Why would you want to contemplate travelling to Ladakh? If the thought of experiencing a timeless culture or visiting magnificent Buddhist monasteries that are all set in a breathtaking landscape, then this blog is for you. 

The chances are you are already contemplating it since you are reading this post. However, before you travel to Ladakh, you should read this carefully to make the most of your time and money here. 

Travel here is not without some sizable challenges. Conditions are harsh in the high Himalayas, with much of the state only accessible by foot as there are only a few motorable roads. 

The good news is that I have spent over half a year travelling around Ladakh and now I will share what I have learned. 

Where is Ladakh India?

Ladakh is in the very far North of the country and is fringed by both Pakistan and China. The mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh lies directly below, completely separating these stunning high mountain deserts from the rest of the country. 

Ladakh Situated In Which State?

  • The Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh is Part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is in the far right-hand corner of the state.

How To Reach Ladakh

 The state’s remote location means you only have two options to reach it: fly or by one of the narrow roads. 

How To Reach Ladakh By Air 

 The are daily flights from both Delhi and Mumbai to Leh. Ladakh is open for domestic travel and travellers can board a flight from all central states in India, including Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
 
All airlines fly into the capital only. This cuts out days on the road. The downside is that you can be pretty sure you will experience at least some AMS symptoms. Please do not have much planned for the first day or two.
Several domestic airlines head here, so do shop around for a reasonable price as they tend to sore in the high season.

 By Land 

  • Getting into Ladakh by land is only possible between June and mid-October. During the rest of the year, roads remain closed.

Manali to Leh 

Manali lies at 2050 meters above sea level, and Leh is at a lofty 3500m. You are highly likely to become sick as this route takes you over three passes above 5000m within less than forty-eight hours! However, this route is acceptable if you travel from Leh to Manali.

 Srinagar to Leh via Kargil

This option involves travelling through Kashmir, which is not something many tourists are prepared to do. In Truth, it is beautiful, and despite its ominous reputation I didn’t feel threatened the whole time I was there.
The advantage of taking this route is the comparatively gentle increase in altitude. You are way less likely to feel the effects of altitude sickness along this route.

As I mentioned, Ladakh is in a rain shadow and landlocked at high altitudes. It is no small wonder that these factors bring dramatic changes to the climate. Each season is radically different from the next, so let us consider what time is right for you. Winter (November to March) 

These are the winter months, with temperatures plummeting to minus 25 at night. The only roads in and out are entirely closed. It can leave you a very long wait for them to reopen unless you fly. Many hotels close during this time, although there will be considerably fewer tourists around and Ladakh looks beautiful in the snow. Spring (April to May) 

Many people decide to come at this time as there is still plenty of snow on the hills, and the barley begins to bring colour to the mountains. However, the passes will still be closed, making access impossible. Tourist numbers will be meagre and that leaves you to have a more authentic and less hassle experience, in my humble opinion.Summer (June to August) 

The summer is the peak season for Ladakh, India. The passes are all open, and the meadows will be green and very photogenic.
However, the roads in and out often suffer from landslides and flooding, creating delays for your journey. Ladakh is simply stunning at this time, and since it is in a rain shadow, there are often clear starlit nights even in the monsoon.Autumn (September to October) 

These are the autumn months when the leaves begin to change colour. The nights become freezing, and the tourist numbers begin to wane as the people of the Valley again get ready for the long cold winter.

