Travel Guide For Ladakh Tour


Travellers thirsting for adventure and a taste of nature at its best, are certain to be mesmerised by a Ladakh tour. Here, the mountains meet the sky, colours are more vibrant, tranquility reigns supreme and time stands still. If you’re planning a trip to Ladakh, here’s all you need to know about this magical paradise.

Ladakh tour

Words cannot do justice to the surreal serenity of Ladakh, which has to be experienced to be believed

Strategically located along ancient trade routes, Ladakh is bound by the Kunlun Mountains to the north and the Himalayas to the south. Ladakh gets its name from the numerous mountain passes that criss-cross its landscape. ‘La’ refers to the passes and ‘Dhak’ means many; it is also called the ‘Land of High Passes’.

Best Time To Visit Ladakh

Best Time To Visit Ladakh

Traditionally, the best time to visit Ladakh is from mid-May to early-October.

Ladakh Weather

In the month of May: This marks the beginning of summer in Ladakh, when temperatures can jump up to a warm 32 degrees Celsius during the day but often drops sharply as the sun sets, at times even reaching zero degrees.

In the month of October: October marks the start of winters in Ladakh, with temperatures below freezing point. Thick snow carpets the landscape, rivers and lakes freeze over, and motorable routes are difficult to access. In fact, both Rohtang Pass (Manali-Leh) and Zoji La Pass (Srinagar-Leh) that connect Leh-Ladakh with other parts of India are closed during this time.

However, there’s good news for adventure junkies who want to experience winter in Ladakh. The Indian government has approved a strategic road transport project aimed at boosting all-weather connectivity between the key sectors of Jammu and Kashmir – especially Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.

How To Reach Ladakh

How To Reach Ladakh

By Air

The quickest way to get to Ladakh would be to take a flight from either Delhi or Srinagar to Leh (Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport – the main airport). Air India, Go Air and Jet Airways are the three operators that currently offer direct flights to Leh. Schedules, however, are subject to change depending on weather conditions. Photography is strictly prohibited at the airport and on the flight to Leh for security reasons.

By Road

Those with a more adventurous bent of mind, would love biking or driving here. There are two possible routes to Ladakh – NH-1D and Manali-Leh Highway, but time your visit between May and October when the highways are not blocked by snow.

ladakh tour trip- road travel

The Srinagar-Leh road reveals enchanting vistas that change as one gains altitude

NH-1D – Through Srinagar

This route is through Srinagar via the amazingly scenic Zoji-La pass. Also called NH-1D, it is often preferred to the Manali-Leh Highway because its gradual ascent gives travellers a better chance to acclimatise to higher altitudes.

The Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation regularly operates luxury and standard bus services between Srinagar and Leh, with an overnight stop at Kargil. Alternatively, you can choose to hire private cars, jeeps or taxis in Srinagar.

Manali-Leh Highway

The challenging Manali-Leh Highway is a two-day journey, which is an adventure in itself. This route takes you along deeply curving mountains in uncountable shades of brown, passes through several mountain passes and moves along Taglang-La – the second-highest motorable road in the world at 17,469 feet (5,235m) above sea level.

ladakh tour trip- manali leh highway

The hairpin bends along the Manali-Leh highway to Ladakh are not for the faint-hearted

Both Himachal Pradesh Tourism (HRTC) and Jammu and Kashmir State Tourism Corporation run daily deluxe and ordinary buses between Manali and Leh. The buses halt at camps at Sarchu or Pang overnight before proceeding to Ladakh. The Ladakh Tourism Office or local guides can be contacted for exact schedules and detailed information about local and intra-region transportation.

Tips For Ladakh Tour

  • If you do plan to ride or drive to Ladakh, it is imperative that you identify petrol pumps along the way. Remember to carry extra fuel just in case you run out on the highway.
  • This is important especially if you choose to take the Leh-Manali Highway as the last petrol pump on this route is at Tandi and the next one is around 400 kms away at Karu.
  • While some local shops and homes near the roadside do stock petrol for travellers caught in an emergency, the quality of petrol cannot be guaranteed and you will need to shell out a luxury surcharge too.

Once in Leh-Ladakh, buses are the cheapest mode of transport, however hiring private taxis and the services of a registered travel agency is the best way to explore this region.

