Ladakh travel guide

Ladakh travel guide


2 minute summary

Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of those places where it is almost easier to tell you what isn’t there, in order to highlight what is so wonderful about it. First, there are the Himalayas and mountain passes that go up to 6,000m but not ones that require highly trained alpinism skills. Just a passion for trekking. Second, there are practically no tourists outside July, August and September. Third, forget WiFi or mobile signal outside Leh. Fourth, despite what people believe, there is no travel warning here. That was lifted in 2012. Fifth, Ladakh is not Tibet, but it feels like it. Serenity, spirituality and solace are what Ladakh is all about. Sixth, there are few trees and forests. This is a barren, cold desert with rugged, rocky mountains. Are you loving all these Ladakhi lacks as much as we do? Then read more in our Ladakh travel guide.
Ladakh is...

one of the prettiest packages of serenity you could hope for. A halcyon of mountains, monasteries and moonlike terrain.
Ladakh isn't...

under an FCO travel ban, and hasn’t been since 2012. In the disputed territory of Kashmir, its beautiful landscapes and people are indisputably spectacular.

Ladakh map & highlights


MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME

This remote, Himalayan terrain and its traditional, mostly Buddhist culture is not to be rushed. From the ancient Namgyal Tsemo Gompa or monastery in Leh to the remote 14th century Diskit monastery in the flower filled Nubra Valley, the many cultural sites will stop you in your tracks, they are so beautiful. Ladakh is a place to trek at high altitude but not have to be super skilled, such as in the Markha Valley or in Hemis National Park. You can track snow leopard in the latter, although they are elusive. In fact, in Ladakh, you too will feel elusive. With little connection with the rest of the world, this is one place where you will definitely feel on top of it.
Hemis National Park Khardung La Pass Leh Markha Valley Trek Nubra Valley Pangong Tso Lake

Hemis National Park

A high altitude national park in the Himalayan Stok range, with the Husing, Tarbuns and Rumbak Valleys at its hiking heart. These landscapes certainly keep the blood pumping. The highest peak is Stok Kangri (6,153m) which trekkers can access with guides as it does not require technical climbing skills. It is also a wildlife lover’s paradise, being home to at least 200 snow leopard, which you can track with local experts.

Khardung La Pass

Once known as the most elevated road in the world, at 5,359m, recently beaten by one in Tibet, you will feel like you are flying high as a kite when you drive, cycle or motorbike along this extraordinary mountain pass. Only open to motorised vehicles since 1988, it is on an ancient horse and camel caravan route from Leh to Kashgar. The most fun way to descend into Leh now is by bike though.

Leh

The capital of Ladakh is a stunner at 3,500m, enveloped by snowy Himalayan peaks. Trekkers and cyclists gather here, as do people hiring Royal Enfield motorbikes for exploring on. Culture vultures swoop in and swoon over gems like the former royal palace, the ancient Namgyal Tsemo Gompa or Buddhist temple, as well as the twisting, traditional lanes of the old town. Nearby Thikse Monastery is also a must see.

Markha Valley Trek

It takes about eight days to complete this iconic journey through a valley that is enveloped by the Stok, Matho and Zanskar Himalayan ranges. Following the course of Markha River, trek through traditional Ladakhi villages where monasteries exude some sort of spiritual aura from their hillside settings, such as Tache Gompa and Hemis. It’s not all riverside rambles, however, with climbs up to Ganda La or Gongmaru mountain passes for those ‘hello Himalayas’ moments.

Nubra Valley

Also known as Valley of the Flowers and part of the ancient Silk Road, Diskit is the main town in this valley that is fed by the Nubra and Shyok Rivers. The latter has a cold desert basin all around it known for its Hunder sand dunes and bactrian camels with two humps. Diskit is also home to a 14th century Buddhist monastery where a cultural highlight, the Dosmoche Festival, is held every February.

Pangong Tso Lake

A glorious spot for camping, waking up to an expanse of bright blue due to its 4,350m elevation and clear skies all around. At 604km2, two thirds of it lie in Tibet unbeknownst to its bevy of birdlife, mostly migratory, such as bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks. Located in the Changtang Plateau, this region is home to the Changpa nomads.
Photo credits: [Map topbox: Priyambada Nath] [Leh: taNvir kohli] [Hemis NP: Jørn Eriksson] [Pangong Tso Lake: Silver blue] [Nubra Valley: Raghavendra] [Khardung La Pass: Steve Evans ] [Markha Valley Trek: Jørn Eriksson] [Helpdesk: Nhi Dang]
Written by Catherine Mack
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