“Stunningly serrated land
With white stupas dramatically crowing the hills
And colourful fluttering flags conveying divine messages
Natural beauty epitomizing the greatness of the creator
Offering bliss, beauty, calmness and ultimate adventure experience
Is what beckons you at incredible Ladakh.”
Dramatically rugged and differently hued mountains encompass this exquisite land which takes immense pride in being Buddhist-ex kingdom. The rocky hills crowned with beautiful and historic gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) and the colourful fluttering prayer flags with spiritual messages make Ladakh a picture-perfect destination. Equally enchanting are the landscapes, lakes, sand dunes, orchards, mountain passes and valleys of Ladakh. It is a perfect amalgamation of beauty and diversity!Visit Ladakh - the high altitude plateau located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in north India. It is surrounded by Kashmir on its west and Himachal Pradesh on its south. The ancient Indus River divides the plateau, giving rise to oasis-villages. The term Ladakh means “Land of the high mountain passes”. Leh is the capital of Ladakh. This world famous tourist destination is a captivating destination encompassing the great Himalaya, Indus River, the Zanskar Range, Siachen Glacier and Khardung La Pass and much more.
Ladakh, a magical Buddhist kingdom, is such a surreal destination where you will feel as if you are floating in bliss of the pristine natural beauty. It is the place where the nature dominates and the people enjoy the kaleidoscopic artworks of the nature. Whether you are a nature lover with a desire to relax amidst serene environment with lovely streams and lakes breathing in fresh fragrant air or an adventure enthusiast who takes great pleasure in engaging in adventurous activities or a history buff who likes to dig into the cultural heritage of a place, Ladakh has it all to keep you entertained!
Culture of Ladakh
The rich cultural heritage of Ladakh revolves around Buddhism. You will find monasteries in every village. You will find the fluttering prayer flags almost at every place you visit in Ladakh.
Agriculture is the primary occupation of the people here so most of them grow their own crops and vegetables. Their white houses with painted doors and windows against the rusty backdrop look wonderful.
Although many festivals are celebrated in Ladakh throughout the year but the Hemis Festival is the most famous and biggest one. The gompas and monasteries serve as important venues for the celebration of the festivals.
Wildlife of Ladakh
Ladakh is home to a variety of exotic and enchanting wildlife, including the endangered ones. Its dramatic and diverse geography, clear blue sky, amazing lakes and an array of birds and animals make it a great destination for wildlife photography and wildlife lovers. From migratory birds to the rare black necked-crane, the endangered, snow leopards, Tibetan antelope, ibex, golden eagle, robins, redstarts etc are some of the famous wildlife spotted here. Hemis National Park is a popular wildlife destination of Ladakh.
Cuisine of Ladakh
Most of the people think that Ladaki food is all about momos and noodles. There is much more to the cuisine which is influenced by Kashmir and Tibet. Here the people are more inclined towards soups, brews and breads. The climatic conditions are extreme here and hence the focus is more on non-vegetarian and also the vegetarian options are limited. Barley is the commonly grown crop here and is widely used for making Tsampa (roasted flour). It is then used for making dumpling wraps and soups. Barley is also used to brew a local homemade beer called Chang. Chicken and mutton are most commonly used by the inhabitants. Dry fruits and spices are used in the dishes. When in Ladakh you must try Ladaki pulao (rice with mutton stock), Skyu (soup-based dish), Tingmo (stew), Thukpa (noodle soup seasoned with spices), Khambir (crispy bread) etc. Don’t forget to relish the signature tea of Ladakh- butter tea, chhurpi (cheese made from Yak’s milk), apricot jam etc.
Mystical and magical, pristine and panoramic, Pangong Tso Lake is a high-altitude lake of Ladakh. It is a 5-hour drive from Leh and the drive itself is a wonderful experience as you pass through the dramatically scenic mountain roads. There is no aquatic life in the lake due to its saltiness and you will surely find ducks and gulls over the lake surface. It is also a breeding ground for a number of migratory birds.
