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How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh (Travel Tips, Advice, and FAQs)

I picked up a lot of helpful tips while touring Leh Ladakh on a motorbike. I hope they will help you get the most out of your trip!

Riding on the Top of the World: Crossing Chang La Pass on Way to Pangong Tso Lake

Riding on the Top of the World: Crossing Chang La Pass on Way to Pangong Tso Lake

How to Plan Your Trip to Leh Ladakh

Nestled in the Trans-Himalayan region, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India, Ladakh has recently become one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in India. Riding across high-altitude mountain passes, visiting monasteries, and camping next to stunning high-altitude lakes are the major draws of Ladakh.

In addition to its spellbinding landscapes, Ladakh is renowned for its ancient Buddhist monasteries. Ladakh is often dubbed ‘Little Tibet’, as it shares an international boundary with Tibet and is home to a sizable population of Tibetan Buddhists.

Although a trip to Ladakh has a lot to offer, tourists must take some precautions since it is a mostly barren land and has low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen levels at higher altitudes.

In this article, I’d like to mention some important points that every tourist planning a trip to this region should know and answer some frequently asked questions I've come across in travel forums online.

The most common questions are related to acclimatization, ATMs, petrol pumps, acute mountain sickness (AMS), and innerline permits as well as how long Ladakh tour itineraries tend to be.

All of my tips are based on my personal experience in the region.

Access to Ladakh by Motorcycle or Car

Please note that there is uncertainty about the opening or closing of both Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways due to snowfall, landslides, etc. Confirm the latest status when you plan to travel or you might get stuck on the way by a day or two.

RoadCurrent Status

Delhi to Manali

Open

Manali to Keylong

Open via Atal Tunnel

Keylong to Leh

Closed

Keylong to Kaza

Closed

Srinagar to Leh

Closed

Leh Ladakh Road Status 2021

National Highway 1D (NH 1D) connecting Srinagar to Leh has been closed for the year. Also, as of November 2021, the road to Rohtang Pass from Manali has been closed till April next year. So, it will no longer be possible to travel to Ladakh by road this year via either Srinagar Leh Highway or Manali Leh Highway.

Sitting by The Pangong Tso is such a sublime experience that words fall short of meaning.

Sitting by The Pangong Tso is such a sublime experience that words fall short of meaning.

Take Time to Acclimatize in Leh Ladakh

Acclimatization is an important part of building your Ladakh itinerary, so make sure you don't rush your trip—you must allow time for your body to adjust to the low atmospheric pressure. You should reserve the first two days after your arrival in Leh for getting used to the high altitude.

If you are taking Leh-Manali Highway, then stop at Keylong, Jispa, and Darcha, and avoid staying at Sarchu if possible. Otherwise, if you are taking Leh-Srinagar Highway, you should spend the night at Kargil (I am assuming that you have already spent a night in Manali or Srinagar respectively).

If you are flying directly to Leh, you still need to take two days to rest. During this period, you could always go on a short trip to Thiksey, Hemis, Shey, Nimoo, and Stok, etc., to visit monasteries and palaces.

However you plan on getting to Leh, don't expect to arrive and then head out to Nubra or Pangong right away. You might become seriously affected by AMS, which could lead to severe headaches, nausea, restlessness, the inability to walk or think, and even ataxia, which would certainly ruin your vacation! Even the fittest people are affected by AMS.

The stunning views from Gata Loops were one of the highlights of the trip.

The stunning views from Gata Loops were one of the highlights of the trip.

9 Tips for Preventing Altitude Sickness

Physical fitness is the foremost thing you need to consider while undertaking a trip to the Ladakh region. If you suffer from high blood pressure, heart ailments or asthma, you may want to reconsider visiting Ladakh.

With that said, here are some helpful tips for preventing AMS.

  1. Don't rush the ascent. Due to the low atmospheric pressure, tourists need to rest for around 2 days or 48 hours after reaching Leh.
  2. Increase your altitude gradually. Once you begin your ascent, take it slow. Balancing ascent with rest will help your body acclimatize.
  3. Stay hydrated. Hydration is necessary but overdoing it could harm you by reducing your sodium levels. You should only increase your normal water intake by a liter. Dehydration does not necessarily lead to AMS.
  4. Stay warm. During the cold weather, cover your head and ears with something warm.
  5. Don’t overexert yourself physically. Never run, especially on the passes. Low oxygen levels could lead to fatigue, and it can be difficult to catch your breath. You might feel the earth spin or even pass out.
  6. Try Diamox…or garlic soup! Some preventive medicines do aid acclimatization and treat altitude sickness. The most popular is Diamox. The local version of this medicine, a time-tested and natural alternative is garlic soup, which is just what it sounds like—a soup prepared with tons of garlic.
  7. Descend immediately if you start experiencing symptoms of AMS. If you notice any symptoms, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or fatigue, rest immediately and descend without delay if you are at a high altitude (as in Khardung La Top).
  8. Don't drink alcohol or smoke. I know this one is difficult to do, but you should avoid smoking and drinking alcohol at a high altitude to prevent AMS.
  9. Avoid sleeping during the day. I know I didn't have to say this because who'd waste even seconds of time sleeping during the day in such a magnificent land!
Chang La is the high mountain pass which you need to cross to go to Pangong Tso Lake from Leh. It is also one of the most beautiful passes that I crossed during my Ladakh road trip.

