Travel guide to ladakh

The Ultimate Ladakh Trip Guide (48 things you can do)

1 month ago

So, let us say you are planning a trip to Ladakh. You take a leave from work, you have the money, and you have friends along with you.

But before you plan your trip here are things you should not miss, what items to pack, what should be the budget, how many days are required precautions should you take, and what places to visit.

In fact, below is a list of things you should do if you want your trip to Ladakh to be memorable, doesn’t matter if you are with your family or friends.

How many days do you need?

Although Ladakh is not a very big region, the weather, the road conditions, and difficult terrain usually can lead to a time delay in your schedule. Also, the place is filled with monumental nature and man-made marvels that you can find nowhere across India. Considering these factors, eight to ten days’ worth of time would be sufficient. Some adventure lovers and bike enthusiasts can also extend the trip up to two weeks.

How much money would you require?

Ladakh is cheaper to stay, eat, and shop. But there are some charges that you can’t avoid. You would need the money for the following things:

  1. Traveling: Travelling up to Ladakh, inside Ladakh and back home can cost you anywhere between 5000 – 20,000/- depending on if you travel by bus, bike, car,  or rental cars, etc.
  2. Accommodation: The quality of the hotels remains the same across Ladakh. Also, there are places where you may not find hotels and may have to stay with the locals (which you should not miss). The accommodation can cost you from INR 500 to INR 800 per person per day.
  3. Food/ Shopping: You may not find your usual cuisines but local cuisines are cheap and tasty. Also shopping in one of the markets can add to your travel souvenirs. Consider the cost around INR 400 – INR 500 per day (unless going on a shopping spree and spends thousands of rupees)
  4. Permits: Another important thing you should not miss is the Inline permits, the environmental fee, the passes, and the tickets. All of this will cost you INR 600 to the max.

What essentials should you pack?

  1. Warm Clothes: Obviously, sweaters, jackets, woolen caps, thermal wear, windproof jackets, socks, hand gloves, mufflers, and anything that warms you, pack it up.
    Pro Tip – Consider layering up, so that you can add and remove the layers as the temperature can be of a varying degree depending on the region.
  2. Sunblock and Sunglasses: Especially in the snow region, the light bounces off of the snow which can be harmful to your eyes and skin.
  3. Essential Toiletries: Apart from your usual toothpaste, toothbrush, sanitary pads, etc do not forget to carry a good moisturizer or oil as the wind can damage your hair and skin.
  4. Electronics: You will be spending a lot of time out and most probably areas that have no electricity. So any electronic devices you have to make sure they are charged or you are carrying a portable charger for every device.
  5. Medicines: Along with basic medication, bandages and ointments should be carried. Make sure you carry medicines for allergic reactions and altitude sickness.
  6. Documents & Cash: Your basic identification documents are must be carried along with your passport size photos. Carry cash instead of the card as there are very few ATMs on the roads and also in villages.
  7. Water: Ladakhi weather can be harsh on your throat. Especially, if you are trekking or hiking. Make sure you carry two liters of water.

Now that you are all set, let us start you trip to Ladakh!

There are two major places you can start your trip with! The first is Srinagar and the second is Manali. (You will have to get to both these places via Delhi). A lot of people prefer the Srinagar route as the roads are good. So here are a few things you should see on your way to Kargil

Travel guide to Ladakh

1) Sonamarg –The Golden Meadow

About 80 km from Srinagar you will come across beautiful meadows of Sonamarg. The Sonamarg Valley offers picturesque snowclad mountains surrounding the green fields. The name Sonamarg came about as the snow-clad mountains reflect the sun and gives golden color. The place is perfect for a day hike visiting the markets or even trekking on the hills.                                                      

Travel guide to Ladakh
Travel guide to Ladakh

2) Walnut Orchards of Sonamarg

Will you ever get a chance to see Walnut trees and fruits? Do not miss plucking some walnuts in the walnut orchards of Sonamarg and eating sun-dried fresh walnuts while you are in Sonamarg.

3) Fishing at Lakes of Sonamarg

There are five lakes in the Sonamarg region Satsar Lake, Krishnasar Lake, Vishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake, and Gadasar Lake. These lakes are accessible only during the summers as in winter season lakes get freeze. One can do boating and fishing in these lakes.

4) Horse ride at Thajiwas Glacier

About 5 km away from Sonamarg is Thajiwas Glacier. Thajiwas Glacier remains snow-clad all year long. The beauty is mesmerizing to the eye as water-fall pine trees and snow make the view super awesome. Horse ride is also available on the location. A definite detour on your trip!

