Things To Do In Ladakh
Things To Do In Ladakh
Ladakh, nestled in the high reaches of the Himalayas, is one of the most otherworldly places on the planet. Ladakh attractions include snowy peaks, awe-inspiring valleys, stark landscapes, unreal blue lakes, unique and rare flora and fauna, and even a barren desert.
Wondering what to do in Ladakh? Well, sip on some gur gur chai while enjoying a sunset, or witness the cultural vibrancy during the Ladakh Festival. Feel the rush of adrenaline as the cold breeze awakens your skin while riding up the mountains. There are a plethora of things to do in Ladakh for every type of traveller. But what is it that you seek?
Get Acclimatised To The Weather At Leh
For most travellers, the journey into Ladakh begins from Leh. It is a good option to spend a couple of days here to become accustomed to the high altitude before taking up the many thrilling things to do in Ladakh. This will help avoid altitude sickness during the rest of the trip, and help you enjoy some of the attractions here.
Discover Spirituality At The Namgyal Tsemo Monastery
Founded by King Tashi Namgyal in the 15th century, this Gompa is famous for its three-storey-high pure gold statue of Maitreya Buddha.
Maitreya Buddha is believed to be the Bodhisattva of the future, who will arrive to teach pure dharma and achieve complete enlightenment.
Learning about the local culture should be on your list of things to do in Ladakh, which houses a rich collection of ancient manuscripts and murals.
Explore The Royal Leh Palace
Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 16th century, this palace was inspired by the Potala Palace in Lhasa. It also offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan town.
With wooden balconies and massive buttressed walls, it is an example of the typical medieval Tibetan style of architecture.
Culturally and historically significant among the many Ladakh attractions, the paintings displayed in the exhibition halls here are over 400-years old and were created using colours made from powdered gems and stones.
Go Camping In Zanskar Valley
Zanskar Valley is one of the most famous Ladakh attractions. The towering mountains provide an alluring and ever-present backdrop to all your adventures. Perpetually snow-covered, the steep terrain is a sweet challenge to every enthusiastic trekker. To discover what to do in Ladakh, sign up for some of the popular activities here, which includes the trekking trails of Padum and Chadar.
Penzella Pass divides Zanskar Valley from Suru Valley and makes for the perfect camping spot. It provides magnificent views of the surrounding ice-capped mountains and the calm countryside. Get adventurous and go rafting down the Padum River or explore its trekking trails when the climate is conducive. One of the best things to do in Ladakh is to just set up your tent and let your mood guide your activities.
Safety Tip: Avoid talking too loudly or shouting. There are many echo points along these mountain roads, and you do not want to start an avalanche!
Experience The Lakes
One of the largest brackish lakes in Asia, the breathtaking Pangong Tso lies on the border between India and Tibet, and the Line of Actual Control passes through it. Along with Tso Moriri, it's popular for waters that change their hue moving from shades of blue to green, based on the sun's position. This lake is a tourist hotspot and is often used for camping during summers, so make sure you include it to your list of things to do in Ladakh. During the winters, however, the lake freezes over.
Tso Moriri is a star among Ladakh attractions, and is considered sacred by the locals. At 4,000 metres, it is the largest high-altitude lake in the Trans-Himalayan region. Bordering its calm waters are lush green meadows and snow-capped peaks; it can be accessed from Pangong Tso directly. Include a visit to the 400-year-old Korzok monastery, a highly revered site located along the lake's western banks, to your list of things to do in Ladakh.
A wildlife excursion here is another excellent activity to consider when deciding on what to do in Ladakh with family. The place is rich in flora and fauna, and you might spot a snow leopard or a lynx in their natural habitat. Or spend a lazy morning watching birds and trying to spot endangered species of water birds such as the black-necked crane.
Tip: In Tibetan Buddhism, lakes, streams, springs, and rivers are considered holy. So, it is best not to touch or step into any water bodies unless expressly given permission.