Chang La is the high mountain pass which you need to cross to go to Pangong Tso Lake from Leh. It is also one of the most beautiful passes that I crossed during my Ladakh road trip.

Read More from WanderWisdom

What to Pack for Your Trip: Clothing and Other Essentials

Ladakh is situated in the Greater Himalayas, which means it is cold and at a considerable elevation. As soon as you cross Keylong (Leh-Manali Highway), you will experience a drastic change in weather conditions as well as landscape. The same changes will be apparent when you cross Zoji La on the Leh-Srinagar Highway.

But though the nights are cold, the weather will likely be warm and sunny while you travel at higher altitudes during the day. It seldom rains in the Ladakh region, which is one of the reasons that it is considered one of the best places to visit in India in the monsoon season.

During the day, a simple pullover or jacket will do the trick, but as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature also drops steeply—it could even reach zero degrees. The evenings are generally when people rest inside. Most lodgings along the routes are warm enough. Even sleeping in tents is not a problem since blankets and quilts are provided by the owners.

Here are a few key things which you should pack when traveling to Ladakh.

  • 2+ jackets and 2–3 pullovers
  • Gloves (preferably woolen) and warm clothes/caps to cover your ears and neck (especially if you are on a motorbike)
  • Soaps, towels, general medicines, bandages, etc.
  • 2–3 pairs of thermal inner
  • 4–5 pairs of warm socks (another must for bikers)
  • Good waterproof shoes for trekking and riding (if you are on a motorbike, you may have to cross streams on high mountain passes like Chang La, Baralacha La and others)
  • A warm sleeping bag if you are planning to camp along the route
  • Vital medicines for AMS such as Avomine, Dexamethasone, Diamox and Acetazolamide
  • Lots of chocolates, biscuits, and dry fruits
  • Camera and kit
  • Chargers for cell phones and other basic things
  • Torch

Packing Essentials for Bikers

Besides what I mentioned above, you will also need:

  • A couple of good raincoats: More often than not, riders face rain after crossing Chandigarh and before crossing Rohtang La Pass on the Leh-Manali highway. On the Srinagar-Leh highway, you are very likely to get caught in the rain until you reach Zoji La.
  • A windbreaker: A windbreaker will help keep your clothes clean along the dirt tracks on passes and along the Moore Plains. The clouds of sand and dirt can be quite substantial, especially when an army convoy is passing through and when you are crossing passes where trucks and other vehicles take longer due to narrow roads. (Your raincoat can usually be used for this purpose.)
  • Waterproof gloves: Trust me. You do not want to be without these.
  • Waterproof boots: It is critical that you keep your feet, shoes and socks from getting wet at streams flowing on passes, especially the one at Baralacha La, which is one of the most vicious. There are more water crossings on passes such as Khardung La and Chang La. The trick is not to cross the stream from the middle; keep your bike in first gear, and use the clutch to maintain traction and throttle. Or you could wait for others to pass, see how they do it and follow suit.
  • Miscellaneous: Spare tube, puncture kit, clutch wire, break wire, chain lock, gear oil, engine oil, spark plugs, etc. are a must. You should also carry a petrol jar if you are taking the Leh-Manali Highway, as the last petrol pump that you’ll find is at Tandi (around 380 km before you find the next at Karu). I recommend carrying 10–20 liters of extra petrol.

Puncture shops are also not available, and even if you find one, there is no guarantee that they will have the tube. This is why a tire tube is a must-pack item even if you don’t have a puncture kit.

Magnetic Hills on the Leh-Srinagar Highway, Ladakh

Magnetic Hills on the Leh-Srinagar Highway, Ladakh

How to Get a Car/Motorcycle Permit for Rohtang Pass

There are two types of permits issued for Rohtang Pass by the order of the National Green Tribunal and the District Administration.

Rohtang Pass Permit for Tourism Purposes

Obtaining a permit for Rohtang Pass is mandatory for all vehicles/visitors who are making a day trip for tourist activity at Rohtang La. This permit is issued on a daily basis for one-time use only, and the taxes/fees are levied according to the daily quota as ascribed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) of India and as issued by the district administration.

The permit/tax/fee varies according to vehicle type and fuel type as well. People/vehicles carrying this permit are not allowed to go beyond Rohtang Pass towards Leh or Spiti Valley.

Mentioned below are the finer points that you need to know about applying for a permit for a trip to Rohtang Pass.

Daily Permit Limit for Tourism Purpose in Rohtang Pass

  • Petrol Vehicle: INR 800
  • Diesel Vehicle: INR 400

Timing for Applying for Rohtang Permit for Tourism Purpose Online

  • 10:00 hours (200 Diesel and 400 Petrol)
  • 16:00 hours (200 Diesel and 400 Petrol)

Notes

  • Only three permits are allowed per vehicle per week.
  • Rohtang Pass remains closed for tourism purposes on Tuesdays for scheduled maintenance.
  • You need to carry printouts of valid documents (the same as you would submit for obtaining a Rohtang permit online) or else your vehicle will not be allowed to cross the Gulaba check post.

