Why You should Travel to Ladakh in Winters
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Winter’s here and travel plans are in the making. Any traveler will know that India has numerous terrific holiday destinations. But, if there’s one place that’s a cut above the rest, it’s Ladakh. Land of jaw-dropping Himalayan landscapes, stunning lakes, Buddhist monasteries and sub-zero temperatures that chill you to the bone. It’s one of those rare gems that can be visited almost all-year round. However, winter lends an even more special touch.
Why you should visit in winters
Ladakh has become the winter destination of choice for adventure-seekers and travelers looking to experience the beauty of the Himalayas. Here is where icy treks and motorcycle expeditions are in a class of their own. Where prayer flags flutter in the wind and stupas stand tall. The erstwhile kingdom has an air of mystique that draws you in no matter how much of a seasoned traveler you are.
Ladakh is a great place to visit anytime of the year but if you want to see in all its raw beauty, winter is the time to go. It freezes over and only the brave dare to venture into its heart. What you come away with are memories that last forever. It may sound cliched but it’s a fact. Ladakh will warm your heart and soul.
Ladakh is one of the coldest regions in India so expect extreme temperatures from the months of October to March. Temperature in winters remain between -5 degree Celsius to -25 degree Celsius, making it an ideal to witness cold desert climate.
The number of tourists drops in winter owing to the harsh weather and for adventurous travelers, this means being able to enjoy Ladakh without interruption. Trekkers looking for a challenge also find themselves thoroughly tested, which is only of the reasons why winter treks in the region are so popular.
5 Reasons to visit Ladakh
Snowy landscapes and sparkling white mountains aside, there are 5 reasons to visit Ladakh in winter in case you’re still not convinced!
- You beat the crowd:
Ladakh is not longer the remote, rarely visited destination it was before tourism hit. Traveling in summer means having to share this slice of heaven, which, let’s face it, no one likes to do. But if you go in winter, you’ll have the place all to yourself. No rush and no noise.
- You save money:
This is a no-brainer but still deserves mention. Flights and stays are much cheaper and you can use the money saved for more important things like trekking tours.
- You can spot wildlife better:
Some wildlife such as the snow leopard make their way to lower altitudes when winter hits. This gives you a much better chance of spotting them and other animals like mountain wolves.
- You receive even warmer hospitality:
Summer months see locals hard at work and while they’re incredibly hospitable, they’re understandably strapped for time. Go in winter, however, and you’ll be on the receiving end of Ladakhi hospitality, which is possibly the warmest.
- You get the best photo ops:
Crowds spoil the view and anyone trying to capture photos will attest to that. Ladakh in winter has a small handful of tourists, which means you get terrific opportunities to photograph the shimmery white landscape, the rugged mountains and frozen lakes.
Ladakh Locales that promise to whisk you away
1) Frozen Pangong Lake
Why Visit Pangong Lake in Winters
Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake extends from India all the way to Tibet. While beautiful in summer, its winter avatar is what takes the cake. It’s almost always on every visitor’s itinerary and it’s easy to see why. It freezes solid and you can walk over it. The barren landscape surrounding it adds to the stark beauty with layers of white creating a genuine winter wonderland.
What to know
While tourists do visit Pangong Lake in winter, keep in mind that roads may close if the snowfall is heavy.
2) Chadar Trek
Why visit Chadar in winters
Another perfect winter destination is the Zanskar Gorge where the Chadar trek takes place. The trail, which runs along the frozen Zanskar River, is the only way to get to Leh in winter.
What to know
As with most winter treks, the journey can be challenging but completely worth it. The ice is precarious in places. It can take 9 days to reach Leh and temperatures dip below -35 degrees Celsius at night.
3) Tso Moriri
Why visit Tso Moriri in winters
Tso Moriri or Mountain Lake is a high altitude lake and a part of the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve. It’s usually frequented in summer since the area can be closed in winter. However, you should include it in your itinerary because it takes on an ethereal beauty that’s hard to find anywhere else. Moreover, it’s not visited as often as Pangong Lake and you may just have it all to yourself!
What to know
Tso Moriri is quite a bit farther from Leh. It’s approximately 240 kms by road. Foreigners are allowed entry beyond Man-Merak villages.
4) Khardung La Pass
Why visit Khardung La Pass in winters
You can’t travel to Ladakh in winter and not visit the famed Khardung La Pass. This is the entryway to Nubra and Shyok valleys. Not only is it a popular tourist destination but one of the world’s highest motorable passes. Owing to its popularity, there are souvenir shops where you can pick up mementos to take back home.
What to know
Expect unpredictable weather in Khardung La. It’s not uncommon for the pass to be closed when the weather turns extreme.
5) Hemis National Park
Why visit Hemis National Park in winters
Ladakh is known for its snow leopards and Hemis National Park is the place to see them especially in winter. The area is also home to several other wildlife such as the mountain weasel, Tibetan wolf and the red fox. There are a few trekking trails you can take that pass villages that also offer homestays.
What to know
There are no motorable roads in the park.
Preparing yourself for winter travel
Unless you’re accustomed to alpine climate, traveling to Ladakh in winter requires a little extra prep. Here are a few quick tips to help –
- Acclimatize: This is the first order of business because the high altitude can cause shortness of breath, headache, nausea and muscle ache. If you’re planning to trek or travel by car or motorcycle, give your body at least 2 days to adjust itself to the new climate.
- Include buffer days: Heavy snowfall is common and it can throw travel plans out of whack. Add a few buffer days to your trip to help avoid frustrations.
- Carry sufficient cash: Leh market has several ATMs but the region doesn’t have many as a whole. If you’re planning to venture to remoter areas, forget cards and rely on cash.
- Carry proper winter gear: Layering clothes will keep you warm so carry different items of clothing. Thermals, heavy woolens, jackets, thick socks, winter boots, woolen hats, gloves and goggles are a must.
Making Ladakh your next winter destination is a decision you’ll be grateful you made. It’s full of surprises and Instagram-worthy shots; friendly locals and awe-inspiring landscapes that make you want to breathe it all in. Prepare yourself for an adventure of a lifetime as you travel across this Himalayan region and get a taste of what life is like here in the northernmost part of the country.
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