5) Pray at Amarnath Temple

About 30 kilometers from Pahalgam is Amarnath Temple. If you are visiting with your family, Amarnath would be a perfect halt. It is the temple of Lord Shiva and pilgrimages from all over the country visit this temple. It is at the height of 3,888 m making it one of the highest temples in India.

6) Zoji-la Pass

Zoji-la Pass is one of the toughest passes in the world that connects Kashmir to Ladakh. It has a height of 3528m. If you are going by bike, Zoji-la pass is definitely a thrill-seeking point. The foundation of the pass was laid by the PM in 2018 since then it is considered a shorter route to Amaranth temple.

7) Adventure at Zero Point

On the way to Drass, Zero points is a snow-covered region where fun activities can be carried out. Skiing, sledding, etc are fun activities provided by the locals. The clothes and the instruments are offered by the locals. It is called Zero point because the temperature remains zero on an average. But Zero point is very high in altitude about 4000m, so be careful as you might experience breathlessness.

8) Tiger Hill, Kargil

On the way to Kargil from Drass, about half an hour from Drass is Tiger Hill. It is a symbol of the martyrdom of the Sikh Battalion that emerged from victory against the Pakistani Invaders. It was opened for trekkers in 2019.

9) Kargil War Memorial

You should definitely stop to pay respect to the memorial built-in memory of our soldiers who lost their lives in the Kargil War.

 Depending on which of these activities you do and for how long, you will arrive at Kargil in one or two days. After 7 to 8 hours of journey to Kargil, you can consider accommodation at Kargil. Here are things that you can do while you stay in Kargil.

Travel guide to Ladakh

10) Shopping in Kargil

While you stay in Kargil, you should definitely shop in the local Kargil Market. With dry fruits, embroidered dresses, spices, and ornaments you can spend some wholesome time in shopping. You can also visit local cafes and try some regional cuisine.

11) Trekking

There are various trekking spots near Kargil like Lamayuru-Leh Trek, Padum-Lamayuru Trek, Padum-Hemis Trek, Sankaru-Dras Trek, NunKun, etc. Many people prefer going trekking and exploring over spending a leisure day eating and shopping.

12) Visit Suru Basin

Suru River flows through Kargil. It is a tributary of the Indus River. Very close to Kargil lies Suru Basin. It is the catchment area of the River which emerges from Panzella Glacier. It lies in the foothills of Himalayan Ranges.

13) Lamayuru Monastery

Lamayuru lies on top of what is commonly called the “Moonland ” of Ladakh. The texture of the hill below the monastery resembles that of the Moon and thus the name “Moonland”. Lamayuru is the oldest monastery in Ladakh that acts as a house to 150 Monks.

After a brief stay of a day or two in Kargil, you can head towards Leh. The road to Leh and Kargil has many destinations. It is the most popular road among the people who travel on bikes. It is the most difficult route in North India.  It will consume a complete day of about 12 to 16 hours if you wish to visit the following destinations.

14) Stay at night at Dah- Hanu

There are two ways through which you can reach Leh from Kargil. One is via Batalik- Dah – Khalsi and the second via Mulbekh- Fotu-la – Khalsi. If you wish to communicate with the locals you should definitely consider staying/visiting Dah-Hanu. The specialty of this place lies in the fact that it doesn’t have any hotels. So you can stay in one of the local’s houses.

15) Fotu La Pass

If you choose the other route, you will have to go through Fotu-la pass which lies in the Zanskar Ranges. It is one of the two high passes between Leh and Kargil’s route. Again, a very adventure-seeking spot for people who are on a trip to Ladakh on a bike! It lies at the height of 4108 m.

16) Camp at Uletopko

Uletopko is an amazing camping site. It lies on the banks of River Sindhu. No need to stay in the hotels when you can spend the night star gazing and falling asleep next to the trickling sound of the river. It is one of the hidden gems of Ladakh that you will rarely find in any travel itinerary. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Travel guide to Ladakh
Travel guide to Ladakh

17) Pray at the only Gurudwara of Ladakh

Ladakh is popular for Monasteries, it is rare to find a Temple or Gurudwara in the region. Gurudwara Patthar Sahib lies about 20 km away from Leh. The Gurudwara is taken care of by the Lamas and the Army. It has got an interesting story behind its existence. According to local folklore, the Gurudwara has a stone of the shape of Guru Nanak Dev’s back. It could not be destroyed during the construction and so the locals decided to preserve it.

18) Park your car at Magnetic Hill

Have you ever seen a Car going uphill? Well, you haven’t been to the Magnetic Hill of Leh in that case. It is also known as Cyclops hill. Scientifically, some optical illusion happens in the hill that makes a downhill seems like an uphill. But definitely must watch.