Cost of Rohtang Permit Application for Tourism Purposes

Vehicle ClassPermit FeeCongestion Charges

Car & Jeep

500

50

MUV

500

50

Bus & HMV

500

50

Motorcycles

Nil

50

Cost of Rohtang Permit Application for Travel to Leh, Lahaul, and Spiti Valley

Vehicle ClassPermit FeeCongestion Charges

Bike

Nil

50

LMV

Nil

50

Passenger Vehicle

Nil

50

Goods Vehicle

Nil

100

Khardung La Top

Khardung La Top

Innerline and Protected Area Permit FAQs

To visit certain inner areas like Turtuk, Panamik, Khaltse, Pangong, Changthang, Hunder, Tso Kar, and Tso Moriri, etc. in Ladakh, you need to obtain inner line permits. An Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document issued and stamped by the Indian authorities which enables Indian citizens to travel to these sensitive areas.

An Inner Line Permit is required to visit certain places like Khardung La, Nubra Valley, Shayok, Chang La, Tangtse, Pangong Tso, Dha-Hanu Valley, Batalik, Chumathang, Tsaga La and Tso Moriri.

How Do Indian Citizens Apply for Innerline Permits (ILPs)?

Indian citizens can apply for the innerline directly online or by going to the DC office in Leh. If you plan to apply for permits by going to the Leh DC office, you will need to mention every place in the route that you are taking while applying for innerline permit or else you won't be allowed by the army. If you are registering online, then routes are mentioned there and you can select them in the form. Inner line permits for Indian nationals are valid for up to three weeks. You need to re-apply for the same permit if you are planning on visiting the more remote areas in Ladakh.

How Do Foreign Tourists Apply for Protected Area Permits (PAPs)?

Travelers from overseas (with the exception of residents of Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan) need to obtain a Protected Area Permit to visit the above places. In the case of foreigners, the permit is issued only for a group with four or more foreign tourists.

For foreign tourists, it is also mandatory to go through a registered travel agent in order to obtain a permit. The travel agent will also help you group together with others in case you are traveling solo or as a couple so that your permit can be obtained. (You don't need to travel in the same group or with the same travel agent mentioned in the permit.)

Traveling to Suru and Zanskar Valley does not require inner line permits. Since 2019, foreign travelers are allowed to take the direct route from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri via Chushul. The Protected Area Permit is issued for a maximum of seven days.

How Do I Apply for an Innerline Permit in Leh?

The permit application forms are available at the stationery shop just behind the Leh DC office which opens at 9.00 AM, and applications for permits are not usually accepted after 03:00 PM. (The office is closed on Sundays and national holidays.)

You should get to the office as early as possible to avoid the rush and get your permit in a hassle-free way. Don't forget to bring a valid photo ID and photocopies of your proof of nationality (passport, driver's license, ID, etc.).

Does the Whole Permit Group Need to Be Present to Apply?

No. One person may apply for the entire group provided he or she is carrying proof of nationality for all members in the group.

After acquiring the permit, make sure that you carry 7–8 copies of it along with your photo ID. You may be required to submit them at certain checkpoints by military personnel who track entry and exit at certain points to make sure tourists all return. (This is for your own safety in case you get stranded or stuck during the treks or rides due to bad weather.)

How Much Does a Protected Area Permit Cost?

  • Environment fee: ₹ 400
  • Red Cross donation: ₹ 100
  • Wildlife protection fee: ₹ 20/day

What Places Do I Need to Mention in My Permit?

Mention all major places you are traveling to in the permit (i.e., if you are spending the night in Spangmik, you need to mention only Pangong Lake).

In some cases, certain places or routes need to be mentioned. In order to take the Chushul route from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri with a visit to Hanle, you need to mention Pangong Tso, Man, Merak, Chushul, Tsaga, Loma, Nyoma, Mahe, Hanle, and Tso Moriri in the permit application.

Can I Apply for a Permit Online?

Yes. You can apply online or ask your travel agent or hotel staff to arrange it for you in advance. They will charge a modest sum of INR 200/300 for their service at most.

Fotu La (13,478 feet) is the highest mountain pass which one has to cross on the Leh-Srinagar Highway.

Fotu La (13,478 feet) is the highest mountain pass which one has to cross on the Leh-Srinagar Highway.

Leh Bike Rental Costs

These are the prices for hiring a motorcycle in Leh Ladakh as announced by Ladakh MotorBike Rental Association, which governs the rate in the region.

Bike NameModelMinimum (Halfday Rate)Full Day Rate

Royal Enfield (Himalaya)

500 CC All Models

1100

1800

Royal Enfield

500 CC All Models

1100

1800

Royal Enfield

350 CC Classic/Thunderbird

800

1400

Royal Enfield

350 CC Electra

700

1200

Royal Enfield

350 CC Standard

600

1100

Honda Activa

Automatic

500

800

Bajaj Avenger

200 CC

600

1100

Bajaj Vikrant/Hero Impulse

150 CC

500

900

Taking the Bus to Ladakh From Delhi, Manali or Srinagar

For those looking to plan their Ladakh trip on a budget, bus service could come in handy. However, taking the bus in this region will likely make your schedule a bit more hectic. Due to the limited connectivity of these far-flung destinations, bus trips in Ladakh entail long hours of driving on rocky, mountainous terrains and the crossing of several high-altitude passes.

