Ever-changing landscape will entice you,
snow-capped mountains will amaze you,
frozen rivers will accompany you on your road trips,
the slow paced life of locals will fascinate you,
breathtaking vista will make your jaw drop
and endless stretch of roads with no one around for miles will invite you for detours.
Yup, that’s the magic of WINTER in Ladakh.
Ladakh has fascinated travelers and bikers for years. A photographers paradise — sprinkled with magic. Don’t believe us yet? Keep reading.
Unlike summer, winter in Ladakh is the time when the crowds have thinned out and you have the entire place to yourself. It’s hard to articulate Ladakh’s remote and otherworldly beauty in words.
We are just back from our trip to Ladakh and we are still drooling over the endless photos that we have clicked. No doubt Ladakh can make any Tom, Dick and Harry a professional photographer (pun-intended). :D.
We did this trip with The Grand Dragon Ladakh, one of the best luxury hotels in Ladakh, centrally heated and well – equipped that kept us warm and toasty on our trip.
In this post, we’ve shared our tips for visiting Ladakh in winter.
– Take It Slow –
Winter will give you an opportunity to see a different side of Ladakh, blanketed with snow. Altitude sickness in a stunning location like this would be the last thing on your mind. So, on the very first day of your trip, try to acclimatize. It is advisable to give 48 hours to your body for acclimatizing. Having garlic soup and staying in your cozy rooms can do the wonders and will help you to acclimatize faster.
On the very first day after few hours of landing get yourself checked by a physician to make sure your oxygen level is not below the threshold. Take it easy and avoid climbing stairs or undertake any physical activity which can be stressful. If the threshold level drops then it is advisable to take Diamox to get rid of the altitude sickness ( of course it has to be prescribed by a physician).
Thumb Rule: “Try not to push yourself to cover as much as possible. Chill and soak in the beauty of the place.”
– Best Places to Visit –
Ponganong Tso Lake
Khardung La pass
( Read a detailed post : Places to visit in Ladakh )
Our Leh Ladakh Winter Itinerary
As we mentioned earlier, our first day was all about relaxation, so the actual sightseeing started from Day 2.
Acclimatization is important.
We attended the famous Spituk Gustor festival which is held every year during the month of January. The festival is marked to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Thousands of locals throng to the Spituk monastery for the festival.
The festival started somewhere around 10-ish and continued until the afternoon. The monks danced wearing masks and dresses of different colors. They danced in the formation of four, signifying the four disciples of Lord Buddha.
And then we headed to the hotel for lunch, after having hearty lunch we all headed to Shanti Stupa for the sunset. The view from Shanti Stupa was mesmerizing.
But, unfortunately, it was little cloudy on that day and we could not see the sunset but we had the entire Shanti Stupa to ourselves. Tashi mentioned that during summer you literally have to struggle to get a single picture without anyone else in the frame.
Started quite early and we drove all the way to Chilling passing by Nimmo which is a confluence of the river Indus and the Zanskar river. The frozen Zanskar was our companion throughout our journey to Chilling. But we were not able to reach chilling as BRO had other plans on that day. There was a blast just 11 km away from Chilling for road construction and the roads were blocked.
But the road trip with frozen waterfalls and frozen rivers meandering through the barren mountains was enough to entice us.
We headed towards our next stop Lamayuru monastery passing by the half moon land. It is said that Naropa (an Indian scholar) caused a lake, which used to fill the valley, to dry up and founded the Lamayuru Monastery. We got to see some stunning views from the monastery and then headed towards Alchi where we had our lunch at a Ladakhi house.
Alchi is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery is famous for its wall paintings and woodwork that have survived through the millennia. There are four buildings (the buildings are made of clay and wood and have still survived the test of time) in the monastery and each building has a unique theme.
It started with a visit to the Thiksay monastery for morning prayers which was energizing and peaceful. What a start to the day!!! Prayers were followed by breakfast at a Ladakhi home with the traditional setup.
Next on our list was a visit to the home of the local Oracle which was a different kind of an experience. Oracles are said to be spiritual healers and locals have firm belief in them. Spirits that possess oracles during trance states are usually said to be from the pantheon of Buddhist deities. After seeking blessings from her, we left for the hotel.
