Ladakh, the cold desert situated in Northern India, spotted with beautiful mountain passes, rivers, sand dunes, snow capped peaks, roads and magnanimous landscapes, can always bestow humbleness on your existence. Located at an altitude of 8,370 ft from sea level, the 'Land of High Passes' gives the Himalayan range a beautiful blend of green and white; with vast expanses of the white sand and ruggedness of the Himalayas that demands to be seen and experienced. There is no doubt that pristine beauty is what you will find at Leh Ladakh. It appears as though the mountains rule this land, and are arrogant about it, choosing to open or close paths in their wake, as and when they like. A trip of a lifetime that will steal you away from your life’s hustle and bustle and show you a totally contrasting face of Earth. Pictures and videos simply do not do justice to the scenic bliss that Ladakh offers. And, what makes the place more special is the fact that it plays to every kind of audience. Right from quenching the thirst of motorcycle enthusiasts to offering spirituality to the ones seeking peace, Ladakh is perfect for all. While summer is the best season to visit Leh Ladakh, the months of April-May are also ideal as many of the tourist places would be open. Some travellers even prefer June to August months to avoid excess tourist crowd. Since the altitude is quite high, Ladakh experiences long winters.
Prepaid phones don’t work in Leh Ladakh. So, it's suggested to carry a postpaid SIM to stay connected.
Ladakh is a high altitude place around 11,500 feet to 18,300 feet above sea level, is such a dream destination that every traveller desires to go once in their lifetime. Travelling is such such high altitude, air thins - especially at the mountain passes and so travellers with Asthma and other breathing problems might experience difficulty in breathing. Therefore, it is advisable to carry portable oxygen cans which are available at the medical shops in Leh for around Rs. 500. Few travellers even experience Acute Mountain Sickness, for which we advise to carry enough medicines.
Given below are some of the places to visit in Ladakh.
Pangong Tso Lake
Pangong Lake, one of the most famous lakes in Leh Ladakh, derives its name from the Tibetan word, “Pangong Tso”, which means “high grassland lake”. Pangong Lake is also known to change colors, appearing blue, green and red at different times. If you have decided to go on a trip to Ladakh anytime soon, don’t forget to visit the Pangong Lake. The beauty which awaits you there cannot be put into words. It has to be seen, felt and absorbed within yourself. Apart from other Bollywood hysteria, the lake has found fame owing to Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots. So without a doubt, people visit Pangong Tso for its exquisite natural beauty.
However, it is to be remembered that an Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake as it lies on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. While Indian nationals can obtain individual permits, others must have group permits (with a minimum of three persons) accompanied by an accredited guide. The tourist office in Leh issues the permits for a small fee.The Pangong lake tour can be done in one, two or three days. It is recommended that you take at least two days for this tour so that you have time to visit the monasteries along the Indus valley.
Located on top of a hill in Thiksey approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) east of Leh in Ladakh, this 12-storey complex is considered to be one of the most beautiful Buddhist monasteries in all of Ladakh. Lying 19 km before Leh on the Manali-Leh highway in the Indus Valley, Thiksey is a must-visit pit stop on your Ladakh road trip adventure. It is one of those places that require no introduction, given its popularity and significance in the Ladakhi culture. Today, being the largest Gelugpa monastery, it houses 150 and more residential monks. They observe their daily and annual rituals of prayers, meditations, festivals and ritual dances as has been the tradition for nearly six hundred years. The monastery has a 14m-high Maitreya Buddha, a temple of twenty-one statue of Goddess Tara, a guardian shrine with veiled deities and Dharma protectors in the wrathful form (they are displayed to visitors only during Thiksey Gustor, an Annual Monastic Festival), a multipurpose courtyard that serves during Monlam (prayers) ceremony, for mask dance performances, and et al, an assembly hall for the daily prayer sessions, and a newly opened library.
Visit the school run by the monastery and interact with the friendly and welcoming kids there. You can also engage yourself in spiritual learning for a while. Walk out as a better person from this divine setting, with a refreshed mind and revivified body.The monastery provides the opportunity to see the fine views of the Indus Valley, and other monasteries like Stok, Shey and Matho can also be witnessed from here. Celebration of Festivals is another highlight for the travellers, locals and Buddhists in Thiksey Monastery.
