Posted 17 June 2022

Ladakh Tourism - Here are the best reasons to explore Ladakh

One of the most visited places in India, Ladakh is a slice of Himalayan paradise that is nestled between the Kashmir Valley on the west and the Tibetan Valley on the east. Ladakh’s natural beauty is breathtaking and majestic, to say the least. It is the kind of place that leaves memories that are etched forever in the minds and hearts of travellers and creates unforgettable and unique experiences.

The beautiful land of Ladakh is tucked between the Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain range. The rivers of the land are sparkling blue, almost crystal clear, and the beaches have sands of varying colors. The panoramic view of the land offers snow-capped, tall mountains, perennial, blue streams, patchy vegetation, and monasteries in the background.

Not just for adventure enthusiasts, Ladakh is an ideal vacation spot for old people who are looking for a relaxing holiday where they can connect with nature and rejuvenate. A top favorite among photographers and nature-enthusiasts, Ladakh attracts many tourists from all over the world.

If you are planning a trip, read ahead to know the best reasons to explore Ladakh.

1. Religious places in Ladakh

Ladakh is home to countless Buddhist monasteries and is one of the prime Buddhist pilgrimage locations in the country. Visitors and devotees get to explore and walk around some ancient monasteries, learn the history behind them, explore the local culture, and take in the spectacular architecture. There are some monasteries that are over a few centuries old and are tucked between the mountain ranges. These monasteries are some of the best reasons to explore Ladakh as they are icons of peace and serenity, and will really calm anxious and troubled minds. Although travellers and devotees can visit the monasteries any time, it is advised to plan a tour during the festival season as it is the best time to view the culture and traditions in their full glory.

Some of the must-visit religious places in Ladakh are:

  • Shanti Stupa:The Shanti Stupa was erected in 1991 by a Japanese Bhikshu and is a part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The pillar has a relic of Lord Buddha at the base.
  • Hemis Monastery: Touted to be the richest monastery in Ladakh, the Hemis Monastery was reestablished in the 17th century. The monastery also houses a library with a vast collection of Tibetan books, a prestigious collection of thangkas which are Buddhist-Tibetan paintings, and gold statues embedded with precious stones.
  • Lamayuru Monastery: Considered to be the largest and the oldest monastery in Ladakh, this monastery can accommodate up to 400 monks.
  • Thiksey Monastery:The Thiksey Monastery is a 12 storey building that resembles the Potala Palace in Tibet. The monastery is home to a 15-metre statue of Maitreya.
  • Stok Monastery:Built in the 14th century, the Stok Monastery has a very famous library that houses a collection of 108 volumes of the Kangyur. There is a 22-metre tall statue of Gautam Buddha near the monastery.
  • Alchi Monastery:The oldest and most popular monastery in Ladakh, the Alchi is a complex that houses 3 major shrines. The Sum Tsek, the Dukhand, and the temple of Manjushri are inside the Alchi Monastery and are said to have been built between the 12th and 13th centuries.

2. Scenic mountain passes in Ladakh

Ladakh literally means the “land of passes”, and there are innumerable mountain passes in the land, which add to the charm and beauty of the place. Travellers flock to Ladakh to not only view the lakes and glaciers but also marvel at the mountain passes that are exciting adventurous destinations.

Besides adding spectacular beauty, passes have tremendous historical and cultural value as they were used by travellers in ancient times to reach the far lands in the east and the west. Travellers and traders would carry their wares through these passes, and reach the previously-inaccessible, far-away countries in a jiffy. Not only for trade, these passes were also used by Indian soldiers to fight the Pakistan army. The mountain passes are one of the best reasons to explore Ladakh.

The Khardung La Pass and the steep Marsimik La Pass are very popular passes that provide unforgettable experiences, and magnificent sightings of the entire region. All passes are not open to motorists, and travellers should make all inquiries in advance before travelling to see a mountain pass.

While travelling to Leh from Srinagar or Manali, tourists will spot many passes on the journey. Some of these passes are simple long stretches of roads, and other passes are popular tourist spots with tea stalls and monuments close by.

Tips to keep in mind while visiting the mountain passes:

  • Tourists should visit the passes between April-October as the weather and the skies are clear during this period. The passes are easily accessible, and the journey is less stressful.
  • Since the passes are at high altitudes, there is very little oxygen and air pressure. Tourists are prone to suffer from Altitude Mountain Sickness. Tourists must not spend any longer than 20 minutes at the Khardung La due to the height and lack of oxygen.
  • Tourists should spend 3-4 days in Leh, getting acclimated to the weather and the altitude before visiting the mountain passes.
  • Most mountain passes have a unique historical story, and tourists can hire guides to help them explore the passes better.
  • Carry plenty of water, woolen clothes, sunglasses, and motion sickness medicines like Diamox.

