Let’s gain more insight into the different seasons of Ladakh
The bliss of summer season in Ladakh (April to June)
Indubitably, this is the best season to visit Ladakh. Eagerly anticipated, summer is the peak tourist season in Ladakh and temperatures around this time range from 30 degree Celsius to a minimum 5 degree Celsius. The snow has melted giving way to vibrant life and buzz of tourist activity. One can indulge in almost everything that this remote land has to offer when the sun is bright and pleasantly warm. Camping by the Pangong Tso Lake under a starry sky on a summer night is what tourists and enthusiastic travellers love to do. The lake is best enjoyed during day time when it mirrors the brilliant blue sky while surrounded by sweeping vistas of the mountains. Biking in Ladakh is a treat to the senses as you navigate the surreal landscapes and scenery. Drive through the unimaginable Khardung la (considered world’s highest motorable road) at a staggering height of 17,000 Feet. For thrill-seekers like you, summer season is a boon when mother nature opens its door to navigate their way through Ladakh’s gorgeous valleys, remote villages, centuries-old Gompas (monasteries), hidden valleys, formidable passes, and cosy homestays during treks that can take days to complete. Rafting is another activity enjoyed in summer in Ladakh, Kharu-Spituk route (for first-timers and amateurs) to the challenging Phey-Nimmo on the Indus River that takes days to complete. A miracle of nature, the Magnetic Hill (a gravity hill) must be explored to understand its rare phenomenon. Another major attraction, hop on to a Bactrian camel (double-humped camels) and take a safari across the dunes of Hunder in Nubra Valley. To top it all, Ladakhis celebrate the very colourful Hemis Festival (during June or July depending on the Tibetan calendar) at the 11th century Hemis Monastery. The spectacle of the masked dance – Cham, performed by the monks in brightly-coloured attire, dancing to the rhythmic music, is an event, you don’t want to miss! Locals come out in their traditional garb with their unique headgear and jewellery to celebrate.
The allure of monsoon season in Ladakh (July to September)
July through Mid-September brings monsoon in Ladakh and with it comes occasional landslides and roadblocks. Ladakh is a rain shadow area, which means the place enjoys moderate rainfall, yet whenever it does, there are bouts of the shower. The temperature at this time stays from a minimum 3 degree Celsius to maximum16 degree Celsius. The two rivers Indus and Zanskar swell up and meander through the valleys with their full might, is a sight to behold. If not outdoors, then experience monastic life in the spectacular monasteries (gompas) of Ladakh. There are several of them including Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Diskit Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Phugtal Monastery, etc. On a beautiful rainy day, walk into one of the German bakeries in Leh town and sit leisurely sipping one of your favourite beverages as the rain thrum on the roof and windows. Better if you find a local eatery and try some of the Tibetan/Ladakhi cuisines; say dumplings or thukpa. As monsoon ceases toward the latter part of September, Ladakh is clad in gorgeous hues of nature in all its glory; the spectacle lingers on till early October. It is also the time preferred by thrill-seekers wanting to indulge in aero-sports.
The thrill of winter season in Ladakh (October to March)
A winter trip to Ladakh must be carefully planned amid harsh cold conditions with temperatures plummeting sub-zero levels that settles between -5 degree Celsius to -30 degree Celsius. Travelling to Ladakh during winter have their perks too, it unfolds amazing snow-covered landscapes, frozen lakes to walk over, icy treks among others. On top of it, there isn’t much tourist rush, and for adventure lovers, this means being able to enjoy Ladakh without interruption. Hotel rates are also cheaper. January is one of the best months to visit Ladakh for trekking as it is the time when one of the most adventurous and most difficult treks of the world - the Chadar Trek opens up till mid-March attracting adventure enthusiasts from across the globe. Walking over the frozen Zanskar River can be intimidating yet a speechless moment. Skiing and ice hockey are also other exciting winter activities here. Both are a favourite pastime of the Ladakhis. No wonder, Ladakh is growing as a destination for winter sports lovers in India. Moreover, winter is the time for several cultural and religious celebrations in Ladakh. Join the locals to celebrate the winter festivals such as Thiksay Gustor, Ladakhi Losar, Spituk Gustor, Diskit Gustor and Yargon Tungshak, among others. When the cold takes on you, you can always warm up to Ladakh’s butter tea in the morning, or savour a hot bowl of thukpa for dinner.
