Ladakh Winter Travel Guide | Reasons to Visit Ladakh in Winters

Ladakh, a beautiful place in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), lies between Kunlun mountains and the mighty Himalayas; and is known for its mountain beauty and Tibetan culture. It is also one of the most sparsely populated areas of J&K. Ladakh has Tibet in the east, Lahaul & Spiti in the south, J&K valley and Baltiul in the west and Karakoram pass in the north. Now about going to Ladakh in winters - Well, winters are the best time to visit Ladakh as the valley and mountains get covered with snow. Temperature goes down drastically due to heavy snowfall and one needs at least a week to 10 days for acclimatization seeing the weather of Ladakh in winters.

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Ladakh in winters gives you a sight of amazing landscapes, scintillating mountains and trees covered with snow, frozen lakes, frozen waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites at the entrance of rocky caves. It all looks like dreamland and one feels thrilled and excited to see such unbelievable sights.  Located at a height of 14,000 meters above sea level, Ladakh becomes a perfect tourist destination in winters, especially for hikers, trekkers, mountaineers and bikers who love climbing and riding.  

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Most of the people think that travelling to Ladakh in winters is not a good idea, but that actually is a wrong notion. Winters is the best time to visit Ladakh and one must not shrug away from this fact. This is because there isn’t much crowd and so, one can enjoy all the exquisite places that have existed over centuries in this wonderland. Just be careful at night as temperature might drop down to as low as -30℃. As far as your stay is concerned, there’s no need to worry. Ladakh has many guesthouses and local people also allow homestays at affordable prices during winters. The best ones are located near Fort Road and Changspa Road.

01

How to reach Ladakh in winter

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How to reach Ladakh in winter
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Winters start from November and continues till March in Ladakh. If you are a regular traveller who loves road trips, then the best way to travel to Ladakh is by road. But the roads remain open only till November end and get closed after that due to heavy snowfall. If you want to travel in December-January then the best and only way is by air. Flights are available from Delhi to Leh every day. You can choose Air India, Jet Airways and Go Air as these are the only 3 companies that operate on this route. You can travel by bus or taxi after landing down at Leh airport. You can also take your own car if you go there before November ends.   

There are many winter packages that offer stay in Leh hotels and guesthouses, as well as homestays in Ladakh. These include photography tour, trips to Leh and Suru Valleys, etc. You must travel through tour operating companies and inform and the airlines of your choice, at least 1 week in advance. Companies provide value for money packages for Ladakh trip in winters. You also need a single person and/or group permits if you travel with your friends as Leh- Ladakh regions are strategic locations guarded by ITBP and Indian army.


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Places to visit in Ladakh in winters

02

Leh City

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Leh City
Leh has the Leh Palace, which is based on designs of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet; and was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 16th century. It gets lighted up at night and gives a fascinating view. One can see the whole Leh city from its roof. Leh city has the famous Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, known for its 3-storey high gold statue of Maitreya Buddha, along with ancient manuscripts.

Then there is Shanti Stupa with its white dome and has relics of Buddha at its base, set there by the 14th Dalai Lama. It provides a panoramic view of the surroundings for which it is famous among tourists. There are also other places like the War Museum, Victory Tower and Sankar Monastery and village. The last one is just half an hour walk away from Leh.
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03

Frozen Pangong

Frozen Pangong
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With heavy clouds in the blue sky above it, the Pagong or Pangong Tso Lake is one of the best places to visit in Ladakh in winters. In Tibetan, it means ‘high grassland lake’. The lake is 130 km long and extends from India to China. The Indian side has only 40% portion of the lake, still, it’s good enough. Its water freezes out in winters and there’s snow all over it. A great huge spot for adventure seekers who like skiing and ice-skating.