Famously known as the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valleys in the Ladakh region, which is an important pass into the Siachen glacier, this is the highest motorable pass in the world. Tourists get to see snow at Khardung-la almost all round the year. Situated in the Ladakh range is this beautiful place filled with snowcapped mountains in every direction your eye goes, and the captivating scenery of this beautiful pass will leave you awestruck. It is filled with tourists crossing over from Leh and stopping long enough to click some photographs. Adventure bikers from all parts of our country and across the world visit this mountain pass on their motorcycles for an adventure soaked experience. Rent a Himalayan and go nuts on the road to Khardung-la pass. Interestingly, the roads were opened in 1988 for vehicles to pass through. Cruisers and Himalayans are considered to be the best means to travel here, to experience the rugged beauty of the journey.
An Inner Line Travel Permit will be required to go to the Khardung-la pass. While this pass can be reached anytime in the year, there are two times in a year which are apt for visiting Khardung La Pass - one of them is during April-June and the other is from September-October. During these months, you get to experience moderate temperature which is ideal for travelling. The mid-winter is the season when this place experiences heavy rainfalls and is mostly closed. SInce it's too cold, especially during night, driving through the pass is considered dangerous as a layer of frost covers the road, making it extremely slippery for vehicles.
Considered to be one of the most popular and scenic Ladakh treks, Markha valley is situated in the eastern part of Ladakh.The Markha valley is known for its panoramic view consisting of its Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and remote villages. The valley is a huge favourite among trekkers due to its easy accessibility from Leh. The Markha village is situated in between Rumbak and Nimaling and is home to a long-abandoned, picturesque fort. Beyond Nimaling lies the Kongmaru La, the highest part of the trek.The Markha valley trek is one of the most popular treks in Ladakh. This trek passes through beautiful villages tucked in the deep valley surrounded by towering mountains. The high pass of Kongmaru La offers spectacular views of the Kang Yatse peaks. You can stay in homestays throughout the trek as it’s an excellent opportunity to discover the everyday life of locals. Tibetan culture thrives in these villages, with traditional ornamented kitchens and buddhist prayer flags, among other things Tibetan. If you are in Ladakh for a short while and can do only one trek, this would be the ideal choice.
Nubra Valley is one of the must visit places in Ladakh especially if you are visiting for the first time. It is among the sub-districts in Ladakh, located in the North East side having Diskit Village as its main headquarters.Famous for its white sand deserts and double-humped camels, Nubra Valley is certainly one of the best places to visit in Ladakh. Not just the scenic slopes of Karakoram range but also the confluence of Shyak and Siachen rivers is what makes Nubra valley an exquisite voyage.
This heavenly region of Ladakh experiences extremely cold climate throughout the year. Summers here are the slightly less cold months of the year. Winters are extremely harsh with unbearable conditions.Nubra is also the gateway to Siachen glacier, the highest and coldest battlefield in the world at an altitude of almost 6,000 metres where the temperature falls below minus 60 degrees in the winter. Tourists need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Nubra valley.
Tso Moriri lake
Tso Moriri lake in Changthang region of Ladakh is one of the most beautiful, calm and sacred (for ladakhis) high altitude lakes in India. In fact, it is the largest high altitude lake in India that is entirely in Indian Territory.Flanked by lofty mountains, this serene lake is about 4,000 meters above sea level. Tso Moriri is approximately 29 kilometers long and up to 8 kilometers wide. The beautiful multi shades of blue color offered by this lake along with the picturesque landscape exudes an extremely romantic aura that will take your breath away. Imagine a sparkling blue lake nestled in the midst of rugged surroundings. Despite the pros, the place is often not considered ideal by many tourists due to the high altitude at which it stands proudly. Therefore, it is important to be well acclimatized to the altitude before travelling to Tso Moriri lake to avoid risk of altitude sickness. The lack of oxygen makes survival difficult if your body is not properly acclimatized to its high altitude and hence, one need to plan their journey extremely carefully to make it an Acute Mountain Sickness-free vacation. However, with its impeccably undisturbed ambiance, it would be a shame to miss this place.
