Leh Ladakh: The Hidden Beauty of North India
Leh Ladakh is a Land of mystical mountains and serene monasteries, surrounded by Tibet on the east and Himachal Pradesh to the south.
Leh Ladakh is the hidden beauty of North India. It’s a mysterious place known best for the Landscapes, Food, People, and the mighty Himalaya mountains. It Is a place that has been a dream destination for Adventure Junkies, and recently families have also been making rounds to this glorifying destination.
What makes Leh-Ladakh so unique? Is it over-hyped? Is it safe? Let’s get started to know All about Leh Ladakh.
Where is Leh Ladakh?
Well, Leh and Ladakh were not the same. Ladakh was a division in Jammu & Kashmir, India, and Leh was the capital of Ladakh. However, after the new Act passed in 2019, Leh is now the joint capital and largest town of the union territory of Ladakh in India. Since it is the land of Passes and mountains, one needs to be prepared well in advance. Once you have decided that you are making this trip, you have to know when is the best time to visit Ladakh. Owing to the extreme climatic condition, Ladakh remains closed for several months.
To truly enjoy your Ladakh trip, the Best Time to visit is from April till October. There are some parts which will be open from November till March. However, you will see lots of snow.
Ladakh in October until April
October symbols the commencement of winters, and cold starts to settle everywhere. Hotels and Transportation shut down. The military would advise people not to travel during this period. Since temperature drops as far as minus 20 and landslides are so frequent. There have been instances of Bikes and cars getting stuck in the snow, and the military had to come to escape them. The Srinagar-Leh road closes at the start of November. As a result, Ladakh is accessible only by air. All the lakes, including Pangong, Tso Moriri, become frozen. One cannot camp nor enjoy the road trip. You might also face a shortage of Running hot water and electricity cutdown. One must understand that this place is situated high above the ground, and electricity gets generated using Solar so you cannot expect to get Power consumption throughout the day, at least near Pangong Lake camps and Tso Moriri.
Ladakh in May Until September
The months of May until September are the perfect months to visit Ladakh. Here, you will find tourists from all walks of life flocking to this beauty. However, you will still see snow all over the place, and BRO (Border Road Organisation) starts clearing the snow. One can take either of two road routes Srinagar to Leh or Manali to Leh. If you are planning a Road trip on a Bike, then you have to be careful as there will be a lot of melting snow and river streams even on high altitude. July is, in fact, the most preferred month if you can make it in the first half before Monsoon hits the Himalayan region.
If you are not a snow person and want to see the Himalayas covered in green and want to know the wildlife open on the road, then plan a trip in September. Ladakh blossoms with colors everywhere. Accommodations are all functional, and roads are in near perfect condition. The entire Ladakh brims with astonishing and pleasant beauty at this time.
I visited Leh-Ladakh during August, and I was lucky to experience A bit of rain, snow patches, greenery as well as some snowfall at high altitude
Ladakh by Bike
If you are traveling with a group of friends or even solo, then I suggest going by bike. There are two routes for Ladakh tour by bike; Srinagar to Leh through Zoji La Pass, which is approximately 265 Km and Manali to Leh, which is 475 Km. Manali to Leh. This Manali route is comparatively more difficult to travel due to its higher altitude. You can take Bikes on Rent in either Srinagar or Manali. You can also Start your Bike trip from Leh. However, you would miss the Manali – Leh and Srinagar – Leh highway entirely.
To Rent a motorcycle from either of these places, you have to pay a daily rental. Then, depending on the motorcycle you chose, it can be anywhere between Rs. 1200 to Rs. 1800 per day. Other than this, you will also need to pay a security amount. I traveled by bike as well as a rental car.
Ladakh by Car
You can either get your car or hire a rental car along with the driver. The high altitudes are roads at the peak quite unpredictable. It is better to hire someone who already has experience driving on this road. However, if you still want to get your car, an SUV will be the best choice.
Places To See On a Road Trip from Srinagar to Ladakh
On the route to Kargil
Once you have commenced your journey from Srinagar, it will take approximately 6 hours to reach Kargil. The distance between Srinagar to Kargil is 204km. There are a few must-visit places that you should not miss. Thajiwas Glacier, Zoji-La Pass, Baltal Valley, and Nilagrad River are some of the spots.
Thajiwas Glacier is a beauty to behold. It is not far from Srinagar, and one can choose to Trek or Hire a Pony and spend a few minutes or an hour to enjoy the serenity of the place. Next on the way is the unmissable Zoji-La pass. Its altitude is 3528 m above the sea level and is the door to Ladakh. The locals know Baltal Valley for the Blue mountains laced with snow. A perfect picturesque landscape.
