Leh Ladakh, in February, even the idea itself seems intriguing and adventurous. But make no mistake, a trip here at this time of year is not a cup of tea for everyone. Life in Ladakh in winter is hard; so severe that even the locals move to other parts of the country for a few months and return only after the winter has passed. If you want to visit Ladakh in February, there are several things you need to keep in mind and prepare for; both physically and mentally. How you can plan this trip in the best way and avoid hassles is what I will talk about in this post.
Until 10 years ago, Ladakh was visited by only a few. It was the group of adventurous motorcyclists who used to plan a trip here; or foreigners. Much has changed however lately. Ladakh has now become one of the most desired destinations in our country; and places like Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso are becoming a household name. Now you will also find families on vacation here with children and the elderly. It is no longer just the place for adventure addicts and motorcycle enthusiasts, but also for honeymooners. The boost in tourism is visible throughout the year. Now you will find tourists right here in the months of January and February and the numbers are increasing with each passing year.
So, if you were wondering whether or not you can plan a trip to Ladakh in February, the answer is definitive. You must do this or not, however, it is an entirely different matter; which I suggest you decide after following the information below.
How to plan?
I will break this article into three parts. First, I will mention a few key points that you should remember when planning this trip. So I will suggest an example of an itinerary that you can follow. In the end, I will end the article with some advantages and disadvantages of traveling to Leh Ladakh in February.
Why visit Ladakh in February?
The first question that comes to mind is why would anyone want to visit Ladakh in such an extreme climate? Usually, people would like to wait until summer comes and life returns to normal. There can be only two reasons for this. The first and probably the biggest reason is snow.
A winter trip to Ladakh guarantees that you will see a lot of snow and you can even catch a snowfall live. I agree that there are other mountain stations in our country where you can witness the same, but not like that of Ladakh. Entire valleys, buried under several meters of snow, are only available in some places in our country, and Ladakh is one of them.
The second reason is adventure. A trip to Ladakh will always have an adventure angle that increases even more if you go there during the peak winter. Severe weather, freezing temperatures, difficult living conditions, just a handful of people around, slippery and risky roads and unpredictable roads; they are circumstances that anyone with the slightest interest in adventure would really want.
Tourism in Ladakh is on the rise and everyone seems to be moving in that direction today. So, yes, now many can say that they were in Ladakh and saw everything. But how many can say they were there during the peak winter? You do that and you have something to brag about. You will have images and stories that will make people around you envious.
Can we visit Ladakh in February?
A direct answer to that question is that yes, you can. However, I would not recommend it as your first trip to Ladakh. A winter trip is better as your second or probably third time here. But if you’ve never been to Ladakh, I recommend that you postpone the plan for a few months; and undertake that journey between May and September. That way, you would already have become familiar with the region. You would know where to go, where to stay, what to see and what to expect. You would know what the terrain of Ladakh is and its climate; before coming here in extreme February weather.
Car trip to Leh Ladakh in February
Can you visit Ladakh by road in February? The answer is an immediate no. The only way to get to Ladakh in February is by air. The two roads connecting the region to the rest of the country will not be accessible at the moment. You will have to fly in and out of Leh; and the only road you’ll find on this journey is the Ladakh inland. Upon arriving in Leh, you can hire a taxi for local sightseeing to places like Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso.
Manali Leh Highway in February
No, you cannot travel from Manali to Leh in February. At this time, the Rohtang pass remains completely snowy and opens in April. Then, from Manali, the furthest you will go is the Gulaba checkpoint. In addition to Rohtang, other passes on the way, like Baralacha La, also remain closed; therefore, if by some miracle you reached the Lahaul valley via Rohtang, you cannot go any further. The earliest you can plan a trip on the Manali Leh road is in late May or early June.
Srinagar Leh Highway in February
Like the Manali Leh road, this road also remains completely blocked; and you cannot travel from Srinagar to Leh in February by road. Even Sonamarg at this point is inaccessible. From Srinagar, you will probably arrive in Kangan or shortly thereafter. Zoji La, the most treacherous section of the entire highway, is buried under several meters of snow and there is no way to cross it. The earliest you can expect this road to open is sometimes in mid-April, not earlier. On the Leh side, however, the road remains open to Kargil.