– Experience you should not miss –
Gustor Festival at Spituk Monastery
Head to Spituk monastery to attend Spituk Gustor festival – the famous mask dance performed by the monks. The dance is performed in a pair or in a group. The dance is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
Devour on Ladakhi Cuisine in Ladakhi Style
Don’t forget to devour on delicious Ladakhi food in a traditional Ladakhi home.
Find yourself a Reading Corner
There are so many gorgeous spots at every corner, that it is easy to get lost in the beauty of the place.
Picnic on the banks of a frozen river
Hot Kahwa and cookies served on the banks of the frozen Zanskar river.
Mesmerizing Pit Stops at every corner
Every corner of Ladakh is worth an Instagram picture. The beauty is unmatched, unparalleled and untouched and every corner is insanely spectacular.
Happy Smiles and Conversations:
Winter is a time when locals have loads of time for chit-chatting. Strike a conversation with the people of Ladakh. The locals are shy in nature and very down to earth. And the kids are so adorable that you would want to pull their cheeks.
– What to Eat / Drink –
- Don’t forget to try out the Ladakhi bread straight out of their traditional Ladakhi kitchen and served hot with butter, Apricot jam or pickle.
- Gur Gur Chai (Buttered Tea) to keep you warm
- Vegetarians won’t go hungry either, with the likes of tasty regional dishes like Thukpa and Momos.
- Chang ( or Rice Wine ) is a local drink.
– Where to Stay –
Ladakh offers a variety of accommodation for everyone from backpackers and budget travelers to luxury travelers. There is no shortage of options, whatever your budget is.
If you’ve come to the top end to relax, then the best place to do so is The Grand Dragon Ladakh with centralized heated rooms, 24/7 hot water supply, sauna, a gym, and gorgeous mountain facing rooms. They also offer amazing winter packages to choose from which can be customized based on your requirements. Check out winter packages HERE.
If you’re on a budget, there are a range of homestays and hotels in and around Leh.
Word of caution – “Try booking your accommodation in advance”, as most of the home stays and hotels are closed during winter.
-Where to Shop –
During winters, most of the shops are closed. But, don’t get disappointed, Tibetan Market at Leh Bazaar is open. So, head to the market and grab some souvenirs back home. Scarves, antique silverware, jewelry and Pashmina shawls are sold in the market among many other things.
You can even pick up locally produced jams made from Apricot, Walnut, Apple or dry fruits.
– Dress To Survive –
Winter in Ladakh is a perfect concoction of hot and cold. Dressing up right to brave the cold is the smartest way to enjoy the Ladakh winter. In Ladakh, the temperature can fall up to minus 25-degree Celsius and in some places to -30 degrees Celsius. Even during the days, you might experience a sub-zero temperature. So, bundle yourself in layers and enjoy the weather and the beauty of Ladakh.
( Read: Packing for Ladakh in Winter )
How To Reach There
Flights are the only option during winter as the highways are shut. Go Air and Air India operate regular flights from Delhi to Leh offering cheap airfare during winter.
Few Things To Remember:
- Keep yourself warm and toasty. Layering is the key to stay warm.
- Weather is unpredictable so trust the locals if they say that some places are not advisable to visit during winter due to heavy snowfall or if roads are closed by the army. They know it better.
- Most of the shops, hotels, and restaurants are shut during winter. Few are operational and run by families. So, plan well in advance.
- Stay hydrated. Keep drinking loads of hot water, Kahwa or buttered tea at regular intervals.
- Keep dark chocolates and dry fruits handy while on road trips.
- Don’t go with a mindset of covering all the places of Ladakh in winter.
- Be prepared to go out in the open for loo while on road trips.
- Health is first and you don’t have to push yourself hard if you are not feeling well.
- Slather yourselves with both moisturizers and sunscreen lotions, as it is the only place where tanning and frostbite can happen together.
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This winter, tear off your fixed itinerary, enjoy, relax and soak in the beauty of Ladakh.
If you do find our article useful in planning your trip, don’t forget to send a note/picture of your trip to us. ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Many thanks to Hotel The Grand Dragon Ladakh for making this amazing trip possible.
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