Hiking, Trekking & Monasteries in Ladakh

Almost 50 years after it opened to foreigners, a trip to Ladakh still feels like the adventure of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or inner peace, our local insider Ariel is sure there’s an experience in Ladakh for you.

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Ladakh, an ancient, high-altitude desert region sandwiched between the world’s highest mountains, used to be an independent kingdom.  

Today, this “Little Tibet” is one of India’s most unforgettable destinations, known for jaw-dropping landscapes and its unique, Sufi and Buddhist-influenced culture.

Tso Pangong

This magnificent, high-altitude lake shares a border with neighboring Tibet.

Were it not for chilly mountain winds, you might mistake Pangong’s white sand shores and glittering waters for a Caribbean beach.

Tso Pangong. Photo credit: Ariel Sophia Bardi

Nubra Valley

Up above bustling Leh, Ladakh’s main city, a rocky, teetering road winds its way to Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass at almost 18,000 ft (5,486m).

Khardung La Pass, Ladakh. Photo credit: iStock

The treacherous high pass – an attraction in its own right – marks the halfway point to Nubra Valley, a lush and picturesque oasis in northern Ladakh.

In Diskit, check out the 100ft (30m) golden Buddha that presides over the valley’s oldest monastery.

White sand dunes and purple mountains are home to a special breed of two-humped camels— which you can ride— in nearby Hundar.

Further down the fast-flowing Shyok river lies the edge-of-the-world Balti village of Turtuk, surrounded by fruit orchards and famous for its warm hospitality.

Hiking in Ladakh

Acclimatize to Ladakh’s elevations with a walk around Leh town.

A rugged, hilly path leads from the Old City to Leh Palace, the former royal headquarters.   It continues to Sankar Gompa, a stark and stunning monastery built into the craggy hillside.

Further afield, the village of Ule, in western Ladakh, is a prime spot for day hikes and— if you’re lucky— snow leopard spotting.

Trekking in Ladakh

There’s no better way to discover Ladakh than by crossing it on foot. But be warned, treks involve unshaded climbs and steep ascents.

The popular Markha Valley trek crosses barren, mountainous terrain through remote villages and passing monasteries.

The smoother Sham Valley trek, a so-called “baby trek,” is a four-day hike through orchards, fields, stupas, and farms.

Most treks take place in summer. But only winter offers the Chadar trek, a one-of-a-kind journey deep through the Zanskar Valley, walking on top of a frozen river.

Not keen on slushy hikes or icy campsites? Try summer white water rafting on Zanskar River instead.

Monasteries

Centuries-old Buddhist monasteries, known as “gompas,” are an unforgettable part of Ladakh’s scenery. Topped by snowy peaks, they perch dramatically atop bare, twisted hills.

Leh, near the Polo Grounds with Leh Palace in the distance. Photo credit: Ariel Sophia Bardi

Lamayuru, located in Ladakh’s famous “moonland,” overlooks a strange, lunar-looking landscape. The fascinating temple contains ancient ritual objects, some crafted from human bones. 

Thiksey, close to Leh, stuns visitors with its vertically-stacked buildings and stupas, giving it the look of a majestic beehive. Visitors can glimpse ancient statues, frescos, and thangka paintings inside the monasteries – as well as monks chanting, deep in prayer.

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Watch the sun rise and set in the south, or find solitude in the far northern Himalayas. Our local insiders show you how to find peace among India’s chaos.

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