Ultimate Travel Guide to Leh & Ladakh

Leh and Ladakh have been very popular destinations for not only Indians but also many of the non – Indian tourists from all over the world. Jammu and Kashmir is called as the “Paradise on Earth” and a trip  to “Paradise on earth” is incomplete without a visit to the picturesque Leh and Ladakh. So, are you among those aspiring travelers? Then you have landed at the right place. Here is a complete travel guide to Leh and Ladakh. We’ll talk about everything that is involved in traveling to Leh and Ladakh – planning, cost, accommodation and everything in between.

Ladakh is the district in Jammu and Kashmir and the name means – ” land of passes”. It became famous after the popular movie – 3 Idiots. Before the movie, Ladakh was an adventure circuit but now it has become a place to go for everybody.

Leh is known for its untouched natural beauty, snow capped mountains and pristine rivers. Lush greenery soothe your mind and makes you feel totally relaxed. Leh and Ladakh region has a lot to offer for adventure lovers.  They can do trekking, mountaineering, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

Best time to plan Leh, Ladakh trip

The best time is from June to September. This is the non snowing time and apt for both bike and car trips.

How to reach Leh and Ladakh Valley?

Leh Ladakh Trip

By flight:
Indian airlines operates around 3 flights in a week between Leh and Delhi. 2 flights in a week from Jammu and once in a week from Srinagar. You can also choose Jet airways also operates 6 flights in a week between Leh and Delhi. Go Air operates daily flights between Leh and Delhi.

By road:
You can either hire a cab or jeep and start your long road trip to Leh and Ladakh. The distance would be extremely long. And self driven cars may not have access within Leh and Ladakh. You may have to park the car in the hotel and make use of public transport.

  • Srinagar to Leh – 434km
  • Manali – Leh – 473km
  • Srinagar to Kargil – 204km
  • Delhi to Leh – 1047km
  • Leh to Kargil – 234km
  • kargil – Padum (Zanskar)- 240km
  • Leh to Deskit ( Nubra valley )- 118km

By bike:
Biking to Leh and Ladakh has become a trend. Youngsters can grab a bike and have an impeccable bike trip in the amazing valleys of Leh and Ladakh. Are you looking for a cheaper bike? You have them all. The bike rentals have from the most inexpensive Bajaj Pulsar 150 to the Royal Enfield Bullets/Thunder Birds and everything in between. You can rent a bike on per day basis. The cost of renting a bike may vary based on the  type of bike you choose. The cost will be around Rs. 800 to Rs. 1600 per day and you will have to give a refundable deposit of Rs.5000 to Rs. 10000 for the security purpose.ere is the list of reliable bike rental services in the Leh region:

Bike rentals in Leh and Ladakh

No Name Contact no
1 Ladakh Bike Rental +91 94199 80089
2 Apex Adventure +91 96229 75375
3  Ladakh Bikerz Club +91 99069 94949
4  Royal Moto Touring +91 98161 63378
5 Active Adventures +91 99069 71009

Best route to cover in Leh and Ladakh?

The best route that you can choose is >

Manali -Rohtang jot – Gramphoo – Tandi – Keylong – Jispa- Darcha- Baralacha La- Sarchu -Pang – Morey Plains – Tanglang La- Upshi- Karu – Leh

It is said that no trip to Ladakh is complete without doing this route. This highway is 500kms long and crosses 5 highs passe.The ride would consist of sheer joy and immense excitement. I am sure, you will enjoy this route .

After leaving Manali and before reaching Leh, you happen to see only three fuel stations. They are:

  1. Tandi – 112km
  2. Upshi – 428km
  3. Karu – 438km

Are there any alternate bike routes?

The alternate route that you can choose is the Srinagar highway (NH1 D).

Srinagar- Sonmarg- Zoji La – Drass- Kargil- Nimoo-Leh

The total distance is about 430km.

Is there any special permit required to travel on the Leh, Ladakh route?

Yes, you will also need to take the Rohtang pass permit while travelling through this route. As per the rule laid out by the Himachal Pradesh Government, you are not allowed to use the Rohtang Pass route from Manali to Leh if traveling on a non – Himachal Pradesh registered vehicle (both private vehicles and taxis). Also, there are strict time frames for the travel and traffic movements. The cars or any vehicle are allowed only between 4Am to 11 Pm. The permits are issued in SDM Office in Manali. The office hours are from 10AM to 5PM. Alternatively, you can collect the permit from the Tourist Information Center and HPTDC office in Manali.