Visit The Monasteries
Monasteries top the list of Ladakh attractions. There are many monasteries scattered throughout Ladakh, and each one is prominent in its own right. Inhabited by Buddhist monks and young children in training, these places are a haven of peace and simplicity. Most of them welcome volunteers who are willing to help out with daily chores and experience their lifestyle. If you are respectful, the monks may even allow you to assist them in their ceremonies – truly a divine experience!
Some must-visit monasteries are:
Spituk – At an average elevation of 3,307 metres, Spituk monastery hosts the annual winter Gustor Festival, from the 27th day to the 29th day of the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar.
Namgyal – The Buddha deity enshrined at this monastery is famous for its craftsmanship and history; His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has also visited this monastery.
Hemis Gompa – It is the biggest monastery in Ladakh, hidden away in the mountains. Soak in the intricate Tibetan Buddhist paintings and thangkas, or join in the famous annual Hemis Festival in July, which draws large crowds.
Likir – This monastery features intricate wood carvings and decorations, and a museum illustrating the history of Ladakh.
Lamayuru – This is the oldest monastery in Ladakh. If you are an avid fan of meditation and spirituality, add visiting this to your list of things to do in Ladakh.
Thiksey – Make sure you have hours to spare, for you will need it to explore the entire complex. The monastery's resemblance to the Potala Palace in Tibet is unmistakable.
Find Peace At The Shanti Stupa
The Shanti Stupa is one of the most well known among Ladakh's attractions. Built by the Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, the white-domed stupa offers a beautiful space to meditate. Constructed as part of the Peace Pagoda Mission, it is a symbol of the friendly ties between the people of Ladakh and Japan. During summer nights, sitting beside the stupa gives you a view of the unending sea of stars above, far away from city lights. You can also visit the nearby markets to shop for souvenirs.
Tip: The best time to visit Shanti Stupa is between July and September, when the roads are clear. Also ensure you carry warm clothes, for although the days are sunny and pleasant, there can be a sudden dip in the temperature in the evenings.
Explore Trekking Trails
Ladakh offers the ideal landscape for trekking – for both amateur and experienced trekkers. One of the tough and challenging treks is the one to Drang Drung glacier through Suru valley. The Chadar trek, on the other hand, takes place in November over the frozen Zanskar River and attracts adventure enthusiasts from all over the world. There are other trekking trails through popular Ladakh attractions as well, including Lamayuru to Chilling, Spituk to Matho, Markha Valley, Lamayuru to Stok Kangri, Padum to Darcha, Chadar, and Rumtse to Tso Moriri.
Go On A Rafting Expedition
The mountain rivers flowing through Ladakh offer some of the best rafting waters anywhere in the world. An important thing to note when planning what to do in Ladakh is that the best time to experience the thrill of rafting is in the monsoon months of June, July, and August. This is when the water levels are high along the Indus River. While most parts of the river have rapids on the lower range of Level I and II, it can get as high as Level V in certain places. Some popular Ladakh attractions for this activity include Zanskar, Nimo, and Phey, with the difficulty level ranging between medium to hard.
Tip: Make sure you learn basic swimming techniques and follow the guide's instructions throughout the activity.
Enjoy Horse Riding
Ride a horse through the wild, rustic mountain valleys of Ladakh. Explore the beauty of the landscape, rushing rivers, clear lakes, and exotic birds and wildlife. Located close to the border with China, Changthang is one of the most popular locations for horseback riding. Another excellent location is Zanskar Valley, the ever-shining star of Ladakh attractions.
Sign Up For A Desert Safari
As surprising as it may seem, Ladakh has a desert in the Nubra Valley, and this region is famous for its double-humped Bactrian camels. Camel safaris are popular between Hundar Village and the Nubra capital of Diskit. Mount a Bactrian camel and wander along these desolate and endless sands; let your camel set the pace for you to enjoy a relaxing safari, while you take in the magical vistas in front of you. Charming villages such as Panamic – known for its hot springs – are located along these camel trails.