Once in Ladakh, you will have to decide how you want to move around the few roads that connect this state. It is a big choice with only a few options so here goes.      Travel by private Jeep in Ladakh 

Some tourists get around the state in the back of a massive white car, and if you are only here for a couple of weeks, then this will do nicely.
If you are on an extended journey, this will be incredibly impractical as it will cost you thousands of rupees a day, and unless you are rolling in cash, this will wear your budget down quickly. Shop around for the best price for this, as there is plenty of competition.     Ladakhi Public Transport 

While they are inexpensive, they are not frequent and do not reach much of the state. The most significant issue is that they are unlikely to stop for you to take pictures. This can make you want to claw your eyes out while driving right past some of the most beautiful landscapes you will ever see.
Gun to my head, I would say you are much safer on a public bus as many drivers who drive private cars come from the lowlands and come here to make a quick buck. The drivers are often unfamiliar with the roads. Whereas public bus drivers make these journeys all the time.   Local Shared Taxi 

Another way to get around is a shared jeep. These will stop for photos, especially if you are in one with lots of other tourists.
They frequently run to all major tourist areas in the high season, such as the Nubra Valley or Pangong Tso. You pay by seat, so they are affordable compared to a private jeep or taxi.    Car rental in Ladakh 

Renting your own vehicle in Ladakh is an option, but unless you are a super confident driver, I do not recommend it, as fatalities are frequent. If you are feeling lucky, then you can hire cars, jeeps or even royal Enfields motorcycles in Leh.
 Again shop around in town for what suits you. Take your time choosing as your life depends on it.

Altitude Sickness In Ladakh

Altitude sickness or AMS (acute mountain sickness) is caused by travelling too high and fast. Breathing becomes more difficult as you are not able to get enough air. It can become a medical emergency quickly if it is ignored.

AMS becomes an issue above 3000m and since the majority of the whole of Ladakh is above that. Needless tosay it is a real issue. Leh, for example, has an elevation of 3200m, well inside the danger zone of AMS.How to treat AMS

  • Drinking plenty of fluids, not ascending too fast, avoiding heavy meals, alcohol, smoking and taking frequent breaks will help you avoid AMS. Again, something to consider when planning a trip, as you should not try to move too fast.
  • Mild symptoms can be treated with paracetamol. I recommend avoiding ibuprofen if you’re coming from the lowlands, as dengue fever can become rife and exacerbate the condition, particularly during the monsoon (the most popular time to travel.)
  • Moving down in elevation will also help to treat your symptoms. Even 300m can make a lot of difference. Some people take Acetazolamide or Dexamethasone to tackle the symptoms or ascend faster.
  • I do not recommend this as it masks the symptoms and you will have no idea how bad they actually are. Given how severe AMS is, I don’t recommend using this cause of action despite your schedule.
  • Take it slow and remember that most of us are probably only there once in a lifetime. It’s better to absorb it all in and not try to rush.

 Best Places To Visit In Ladakh

Most of the tourist attractions are now open in Ladakh and some of the best places to visit in this great state are: 

 

Leh

Central Leh is like a living museum. Take your time wandering the narrow streets and take it all in. 

 

  Tso Moriri Lake 

Tso Moriri is a stunning high mountain lake 215 km from Leh. The route is spectacular and culminates in this otherworldly shimmering body of water. 

 

Thiksey Gompa 

Thiksey gompa is incredibly photogenic. White-washed buildings cascade over a triangular rock and is instantly recognisable. Visiting this fantastic place is sure to be very atmospheric and well worth the little bit of effort to get here. 

 

Khardung-la Pass

The Khardung La pass is the world’s highest motorable road and is popular with both domestic and international tourists. Come here for incredible views or to purchase a T-shirt.

 

Nubra Valley 

The Nubra valley has cut an incredibly scenic valley that will leave you jaw-dropped. These days tourists can carry on to Turtok, which fringes the border to Pakistan. 

 

Magnetic Hill

Magnetic Hill is extremely popular with domestic tourists. It seems to be gravity-defying, but it is an optical illusion. Your car will not run uphill although, for all intents and purposes, it feels like it really does. 

 

Royal Leh Palace 

The massive royal Leh Palace crowns the capital and despite it being seriously dilapidated, it is a delight to visit. Please do not consider visiting this on your first day as you will likely get sick.

why is travelling important for personal growth

 

Pangong Tso Lake 

Pangong Tso is another high mountain lake that stretches over 150km over the Tibetan border. Pangong is far more popular than Tso Moriri so expect to pay more for your night’s stay. The lake is incredible and worth every rupee. 