Hotels in Leh Ladakh in winter
After landing in the city of Leh, your first concern would be to find a place to stay. There are three things you will have to think about; your stay in Leh City, your stay in other areas of Ladakh; and you must book in advance.
I’m not a fan of advance reservations myself, no matter where I go. I like to get to the destination first, look for a hotel according to my taste and negotiate an agreement on the spot. But this is really a choice when the options are wide; which, as you can see, is not the case when you are in Ladakh in February. At the moment, most hotels remain closed and do not work. Only a few remain open; in that case, I strongly suggest that you book in advance. This would not only avoid last minute hassles and save you the trouble of looking for hotels in low temperatures; but he would also give his host some time to prepare for his arrival.
Leh City Hotels
So does that mean you won’t find any hotels in Leh if you haven’t booked? Quite the contrary, in fact. Even if you have not made a prior reservation, you can still find a hotel easily, even in winter. You will just have to walk and look around for a bit. Today, as more and more people arrive in Ladakh in the winter, some residents begin to keep their doors open to tourists throughout the year. The same is true with Kargil, actually. You can travel here from the city of Leh and easily find a hotel to stay if you wish.
Hotels in other areas in Ladakh
Now it can be a little bit complicated. Finding a hotel in Leh is easy, but not elsewhere like Nubra, Pangong, Moriri, Changthang etc. Here, there is a great chance that you will not find a place to stay. Therefore, it would be better to book your stay in advance. Booking will also be a problem, as there is also no telephone connectivity. The best option would be to book a taxi in advance in Leh; and ask the driver to make arrangements for your stay and also for the itinerary. An even better choice in my opinion is not to plan to stay anywhere else, except in the city of Leh. Just take a day trip to other places and return to Leh at night. More information about this is provided later in the article.
Contrary to popular belief, Leh City is not completely deserted in winter. All government offices, hotels, Army areas, grocery stores, few hotels and restaurants remain open throughout the year. The Hotel Tso Kar in Leh is where I stayed during my winter trip. They have central heating and Wi-Fi, and I recommend it.
Weather in Ladakh in february
The climate in Leh Ladakh in February remains cold, severe and unforgiving. In fact, I’m not talking about the kind of cold that people like you and I are used to in our cities. What you should expect in Ladakh right now is the extreme side of the winter season that forces locals out of the area. The sun can disappear for several days, leaving everything wet and foggy. It is the time when you can suffer from ulceration if you are not careful. And when the sun is there in the sky, it will shine so bright that you can burn the sun. Cold winds, freezing temperatures, snowfall and snowfall are common at this time of year.
Temperature in Ladakh in february
In February, temperatures in Leh Ladakh vary between 1 ° C at most during the day and -10 ° C at night. The minimum number is just an average, because it can sometimes drop as low as -20 degrees Celsius at night.
No running water
Now, with the temperature running so low, the water is expected to freeze everywhere; and I literally mean everywhere, even on the pipes. Therefore, there will be no running water in the taps. Hot water will be provided in buckets and in limited quantities; that you will also have to use conservatively. It also means that you may have to go without a shower for a few days. Honestly, I can’t bathe in such cold weather for a while; but if you are someone who cannot be without it for a single day, perhaps a trip to Ladakh in February is not something you should plan.
Cold water also means that there will be no running water in the bathrooms as well. Therefore, your morning business would have to be crouched over a dry well; unless you want to excrete in the open and freeze in a crouched position. This is another thing that you must consider before flying to Ladakh. If it makes you uncomfortable, don’t go.
Yes, that is also a possibility. If the weather is closed and it snows a lot, the electricity supply may be interrupted; and it may take a few days before it is restored. For a safer side, bring a power bank to keep your phone and other electronic devices charged. If you have a DSLR, now would be a good time to organize a spare battery.
Places to visit in Leh Ladakh in February
As I mentioned above, Ladakh is not really completely deserted in winter. Government offices, Army areas, few hotels and restaurants remain open, and the Army keeps roads free from snow. Once you land in Leh, you can easily travel to other places for sightseeing, but a lot will also depend on the weather.
As the road to Kargil is also open, you can visit all places like Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, Magnetic Hill, Sham Valley, Maitreya Buddha etc. See the article above for a complete list of locations to see here.
