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Leh Ladakh in summer: A complete guide

Leh Ladakh in summer: A complete guide

By Aquib Nawab

04 Jul, 2024

Ladakh, also known as “Little Tibet,” is a cold desert at an average altitude of 9,800 feet. During the peak season from June to August, mountain passes become clear and expose the landscape of Leh that takes breath away. In summer months there are no clouds on the horizon, tall mountains and flags flying in the wind with pleasant temperatures around 25°C providing excellent conditions for outdoor activities.

You can see pure lakes that you can dive into without any doubts, white sand dunes where the camels walk, age-old temples and comfy guest houses. The book contains a full description of tourist places worth seeing in Leh-Ladakh during summer break together with various hotels and transports available here.

Overview of Ladakh, and Leh

Ladakh measures 97,000 sq. km and is located between the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges; it possesses photogenic landscapes of high peaks covered with snow, peaceful lakes and very long valleys surrounded by deserted places that are nevertheless magnificent. The splendor of Ladakh’s nature as well as its vibrant cultural heritage can hardly be overestimated, which is underpinned by the strong influence of Tibetan Buddhism. This impact is seen through ancient monasteries, stupas, and festivals such as those found at Thiksey, Hemis, Alchi, Lamayuru and Spituk that have become iconic sight found here.

Leh – Ladakh’s capital city; the largest town with a population of around 30 thousand people stands at 11480 feet above sea level on the banks of Indus River. Leh was an important junction along the Silk Route connecting India to China and Central Asia paving way for cultural assimilation and vigorous trade. Major landmarks include Shey Palace - an ancient structure in Leh that enriches its historical perspective.

Snow leopard's rocky kingdom, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

When is the best time to visit Ladakh?

Ladakh receives very little rainfall as it falls in a rain shadow area. The climate is characterised by severe winters and pleasant summers. Thus, the ideal time to visit Leh Ladakh is during the summer months from May until August, when mountain passes like Rohtang La, Zoji La, and Khardung La remain open.

During this period, the daytime temperatures range between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius. The cold desert of Ladakh comes alive in this lush green landscape with blooming flowers such as rhododendrons. With its clear blue sky, tourists can indeed enjoy sightseeing, trekking, or photography. June and July are high tourist seasons, but August is better for those who want to stay away from crowds.

Nomadic herders wandering, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

The best places to visit in Ladakh during the summer

Travelling to Ladakh this summer? Here are some of the most beautiful places to add in your itinerary:

1. Pangong Lake

Among other things, Pangong Lake, situated at 14,270 feet, is one of the star attractions of the Ladakh region. The beautiful blue lake spans across India to Tibet for about 134 km, of which two-thirds are under China’s control. With its clear water, barren brown mountains, and migratory birds, Pangong Tso looks so surreal that it has been depicted in many Bollywood movies. Some of the best places to see the lake are in Spangmik village and Lukung village. Overnight camping by the lakeside is magical.

2. Nubra Valley

Nubra Valley is located 150 km away from Leh, beyond the intimidating Khardung La pass. There are sandy dunes and harsh mountains on one hand and green oasis villages with poplar trees on the other side of the valley. Samstanling monastery and Diskit monastery, which are cut off from civilization, a camel safari in Hunder’s sand dunes, and a drive along the Shyok River are some of its highlights.

Nubra Valley

Nubra Valley | Ladakh

3. Tso Moriri Lake

Tso Moriri is among one of India’s highest lakes, standing at 15,075 feet above sea level. The clear blue water reflecting off of the surrounding mountains makes for a beautiful view. One can find a lot of accommodation available in tented camps run by locals, which provide an opportunity to experience their nomadic lifestyle. This place boasts bird-watchers’ paradise, where they can see migratory birds like bar-headed goose, great crested grebe, black-necked cranes, etc.

4. Magnetic Hill

At Magnetic Hill, objects or cars appear as if they were rolling uphill even without any acceleration from them when people driving these vehicles switch off their engines. It is situated on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar national highway and stands as an amazing example of visual illusion due to its landscape surrounded by hills.

5. Shanti Stupa

To promote peace worldwide, this is a brilliant white domed stupa built in 1991. In the early morning or late evening, when the hillside is lit up with vibrant colours, it looks best. There are steep steps to climb, but it’s worth it for a complete view of Leh town and the snow-capped peaks all around it.

6. Leh Palace

The 17th-century Leh Palace was made as a home for royalty and looked like the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. On top of Tsemo Hill, this massive structure that has fallen apart provides an insight into an ancient Ladakhi style of architecture and Ladakh history. Inside, there are beautiful frescoes and royal artefacts, including ceremonial costumes, on display. Such days provide a fabulous view of Stok Kangri Peak from the palace.

Leh Palace

Leh Palace | Leh

7. Monasteries

Ladakh contains many Buddhist monasteries that belong to various sects. 16th Hemis Monastery, Thiksey with its coloured murals and sculptures, Spituk perched precariously on top of a hillock, Alchi with paintings on walls dating back over 1000 years, and Lamayuru situated within a very serene environment are among those near Leh. Most places expect a small payment; they can be visited in the morning hours until noon.

8. White water rafting

The late spring season offers opportunities for whitewater rafting in Ladakh. Flowing through breathtaking Himalayas’ mountains within Zanskar Valley and the Indus River, freezing into rapids graded two and three is suited for beginners or family groups. Sangam (16 km), Nimoo (9 km), and Chilling (25 km) are also popular rafting stretches.

