Best Things to Do in Ladakh – Detailed Guide to Get Leh’ed!
What are the best things to do in Ladakh? If you too are confused with this question, or are not sure about the most exciting things one should do while in Ladakh, you should read till the end.
Let’s take you through this magical piece of land that seats at a lofty height of 3,000m above the sea level. Let’s plan out a chronological guide to how you should spend your days while touring around Leh-Ladakh; let’s get Leh’ed!
1. Stay Local to Be a Local in Ladakh
If you want to explore the real or true colours of Ladakh, you should not look here and there. The very first thing you need to do once you are in this part of the world is to check-in into a local homestay or lodge. You may get to avail luxury quotients in and around the luxury hotels in Ladakh, but staying in the local homestays will allow you to have a livelier glimpse of the local life.
These homestays allow you to spend time with the local hosts and families, know about their culture and traditions, interact with them, dine with them, and get acquainted with their lifestyle. Great hospitality and utmost generosity are two of the other reasons you should not look further, but to spend your time in a local homestay. Make sure while planning your trip, you have listed ample of homestays to check-in, and mark the beginning of your list of best things to do in Ladakh.
2. Begin the Day with Enchanting Sunrise Views at Pangong Lake
What could be the best way to begin your day, but by catching the eternal flames of the rising sun? And, in order to experience this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, you must visit the gorgeous Pangong Tso or simply Pangong Lake in Ladakh.
Seated gracefully at an elevation of 4,350m (14,270ft), Pangong Lake is in fact one of the best places on earth to enjoy the virgin beauty of the rising sun. Just imagine the sun rising out of those mighty peaks, its golden rays filling in the ambience and creating a magical spell as the rays strike against the azure water of Pangong Lake. Truly magical, isn’t it?
3. Seek Solace While Attending Morning Prayers at Thiksey Monastery
Peace, serenity, divinity, and solace of mind are some of the primary reasons that make wanderlusts get Leh’ed! If you too are in search for some peace of mind or yearning to attend divinity, you must wake up to the prayer chants of Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh.
Yes, this is the place in Ladakh region that can pacify your mornings, and enlighten your day with the Lord’s blessings. Attend morning prayers at Thiksey Monastery; you would feel a unique sense of devotion and spirituality with every note of the ‘sutras’ (prayers) chanted by the selfless monks here. Adding more, the drum beats and the mollifying tunes of the bulges are enough to add positivity and calmness to your mind and soul!
4. Seek Blessings from Maitreya Buddha
Once you are done with attending the morning prayers at Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh, you should head straight towards the golden statue of Maitreya Buddha. The largest statue of the future Lord Buddha, the statue of Maitreya Buddha is considered as devout source of blessings and sanctity.
Visit this pious statue to seek blessings from the Lord of the future, and give a new meaning to your day in Ladakh. Visit this divine form of the Lord to usher spirituality and begin your Ladakh tour with a sense of purity and calmness!
5. Visit Shanti Stupa and Contribute Towards World Peace
Our every act can have its effect on world peace! The Shanti Stupa in Ladakh is a universal testimony to the fact that irrespective of who we are or what we are, we all crave for love and peace. If you too are an ardent follower of peace, there could not be any better place to visit in Ladakh, but the Shanti Stupa!
Positioned atop a scenic hill in Chanspa, this white-coloured dome structure was built by Japanese Buddhist Organisation to promote World Peace alongside the completion of more than two centuries of Buddhism. Visiting this peace pillar would truly make you think about how you can contribute towards making this world a better place to live in!
6. Unfold History While Visiting Leh Palace
Why do we travel? To explore the unexplored or to discover the undiscovered? Well, even though many might agree to this, one of the main reasons we often travel is to connect with the outer world. And while in Ladakh, a visit to the grand Leh Palace will help you connect with all the grandeurs of Ladakh’s bygone era.
Also known as ‘Lhachen Palkhar’, this 17th century palace holds many secrets to the past of Ladakh. Every floor of this 9-storey grand palace has some story to tell; visit and explore this palace of a bygone era to travel back into time, and get acquainted with Ladakh’s glorious past!
