The smell of Maggi and the sound of Bullet motorbikes going past the window are some of the first things that you notice on landing in Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. But of course, these factors are secondary in the larger scheme of things.
If you are planning your trip to Leh-Ladakh this year, one of the first questions that you are going to be faced with is, what is the best time to visit Leh? April to June is the best time to visit Leh Ladakh. April is when the summer starts making appearances in Leh and along with it, it brings the beginning of tourist season. The climate is pleasant with the snow thawing and the temperatures gradually move up from subzero.
It is around this time that the Manali-Leh highway opens for the year along with the Rohtang Pass.
As I got out of the Leh airport, the place took my breath away both literally and figuratively.
There is so much beauty in the place that it is difficult to decide which way to look. I remember being in awe of the mountains, that I had seen from the plane while we were circling over the landing strip, as they now surrounded us on all sides.
With warnings of the fatigue and health problems that one might face still ringing in my ears, I got out of the airport at the beginning of what would prove to be one of my favorite vacations till date.
Having said that, the truth is that Leh Ladakh region of our country has so much to offer that no matter when you visit it is going to mesmerize you.
To help you decide the best time to visit Leh Ladakh, here’s a comprehensive guide to the weather and festivals of this region in the different months of the year.
If you are looking for having High Altitude Adventures within India then you will find the following posts interesting AND helpful.
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- A detailed guide on what does it take to cycle from Manali to Leh and cross 5 high altitude passes in the Himalayas. Cycling from Manali to Leh: This is how I got Leh’d!!
Visitng Leh Ladkah Between January to March
- Minimum Temperature: 10 to -4 °C
- Maximum Temperature: 0 to 7 °C
- Is Highway Functional during this period? Between January to March, both the Srinagar-Leh highway and the Manali-Leh highway are closed to the public because of the subzero temperatures and snowfall.
- Festivals: Dosmochey, Yargon Tungshak, Stok Guru Tsechu, Matho Nagrang are some of the festivals in February. March also has many festivals you can explore and be a part of like the Matho Nagrang, Stok Guru Tsechu, Yargon Tungshak festivals.
January to March are the coldest months in Leh. The area sees subzero temperatures with snowfall and frost.
The temperatures drop with each passing day. This is the best time to visit Leh for those who are adventurous at heart and can brave the extreme climatic conditions.
It is advisable to take flights while traveling since the roads are not accessible all the time.
I was amazed at the sights of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri when I visited Leh, but May is not the time when the lakes are at their prettiest.
The best time to visit these lakes is considered to be while it changes colors.
Those who wish to witness this can do so till mid-January.
A breathtaking spectacle in more than just one way, an overnight camp stay at Pangong Lake was the perfect addition to my trip to Leh-Ladakh.
Click here to read How to Visit Pangong Lake in Ladakh: The Complete Guide.
Mid- January to mid- March is also the time for one of the most adventurous treks in the country, the Chadar Trek. The brave explorers who go on this trek get to walk over the frozen Zanskar River.
The snow-covered regions are a sight to marvel at. One may, however, face problems with utilities as the weather makes it difficult for the water supply and electricity to work perfectly.
A breathtaking spectacle in more than just one way, an overnight camp stay at Pangong Lake was the perfect addition to my trip to Leh-Ladakh. If you are wondering how to visit Pangong lake then click here to read my detailed 2500 words blog post on How to Visit Pangong Lake in Ladakh: The Complete Guide.
Visitng Leh Ladkah Between April to June
- Minimum Temperature: 2 to 10 °C
- Maximum Temperature: 12 to 19 °C
- Is Highway Functional during this period? The Srinagar-Leh highway generally opens by mid to end of April, while the Manali-Leh highway stays shut till mid-May (as per 2019 days)
- Festivals: Sindhu Darshan, Saka Dawa and Yuru Kabgyat are few of the festivals that are celebrated during this period of time.
The months of April to June are considered to be the best time to visit by many.
As mentioned above, April is when the summer starts making appearances in Leh and along with it, it brings the beginning of tourist season. The climate is pleasant with the snow thawing and the temperatures gradually move up from subzero.
It is around this time that the Manali-Leh highway opens for the year along with the Rohtang Pass.
The initial 7-10 days are not safe for traveling due to frequent blockages.
