Ladakh or the land of the high passes, has only been properly accessible by tourists within the past decade. Once known as ‘Little Tibet’, Ladakh is located in the rain shadow region of the Himalayas, making it one of the best monsoon getaway destinations. With sweeping views of expansive landscape, devoid of trees, the deep gorges and vistas, Ladakhi geology is fascinating. The uniquely jagged mountains, clear blue lakes and the gushing river through it, makes Ladakh a must addition to your bucket list.
Planning a visit to Ladakh? Here are the top 20 places to visit in Ladakh.
List of the 20 Best Places to Visit in Ladakh
1. Pangong Tso
Covering a massive area of about 700 sq. km. Pangong Tso is the largest natural lake in Ladakh. Located at an astounding elevation of just about 4,500 metres above sea level the lake spans from eastern Ladakh to Western Tibet. This high-altitude lake is also very well protected as the LAC or the line of actual control passes through it. Despite all that, the lake attracts a major chunk of the tourists to Ladakh who come here to gaze out at the stunning clear blue lake which is blessed on all sides by jagged mountains displaying a variety of shades of brown. Did you know that Pangong Tso freezes over completely during the peak winter season? It is definitely worth a visit!
2. Tso Moriri
The term Tso in Ladakhi local language means lake while Moriri refers to the mountains which joins together to form the complete name – mountain lake. Not only is this lake a stunning sight to behold but it also holds immense sacred and spiritual value for the local Ladakhis. Placed on an elevation of 4,522 metres above sea level, Tso Moriri also occupies the spot for being one of the largest high-altitude lakes in Ladakh and is fed by the glacial melt. The shores of Tso Moriri is decorated with wetlands and some meadows that adds a sense of wonderment to the place. The accessibility to the lake is limited for only the summer season when the region opens up after the snowy season.
3. Shanti Stupa
A visit to Ladakh is incomplete without a visit to the iconic, stunning white-domed chorten of shanti Stupa. It was built as a part of the 20th-century peace pagoda mission by a Japanese Buddhist, Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura. The relics which can be seen at the base of the Stupa were established by the 14th Dalai Lama. Surrounded on all sides by towering, treeless, browning hills, the Stupa not only holds spiritual relevance but also offers mind-bogglingly panoramic views of the surroundings. The Stupa was built as a sign to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and it has currently turned into one of the must visit tourist attractions in Leh district of Ladakh.
4. Leh Palace
Also referred to as the Lachen Palkhar, the foundation for the Leh Palace was set in place during the 1500s and was only completed during the 17th century. The palace was built by the Namgyal Dynasty king of Ladakh, Sengge Namgyal, the palace is well preserved and stays true to its original glory. Complete with tall walls and wooden balconies, it offers spectacular views of the surroundings to as far as the eyes can see. The palace is the perfect example of the mediaeval style of Tibetan architecture, where the upper part of the structure was used as residential quarters for the royals while the lower part was used as storage and other such purposes.
5. Magnetic Hills
The magnetic hills of Ladakh are nothing but a long stretch of road with plain barren lands on either side, overlooked by the towering jagged peaks. Just 30 kms away from the district of Leh, Magnetic hills lie along the Leh – Kargil – Srinagar highway in the trans-Himalayan region. The supposedly ‘gravity-defying’ phenomenon observed here sets it apart from the rest of the tourist attractions in Ladakh. If you park the car at an indicated spot on the hills, it will automatically roll up the hill instead of going down on its own. This is the result of an optical illusion people experience in the hills as it may appear that the car is going uphill but in fact it is going downhill but it is impossible to wrap your mind around it.
Home of the Chadar Lake trek and massive glaciers, Zanskar offers a glimpse into life and adventures beyond Ladakh. Dotted with camping sites, high-altitude Perma Forest Mountains, and breathtaking views on all sides, Zanskar forms the boundary between Ladakh and the Zanskar mountain ranges. Located in the district of Kargil and 463 kms away from Leh, Zanskar valley can be easily dubbed as one of the remotes parts of the entire Indian subcontinent. With the first traces of habitation in Zanskar dating back to the bronze ages, it has turned into an adventure destination for many and a peace-seeking journey for the others.
7. Khardung La
Situated on an elevation of 17,582 feet above sea level, Khardung La is one of the highest motorable passes in the world. The pass occupies the Ladakh ranges in the northern region of Leh and helps connect the Indus river valley to the Shyok River Valley. The pass is built on a strategic location by the Indian army for the smooth movement of army vehicles up to Siachen Glacier. People can easily rent a bike or take their personal 2 wheeler for a ride of their life. Located 40 kms away from Leh, Khardung La has also been referred to as the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valleys.
8. Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley is one of the most historically rich parts of Ladakh. Also referred to as Dumra, Nubra is a tri-armed valley which is cut by the two life-giving rivers of Shyok and Nubra. Nubra valley is very well protected and a sensitive area. The valley in itself is a deep cut gorge formed by the confluence of the two of the most important rivers of Ladakh. Located just 160 kms away from Leh, Nubra valley is an extension of the Tibetan plateau. Home of the fascinating high-altitude sand dunes, one can even experience a double-humped back camel ride to get the full tourist experience. Without a doubt, Nubra valley is considered as one of the prettiest parts of Ladakh.
9. Namgyal Tsemo Gompa
Ladakh is home to some of the most magnificent monasteries in India. Founded by the Tashi king during the 15th century, the Gompa is primarily known for its 3 story high, solid gold sculpture of Maitreya Buddha. Located on top of a hillock just behind the Leh palace, the monastery was built to mark the king’s love and respect towards Buddha and his teachings. The Gompa has sprawling displays of traditional Buddhist frescoes, colourful and delicately designed murals, intricate paintings and a sense of peace and calm that is omnipresent. One can check out some of the most incredible sights of Ladakh from this monastery. From the impressive architectural style to the peaceful vibes, everything about this place is nothing but magnificent.
10. Thiksey Monastery
Situated 19 kms away from Leh, Thikse Gompa graces the top of a hillock from where you can see the local settlements unfurling underneath. Located on an altitude of 3,600 metres above sea level, the monastery is a sprawling 12 story complex housing some of the most ancient and prized Buddhist possessions. From Thangkas and statues to wall paintings and swords, Thiksey is not just a monastery, it is a learning experience. The main focus of the monastery is the Maitreya Temple which is installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama during the 1970s. The monastery occupies a commanding position where it can be seen from miles away.
11. Hall of Fame Museum
Ladakh has always been actively involved with various tussles across the border and continues to be a place of constant vigilance. Located at an approximate distance of 4 kms from the main city of Leh on the Leh – Kargil road, the hall of fame museum is dedicated to the brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting during the India-Pakistan war. The museum offers a deep dive into the various things the Indian army had seized from their opponents, it also contains pictures and biographies of the lost souls. One can even learn more about the history, culture and even the vegetation in Ladakh. The museum will be an eye-opening experience and you will leave with a new found respect for our brave soldiers.
12. Hemis Monastery
Belonging to the Drukpa lineage, the Hemis Gompa is a Himalayan Buddhist Monastery which is situated 45 kms away from Leh right on the Leh-Manali highway. The inscriptions and archaeological evidence show that the monastery was built even before the 11th century. Gracing the western banks of Indus River, Hemis is also one of the largest and the most richly adorned monasteries in Ladakh. The main building of the monastery cluster, has white walls and is decorated on all the four sides with colourful prayer flags that keep fluttering in the wind. It is not only a place of worship and meditation, the monastery also houses a complete Buddhist library and other related Tibetan books. Every 12 years during the Hemis festival, one of the largest Thangakas is brought out for public viewing.
The city of Kargil serves as a joint capital for the union territory of Ladakh and India-administered Kashmir. After Leh, Kargil serves as the largest city of Ladakh and is the centre point for the river Suru. According to the local dialect the term ‘Kargil’ means the place between and at the centre of many forts, and a central place where people could stay. Kargil serves as a major transit hub with the roads leading ahead to Leh, Srinagar and Padum in Zanskar. One can come here to experience the scenic beauty of the Himalayas while also gaining some more knowledge about our rich history.
If you are on a lookout for a peaceful getaway from the chaos of the tourists in Ladakh then make your way to Alchi village. Alchi is an offbeat destination in Ladakh which is located 65 kms away from the main city of Leh and sits on an elevation of over 10,000 feet above sea level. During ancient times, Alchi village used to fall on one of the busiest trading routes. It was however disrupted and plundered innumerable times by Muslim invaders. But no matter how many times these plunderings took place, Alchi managed to stand tall and escape the massacre. Remnants of the past can be seen through traditional paintings that are thousands of years old and are displayed in the Alchi Monastery.