7. Visit Zanskar Valley to Find Your Thrill
Now that you have started exploring the region, and searching for the most exhilarating things to do in Ladakh, you must make your way to Zanskar Valley. Located within an elevation of 12,000ft, this semi-desert valley is among the highest inhabited regions in the world. Owing to its topography and location, this sparingly populated region has also become a much-desired hotspot among the thrill seekers.
Located around 105km from Leh, a visit to Zanskar Valley will also introduce you with the raw and pristine beauty of Ladakh region. Zanskar’s rugged and tricky settings, high-rising mountain peaks, challenging trails, uneven course, and gurgling water bodies will surely bring out the adventure junky from within you, and make you crave for more fun and thrill!
8. Feel the Cold-Water Splashes While Rafting in Zanskar
Though Zanskar Valley is one of the least explored places on earth, thrill seekers make sure they get to taste a bit of this soul-stirring valley while on a spree of most adventurous things to do in Ladakh! The gurgling and equally ferocious Zanskar River, while making its way down the rugged valley, gives away multiple rapids that can range from Grade-I to Grade-IV.
If you are yearning for the much-needed adrenaline rush, you should not be strolling around, but head to Fotu La Pass (at an elevation of 14,000ft). Starting from this elevated pass, you can challenge the many different rapids of Zanskar River, and raft till the point, where Zanskar meets the Indus River. Within this course, you would be rafting across some of the most challenging rapids, while encountering ample opportunities to feel the much sought-after adrenaline rush in you!
9. Check Your Endurance – Indulge in Chadar Trek
Many a times, we happen to come across stories wherein Shaolin temple monks claimed to walk over the water surface. Though many might have witnessed or experienced such invigorating tales, the list of enthralling things to do in Ladakh can surely make you walk over water surface!
Finding it hard to believe? You must visit this paradise during the month of January or February, when the Zanskar River turns into a frozen body. During this period, you can trek over this frozen river and satiate all your yearnings of walking on water surface. Rated as one of the most challenging treks on earth, this experience will surely put you on testing your endurance and push your own limits.
10. Defy Gravity and Get Mystique While Driving Across the Magnetic Hill
Have you ever been into a gravity room where things go against the gravitational pull? Well, if you are already in Ladakh, and searching for some of the best things to do in Ladakh, you must for once, try defying gravitational pull while driving past the Magnetic Hill.
Sounds crazily exciting, right? Well, this is not all with the Magnetic Hill in Ladakh! While driving across this serene and surreal highway, you can also get to uncover several legends. One of which says that this highway once had a point, wherein the righteous beings were pulled to heaven. Another proven mystery about Magnetic Hill is that the Indian Airforce helicopters, on several occasions, had experienced a sudden magnetic pull while flying over the mystique Magnetic Hill. However, what caused these pulls or why they occurred is yet to be discovered. If you are still in the search of most exciting things to do in Ladakh, you must try unravelling myths at the Magnetic Hill.
11. Feast on Delicious Momos & Maggi at World’s Highest Cafeteria
‘Momos’ and ‘Maggi’ need no introduction! The world today, might be divided by boundaries, but is united by momos and Maggi. Anyone who has been in a hostel, went camping, or living in a bachelor pod, has always had a tryst with these two delicacies, and there is no denial about that.
The same goes with those who have been to Ladakh, and made their way to the majestic Khardung La Pass. For them, momos and Maggi served at the Rinchen Cafeteria at a height of 18,380ft, has been a saviour. Famed as the highest cafeteria in the world, this cafe is run by the Indian Army, and it also serves beverages like black coffee and tea. Though the exterior or interior of this cafeteria might not look appealing, a sip of hot coffee with a bite of momos or Maggi will make you feel top of the world at this unbelievable height!
