Ladakh, the region of high passes is situated at 10,000 feet in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. There is no place like Ladakh in the whole world where the climate has a sharp contrast. It experiences arctic like cold in the winters (October to April) when the temperature goes down to – 20 to – 30 degree Celsius while in summers (June to September) when most of the days are warm and the temperature during the day varies between a maximum of 15 – 30 degree Celsius to a minimum of 5 – 15 degree Celsius, depending on the altitude of a place.
So if you are planning to travel to Ladakh and are wondering which is the best month to travel there? Then we at Trip Platform have prepared a month – on – month breakdown of the weather in Ladakh, which would be informative for all types of travelers i.e. the regular tourist and the adventure seekers and accordingly they can plan their travel anytime during the year. Also travelers have a keep in mind that a trip to Ladakh cannot be a weekend getaway or a three day short trip, visiting Ladakh needs a minimum of 8 – 10 days.
Best Season to visit Ladakh
Winter (October to April) is very inhospitable as the mercury level comes down and heavy snowfall is a common occurrence.
Summer (June to September) is the ideal season when all road passes are open. The weather is cool and pleasant; skies are clear and offer panoramic views of the mountains.
Monsoon is not limited to any particular season; it is erratic and may occur at any time.
The Best season to visit Ladakh is from June to September. But each month or season offers something unique to travelers, which has been explained in detail below.
By June all road routes are open i.e. Srinagar – Leh highway opens by the mid May and Manali – Leh highway opens up in June. The month of June is the best time as there is still plenty of snow around while the sun shines brightly and keeps the day temperatures warm.
This is when tourism begins to pickup and the town of Leh is suddenly buzzing with visitors from all over the world, most of them are on month long treks and pan Ladakh expeditions. During this month tourist can get a glimpse of a few local festivals celebrated i.e. the famous Hemis Festival and the Sindhu Darshan Festival.
The advantage of traveling in July is that during the first couple of weeks you will still get to see snow en-route at Rohtang La and Baralacha La and the road towards Leh is in much better condition than it was in the month of June. Adding to it the temperature in Leh and other parts of Ladakh is lot warmer and pleasant, but this is the time when Ladakh starts receiving occasional downpours which can make roads slightly treacherous.
For tourist who are interested in trekking, the peak season for Ladakh trekking starts now and you can now explore nature, the mighty Himalayan range and the cold deserts all at their best. Also around this time the passes on the Manali – Leh Highway and the Srinagar – Leh Highway become completely motor able and are much easier to travel on. During the month of July visiting tourist can enjoy the Stongday Gustor Festival held at the Stongdey Monastery.
With summer at its peak and roads in good condition all over Ladakh, the month of August is considered to be the best. During this period most farms in and around Leh, Nubra Valley, Suru and Zanskar Valley and Srinagar – Leh Highway are full of lush greenery, thus providing a nice contrast between the arid mountains and lush green fields.
During this month there is less chance of roads getting closed barring Zoji La, Rohtang La and Baralacha La, which are affected by monsoon rain, landslides and cloud bursts. However, the weather is pleasant during August and Ladakh receives maximum number of tourist during this time, incase tourist are looking for a more peaceful and quieter stay then they can opt for a visit later in the season. If you happen to be traveling somewhere around the end of August, make sure you have packed a few extra woolens as the breeze during this time is a lot more gustier and carries a lot of bite.
Tourist must also note that if they are using the Srinagar – Leh highway to reach Leh, the months of July and August could be very busy due to the bulk of pilgrims going for the Amarnath Yatra,
Unlike the months of July and August, September is not considered the best time to visit Ladakh, since it indicates the return of the winter season, and the weather starts turning cold. Moreover the high altitude passes start receiving snowfall and even the Pangong Tso can experience snowfall. Due to this, fewer tourists visit or remain in Ladakh.
However for adventure enthusiast, September can be best month to visit Ladakh, since roads are yet at their best and there are fewer tourists around, tourist will find Ladakh peaceful and a solace that will be unparalleled making their trip even more special.