Kargil is the second largest district in Ladakh and has beautiful views, and it’s safe to travel. Also, Kargil is best known for the Indo-Pak war in 1999. As you enter this district, you will find Quarters for Army men as well as locals living there in communal harmony. You will also find a Drass War memorial built by the Indian army, which is a must-visit spot. This memorial is in the memory of the martyred soldiers who died in the war. There is a museum that holds the weapons and all equipment used during the war.
Additionally, the museum holds weapons seized from Pakistan at that time. There is a small café and a shop to get souvenirs as well. Main Bazaar serves as one of the prominent attractions for food lovers visiting Kargil. With its wide variety of local and cross border flavors and cuisine, Kargil is truly a delight.
Visit Drass village and Lamayuru monastery in Kargil
Drass village is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. You will be intrigued to see the architecture of the accommodation in Drass. It is eco-friendly and Equipped with basic amenities. Warm clothes are a must even in summer. Lamayuru Monastery is hugely famous among travelers because of its architectural beauty. With Mysterious mountains around it and the teachings of Buddha floating in its air, Lamayuru Monastery wouldn’t disappoint you. One point to note is that you will find a lot of Monastery, as the majority of the population here is Buddhist.
Magnetic Hill in Kargil
Out of the numerous captivating places in Ladakh, there is one that has bewildered people for long and continues to do so is the Magnetic Hill. It is a small stretch of road located about 40 kilometers from Leh towards Kargil. Upon reaching, one can stop the engine of the vehicle and observe that the car moves in the upward direction. Here, magnetic forces are so strong that it pulls vehicles upwards. So try this and see it for yourself. I tried and experienced it, and I got surprised!
“Ladakh has a characteristic that’s a unique blend of Indian, Tibetan as well as Buddhism linings make it a place which is worth paying a visit to.”
Leh is the largest district in the Union Territory of Ladakh. It’s one of the villages where you will find tourists from all over the world living peacefully in the backdrop of the Mighty Himalaya Mountain. This place comes straight out of the Dreamland. Once you reach Leh, you must visit Khardung La Pass, which is 39 km by road from Leh. The locals know Khardung La to be the highest motorable pass in the world. Also, It is at the height of 5,359 m (17,582 ft). Khardung La bids a panoramic view of the Karakoram range and offers the tourists an experience like no other. Your Bike tour to Leh isn’t complete until you have been to Khardung La pass. It is a heaven for Bike Riders and others alike.
Visit the great Shanti Stupa in Leh
You will find Shanti Stupa at a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh. It’s a white, dome structure, which looks extremely beautiful during the night when lit up. The significance of Shanti Stupa is that it is the symbol of Peace and Prosperity. The core idol of Buddha is in the form of “turning wheel of Dharma” or the Dharmachakra. The second level houses are remnants that depict Buddha’s birth, death, and how to defeat evil by meditating.
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib
Even though you will find a lot of Monastery in Leh, other religions coexist in harmony. You will find Hindu temples and Gurudwaras as well. Amongst them is one such, Gurdwara Pathar Sahib. It has an astonishing history, religious importance, and stories of inception. With Sikhism in its roots and Indian army managing its day to day functioning, Gurdwara Pathar Sahib has become a significant tourist and religious attraction for people visiting Leh.
You will find Nubra Valley around 100 kilometers from the city of Leh; on the other side of mighty, Khardung La.Nubra Valley offers various unmissable spots and activities like Camping, activities on Sand Dunes, Riding on Double-Humped camels. Nubra valley is famous for breathtaking landscapes, adventurous roads, and generous people. The one place that you must visit in Nubra is the beautiful Diskit Monastery. If you plan to visit Ladakh in February, you can experience the festival known as Dosmoche or the “Festival of the Scapegoat.”
Visit Sightseeing places like Shey Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Sindhu Ghat, and Hemis on the route to Pangong Lake. Pangong Lake has become famous for Bollywood movie shootings. You can visit the filming locations where the Famous Bollywood movie “3 Idiots” got shot. You can also stay overnight at Exotic Royal Camps overseeing the lake. Mountains surround Pangong Lake or Pangong Tso. This crystal clear lake is a sight to behold. And did you know that the water appears to be changing its color throughout the day? I experienced it by myself. The visitors are not allowed to swim or even taking a dip in the lake.
Tso Moriri is yet another lake which is a bit far from Leh village in Ladakh. Also, Tso Moriri has a variety of flora and fauna around it. Snow-capped mountains and barren hills surround it, Tso Moriri is the place less traveled. You will be amazed to gaze at numerous stars in Tso Moriri. It was declared a marshland reserve hence is a place of importance for the region and its tourism.