Important Travel Documentation For Ladakh Trip

Important Travel Documentation For Ladakh Trip

ladakh tour trip - entrance

The grand entrance to the town on Leh-Ladakh is a welcoming sight for visitors

A Ladakh tour takes careful preparation and time. Make sure you carry the following documents on your Ladakh tour:

Inner Line Permit – As per a recent government mandate, travellers planning a Ladakh trip will need to compulsorily obtain an Inner Line Permit for visiting the protected areas of Ladakh and a separate Protected Area Permit (PAP) from requisite authorities, before commencing their journey. To make the process simpler and more convenient the Government of India has introduced an online application portal ( to help procure these permits.

Things To Keep In Mind For Ladakh Tour

  • Protected Area Permits are issued for a maximum of seven days and Inner Line Permits are valid for up to three weeks.
  • It is mandatory for all visitors to carry valid photo ID and proof of nationality at all times.
  • Keep multiple copies of these documents as they will be required at various checkpoints manned by military personnel who track entry and exit of travellers.

>Where To Stay In Ladakh

Where To Stay In Ladakh

Tough terrain, rough weather and a difficult environment makes Ladakh tourism seem daunting, but the warm hospitality of the local people makes it less forbidding. Ladakh offers different kinds of accommodation, from budget friendly hostels and home-stays to camp-sites, guest houses and luxury hotels. Most hotels in Ladakh offer modern amenities and amazing views, while the many guesthouses are usually family run affairs that offer a less formal setting.

Things To Do In Ladakh

There are plenty of activities and things to do in Ladakh. Soak in the cultural depth of Leh with visits to its numerous monasteries, palaces and museums or just explore its unparalleled natural beauty.

Stroll Through Mesmerising Leh Palace

ladakh tour trip - leh palace

The Leh Palace still majestically stands guard over the city and its inhabitants

Leh Palace stands guard majestically over the city’s winding lanes and bustling markets. Build in traditional Tibetan architectural style, the nine-storey palace was once home to the royal family (who still own it). A part of the palace has been converted to a museum and has on display thangkas, paintings and medieval weapons.

Explore The Picturesque Monasteries

dakh tour 0 hemmis monastry

Masked dancers are an integral part of the festivities at the famous Hemis Monastery

Leh-Ladakh has a number of monasteries, each unique in their own way. Definitely include Thiksey and Hemis monasteries in your Ladakh tour. Thiksey is one of the best-preserved and most colourful among the monasteries, while Hemis is the oldest and most revered. Hemis has also become popular because of its annual festivals and colourful dance dramas (cham dances) that coincide with the summer tourist season.

Another unique monastery is the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa. Constructed in 1430, this Gompa has an unmatched collection of Buddhist art, hand-painted scrolls and frescoes and valuable ancient manuscripts. But what captures the attention of visitors is the giant gold-gilded statue of the Buddha, which exudes a spiritual calm on all those in its presence.

Have The ‘Yak’ Experience

Retrace ancient trade routes with a Yak safari or ride the double-humped Bactrian camels through the white sand dunes of Hunder and along the incredibly beautiful Shyok and Nubra River Valley. Adrenaline junkies can indulge in adventure sports, trekking, white-water rafting, biking and mountain climbing.

Discover The Mystery Of Magnetic Hill

Ladakh tour trip magnetic hill

The Magnetic Hill, a natural wonder at Leh, is a favourite among tourists

And if all this isn’t magical enough, drive up the mysterious Magnetic Hill, located 30 kilometres from Leh on the way to Alchi and Kargil. A sign invites you to stop your car over a white square marked on the road, switch it off and leave it in neutral. The strong magnetic pull that emanates from the hill mysteriously makes the car move uphill, a phenomenon that leaves visitors spell-bound.

Places To Visit In Ladakh

Places To Visit In Ladakh

While, the beauty of Leh makes it easy to fall in love with, what truly enchants travellers is the region surrounding Leh and Ladakh.