Hemis National Park
Hemis National Park (or Hemis High Altitude National Park) is a high altitude national park in Ladakh, India. Globally famous for its snow leopards, it is believed to have the highest density of them in any protected area in the world. What makes this national park exceptional is the fact that aside from inhabiting the famed snow leopard, it is also the only national park in the northern regions of the Himalayas.The national park is also known for its scenic beauty. Lofty mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch make it a treat for the eyes. The Stok Kangri peak is situated within the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts as the park’s boundary and is a treat for the eyes. It also includes the catchment area of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak, and some portion of the Zanskar Range.
No hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park. There are six villages in the Hemis National Park where homestay facilities are available. The villages are Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling. In addition, Hemis Monastery also offers rooms for visitors to stay.
Diskit Monastery – the oldest and the largest Buddhist Monastery in all of Nubra Valley, stands tall at an altitude of 10,300 ft and overlooks the flood plains of Shyok river.Sightseeing in Ladakh is literally incomplete without a visit to this monastery which was founded way back in the 14th century. The calming aura of the gompa will definitely transport you to a whole new world.The most attractive part of visiting the Diskit Gompa is the spectacular panoramic view of the Diskit Village and the surrounding landscape that one gets from the top of the monastery. You just cannot miss it!
Diskit village is located in the Nubra Valley, which is best known for the double-humped Bactrian camel, its night sky, the desert, and scenic landscapes. The Nubra River is a tributary of the Shyok River, which flows parallel to the Indus River on the northern side of the Ladakh Range. As the valley is at a lower altitude, it has a favorable climate for lush green vegetation in the valley, thus rightly called the “Orchard of Ladakh.”While visiting Diskit, make sure you visit the river below for stunning sceneries. You should also visit the nearby Hunder village. The distance of Diskit to Hunder Village is just 8 km. Hunder is popular for its silver dunes, double-humped bacterian camel rides, beautiful settlements, and a clear night sky for stargazing.
Situated on a hill-top in Chanspa is this beautiful dome shaped Chorten called Shanti Stupa. It is situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking the Leh City. The Shanti Stupa was built by both Japanese Buddhists and Ladakh Buddhists. It is a part of the peace pagoda mission, which aims to spread peace through the preaching of Buddha.What makes this white structure an attraction is the view it offers of the whole of Leh. The walls inside the Chorten have panels depicting the life of Lord Buddha. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama.
The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Shanti Stupa is a perfect getaway for both- those looking to obtain peace from offering prayers to God and those waiting to be mesmerised by nature's wondrous beauty.The vibe at this place would make you want to stay for long. Shanti Stupa looks exceptionally beautiful during the full moon night when it is naturally illuminated by the moonlight.
Royal Leh Palace
Leh Palace is a former royal palace with a rich history, overlooking the town of Leh, located on the top of Tsemo Hill. Built of stones, wood, mud and sand, it is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and store rooms. The Palace Museum holds a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns.The intriguing architecture is an additional perk of visiting the palace.From the top, the views of Stok Kangri, Ladakh mountain ranges and the town are simply breathtaking. Slightly ruined in condition, the palace is now managed by the Archaeological Survey.
The Royal Leh Palace also comprises of a monastery that features a statue of Lord Buddha. In the exhibition halls of the palace, have a look at the old paintings and picture. Some of the paintings here are as old as 450 years and were created using colors that were made from powdered gems and stones. They look as fresh as new to the onlooker. In the Leh Palace, you can also spot a wonderful collection of royal jewelry, ceremonial dresses and crowns.
Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa is yet another lovely monastery set in the coarse background of the snow-capped Himalayas. Founded in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal of Ladakh, it has views of the rough terrains and lovely snow-clad mountain tops. Witnessing something so diverse and beautiful is what makes the monastery's location ideal. Traveling to the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa makes you encounter the steep mountains and submerges you in its serene and spiritual folds. The monastery has long lured travelers seeking Buddhist experience but surprises them with something unexpected- the moon like, quiet and mystical expanse of Ladakh's landscape.