The Pangong Lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake (4250 meters) which gets frozen during winters, thus providing a splendid view with mountains behind it. There aren’t any fishes or any other aquatic life in the lake, except a few small crustaceans due to its saline water. If lucky, you might catch a glimpse of goose and ducks. It takes a 5-hour drive by road to reach Pangong Lake from Leh.
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04

Nubra Valley

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Nubra Valley
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Nubra Valley is another breathtaking spot that looks like a chocolate brown cake with white icing to top it. According to locals, its original name was ‘Ldumra’ which means the valley of flowers. This place appears between Kashmir and Tibet and is 150 km away from Leh towards the North. Its main town is Diskit, and its a landmark is a 32-meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is maintained at Diskit monastery. Along the valley are the villages of Sumur, Kyagar, Tirith, Panamik and others.

River Shyok flows through the Nubra valley. Another important tourist spot is Samstanling monastery that lies between Kyagar and Sumur villages. This valley too is one of the best places to visit during your Leh Ladakh bike trip; as it is known for its scenic beauty, Bactrian camels and silent monasteries that have great architecture. You will have to cross the famous Khardung la pass to reach it.
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05

Lamayuru Monastery

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Lamayuru Monastery
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Another must visit tourist destination during winters is the Lamayuru or Yuru monastery. In Tibetan, it means the ‘Eternal’ monastery and is located in Leh region. The monastery is located on Srinagar-Leh Highway at an altitude of 3,510 meters. It is an intriguing place and is considered as one of the largest and oldest monasteries of Ladakh.

There are many stories and legends related to it. The best-known story cum legend is that a monk travelled to this place and decided to build a monastery here after experiencing the presence of some divine power, about a 1000 years ago.

Local people who stayed in the last village before this place joined him to build it. Moved by his efforts, the king of this region decided to finance the monastery. Originally, there were 5 buildings but only 1 survives now. The monastery is located on a barren rocky mountain with white snow-covered Himalayas on its left.
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06

Khardung La Pass

Khardung La Pass
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Khardung La is a mountain pass that lies in Ladakh region of J&K, India. It lies towards the north of Leh, and is considered as a gateway to Shyok and Nubra valleys. It was built in 1976 and was opened for public and for motor vehicles in 1988. Since then it has been visited by many adventure lovers through car and bike expeditions that usually happen in groups especially Manali Leh bike trip.

The pass is maintained by Border Roads Organization (BRO), as it is of strategic importance for India. One must carry sufficient amount of packed food and water as there aren’t any hotels or guesthouses near Khardung La pass. It becomes more important due to the traffic jam on the road.

Khardung La Pass is at a height of 5,359 meters. If you have time then you can go further north of the pass and find some Bactrian camels at a place called Hunder, if you are lucky.


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07

Tso Moriri Lake

Tso Moriri Lake

Tso Moriri or the mountain lake in Tibetan language is located Changthang plateau of Ladakh in J&K, India. The lake and its surrounding areas are protected as they are part of the Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation reserve. The lake is set at an altitude of 4,522 meters and is one of the highest lakes in Ladakh as well as in India. 

It is about 26 km in length and between 3 and 5 km in breadth. Its water is alkaline by nature, and thus inedible. The lake is fed by springs and snow-fed mountains located nearby. One stream enters the lake from the north while the other enters from the south-west.

One can visit the lake during summers if you want to see the 34 bird species that live on and around it; of which 14 are water birds. You can also catch glimpses of Tibetan geese, Lynx, Himalayan blue sheep, Tibetan ass, Tibetan sand fox and Tibetan wolf during your Manali Leh Srinagar bike expedition.


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08

Thiksey Monastery

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Thiksey Monastery
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The Thiksey Monastery or Thiksey Gompa is another one of the best places to visit in Leh. It is affiliated to and run by the ‘Gelug sect’ of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located on top of one of the hills in Thiksey village, and is about 19 km east of Leh. It comes under Ladakh region in India.

This monastery too is similar to the Potala style of building of Tibet. It has a separate set of buildings for women monks and as well as tourists. It is a fort style of Tibetan monastery which was built in the 15th century or in 1433 by Sherab Zangpo, 1 of the 6 disciples of the Gelug School or the ‘Yellow Hats’. 