- Acclimatisation is highly recommended for people travelling to Ladakh. As Ladakh lies at an elevation of 10,000 feet, visitors may suffer from dizziness, headaches or even acute mountain sickness on their arrival. It is best advised that visitors take at least 24-hours of rest after they have arrived in Ladakh.
Good to Know
- Early April and September is the ideal months for budget travellers to Ladakh because of the peak tourist season are yet to start or has ended respectively, and the hotel rooms are available at affordable rates.
How to reach Ladakh
- By Air: Leh Airport is officially known as Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is the nearest airstrip to Ladakh, which is connected to cities Delhi, Jammu, Chandigarh and Srinagar via flights operated by airlines such as Air India, Spice Jet, Go Air and Vistara. It takes about 10 minutes from the airport to reach the nearest town of Leh in Ladakh region. The airport lies 3256 metres (10680 Feet) above sea level thus making it one of the highest airports in the world.
- By Rail: The closest railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway Station at about 700 km from Ladakh. From Jammu, you can head to Srinagar by road and then to Ladakh, which is about a two-day journey from Srinagar with a night halt in Kargil. Jammu Tawi is a major railhead in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and has good rail connectivity to major Indian cities such as Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Mumbai, Guwahati, Kolkata, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Varanasi.
- By Road: The Manali-Leh road and the Srinagar-Leh road are the two routes that lead to Ladakh. The Srinagar-Leh road (415 km) is open from the first week of May till December, depending on snowfall. There are beautiful villages and scenery on the way. You can stop for an overnight stay at either Dras or Kargil, which are 140 km and 200 km from Srinagar respectively. The high-altitude Manali-Leh road (482), which is snow-laden most of the year, opens around the first week of June and remains accessible till October. Travellers usually halt overnight at Jispa.
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Best Time to Visit Ladakh FAQs
Q. What is the peak tourist season in Ladakh?
A: April to June (summer) and September is the best time to visit Ladakh. You will get some of the best sights and fantastic opportunities for sightseeing when the weather is pleasant, and the whole region is brimming with vibrant colours of mother nature.
Q. When is the best time to go on a road trip to Ladakh?
A: September would be the best time to do so. The roads are clear of roadblocks because of snowfall. The routes that lead to Ladakh - Srinagar to Leh and Manali to Leh is accessible with fewer challenges as compared to winter (November-February) and monsoon (July-August). Besides, the peak tourist season has almost ended then, and one can get the best deals on hotels too.
Q. Is it best to visit Ladakh in summer?
A: Summer (April-June) is undoubtedly the best season to travel to Ladakh. It is when the snow melts and spectacular hues are spread all across the region. Breathtaking scenery along with enchanting Buddhist festivals like the famous Hemis Festival (June-July) can be witnesses during this period. Trekking, rafting and camping too can be experienced. It is a high season for tourists.
Q. Can we visit Ladakh in December for Chadar Trek?
A: Frozen river trekking at Zanskar Valley, famous as the Chadar Trek is one of the most popular adventure activities in Ladakh. People from across the world come to this place to experience this highly adventurous trek. However, winters in Ladakh can get extremely cold, reaching sub-zero temperatures. Most trekking routes are closed after November due to heavy snowfall. If you are planning to go for Chadar trek in Ladakh, then it is open from mid-January till mid-March.
Q. What kind of clothes should we pack when travelling to Ladakh?
A: The temperature in Ladakh is freezing most time of the year, and the mercury plummets at night and gets chilly though the sun can be warm during the day and a t-shirt and pants would do you good. It is advised to carry warm clothes. Carry inner thermal suits, pullover, jacket, woollen socks, hand gloves. If you are visiting Ladakh in June and July, you will require windcheaters, raincoats and gumboots. Also, carry sunscreen as the sun at high elevations like Ladakh can be harsh on your skin during day time.
Q. When is the best months to visit Ladakh for budget travellers?
A: April and September are low season for tourists in Ladakh and is best suited for budget travellers. Around this time, many guest houses and hotels in Ladakh offer lucrative deals to lure tourists. You will get hotel rooms at low and affordable prices.