10 Must Visit Tourist Places in Ladakh

Leh Town

Sitting amidst the majestic Karakoram Range in the North and Zanskar mountains in the south, Ladakh is an incredibly beautiful cold desert in India. Encompassing snow-clad mountains, deep valleys, sparkling rivers and exciting winding roads, it is synonymous with picturesque beauty. Ladakh is blessed with some of the most popular Buddhist monasteries and palaces of royalty. It is an ideal destination for experiencing bliss in the lap of Mother Nature. Scroll down to find out – the 10 amazing tourist places in Ladakh to visit for a memorable mountain vacation.

A Quick Glance Through

Best Tourist Places in Ladakh

1. Pangong Tso Lake

Set at a height of 4,225 m (13,862 ft) in Eastern Ladakh, the Pangong Tso lake extends from India to Tibet. Out of the 604 sq km area of the lake, one-third part lies in India while the rest of it is in Tibet.

Pangong Tso Lake - One of The Prime Tourist Places in Ladakh
Charming Pangong Tso Lake

The brackish water of the lake freezes completely during winters where ice skaters and skiers gather during the ice skating festival.

Frozen Pangong Tso Lake During Winters (Source)

The lake also serves as a breeding ground for many species of birds including migratory birds such as Brahmini ducks.

Pangong Tso Lake is 5 hours drive from Leh and lies on the India-China Line of Actual Control.

Indian nationals need Inner Line Permit and foreign nationals must obtain Protected Area Permit to visit the lake.

You can apply for the permit online through the official website of Leh district administration.

2. Zanskar Valley

One of the most isolated regions in Ladakh but replete with splendid natural beauty Zanskar Valley is thronged by tourists every year in the summers.

Zanskar river is popular for river rafting during summers when the weather is pleasantly warm and dry. Other adventurous activities here are trekking, rock climbing and camping.

Zanskar Valley
Scenic Zanskar Valley

It houses some of the finest monasteries of Ladakh such as Phugtal Monastery and Bardan Monastery.

The valley lies on the Leh-Srinagar highway and Kargil is the nearest town located at a distance of 240 km. You can hire a jeep or a car or catch a bus from Kargil to reach there.

3. Khardung La

Also known as Khardung pass, Khardung La is amongst one of the highest motorable passes in the world at an altitude of 5,359 m (17,582 ft). The highest motorable road also lies in Ladakh region going via Umling La top at an altitude of 5,883 m (19,300 ft).

Khardung La was built in the year 1976 and it was opened for visitors after 12 years in 1988. This pass is one of the most sought after tourist places in Ladakh by adventure enthusiasts.

Khardung La – Mountain Pass (Source)

Situated north of Leh it is gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. Khardung pass is strategically important for India as it is used for carrying supplies to Siachen glacier.

The splendid landscapes, pristine natural beauty and fresh unpolluted air can leave you in awe with this place.

Khardung La - Motorable Road
A Birds Eye View of Khardung La Motorable Road

Khardung La is accessible by road from Leh (39 km) which is connected by road from cities like Delhi and Manali. This road is closed during winters from the month of October to May.

Indian nationals need Inner Line Permit and foreigners require Protected Area Permit to visit Khardung La.

4. Hemis Monastery

Stationed atop a hill surrounded by majestic mountains, Hemis monastery is placed on the west bank of the serene river Indus, one of the important rivers in India.

The monastery is situated around 45 km away from Leh town. It was built in the year 1630 belonging to Drukpa lineage or the red sect of Buddhism.

Decorated by the colourful prayer flags fluttering to the gush of wind, the grandeur of this quaint monastery is beyond words.

Hemis Gompa (Source)

Hemis monastery exemplifies the rich cultural heritage of Ladakh and is famous for the annual Hemis festival honouring Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) held every year in the month of June.

Hemis Festival Celebrations
Hemis Festival Celebrations with Great Gusto

The festival is organised in the rectangular courtyard in front of the main door of the monastery. The sacred rituals performed in the festival are believed to give spiritual strength and good health.

Attracting plenty of visitors from all across the world Hemis monastery is amongst one of the most visited tourist places in Ladakh.

5. Nubra Valley

About 150 km north of Leh, the confluence of Shyok river and Nubra river forms a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges.

Perched at an altitude of 3,048 meters an exquisite marvel of nature, Nubra valley offers splendid views of harsh arid mountains, flowing rivers, sand dunes and rugged vastness of Ladakh.

Nubra Valley, Ladakh (Source)

On the bank of Shyok river lies the famous Diskit Monastery in Diskit village and the amazing sand dunes in Hunder village. Two humps bactrian camel ride is one of the must do adventure activities in Nubra Valley.

