Whatever be the seasons, Ladakh is on average a cold-weather destination – so be prepared for it. The best time of year to visit is between June and September. Early June is springtime and temperatures by day hover around 20 deg C. Night temperature can plummet to less than 10 deg C, though. It’s also a great time to visit, because the surrounding mountains are snow-capped and the air is crisp and clear of any summer haze. July and August are the warmest months by day – temperatures in the late 20’s. September is similar to May, and the climate starts to cool down.
There is very little chance of rain in Ladakh, and sunshine is almost a given. The area is a high-altitude desert like Tibet, so the fluctuation in temperature between day and night is significant. Be prepared in terms of clothing.
By air: Leh, the district capital of Ladakh has the only commercial airport and is connected only with New Delhi by three daily flights on Air India, Jet Airways, and Go Air. Flight durations are 1hour and typically depart early morning from Delhi. So if you are coming in from another city like Chennai, you need to factor in 1-night’s stay in Delhi.
Flights are extremely busy during the summer months, when tourist traffic is at peak, so book in advance to avoid sold-out flights or very high air-fares. Be prepared that flights frequently get cancelled due to weather conditions. So if you are connecting to an international flight home, then provide for a buffer of 1-night in Delhi, just in case…In the off-season, flight frequency drops-off.
By road: Leh is connected by highway to Manali and Srinagar. Manali is 480km and two-days driving time. Srinagar is 450km and takes just about as much time. The roads are black-topped but conditions can be difficult as passes close off due to landslides or excessive snowfall. The big advantage of road travel is that you acclimatise as you drive, so you do not need to spend those 1-2 days in bed in Leh.
Temperatures fluctuate through the day in Ladakh – so clothing yourself is all about layering. Carry enough, so that you can take-off outer layers, as the day warms-up and add them back on as evening sets in. If you are walking, you will work-up a sweat.
Carry a torch (for power cuts in Ladakh), especially a head-mounted one. Bring along a pen-knife – it is always handy. Plastic bags to dump laundry or damp clothes. Get good walking shoes that breathe and which support the ankle – many surfaces are uneven and lots of walking and climbing is involved. A good windcheater is useful. Light gloves and ear-muffs are really useful to cut-out the biting wind, when in the Nubra Valley, among other places. A good hat and sunglasses with UV protection will help cut the heat and glare. A small first-aid kit with plaster for cuts and blisters is welcome.
Carry a scarf to cover you head when entering monasteries. Bring your camera and binoculars – this is one destination, where every landscape has wow written all over it.
And finally, a couple of good books relevant to where you are. Like Micheal Palin’s travelogue – Himalaya or The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk.
Ladakh is one of India’s mystical destinations – a place which you normally do not associate with our country. It is difficult to get to, and even more difficult to get used to (acclimatisation!). But once you are there and breathing easy – the wonders of Ladakh reveal themselves to you.
At this point of time, we do not claim to be experts on Ladakh through first-hand experience, a situation we plan on remedying in the near future. However, we have travelled the routes of Ladakh several times through our customers, our suppliers and others for many years now. And this intimate third-party knowledge gives us the ability to offer you an honest and real approach in our advice – from planning your itinerary, suggesting activities and local excursions, choosing accommodation, and telling you when and how to slow down and savour some of Ladakh’s more earthy experiences.
To most people who have been there, travel to Ladakh is rushed, frequently not giving enough time to acclimatise. But this is something that Milesworth steadfastly advocates in asking you to give yourself at least 36 full-hours of inactivity. For most others, Ladakh is all about driving the high passes and the majestic monasteries (something even we confess to offering in our itineraries). And yet travel is all about slowing down, seeing the real Ladakh, and getting it under your skin. For such a traveller, we have partnered with an award-winning walking tour company that operates village experiences in Ladakh.
For all of these holidays, we work directly with the hotels and organisations we choose for you to visit and stay at. And for your safe transport need and highly qualified guides, we work with one of Ladakh’s most respected travel companies.
Travelling to Ladakh as with any tourism destination brings with it both positive and negative impacts. While the positives definitely focus on the economic gains, the negatives tend to that of ecological and environmental pressures, and socio-economic disruption. In Ladakh, this is even more enhanced, given the fragility of the ecology and its distinctive cultural identity.
As a traveller, you can do a lot to help preserve the fragility of Ladakh. For instance, simply do not litter – and carry your waste with you. By demonstrating you care, it sets an example to other travellers and to local communities.
Avoid creating unprotected or dangerous fires – such as lighting of candles in village houses, careless disposal of cigarettes or matches.
Ladakh has an unbroken culture and heritage stretching back more than a thousand years. Be an unobtrusive observer and a participant in the monasteries. Treat local people respectfully. Do not photograph people, their homes or their temples without their permission.
Avoid donating money or goods to local inhabitants. Do this indirectly by spending money on economic activity that encourages employment and productivity.
Water is a finite source in Ladakh – yes you heard that right. This is a high altitude desert and it rarely rains, so glacial water is in short supply. We would appreciate your help in only using what is necessary and conserving water where possible.