Nubra Valley in february
The only time you will not be able to visit Nubra is if there is a lot of snow blocking Khardung La. This usually happens immediately after a snowfall, but the Army opens the road as soon as possible; and restore connectivity. The road to Siachen runs through the Nubra valley and is crucial for the army. Therefore, the valley remains connected to the city of Leh for all 12 months. Within Nubra, you can also visit everything there is to see.
In terms of accommodation, there may not be many hotels open here. If you want to stay in the valley overnight, try the Habib Guest House in Hunder. I stayed here during my winter trip and would definitely recommend it.
Pangong Tso in february
Like the Nubra valley, Lake Pangong also remains open in February. There may be a temporary closure if Chang La is blocked after a snowfall; but it will open in a day or two, unless the weather is bad. During the month of February, the lake remains completely frozen, so you will witness a white, not a blue Pangong.
Accommodation at the lake, however, can be tricky. Obviously, there will be no camp sites available at the moment; then you will have to find a place to stay in Spangmik village; or Tangste, which is about 30 kilometers before the lake. There is a guest house here called Changla Yakmik Guest House that remains open in the winter. If you were planning to go further towards the Changthang valley, Padma Guest House in Hanle is the only accommodation available.
Tso Moriri in february
Tso Moriri is the only place that remains a little risky during February. The road here can be blocked after snowfall and the Army doesn’t usually keep it clean all the time. Therefore, it is possible that you have reached Leh, but you cannot visit Tso Moriri, because there was a lot of snow on the road. Your driver will be the best person to tell you at that moment whether or not to go.
There is a guest house here named Goose Homestay where I stayed and would recommend it. Another place that remains open in the winter is the Lake view Guest House. The last known number I had for them is 01982 – 264867, in case you want to call and book in advance. In addition, the Hot Spring Resort in Chumathang, which is on the way, is also a great option to stay. It is built just above the hot springs, which function as a natural heater; and keeps the place warm during the winter.
Rent a private taxi
The best way to plan this trip is to rent a private taxi. Bus service is currently scarce and shared taxis will also be limited. In fact, it is possible that you will not find public transport at all, better not to depend on it. With the recent boost in tourism, some motorcycle rental agencies have also started to remain open in the winter. So yes, you can also rent a motorcycle, but be very careful and make a good judgment. Don’t just rent a bike, because you want to be adventurous. With cold weather and black snow / frost / ice making roads slippery, this can be a big mistake and ruin your trip.
Keep your expectations low
The food will be very basic everywhere, so you will have to keep your expectations low in this regard. Don’t expect a long list of items available on the menu. Fresh vegetables in winter are not readily available and locals tend to stock them for a few weeks. Everything that is placed on your table will be very simple. You can eat at your hotel or at any of the restaurants open in the city. Neha Sweets, in Leh’s main market, remains open in the winter months, where I mainly ate.
In the city of Leh, you can find a good hotel, but not anywhere else. In places like Nubra, Pangong or Hanle, you will be staying in simple inns or as a paying guest. Your stay will definitely be comfortable and welcoming, but don’t expect a five-star hotel treatment.
Snow in Ladakh in February
Will there be snow? Yes, definitely. Are you going to catch a live snowfall? Yes, the chances are quite high. Will there be snow everywhere, everywhere and all the time? No. Even in the peak winter, Ladakh is not a complete blackout. There may be no snow on the ground in lower areas like the city of Leh or the Nubra valley. This only happens when there was a recent snowfall leaving everything covered with snow. Otherwise, snow is generally available over wide, high altitude passages.
My first advice here would be to not make this trip if there is some kind of medical history involved that can become serious. You are going to a high altitude location and this is also when it is freezing up there. Doing this with a serious type of illness is not really the best idea.
With that said, there are hospitals in the city of Leh that remain open in the winter. In addition to hospitals, you can also approach the Indian Army and obtain medical assistance. However, hospitals are limited to Leh and Kargil only. Medical assistance is not available in Nubra, Pangong or Tso Moriri.
As a precaution, remember to take some basic medicines with you; as for cold, flu, fever, headache, stomach pain etc.
Shopping in Ladakh
With about 80% of Ladakh closed, shopping options are almost nil. There is not much that will be on sale at the moment. However, you can buy winter clothes and equipment, such as shawls, mufflers, caps, etc.