Hunder Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley (Source)

The most convenient way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh.

In order to visit Nubra valley Indian citizens require an  Inner Line Permit and foreign nationals are required to get a Protected Area Permit.

6. Shanti Stupa

Strategically located on a steep hill at a height of 3,609 meters in Leh, Shanti stupa is the magnum opus of Buddhist architectural excellence. Shanti stupa has been bestowed with stark tranquillity that is beyond the reach of chaos.

It was built by Japanese and Ladakhi Buddhists as part of the Peace Pagoda mission in the year 1991.

The stupa offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Overlooking the Leh palace it also offers a birds-eye view of the vibrant town of Leh.

It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. Since the time the stupa was open for visitors, it has become one of the must-see tourist places in Ladakh.

A motorable road leads to the hilltop where Shanti Stupa is located or you can climb 500 steep steps to reach there if you are an adventure seeker.

7. Leh Palace

One of the noted tourist places in Ladakh, Leh Palace is a former royal palace stationed on a cliff with spectacular mountains in the backdrop.

Constructed in the 17th century by Sengge Namgyal, a Namgyal dynasty King of Ladakh the palace was later invaded by Dogra Rajputs forcing the royal family to abandon the palace.

Leh Palace
The Royal Edifice of Leh

It comprises nine storeys and each level was meant to serve different purposes during the royal days.

Perfectly hinged with the charming vistas, the royal palace offers a breathtakingly beautiful view of entire Leh town.

8. Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey monastery is perched at an altitude of 3,600 meters in Thiksey village, approximately 19 km east of Leh. It is known to be the largest monastery in central Ladakh district.

This Buddhist monastery of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism is famous for its unique architecture. Resembling Potala Palace in Lhasa, the monastery is referred to as ‘Mini Potala’ of India.

Thiksey Monastery - One of The Most Beautiful Tourist Places in Ladakh
Thiksey Gompa – A Famous Buddhist Monastery in Leh

The monastery offers breathtaking views of Indus river and pristine Indus valley.

It also houses two-storey tall almost 49 ft statue of Maitreya (Future Buddha), which was erected to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in the year 1970.

Maitreya Buddha Statue
Maitreya (Future Buddha) Statue

One of the other prime attractions here is Tara temple dedicated to Goddess Tara, also known as Jetsun Dölma in Tibetan Buddhism. There are 21 images of the Goddess kept in the glass-covered shelves.

9. Hemis National Park

Counted among one of the most famed tourist places in Ladakh for wildlife enthusiasts Hemis National Park is popular for its elusive snow leopards in India.

Nestled in the scenic valley of Ladakh it is the largest national park in South Asia spread over an area of 4,400 sq km. The park gets its name from the noted 400-year-old Hemis monastery.

Snow leopard in India
Snow Leopard

The prime attractions for wildlife explorers and photographers in this park are snow leopards.

It is also home to many other forms of wildlife including Tibetan wolf, endangered Eurasian brown bear, red fox, Himalayan marmot and mountain weasel.

Red Fox
Red Fox

Blessed with plenty of exotic bird species, Hemis National Park is a delight for birdwatchers.

Jeeps are not allowed inside the park. You will need to go trekking to enjoy the pristine landscape and wonderful wildlife of the park.

10. Tso Moriri Lake

Tucked in the lap of scenic Rupshu valley in Changthang region of Ladakh, Tso Moriri Lake is the largest high altitude lake in India at an altitude of 4,522 meters.

The surrounding lofty mountains, shimmering blue waters of the lake and the shining summer sun come together to make it nature’s wonderland.

Tso Moriri Lake
Picturesque Tso Moriri Lake

Tso Moriri attracts a lot of migratory birds and some rare forms of wildlife such as Tibetan wolf, marmot.

The lake remains mostly frozen during peak winters from December to March. The best time to visit Tso Moriri Lake is during summers from the months of May to September.

You will need to get an Inner Line Permit (Indian citizens) or a Protected Area Permit (Foreign nationals) to visit this lake as it is very close to the Line of Actual Control.

Ladakh Weather

Summer in Ladakh

Ladakh in Summer

Ladakh experiences summer season from the month of May to August when the temperature ranges from less than 5 degrees at night to a maximum of 25 degrees in daylight.

The warmest month is June-July when snow caps melt and tourists flock to Ladakh to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of this region.

Though the days are sunny during summers but the sun is very harsh sometimes and prolonged exposure to sunlight can lead to sunburn and skin damages.

This is the time when you can get a flavour of Ladakhi culture as may local festivals and events are celebrated during summers.