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Have you heard about Inner Line Permit / Protected Area Permit?

Inner Line Permit (ILP) and Protected Area Permit (PAP) was made a mandatory  couple of years ago for anyone traveling on these routes. But now, the ILP is currently not required for Indian citizens visiting regular Leh Ladakh circuit. Some of the tourist attractions that would need you to produce ILP are Hanle, Tsaga, Chusul, beyond Loma bend, Marsimik La, Chumur and Batalik sectors.

Indian nationals can download the Inner Line Permit application form from the internet and apply for ILP at the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Leh town.

But for foreign nationals, the process is a little bit different. Instead of ILP, foreigners would need to obtain Protect Area Permits (PAP). Protect Area Permits (PAP) can be applied in a group of two or more through a Government of India registered travel agent in Leh district.

Which is the best mobile connectivity in Leh and Ladakh region?

Prepaid connections do not work in Jammu and Kashmir region, hence those who are coming out of J&K region should prefer to choose a post paid connection.

The best mobile network at Leh is BSNL. Airtel is only restricted to well populated areas. For internet connectivity, you should prefer to choose BSNL or Airtel (works only on 2G/GPRS). The speed will be upto 32 kbps.There are 3G connections at certain regions but speed remains a big problem. Hence, always do your research prior to starting your trip. You may also want to print your route maps and other necessary information before as you can not rely on internet speed.

The Leh & Ladakh trip is incomplete without a hiking through the valleys. You have to accept the fact that the trip is not an easy one.

So here are few trekking valleys that you can choose from .

Best places to trek in Leh & Ladakh

1. Zanskar Valley

Zankar Valley is supposedly the most isolated places to visit while the Leh & Ladakh trip. This valley is between the Great Himalayan Mountains and Zanskar Mountain ranged. Meandering through the valley in the Zanskar river which leads to the Indus River at a very scenic spot.

2. Kangyatse Peak and Markha Valley

This is the most famous route for the trekkers. The route originates at the Markha Valley and concludes at Kangyatse peak. The level of difficulty is a bit higher on this trek but manageable. It is said that to cover this route, it might take about 9 days.

Altitude: 3700 m
Duration: 8 days
Best Season: June to September
Difficulty Level: Moderate

3.  Lamayaru to Darcha Trek

Beginners, this is the one for you. I know, many of you might be new to the whole trekking experience. You can take the baby steps here as this is the easiest route. The trek gives you chance to visit number or monasteries and small villages. This is great to get insight into the culture and lifestyle.

Altitude: 5000 m
Duration: 18 Days
Best Season: July-September
Difficulty Level: Easy

4.  Suru valley and Nun Peak

Do you want to challenge your physical stamina? You can take this trek through the Suru Valley to the Nun peak.This is a real difficult and less taken path by many trekkers.This is also regarded as the king of all treks in the Leh and Ladakh region.

5. Kang Yatse and Dzo Jongo

Both peaks are located deep in the Markha Valley. The Kang Yatse is 6,200 metres high along the Dzo Jongo peaks.

Altitude: 6200 m
Duration: 13 days
Best Season: July to September
Difficulty Level: Difficult

6. Stok Kangiri Climb

This is the most exciting and wonderful trekking route in the Ladakh Valley. This is suited for professional trekkers.The Stok Kangri trek has got the height of about six thousand and one hundred and thirty meters above the sea level.

Altitude: 6000 m
Duration: 11 days
Best Season: Mid July to Mid September
Difficulty Level: Difficult

7. Sham Valley Trek 

This is the most easiest and enjoyable route to trek which gives the traditional look of the the Ladakh Village.This is very good trekking route for beginners.  You can get a feel and look of the Ladakh region.

8. Jhunglum Hemis to Padum Trek

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This route traverses from remote towns into mountain peaks.

Altitude: 5200 m
Duration: 12 days
Best Season: August to October
Difficulty Level: Difficult

9. Markha Valley Trek with Stok Kangri climb

This trek would add more spice and challenge to the Markha Valley trek.This trek is feasible to only those chunk of professionals who have prior trekking experience. The trek offers a myriad diversity in the landscape.