Camp in Leh Ladakh in February
With such a cold weather, you shouldn’t be planning to camp anywhere in Ladakh at the moment. Your accommodation everywhere must be within cemented hotels. Camping outdoors is a little risky. You may be caught with bad weather or a cold, which will ruin your trip very well. But if you want to camp, bring the best quality sleeping bag to keep you warm to temperatures below 0 degrees. You can also rent camping equipment and sleeping bags in the city of Leh.
Ladakh Festival in February
Monastic festivals and winter games are organized in Ladakh during the winter. For more information about Ladakh festivals and their dates, read Ladakh Festivals: a colorful celebration of Ladakh festival life and dates
Keep buffer days
This really applies regardless of your travel time. When traveling to a place like Ladakh, you should have a few days as a buffer in addition to your actual travel plan. But for a winter trip, this is of utmost importance. There is a great possibility that you are visiting Nubra or Pangong and the climate is closed; forcing you to stay there for a few days until the roads are cleared. Sometimes, even flights can be canceled, in fact. You must be prepared to deal with this. If your stay is extended, you can stay without any problems at home.
Keep your itinerary simple
What I mean by that is to include only areas that are the main tourist destinations. Do not plan to wander towards places like Marsimik La, or another closer to border areas, or some internal routes, such as the Shyok road. My advice would be, in fact, not to even plan a night elsewhere than Leh City. You should book a hotel in Leh and keep the night just there. You can start in the morning, take a day trip everywhere and return at night. I’m just saying this because it will make things easier for you, but yes, if you want to spend the night in Nubra or Pangong, you can do that too.
- Arrival In Leh. Rest and Arrange Permits – Day 1
- Leh to Kargil – Day 2
- Kargil to Leh – Day 3
- Leh to Nubra Valley to Leh – Day 4
- Day Trip to Pangong Tso and back to Leh – Day 5
- Leh to Tso Moriri to Leh – Day 6
- Leh – Buffer Day – Day 7
- Fly Out – Day 8
What clothes to take?
The first thing you should put in your bag is a pair of good quality thermal products. When I say good quality, I mean thermals that can keep you warm, but are also comfortable enough to sleep on. Some heavy wool would definitely need to be packed. You should also bring a warm, heavy, windproof jacket. Make sure that your jacket also has a hood to protect your face, neck and ears. Good waterproof gloves, shoes, wool socks, cold cream, moisturizer, lip balm, sunglasses will be some of the other items needed to pack.
Trekking in Ladakh
I didn’t really participate in any winter hikes in Ladakh, but there are some trails that remain open. Chadar’s walk is probably the best and most desired. It can vary from 7 to 14 days, depending on your schedule. Talk to any of the travel agents in Leh to learn more about the Chadar Trek or other winter trails.
Visit Ladakh in February – why?
In the end, let me talk about why you would like to visit Ladakh in February. Snow is the first reason of all. Visiting Ladakh at this time guarantees that you will find a lot of snow and may even catch a live snowfall if you are lucky. With the recent boost in tourism, even Ladakh started to get a little crowded in the high tourist season. So, if you want to see Ladakh the way you heard it; a distant land with only a handful of people around; so you should plan a trip here in February
Adventure, however, will be the biggest reason of all. Anyway, visiting Ladakh means that an adventure and adventure increases even more when it comes to a winter trip. Severe weather, difficult living conditions, extreme weather conditions, dangerous roads, just a handful of people around and unpredictability present a perfect opportunity together for you to have a unique adventure.
Visit Leh Ladakh in February – why not?
Let me also talk about the situation where you shouldn’t be taking this trip. The medical history, as I mentioned above, will be at the top of the list. If you have any kind of illness, don’t take any chances. Or don’t, unless you’ve talked to a doctor first. If you are someone who does not like the cold, you should also give up the idea of this trip.
Everything on this trip will be very basic, without any sophisticated treatment or five star hotels. It is not your regular vacation, but an adventure trip. If that doesn’t sound like you, don’t go. No running water, no shower for a few days, using a dry well in the morning, severe weather, cold wind in the face are some of the things you will have to face and you must prepare yourself. If you can’t take anything, don’t go.