 

Chemrey Gompa 

Chemrey Gompa is far less visited than Thiksey but no less spectacular. Visiting makes for an authentic experience and is picture-perfect. It looks stunning as you follow the road around the emerald green barley fields and is not to be missed. 

 

Things To Do In Ladakh

 There are so many things to do with your time here so let’s take a look at some of the very best, shall we?  

      Camping 

 You don’t have to be on a multi-day trek to experience camping in the wild. Ask around in Leh for tent hire or guides if you need one. Better yet, bring your own. No one will tell you that you can’t camp here, which is terrific. 

      Cycling

 Bike hire is everywhere in Leh and you can cycle until your heart’s content. Although I will point out you need to be of a reasonable fitness level. One of the most popular routes is to cycle up to the Khardung La pass and roll down it again.

      Sightseeing

 Most of the key sites in Ladakh are accessible by bus, so there is no need to spend a fortune seeing all the beautiful things this part of India offers. 

        Food Tours

 Travelling your taste buds is one of the joys of what you are doing, so get involved. Take a cooking course in the capital or try some of the more unusual dishes such as Nun Chai ( pink salted tea with yaks butter.)

        Trekking

 I can confirm unequivocally that a large portion of the charms of this state is only accessible by foot. I wholeheartedly recommend getting out there and stretching your hamstrings.

Trekking In Ladakh 

Many of us will be considering trekking in Ladakh because, as I have mentioned, there are only a few roads.
Signing up for an all-inclusive trek can cost an arm and a leg so let’s see how I save money on this.
The first step is that you don’t book anything before you leave your home! You will be paying for a middle man and who needs one of those?
Even if you are on a tight schedule, there is no point in booking anything before arriving in the capital. There will be intense competition for your money, especially for the shorter, more popular treks, and at least you can shop around.
If you come in the peak season, people with whom you can split the costs and trekking tours will leave daily, so booking anything in advance is futile.

Ladakh Treks To Choose?

  • There are countless treks to choose from that can suit anyone’s experience level or financial investment. Let us take a look at some of the most popular. 

 

Markha Valley 

Lasting between 4 and 9 days, this is an excellent trek to start with. The whole trek passes through the beautiful Hemis National Park and is a homestay trek.
 
That means there is little need for pack horses or a guide as there will be villages at the end of every day where you can seek shelter and food. You will pay a fee directly to a family for all your trekking needs.
 
Because of that, the Markha valley trek has the advantage of getting an authentic glimpse into Ladaki culture and is an excellent choice for those of us on a budget.
 

 Nubra Valley Trek 

The Word is that the Nubra valley trek is one of the most beautiful. I will admit I have not actually done this trek since it is a relatively new route for tourists.
In a nutshell, you will drive to the tiny village of Hunter, where you will sleep for the night and have the chance to ride on Backterian Camels across the valley floor before your trek.
 
You will definitely need a guide as there are no villages, and you will trek over several high passes. It is a challenging trek, as I understand but increasing in popularity since it is only 7 days. If you decide this trek is for you, please let me know about your experience. 

Rumtse to Tso moriri Trek 

Oh yes! This trek is incredible, if not challenging. Trekkers will drive to Rumste and walk to Korzok over several days. Some people do it in five and others in as much as 8. The trek will take you through stunning scenery via the tiny Tso Kar, which is another smaller high mountain lake, although it does not feel like it when you are walking past it.
 
This extreme trek will take you over several high passes and there is no accommodation on route. Despite being one of the popular routes, you are unlikely to see anyone except maybe the odd nomadic shepherds who heard their sheep on the high mountain meadows. 

