India - Himalayas: Ladakh and Zanskar

Ladakh and Zanskar: Young monks enjoying


High up north in India, on the border with China and Pakistan, Ladakh is the place to be for (litteraly) breathtaking landscapes and authentic Buddhist culture. The 'Land of the High Passes' or 'Little Tibet' as the area is also called, is a very special part of India. Don't expect the chaos and crowds like elsewhere on the Indian subcontinent, but get impressed by the serene atmosphere and the ever smiling Ladakhi. 

Travellers often say that 'Ladakh is more Tibetan than Tibet'. And indeed the lunar landscapes of Ladakh fit nicely with the Tibetan motherland and ancient Buddhist traditions are kept alive in small whitewashed villages and amazing monasteries.

The valley of Zanskar, a subdivision of Ladakh, is even more authentic: almost 6 months a year this valley is cut off from the rest of the region due to ice and snow on the high passes.


What to do in Ladakh and Zanskar ?

Ladakh and Zanskar offer a perfect mix of nature, culture and people. It is a relatively small region and most interesting places can be reached easily by car, along sometimes rough roads.

Ladakh is located on 3500m (and higher). It is absolutely necessary to allow enough time for acclimatisation in your itinerary. Most western tourists spent at least 2 days in Leh to adapt to the altitude.

Cultural Tours in Ladakh and Zanskar

The Indus Valley houses some of the oldest and most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. Leh can be used as a basecamp to make visits to Hemis, Lamayuru, Matho, Thaktok and many more. The temples of Alchi with their interesting murals have been declared Unesco World Heritage. The Ladakhi culture has a lot in common with Tibetan culture, but in Ladakh everything is preserved much better and Buddhist traditions are kept alive openly. Every year there are several Buddhist festivals worth attending

Local culture can be found in the more remote villages, where people sometimes live the way their ancestors did.

Nature Tours in Ladakh and Zanskar

Apart from the Buddhist Culture, the barren nature is the main attraction of Ladakh and Zanskar. Imagine moonlike landscapes and rockformation, high mountainpasses with outstanding views, fertile green valleys with small farming villages  and huge deepblue mountainlakes against a backdrop of snowclad peaks. For landscape photographers Ladakh and Zanskar are a real paradise

Even by car, you can experience the natural marvels of Ladakh and Zanskar, but a lot of travellers prefer some dayhikes or  a multiday-trek. These treks are fully serviced by a local crew with tents, matrasses, stools and tables, cooks and packhorses for the luggage. Trekkings range from easygoing 3-4 family treks to tough adventure treks from 3 to 4 weeks. All depends on your fitness level.

Ladakh is one of the best places in the world to spot snowleopards. Especially at the end of winter, these mythical cats descend to the lower valleys to hunt.

Travel to Ladakh and Zanskar

Delhi is the international gateway for travel to Ladakh. From India's capital most travellers take a 2 hour flight to Leh (3500m). Ladakh can also be reached overland from Manali along the infamous Leh - Manali Highway or from Srinagar (Kashmir) by an even harder road. In winter time the roads are blocked by ice and snow and only flights are operating.

To get to Zanskar it takes at least 2-3 days of overland travelling from Leh, along winding mountain roads. In wintertime roads are sometimes completely blocked and then the frozen Zanskar river is the only connection to Zanskar.

Best time to travel to Ladakh and Zanskar

Ladakh and Zanskar are real summer destinations. They are less affected by the monsoon than the rest of India. In fact, there is almost no rainfall in this high altitude desert.

For cultural tours and jeeptours, the season runs from April - May till October. Trekkings in the higher areas are best between July and September. 

In winter it can get extremely cold in Ladakh (-20°C or less is not exceptional). Nevertheless, winter is good period for snowleopard tours and for attending some of the local festivals.



Ladakh and Zanskar with Asia Travel Design

For years, Ladakh and Zanskar are one of our favourite spots to spend summer in Asia. We're not alone: The Dalai Lama also comes to Ladakh in summer to meet his disciples and enjoy the fresh air. Ladakh has changed a lot in recent years: roadbuilding, migration of people from villages to town,... To keep our knowledge up to date we travel every summer to Ladakh to (re)explore areas and create new experiences. 

The young mountainguide who took us on our first trip in Ladakh in the midnineties, still is our main partner in Ladakh and Zanskar. Together with his team, he perfectly organises your private trip through the Moonland. 

We design Ladakh tours for single travellers, couples, families and small groups. All tours are carefully designed around your personal interests, desired hotelstandards and available time. 

Get inspired by some travel experiences in Ladakh and Zanskar