The monastery is built on a sacred hill located about 7 km north from Stagmo village. It is famous for its ‘mask dance’ or ‘Cham dance’ that happens from October to November every year.
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Things to do in Ladakh in winter

09

The Chadar Trek

The Chadar Trek
Chadar trek is a winter trail by foot, which appears in Zanskar region of Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. During this trail, you will get to see mountain cliffs of up to a height of 600 meters. You will also see Zanskar river, which is a tributary of Indus river which is only 5 meters wide in certain places.

The total distance of this trek is about 105 km. If you are an average trekker then you won’t be able to cover more than 15 km/per day. The best time to go on the trail of Chadar trek is from January to February, when the temperature drops to -30? at night.

You must also go for the Chadar trek as it is widely popular among both- national and international adventure tourists. The trail will provide you magnificent views of mountains and surrounding areas, along with glimpses of local birds and wild animals.
10

Snow Leopard Trek

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Snow Leopard Trek
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Snow Leopard Trek is one of the famous winter treks in Ladakh region. It has most inhospitable weather and so only regular trekkers and mountaineers can go for it. The trek goes through Hemis National Park, which stretches out at a height of 4100 meters and covers the whole Rumbak valley.

The park is home to many wild birds and animals that appear in the Himalayan region. During the trail, you will witness rugged mountains, snow-covered peaks, trees and frozen water bodies. During the trek, you will see many animals such as snow leopard, blue sheep, horned sheep, Eurasian brown bear.

You will also find several bird species such as golden eagle, vultures, migratory birds and water birds as well. You will also get first-hand experience of cold desert, dry lands, rocky plateaus and local folklore of Rumbak valley. Fresh air and freezing winds will welcome you on the trek.
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11

Play Ice Hockey

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Play Ice Hockey
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Ice hockey is a game first introduced to the world in Northern Europe around 1990 and was developed from field hockey. In the beginning, it was adopted only by countries that have a very cold climate, but with its rapidly growing popularity, it spread out to other countries too. In India, ice hockey was introduced about a 100 years back in Shimla.

Ladakh too adopted the sport somewhere around the 1990s, at a time when it was spreading to other parts of the world. Many clubs were opened that taught and played ice hockey in Ladakh but Ladakh Ice Hockey Club is the first and only registered club that was established in 1995. 

Ladakh has the advantage of snowfall and ice availability to form the ice-rink naturally. Since its equipments are very costly, not many can play it. Currently, the game is played in Karzoo, Leh. It attracts many tourists during winters.

Don't forget to check out the Delhi to Leh guide before you start planning your next trip.


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12

Ladakhi Losar Festival

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Ladakhi Losar Festival

Losar is one of the most important festivals of Tibetan Buddhists in Ladakh, as it marks the beginning of the New Year. It is celebrated with great zeal and grandeur. Its history dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era of Tibet. In ancient times, a spiritual ceremony was held every year in winters. Later, keeping its significance in mind, it was developed into a full-fledged festival. 

Homes, streets and surroundings are decorated with lights, artefacts and decoration items to bring prosperity and good luck. The houses and offices are cleaned from inside and outside, along with roads and surroundings; and all old and unused items are kept out of the vicinity. This is done to ward of any kind of evil.

The Ladakhi Losar Festival begins with the monks of Namgyal monastery by giving religious offerings to goddess Palden Lhamo to bring peace and prosperity to all Buddhists and their kin. Adventurers during their Manali Leh expedition often come and be a part of this festival.


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13

Spituk Gustor Festival

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Spituk Gustor Festival
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Spituk Gustor Festival is a two day annual festival that is celebrated in Spituk monastery every year, in the 11th month of Tibetan calendar. It is celebrated as the symbol of victory over evil. Monks and local people start offering prayers 7 days before the two day event. The mask dance is the highlight of this festival. These masks represent certain fiery, kind and pleasant spirits. 

