Undoubtedly, Ladakh is practically India’s ‘tourism capital’ at the moment. It is a place that everyone around the country plans to go. The number of people visiting here increases each year. Do a Google search and you will get an endless list of articles showing how beautiful Ladakh is and how a trip here is an experience you must have. But for someone planning their first visit, the biggest question is what to do in Ladakh? Being an absolutely stunning and heavenly place is good, but so what? What do you do in Ladakh? Just look out the window and admire the natural beauty of the place? Or is there something else? How do you make the most of your time at hand and make the most of your trip? What are some things to do in Leh Ladakh?
These are some of the questions I want to answer in this post. Fortunately, by the end of this article, you will have a good idea on what are some of the fun things to do in Ladakh from a first time tourist’s point of view. In case you don’t know yet, Ladakh is India’s second largest district, after Kutch in Gujarat. So we are talking about a vast area and what is considered a tourist destination today. So the list of things to do in Leh Ladakh will also be quite long.
Things to do in Ladakh
If you search this topic on Google, it will provide an endless list of things you can do in Ladakh and trust me: you can spend days reading the list. For someone visiting Ladakh for the first time, this list itself will be overwhelming and, to be honest, it won’t make much sense either.
Therefore, I want to take a different approach to explaining this information. In preparing this list of things to do in Ladakh, I will first list some of the most common and popular tourist activities in Ladakh in this particular post. So in the next article in this series, I will list explain these activities in the form of an itinerary; detailing the journey from his hometown to Ladakh and vice versa; and explaining where you can enjoy what. The reason I am breaking this information into two articles is because otherwise it will be too long in one post.
Monuments in Ladakh
This is really unnecessary, but I still thought of adding it here. Ladakh has an endless list of places to visit and things to see. The natural beauty of the place will definitely be at the top of this list, but there are many other tourist sites worth mentioning. In fact, I covered this topic in detail in a totally different post, because there’s a lot of information to add here. If you want a quick list of references, read a complete list of tourist attractions in Ladakh. If you want to read about these places in detail, including how to incorporate them into your itinerary, read What to See in Leh Ladakh – A Detailed Explanation.
Photography in Ladakh
I am actually listing these things based on how often and how often this will happen. With this logic, photography is really one of the most appreciated activities in Ladakh. It doesn’t matter if you are a serious photographer with a huge DSLR around your neck; or just an amateur with a smartphone camera; Ladakh will present countless opportunities to click thousands of photos. You can enter landscape, portrait, people, star trails, night sky or any other type of photography you are on. Each curve of the road presents a different landscape and a different time to capture.
Enjoy the snow
Snow is one of the biggest reasons for most people visiting Ladakh. Finding some snow along the way, and hopefully also catching a live snowfall, always finds places on every tourist’s itinerary. Come in any month to Ladakh and you will not be disappointed. And I really mean ANY month. Although you will not fall in the snow unless you have been through winter, you will definitely find snow on the ground at high altitude passages such as Khardung La, Chang La, Baralacha La and Zoji La.
Camping in Ladakh
This is definitely one of Ladakh’s top sights that people expect. There are three types of camping opportunities in Ladakh. Someone stays in a Chadar tent, which is really more “budget accommodation” than camping, but it’s an experience. The second is to stay in a campsite spread throughout the region. Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley, Tso Moriri, Manali Leh Highway and Srinagar Leh Highway were the majority of the campers. Of all this, Pangong Tso is really the main camping site and has the largest number of camps available.
The third option is, of course, to camp. If you are carrying all the necessary equipment, all Ladakh will be open for you to set up your tent. My serious advice, however, is not to camp in the middle of nowhere. Pay an existing campsite or a Dhaba owner to give you a location near your facility and you can camp there. Another advantage of doing this is that you can eat at dhaba and also use the restroom facilities.
Trekking in Ladakh
Ladakh offers the ideal landscape for hiking – top-level amateurs and seasoned trekkers can test themselves here! A difficult and challenging hike leads to the Drang Drung glacier through the Suru valley. Chadar’s hike, on the other hand, takes place in November over the frozen Zanskar River and attracts adventure enthusiasts from around the world. Some other beautiful trails are Lamayuru for Chilling, Spituk for Matho, Markha Valley, Lamayuru for Stok Kangri, Padum for Darcha, Chadar and Rumtse for Tso Moriri.
Driving / Motorcycling
You can drive bicycles and cars on the roads of Ladakh. One hundred miles can pass without encountering any other humans or animals. A lonely bike ride or a ride with friends through this setting will be truly memorable. You will pass through picturesque villages and Buddhist gompas. Ladakh is known as a biker’s paradise and for good reason. A motorcycle journey to Ladakh is a dream of millions in our country these days.
However, if a car is more yours than a motorcycle, you have gotten an even better deal. Drive along some of the most adventurous roads you’ve ever been to and have a true taste of adventure and off-road. High-altitude Mountain passes and water crossings along the way will get the adrenaline pumping through your veins.
Cycling in Ladakh
It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and it is not something you can decide to do in Ladakh. Cycling at such high altitudes, up and down steep, oxygen-poor roads will be a task that will need practice. But if you like cycling and have what it takes, then cycling to and from Ladakh will be an incredibly memorable experience.
You don’t even have to leave home on a cycle if you’re short on time. Just land in Leh, rent a bike there and cycle. One of the most common short bike trails here is the top of Khardung La, which is about 35 kilometers from a steep climb from Leh. It is easily practicable in one day and is perfect for anyone who wants to do it just for an experience.