Options for bus service to Leh Ladakh are available from Delhi, Srinagar, and Manali. Mentioned below is how the journey would look, along with departure days, timing and fares.

Bus Service From Delhi to Leh

Buses operated by HPTDC depart every day starting from July 1 until September 15, when the road conditions are most suitable to cross the unpredictable Rohtang Pass. The journey spans over 35 hours and makes a number of stops along the way, which include switching the driver and sometimes even the bus. The journey also includes a night halt in Keylong.

On the final day of the journey, the bus passes through spectacular terrain that includes the Gata Loops, Morey Plains, and three mighty mountain passes—Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft), Lachungla Pass (16,620 ft), and Tanglangla Pass (17,480 ft).

  • Departure Days from Delhi ISBT: Daily July 1–Sept. 15 from Counter 7 of HPTDC.
  • Departure Time: 3:45 PM
  • Distance Covered: 1050 km
  • Fare: INR 1350 per person

Bus Service From Manali to Leh

A deluxe bus operated by HPTDC operates from Manali to Leh twice a week. It crosses the most breathtaking terrain and is considered one of the best road-trip routes in the world. Several mountain passes, high-altitude lakes, and loops, deserts, and plains make it one of the most sought-after routes to take to Ladakh.

The semi-deluxe bus halts for sightseeing along the way, and the night halt and meal are included in the fare. The highlight of this route is riding across five of the mightiest mountain passes of this trans-Himalayan region—Rohtang Pass (13,060 ft), Baralacha La (16,500 ft), Nakee La (15,547 ft), Lachulung La (16,616 ft) and Taglang La (17,480 ft).

  • Departure Days from Manali ISBT: Twice a week
  • Departure Time: 09:00 A.M
  • Distance Covered: 475 km
  • Fare: Rs.2500 per person (transport charges 1900 + accommodation charges 600)

Bus Service From Srinagar to Leh

Srinagar offers the most options for buses to Leh. Many government agencies and private operators offer bus service on the Srinagar-Leh highway. A night halt, if any is taken, would be at Kargil. The journey involves crossing three high passes—Zozi La (11,575 ft), Namki La (12,516 ft), and Fotu La (13,478 ft).

  • Departure Days from Srinagar ISBT: Daily
  • Departure Time: Multiple times
  • Distance Covered: 419 km
  • Fare: Rs.1197 or less per person
Ladakh is one of the most stunning places on Earth.

Ladakh is one of the most stunning places on Earth.

Accommodation in Ladakh

Due to the conditions and nature of the Ladakh region, luxury hotels are few and far between. There is one luxury hotel in Leh town by the name of Grand Dragon. You will also find luxury tents at places like Thiksey, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Nubra Valley.

At other places, you’ll find budget and deluxe or even luxury tents and camps, some with basic facilities and some with running hot water and attached western toilets. Homestays are easily available at most of the places with basic facilities and would cost 700–1200 per room for the night.

Luxury camps with attached toilets and running hot water will cost you around 3000–5000 for two people. You could also book your accommodation in advance through the internet or by calling the hotels and camp providers. You could also simply check in upon arrival since Ladakh is not one of the places that has a "peak season" when rooms are fully booked in advance.

Accommodation for Bikers Along Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar Highway

For bikers, accommodation is available all along the route on both the Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar Highways. To allow for acclimatization, bikers taking the Leh-Manali Highway should look into accommodation at Keylong, Jispa, Darcha or Sarchu and stay for the night at one of the places.

Most of the bikers stay at camps in Sarchu. But if you have arrived at Zingzing Bar late in the afternoon, avoid crossing Baralacha La, as the stream that crosses the road on this pass gets dangerous because of the strong current.

You should go to to Darcha or Jispa to spend the night. One could also stay at Pang, but watch out for AMS since Pang and Sarchu are located at an elevation of 15,100 and 14,100 feet respectively. Don't cross Baralacha La if you are already feeling mountain sickness or if you have any symptoms like headache or nausea. In that case, you should stay at Jispa or Darcha at 10,800 feet and 11,020 feet respectively.

If you are riding from Srinagar, then I’d advise you to stop over in Mulbekh instead of Kargil, or even Lamayuru if you could make it. Accommodation in Kargil is very costly and it is an overrated place to spend the night.

Personally, I'd recommend taking the Srinagar route and returning via Manali, as it helps in acclimatization. If you are on a road trip to Ladakh via the Manali route, then I'd advise you to stay for the night at Jispa, Darcha or Keylong to avoid AMS.

Petrol Pump at Karu

Petrol Pump at Karu

The last petrol pump on Manali Leh highway

The last petrol pump on Manali Leh highway

Petrol Pumps in Leh Ladakh

If you are traveling by road and doing Ladakh by motorcycle or four-wheeler, you need to know where the petrol pumps are and where to get extra petrol in cans and jars so that you don’t run out of fuel on the highway.