Nubra Valley

The glistening waters of the Shyok and Nubra rivers give the Nubra Valley a distinctly ethereal charm. Located around 140 kilometres from Leh, the Nubra Valley gets carpeted with glistening green Alfalfa, an array of wild flowers and lavender. A trip to Nubra Valley also takes you across the world’s highest motorable road, Khardung La. And since Nubra Valley is at a lower altitude than Leh, it is an ideal place to stop for a bit and get acclimatized for your onward Ladakh tour.


ladakh tour trip - camels

Ride the double-humped Bactrian Camels in Nubra for an exhilarating experience

Nubra Valley is home to Hunder, one of the highest deserts in the world. The region is famous for its pristine white sand dunes and the rare two-humped Bactrian camel. Choose to retrace ancient trade routes with a camel safari or indulge in adventure sports, trekking, white-water rafting, biking and mountain climbing. Almonds, apricots and hand-knitted woolen socks are great options for gifts.

Pangong Tso Lake

Ladakh tour - Pangong tso Lake.

Marvel at the beautiful scenic view of reflection of mountains on Pangong tso Lake.

One of the best places to visit in Ladakh is the breathtaking Pangong Tso Lake, popular world-over as the ‘Lake of 1001 Colours’. Nestled amid stark, rugged mountains at a height of 4,350 meters, it is the world’s highest saltwater lake. Spend a night camping on the white sands of lake – and watch as the water changes colour from distinct shades of blue, green, purple and turquoise to a deep violet depending on the angle of your view. The lake attracts flocks of migratory birds, including some endangered species like the Black Necked Cranes.

The drive to the Pangong Tso takes you through Chang La, a mountain pass and the third-highest motorable road in the world, which is filled with enchanting vistas.

Zanskar Valley

A Ladakh tour would be incomplete without a visit to Zanskar Valley. The journey to Zanskar takes you through an almost alien moonscape, past Kargil and on to the gushing wild Zanskar River. Known for white-water rafting, the river banks reveal ancient rock carvings for those who care to explore its banks.

Alchi Village

Perched on the banks of the mighty Indus is the picturesque village of Alchi, located around 70km west of Leh. Take a pleasant walk along curving streets, past village homes set amid apricot trees. Let the musical gurgling of the Indus be your companion as you explore Alchi’s gompas and temples.

Visit the 11th century Alchi monastery, which can only be accessed only between June to October as the route to it remains closed during the colder winter months. The Sumstek Temple, dating back to around 900 years, is another attraction; its ancient wall frescoes, carvings and paintings make for a great visit.

What To Eat In Ladakh

What To Eat In Ladakh

Ladakhi food is lightly spiced and largely non-vegetarian. The use of dry fruits and local spices make the traditional cuisine more aromatic. While momos and thukpa are popular, do try the Chu-Tagir, Gyathuk, Phating and Ti-Mok. The range of local breads like the Tingmo dunked in hot broth make an interesting accompaniment to meals, along with steamed and sautéed vegetables. The Ladakhi Pulao, unlike its ubiquitous namesake, is delicately flavoured and is a must try.

Tsampa, a roasted flour made of barley, has been the staple food of Ladakh for centuries. It is often mixed with tea or used to make flavourful broths and dumpling wraps. Barley is also fermented to brew a local, craft beer called Chang, which is an important part of festivities in the region. Sip on some Leh berry juice, gur gur cha or some hot yak-butter tea as you take in the magnificent vistas and contemplate the mysteries of life.

Useful Words To Use On Your Ladakh Trip

Useful Words To Use On Your Ladakh Trip

Ladakh tour trip - local people of ladakh

The local people of Ladakh are warm, welcoming and ever friendly.

The local languages, Ladakhi (a Tibetan dialect) and Pahari, aren’t easy to learn but picking up a few key phrases will help you make friends quicker. Hindi and English are also understood.

  • JULLEY  [dschu-leh] – Has multiple meaning and can be used to say Hello, Bye, Thank You, Please.
  • KHAMSANG-IN-A-LEY? – How are you?
  • KHAMSANG-LEY! – I am fine
  • NYERANGI-MING CHI IN-LEY? – What is your name?
  • NGE-MING … IN-LEY. – My name is …
  • MAN-LEY. No, thanks!
  • O-LEY. Yes, please.
  • LAM (place)-A KANE INOK-LEY? – Where is the way to (place)?