12. Soak in the Serenity of Tso Kar Lake
As you enjoy a filling meal in the highest cafetaria in the world, make your way to the picturesque Rupshu Plateau, which is around 134km away from the Leh town. well, if you ask why this sudden change in the plan or why to drive that far, the stunning beauty of the Tso Kar Lake will answer all your questions.
Rupshu Valley is the flowing ground of the enchanting Tso Kar Lake which is known to be one of the most beautiful saltwater lakes in the world. Located at an elevation of 4,350m, you should visit this lake during the early hours and catch the sun rays striking against the water surface and creating an irresistible ambiance all around.
13. Enjoy Bird Watching at Tso Moriri While Collecting Sunshine
The pride of Rupshu Valley or the Tso Moriri is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Ladakh! A surreal lakeside to catch the crispy breezes, feast on the astounding views around, relinquish one’s soul into the emerald water, and to catch some sunshine, this lake is often visited by a range of wildlife.
Among all these, birds are the most commonly found wildlife species around Tso Moriri. Throughout the year, this lake is visited by different types of exotic birds; this makes the lakeside a must visit destination while touring around Leh-Ladakh region. Backed by captivating mountains, embraced by an alluring charm, and visited by a kaleidoscopic range of birds, Tso Moriri is truly a destination any shutterbug would desire to capture through his/her lenses.
14. Test Your Driving Skills at Khardung La
Amidst all the enthralling things to do in Ladakh, this one would require real and tough skills behind the wheels! And in case, you are one of those who want to test or challenge his/her driving skills, you must endeavour on a journey to the great Khardung La Pass in Ladakh.
Reaching a height of around 18,379ft above the sea level, this highest motorable pass in the world is in fact a befitting destination to enjoy panoramic views of the snow-capped Himalayan Range and its peaks. However, to reach this pass, one needs to experience and have the bug that triggers their adrenalines. Treacherous and narrow roads, steep trails, low temperature, and other such factors make this drive an extremely exhilarating one!
15. Go Camping Amidst Hundur Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley
After a mix of pleasant as well as tough expedition to all the aforementioned places to visit in Ladakh, you surely deserve some relaxation and peace of mind. However, while in Ladakh, you would always be soaked with natural wonders and marvels. One among these wonders is the enchanting Nubra Valley.
And in the pictorial Nubra Valley, there are the bewitching Hundur Sand Dunes to pamper all your senses while helping you to relax and attain peace of mind. An arid desert located at around 4,000m, the Hundur Desert and its sand dunes offers an ideal setting to camp for a night and relish in the untouched beauty of Ladakh.
16. Enjoy the Jolts While Riding the Bactrian Camels
While opting for camping in Hundur desert in Nubra Valley, you should surely go for the much sought-after and talked about Bactrian Double-humped Camel safaris. If you want to explore and revel in the magical beauty of this high-altitude desert, you should definitely not miss these exciting safaris.
Camels are undoubtedly the ‘ships of the desert’; they are perhaps the best mode of commune to reach out to places that are simply not accessible by any other modes of transportation. Adding more to the fun-frolic, every jolt during these safaris will help you visit one or the other hidden gems in the scenic Hundur Desert area in Ladakh.
17. Enjoy Trekking to Spituk Monastery
After spending some of the quintessential moments in the Hundur Desert in the Nubra Valley, you should pack in for some thrill and adventure. Following your Hundur experiences, you should drive back to Leh town, and prepare yourself for one of the most enjoyable treks – trek to Spituk Monastery.
Though you can hire a local cab or even take a ride to this pious monastery, trekking till there has its own charm and excitement. Located only 8km from Leh, this monastery is often considered as the origin of Buddhist religious community in Ladakh. Established during the 11th century, trekkers on completing their treks gets rewarded with astounding views of the nearby Leh town and other nearby locales including some of the high-rising Himalayan peaks.
18. Trek from Spituk Monastery to Stok Palace Museum
If you are looking for some extended fun and excitement while trekking to Spituk Monastery, you should join the Spituk-Stok Trek in Ladakh. Originating from the bucolic Spituk hamlet, this trek would take you to Zingchen, where you can enjoy another overnight camping experience.