3. Scenic beauty in Ladakh

Any list of best reasons to explore Ladakh is incomplete without the mention of its scenic and breathtaking natural beauty. While words and photographs do not do justice to the mesmerizing landscapes, Ladakh truly has some of the best beautiful places in the world. Located on the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges, Ladakh always has cool weather around the year. The rivers have sparkling blue water, and there are numerous lakes that are a sight to behold. With picturesque landscapes, Ladakh is home to clear blue skies, snow-capped peaks, and tiny, innumerous perennial streams.

Some places with spectacular scenic beauty are:

  • Pangong Lake:One of the iconic lakes of Ladakh, the Pangong Lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake, at a height of 4,350 metres above sea level. The water of the lake is crystal clear and appears to have been almost artificially dyed blue. The lake spans over 160 km, and one-third of the Pangong Lake lies in India, while the other two-thirds are in China.

The lake is known to change colours, and appear blue, green, or even red at different times during the day, based on placement of the sun. Any trip to Ladakh is incomplete without paying a visit to the marvellous beauty of Pangong Lake. The beauty is spectacular and has to be seen and felt by everyone. During the winter season, the lake freezes and becomes a thick mass of ice. The locals play sports like cricket and football and even drive their cars over the sheet of ice. The temperature falls to -30℃.

  • Tso Moriri Lake: Called the Mountain Lake, the Tso Moriri Lake is popular for its spectacular and tranquil beauty. The lake is at a height of 4,595 metres above sea level and is a serene spot in the Changtang Wildlife Sanctuary. The lake has a length of 28 km and an average depth of 100 feet. There are many camps around Tso Moriri Lake where tourists can spend time exploring the beauty of the lake. The lake water reflects the snow-capped mountain peaks, and there are a plethora of migratory birds flying over the lake. The best time to visit the Tso Moriri Lake is during the summer months of April to October as during the winter season the lake water freezes.
  • Drang Drung Glacier:The Drang Drung Glacier is 23 km in length, and is the largest glacier in Ladakh that is accessible to visitors. The glacier looks like a long winding river of ice that is nestled between tall mountains. The glacier is the source of Doda and Stod rivers. The glacier has a trekking trail which allows for stunning views of the mountain ranges and patches of fruit orchards.

5. Local cuisine in Ladakh

The local food in Leh is scrumptious and delicious and is bound to fill the stomach, but not the heart of any tourist-foodie. The local food is a focal point that provides valuable testimonies to any place’s culture and traditions. The food in Ladakh is delectable, and thukpa and momos are two of the most delicious meals one will ever have. Not as spicy as other Indian cuisines, the food is healthy and nutritious, while being simple at the same time.

Some of the must-try local Ladakhi dishes are:

  • Momos:This is the local version of a dumpling and is filled with meat or vegetables. They are served with a variety of dipping sauces and are scrumptious, to say the least.
  • Thukpas: Thukpas are soupy noodles that are served with either vegetables or minced meat. This is the staple dish of the local people, and is rich in spices that warm the body during the cold winds.
  • Chhurpi: Chhurpi is a cheese that is made from the milk of the “dzomo” which is a hybrid crossbreed between yak and cow. This cheese is a good source of vitamins and protein and is used as an ingredient in thukpa when meat or vegetables are not easily available in the winter season.
  • Butter tea: A must-taste local delicacy, butter tea is served in all important festivals and occasions in Ladakh. Not only tasty, but the butter tea also keeps the locals warm and hydrated during the cold winter. The tea is prepared with butter, salt, and milk that is added and churned, and then added to the boiled tea leaves. All tourists visiting Ladakh must taste this.

6. Wildlife in Ladakh

Ladakh is extremely rich in biodiversity and is home to many rare species of flora and fauna that thrive in the cold weather. The wildlife is pure and virgin, untainted by commercialism and human interference. The Ladakh region is home to almost 225 species of birds and animals that call Ladakh their home. Many of the animals like the snow leopard, The Tibetan wolf, and the Tibetan Argali, and the black-necked crane are endangered, and immense care has to be taken to preserve them.

