Leh-Ladakh is a testament to the statement ‘heaven on earth’. In India, it is a region like no other. Surrounded by two colossal mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Karakoram that tower over this quaint, idyllic region. The famous Indus River runs through the valleys of Ladakh as well. We have chosen a list of the best places to visit while you visit Ladakh. Here are our top picks.
Ladakh Travel Guide: Lakes in Ladakh
1. Pangong Tso
The Pangong lake is the world’s highest salt lake, located 160 kilometers from Leh. Only one-third of the lake lies in India with the rest residing in Tibet. The lake is also known as the ‘hollow lake’ because of how sunlight falls over it.
It freezes over in the winters, when it becomes a popular spot for ice skating. The lake is under the control of the Indian Army and while Indian nationals do not require a permit to visit, foreign visitors do – this permit can be obtained for a small fee from the deputy commissioner’s office.
- Best time to visit: June to September
2. Tso Moriri
In Changthang area, this lake is located at an altitude of 15,000 feet. Tso Moriri happens to be a one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the trans-Himalayan region in India. The lake is created by two springs and streams and has been declared a wetland of international importance.
Bird watching is a popular activity at the lake and attracts ornithologists from all over the world. You can spot approximately 34 types of avifauna birds here.
- Best time to visit: June to August
3. Tso Kar
Often termed as the town lake, the Tso Kar lake lies in the south of Ladakh. The unique feature about the lake is that the western part of the lake is made up salt water and the eastern part of the lake has fresh water.
During the summer, the lake stays at a pleasant temperature of 26 degrees Celsius while it can drop down to -40 degrees Celsius during the harsh winters. The lake is protected by two peaks, Thuggie and Gursan.
- Best time to visit: May to July
Ladakh Travel Guide: Treks in Ladakh
4. Markha Valley Trek
The Markha Valley Trek is the most revered trekking route by most adventurists. The trek combines hiking and camping through the Markha Valley, along with staying overnight in homestays of the locals residing in the valley.
This unique combination throws an entirely different light on trekking in Ladakh. During peak season, the trek can get crowded and is best not undertaken if you want to enjoy peace and quiet. The trek typically lasts for 8 to 10 days.
- Best time to visit: May to September
5. The Chadar Zanskar Trek
The Chadar Zanskar trek takes place over the Zanskar River, which is frozen solid. The trek is called Chadar because the entire river seems like it has been covered by sheets of ice. The trek can get a little daunting for inexperienced trekkers and it is recommended that trekkers with at least an intermediate level of trekking experience undertake this trek.
There is no option to live in a homestay like the Markha Valley Trek – instead, participants must camp. This trek lasts for 9 to 10 days.
- Best time to visit: February, it is when the ice is most stable.
6. Nubra Valley Trek
Trekking through a dessert is probably the last thing on your mind when you plan a trek in Ladakh. However, the Nubra Valley Trek does the very same and it can be an experience that you will never forget.
You get to traverse through the desert on the back of camels – a key highlight of the trip. Once you travel through the valley, you get to see the beautiful flora and fauna that Nubra is surrounded by.
- Best time to visit: April to June
Ladakh Travel Guide: Monasteries in Ladakh
7. Spituk Gompa
The Spituk Gompa monastery sits atop of a hill. The monastery is known for its architectural brilliance and intricate carvings. The view from the monastery will leave you absolutely spellbound.
The nights at the monastery can get cold and it is advised you carry a proper set of winter gear when visiting. The monastery is the home to over a 100 monks and houses a statue of the goddess Kali.
- Best time to visit: July to September, as this is the only time the roads to the monastery are open.
8. Namgyal Monastery
The Namgyal Monastery is a visual treat for photographers.The monastery is famous for the three-story statue of Maitreya Buddha. In the recent past, it has been visited by the Dalai Lama himself.
The Namgyal Monastery sees Buddhist visitors from all over India and the world. You can even spend a few days to really experience the life here if you volunteer with the daily chores.
- Best time to visit: July to September
9. Hemis Monastery
The Hemis Gompa is the biggest Monastery in Ladakh. The key highlight of the monastery is Hemis Festival that is celebrated here in the month of July that sees a masked parade, considered to be a sacred ritual.
The monastery holds this two-day festival every year on the tenth day of the lunar month to honor the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, who is regarded as the reincarnation of Lord Buddha.
- Best time to visit: July
10. Lamayuru Monastery
Lamayuru Monastery initially consisted of five buildings but only one stands today. Despite this, it is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery house up to 150 permanent residents.
Lamayuru is also famous for the night gazing activity done here. Due to the lack of light pollution and the altitude at which it is located, this monastery has become the prime spot for stargazing.
- Best time to visit: April to June
Ladakh Travel Guide: Shopping places in Ladakh
11. Main Bazaar
The Main Bazaar is one of the most popular shopping areas in Leh. Locals and tourists flock here in the numbers to get their hands on the goods of the market at reasonable prices.
Apparels, silver jewelry and various other accessories are sold here. People bargaining for a good deal is a common site at this bazaar so don’t be afraid to haggle. The items and handicrafts sold here are good quality and great for gifts.
- Location: Main Bazaar Road
- Timings: 7 am to 9 pm
12. Himalayan Pashmina Shawls
Pashmina shawls is a well-known commodity in Leh. It is known particularly for its texture and the warmth it provides. The first Pashmina shawl store in Leh was started in 1975.
The main store is located right in the heart of the city at Alkang Chowk and is known by the local residents, who can guide you to the store
- Location: Main Bazaar Road
- Timings: 9 am to 9 pm
- Timings: 9 am to 7 pm
Ladakh Travel Guide: Local Places to visit in Ladakh
13. Shanti Stupa
People often visit Ladakh to get away from the daily hustle and bustle of the city life and spend some time reflecting on big picture stuff. The Shanti Stupa offers the perfect place to do your introspection.
In this beautiful white-domed Buddhist structure, you can feel the serenity and tranquility flowing. Built in 1991 by a Japanese Buddhist, this stupa is part of the Peace Pagoda mission. A visit to the Shanti Stupa is a must on your trip to Ladakh
- Timings: 5 am to 9 pm
14. Hemis National Park
The Hemis National Park is another major attraction in Ladakh. It houses over 200 snow leopards that are now an endangered species. You can spot the snow leopard mostly in the winter season.
There are also snow leopard treks that are conducted here under professional supervision that let you spot them in their natural habitat.
- Timings: 9 am to 5 pm
15. Magnetic Hill
The Magnetic Hill is the most unusual place you will ever visit. If you leave your vehicle at the base of the hill, the vehicle begins to move slowly uphill. This phenomenon attracts a lot of tourists. You have to visit the Magnetic Hills to witness this strange phenomenon
- Timings: 8 am to 5 pm
Ladakh is certainly a gem in India. It is that destination that is tucked away in one corner of the country with unimaginable beauty. The place has something in store for everyone who visits, ranging from sightseeing to adventure sports. The next time you’re in Ladakh do visit these places and let us know of your experiences in the comments section below.