The highlight of this monastery is the three-storey high statue of Maitreya Buddha, carved in gold. Imposing idols of Avalokitesvara and Manjushri are also present within this shrine. Several ancient manuscripts and beautiful paintings are well-preserved here.
Just as the name goes, the Magnetic hill is actually a gravity hill which possess impeccable magnetic properties. This small stretch of road, located about 30km from Leh City, is unique because of its outright defiance of gravity. A part of the Leh-Kargil Highway, this road attracts stationary vehicles upwards. When left with the engine idle, a car can roll up at a speed of 20km/hr on this hill. Due to this extraordinary phenomenon, it has been given many names like ‘Mystery Hill’ and ‘Gravity Hill’. In fact, to avoid being sucked in the magnetic field of the hill, airplanes often take their altitudes up a notch.
The Magnetic Hill is part of a barren region about 30km from Leh. Therefore, apart from tourists, it is more or less a secluded area. While you may find a couple of homestays in the area, it is always advisable to check into a hotel at Leh City and drive to the hill from there.The Magnetic Hill in Ladakh in fact has a sibling in Armenia. Known as Mount Aragat, this hill also seems to be going upwards when it actually goes downslope! While this road is open throughout the year, the best time to visit Magnetic Hill would be between July and October. The roads are clear during this time and the drive will not be a hassle.
A puny hamlet snuggled by the banks of the Indus river is the lovely village of Alchi. The small village is about 70 km to the west of Leh district. SItuated on the low land, Alchi village is very fertile and green, and the roads welcome you with erect apricot trees and offer a plethora of spiritual bliss by inhabiting monasteries and temples.The village is famous for the existence of one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh (a national heritage) Alchi Monastery, mainly known for its magnificent and well-preserved 11th- or 12th-century wall paintings, all in an Indo-Himalayan style. The inside of the monastery houses thousands of rare and unique sculptures and paintings dating back to 11th century Western Tibet.
On the other hand, Sum-tsek is a triple-storied temple having carved wooden façade, carved brackets, pillars and capitals. The hall has walls decorated with mandalas in dynamic colors, standing images of Bodhisattvas, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya Buddha. Lotsawa Lha-Khang and Manjushri Lha-Khang are the other two shrines that are located next to it. Alchi village is a perfect place to relax and experience the quintessential scenery.
The snow-covered steep terrains of Zanskar valley beckon travellers to trek on while they are overlooked with the clear blue sky. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Ladakh, especially considering how the beautiful Zanskar river projects azure blue hues while all travellers walk on the frozen sides.Set on the Northern edges of the stunning Himalayan mountain ranges, Zanskar Valley is a traveller’s delight. It is approximately 460 km away from Leh city. The elevation ranges between 3500-7000 meters.
Undoubtedly one of the most scenic treks in the Ladakh region, the Zanskar Valley Trek is an ultimate trek to experience not just the serenity of the valley but also to experience the raw culture and lifestyle of ladakhi people.
What makes the Chadar trek so famous is the fact that you can walk up the frozen Zanskar river while the rugged Himalayan range envelopes you. The Chadar Trek is an experience of a lifetime as the adventure begins at Leh, at an altitude of 11,400 ft. During the winters, the Zanskar river in Ladakh freezes over, a thick sheet of ice covering it completely. Hence, the name ‘Chadar’ or blanket. The unparalleled experience of the Chadar Trek includes trekking on the frozen Zanskar river, an event that will remain forever etched in your memory. Ladakh, located amidst the majestic Karakoram range and the mighty Himalayan range, presents to the world this great trekking opportunity that only the brave and the strong can undertake. This frozen river trekking opportunity makes Ladakh all the more special. It certainly is a thrilling experience to walk on frozen river, rather trek and camp at Nerak, which gives a soothing setting for the heart.
January to February is the time when the upper layer of the Zanskar River freezes, to be able to walk over it.The Chadar Trek would take around nine days to complete, including your return from the place to Leh.