Tip: A camel ride is about two-hours long, and the best time to enjoy a camel safari on the Nubra Valley Desert is July to September.
Witness Sporting Events
Ladakh is no slouch when it comes to competitions and the region witnesses sporting events throughout the year. Cricket, archery, and polo are the favourite activities during summer, while ice skating and ice hockey are preferred during winter. Additionally, every village celebrates its own festival with displays of local art and handicrafts, folk music and dance, and friendly tournaments. After participating in these activities, enjoy the local street food to round up a wonderful experience.
Discover Culture Through Festivals
The festivals are the most vibrant of Ladakh attractions. Every season has its festivals, so no matter what time of the year you visit Ladakh, you will experience some of them. An important event takes place at the Matho monastery in March, called Nagrang festival. It features Buddhist oracles who perform beautiful old-world dances and ceremonies; they are also known to go into trances and predict future events, so we suggest you include this when planning what to do in Ladakh in summer!
The Sindhu Darshan festival in June takes place on the banks of the River Sindhu (Indus) and features local art and culture.
Hemis monastery celebrates its own festival in June or July for two whole days. Masked performers showcase the centuries-old dances accompanied by traditional music, while shopping enthusiasts will be keen to know this festival also includes a handicraft fair.
Celebrated in Nubra Valley's Diskit Monastery, the Dosmoche Festival happens during the month of December or January. The festival features local dances and music and marks the beginning of the Tibetan New Year.
The Ladakh festival is held in Leh and includes street processions, archery competitions, music and dance performances, polo matches, and handicrafts exhibitions.
In November, Thiksey monastery, along with the Karsha and Spituk gompas, hold their annual Gustor rituals for two days. It is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil, and folk dancers are seen wearing intricately decorated masks during their performances. These masks symbolise the guardians or the gods and goddesses who protect the people.
Learn About Flora And Fauna
Spring is the best time to visit Ladakh if you want to watch this otherwise barren landscape burst into a riot of colours. Numerous animals inhabit the mountain slopes, the most famous being the elusive snow leopard. These big cats are rarely seen in the wild, even by locals, but keep your fingers crossed, and you may just spot one.
Other endangered species that thrive in the alpine climate are bharals, wild yak, ibex, mouse hare, wild asses, nyan, red foxes, shapu, wolves and Tibetan antelopes. This rich biodiversity is on full display in the higher ranges of Hemis National Park.
Spend The Nights Stargazing
The isolation of Ladakh makes it a perfect place to view the Milky Way in all its sparkling glory. Far from the light pollution in the cities, the endless starry sky is sure to leave you spellbound. For this reason, Ladakh is the favourite destination for avid astrophotographers, who spend hours waiting for the perfect snap.
Tip: Always check whether your trip coincides with an astronomical event, such as a meteor shower. If you are lucky, the night sky will put on a show just for you!
Indulge In Local Shopping
The markets here are small but astounding in the variety of items they offer. They feature local handicrafts, genuine souvenirs and hand-made artefacts apart from the local speciality that adds to any wardrobe - the Pashmina wool dress. The colourful displays here are enough to entice any eager shopper.
Tip: When in Leh, be sure to visit the Tibetan refugee markets for handmade jewellery and unique artefacts. This also contributes to the Tibetan community's welfare.
Introduce Your Taste Buds To Ladakhi Cuisine
Being at the crossroads of Kashmir and Tibet, Ladakh has a unique and flavourful cuisine. No, it's not just momos and noodles. Explore the rich array of soups, stews, bread, jams, teas, and cheese while visiting Ladakh; you will not be disappointed. Although Leh has a number of multi-cuisine restaurants, give them a miss and opt to eat the way the locals do for an authentic experience.
Ladakh truly has something for everyone, and its pull is undeniable. One visit is never enough, and this beautiful, spiritual, astounding land will call out to you again and again. To plan the perfect hassle-free trip to experience these wonderful Ladakh attractions, choose from the Ladakh tourism packages offered by Cox & Kings.