9. Mountain biking

During the summer season, it is one of the most popular adventure activities across Ladakh, especially through high-altitude passes. Manali-Leh Highway as well as Pangong Lake are great for long rides on mountain bikes. Enthusiasts can rent Royal Enfield motorcycles and ride them on difficult terrain, meandering roads, and picturesque landscapes.

10. Festivals

Summers in Ladakh are accompanied by colourful Ladakhi festivals, such as the Hemis Festival in June or July to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhav, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Saka Dawa in June, Korzok Gustor in July, and Sindhu Darshan, also held in June, are among others that portray local customs through music, dance, fashion, and crafts.

Festival crowds in colourful attire, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Local festivals you can witness in summer

A land of stark beauty and rich culture, Leh Ladakh comes alive in the summer with a series of vibrant festivals.

  • Yuru Kabgyat: Among the most captivating is the Yuru Kabgyat that lasts for two days and has dance dramas performed by monks from Japan, Tibet, China and Korea which is a representation of an amazing mix of cultures.
  • Hemis Tse Chu: Another major festival is Hemis Tse Chu which is celebrated to commemorate Guru Padmasambhava’s birthday. It involves two days of mask dances performed by lamas that tell tales of good over evil. The visual spectacle created by colorful masks and elaborate costumes adds flavor to it.
  • Stongde Gustor: In Zanskar region, Stongde Gustor Festival presents a unique opportunity to witness sacred cham dance performances by Buddhist monks. It combines spirituality with celebration thus; it is one event that should not be missed out on.
  • Phyang Tsedup: Phyang Tsedup celebrated as good triumphs over evil is marked with Thangka display and exhibition of Buddhist artifacts. This 2-day feast provides an opportunity to observe rich Buddhist lineage
  • Karsha Gustor: Concurrently taking place across multiple monasteries, this festival also showcases sacred dance performances and rituals thus manifesting an intense religious nature inherent in this region.
  • Korzok Gustor: Finally Korzok Gustor festival commemorates Tibetan defector King Lang-dar-mama who died through sacred dancing acts and rituals thereby complementing the enigma surrounding the summer festivities in Leh Ladakh.

Getting around in Ladakh

The most effective way to get around Leh is by hiring a taxi or private car. Taxis can be booked for sightseeing, day trips, or transfers at fixed amounts. Shared taxis are available from the Leh bus stand. The other option is motorcycles on hire, especially ‘Royal Enfield’ bikes, which are well-suited for the terrain. Inner-line permits may be required in some remote areas.

To reach Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, and Tso Moriri, which are 150–350 km away, one has only two options: shared taxis or private taxis. While in a shared taxi, the seat is fixed and booking can be done through agents, in a private taxi, the itinerary can be customised.

Buses run by HRTC as well as private companies connect Leh with major towns and villages like Diskit, Hemis, Spituk, Shey, and monasteries along the Manali-Leh highway. However, bus schedules may not be regular and dependable.

Thiksey Monastery, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Food in Ladakh

Being a remote location, vegetation is limited in Ladakh, where fresh supplies come from other parts of the country. Some local dishes as well as Tibetan cuisine worth trying include:

  • Thukpa: noodle soup with vegetables or meat
  • Momos: steamed dumplings filled with vegetables or meat
  • Tigmo: steamed bread served with stew or vegetables
  • Skyu: pasta cooked in curd-based gravy
  • Cha Kampo: chai with barley bread
  • Khambir: local bread served with butter tea.
  • Chang: local barley beer.

Every restaurant in Leh offers a variety of cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Continental, and Italian dishes, among others. Some popular eateries include Gesmo Restaurant, Tibetan Kitchen, La Piazzetta, Cafe Jeevan, Cafe Cloud, Penguin Garden Restaurant, etc.

Snow Capped peaks reflected in clear lakes, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Tips to avoid altitude sickness?

Leh is situated at an average elevation of 11,500 feet above sea level. This slowly rising road or air travel allows acclimatisation to the high altitude. However, some travellers may experience mild headaches, nausea, breathlessness, and a loss of appetite due to a lack of oxygen.

Here are some ways to prevent and relieve altitude sickness:

  • No exertion for the first 24-48 hours in Leh.
  • Stay hydrated, avoid alcohol or smoking for the initial few days.
  • Light meals with more vegetables and fruits.
  • Sleeping pills that depress breathing should be avoided.
  • Don’t overexert yourself; rest if symptoms persist.
  • Keep emergency medication handy.
  • Descend immediately when symptoms worsen. The earliest advice from local doctors should be sought.

Spirituality resonating in the thin air, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Wrapping up

Leh Ladakh in the summer promises a holiday unlike any other with its endless panoramas, thrilling activities, and warm locals. Follow this guide and make the most of your road trip or vacation in this pristine wonderland. The stunning landscapes and spiritual charm will leave you spellbound in Ladakh.

Respect nature, conserve water, keep the region clean, and minimise your impact on our fragile environment.

To have a comfortable journey; book at The Hosteller. We are yet to mark our presence in Ladakh, till then, you may reside at The Hosteller Old Manali (10hr 58min from Ladakh), The Hosteller Manali (11hrs from Ladakh), The Hosteller Kasol Parvati Valley (around 13hrs from Ladakh), or The Hosteller Bir (15hr 28min from Ladakh). Have a cosy stay with The Hosteller.

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