One of the best experience for me was the snow and ice we saw while traveling throw Khardung La, which is the highest motorable road in the country.
While we were traveling and exploring these places, we found Chang La Pass to be completely covered with a thick layer of snow.
Bundled up in thick jackets and mufflers we made it a point to play as much as we could with the snow.
By late April the lakes begin to melt and the campsites along Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri start taking in tourists again.
The hotels, guest houses, and restaurants in Leh open up and a crowd unlike any other time of the year can be seen in the region.
The Srinagar-Leh highway also opens up and Leh welcomes the adventurous bikers who make the alluring journey through Kargil. For those traveling by road through the highways, a great sight to look out for is the high snow walls around Rohtang and Baralacha Pass.
Visitng Leh Ladkah Between July to September
- Minimum Temperature: 12 to 18 °C
- Maximum Temperature: 22 to 28 °C
- Is Highway Functional during this period? Both the highways from Srinagar and Manali to Leh are open to the public.
- Festivals: The Hemis festival in July attracts some of the largest numbers of tourists. There are several other festivals held during this period like the Polo festival, Stongday Gustor, Karsha Gustor, Phyang Tsedup, Sachukul, Karzok, Dakthok, Sani Nasjal, Ladakh Festival, and others.
There is a moment while traveling from Leh to the picturesque Nubra Valley when the car takes a turn along a mountain and in the valley below you see the road to Nubra snake in front of the car.
With nothing for miles on either side of the road except for the freezing cold desert, this stretch is the most peaceful piece of traveling that one can do.
During this period of time the melting snow results in water on roads, so drivers and bike riders need to take considerable precautions to avoid any mishaps.
Another tip for those traveling by road is to try and leave early so that you can avoid traffic jams at Rohtang Pass and Zojila Pass.
In the period between August to Mid September, monsoon is in full swing in Ladakh.
The rivers flow with their full swing. The rain also poses the danger of landslides in certain areas. For those visiting Leh-Ladakh during this period of time, visiting the rain shadow area beyond Zoji La Pass is a good idea.
However, one has to still cross regions with high rainfall to get there.
Towards the end of September, the monsoon starts to wrap up. The river waters recede and it is the beginning of dry and cool weather with occasional snowfall, making it a great time for a trip.
Not yet ready for a High Altitude Adventure? Then these beginner treks will get you or your young one going.
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- While the U Mawryngkhang Wahkhen trek in Meghalaya starts with a bamboo bridge over broomstick farm, it gradually takes you over beautiful blue water natural pools and eventually, you find yourself on the bridge which is perched on the side of huge solid rock with deep valley down below. Mawryngkhang Trek in Wahkhen, Meghalaya will Make Your Hair Stand on End.
- A Comprehensive trek guide to Munsiyari’s Mesar Kund with tips and advice on things to see and do with children, things to keep in bag and mind!
Visitng Leh Ladkah Between October to December
- Minimum Temperatures: 9 to 2 °C
- Maximum Temperatures: 6 to 15 °C
- Is Highway Functional during this period? The Manali-Leh highway generally shuts down for the winter first in November followed by the Srinagar-Leh highway in December. (as per 2019 days)
- Festivals: The Diskit festival is celebrated in the Diskit monastery in the month of October with great enthusiasm. If you visit Leh in the month of November you can be a part of the Thiksey and Padum festivals and in December the festivals of Losar and Golden Namchot.
At the beginning of October the road conditions are better and everywhere you look you can see the post-monsoon beauty, the landscape washed and fresh.
The rugged surrounding is replaced by refreshing green and the bright colors of blooming flowers.
Unlike the summer months and the tourist season, this period is characterized by peace and sparse crowds.
As October comes to an end the cold weather makes a comeback with temperatures dropping below zero.
The guesthouses and hotels close for the winter and it becomes impossible to travel through the highways because of the black ice that leads to skidding. Mid-November sees the beginning of one of the coldest periods in this region.
As the highways shut down the regions slowly gets closed off from the rest of the country by road. However, the roads to Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley remain open.
During my trip to Leh, we got the memorable opportunity of spending one night in a tent on the banks of Pangong in a tent.
Despite it being May, the freezing winds flowing in from the gaps between the ground and the tent was an exhilarating experience that we will not be forgetting any time soon.
If you plan your trip to Leh at a time which is not too late in the year, my advice would be to definitely spend a night in one such camp.
