route stretches from 490 km covering Rohtang, Gramphu, Kokshar, Darcha, Baralacha La, Gata Loops, Lachulung La, Tanglang La, Gya and Karu on the way. This route is open from May to September.
Anyone wanting to enjoy the adrenaline rush of a bike ride but not able to handle the activity can choose a jeep. Jeep rides are easier than bikes and more comfortable. You can choose either one of the highway routes as mentioned before. If you are choosing a jeep, you ought to visit Zoji La, the door of Ladakh that is found in the way from Kargil to Ladakh in the Kashmir Valley.
Places to visit
The people of Ladakh are friendly and there’s a sense of spirituality in the air. You can sense it as soon as you enter Ladakh. The many Tibetan monasteries contribute to this. Here are some of the most amazing places you must visit in Leh and Ladakh!
1. Pangong Tso Lak: Pangong Lake, or Pangong Tso, as it is commonly known, is a high-altitude saltwater lake situated at almost 4,350 meters. Among the other famous lakes in Ladakh, this one is especially popular both because of its breathtaking beauty and being a delicate border point along the Line of Actual Control.
The lake is extremely popular among photographers, selfie enthusiasts, and those on a bike trip to Ladakh. The Pangong Tso Lake is a breeding ground for different types of birds, including migratory ones. During the summer, the bar-headed goose and Brahminy Ducks are commonly spotted.
2. Hemis Monastery: The biggest monastery in North India is Hemis Monastery, one of the must-visit attractions in the Ladakh region. Here the young Lamas are trained for the royal monasteries at Leh, Shey, and Basgo.
The biggest monastery in the region has surprising architecture and the building is quite appreciable. Hemis Village is located 43 km south of Leh town and it is very easy to reach the monastery by bus or jeep.
3. Nubra Valley: Prime highlight of a trip to Ladakh is the beautiful and enchanting Nubra Valley. A small mysterious place tucked up in the lap of Himalayas; nurturing a beauty full of flowers still untouched and a culture still enigmatic. However, it is over 100 kilometers away from the Leh city.
4. Shanti Stupa: Situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking Leh city, the Shanti stupa gives a panoramic view of surrounding snow-capped mountains. It is at a distance of about 5 km driveable road from Leh city or one can climb 500 steps to reach here. The location of Shanti Stupa is such that it is visible from all over Leh city.
The construction was jointly done by the Japanese and Ladakhi Buddhists to mark the completion of 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote world peace. Shanti Stupa looks exceptionally beautiful during the full moon night when it is naturally illuminated by the moonlight.
5. Tso Moriri: Tso Moriri is located about 240 KMs from Leh town of Ladakh district in Jammu & Kashmir. The beautiful multi-shades of blues offered by this lake along with a picturesque landscape around give this place an extremely romantic and breathtaking feel.
While the reflection of snow-clad mountains immersed in the pristine waters of the lake calm your soul, the exotic migratory birds flying above the majestic lake will make you fall in love with nature. The lake is surrounded by high mountains, making it a hidden gem in the cold desert land of Ladakh.
6. Magnetic Hill: Magnet Hill is a “Cyclops hill” located near Leh. The layout of the area and surrounding slopes create the optical illusion of a hill. The hill road is actually a downhill road. Objects and cars on the hill road may appear to roll uphill in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
7. Hot Water Springs: There are two hot water springs in Ladakh that I know of. One is Chumathang Hot Water Springs and the other one being Panamik hot water springs in Nubra Valley.
You will come across a number of Palaces, Castles, Valleys, Passes, Monasteries, Glaciers, Lakes, and other eye grazing landscapes and natural beauties in Ladakh.
Things to Do
Despite you don’t have much of the activities done in Ladakh, you would enjoy the basic things in the barren beauty of the country. It is the next ‘tourism capital of India.’ It is one place that everyone everywhere in the country is planning to go to. The number of people visiting here rises each year.
Ladakh is the second-largest district in the country after Kutch (Gujarat). Ladakh is not a place which can be enjoyed with rush or less time. It is a place which must be enjoyed with peace and ample time. Just relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. The feel of photography, snow, cycling, trekking, and camping is just awesome there. You would not like to give it a miss.
Once you have reached Ladakh, you of course would not want to come back empty-handed. There is plenty to buy in the markets here. The bazaars of Leh will mesmerize you with the superior artistry and sheer range of artifacts on display. The markets are stocked with fine products all year long.
You may buy some artifacts or handicrafts from there. Tibetian and Buddhist handicrafts are much in demand amongst the tourists. You can even buy some pashmina shawls and other stuff there. You can really jump on to Leh Main Bazaar or army-run stores.
Grab a bite.
One of the primary attractions of going to Ladakh is to have a taste of local food. The local cuisine here is a fusion of Tibetan and Kashmiri dishes that you must get a taste of. This mountain kingdom has been at the crossroads of trade between Tibet, Nepal, and Kashmir, and the delicacies here clearly reflect the varied cultural influences.
If you are a momo lover, try out Chutagi (Dumplings with Vegetable soup). You may fetch some of the local dishes like skieu, Paba, Khambir, Thukpa, Gushtaba, Tapu, Mokthuk, and Tigmo. If possible, do taste Chhurpi (Yak milk cheese). Tea lovers may have a sip of Tsaza (butter tea or gur gur chai)
Where to Stay?
Ladakh is a growing tourist attraction amongst urban millennials. However, the fact cannot still be denied that it is still a remote region, one that remains cut off from the rest of the world for several months in a year.
Before going to a faraway land like this, you must have information about what your accommodation choices are. It will be a crucial part of your itinerary to know where you can stay for the night and where you can not.
Ladakh is a very vast region and you may have to book different accommodations for different places. Some monasteries provide night stays., but not all. They may feel uncomfortable with you. You must well-plan and book your stay according to the length of your trip, budget and area you are visiting.
It is crucial to have information about the availability of basic facilities in Ladakh. By this, I mean facilities like mobile services, hospitals, and gas stations etc. This may not be such a big problem in Leh City but can become a concern while traveling to other areas of Ladakh.
When to Visit?
Since the Himalayas create a rain shadow, monsoon clouds cannot bring rain to Ladakh. Thus, it is a high-altitude desert that depends on winter snowfall on the mountains for its water. Ladakh is cold and dry throughout the year. It is imperative to understand that you need at least a week to acclimatize and enjoy your tour to Ladakh.
It is one of the places where you will feel bright sunlight and freezing winds at the same time. The best time to visit Ladakh is between May and September. These are the summer months. Later in winter, starting from October to April, flights still operate to Ladakh, and it is really cold! Remember that it snows from December to March.
Summer temperatures are marginally positive in temperature during the day but at night they can fall 30 degrees celsius negative to zero. But in winters, the temperature is -40 degrees almost all the time. Experiencing maximum footfall in the winter season (October to January) is ideally considered to be the best time to visit Ladakh.
Key things to remember
If you’re planning to visit Ladakh, it’s highly recommended that you pack a lot of warm clothes, thermals, woolen socks, and sturdy insulated boots. The climate can get extremely sunny. But when you step into the shade, you could be freezing with cold. So it’s always best to layer your clothes here.
A good windcheater or windproof jacket. Keep yourself moisturized and hydrated in and out.
A Couple of thermal pairs along with heavy woolens 2-3 sets – Sweatshirts, pullovers, warm hoodies, woolen Caps, gloves and muffler.
Don’t forget your camera. Sufficient supply of personal medicines, Diamox for high altitude sickness and Avomin for motion sickness. Check the weather conditions before you travel. Bon Voyage!