The lake is also featured in one of the blockbuster movie 3 Idiots in the year 2010. To add more adventure to your trip to this lake, you can plan to stay at one of the tents near the lake and enjoy the beauty of this lake at night and early morning with a cup of hot tea. The magical lake displays multiple hues ranging from shades of blue to turquoise, green and even red. One-third of the lake is in India and the remaining two-third is in the Chinese-controlled territory.
It is a spectacular high-altitude lake located in the Rupshu valley in the Changthang area. The amazing looking barren hills encircle the lake and the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains gives it a dramatic look. It was once a popular source of salt. It is a serene lake with clear and blue water. It is known for attracting migratory birds. It is around 9 hours drive from Leh but it’s worth it. On your journey from Leh to this calm lake you will come across village scenery, astonishing purple mountains (yes! Purple mountains), barley fields, white mud houses with lovely bright coloured flowers; It is the largest high altitude lake which is entirely in Indian Territory.
Khardung La Pass
Renowned as the highest motorable road in the world, Khardung La Pass is a paradise for adventure lovers. It is located at an altitude of 18,380 ft from the mean sea level. It is an important strategic pass into the Siachen glacier and is the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys in Ladakh. The fresh air and scenic beauty of this Pass is highly rejuvenating.
Other mesmerizing passes of Ladakh are Chang La Pass, Bara-Lacha La Pass, Namikala Pass, Zojila Pass, Fotu La Pass and Taglang La Pass.
Ladakh is a remote destination but astonishingly it is easily accessible. In fact, travelling from one destination to another in this area is a delightful journey in itself which you will rarely find at other destinations in India. For instance, the drive from Leh - Khardung La Pass - Nubra Valley is so mesmerizing that you would find this long drive a treat to your senses. On the way, you will come across a variety of landscapes starting from rugged mountains of different hues to some green patches, snow-capped mountains and as you come closer to Nubra valley sand dunes leave you to gape in awe. It is very much possible that in this few hours of the journey you might experience sunshine to snow to rain.
Another interesting journey is from Leh- Changla Pass-Pangong Lake. The route from Leh to the Pangong Lake is amazing as one passes through the world’s third highest motorable pass called Changla Pass. On this route you will come across greenery, bird’s eye views of the valley from the Pass, lovely streams, temples, rugged landscape, wet grassland and much more.
Camping in Ladakh
Camping has its own uniqueness and charm when it comes to Ladakh. It can be best enjoyed in summer when the weather is pleasant. It is a perfect way to experience the natural beauty and wilderness of this enchanting destination. Some of the best places for camping in Ladakh are Pangong Tso lake, Som-Moriri lake, Nubra valley, Sarchu and Alchi. From decent to luxurious, all kinds of camps are available at these places.
Shopping in Ladakh
You can explore the market in Leh to take back home some wonderful handicrafts and other items of Ladakh. There are several small shops as well as big emporiums in the market where you can buy amazing items like Pashmina shawls, wool garments, Tibetan trumpets, prayer beads and wheels, silver jewellery, brass and copper ‘chang’ kettles and other antiques.
The Essential Information
Ladakh, the land of high passes is located at an altitude of 9,800 ft above sea level. The highest airport in India is at Leh (3,505 M). So when you arrive at Ladakh, you will take some time to acclimatize to the climate with low oxygen content. It can cause mountain sickness with symptoms like breathlessness, nausea, headache, dizziness and insomnia. So you are advised to take it easy for the first 24 hours and avoid travelling around and indulge in minimum physical activities.
Leh is one of the most amazing, hassle-free and traveller-friendly places in India. This mountain framed city is characterized by beautiful stupas, traditionally styled houses with beautifully carved wooden window frames, rocky ridges and historic Tibetan style fort and palace. It also boasts of a bustling bazaar dotted with souvenir shops, restaurants, tour agencies and vegetables and fruit vendors. You also find the gorgeous patchwork of irrigated fields with mountains at the backdrop, gushing streams and much more. Some of the must-see attractions of Leh are Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, Hall of Fame, Spituk Gompa etc.
