Aptly called the “roof of the world” Ladakh lies nestled among some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Pristine beauty untamed and un-spoilt beckons tourists from the world over for what many describe as life changing experience. So phenomenal is the connection with nature and so mystical its amazing beauty that many end up visiting not once but every year as a soul rejuvenating exercise.
One of the few places in the world where there are equally high chances of being afflicted by sun burn and frostbite at the same time, a trip to Leh Ladakh is adventurous to say the least.
Here is an overview of what the different months of the year have in store. The peak tourist season in Leh and Ladakh, of course lasts from June to September, which is the time for melting of snow and the opening of roadways to Leh Ladakh. While flights to Leh are available all year around, road travel to Leh is only possible in the months between late May to September when most of the snow has either melted or been cleared off the roads to make way for vehicles.
April – June
April travel to Leh and Ladakh is only possible by flight as both Srinagar- Leh and Manali-Leh highway are still snow bound and not open for tourists. Ladakh offers a very different sight to tourists in April with an all-white frozen landscape and a never ending vista of snow filled mountains glistening in the sunlight. You can actually see the town coming to life as restaurants and cafes start opening up and taxis start filling the roads again. Temperatures are still low with the maximum going not beyond 15 degree centigrade, making dressing in layers very important.
By mid- May most of the snow has melted and the Srinagar Leh highways opens up for tourists. However the Manali-Leh highways opens much later, only by mid –June, so if you are planning to use both the highways for traveling to and from Leh, a June travels to Leh makes more sense. This is the best time of the year to visit Leh Ladakh with comfortable daytime temperatures that make moving around Ladakh easier. Most of the lakes including the Pangong Lake have unfrozen by then and you can experience the miracle of nature as you watch its waters changing colors in the reflected sunlight. Traveling through the Khardung La Pass and the Chang La Pass is relatively easier at this time before monsoons make the road even more treacherous. The vibrant and colorful Hemis festival takes place in June, in itself a big reason to plan a June trip to Leh and Ladakh.
June is also a good month for trekking in Leh Ladakh as rains have yet to descend to make climbing up even more treacherous. Add to it the possibility of rain slides and the dangers of trekking in rains are very real. The Markha trek as also the Zanskar Trek offers great opportunity to catch sight of the rare Ladakhi Marmot as well as other mountain animals.
The Himalayan Car Rally also takes place in the summer months and is a wonderful opportunity to see some vintage cars add charm to an already enchanting landscape.
With direct exposure to sunlight, sunburn is a very distinct possibility while traveling in Leh Ladakh which is why applying lots of sunscreen on every exposed body part is a must.
September – October
Relatively colder than April-June it is nevertheless a good time to travel to Leh Ladakh if you can brave a little dip in temperatures. With the monsoons over the roads are clear once again and day time temperatures are still warm enough for you to enjoy the beautiful spectacle that awaits you at every turn in the road. Nights can be cold so you should go properly armed with thermals and jackets to keep yourself warm at night.
You can also witness the town closing itself in preparation for the harsh winter about to set in as restaurants and cafes start bolting up and tourist influx slows down to a trickle.
The Ladakh Festival takes place between September 1st and 15th every year and is a fantastic cultural spectacle to behold apart from the natural vistas.
November to March
Officially termed the “off season”, Leh and Ladakh offers a dark and forbidding landscape during the peak winter months. With only 4-5 hours of sunlight and limited power availability, there is much to deter tourists from trying to brave the unbearable winters of Ladakh. Most hotels and restaurants also down shutters so finding accommodation and food is also going to be a challenge during these months. But if you do plan to brave the harsh winters, you will be glad to know that most of the passes including the Khardung La Pass remain open all year around although crossing these snow filled passes is going to be an adventure in itself. January draws many adventure and thrill seekers to undertake the famous Chadar Trek across the frozen Zenskar River, another unforgettable experience. The only way to reach Leh during winter months is by flights as both the highways leading to Leh are closed off.
This is also the only season when you can catch sight of the Snow leopard if you happen to go trekking up the Zanskar. Another reason why tourists flock to Ladakh in winters is to either participate in or witness a game of ice hockey deep within the Himalayas. The Annual Ice Hockey tournament happens every year at the Karzoo Ice Hockey rink and draws teams from all over the world. Only a winter travel to Ladakh makes it possible to catch a game of ice hockey in the highest rink in the world.
Winter is also when most of the festivals including the famous Losar festival, celebrating the New Year takes place. With the busy tourist season over, Ladakhis celebrate the winter festivals with great gusto. The entire city comes to life and the celebrations last for more than a week giving tourists an opportunity to be a part of the cultural experience.
Ladakh changes colors with each change in season and whatever time you chose to visit you are bound to be rewarded by some of the most amazing and spectacular sights that nature has to offer.