Not just animals, Ladakh is also home to innumerous exotic migratory birds that roam around carefree in the vast expanse. The diverse Ladakhi ecosystem is a great place for wildlife and nature aficionados to admire the rare species of flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

The snow leopard is the jewel of Ladakh, and it is estimated that the Hemis National Park is home to over 200 snow leopards. The national park is spread over 600 sq metres, making it the largest national park in the country. The Hemis National Park also houses the Ladakh urial, bharal, Asiatic ibex, marmot, Tibetan hare, and the Tibetan antelope.

Not only that, but Ladakh also has camel and yak safaris. The travellers can also avail the jeep safari which offers beautiful glimpses of the natural beauty and wildlife of Ladakh.

Ladakh travel tips

Travellers must make sure to keep the following tips in mind before planning a trip to the spectacular and picturesque land of Ladakh:

  • Travellers must consult their doctor before travelling to Ladakh as it is a high-altitude land. The entire region has low oxygen and air pressure, as it is at altitudes ranging from 10,000 ft - 23,000 ft above sea level. Tourists should carry Acute Mountain Syndrome (AMS) medication, as they can suffer from breathlessness, vomiting, and severe headaches. Without the medication, travellers are prone to bubble formation in the lungs which is a medical emergency and must be treated. Doctors are not easily available in Ladakh, hence tourists must be equipped to take care of themselves. It is also advised to carry a first aid kit, a thermometer, and to check the blood pressure as soon as you feel dizzy or weak.
  • Do not take a mountain bike if you are not proficient in riding. The roads are rigid, and terse, however safe to drive on, and will be slightly hard for amateurs to ride. The road of Ladakh is one of the most memorable drives and is the highest motorable road in the world. Bikers must carry their helmets, jerkins, hand gloves, and boots. Knee, elbow, and kidney guards are also advised for additional safety.
  • Ladakh has limited lodging facilities, so tourists are advised to make all bookings and reservations in advance. The lodgings are basic, with hot water facilities, and a television. There are no luxury hotels, only budget-friendly hotels and homestays.
  • Pack extremely warm and cosy clothes. Even in summers, the temperatures average from 25℃ to 15℃ and dip below 15℃ at night. Travellers should carry warm jackets, mufflers, scarves, shawls, and a thick pair of boots.
  • International travellers must change their foreign currency to the local Indian rupee in Delhi or other metro cities. There are no shops exchanging currency, or even accepting electronic means of payment in Ladakh.

Best time to visit Ladakh

The best time to visit Ladakh is during the summer seasons of April to June. The summer months are pleasant and ideal for travelling and exploring the city. Ladakh has extremely harsh winter seasons, and travellers must avoid visiting Ladakh from November to March.

Weather in Ladakh

The temperatures in summers are between 15℃-25℃. The lowest temperature recorded in Ladakh in the winters is -23℃.

How to reach Ladakh

By road

There are two main highways that connect Ladakh to the country. One is the Manali-Leh highway which is a total distance of 473 km from Manali, which is operational from Mid June to early October. From Manali, it will take about 19 hours, and one overnight haul to reach Leh. The Srinagar-Leh highway is the other highway which is a distance of 434 km from Srinagar and is operational from July to November. From Srinagar, travellers will take 17 hours to reach Leh with an overnight haul. The Himachal Pradesh Tourism (HRTC) and the Jammu-Kashmir State Tourism (SRTC) ply deluxe and regular buses on the highways on a daily basis.

Apart from the bus, travellers can also ride motorbikes, or drive down the highways in their cars, which makes for a memorable and an adventurous journey.

By rail

In the absence of a train station, tourists have to go to the nearest railway station to Ladakh, which is Jammu Tawi. The Jammu Tawi railway station is 700 km from Ladakh, and tourists can hire a cab, rent a car, or board a bus to reach Ladakh. The Jammu Tawi railway station is well connected to the major metro cities of Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

By air

IndiGo operates daily non-stop flights to Leh at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport from Delhi. IndiGo connects Delhi to other cities in India with daily, non-stop flights, so reaching Leh by air is the easiest way to travel.

Being a military terminal, the security at the airport is a little strict, and tourists must have all documents ready at the time of landing.

A visit to Ladakh is a must for all people who love to travel and are looking for some thrill and adventure while being in a serene and calming environment. There are innumerable reasons to explore Ladakh, and the land definitely does not disappoint with its beautiful and rich monasteries, warm local people, snow-capped mountains, and crystal clear lakes.

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