Ladakh is a high-altitude desert located between the Karakoram Mountain Range and the Himalayas. It is famed for the high passes, pristine water lakes, and the stark and dramatic landscape that contrasts splendidly to the deep blue skies. Ladakh is truly a shock to the senses, making it one of the best trekking destinations in India.
Aptly named the land of high passes, Ladakh has come to be known as the adventure hub of India for various sports like trekking, rafting, mountaineering, motorbiking, etc. The arid desert attracts adventurers, thrill-seekers and nature lovers from all over the world. Though it is most known for the various Himalayan treks that take you through some of the most unique trails of the Himalayas.
These Ladakh treks go over high passes, deep gorges, over frozen rivers and crawling glaciers, and to the summits of high reaching peaks - all the while offering the majestic views of the desolate landscape. While trekking, you are treated to the magnificent scenery of the Karakoram and Zanskar ranges along with Nubra Valley, and the mighty views of some of the tallest mountains in Indian Himalayas like K2, Saser Massif, Stok Kangri, etc.
But the views are not the only thing that makes trekking in Ladakh an experience of a lifetime, it's the experience of exploring the various villages of remote Ladakh too. These villages are home to rich Tibetan culture and delicious cuisine, along with historic monasteries and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet while travelling
Here are some of the top treks in Ladakh:
The Chadar trek is one of the most unique treks in the world and one of the best treks in India. This thrilling trek takes you over the Zanskar River when it forms a thick ice sheet on its surface due to harsh winters. The trek takes you to remote villages across frozen waterfalls that seem to be stuck in time and through deep gorges with walls reaching as high as 2000 feet on some stretches.
On the Chadar trek, you trek over the frozen ice sheet with the Zanskar River flowing underneath and brace against the subzero temperatures of Ladakh that can go as low as -30 degrees Celius. And if this is not enough, then you get to spend nights in dark caves and river-side tents under the cover of a million stars.
The Chadar Trek is one of you if you are looking for an endurance testing trek that offers you a really unique view of the Ladakhi landscape. Do note, though, this trek is not easy and should only be attempted by experienced trekkers who can withstand the sub-zero temperatures of Ladakh.
If your idea of trekking is summiting soaring mountain peaks of the Himalayas, then the Stok Kangri trek is for you. This trek takes you to the peak of the highest mountain of the Stok Mountain Range, at an altitude of 20,182 feet. The trek consists of a challenging trail full of steep slopes, scree, sharp rocky ridges and a lot of snow, making it one of the most challenging treks in India.
The summit climb of the Stok Kangri trek is most exciting as you begin your trek in the wee hours of the morning. As you approach the summit, you watch the sunrise over the Himalayan landscape and lighting up the breathtaking landscape of Ladak. Once you’re on top, you’re treated to the panoramic views of the Zanskar and Karakoram ranges along with Ladakh. You can also see the city of Leh sitting serenely amidst the desolate landscape, and in the distance, the Indus Valley.
The Markha Valley trek takes you through a gorgeous valley alongside the Markha River in the Hemis National Park. The trail goes through various quaint villages bustling with rich culture, and across streams, fruit orchards, farms and over the high altitude passes of Ganda La (15,748 feet) and Kongmaru La (17,060 feet). All the while, showcasing splendid views of the Karakoram Range, Saser Kangri, Stok Kangri and various other sky-piecing Himalayan peaks.
This is an endurance testing trek that requires you to walk for almost 7-8 hours every day along with conquering some steep ascents and two high altitude passes. Though not technical, this trek does require some prior experience of trekking in the Himalayas. This is an off-beat trek in Ladakh that showcases the beauty of Hemis National Park, rich culture of remote villages and the mighty Himalayan ranges.
This is one of the easy and short treks in Ladakh that can be done by beginners as well as families. It takes you through the gorgeous Sham Valley, also called the Apricot Valley due to the apricot orchids that dot the region. The trek takes you to quaint Ladakhi villages like Lamayuru, Spituk, Likir, etc. where you get to explore the Indo-Tibetan cultural heritage of the place and visit some of the finest monasteries.
A great alternative to Stok Kangri, this trek takes you to the summit of Kang Yatse II in Markha Valley in Hemis National Park. Once you are at the summit, you are treated to the mind-blowing views of the never-ending array of the Zanskar and Karakoram ranges along with the dramatic landscape of Ladakh. And if the weather is clear, you can even spot Stok Kangri and K2 in the distance
Though it takes you to an altitude of 21,313 feet, it is still one of the easier 6000-metre peaks to summit. But by no means is this an easy trek; the trail consists of steep ascents, moraines and loose rocks along razor-sharp ridges. This trek should only be attempted by experienced trekkers.
The Kang Yatse II trek is like a combination of two treks as it not only takes you to the summit of Kang Yatse but the initial part of the trail is the same as Markha Valley trek. Hence, it gives you the experience of two treks in one.
Since Ladakh is a high altitude mountain desert, while trekking in Ladakh, you are susceptible to AMS/altitude sickness. Hence, it is crucial that you take acclimatization seriously and take enough time to get used to the altitude.
