Travel Guide to Ladakh
Ladakh had been on my travel bucket list for a while now! I finally got to visit this magical land of experiences and adventure. After spending a good 8 days in Ladakh I compiled this travel guide to Ladakh to help you plan your Ladakh trip! So buckle up and get planning! But before that here’s a little musing from my travel journal.
#Julley! What a beautiful word. When asked what does it mean, the good chap at Tharpaling restaurant Lamayuru chimed "It means everything!" seeing the confused look on my face he goes on and says "Here in Ladakh julley is everything-hi, bye, thank you, welcome- everything is Julley!"😋 Not sure if it was his infectious friendliness or the bowl of thentuk that his wife served earlier. My otherwise tired self felt at ease. 🤗 But honestly, I don't think anyone can be sad when they say Julley. Really, try it! Take a deep breath and say it out loud 'Julley' and see yourself smiling silly. 🙃
Best Time to Visit Ladakh
The best season to visit in Ladakh is undoubtedly the months of May to September. However, there’s no dearth of travellers visiting Ladakh in winters either. Here’s a quick guide on the best time to visit Ladakh.
Summer: April to June prove the be the busiest season in Ladakh. During this time all the motorable roads are open for people travelling via Manali or Srinagar making it all the busier. The weather is pleasant and just about perfect for all the outdoor activities that you expect from your Ladakh trip.
Monsoon: During July to September Ladakh experiences rain, although these showers are short-lived they can dampen your plans It is a great time to take on adventure activities like river rafting & other cultural festivals.
Winter: October to February is the shoulder season in Ladakh, often visited by trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts. The far-out winter months of December to February are a bit difficult to tread if you aren’t well equipped with winter gear.
Now that you know the best time to visit Ladakh let’s move on with our Ladakh travel guide.
What to carry for a Smooth Ladakh Holiday
Any Ladakh travel guide is incomplete without the list of prerequisites when going on a Ladakh trip.
- A good sunblock or sunscreen. Ladakh is essentially a desert and you must at all times have some protection from the harsh sun. For the same reason carry a cap and a sunglass with you at all times.
- A comfortable shoe. When travelling in Ladakh you will come across unfamiliar terrain, be prepared by carrying comfortable walking shoes or boots that can withstand the terrain.
- If you are travelling in Ladakh during any of the shoulder seasons carry appropriate clothing. For monsoon do carry quick-dry clothes & towels along with raincoats. Whereas for winters you must carry good woollen clothing including gloves, ear muffs, scarf and thermals.
- Portable charger, chances are you will be on the road for hours at stretch always a good idea to have a battery back up.
- Cash, most places except Leh accept only cash.
- Inner line permit, more on this below.
Having said that there’s absolutely no need to panic if you forget a thing or two. Leh market is exceptionally equipped with all the essentials right from medicines to snacks. And be rest assured during your Ladakh travel you will definitely take a trip (or two) to Leh market.
How to Reach Ladakh
Now when planning your Ladakh trip his will probably be the most confusing question. There are many ways and each has an advantage over the other! Let me narrow them down and explain them in the Ladakh travel guide.
Ladakh on Bike
This is one of the most talked-about ways to visit Ladakh, you can do so by starting your journey either at Manali, Srinagar, Chandigarh or Delhi. If you are feeling adventurous you could even start your bike trip to Ladakh from wherever you are based to one of the listed cities and go on towards Ladakh.
The journey is definitely one to remember but be well prepared for such a strenuous bike trip. Carry extra fuel and know-how to fix your bike as fueling stations in Ladakh are sparse.
Ladakh via Air
A lot many of you ask me ‘How to reach Leh Ladakh from Mumbai’ the best answer is via air. I took a connecting flight from Mumbai via Delhi to Leh. The Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport located in Leh is just about 4 km away from Leh city and takes 15 minutes by car. Leh airport is well connected via Delhi with a few direct flights from other major airports depending on season and traffic.
Ladakh via Road
Hire a cab either from Manali or Srinigar to reach Ladakh. Once you enter Ladakh you’ll have to take a local cab driver to take you around.
How to Get Around in Ladakh
If you are not travelling in Ladakh using your own vehicle you’ll have to rely on the local public transport. Now the buses are very few and the journey could be tumultuous also the local buses will only drop you to a checkpoint beyond which you may or may not find any local taxi to travel around.
In that case, hire a private cab. The great thing is there is a taxi union in Ladakh with pre-approved rates. All you have to do is pick one from the airport or the local taxi stand. If going via tour agent they will book a cab for you. Still unsure? Simply reach out to me on Instagram and I’ll share the contact of my taxi driver. He was an absolute gem of a person & I have recommended him to many.