Attend and enjoy a local festival
All seasons have their own festivals, so no matter when you visit them, you will have the opportunity to try some of them. An important event takes place at Matho Monastery in March, called the Nagrang Festival. It features Buddhist oracles that perform dazzling old-world dances and ceremonies. They are also known for going into trance and predicting future events. The Sindhu Darshan festival in June is held on the banks of the Sindhu River and features local art and culture. Hemis Monastery celebrates its own festival in June or July for two full days. The centuries-old masked dances are accompanied by traditional music. For shoppers, a craft fair also takes place during this festival.
The Nubra festival features local dances and music. The Ladakh festival is held in Leh and includes street processions, archery competitions, music and dance performances, polo matches and handicraft exhibitions. In November, Thiksey Monastery performs its annual Gustor ritual for two days. Winter also has its own set of events – Ladakhi New Year is celebrated with a fifteen-day festival. In February, the monasteries of Leh Palace, Likir and Diskit hold a great celebration of good over evil for two days. It is known as Dosmoche. By far the most famous is the Hemis festival, where monks perform Chham dances wearing costumes and masks. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
See and Witness the Mountain Ranges
The imposing Himalayan mountain ranges offer an attractive and ever-present scenery for all your adventures. Perpetually snow-covered, its steep terrain is a challenge for every traveler. Get ready to marvel at the majestic rivers that flow through these valleys. Zanskar and Ladakh are the featured mountain ranges here, which provide an ecosystem for local wildlife. Along your journey you will be driving up and down some of the most famous canyons like Rohtang La, Khardung La and Zoji La; names you just heard and read.
Lakes in Ladakh
Ladakh boasts abundant bodies of water, the most famous being the breathtaking Pangong-Tso lake on the Indian-Tibet border at a height of over 4300 meters. As bright as a sapphire, this lake is a tourist spot. Their benches are often used for camping during summers. The lake freezes during the winter. Another lake, Tso-Moriri, is off the beaten path at a height of 4000 meters. Its calm waters are bordered by verdant meadows, fiery blue skies and snowy peaks. A number of ethnic nomadic tribes can also be found here.
However, these are just two of the largest and most visited in Ladakh. But by no means did the list end here. There are many other smaller but equally beautiful lakes scattered throughout Ladakh that are also worth a visit.
Meet the monasteries
There are several monasteries scattered throughout Ladakh, and each 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 receive volunteers to help with daily tasks and to share the lifestyle. As long as you are respectful, monks may even allow you to assist in their ceremonies. What is more? Some of these monasteries even allow tourists to stay overnight. So if you want to add a taste of spiritualism and experience a monk’s life, visit any of Ladakh’s local monasteries and, weather permitting, stay there for one night.
Listed below are the names of some of the best known monasteries in Ladakh.
- Spituk: Carved on a hilltop
- Namgyal: The Buddha deity consecrated here is particularly famous for its skill and history. Monks visit often, including the Dalai Lama himself
- Hemis Gompa: The largest monastery in Ladakh, but hidden in the mountains. Immerse yourself in intricate Tibetan and Thangkas Buddhist paintings. It is famous for hosting the annual Hemis festival in July, which draws large crowds.
- Likir: complex 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, this is your
- Thiksey: Visit here with hours to spare as you will need to wander around the temples and explore the statues. Its resemblance to the Potola Palace in Tibet is unmistakable.
- Special scream: Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
On the way to Leh on the Leh Kargil Road, this Gurudwara was built by the Indian Army in honor of the first Sikh Guru Guru Nanak Ji. It is a sacred place revered by Buddhists and Sikhs. This sanctuary houses a stone that neither man nor machine has been able to move to date. It is a quiet place, not frequented by tourists. This sanctuary also has a common kitchen called langar, which feeds visitors every day.
Rafting in Ladakh
Ladakh is home to two incredibly majestic rivers – the Zanskar and the Indus. These two are distinctly different colors. Indus is a bright blue-green, while Zanskar is a muddy brown. Stop at Sangam Point on National Highway 1 to feast your eyes on the confluence of these two rivers.
The mountain rivers that flow through Ladakh offer some of the best rafting waters in the world.
Paragliding in Ladakh
It is not really an activity you enjoy in Ladakh, but rather going to Ladakh. Manali is host to events such as paragliding and rafting. So if you have some time on hand, spend a day in Manali and enjoy a view of the city from above.
Mountaineering in Ladakh
OK, so this is not a cup of tea for everyone or an average tourist. But if you like climbing and mountain climbing, Ladakh is a pleasure you just can’t say no. Challenge yourself to climb the high peaks of Ladakh. Become one with nature and experience exotic wildlife and panoramic views. Some favorite high altitudes to conquer are Chamsher, Lingser Langri, Nun Kun, Stok Kangri and Mentok Kangri. Each step is guaranteed to create unforgettable memories.
Shopping in Ladakh
The markets here are small but amazing in the variety of items offered. All of them are handmade and the souvenirs and artifacts offered are genuine. Color screens attract all diehard shoppers and shopkeepers are always ready to haggle. A local specialty is the Pashmina wool dress. In Leh, be sure to visit the Tibetan refugee markets for handmade jewelry and unique artifacts. This will also contribute to the welfare of the Tibetan community. To learn more about what you can buy here, Shopping in Ladakh – What to Buy in Ladakh
Being at the crossroads between Kashmir and Tibet, Ladakh, however, has a unique and tasty cuisine. Get out of the momo and pasta mentality and explore here the rich variety of soups, stews, bread, jams, teas and cheese. A home-cooked meal is the best way to try authentic Ladakh food. Although Leh has several restaurants offering varied cuisine, set them aside and choose to eat what the locals do.