TAll the packages are designed with altitude in mind, and these packages start from Leh. But it is recommended that you arrive in Leh a few days prior and spend at least two days at leisure without exerting your body too much to ensure proper acclimatization.
Additionally, if you are trekking and feel the onset of AMS, stop ascending immediately and rest for some time. If the symptoms don’t improve, you need to get to a lower altitude as soon as possible.
Ladakh is also one of the most popular motorbiking destinations in the world. Visit our page on motorbiking in Ladakh to explore!
Ladakh experiences harsh winters when the temperatures drop as low as -20 degree Celsius. And even the Manali to Leh route is shut due to heavy snowfall during this time. Hence, the best time to visit Ladakh for trekking is during the summer months from April to June. During these months, the weather is pleasant and comfortable, ideal for a trek. Unless you are going for the Chadar trek which happens only during the winter season when the thick sheet of ice (chadar) is formed over the Zanskar River.
Most of the treks in Ladakh start from Leh, from where you either begin your trek or you are driven to the starting point by the tour operator. So for your Ladakh trek, you have to get to Leh. Leh is one of the most popular tourist and adventure destinations in India and can be easily reached by air or road.
If you’re coming by flight, then you need to book your flight ticket to the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh. The airport is connected to most major cities of the country like Delhi, Chandigarh, Jammu and Chandigarh
Coming via road is an adventure within itself. There are two ways to reach Leh, one is from Manali and the other from Srinagar. You can either get your own car or you can come by a government or privately run bus from both the cities. There are also some bus services that hail from Delhi itself.
The Manali to Leh route is 490 km long and passes the famous Rohtang La, Baralacha La, Gata Loops and Tanglang La. This route is only open from May to September. If you’re coming by this route then you should leave early in the morning to avoid traffic at Rohtang La.Leh to Srinagar route is 434 km, covering Sonmarg, Kargil and Zoji La. This route is only open from May to October.
For Ladakh trekking, you need to wear comfortable quick-dry apparel like a full-sleeved t-shirt and trek pants along with inner thermals, down and fleece jacket, woollen/synthetic gloves and balaclava. Additionally, you should also wear sunglasses and sun-cap to protect yourself from the sun.
Lastly, you need to be wearing sturdy trekking shoes that are waterproof. Make sure the shoes provide ample grip and are well-broken in before you begin your Ladakh trek.
For your Ladakh trek, you need to carry a comfortable and strong backpack/rucksack that will hold all your luggage. Along with this, you need to carry all your personal essentials and toiletries like toothbrush, toilet paper, towels, sanitizer, sunscreen, etc. You should also carry a personal med-kit.
Once you book your Ladakh trekking package, the tour operator will give you a packing list that you need to follow properly in order to ensure a safe and comfortable trek.
Ladakh has many treks ranging from easy to difficult. If you are going for one of the easy or short treks in Ladakh, then you only need basic fitness levels. To prepare for these treks, you can start a workout routine a few weeks prior consisting of cardio exercises with some strength training.
If you’re going for one of the most difficult treks in Ladakh like the Chadar trek, then you need high fitness levels and some prior experience of trekking at high altitudes. To prepare for these treks, you can start a workout routine a few months prior to the trek.
Acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness is the effect of high altitude on the human body. It usually starts setting in over the altitude of 7,500 feet. Symptoms include nausea, headache, dehydration, shortness of breath, etc.
Altitude sickness should not be taken lightly and if you feel the symptoms worsen over time, it is advised that you descend to a lower altitude as soon as possible. If this sickness is not taken seriously, it can be fatal.
For your Ladakh trek, it is best to arrive at Leh a few days prior and spend at least two days acclimatizing to the altitude of Leh. It is recommended that you spend the first two days at leisure mixed with light walks around the town. Do not exert your body to ensure proper acclimatization
Diamox can also help with acclimatization but please consult your doctor before taking the tablet.
The Chadar trek is one of the most difficult treks in India and it is suitable only for experienced trekkers. For the Chadar trek, you need prior experience of trekking in the Himalayas along with high levels of fitness.
What makes the Chadar trek difficult is the harsh winter along with the challenging trail of the trek. The trek happens only during extreme winters and temperatures are sub-zero with sometimes dropping as low as -40 degrees Celsius. The trail is also long and slippery, requiring you to carefully tread over the frozen river.
Ladakh has many trekking routes, from easy and short treks in Ladakh to challenging ones. If you are a complete beginner, then you can go for the Sham Valley trek that will take you through some quaint villages and to famous monasteries like Lamayuru, Spituk, Likir, etc. The trek is a perfect opportunity for you to explore the apricot orchards of the valley, the stark landscape of Ladakh along with the Indo-Tibetan culture of remote villages - all at the same time.
Ladakh has a variety of challenging treks, like Stok Kangri trek and the Chadar trek. The Stok Kangri is one of the most challenging treks in the country that takes you to an altitude of 20,187 feet to the highest peak of the Stok Range. From the top, you are treated to the breathtaking landscape of Ladakh, Indus Valley and Leh.
The Chadar trek, on the other hand, happens during the peak winter season when the Zanskar River freezes. This magnificent trek takes you to remote villages and frozen waterfalls whilst offering one of the most unique views of the Ladakhi landscape.