Located to the north-east of Leh with its borders touching China and Pakistan, Nubra Valley is a fascinating destination of Ladakh. It was the ancient trade route (Silk route) between the North Indian plains and the Central Asian cities of Khotan and Yarkand. It is an amazing valley with the white sand near Hunder where you can enjoy a thrilling ride on the double-humped Bactrian camel. It is reachable from Leh via Khardung La Pass (the world’s highest motorable road) and the journey is equally enchanting as the valley. On your few hours’ drive from Leh to Nubra Valley, you will come across breathing views of mountains, the roads lined with snow on one side and deep abyss on the other. You will also find greenery in this valley. Just book a camp in this valley and enjoy its natural beauty and other attractions.
Ideally located on the edge of the Nubra Valley, Turtuk village is the last village up to which the travellers are issued travel permit. Once a Pakistani village, this village became a part of India during the 1971 Bangladesh war. The inhabitants of the village are the descendants of the Balti community. Most of the people here have sharp features, brown hair and coloured eyes. In order to enter this quaint village, one has to walk over a wooden bridge over a road and flowing stream. The scenic beauty of the village will surely leave you in awe.
This charming village boasts of colourful flowers, wheat fields which are such a great contrast to its rugged background. Four types of apricots are grown here so climbing one of the trees and plucking the fruit (in July and August) seems like a must-do activity here. And don’t forget to buy a unique walking stick which is made with the horns of the wild ibex. It is costly but worth it.
If you are an adventure lover, Zanskar is the place for you! It is located to the west of Leh and is known for its fascinating natural beauty, trekking trails and river rafting. Enjoy rafting on the fierce Zanskar River in summer. It is a great rafting destination offering rafting trips as short as 6 hours to as long as 7 days. While in winter the travellers come here from far and wide to enjoy the famous Chadar trek on a completely frozen river. Beautiful cave monasteries are the other highlights of this adventurous destination.
It is one of the mesmerizing jewels of Jammu and Kashmir. Surrounded by majestic snow-covered Himalayas, Kargil is endowed with lovely rivers, green meadows and monasteries. You will find several adventure activities to indulge in at this place. It is also known for the Kargil War which was fought between India and Pakistan in 1999. Kargil War Memorial, Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum, Mulbekh Monastery, Kargil City View Point are some of the must-see attraction of this destination. When you are here you must take a rural village tour and drive through the beautiful Suru valley.
Phone and internet services
Being a remote area Ladakh has only BSNL mobile connection which works in most of its areas. You can get this connection from any of the local shops there. The connectivity is best in Leh in comparison to other areas. For emergency keep the numbers of the people travelling with you or your emergency numbers written on a notepad. The internet connectivity is good only in Leh, the capital city.
Bank and ATM facilities
It is advisable to keep adequate cash with you in Ladakh as the ATM facility is not so easily available here. In Leh, it is easily available but at other places, you will not find ATM machines and bank facilities. And at some places such as Pangong Lake, Nubra, Tso Moriri credit/debit cards may not be acceptable. So to avoid unpleasant circumstances, make sure you have enough cash to manage the travel and other facilities.
By Air: Leh has an airport named Kushok Bakula Rimpochee which is directly connected to cities like Delhi, Srinagar, Mumbai, Jammu, Kolkata etc., by regular flights.
By Road: Ladakh is accessible by road from two main highways- one is Manali-Leh highway and second is Srinagar-Leh highway. The first one is open from mid-June to early October while the second one is open from July to November.
By Rail: Jammu Tawi is the closest railway station from Ladakh (around 708 km from Leh). From there you can take a taxi to reach Ladakh. It will take around 15 hours.