These masks are painted using natural colours and are polished with gold and silver to give a finishing touch. The dresses of masked dancers are made of silk and brocade; who dance to the tunes of long horns, conch shells, bells and other instruments.

According to Indian calendar, it takes place on 7th and 8th January every year and is attended by a considerable number of tourists as it falls in winters. The festival ends with the burning of an effigy of evil. Some dances are also performed in pairs while others are performed in groups.
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14

Experience Wildlife

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Experience Wildlife
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No doubt, Ladakh is considered as one of the unique wildlife destinations across the world. It is home to many exotic breeds of animals and birds, who keep roaming freely in their natural habitats. They are not disturbed by humans and efforts are made to keep them safe from poachers. 

One can experience and see a variety of flora and fauna in Ladakh on rocky mountains, on dry cold deserts, plateaus, swampy grasslands, with snow-covered mountains in the background. You can find yaks, ibex, Tibetan hare, blue sheep, wild ass, bharal, Tibetan antelope, red fox, Tibetan wolf, mountain weasel and many others. 

You will also find a variety of birds such as Lamagier, wall creeper, Himalayan snow cock, black necked crane, rock bunting, fork tailed swift, Brown Accenture, Robin Accenture, Tibetan snow finch, etc. You can capture all this natural beauty with a camera and keep them to share with the world and as memories of your Manali Leh jeep safari expedition.