19) River Rafting in Zanskar River

The Northern region of India is full of gushing rivers. The melting ice of Himalaya increases the force of the rivers and that makes them perfect for river rafting.

20) Indus Zanskar Sangam

About 35 KM from Leh, two major rivers meet. Indus river or Sindhu and Zanskar river. Indus is the longest river in Asia while Zanskar is one of the major rivers in Ladakh. The water of Indus being pale blue and that of Zanskar being greenish-blue, this confluence is one of a kind. In winters the water of Zanskar is mostly frozen, while Indus gushing with ice floating on the top makes it a very unique view.

Travel guide to Ladakh
Travel guide to Ladakh
Travel guide to Ladakh

21) Royal Leh Palace

Royal Leh Palace was once the residence of the Namgyal royals. After the 19th century, the royals were forced to leave the palace by Dogro Forces who took over Ladakh. The palace has some amazing architecture that make even the ruins of the palace beautiful to watch.

22) Hemis Monastery

About 45 KM from Leh lies Hemis Monastery. Hemis Monastery or Hemis Gompa is a Buddhist Monastery. It is ascended from Drukpa Lineage. Hemis Monastery is known for its Hemis festival. The Hemis Festival pulls many tourists around India. It takes place in July. If you visit around that period be ready to expect some amazing traditional costumes and dance of Ladakh.

23) Hemis National Park

Hemis National Park is home to some rare species of animals including snow leopards, mountain weasel, and golden eagle. It also has rare species of trees and plants. Hemis National Park is also home to 1600 people who live inside the boundaries of the park.

The North-Eastern Side of the Ladakh has amazing natural phenomena, lakes, and nature. Along with that it also has a different culture than what we see in the rest of the Ladakh as they comparatively lie on the border region.

24) Khardungla pass

Known as the highest motorable pass of the world, it lies at a height of 5,359m. In the past, it used to be the main pass for traveling from India to Central Asia.

25) Listen to the old stories at Turtuk Village

It is the northernmost village of India. Some of the people in Turtuk village have relatives in Pakistan even today. Though the region predominantly has a Muslim population, there are a few monasteries. The village has some beautiful scenic beauty and some incredible old stories. It lies 205 Km from Leh.

26) Bacterian Camel ride at Hunder

Hunder is the region in the Himalayas that has sand Dunes. The region is arid and afforested and its soil has turned into Sand. When in Hunder you can take a ride of a two-humped Bactrian Camel.

27) Siachin Base Camp

Another road that branches out from Khardungla pass goes via Panamik Hot springs up to Siachen Base Camp. You may not get permission every time to visit the Siachen Base camp as it lies just near the Line of Control (LoC) but if you do you should definitely go. Visiting the Siachen Base Camp has been a dream of many people. Also, it may not suit a lot of people as it lies at a height of whopping 5000m. There is a shrine of legend OP Baba on the Siachin Base Camp.

28) Yarab Tso Lake

Yarab Tso Lake lies in the serene surroundings of Sumur village, situated at 15 km from Diskit. It is one of the high altitude lakes in Nubra Valley. The holy Yarab Tso lake often referred to as “the hidden lake”. Hidden amidst valley with rocky terrains, the crystal clear waters of the lake reflect its surroundings and make it perfect for photography.

29) Pangang Tso

Pangong Tso, which means “high grassland lake” in Tibetian language, is one of the most famous lakes in Leh Ladakh. Remember the lake from 3 Idiots, yep! this is the one. It is approximately 5 KM long (actually is 134 Km long extends from Ladakh to Tibet to autonomous region ). It is popular for changing shades from blue to red to green. It is located on Changtang Plateau.

30) Tso Moriri

The twin to Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri Lake, or Mountain Lake is also located in Changthang plateau. It is a wetland conservation reserve. It is located in the Rupshu Valley giving it scenic beauty of snow-clad arid mountain ranges of Mentok Chamser and Lungser Kangri. It is the highest altitude lake that is at the height of 4595 m from sea level.

31) Karzok

Karzok or Korzok is a village in Ladakh. It is located close to Nyoma on the shores of the Tso Moriri Lake. Surrounded by a beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the village is worth visiting for those who wish to see nature at its best.  Rearing livestock is the major means of living of the people living here and Pashmina wool that is world-famous comes from this region.

32) Ruins of Basgo

Basgo village is located about 35 Km from Leh. Basgo was once an important cultural and political center and is frequently mentioned in the folklore. It is known for its gompas such as Basgo Gompa. Basgo makes a deep impression on the visitor as they ponder over the vast ruins.