Climate of Ladakh
The summers are hot and humid while in winters it is biting cold. You can expect the cold desert climate from October to March. In winters, the temperature is extreme and goes in minus degrees but days are bright and sunny. The lowest temperature in winters can go up to -23 degree Celsius. In summers the temperature can go up to 30 degree Celsius. You can expect some rain during August and September.
It is always advisable to wear clothes in layers while travelling in Ladakh as in morning you will feel cold and by afternoon you might feel extremely hot and as the day draws to a close it might feel pleasant.
Best time to visit Ladakh
Heavy snowfall stops in the month of April and tourists start coming here in great numbers. During this time the maximum temperature is around 15 degree Celsius and the minimum is -1 degree Celsius. In mid-May maximum temperature is 16° C, and the minimum is 3° C.
In the month of June, Manali road alongside Rohtang Pass opens up but because of the possibility of snow slides and repeating blockages, it is not safe to travel by road. The flight is the best option during this time. June is one of the best times to visit Ladakh as the snow starts melting so you can enjoy some of the most pristine lakes of Ladakh.
July and August are equally good months to explore Ladakh as you will be greeted with shades of brown, green and white at most of the places. The maximum temperature during this time is 25 degree Celsius and minimum is 10 degree Celsius. Several Ladaki festivals, including Hemis Festival, are celebrated during these months. June to August is the peak season here.
Visiting Ladakh in September has its own charm as that is the time when the chilly weather sets in and you can also enjoy the sunshine and even rain. The maximum temperature during this time is 21 degree Celsius and minimum is 5 degree Celsius. The climate is pleasant.
From October to February, it is quite cold here. The temperature goes in minus degree. The highways are closed so you have to go by flight only. The lakes are frozen and it is quite difficult to travel from one destination to other.
The arrangement of our trip was so perfectly done, that i could not find even a single fault or drawback for which i could provide a suggestion. We are so much impressed and touched by the hospitality and services provided. To be frank, we have already started to plan for our next holiday, may be sometime in the end of the year. We will get back to you soon :-) Thanks again Exceptional Escapes.....you guys are truly EXCEPTIONAL!!!! - read more...
The trip in general has been exceptional
The driver was a sweetheart. Always bringing me something to eat or drink and also always carrying a beautiful smile - read more...
Airport Representative was very Good Tour & Guide Services was very Good Ground Services was excellent Hotel Services was excellent - read more...
Generally all are good except that in shimla. Silverine hotel is not a suitable hotel for elderly people as they need to walk up and downhill to the hotel….though the place is ideal for shoppers - read more...
Thank you so very much for going above and beyond to ensure that we had a wonderful trip. I have been telling everyone about your hospitality. I truly had a great time and I especially am thankful for all your organizing and to take time to show us your family and invite us to your home. You have a beautiful family and I think Choti (your little sister) is so adorable - read more...
Hi Gaurav, thanks for following up and for all your efforts in making all the necessary arrangements for my trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. A few suggestions on how you might improve your services for future bookings - read more...
Many thanks for putting together a wonderful and memorable vacation for us. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We did not find anything lacking from your side. It was our first visit to India and it seems like we are already planning to be back. The pace was hectic so we did not find much time to visit the local markets which we will have to make up next time - read more...
We reached home safely on Sunday morning (USA time) and slept most of the day. I cannot thank you enough for all your help and efforts in making our trip such a wonderful success. I will never forget the experiences we had and fun time we enjoyed all throughout the trip. I will send you pictures soon.....'not to worry!!!' - read more...
We waited almost two years to meet again and it was well worth it. Everybody had a fantastic time and loved every moment of it. Your friend speaks very good English now and we all wish her well in the future. It seems that shopping with your friend was the highlight of the trip, the ladies would not stop talking about it - read more...
Please do write us about your DREAM HOLIDAY. One of our destination expert will be in touch with you to plan an exceptional holiday for you...