Monsoon in Ladakh

Source

Rainy season kicks in from the month of August. Falling under the rain shadow of the Himalayas, rainfall in this region is quite low from drizzling to light rains.

Monsoon in Leh Ladakh adds to the charming beauty of the region and the entire landscape looks absolutely stunning.

There are incidents of landslides and rock breaks during monsoon. So, plan your trip with necessary precautions.

The sky is clear and pristine blue when its not raining but nights still carry the winter chill. Days are pleasant with temperature varying from 20-22 degrees.

Winter in Ladakh

Ladakh in Winter

Winter starts knocking from the month of September and the early winter season continues till November.

It becomes freezing cold during nights while days could still be bright with sunshine during the early winters.

Mercury starts dropping below zero degrees with the temperature hovering around -20 degrees at night from December till February.

This is the time when Ladakh region begins to experience snowfall and many tourist places are closed for visitors. It feels chilly during March also but relatively better than the peak winter months (December – February).

April is when it starts getting warmer with temperature hovering around 10-12 degrees in the daytime. Summers arrive after that and it is the time of the year when visitors rush to see the famous tourist places in Ladakh.

Best Time to Visit Leh Ladakh

Perched at great altitude ranging from 3,000 meter in Kargil to more than 8,000 meter in Karakoram, Ladakh experiences freezing cold and dry weather for most of the year. So,the best season to visit Ladakh is during summers from the months of May to August.

How To Reach

Ladakh by Air

Leh Airport (Source)

Kushok Bakula Airport located in Leh is the nearest airport and is well linked to the major airports in India such as Srinagar, Delhi. You can hire taxis available outside the airport for onward journey.

Leh airport falls under high-security zone. It is recommended to have all required documents including printed air tickets ready beforehand.

Ladakh by Train

Source

The nearest railway station is in Jammu Tawi 712 km away from Ladakh. There are direct trains to Jammu tawi from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Other nearest railheads are located in Kalka (756 km), Pathankot (760 km) and Chandigarh (766 km). You can hire a cab from any of these stations to reach Leh.

Ladakh by Road

Ladakh Road

Ladakh is accessible by road via Leh – Srinagar Highway and Leh – Manali Highway. Both the routes are open from May to September.

Spanning across 434 km, Leh – Srinagar is one of the most scenic routes covering Sonmarg, Zozi la, Drass, Kargil, Mulbek, Lamayaru, Saspol and then comes Leh.

Leh – Manali highway is 490 km long route covering Rohtang Pass, Gramphu, Kokhsar, Sissu, Tandi, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Baralacha La, Sarchu, Gata Loops, Tanglang La, Upshi and Karu before reaching Leh.

You can hire a jeep or taxi and choose any of the two routes to reach Leh. Government buses also ply daily at regular interval from Manali and Srinagar Leh.

Adventure enthusiasts can travel by bike also which are easily available on rent at Srinagar and Manali.

Delhi to Ladakh

Delhi (1,000 km) is the nearest metropolitan city to Leh. The best way to reach Ladakh from Delhi is by flight. There are many direct flights from Delhi which take little over 1 hour to reach Leh.

By train, the closest railhead to Delhi is Jammu Tawi. Some of the trains operating from Delhi to Jammu are New Delhi-Jammu Tawi Rajdhani Express, Jammu Tawi Express and Jammu Mail. It is almost 18 hrs drive from Jammu to Leh via Leh – Srinagar highway.

Travel Tips for Ladakh

  • Apply online for the permit and get it verified and stamped later from the District Commissioner’s office in Leh after arriving there.
    • Many famous tourist places in Ladakh (such as, Pangong Tso Lake, Nubra Valley, Khardun La, Tso Moriri Lake) are close to Sino-Indian Border and entry is not allowed without the permit.
  • Plan at least 4-5 night trip with enough room to settle and acclimate to weather conditions.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption as it can cause dehydration.
  • Choose proper clothing – comfortable and warm clothes.
    • Woolen Sweatshirt, Pullover
    • Inner thermals
    • Windcheater jacket
    • Trekking pants or trouser
    • Caps for protection against direct sunlight
    • Hand gloves if travelling in winters
  • Choose well-fitting shoes – sports shoes or comfortable trekking shoes.
  • Sunglasses for protecting your eyes against reflection of sunlight.
  • Carry enough drinking water.
  • Get first aid kit in your backpack for treating minor injuries and high altitude sickness in case of any medical emergency.

Over To You Now…

Ladakh is a gateway to the unspoiled world of the Himalayas offering experiences ridden with sheer thrill and excitement.

Have you visited these amazing tourist places in Ladakh? Share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

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