Marmots, eating, mountains

Spituk to Matho 

If you want to find out if trekking is for you, then this is for you. It is comparatively easy and only lasts for 4 to five days. It also passes through a portion of Hemis National park, giving you the chance to spot some incredible wildlife.
 
Spituk is not far from Leh and takes in several gompas making this perfect for families or those on a schedule. 

Gary Mason 3

Lamayuru to Darcha Trek 

This epic 18-day trek takes you across some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Indian Himalayas. However, a road runs right through the Yapola gorge past the Kyupa La pass, where it’s just half a day to Lingshit. That is the opening to the fabled Zanskar valley.
 
You can use this to your advantage if you hire a taxi cutting out days of trekking if you don’t fancy the whole trek. You will need a little trekking experience if you decide to trek past the Kyupa La pass independently. The advantage of taking a trekking agency is that homestays can quickly get booked along this route as there are few. 

Do you need a guide or agency? 

Well, that depends mainly on what trek you decide to do. I would advise you to ask yourself honestly, what are your limitations, and choose based on that rather than a smooth-talking tour agent trying to sell you something you don’t want.
 If you plan on trekking without a guide, research the routes as much as possible. Some courses like the Marka Valley or the Yapola Gorge are self-explanatory as there will be very well-worn paths.

Your time in Ladakh can be as challenging as you want it to be. If you have never tried high-altitude hiking, you probably shouldn’t start with a route with no villages, as this is insanely demanding.
Walking for ten hours a day and sleeping in a tent every night for the best part of a month is a fresh new bag of challenges. I think that is easy for anyone to understand.
Strangely, you can legally do these epic walks yourself with no guides or pack horses as long as you have the relevant permits. I strongly recommend not attempting that unless you are a well-seasoned trekker.
I recommend purchasing a copy of the lonely planets guide to trekking in the Himalayas for suggestions of routes and what it will take to complete them.
If you decide to take an organised tour, you should look at the reviews as some are good and some are not. 

How Much Does a Ladakh Trip Cost? 

  • How much you spend on your trip depends on what you will do. Suppose you are on an all-inclusive trip into the wilderness, that will set you back considerably more than if you are getting a bus to a local monastery. The best thing I can do is look at how much I spend since I am on a budget. 

      Accommodation 

There is an insane number of choices of places to stay in Leh and how much you pay will be determined by your desired level of comfort.
When I visit the capital, I stay in the humble Tibet Peace guest house as the owners are friendly and it is comfortable. The most expensive room is a little over a thousand rupees in the high season, but there are many more for a few hundred. Obviously there are plenty of choices that cost way more.
Outside of the capital, there is a good chance you will be staying in someone’s home, which is often all-inclusive. 

      Food 

Local food is extremely cheap and you can easily get a steaming bowl of thukpa for less than a hundred rupees.
When you are in Leh, you will have access to all the pizza and pasta you want, but it will cost a hell of a lot more. However, there is only a certain amount of times you can eat thukpa before your soul begins to scream. You can only get tourist food in Leh and Lamayuru, which means that eating in Ladakh is exceptionally cost-effective.

      Alcohol 

If you want to drink alcohol in Ladakh you can, but it costs more than in the lowlands since every bottle has to be driven hundreds of kilometres. It is also heavily restricted because tourists get too happy with it and clog up the small hospitals.
You can get a large bottle of beer from 150 rupees to 300, depending on where you buy it.
It is important to note that drinking alcohol will not help you with altitude sickness, and consumption should be minimalised. You will get drunk much faster up here, which is definitely not a good thing. 

Tibetan, old, woman, cooking

      Transportation 

How much your transport in Ladakh will depend wholly on how you want to get around. Public busses are never more than a few pounds, but private cars with a driver will cost upwards of a couple of thousand a day. Read the transport section above for more details.        Entrance Fees 

Lamayuru and the Leh Palace are the only places with substantial entrance fees and by that, I mean about 300 rupees. Aside from that, attractions are either free or less than a bowl of thukpa. 