Altitude: 4900 m
Duration: 10 Days
Best Season: Mid June to mid October.
Difficulty Level: Moderate

10. Other trekking routes

Leh and Ladakh has a plethora of options for trekking. The ones I have mentioned above is some of the main trekking routes that you would want to choose from. You can also explore Lamayuru to Darcha trek, Rumtse to Tso Moriri through Yalang Yugula pass (5440 meters), Saboo to Khaltsar via Digar La Pass (5300 meters), Spituk to Stok route and Hemis to Zangla trek through Martsalang and Zengchan villages.

Here are some of the famous historical monuments that you may find on the way:

  1.  Hall of fame – This is a museum build in memory of the brave soldiers who had given their lives as a tribute to our nation. You can have a glance at the weapons used and also collect a piece of souvenir from the war memorial shop operated by the Indian Army.
  2. Shanti Stupa – In 1985, Dalai Lama inaugurated the Shanti Stupa as mark for completing 2500 years of Buddhism. The Stupa is in snow white color and looks extremely beautiful on a moon lit night.
  3. Leh Palace – The palace was built in the 17th century by the ruling king Sengge Namgyal. It is a 9 storey building and some parts of the palace have been ruined due to low maintenance.
  4. Stock Palace –Stock Palace is a 190 – year old structure built by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal. The construction of the palace was completed in the year 1825. It is considered as an excellent example of 18th century Tibetian architecture.

Some of the monasteries and religious places to cover:

  1.  Diskit Monastery – It is a 700 – year old structure constructed in the 14th century replicating the architecture of the famous Tashilhunpo Monastery in Tibet. This monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism.
  2. Hemis Monastery – This monastery is located in the south eastern part of Leh town and was constructed in the year 1672. It is not only the largest monastery in the entire Leh-Ladakh region but also the most famous of all Buddhist Gompa’s in the vicinity. t’s under the influence of Drukpa sect (Red Hat) of Tibetan Buddhism.
  3. Rangdum Monastery – Situated alongside the mountain stream and snow peaks , the Rangdum Monastery gives an amazing view of the villages in the Padum valley. This monastery was founded by Losang Geleg Yeshe Drogpa in the 18th century.
  4. Thiksey Monastery – Thiksey Monastery is primarily known for its magnanimous statue of 15 meters high Maitreya Buddha – which is portrayed as seated in the lotus position rather than his usual representations in a standing posture.
  5. Spituk Monastery – This is a three chapel monastery built in the 11th century. It is taken care of by the Yellow Hat sect (Gelugpa) of Tibetan Buddhists community.
  6. Phugtal Monastery – You need to trek for 7km to reach this monastery  which is located on an isolated mountain cliff. Phugtal Monastery is located in the south-eastern region of Zanskar Valley. This was founded in the early 12th century.

Where can you do river rafting in Ladakh & Leh?

As I had mentioned earlier, Leh and Ladakh is “the place” for adventure lovers. I can guarantee you that kayaking and river rafting in the Indus river will be a lifetime experience. I would suggest that no one should miss this great opportunity. The rapids are of different levels- from grade one to five which can be comfortable for any type of participant. Here are few river rafting routes in Leh Ladakh.

  • Hemis-Stakna-Shey: Offers grade 1 rapids which are suitable for the beginners.
  • Thiksey-Choglamsar: Offers grade 1 and 2 suitable for beginners.
  • Phey-Nimo: Offers grade 2 and 3 rapids. This is a very scenic route through hamlets and monasteries.
  • Alchi-Khaltsey: Offers grade 3 rapids and can be chosen by the adventurous folks.
  • Saspol-Khaltsey: High level rapids like grade 4 & 5 rapids. This route is strictly for adventure seekers and professionals.

Rafting operators in Leh – There are several rafting proving agents in the Leh Village. They offer river rafting in Zanskar and Indus rivers. Below is the list of charges for various sectors.