From Zingchen, the trek moves towards Rumbak and Stokla before taking you to Stok Palace. On the way, you will get to feast on breath-taking views, wild rose gardens, lush pine forest areas, gurgling streams, and a lot more of the natural wonders. On a whole, this trek usually takes 3 days to complete. On completion of the trek, you can visit the renowned Stok Palace and Museum, and have a glance of Ladakh’s yester years and its royal essence.
19. Go for Snow Leopard Spotting – a One of a Kind Experience
Well, if you are not a trekking person or not too inclined towards such adventure, you can utilize your day with some other exciting activities. And to begin with such a unique experience, you can visit the Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary, which is famed as the highest wildlife sanctuary in the entire world.
An indigenous home to a range of rare wildlife species, Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary also boasts of being the most ideal place to spot the exotic Snow Leopards. If you are looking for the most unique things to do in Ladakh, you must not miss our Snow Leopard spotting in this high-altitude national park. Along with Snow Leopards, you can also come close to other endangered species like Ibex, Blue Sheep, Bharal, and lot more.
20. Jeep Safari at Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary
Jeeps share a natural cohesive bond with the terrains of Ladakh. With these sturdy vehicles, you can make it to almost all the corners of this mountainous paradise. And while searching for some of the most adventurous things to do in Ladakh in a jeep, you surely cannot miss the exhilarating Jeep Safaris in Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary.
Spread across 1,600sqkm, Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary is a natural abode to Tibetan Wild Ass, Dark-necked Cranes, Tibetan Wolf, Snow Leopards, and several other wildlife species. With a jeep, you can manoeuvre this fascinating wildlife reserve with ease, and reach out to its core areas that are considered ideal to come face-to-face with the dwellers of this park.
21. Spend Some Time with the Tough Donkeys
Yes, you heard right! If you are looking for some unique things to do in Ladakh, this is one experience that you won’t ever wish to miss out! Though donkeys are mostly considered vague as mammals, Ladakh has its ways to conserve and protect this unique species.
Come Leh, you can visit the Leh Donkey Sanctuary that houses hundreds of donkeys; most of which are old and sick donkeys. Though it may sound like any other wildlife sanctuary, the love, care, and respect shown to the donkeys here is always special. Furthermore, the colourful graffitis and the interesting signs leading to this unique sanctuary would surely tempt you to spend some time with the dwellers of this sanctuary.
22. Attend Mask Festival in Hemis Monastery
Hemis Monastery in Ladakh needs no introduction; it’s more like a synonym to the region. If you happen to be in this region during the Lunar month of Tibetan Calendar; specifically, on the 10th day of Tse-Chu, you can witness the grand Hemis Festival that is attended by hundreds and thousands of locals and tourists alike.
The ‘Chham Dance’ or the ‘Mask Dance’ is the main highlight of this grand festival. Performed by the local monks, this dance form includes colourful and traditional masks, head gears, traditional gowns, and ample fiesta moments. Each of these masks worn by the monks have their own significance. If you happen to attend this ritualistic dance performance, you may also get to sip on a local drink called ‘Chang’ which is offered during this Dance Festival in Hemis.
23. Hang Out with The Monks to Have a Glimpse of Their Lives
Wherever we travel to, we must get connected to that place; we should feel the indigenous cultures, we should get to its roots, and we should live the traditions along with following the local lifestyles. While in Ladakh, one can get connected with the essence of this region by spending a day with the local monks at the monasteries.
By doing so, you would not only get to witness the lifestyle of these monks from a close and, but would also get to experience the strenuous schedules they follow to achieve their monkhood. By spending time with the monks at any of the monasteries, you would also get to learn more about Buddhism in Ladakh that would help you unfold the glorious history and colourful cultures, traditions, and local lifestyle of Ladakh!
24. Experience Tibetan & Buddhist Cultures Like Never Before
No matter which part of Ladakh you are in, you would always find yourself soaked in the vibes and essence of Tibetan cultures. If this livelier culture has to be explained in words, colourful, soulful, heart-warming, and ancient would be the right way of depicting both Tibetan and Buddhist cultures.