During this time most valleys like Nubra, Suru and Zanskar Valleys undergo transformation and grass and shrubs change from green to orange and even red in colour! Orange coloured grass contrasted against the deep blue sky, arid mountains and blue water makes it perfect time for photography.
On the Manali – Leh Highway travel becomes a bit more risky from mid – September onwards due to mild snowfall and reduced options for accommodations and transport as many buses and taxis stop running. However, no one can predict what the nature has in store and at times severe rains and snowfall can occur due to western disturbance and local weather buildup, there have been incidents of bridges being damaged which lead to delays however, these incidents are more of an exception than a norm.
The Ladakh Festival is held in Leh from 1st to 15th of September every year, and the festival features captivating street procession, polo matches, archery shows, cultural performances, and handicraft exhibitions. The Ladakh Marathon is another event in September wherein various running races in and around Leh take place between Indian and International competitors. The Nubra Festival is celebrated with folk music and dance in different villages across Nubra Valley.
So, between June to September remain the best months to visit Ladakh, especially for travelers who are looking for a comfortable stay, a travel on good roads and experience a pleasant climate.
Winter months in Ladakh (October to May)
As the month of October sets in it is already cold, the nights are back to being bitterly cold and during these months travelers require a desi angeethi or a central heating system to keep their rooms warm, as the days progress to November the temperature further drops resulting in heavy snowfall and all interstate city roads and passes get closed for the next 5 to 6 months.
December and January are the coldest months of the winter season, during this time the temperature during the day is about 2 degree Celsius and night are chilling at – 20 degree Celsius, the entire Ladakh landscape is covered by snow and thick sheets of ice are formed over rivers and lakes. This is the best time for hard core adventure enthusiast to undertake the world’s most adventurous treks ‘The Chadar Trek’.
The Chadar Trek is a popular trek with most adventure travelers both from India and abroad, and this trek starts from mid January and lasts until the end of February. The trek is organized on the Zanskar River which freezes by this time and forms a thick slab of ice on which travelers can walk with ease. The Chader trek ranges from 7 days to 21 days. The Hemis National Park that is open all round the year and it is ideal to visit during the winter months when travelers can spot the elusive snow leopard.
As the month of February sets in there is little respite and during the month of March the weather starts getting better but it is still extremely cold although you will find a few shops and business establishments open and begin functioning by this time. The month of April is far better as the temperatures rises up to 12 degrees Celsius during the day, this is when the Indian army and other volunteer groups start clearing the snow for civilian traffic, but this process takes time and roads open up only by the end of May.
So, Ladakh has its own charm during the winters as there are no tourists during this time and only travelers who are hard core adventure enthusiast visit Ladakh from all over the world. Ladakh can be reached only by air during this time and air fares generally are low.
As both major routes to Leh close in winter, majority of the internal roads and highways within Ladakh remain open and places within Ladakh can easily be explored in a taxi even during the peak winter season. In case of Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri, travelers must keep in mind that the roads may get closed for couple of days or more in case of heavy snowfall. Hence during winters it is ideal to keep your plans a bit flexible and avoid traveling to the above attractions on the last day of your trip. Also travelers should keep an eye on the weather forecast and check with the locals about the prevailing weather and road conditions before they venture out on a trip.
Festival in Ladakh during winters:
Losar Festival (December or January): This is a 15 day festival which marks the beginning of the new year of Ladakh.
Spituk Festival (January or February): A day festival of Gastor is celebrated in the Spituk Monastery.
Dosmoche Festival (February): This is a 2 day festival celebrated in Leh at venues like Leh Palace, Diskit and Likir monastery.
Nagrang Festival (March): The annual festival of Matho Nagrang is held in Matho Monastery which is about 26 kms from Leh.
Leh airport is accessible throughout the year from Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu, this is the ideal way to reach Ladakh even during peak winter season (November to April).
Srinagar – Leh Highway: Mid May to September.
Manali – Leh Highway: July to September
Accommodations in Leh & Ladakh:
Leh offers travelers a variety of accommodations to suit almost every budget and taste. Most midsized hotels are family run and their services are more personalized as compared to luxury hotels.