As we said earlier one can travel to Ladakh via 2 routes from Srinagar and Manali. Although a lot of people prefer Srinagar Route many people also take the Manali Leh route. Let us look at what all you can explore on the way to Ladakh from Manali

Travel guide to Ladakh

33) Manali

Manali is a small town in Himachal Pradesh. It is situated on the banks of River Beas. Nestled between Himalayan Ranges it is one of the most popular hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. Local food, local shops, clothing make it a very popular tourist destination. A one day stay is possible at Manali.

34) Rohtang Pass

Situated on the Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas, it is located at a distance of 51 KM from Manali. Rohtang pass offers some picturesque locations. Many films have been shot in this area. Along with the beautiful location, Rohtang Pass is also famous for mountain biking locations and other snow activities. It requires a permit to pass from the Rohtang Pass.

35) Adventure at Keylong

Keylong is a perfect destination for the people looking for adventure, right from biking to hiking and trekking. It has got various monasteries, lakes and some amazing natural views. It is about 120 Km from Manali.

36) Darcha

Darcha a small town, with only 65 houses lies in the northernmost region of Himachal Pradesh. It only has a population of 300 people. If you are traveling in Bus from Manali, the bus halts at Darcha village where you can spend the night in the tents available for travelers. It lies about 150 km from Manali.

37) Suraj Tal

Suraj Tal which means Sun Lake is located in Lahaul and Spiti District. River Bhaga originates from this lake. It lies at a distance of 187 Km from Manali. It is located about 37 Km from Chandra Tal Lake. Various treks are organized starting from Suraj Tal lake to Chandra Tal.

38) Chandra Lake

Chandra Tal is the point of origin and source of the river Chandra. The river has an interesting story of how two lovers Chandra the daughter of the moon and Surya the son of Sun fell in love but their marriage was not approved by their respective fathers.

39) Star Gazing at Sarchu

Travel guide to Ladakh

Sarchu located at 230 Km from Manali is a camping site lies on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. It is famous as a stargazing site. It is located at a very high altitude so a lot of people may experience altitude sickness.

40) Offer Water to the Spirit of the Gata Loop

Travel guide to Ladakh
Travel guide to Ladakh

The steep zig-zag ascending road towards Lachung-La pass is Gata Loops.  There is a story of a helper who died at the 19th bend due to extreme weather in the Gata Loops. In the memory of that helper, a small shrine was made where even today people leave biscuits and water bottles for the spirit of the helper.

41) Lachulung la pass

Lachulung La is a mountain pass along the Leh–Manali Highway and lies between the valleys of the Tsarap Chu Chu and the Tozay, where both are on the flow of the Zanskar and the Indus rivers.

42) Pang

Pang is the highest military transit campsite. It often offers rescue to the people who suffer trouble due to high altitude. It is about 173 Km from Leh.

43) Tanglang la Pass

Located in the Zanskar range, at the northernmost tip of India Tanglang -La pass is the second-highest motorable passes in the world. Tanglang La pass is the gateway to Leh. The scenic views on both sides are likely to make this journey wonderful. The pass also provides for an adventurous streak for motorbike enthusiasts.

44) Upshi

Just 50 Km from Leh, Upshi lies on the banks of the River Indus. Upshi is famous for its bicycle rides from Upshi Village to Tso Kar lake. Upshi – Mahe Bridge – Tanglang la Pass – Gya was an important South – Central Asian Route.

45) Karu            

Karu being closest to Leh is a major junction of two roads, one that leads to Pangong Tso and another to Leh. The place is one of kind with nature and mountains flanked around the region and many Chartens and Shrines present inside the village. One can also find Public School in Karu.

46) Biking at More Plains

More plains also called the Kiang Chu Thang plateau. The road on the plateau levels for about 30 – 35 Kms and then again rises up to Tanglang – la Pass. This region is a very popular biking destination. The plateau does not have any living settlement.

47) Deepak Taal

After the police checkpoint in Darcha, you can find a small lake Deepak Tal. It is a small Serene lake that is surrounded by mountains. You can spend a quiet moment here before you head to your usual route.

48) Leh Post Office

It is the highest Post Office in the world, situated at the height of 3500m. This is the only post office in the world that functions in such a drastic climate and bad roads. The Pincode to the post office is 194101.

Bonus

Here is a list of other Bonus things you can do when in Ladakh.

1) Offer a early Morning Prayer at Monastery

2) Talk to a Monk

3) Visit Pashmina Mills

4) Devavour Yak Cheese

5) Drink the Famous Butter Tea

6) Shop in Manali, Kargil or Leh markets

7)  Witness any Festival in Ladakh

So enjoy your trip to Ladakh !!!

Dhanshree Gadhikar

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