And while touring around this elevated region, or searching for some of the best things to do in Ladakh that would introduce you with the Tibetan culture, you should visit the Namgyal Tsemo Monastery that dates back to the 14th century. A three-storey monastery, this ancient monastery is often revered as the befitting place to delve deep and experience the crux of Tibetan culture. Another ideal place to visit or to get acquainted with Buddhist culture is the pious Phugtal Monastery. This is the place that will open multiple doors for you to have a closer look at the history of Buddhism and how it shrouded the entire of Ladakh.
25. Warm Up Yourself – Get High with a Sip of Chhang
Located around 3,000m above the sea level, Ladakh is one of the coldest places in the country. However, while touring around this Himalayan paradise, you may fail to find even a single wrinkle due to low temperature on the local’s faces. Wondering why so?
Well, whenever the temperature in Ladakh drops below level zero, the locals here take a sip of their favourite local brew called ‘Chhang’. A local drink made from boiled, dried, and fermented finger millets, Chhang is a locally produced alcoholic drink. Locals usually savour this drink to subdue the harsh crispiness of winters. While in Ladakh, you should take a sip of this local drink to keep yourself warm!
26. Munch on the Tasty Thukpa – Time to Ditch Your Favourite Maggi
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a few good meals during the day will surely keep you moving! And while visiting a destination like Ladakh; participating in a plethora of activities across offbeat and remotest destinations, a scrumptious meal might become a serious concern.
However, if you are a fan of noodles; especially Maggi, you should look out for local cafes of food joints that serve a local noodle called ‘Thukpa’! A hot favourite Tibetan noodle of the Ladakhis, Thukpa is an ultimate platter to quench your hunger and treat your taste buds with the most authentic and local flavour of Ladakh. Considered as a nutritious soup, Thukpa is a mix of noodles, delicious vegetables, chunks of chicken meats (or other meats), and local spices. If you are planning for a trip to this part of the country, make sure you have Thukpa in your bucket list!
27. Taste Chunks of Chhupri While Sipping on Vintage Wine
Ladakh is a land of uniqueness! Be it with natural marvels or locally produced edibles, this part of India will always sway you away with its unique offerings and taste. Chhupri or the Yak Cheese is one such edibles that would surely tickle your taste buds while touring around this region.
Made from Yak milk mixed with lime or other citrus fruits, Chhupri is considered as an esteemed local delicacy all throughout Ladakh. While in here, you can easily find this indigenous variety of cheese in almost all the nearby tea-stalls and restaurants. And while savouring this indigenous cheese, make sure you order for a glass of vintage wine as this is one combination almost every Ladakhian fails to resist!
28. Take a Trip to the ‘Moon’
No, we aren’t joking! While on a trip to Ladakh; in Leh town, you can take a pleasant 100km drive through the inclined terrains to reach Lamayuru town. As you start approaching this pristine town, you will be astounded to look at its landscapes for sure as they resemble the surface of the moon. And once you reach this quaint town, it will surely make you feel you are on the moon.
This town’s lunar landscapes and serene ambience earned it the fame of being the ‘Moonland’. Adding more to the celestial beauty of Lamayuru, there are the series of white-washed houses dotting the hills. The serpentine trails, barren patches of land, and the shimmering beauty of this town would surely give you the feel of being on the moon. Besides all these, you can also hike up to the scenic Meditation Hill, where you can witness some of the most decorated stupas and can indulge in meditation too.
29. Count the Stars While Enjoying Stargazing
If there is a place that would make you feel calm, poised, and elevated with its surreal beauty, it’s Ladakh. Be it taking you closer to the moon or getting down the stars for you, this piece of heaven would always keep you amused with its kaleidoscopic offerings.
And while in the town of Lamayuru, you can get indulged in stargazing over the lofty-barren peaks. This is the place from where you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the night sky with clear and the most promising views of the stars. Pack your bags, check your list of things to do in Ladakh, drive to Lamayuru town, and have a tryst with the night sky while counting the stars above you!