Shopping in Leh Market
The Leh primary market is home to Tibetan antiques, jewelry, and soaps. You can buy handcrafted carpets and pashmina shawls. Visit the Ladakh Apricot store for organic jams made with locally sourced apricots. You will find vendors from other nationalities selling things. Even the most jaded shopper will want to spend at least some, if not all, of their money!
One can buy:
- Buddha statues
- Tibetan Handicrafts
- Organic Soaps
- Organic Jams
- Handcrafted Rugs
- Exclusive Stones and Gems
- Singing Tibetan Bowls
- Ladakh Prayer Wheels and Flags
Leh Ladakh is famous for Apricots. Buy them in bulk, Get Apricot Jams, and skincare products. If you have very little time to shop for souvenirs and gifts, this Leh Market is the right place. You will find everything you want in one place.
Tip: Carry Cash, as a lot of shops accept only cash. Also, ATMs are not only rare but are frequently out of money.
What to Eat in Leh Ladakh?
Nepalese, Tibetan, and Kashmiri food influences the food of Ladakh. Since this place has people from all the regions and different communities, you will find the food to be different than the rest of India. Over time, these places have grown to produce foodstuffs of their kind and taste. The menu focuses a lot on soup, bread. Spices, brew, barley, dry fruit are also part and parcel of Ladakhi cuisine. Most of the food grown is organic. They tend to produce barley flour, potatoes, beetroots, pumpkins, beans, etc
You can choose from Thukpa, Sugu, and Meat Rice to Kashmiri, North Indian cuisines.
You must eat traditional local food. Below is the list of some lip-smacking Ladakhi-Kashmiri Food.
- Butter Tea
- Ladakhi Pulao
Some of the Ladakh – Tibetan Food consists of
- Chutagi – dumpling and vegetable soup is an iconic Ladakh dish.
- Skieu – This is a wildly popular soup-based dish
- Khambir- A pan-shaped, whole wheat bread, baked to perfection with a thick crust, it is incredibly filling.
- Momo- Dumpling
- Thukpa- A Tibetan noodle soup, this is popular comfort food to warm you up, inside and out
- Tapu- Grain flour of wheat, barley, or buckwheat is mixed with ground apricot seeds until it becomes a smooth texture.
- Tigmo, Thenktuk and Mokthuk amongst others
While in Leh Ladakh, Don’t Forget To Try
Chhupri – Yak milk cheese
Yak milk is treated with citrus fruits to become a yummy Himalayan cheese called a Chhupri. Chhupri is can be eaten in many ways. For example, it’s added to Butter Tea, eaten with rice, or even as a snack.
Butter tea, or Gur Gur Chai (also known as Tsaza)
This signature drink of Ladakh is pink in color with a distinctive aroma. It has Water, Himalayan salt, and Fresh yak butter.
The Perfect Leh Ladakh Road Trip
Not days, but months won’t be enough to get you hold of this stunningly beautiful place. You can spend months and won’t get tired of exploring in nature’s lap. However, you must take at least 30 days if you live in India. If you are an International Traveler, then of course at least a month would be required.
Some Important things to remember:
If you’re an Indian citizen or a foreign tourist, Carry government photo-identity proof like driving license, PAN card, and Aadhar card(for Indians), which come handy at checkpoints and in case permits are required.
Secondly, Carry biodegradable paper bags, as Plastic is not allowed in Leh Ladakh.
Lastly, Prepaid SIM cards don’t work well in Leh, but postpaid do. So Ensure that you have Postpaid connections for your Mobile phones.
The weather frequently changes; as a result, it is essential to carry clothes for all weathers. Jackets, Raincoats, Warmers, as well as Cotton T-shirts, will be required.
Since the passes like KharDungla, Rohtang, etc. are at an elevated height, one can suffer from altitude sickness and bleeding from nose due to low oxygen. Carry Prescribed First aid kit and medicines.
Carry Extra Batteries for your Camera and Power Bank.
As mentioned throughout, visiting Leh Ladakh isn’t like any other trip. It requires stamina, strength, meticulousness, and enthusiasm to complete the journey.
Plan and be prepared for the journey of your lifetime.
Ummul is the curator and writer of thathumblepost.com. She is passionate about traveling to new places and loves Whales.You heard it right! Her blog is about the experiences of a lifetime. It is a fantastic mixture of Travel Itineraries & Diaries, Food, Some Inspirational words, and many more. You can follow Ummul at her blog ThatHumblePost
Hey! A great blog but the cover picture is that of Golden Temple which is in Punjab and Ladakh is far up in India. Might want to take a look at that.
My comment exactly – the cover picture is of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
I actually organised and escorted the first group tour to Ladakh when is opened to international tourism in 1980. I persevered with it for five years until it became logistically too difficult. Read about it extensively in book one of my series: Every Nook and Cranny: A World Travel Guide.