Ladakh in winter – just the mere mention of these words conjures up images of snow-capped mountains, frozen rivers, deserted roads, barren landscape sprinkled with snow and affectionate locals. The land where peace and serenity ooze from every nook and cranny.
Join us on this trip of a lifetime through the deserted roads of Ladakh in a vacation where you will feed your eyes with spectacular views and your ears with serene sounds of nature.
We have recapped all the places to visit in Ladakh below.
Perched on top of a hill, Spituk is one of the most famous monasteries of Leh. It was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od in the 11th Century. The monastery houses a large statue of Shakyamuni, to the left Guru Padmasambhava and to the right is the statue of the goddess Tara. The assembly hall also has a high throne reserved for the Dalai Lama.
Out of all the temples, Gonkhang is the largest temple of the monastery and is dedicated to goddess Kali. It is said that the temple of Goddess Kali opens once in a year during the Gustor festival.
The monastery offers fascinating panoramic views of Leh. On one side, you can see the river Indus meandering through Leh and on the other side the stunning Stok Kangri Range overlooking the flatlands of Leh.
By far one of the most visited places in Leh, the Shanti Stupa is an oasis of serenity in the cold mountains and is the perfect place for some soul-searching. With a backdrop of the Khardungla pass, this place is a photographer’s paradise. This place is completely worth a visit as the views from every corner are mesmerizing and enticing.
View of the mountain ranges from Shanti Stupa.
The beautiful barren landscape where the two rivers Zanskar and Indus greet each other for their onward journey together is at Nimmu. You can see the distinct colors of the rivers at the confluence, Zanskar has a turquoise blue shade whereas the water from the Indus has a darker shade. The confluence of two frozen rivers at an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level is a sight in itself. Nimmu, located 35 Km from Leh, is on the Leh – Kargil highway aka National Highway 1.
One of the most famous and dangerous treks in India – Chadar Trek starts from Chilling. The hanging icicles, frozen waterfall, and snow-peaked mountains make the trek insanely magical. The trek duration is around 8-10 days where you have to literally walk on frozen Zanskar river and the frozen land looks straight out of a storybook.
If you are not an adventurous soul then a road trip to Chilling is what you need. The views of the frozen Zanskar river on one side and the frozen waterfalls dotted on the other side will make your jaws drop in awe.
You might have read or heard about this place. Bikes or cars automatically start moving even when the engines are switched off. Sounds interesting, isn’t it?
Locals believe that it is the magnetic power of the mountains which pulls the vehicles uphill and hence the name Magnetic Hill. However the truth is that it is just an optical illusion and it is gravity that plays the trick, the landscape looks uphill but, in reality, it is downhill and hence the vehicles move automatically.
The barren landscape devoid of any vegetation and the zillion shades of brown give it a close resemblance to the surface of moon hence the name Moonscapes. A perfect place for landscape photography lovers. Located on Leh – Kargil highway, the moonscapes is a picturesque drive and chances are that you might see some mountains with the hues of purple as well. No doubt it is a sight to behold.
Tucked on top a hill, Lamayuru monastery is located on the Leh – Kargil highway. One of the largest and oldest Gompas in the valley which houses 150 permanent monks.
Snow peppered mountains all around the monastery offer breathtaking views of the monastery.
This is one of the oldest surviving monasteries in Ladakh dated approximately to the 11th century. The murals in the monastery are rich and vibrant and have survived the test of time. The monastery is built of clay and wood.
The highlight of the Alchi monastery is the 1000-year-old wall painting that has been preserved to date. The entire wall is covered with colorful miniature images of Buddha and some paintings with gold. At the center, there is also a three-story high statue of incarnations of Buddha—Avalokiteshwara, Maitreya, and Manjushree.
Don’t go by the looks of the exterior of the temple, the interiors are way too beautiful. Photography inside the monastery is strictly prohibited to preserve the murals.
Located around 20 km from Leh, this monastery resembles the Patola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. If you visit around 7:30 AM in the morning then you can partake in the morning prayer activities. The monastery is famous for the two-storey Maitreya Buddha statue which was installed in 1970 to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama.
One of the most striking features of the monastery is the richly decorated prayer hall. The halls are painted from wall to wall with deities and images of Buddhist iconography. The ceiling, the pillars, the seating and the tables, the altar are all decorated with colorful clothes and painting leaving not an inch of the room empty.
Founded in 1664 AD by Lama Tagsang Raschen, Chemrey monastery is dedicated to King Sengge Namgyal. The monastery is perched on top of a hill and the winding roads to reach the monastery offers captivating views.
The highlight of the monastery is a one-storey high statue of Padmasambhava and 29 volume scripture written in silver and golden letters.
One of the highest motorable roads in the world. This pass is strategically important to India as this is the only way to the highest battlefield in the world, the Siachen Glacier.
It makes for a perfect day trip from Leh if the weather conditions are favorable.
Nubra Valley is one of the highest altitude cold deserts in the world. The confluence of Nubra and Shyok rivers forms this beautiful valley that separates the Karakoram mountain ranges and Ladakh. The land is devoid of vegetation except for the river banks. No words can articulate the beauty of the landscape.
The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass. Inner line permit is no longer needed for Indians but foreign nationals are required to get a Protected area permit.
Diskit Monastery in the Nubra valley is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist monasteries which houses a statue of Maitreya Buddha, guardian deities, and murals.
Just over 50 kilometers away, the famous 400-year-old Hemis Monastery is Ladakh’s largest monastery.There is also an underground museum that houses thangka painting, artifacts, and statues. The annual Hemis festival honoring Padmasambhava is held here in early June every year.
Hemis National Park is one the largest park in South Asia. During winter, don’t miss to embark in the search of Snow leopard.
Not frequented by tourists. Hanle is a small village in Ladakh, home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory and Hanle Monastery (gompa). As the sun sets, millions of stars fill the dark sky making it ideal to take jaw-dropping photos of the milky way.
Famed to be one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. During winter, the entire lake is frozen and it looks straight out of a Pinterest board.
A picture says it all.
To visit Pangong lake, you need to have an Inner Line Permit which can be obtained from the tourist office in Leh. The more popular route from Leh to Pangong Tso is through Chang La.
Last but not the least, Tso Moriri lake which is one of the largest of the high altitude lakes in Ladakh at 4,522 m (14,836 ft). The lake is formed from the snow melting from the mountains. The chances of visiting this lake are quite dicey during winter. But if the weather is good then you can certainly try your luck.
Tsomoriri can be reached directly from the Pangong Tso via Changtang region.