       Is It Safe To Travel To Ladakh Now? 

Yes, it is safe to travel to Ladakh. Despite a strong military presence, there is no immediate threat to your safety. However, some people may find it alarming.
When it comes to COVID-19, there is no mandate in play that says you need a vaccine. However, The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council has a lot of advice and regulations to hand out regarding COVID-19. To find out all the latest guidelines, please click the link provided.

       FAQs About Ladakh

I will now answer the most frequently asked questions I receive about travel to Ladakh. If you have any more, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will get back to you.  

      What Is The Famous Food Of Ladakh?

Momos are Tibetan dumplings and are quite delicious. 

Thukpa is also famous across the world and is similar to noodle soup.

Skyu is a thick vegetable stew

Tingmo are steamed Tibetan buns      Clothing: What To Wear In Ladakh? 

The sun is brutal, and you must cover up as much as possible. Dress accordingly to the seasons. You will need thick layers if you trek outside the primary season.
Also, wear glasses with UV protection as the sun damages your eyes.      What Is The Culture Of Ladakh?

The vast portion of the state practices Tibetan Buddism which is a highlight of visiting in itself. There is also a sizable population of Muslims due to its proximity to Kashmir and Pakistan. That fact is emphasised by the calls to prayer that fills the air in Leh every day.      Famous Festivals Of Ladakh 

The people here have many festivals since their culture is very ancient. However, some stand out more than others. Here are some of the most prominent. 

 

Mask, Dance, Leh

                  Hemis Festival

Celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month at the magnificent Hemis Gompa. It involves the iconic mask dances to commemorate the birth of  the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. 

 

 

 Losar 

It is celebrated between the 8th and 30th of December to mark the new year. Celebrations go on for several days and are celebrated all over Ladakh. It is incredibly colourful and energetic and since it is in the middle of winter, there won’t be many other travellers. 

old, woman, Ladakhi

 Sindhu Darshan

Celebrated for three days during the full moon in June in honour of the mighty river Indus. It is understandably popular with tourists as the state will be full of them now. If you are here at this time experiencing this festival is an absolute must.

How Many Days Are Enough For Ladakh 

Since you will be unable to do very much for the first 24 to 48internett is not somewhere you can visit at the weekend. However, I think it is fair to say you can get a pretty good feel for this part of India within a couple of weeks. Although to see the state in any depth, you should budget a month, in my opinion, as things move very slowly up here. 

What is the Average temperature Of Ladakh?

Month  Temperature °C Max / Min Rainfall 
January -3 / -25 9 mm
February -1 / -20 8 mm
March 6 / -6 11 mm
April 12 / -1 9 mm
May 17 / 3 9 mm
June 21 / 7 4 mm
July 25 / 10 15 mm
August 24 / 9 15 mm
September 21 / 5 9 mm
October 14 / -1 8 mm
November 7 / -7 4 mm
December 1 / -18 5 mm

Note* Ladakh only has an average of 13 rainfall days a year so water is precious. Please use it sparingly. 

Which Network Works In Ladakh?

BSNL is the best network for Ladakh and has the most comprehensive coverage followed by Airtel and JIO. However, I would get ready to say goodbye to the internet for a while as access is just awful.

Accommodation in Ladakh

You can choose from quaint little cottages to basic bedrooms in the capital. It really is a case of whatever suits your budget or how much comfort you require.

Outside of Leh, you may be staying in someone’s home, especially in the villages. These tend to be full board. Homestays are good value and they provide a fantastic insight into Ladakhi life.

In Summary of my post on travelling to Ladakh 

 

I hope this post has been enlightening or, at the very least, an entertaining read. Let me know in the comments section if I did a good job, as I want to provide you with the information you want.
To better understand how long you should travel to India, simply click the link provided. After all, your time is the most valuable commodity you have.
If you have any questions about organising your dream trip to this part of India, I am always happy to help. With that said, I will see you in the next post. 😎