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No Sector Price with LTR Price only LR Price only R Time Grade
1 Chilling to Sangam Rs.1800 Rs.1500 Rs.1400 3hrs III+
2 Schorpochay to Sangam Rs. 1500 Rs. 1200 Rs. 1100 1 ½ hrs II+
3 Tsogsti to Sangam Rs. 1000 Rs. 800 Rs. 700 1 hr I+
4 Stakna to Choklamsar Rs. 1500 Rs. 1300 Rs. 1200 2 ½ hrs II+
5 Choklamsar to Phay Rs. 1000 Rs. 800 Rs. 700 1 ½ hrs I+
6 Phay to Sangam Rs. 1500 Rs. 1300 Rs. 1200 2 ½ hrs II+
7 Sangam to Alchi Rs. 3000 Rs. 2500 Rs. 2400 2 hrs III+

Some famous river rafting agents in Leh and Ladakh are:

1. Indus Himalayan Explorers

Address: P.B. No. 82, Shamshu Complex, Fort Rd, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101

Phone: +91 94191 77668

2. Dreamland Trek and Tours

Address:  Fort Rd, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101

Phone: +91 94191 78197

3. Travel Agent in Ladakh

Address: Fort Road, Leh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101

Phone: +91 94190 52330

4. Zanskar Trek

Address: Lakruk Complex, Fort Road, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101

Phone: +91 1982 252 153

5. Ladakh Vacation

Address: 1st floor, D Manzil, Zangsti, Behind Sbi bank, Main Bazar, Leh, Jammu and Kashmir 194101

Phone: +91 96229 55386

Accomodation at Leh & Ladakh?

leh-camp

Ever since Leh and Ladakh has turned out to be a popular tourist destination, there is a wide selection of accommodation options catering to all budgets. There are high  budget hotels, mid range  guest houses, resorts and home stays. Here are few reliable options for you stay:

Luxury Hotels: 

  1. Hotel Charu Palace, Leh
  2. Hotel Chamba Camp Thikse
  3. Hotel Grand Dragon
  4. The Zen , Ladakh
  5. Hotel Ladakh Residency

Mid Range Hotels:

  1. Hotel Asia
  2. Hotel Dreamland
  3. Hotel Kanishka
  4. Hotel Naro
  5. Hotel Oreintal guest house

Camps in Leh Ladakh

1. An trek camp

Tariff for single bed – Rs.2200 onwards
Tariff for double bed – Rs.2500 onwards

2. Dorje Camp – Sarchu

Tariff for single bed – Rs.1800 onwards
Tariff for double bed – Rs. 2000 onwards

3. Namra Camp

Tariff for single room (room only) – Rs.2950
Tariff for double room (room only ) – Rs.3500

4. Double humped Camp

Tariff for single room – Rs.1000 – Rs.1500

5. Nubra Ethnic camp

Tariff for single room – Rs.3000
Tariff for double room – Rs.3400

Tips for bikers to leh & Ladakh

bike

These are essential for those enthusiastic bikers.

  • “DO” your homework regarding the route and path that you would want to follow on your bike trip
  • Become aware of the attractions, monasteries that you want to cover.
  • Be physically and mentally prepared for the long bike trip.
  • The bike trips can be really long. It can take up to 12 to 15 days for you to reach the destination. Hence, plan the number of days you want to spend.
  • Take appropriate clothing and accessories required.
  • Carry a safety kit always.
  • Know the climatic conditions well in advance. The Leh- Manali route is 400o feet above the sea level and are at high altitudes. The weather will be extremely cold  and so you may face challenges of lox oxygen levels. So be cautious.
  • Try to keep spare batteries for your mobile phones.
  • Ensure your bike or motorcycle is in very good condition.
  • Carry valid documentations like driving license, registration etc.
  • Always carry money with you when you go to such interior places. Do not rely on ATM’s.
  • Keep a note of nearby fuel stations and rest areas on the route.
  • Prepare with essential riding needs like riding gears, jackets, gloves, balaclava, knee guards, thermal liners, rain covers for bags, rain clothes, toiletries like toothpaste, soap, and extra pairs of shoes and sandals if required

Great! I feel as if I literally went on my trip to Leh and Ladakh. I am mesmerized after writing about it and I am sure you all will be once you go on your actual trip. What are you waiting for? Plan one soon next year.

Hoping that you all got enough information on Leh and Ladakh trip. Keep me posted in the comment bar below if you want to know anything more.

Source: www.indiatravelforum.in, http://www.team-bhp.com/, www.thrillophilia.com, http://aahvanadventures.com/, www.wikipedia.org, http://wikitravel.org/


Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂

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  • Awesome Blog. This we can take as tour guide and encash your knowledge in planning our most memorable trip. Thanks buddy.

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