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11 July 2019
Excellent
We went for Manali to srinagar Bike tour. It was the best bike trip of my entire life It all started with the person named Shubham from thrillophilia who helped me in selecting the best trip and processed with my booking, all thanks to him! Without him I wouldn’t have been able to experience the best trip of my life. On arrival there, we met our tour guide Tani and our Mechanic Shashi about whom I have read a lot at thrillophilia reviews. These 2 guys were so supportive during the entire tour that no matter what happened they were always there to look after us. They always made sure we are safe and we are following them and there is no overtaking taking place. Tani, the tour guide, one chilled out person he is! Make sure you get him as your tour guide and Shashi as the mechanic as these guys will always make sure that they are there for you no matter what. And in the end, it’s all the Main man behind everything, Jimmy Sir. Thanks a lot Sir for making me experience the best trip of my life! Without you and your team this wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks for helping us out in every way possible. The roads here are difficult terrain to ride on. You gotta be careful. You gotta carry your gum boots during water logging which is the most difficult to cross. But these guys made sure that we were all safe and had sound health till we reached home. Not even a single person was hurt. Our group was a mixture of all age groups, I’m fact we even got to meet 2 people From the Indian navy as well. One mad kickass experience! Unbelievable. Reaching the worlds highest Pass, Khardungla Top, was the highest achievement of my life till date which happened on this trip! And if at all you wish to go, don’t forget to ask Tani and Shashi as your tour guide and mechanic, and go only through Jimmy Sir as he has the best team! Thanks a lot to everyone out there for which I thought the best way would be to write at thrillophilia reviews.
12 July 2018
Excellent
From Recent Expedition -: Srinagar > Leh > Manali !! The feeling was awesome and words are not enough to express my experience of the expedition, but ever since I talked about it, it makes me feel that I’m still travelling, I’m still there. I had been a frequent traveller, but the emotions associated with this tour were different. We enjoyed, we had fun, we went emotional, we met some new friends, we felt proud, we captured every possible feelings and emotions we can during the entire journey.
12 July 2018
Excellent
From Recent Expedition -: Srinagar > Leh > Manali !! The feeling was awesome and words are not enough to express my experience of the expedition, but ever since I talked about it, it makes me feel that I’m still travelling, I’m still there. I had been a frequent traveller, but the emotions associated with this tour were different. We enjoyed, we had fun, we went emotional, we met some new friends, we felt proud, we captured every possible feelings and emotions we can during the entire journey. We passed through all the ranges of the Great Himalayas, starting from the Shivalik, Karakoram & Pir Panjal. The memories of “late night road journey from Jammu to Srinagar risking our life while crossing South Kashmir (Known for Terrorist activities), early morning (4 am) shopping at Awantipora, Dal Lake, Shankracharya Temple, Srinagar Market, Lunch @Lal Chowk, Eid Celebrations, Shalimar Garden, Noon & Kahwa Tea, Sonmarg, War Zone (Kargil, Drass &Batalik), Oldest Gompa Lamayuru, Rafting at World’s highest point (Zanskar river), Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Leh Palace, gruelling terrain & passes(Zoji La (3528 Mtrs), Namki La (3815 Mtrs), Fotu La (4108 Mtrs),World’s highest Motorable road – Khardungla (5359 Mtrs), Nakee La (4739 Mtrs), Tanglang La ( 5328 Mtrs), Bara-lacha (4890 Mtrs) & Chang La (5360 Mtrs)), Crazy bath in Pangong Tso lake (-4 °C), cute Marmot, Yak, Deer & Pashmina Goats at Changthang Wildlife sanctuary, snow-capped Karakoram Ranges, Sand dunes at Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery, the Gata loops (22 hairpin bends) at 4190 Mtrs elevation on Pang – Sarchu road, Suraj Taal, Whiskey & Brandy Nallah, Picturesque Jispa, Hiking at 4350 Mtrs Himalayan ranges and driving alongside the rivers across the two states” are never gonna fade away !! Thanks to Thrillophilia for making this trip awesome & memorable one.
24 June 2018
Excellent
Your Destination would be a dream until you come out and step ahead to it and experience. Leh-Manali Bike ride is one such vibe which will resonate for many years to come. Here the journey was more scintillating then achieving those milestones and Thrillophilia ensured we had great time by organising it perfectly to last mile would like to thank Tarun and Chitransh. Tani and Amit who were our Tour Leaders were just amazing with their hospitality to the care taken through out the ride. Ride at Khardungla Pass, Gata Loops, Zing Zing Bar, Barlachala were just amazing.
Excellent
Such an amazing bike ride, challenging but with thrill till the end. Make sure that you are prepared to prevent the cold, the rough wind, the altitude sickness etc because even the symptoms of sickness will affect your trip. Khardung La Pass is quite a challenging one, also there are different shorter and longer passes throughout the journey. The service was also nice, not many complaints. The guides will know the place better because they are doing it for long. But still keep the track of the route before you start the trip. The guide was nice to us, keeping everything coordinated. The accommodation and food were also flawless to me.
We booked this Leh Ladakh complete tour from Delhi with the flights. And the whole trip was beautifully managed and it was a mesmerizing place being the Stupas, or rivers, hills or the passes. They were all enchanting and beautiful.
The Thrillophilia team has surpassed all of my expectations! I was initially apprehensive about the Parang La trek because of the altitude and the difficulty, but Thrillophilia made sure I had no issue at all! Everything was taken care of, and the guide was just brilliant. For any further treks, Thrillophilia is my go-to website and the one I’ll always recommend!
A great way to rent a bike and be secure about the condition and price for it. The bike of choice is also available and it is easy to book as well.
Excellent
The Thrillophilia sales and support teams are absolutely brilliant. When I heard the Parangla trek pitch for the first time from them, I was not sure if the trek would pan out in the exact same way, but surprisingly, it did. The sales team was very articulate with the trek prerequisites, and outlines and the operator had answers to all the questions I asked!
17 November 2019
Excellent
Leh Ladakh's location had everything that you dreamed about. It had ice (lots and lots of ice), even when I was sleeping battling the cold at night I was could see those ice sheet right in front of my eyes. but the most exciting part was that we were never complaining even under these extreme conditions. the food offered was very tasty. everything was perfectly planned by the thrillophilia team. Awesome experience !!

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