15. Diskit Monastery
Diskit Gompa is famous for being one of the largest and oldest monasteries in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism and was founded during the 14th century. The statue at this monastery is that of Cho Rinpoche or the crowned Buddha which can be seen displayed at a prayer hall along with a massive drum, and several other elaborate images of related deities. The stunning 32 feet tall statue looking gracefully and offering his blessings to the river flowing nearby is a spectacle to behold. Did you know that the construction of this iconic piece of art was done using the donations offered by the locals. The best time to visit Diskit is during the festivals of Dosmoche that take place in February and are attended by the locals of the nearby villages.
16. Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary
Spread out over a massive area of 1600 sq. km. The Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary is a high-altitude sanctuary known for its rich biodiversity. Occupying the Ladakhi Changthang plateau it is home to the famous Tso Moriri and also one of the highest villages in the world, Korzok. The region also houses the elusive snow leopard, wild ass and dark-necked crane along with numerous others. Make sure to travel to Chang Thang wildlife sanctuary for sweeping views of the surroundings accompanied with viewing the wildlife habitat in their natural environment.
17. Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary
Named after the Hemis Monastery, the Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1981. This high-altitude National Park Hemis is mainly known for being the most densely populated home of snow leopard anywhere in the world. Occupying an area of over 4,400 sq. km. Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest notified protected area in India along with being the 2nd largest contiguous protected area, just after the Nanda Devi biosphere reserve. Bounded by the Indus River in the north and parts of the Zanskar range, Hemis is a thriving habitat for a massive range of flora and fauna. Situated just 40 kms away from Leh on an elevation ranging from 3,300 metres to 6,000 metres above sea level.
If you are looking for a way to dive deeper into the history and the rich past of Ladakh, then a visit to Turtuk is a must. Explore this humble little village by the river, Turtuk occupies a major place in Nubra Valley. This village was occupied by Pakistan until 1971 when the Indian army was successful in getting the village back. Known for being one of the gateways to the Siachen Glacier, the village is known for its fruit production, especially apricots. Turtuk is the only region in India which is home to the native Balti people, who are an ethnic group of Tibetan descent who are native to the Pakistan-administered Gilgit-Baltistan region. It is definitely worth a visit and it allows us to learn that India is home to so many tribes and communities.
19. Taglang La
Situated at a whopping elevation of 17,480 feet above sea level, Taglang La is a high-altitude mountain pass that can be reached via the Leh-Manali highway. This beautiful pass offers uninhabited views of the stunning Rocky Mountains that remain snowcapped throughout the year. The nearest settlements to Taglang La are Sarchu and Upshi. The locals residing in these parts are the nomadic Changpa herders and cattle rearers. This is the 2nd highest mountain pass and the 12th highest motorable road in the world. Adorned all over by colourful holy prayer flags, the pass offers some of the most breathtaking views you may ever see in your life.
20. Phugtal Monastery
Located in the remote Lungnak Valley Phugtal Gompa is a Buddhist Monastery and is famous for being one of the only monasteries in Ladakh that can still be reached only on foot. Reaching the Gompa is a one day walk from village cha or village Khangsar, at the end of the road leading from Padum. The legacy of the monastery can be traced back to the renowned scholars and teachers who resided in the cave around which the monastery later on further developed. It has always been the centre for learning, teaching, retreat and meditation. The monastery’s history can also be traced back to over 2,500 years ago.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. When Is The Best Time To Visit Ladakh?
Ans. The best time to visit Ladakh is from April to July.
Q. What Are The Must Eat Foods In Ladakh?
Ans. Must eat foods in Ladakh are – Skyu, Thukpa, Momos, Chutagi, Tingmo, Butter Tea, Yak Cheese, Khambir, Chhang etc.
Q. What Is The Capital Of Ladakh?
Ans. Leh is the capital of Ladakh.
Q. How Much Does A 4 Days And 3 Nights Of Ladakh Tour Package Cost?
Ans. It can cost up to 25,000 rupees to 30,000 rupees.
Q. Can We Go To Ladakh By Car?
Ans. Yes. Ladakh can be easily visited by car. An SUV would be an ideal option.
Q. How Far Is Kashmir From Ladakh?
Ans. Kashmir is about 503 kms away from Ladakh.
Q. How Many Days Are Enough To Visit Ladakh?
Ans. A week to 10 days is enough for a Ladakh visit.
Q. Is Ladakh A Good Honeymoon Destination?
Ans. Yes. Ladakh is a great, unique and one-of-a-kind honeymoon destination in India.
Q. Which Is The Highest Monastery In Ladakh?
Ans. Hemis Gompa is the highest monastery in Ladakh.
Q. How Many Monasteries Are There In Ladakh?
Ans. There are over 100 monasteries in Ladakh.