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Travel Guide to Leh and Ladakh

Peace Pagoda

Travel Guide to Leh and Ladakh

In India’s northernmost tip, Ladakh, near the Indus Valley, lies at Leh at 3,500 meters above sea level. Leh, a remote town, has become a popular tourist destination since it was opened to foreigners in 1974. It is gorgeous, and one of the standard entry points to the Ladakh region.

Bordered by two of the world’s most extensive mountain ranges and surrounded by high altitude desert. Leh’s dry, arid landscape is full of historic Buddhist monasteries, making it an incredible sight to watch.

Getting There

Several flights operate to Leh from Delhi regularly. There are also flights to Leh from Srinagar and Jammu. In addition, two highways connect Leh for a few short summer months when the snow has melted on the high passes.

Each year the highway from Srinagar to Leh is open from Late May to November, and the Manali-Leh road is open from June to October. Bus, Jeep, and taxi services are available for the overland journey. The overland trips take a relatively comfortable two days or on a long journey of 18 hours driving on the challenging terrain. If you are in good health and not in a rush, the overland journey must at least once in your life enjoy the stunning scenery.

Best time to Go

The best time to visit Ladakh is between May and September when the temperatures are at their warmest. Ladakh is in the rain shadow, and it is not supposed to rain there like most places in the Indian Subcontinent experience. However, due to climate change, it has started to rain a bit more than 15 years ago, and occasionally there have been rare flash floods, which were quite catastrophic.

Attractions and Places to Visit

Ladakh’s Buddhist monasteries and historical monuments are the biggest attractions for travellers. The Shanti (peace) Stupa, just outside the centre, is one of the monuments that stand out in Leh. The 800-year-old Spituk Monastery, also known as the Kali Mandir to the Hindus, houses a fascinating collection of masks. One can stop to spin a large prayer wheel over there. The imposing 17th century Leh Palace was modelled after the Potala Palace in Lhasprovides, a captivating town view.

Thikse Monastery, which lies southeast of Leh, is the place to witness amazing sunsets. The Hemis Monastery is the oldest, wealthiest, and most influential monastery in Ladakh.

Leh Palace

Leh Palace

Festivals in Ladakh

The Ladakh Festival is held for the first two weeks of September. The opening ceremony is a spectacular procession through the streets of Leh.

Villagers get dressed in traditional costumes, dance, and sing local folk songs backed by an orchestra. The festival also showcases musical concerts; Buddhist monks perform mock wedding ceremonies and masked dances.

One of the most popular Hemis Festival takes place during June / July, Tantric Buddhism’s birthday in Tibet – Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is full of colourful handicrafts for sale, colourful masked dances, and traditional music. The Hemis Festival takes place for two days.

Adventure Activities Ladakh

Nature lovers and adventurers will find a new and exciting opportunity to paraglide around Leh. Trekking has been a long-standing outdoor adventure activity in Ladakh. There are trekking options such as the Sham Trek for beginners and more extended trekking tours such as the Lamayuru to Alchi, the ever-famous Markha valley trek, and numerous treks that are two to three weeks long.

Here is a list of some of the best treks in Ladakh.

Those who seek more adrenaline rush can opt for mountaineering trips to either Goleb Khangri, Stok Khangri, and Khangyatse.

Whitewater rafting is another outdoor activity done during July and August on the Indus River in the Leh area and the Shayok River in the Nubra Valley. The Zanskar River in Zanskar. In addition, one can partake in a camel safari in The Nubra Valley, as well.

Peace Pagoda

Peace Pagoda

Trips outside of Leh

One of the most amazing short side trips outside of Leh is the journey towards the Zanskar River. You can see hanging glaciers, the oasis of green villages amidst the arid landscape, Buddhist monasteries, and Himalayan peaks. The Nubra Valley, via Khardung La pass, another unforgettable trip. The Indians love to claim the road to Khardung La as the “highest motorable road in the world”; if you did not know it already – https://jalopnik.com/the-worlds-ten-highest-roads-1561766761 

Nubra Valley’s trip is rewarding with the beautiful streams, rivers, grazing yaks, ponies, the dunes, and the Bactrian Camels.

Required Permit

Foreigners need to get a protected area permit (PAP); this can be obtained through licensed travel agents in Leh. No Permits are required for local sightseeing around Leh, Zanskar, or the Suru Valley.

Places to Stay

Changspa, once a backpacker hub, has a combination of guest houses and upmarket hotels. There are a growing number of homestays in this area. It is just a short walk from the central Bazaar area. There are also many restaurants, some with charismatic gardens to chill out in. This area is a favourite place for homestays.

On Fort Road, Padma Guesthouse and Hotel has rooms for all budgets and a fabulous rooftop restaurant. 

The Spic n Span Hotel on Old Leh Road, close to the main town centre, is an excellent hotel with modern amenities, and rooms prices start from around 5,000 rupees per night. 

The Hotel City Palace is well recommended. Room rates start from 5,000 rupees per night for a double.

When on a trek, an excellent option available on some trekking routes is to go for homestays rather than camping. It gives you a delightful experience of staying with a Ladakhi family, sampling local food, and mingling with other trekkers if you do not mind the company of others. Some of these areas have initiatives to enhances the livelihoods of the villagers you visit or stay with.

Travel Tips

Give yourself enough time to acclimatize to altitude after arriving in Leh, especially if you fly in. Keep exertion to a minimum for the first day or two. Increase water consumption to avoid confusion between Acute Mountain Sickness and dehydration.

Electronic devices’ batteries drain in that kind of altitude and temperatures, especially if you just flew in from Delhi or Jammu. As a result, some laptops and hard drives have crashed in elevation. This happens due to the thin atmospheric pressure, and the moving parts get displaced. 

Leaving Leh by flight has just been made easier recently. The passengers do not have to identify their baggage before the luggage gets loaded into the aircraft due to security reasons. The demand for flights is high and expensive during the peak season, so book your flights well in advance. The flights can get cancelled because of weather conditions. It is advised to book well in advance and book on the earlier flight to avoid getting stranded if the weather turns for the worse. Hand luggage is allowed on board with the passengers; only laptops and cameras are permitted as hand luggage.

 

Check out our Trekking packages for Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Tibet.