30. Enroll in the Drang-Drung Glacier Trek in Suru Valley
After so much rendezvous with the untouched beauty of Mother Nature, it is time for some of the most exciting things to do in Ladakh; it’s time for some fun and thrill with the Drang-Drung Trek. A trek that originates from the Suru Valley and takes you to the magical Drang-Drung Glacier.
In case you are wondering what’s so special about this trek, you must know that this is one of the most challenging treks in Ladakh. Though it originates from pleasant landscapes, it eventually passes through exhilarating patches, forest areas, scintillating slopes, and a whole mix of terrains. Despite being a strenuous trek, adventure seekers consider this as one of the musth things to do in Ladakh.
31. Go Biking in the Himalayas
If you are Ladakh, you are probably in one of the most beautiful places to visit on earth. And while being here, you should always take out an opportunity to go cycling amidst the towering peaks, snow-capped mountains, whirling trials, rugged terrains, and a lot more.
Be it Leh town or hidden villages like Ha and Dhanu, scenic valleys like Nubra or Rupshu Plateaus, you would surely like biking around any of the corners of Ladakh. Besides this, while on a cycling expedition, you get to visit remote areas that are usually not possible to explore while on a regular Jeep Safari or Motorcycle Tours.
32. Join a Motorcycle Gang to Ladakh
They may say this, they may say that, but everyone knows motorbikes are the best medium to reach out to the pictorial land of Ladakh. That mean-machine, when on full throttle, you simply go beyond all the limitations. Adding to this, as you ride through or the edge of the mountains, manoeuvre the tricky passes, or even while helping your fellow riders while crossing the gurgling streams, you will surely feel the adrenaline as well as the excitement rising high.
Most of these motorcycle expeditions to Ladakh originate from Delhi, Manali, Chandigarh, and Srinagar. However, if you want to experience the best of these expeditions, you should join these tours either from Delhi or Manali. By starting from Delhi, you would get to witness and experience a whole contrasting change in the landscapes and terrains. On the other hand, starting from Manali will get you closer to the Himalayan Range, but with stark difference in the settings, climate, and terrains.
33. Pay Tribute to the Indian Soldiers at Hall of Fame
While on the last leg of your Ladakh voyage, a visit to the glorious Hall of Fame should be your thing to do in Ladakh. Located on the Leh-Kargil Road; around 4km from Leh town centre, this museum was built by the Indian Army, and is currently run and maintained by them as well.
Housing army weapons, arms and ammunitions, uniforms, and several other belongings of the army personnels, this museum depicts the bravery, valor, patriotism, and courage of the Indian soldiers. On display here, there are pictures of soldiers in the war, letters written by them, and several other things that would surely awaken your patriotic senses towards the country.
34. Go Local – Shop Like a Local
Before you wind up your Ladakh trip, you must visit the local Leh Marketplace, and satiate all your yearnings to shop like a local. A bustling ground of stores from all across Ladakh, this marketplace is dotted with local and traditional shops that sell almost everything.
Whether you are looking for artefacts or handicraft items, Pashmina shawls or woolen clothes, gemstones or silver jewelries, rugs or authentic Kashmiri carpets, this is the market where you would get everything. Whether you are looking for some gifts or to get souvenirs back home, this marketplace would spoil you out of choices!
35. Attend Gurbaani at Guru Patthhar Sahib
Devotion and spirituality are the two things that would never let you go despair while in Ladakh. Be it the Buddhist monasteries or any other religious sites, you would always find positivity, peace of mind, and solace in every corner of this region.
Before you wish adieu to this beautiful piece of heaven, do visit the sacred Gurudwara Pathar Sahib; located around 25km away from Leh. Believed to be visited by Guru Nanak Dev, this gurdwara is a pious site for the followers of Sikhism. However, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib welcomes everyone with an open heart; visit this sacred site to seek blessings and cleanse your own self before you leave Ladakh!
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