Premium or High-end Hotels: These hotels are of top quality and offer full range of services and facilities. But currently there are very few High-end hotels in Leh to choose from.
Luxury Hotels: A 3 Star Hotel, these hotels are of moderate quality and have comfortable rooms and offer a good range of facilities and services. They are graded as A Class deluxe by the Locals in Leh.
Deluxe Hotels: A 2 to 3 Star Hotel, these hotels offer a limited range of facilities and reasonable comfort. They are graded as A Class by the Locals in Leh.
Economy or Budget Hotels: The facilities of these hotels will be limited and rooms will be of standard type. These hotels offer a friendly service which often takes care of for the lack of amenities.
Guest Houses: The guest houses are a less formal facility which offers rooms that is part of a residential house where guest can share the same kitchen for meals with the host. These accommodations are very basic but good and provide an opportunity for visiting tourist to witness and experience Ladakhi life from within.
In newly opened areas of Ladakh i.e. Nubra Valley, Changthang and Dah Hanu the tourist infrastructure is still not well developed.
Camps and Guest Houses remote areas:
These remote regions offer a variety of camping options only from June to September. The camp sites have been set up in beautiful locations and are close to nature. In Pangong campsites are just next to the Lake, while in Tso Moriri there are many options to choose from close to the lake. In Nubra valley campsites have come up in Hunder and Sumoor villages which give the traveler a real feeling of adventure.
The Tourist department of Jammu and Kashmir is working on building more accommodation facilities by building tourist complexes, Hiker’s hut’s at Tangse, Rumtse Spanmik, Panamik, Sakti, Hunder and Saspol villages.
Tourist can also opt for staying as paying guest in few selected houses but are advised to travel with personal sleeping bags and other provisions especially if they plan to stay overnight at Pangong and Tso Moriri lake areas.
There are also a few Government run Tourist Bungalows located mainly along Srinagar – Leh road, which are budget friendly but need prior reservation and approval from Tourist office in Leh or Kargil.
During peak tourist seasons i.e. June to September it is advisable to book hotel rooms in advance, by mid September the tourist rush begins to decline and accommodations are easily available without prior booking.
However tourist planning to come during winter must ensure that they book in advance and ensure that the hotel is functional during the winter period (October to April) and have good provisions of heating arrangements during winters.
Accommodation at Pangong Tso:
During the peak season i.e. from June to September it may be difficult to get any accommodation without prior booking at Pangong Lake.
If visitors wish to stay right near the banks of the Pangong Lake, then they can opt for a tent at a campsite else the best bet would be cheap home stays at Spangmik Village or Guest Houses / Hotels at Tangste village which is nearby to the Pangong. However, keep in mind the facilities at home stays and guest houses may be basic so it is advisable to carry your own sleeping bags in order to keep things hygienic.
During winters campsites stop their operations on the Pangong Lake due to the extreme cold weather, hence during that time guest houses and home stays will only be available at Tangste village and Spangmik Village, before booking kindly insure that the guest houses/home stays/hotels have an internal heating system in place.
The Bollywood Connection:
Remember the block buster film 3 idiots, the entire crew of the film stayed at Dothguling Guest House in Tangste village for a few days in July 2009.The staff at the guest house happily took photographs of all actors / actresses having lunch / dinner at their guest house and now those snaps are on display all over the guest house for visiting tourist to see.
Such was the impact of the film 3 Idiots that tourism at the Pangong Lake has taken an all new dimension. Every year more and more film stars and film crews are arriving here for a shoot and overall there has been a sharp increase of tourist due to this latest trend set by Bollywood. When here, visiting tourists will surely get to hear many stories about film stars from the hotel owners and the hotel staff.
Big Budget Films that were shot in Ladakh are:
Tashan (Yash Raj), Dil-Se(Mani Ratnam), 3 – Idiots(Raj Kumar Hirani), LOC(J.P Dutta), Paap(Pooja Bhatt), Frozen (Danny Denzongpa) etc have been shot extensively in Ladakh showcasing the raw and untouched beauty of this place.