This is especially important if you have chosen the Leh-Manali Highway for your road trip. The last petrol pump that you’ll find on this route is located at Tandi, and the next one is at Karu which is around 380 km away. It is always advisable to carry extra petrol so that you don’t run out of fuel and get stranded.

Similarly, if you are Planning Leh–Pangong–Tso Mosriri–Rumtse–Leh or Leh–Nubra–Pangong–Leh (which would have you traveling more than 700–900 km), then fill your tank and carry plenty of petrol in reserve. You are going to need it.

At some places, petrol is available at local shops and residences near roadside settlements along the route, but you need to pay a luxury surcharge to buy them, and the quality of petrol is not guaranteed.

You need not worry about petrol or fuel if you are taking the Leh-Srinagar Highway, as you’ll find enough petrol pumps en route.

Canteen at the Top of Chang La

Canteen at the Top of Chang La

Money Matters: Tips on Cash and ATMs

Except at some antique shops, credit cards are not accepted by any of the hotels and travel agents. Therefore you should plan on carrying a good amount of cash with you. If you feel that carrying cash is a bit risky, go for plastic money (i.e., debit cards) and withdraw money from ATMs whenever required.

Several banks like SBI, AXIS Bank, J&K Bank, PNB, etc. have ATMS available in Leh Town. However, you won't find any ATMs in more remote places like Pangong, Changthang, etc., so you must carry cash when traveling farther abroad in the region.

Welcome to Chang La!

Welcome to Chang La!

More Essential Travel Tips for Your Trip

Now that we've gone over the nitty-gritty of planning your trip, here are a few last tips to help you get the most out of your time in this special region.

Respect the Local Culture

While traveling in Ladakh, kindly show respect towards the local culture and don't do things that are against the norm. Tibetan Buddhist culture is quite ancient and conservative, so dress properly and cover your full body. Always ask permission before taking photographs of any person. If they ask for money, I advise you refrain from taking their picture.

Communication Facilities in Ladakh

There are STD booths available in most of the markets in the Ladakh region, but they close down before 10 PM. On the other hand, Kargil has a global direct dialing telephone facility, as well as a post and telegraph facility. There is also a wireless radio phone network service at the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism station with field stations at Leh, Padum and Kargil. From May to August (peak tourist season), Jammu and Kashmir Tourism has mobile wireless stations in the remote areas.

Avoid Using Plastic Bags

Both locals and tourists are responsible for maintaining the environment. Therefore, do not litter. Plastic is officially banned in Ladakh, so you need to avoid the use of plastic and polythene bags.

Carry the Proper Documents for Your Bike Trip

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If you are heading to Ladakh on a motorcycle, you will come across some highland passes such as Changla Pass, Zojila Pass, Fotula Pass and Khardungla Pass. Since all these areas have a huge military presence, you need to carry a permit, vehicle registration, driving license, pollution-under-control certificate and bike insurance. I recommend making copies of each of these documents just in case.

FAQs About Planning a Trip to Ladakh

How much does a trip to Ladakh cost?

Depending upon the duration of your trip and mode of transportation, you can do a trip to Ladakh for as low as INR 20,000 per person. A Ladakh trip by motorcycle in a group will cost you 30–40K per person. However, these costs get as much as halved when there are no travel agents involved and you are using your own mode of transportation.

My bike trip to Ladakh from Delhi via Manali and back via Srinagar cost me approximately 12,000, which included everything from accommodation and fuel to food and booze (but remember that drinking isn't always the best idea if you're worried about AMS!). That was some years ago, but it is still possible to do a Ladakh Bike Trip for under 20K per person per bike.

However, I stayed in the most basic accommodations and homestays. So, the budget for your trip will vary depending on your mode of transportation and your choices of accommodation.

But on average, you can stay, eat and move around comfortably on a budget of approximately 1500 per person (if you are traveling in a group of 3+ persons and have your own transportation. It may go up to 2500–3000+ if you are hiring a vehicle and staying in deluxe hotels and tents. I mostly stayed in homestays and had my own bike, so the cost of my trip was muuch lower.

Which month is best to visit Leh Ladakh?

The best time to visit Ladakh is definitely right when the Rohtang Pass and Zojila Pass open, as that is when you’ll find the fewest tourists there. These passes open somewhere in late May or definitely by June depending upon the weather conditions (they usually remain closed from October till May due to heavy snowfall). The snows are melting and the hues are just breathtaking. Also, the water streams that flow on various roads are less vicious if you are traveling to Ladakh by road.

When the passes are closed, it is also possible to go to Ladakh by air. You will find Ladakh without tourists at these times, but only the most ardent travelers visit Ladakh in winters, as the weather conditions are extreme and most of the tents and homestays at Tso Moriri, Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley are closed.

For how many days should I visit Ladakh?

Since it is located at a very high altitude, a trip to Leh Ladakh takes time. Most travellers (including me) will advise you to spend your first two days in Leh, especially if you are traveling to Ladakh by air.

Above 10,000 feet, your body needs to acclimatize to high altitude, which takes time. If you try to rush your trip, you risk getting acute mountain sickness (AMS). So after adjusting for those two days, and supposing you also want to visit at least Pangong Tso or Nubra Valley (one of them), you can do your Ladakh trip in 4 to 5 days.