Communication And Connectivity In Ladakh

Communication And Connectivity In Ladakh

When planning your Ladakh trip, do keep in mind that connectivity is sporadic and poor, with limited or no access to WiFi and cellphone signals, which means you are virtually isolated from the world outside. Add to that the fact that Ladakh is located in Jammu and Kashmir right along India’s border with China – leading to stricter norms when trying to procure new phone connections or SIM cards.

Use Post-Paid Connections

It is therefore recommended that you carry a post-paid mobile connection. This is important as pre-paid connections from outside the state will be of little use once you start your ascent towards Jammu and Kashmir. Only pre-paid connections bought within the state will work in Ladakh and parts of Kashmir, all other pre-paid connections remain non-functional.

If you are a foreign national, you may apply for a pre-paid phone connection in Jammu and Kashmir by submitting photocopies of your passport and two passport-sized photographs. Some international post-paid mobile phone connections do pick up signals in Leh-Ladakh, but it is prohibitively expensive.

Mobile-Phone Connections

Of all the mobile phone operators, only BSNL and MTNL offer some sort of coverage and reach in Leh-Ladakh; BSNL is a better option as it has a slightly wider reach. However, do keep in mind that connectivity might be limited to certain specific regions.

Satellite Phones And Postal Services

Many villages and even some of the inaccessible places in Leh-Ladakh may have satellite phones available for use during emergencies at a prescribed cost. Postal facilities are available in Leh, Padum, Kargil and Nubra Valley in case you want to send a post-card back home.

Using Money In Ladakh

Using Money In Ladakh


The Indian Rupee is the only currency accepted in Ladakh.  Credit cards are not accepted by most local businesses, the exception being some of the larger establishments and luxury hotels. But before you start using your credit or debit card, make sure your bank knows you’re going to be using it in Ladakh. You don’t want your card being declined for unusual transactions.

Travellers Cheques

A mix of cash and traveller’s cheques provides the best security and flexibility. US Dollars and Pound Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange with American Express, Thomas Cook and Visa being the most accepted traveller’s cheques.

Money Exchange And ATMs

The central market in Leh has ATMs of several banks like State Bank of India, AXIS Bank, J&K Bank, Punjab National Bank and also a few money-changers in case you want to convert currencies into Indian Rupees. Do keep in mind though, that there are no money exchange facilities outside the main towns of Leh and Ladakh. It is common practice to tip tour guides, waiters, porters, and drivers so carry smaller denominations.

Shopping In Ladakh

Tibet market - Ladakh tour

You can enjoy shopping for souvenirs in the bazaars and drool on Pashmina shawls and Tibetan handicrafts

Adding to the charm of Ladakh are the numerous quaint roadside shops and stalls selling curios, jewellery, pashmina wool, art and handicrafts. Don’t miss the Main Bazaar, which offers small statuettes, images of the Buddha and fine paintings, replicas of spinning prayer wheels, and other local art and craft. The Tibetan Market on Fort Road is also famous for its traditional Ladakhi silver and turquoise jewellery, Ladakhi clothing and much more.

Tips for Ladakh Tour

  • Plastic bags are banned in Ladakh to preserve the fragile ecosystem.
  • Carry extra batteries as the cold environment drains them out quicker.
  • Bargain. And beware of fakes sold as antiques for a huge price!

Managing Your Health In Ladakh – Acclimatisation

Managing Your Health In Ladakh – Acclimatisation

A Ladakh trip will take you to altitudes above 11,000 feet where oxygen levels are much lower. The low levels of oxygen affect most visitors to the region and lead to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), resulting in headaches, dizziness and nausea. Take the first couple of days to rest and allow the body to acclimatise and adjust to the low atmospheric pressure.

If you are travelling to Ladakh by bike or car, take a day’s break at every 2,000 feet (600 meters) of climb above the 7,000-feet altitude mark. This will give your body time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen in the atmosphere.

Why Book A Ladakh Tour?

Ladakh is extremely beautiful. Its rugged mountains create sharp contrasts with startlingly blue skies, which are reflected in the still, clear waters of the many lakes that dot the countryside. A Ladakh tour offers adventure, a deep spiritual experience, and touches your soul like no other place on Earth can. It is definitely a place to visit at least once in your lifetime, so make sure to add it to your travel bucket-list.

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