Inner Line Permit in Ladakh
Everyone visiting Ladakh beyond Leh needs to file for an Inner line permit, this is a small fee that you pay in order to access the area. Visit the official website: https://www.lahdclehpermit.in/ to file for the permit.
How to Acclimatise for your Ladakh Trip
Acclimatising is by far the most important thing to do when in Ladakh. With most of the places situated at 10000 feet above sea level, you are prone to getting acute mountain sickness. You may feel dizzy, nauseated, have severe headaches, breathlessness.
First thing first allow yourself some rest when you arrive at Leh. Spend a day or two relaxing and being aware of your body. Have plenty of water and a good nights sleep to acclimatise to the new surroundings.
There’s a lot of talk about taking Diamox to curb the acute mountain sickness when visiting Ladakh. I’d say speak to an expert before blindly taking it just because a travel influencer said so. Check with your family doctor if you need it and when should you take it.
Best Places to Stay in Ladakh
There are many places to stay in Ladakh depending on your budget. Right from luxury accommodation like Stok Palace in Leh, Chumba Camp in Thiksey, Nimmu House in Nimmo. To mid-range hotels like Hotel Yak Tail in Leh, Nubra ecolodge in Nubra Valley. A few off the beaten ones like the Polaris camp in Pangong, Nubra Ethnic camp in Nubra.
Alternatively, stay at the many homestays of Ladakh for an experience of a lifetime. Find my Ladakh itinerary and places that I stayed at here: explore Ladakh in 8 days.
Dining & Shopping in Ladakh
One just can’t leave Ladakh without their bags full of Ladakhi goodies! Some of the must-buys here are products made of local indigenous produce like dried apricot, apricot jam, sea buckthorn pulp, apricot kernel, apricot oil. Other items include woollens, local artefacts, sportswear & souvenirs. All of which can be conveniently found in and around Leh market. There are many Tibetan refugee camps & other local shops where you can shop your heart out.
Dining in Ladakh is an experience, as you get to eat a variety of cuisines right from Ladakhi, Tibetan, Kashmiri to North Indian flavours. Read here for a complete guide to vegan food in Ladakh.
Top Things to Do in Ladakh
- Hemis Festival: Celebrated to honour Guru Rimpoche, this festival takes place in Hemis Gompa situated just 45 km from Leh city. This 2-day festival is a cultural delight and a must experience on your trip to Leh Ladakh.
- Alchi Monastery: You just can’t go without visiting monasteries on your Ladakh trip. If you must visit only one this has to be it! Alchi Monastery is located 65 km from Leh city and can be accessed as a day trip from Leh Ladakh. Spend some time here visiting the five shrines in the Choskor Temple Complex and pay homage to Buddha.
- Khardungla Pass: A must if this is your first time visiting Ladakh. This can be a stopover when visiting Nubra or Shyok valley. Khardungla is 18379 Ft above sea level and is the highest motorable pass, don’t stay for a long time here to avoid AMS.
- Pangong Tso: The ever so famous lake Pangong is a must when in your Ladakh travels. Pangong can be a day visit or you could choose to stay over at the many camps overlooking the lake.
- Tso Moriri: One of the lesser-visited lakes in Ladakh. Tso Moriri is a good 250 Km from Leh in the Rupshu valley. This 8 km long lake is a great place to spot migratory birds and to revel in the calmness of the surroundings.
- River Rafting: One of the many adventure activities that Ladakh has to offer, river rafting is definitely at the top of the list. Ride down the Shyok river as your heartbeat is raised and you are filled with the much-needed adrenaline rush.
- Two humped Camel: Spot the rare two-humped camels at the Nubra Valley in Ladakh. Go on a camel safari or simply click the cutest pictures with them.
- Central Asia Museum: An absolute gem of a museum hidden in the alleyways of Leh Ladakh. Find out about the history of the silk route and the role that Ladakh played in connecting the world via trade.
- Chadar Trek: A 10-day long trek that is sure is an experience of a lifetime. Best done in February when the entire river is a frozen sheet of ice. You must prepare well in advance before going for the trek.
- Thang Village: The last village of India is an adventure in itself. From here you can view the India Pakistan border and also hear many stories from the villagers.
Hope this Ladakh travel guide helped you plan your trip! If you are looking for a sample itinerary read my blog: Explore Ladakh in 8 Days. Have you been to Ladakh? Tell me in the comments below your favourite places and things to do!