But then again, when you visit a place like Ladakh, you don’t just get in and get out. It’s a dream destination for which you plan years in advance (at least I did). I’d recommend that you plan your trip to accommodate at least one of the must-visit places in Ladakh. I am alluding here to the magnificent three: Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri. I’d also recommend that you spend the night at whichever place you decide on.

So if you go by my recommendation, you'll need at least a week for a memorable trip to Ladakh.

What is Ladakh famous for?

Ladakh is famous for some of the highest motorable roads in the world (Khardung La, Chang La, Taglang La), high-altitude lakes (Tso Moriri, Pangong Tso) and a high-altitude desert (Nubra Valley).

Ladakh is also renowned for its ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture, monasteries and various treks in the Greater Himalayas like Chadar Trek and Markha Valley trek.

Can I travel to Ladakh with kids?

Most kids have similar adaptability as adults at a higher altitude. However, kids under the age of one year should not travel to Ladakh, as their lungs are not equipped to deal with the altitude. If you are thinking of traveling to Ladakh with kids, you should consult a doctor, especially if your child is below five years of age.

If you do travel to Ladakh with kids, make sure that you communicate with your kids as you reach Leh or when you travel to higher altitudes like Khardung La or Chang La. If your children are feeling unwell, you should stop there or descend immediately to a lower altitude.

Is Ladakh good for a family trip?

Ladakh has more than one side. The Ladakh that I travelled to was different and wild, a place for avid travellers and adventure enthusiasts. However, thanks to Bollywood and word of mouth, Ladakh has become a popular destination for family holidays even with kids.

There are many places that you can visit during your trip to Ladakh with family. Nubra Valley is one of the best places to visit during your family trip to Ladakh, as there are activities like camel rides and dune bashing which kids definitely enjoy.

During your family trip to Ladakh, you could also do river rafting in the Indus River. Sightseeing options include visiting numerous monasteries.

Is alcohol available in Leh?

Yes, alcohol is available in a couple of liquor shops located in Leh. Carry it along if you are traveling to Pangong or Tso Moriri. However, if you are self-driving, then I’d advise that you drink moderately and don’t drink at all during the day. I would also recommend avoiding alcohol if you are concerned about AMS.

What are the best places to visit in Leh Ladakh?

Depending entirely upon your trip duration, the best places to visit in Leh Ladakh include Zanskar Valley, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Lamayuru and Kargill War Memorial. The attractions in Leh include Shanti Stupa and Leh Palace. Nearby is Thiksey and Hemis Monastery. There is also a Patharsahab Gurudwara, which is of importance.

Natural attractions include the lakes and desert as well as the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar at Nimoo.

Is Ladakh safe for tourists?

Ladakh is mostly safe for tourists, but with high altitude and inclement weather come different risks. However, if you follow the acclimatization guidelines, limit your drinking, drive safely, and keep an eye on the weather, there are really no other risks while traveling in Ladakh. The locals are quite friendly and violence and theft are nonissues.

Do Indian citizens require innerline permits in Ladakh?

Yes, Indian citizens also require permits for traveling in Ladakh, but the permit is required only for traveling to inner areas like Tso Moriri, Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso.

Depending upon the route you take, you’ll have to apply for and get a permit from the DC office when you arrive in Leh. (You might need it in advance if you are traveling to Tso Moriri directly from the Sarchu Manli route.) Mention all routes when applying for your permit and carry multiple copies as you need to submit them at check posts en route.

Can I get an innerline permit online?

Yes, you can get the permit online. Visit the official Leh website for the link to apply. Alternately, if you are using a travel agent or booking hotels in Leh in advance, you can also ask your agent or hotel contact to arrange it for you in advance.

I am a foreigner. How do I apply for an innerline permit in Leh Ladakh?

Just like Indian citizens need innerline permits to travel to certain places in Ladakh, residents of foreign countries need Protected Area Permits (PAPs) to travel to most of the places in Ladakh.

If you are from a foreign country, you need to provide a valid passport with a visa or an overseas citizen of India (OCI) card.

If you are traveling on your own, you can obtain a permit through your travel agent or by contacting the hotel staff if you’re booking accommodation in advance. The travel agent or hotel may ask you for a little extra fee for their service, but it usually isn't much.

However, do keep in mind that a foreigner cannot apply for protected area permit if s/he is traveling alone. But the good thing is that you can contact a travel agent or hotel and they can apply for your permit with cluc\bbing you with a group of foreigners who are planning their trip to Ladakh. After you obtain the permit, you don't necessarily need to travel with that group.

What is the cost of a five-day innerline permit in Leh Ladakh?

  • Environment fee: ₹ 400
  • Red Cross donation: ₹ 100
  • Wildlife protection fee: ₹ 20/day
  • Total Cost: ₹ 600 (400 + 100 + 5 x 20).

How can I book a Ladakh tour package?

There are many online portals where you can book a Ladakh tour package. My personal favourite is LehLadakhIndia.com. You can find travel guides and various tour packages there. The thing that makes them different is that they offer bespoke holidays to Ladakh, meaning all their tour are customizable. I personally know the rep there and they do offer good value for money for Ladakh holiday packages.

Which bike is best for a trip through Ladakh?