As the year comes to an end in December, the lakes freeze into solid ice making it possible to walk and drive over them.
Ice sheets as thick as six inches can be also be found on these lakes.
Don’t forget to carry sunscreen Lotion
Another thing we realized during our visit to Pangong Lake was that the sun is very harsh in the region since it comes in direct contact with our skin rather than being blocked by clouds or smoke. So using sunscreen is a must.
A tried and tested Sunscreen lotion is Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 110 PA++ +. You can check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. For your young one check out Banana boat water resistant- tear free sunscreen lotion for kids SPF 50+ (90 ml).
If you are wondering how to visit Pangong lake then click here to read my detailed 2500 words blog post on How to Visit Pangong Lake in Ladakh: The Complete Guide.
Another major question that most people have while planning their trips to Leh is about travel.
Here is a quick guide on the transport options available-
How do I reach Leh-Ladakh?
By Road- One can go to Leh city on the Srinagar-Leh-Manali circuit on bikes or in jeeps. You will reach Ladakh through Kargil from Kashmir Valley (434 km) and the highway is open full-time from June to November.
The experience of the one night stay in Kargil while traveling via the Srinagar-Leh highways is supposed to be an experience of a lifetime.
The Manali- Leh road (473 km) is open from mid-June to early October and gives you the opportunity of driving among the walls of snow that Rohtang Pass has to offer. You can also opt to travel by public transport.
There is an HRTC bus service for Leh from Delhi as well as Manali. The journey from Delhi involves an overnight stay at Keylong since the journey is long and risky in some places.
By Train: If traveling by train is the most convenient mode for you then the closest railroad station is Jammu Tawi. Trains are available from Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai to this station. Then one can take a taxi to Ladakh from there however, this may prove to be quite a long and tiring journey for few.
By Air: One of the easiest ways to travel to Leh has to be via a flight. The Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is the main airport in the area and is a military terminal. There are several flights from Delhi, Jammu, and Srinagar to Leh every week.
There are just a few medical precautions that need to be kept in mind while traveling to Leh by air.
While traveling to this region is safe and the experience of a lifetime, some precautions have to be taken in order to truly enjoy your vacation.
As soon as we stepped off the airplane we noticed the difference from the oxygen levels we were used to.
This proves to be even more evident to those who are not used to such high altitudes and those who are traveling by flights because you gradually get acclimatized while traveling by road.
Accommodation in Leh Ladakh
If you like cozy home stays and would like to try out the local cuisine then check out Lhachik Guest House. Shanti Stupa is 2.4 km from Lhachik Guest House. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, 10 km from the accommodation. You can check the availability and latest price of Lhachik Guest House by clicking here.
If a luxury stay is on your mind then check out The Grand Dragon Ladakh. Situated in the ancient city of Leh, this eco-friendly hotel overlooks the famous Cold Desert and the surrounding mountains. Cultural shows and evening bonfires are made available on demand. You can check the availability and latest price of The Grand Dragon Ladakh by clicking here.
You can check out the latest price and availability of tents near Pangong lake in Spangmik by clicking here.
These posts will help you plan your trips so that you stay safe and healthy.
- Travel First Aid Kit: Advice from a Wanderlust Doctor.
- Travelers Diarrhea is a threat to all travelers – Read causes, symptoms, how to avoid and recommendations by a Doctor on if infected how to treat the Delhi Belly.
Acclimatising at Leh Ladakh
The best thing to acclimatize yourself is to take the first day to rest and not exert yourself at all. We stayed in the hotel the entire first day and were advised to sleep a lot, too.
Once we took these precautions, we were set for the rest of our trip to explore the town, see all the tourist attractions and soak in the beauty and culture of the place.
A selection of chocolates to keep your sugar levels and energy up also goes a long way to make the trip a success.
My adventurous trip to Leh-Ladakh gave me an opportunity to visit serene monasteries, take in the beauty of such an isolated part of the country, experience some of my favorite movie moments along Pangong Tso and learn about the culture of Ladakh.
If this is your first trip to India you will find these posts helpful:-
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- 15 Most Popular Festivals in India (with 2020 dates).
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- 13 tried and tested Safety Tips for Train Travel in India
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I hope this guide to the weather and festivals of Leh-Ladakh helps you make a decision on the best time for you to experience the same!