Hands down, the Royal Enfield. However, I have seen people riding this route on scooters as well. That takes a lot of courage and definitely more passion!

When it comes down to it, you can use any bike for a road trip to Ladakh as long as it is in good condition. Carry the spare parts mentioned above and you are gonna make it even with a Hero Honda Splendor.

What is the temperature of Ladakh?

During the daytime, the temperature in Ladakh mostly remains pleasant, ranging between 10–20˚C. However, as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature drops drastically going as low as zero or even below during winter months.

Is Ladakh open for tourists in September?

Yes, Ladakh remains open from June till November if you are traveling by road. If you are traveling to Ladakh by air, then you can travel to Ladakh any time of the year.

Which is the nearest airport to Ladakh?

Kushok Bakula Rimpooche Airport is the nearest airport in Ladakh, located on the outskirts of Leh town.

Which is better, Leh or Ladakh?

Both are one and the same. The region is called Ladakh whereas Leh is the administrative center in Ladakh. This of it as Maharashtra and Mumbai. Mumbai is to Maharashtra what Leh is to Ladakh.

Is Ladakh safe for couples?

Ladakh is perhaps one of the safest destinations in India for couples. It could also be one of the most romantic places in India for couples to travel to! There are amazing lakes, thrilling mountain passes, cold desert, and a number of adventure sports activities that couples could enjoy themselves during their visit to Ladakh.

How far is Ladakh from Manali?

The distance between Manali and Ladakh by road is around 473 kilometers.

Is the XPulse 200 good for a Ladakh bike trip?

The Hero XPulse happens to be well suited to off-roading. It has sufficient power and torque to go all the way to Ladakh and climb those high-altitude mountain passes. Just make sure that it is in good condition.

Is the Bajaj Avenger suitable for a Ladakh trip?

It's best that you avoid using a Bajaj Avenger for a motorcycle trip to Ladakh. On a Bajaj Avenger, you ride with your legs extended forward, and the shock from road gets transferred directly to your backbone. On other bikes, your legs share the shock and you can stand on the footrests when it gets bumpy suddenly, which you can't do on the Avenger.

Can the Apache 160 go to Ladakh?

Yes, you can do a Ladakh Bike Trip using an Apache 160.

Can a Pulsar 150 go to Ladakh?

Yes, it is very much possible to do a Ladakh trip by motorcycle using a Pulsar 150.

Is there internet in Ladakh?

Answer: Depending upon your mobile network, you can get full 4G access in Leh and Nubra Valley (Up to Diskit and Hunder). However, do keep in mind that due to the sensitive location of Ladakh (It shares a border with Pakistan and Nepal), prepaid connection doesn't work in the region.

BSNL postpaid network has the best connectivity. Other postpaid networks also work, but not all the time.

Is high altitude a problem in Ladakh?

It can be. Most places in Ladakh are located above 3000 metres elevation (10,000+ feet). The oxygen level at that height is always a little low. That's why it is very important to get acclimatized upon your arrival in Leh before you travel to other places in Ladakh.

It is considered best practice to spend two days of your Ladakh trip in Leh to acclimatize to high altitude weather conditions. On the second day, you can do the Alchi Nimoo circuit or even visit Hemis and Thiksey monastery, but don't head towards Pangong Tso or Nubra Valley or Tso Moriri without spending 2 nights in Leh first.

What language do they speak in Ladakh?

Ladakhi, the local language as it is called, is the most widely spoken language in Ladakh. Spoken Ladakhi is called pha-skad, whereas the classical Tibetan is known as Bhoti in Ladakh.

Saka Dawa in May, Sindhu Darshan Festival in June and Hemis Festival in July and Ladakh Festival in September are some of the most popular festivals in Ladakh.

Can we visit Ladakh in May?

Ladakh opens by road in May. Rohtang Pass may be closed during this time but Ladakh is accessible by road from the Kashmir side as Zojila Pass normally opens for tourists traveling to Ladakh by Road.

Can I visit Ladakh in December?

Most of the inner roads in the Ladakh region remain open in December, but many of the passes close. To reach Ladakh in December, the only mode is to travel by air. If you are traveling to Ladakh in December, be prepared for extremely cold weather conditions.

Which pass connects Spiti to Ladakh?

Parang La connects Spiti to the Ladakh region.

Which SIM card is best in Ladakh?

Prepaid connections from outside the region don't work in Leh Ladakh. Only Airtel postpaid and BSNL postpaid work in Ladakh. BSNL postpaid connection is the most reliable of the lot.

What is the altitude of Leh?

Leh is located at an altitude of 3,500 meters.

What is the altitude of Khardung La?

Khardung La is located at an elevation of 5,359 meters (17,582 feet). It is a popular belief that Khardung La is the highest motorable mountain pass in the world and even local signs claim that it is located at the height of 5,602 meters (18,379 feet) which is factually incorrect. Khardung La connects Leh to Nubra Valley.

What is the altitude of Chang La?

Chang La is located at an elevation of 5,360 meters (17,590 feet). It connects Shyok River Valley to Leh town. You take this pass while traveling to Pangong Tso.

What is the altitude of Rohtang La (Pass)?

Rohtang Pass is located at an altitude of 3,978 meters (13,054 feet). Rohtang Pass connects Spiti Valley, Lahual Valley and Ladakh Region to Manali by Road.

What is the altitude of Zojila Pass?

Zojila Pass is situated at a height of 3,528 meters (11,575 feet). This pass connects Kashmir Valley to the Ladakh region.

What kind of food do they eat in Ladakh?

Some of the most popular Ladakhi foods are Thukpa, momos, Skyu, TIngmo, Chutagi, Chhurpi and Khambir among others.

What is the coldest month in Ladakh?

January is the coldest month in Ladakh, with an average temperature of -3°C (27°F) during the day and -15°C (5°F) at night.

What is the warmest month in Ladakh?

July is the warmest month in Ladakh, with an average temperature of 25°C (77°F) during the day.

Which month is best for a Ladakh trip?

June till September are the best months to travel to Ladakh. July is the warmest month and best time to visit Ladakh to attend the famous Ladakh Festival.

How much does a Ladakh trip cost?

Depending upon the number of days, mode of transportation and how you are planning your trip (by road, air, self, travel agent, etc.), a trip to Ladakh could cost you anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 per person (minimum 5 nights).

Zoji La Pass

Zoji La Pass

Latest Updates

BRO builds the world's highest motorable road in the world (Aug 5th 2021)

Now you can actually ride on the highest motorable road in the world. The Border Road Organization has built the highest tarmac road in the world across Umling La Pass. The highest elevation of the road is at 19,300 feet. The 52-kilometer stretch of road will connect Leh to Demchok. Previously, this record was held by a road in Bolivia connecting to its volcano Uturuncu at 18,953 ft.

36 helipads to come up in Ladakh by April next year (Dec 18, 2020)

In yet another move to boost tourism industry in the region and to ensure round the clock connectivity, 36 new helipads will come up in Ladakh at remote areas. The new helipads will be completed by April next year. Tourism sector will definitely welcome this move as the month of May also heralds the beginning of tourism season in Ladakh and lasts till October.

Keylong Witnesses First Snowfall of the Season (Nov. 2)

Owing to the snowfall, the Manali-Leh Highway via Rohtang Pass was closed to all traffic. Keylong is approximately 70 kilometers away from Manali when you travel via the Rohtang 'Atal' Tunnel.

Barsi Bridge, Darcha, Leh Manali Highway

A 1181-foot-long all-weather steel bridge was opened on the Leh-Manali Highway on Oct. 12. This is the second longest steel bridge in India and will improve connectivity to Leh from the Manali side. It won't save as much time as the recently opened Atal Tunnel in Rohtang, but will definitely ease the traffic. Barsi Bridge has more strategic importance from the tourism point of view, as it will enable heavy vehicle movement to Ladakh by road.

Rohtang 'Atal' Tunnel (Updated Oct. 5, 2020)

The newly opened Rohtang Tunnel—or the ‘Atal Tunnel’ as it has been renamed—will improve connectivity to Leh Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti Valley from the Manali side.

Personally speaking, it is both a blessing and a curse from the point of view of tourism. Easier, shorter and year-round access means more tourists in Ladakh as well as Lahaul and Spiti for longer periods of time. This is good for the local economy and tourism and important strategically as well, but it also means more crowds.

Although there would be other passes like Baralacha La and Taglang La en-route Leh and Kunzum La to negotiate en-route Kaza, the tunnel will undoubtedly boost tourism in Ladakh and Spiti Valley. The "year-round connectivity" claim is obviously questionable with so many higher passes on the way, but we will find out soon.

The construction of the tunnel means you no longer have to negotiate the treacherous and deadly Rohtang Pass, which remains closed from October till June every year. Instead of taking the Gulaba–Marhi–Rohtang Pass route, you turn left and go towards the Solang Valley route to arrive at the Rohtang ‘Atal’ Tunnel. Taking the tunnel means you no longer go to Koksar and Gramphu; not much to do there anyways except snap a photo as you cross the Koksar bridge.

But the fact is if you are a motorcyclist like me, not going to Rohtang Pass will definitely reduce the thrill of your adventure and Ladakh trip by motorcycle or car. The ride across Rohtang Pass is definitely one of the highs of a road trip to Ladakh.

But whichever route you take, there are some basic facts you should know about the Atal Tunnel near Rohtang in Lahaul Spiti:

  • The 9 km Atal Tunnel is the longest motorable high-altitude tunnel in the world.
  • Atal unnel will shorten the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and cut drive time by around 4–6 hours.
  • The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to the remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which otherwise remain cut off from the rest of the country for about six months each winter.
  • The tunnel provides a telephone every 150 meters, a fire hydrant every 60 meters, an emergency exit every 500 meters, a turning cavern every 2.2 km, an air quality monitoring every one km, and a broadcasting system and automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras every 250 meters.
  • The new route brings down the total distance traveled to 78.42 km, which can be covered in about 2 hours, a reduction of around 3 to 4 hours when compared to the earlier route.
  • The new route allows you to avoid the old pass, which was vulnerable to traffic snarls, avalanches and road blocks.
  • The temperature varies greatly in the area (25–30 °C during May–June, -30 to -20°C during Dec.–Jan.).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Nikhil Chandra

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