Bestowed with the most magnificent views of the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, a journey to the high mountains of Ladakh is on every traveler’s list. Being one of the highest accessible regions situated in the northernmost part of India, Ladakh encompasses dusty vast stretches of mountains, the coldest deserts, majestic night skies, and pristine rivers coming to life as streams of water trickle down from the glaciers to contribute to them. To make sure that you do not miss out on some of the most picturesque and culturally significant spots in Ladakh, we have prepared for you a list of the best places to visit in Ladakh.
Being here, feeling the freezing wind hit your face, sand slipping beneath your feet and a million stars above your head are the only way to experience Magic on Earth.
The Best Places to Visit in Ladakh
- Baralacha La Pass – Gateway to Ladakh
This high-altitude pass nestled at about 15,912ft is the gateway joining the alpine lands of Lahaul to the barren lands of Leh-Ladakh.
One of the most rugged terrains, dangerously curved roads, deep gorges, and a certain stream called the ‘pagal nala’ makes it a challenging drive for even the most expert drivers.
However, the treacherous roads to Baralacha are made bearable with stunning views especially Deepak Tal and Suraj Tal. Reflecting its surroundings and the sky, the two high-altitude lakes glimmer in all shades of blue and make for a perfect halt en route to Sarchu.
Interesting read: The Scary Story of Baralacha La
- Nubra Valley – Valley of Wonders
The capital of Ladakh and a valley of many wonders, Nubra is a deep-cut gorge formed by the confluence of the Shyok and Siachen Rivers and is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Ladakh.
It is not only the gateway to some of the highest lands, especially Siachen Glacier but is also home to the sand dunes of Hunder, ancient monasteries, hot water springs at Panamik Village, and the village divided by a border.
Nubra is a place of rich culture, stunning landscapes, and ultimate fun and adventure. One can indulge in double-humped Bactrian Camel rides on the white sand dunes, wander in the rolling green fields of Turtuk and meditate in peace at Diskit Monastery.
- Pangong Tso – The Lake that Changes Colors
Imagine sitting by a lake and watching the water change hues ranging from azure to emerald green as the day fades into night, unbelievably beautiful isn’t it?
Pangong Lake is the world’s highest saltwater lake making it one of the most popular and best places to visit in Ladakh, it is also where some scenes in the movie 3 Idiots, Jab Tak hai Jaan and many more were shot.
The lake is gridled by golden brown mountains on either side and makes for one of the best places to Camp in India, the view of the night sky from this place is also absolutely incredible.
- Lamayuru – Moonland Of Ladakh
Of the many incredible sites that Ladakh possesses, Lamayuru is a fairly unique one.
According to popular tradition, the Yuru Gompa also known as the ‘ eternal monastery’ was the foremost Bon Monastery to be built in Ladakh.
Apart from the religious significance, it is the craters resembling that of the Moon that make it a sight to behold. The mountains are dotted with caves and the lunarscape is what leaves the tourists stunned.
Suggested read: Ladakh Travel Tips
- Shanti Stupa – Monument Of Peace
‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is a common chant in Buddhist culture that translates to May Peace Prevail and to promote that exact idea, the Shanti Stupa was built by both Japanese and Ladakhi Buddhists.
Perched on a hilltop, this white-domed monument is known to have the relics of Buddha and is a famous tourist site when visiting Ladakh.
It looks exceptionally beautiful on full moon nights and offers a panoramic view of Leh town.
- Sangam Site – The Confluence of Rivers
Sangam Site is the confluence of two rivers, Indus (Sindh) which originates from Lake Mansarovar in Tibet, and the Zanskar River which is formed by melting glaciers and various streams that contribute to it.
Zanskar is also the first major tributary of the Indus River and standing at the edge of the road at Nimmo, one can clearly witness the two rivers merging into one, the sight itself makes you ponder about how beautiful of a world we live in.
- Khardung La Pass
The Khardung La Pass is one of the highest motorable passes in the world which also acts as a gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valleys in Ladakh.
The rugged terrains and sharp cuts while traversing the pass are rewarded with some of the most stunning views of the mountains on either side making it one of the best places to visit in Ladakh for adventure enthusiasts and mountain biking aficionados who dream of traversing the best Biking Routes In India.
The satisfaction that you feel after conquering the pass is truly unbeatable, you can spend a few minutes here soaking in the vast sceneries while hogging on pahadon wali chai and Maggi.
Suggested Read: The Best Of Ladakhi Cuisine
- Hemis Monastery – Wealthiest Monastery in India
Intricately painted walls, gigantic red and golden doors, and a sprawling courtyard where the very famous Hemis Tsechu Festival is hosted are what make the Hemis Monastery one of the most alluring monasteries to visit in Leh-Ladakh.
During the Hemis Festival which is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) hundreds of locals and tourists gather around in the corridors and terrace to witness the sacred Masked Dance- Cham and relish in the festivities.
Attending this celebration lets you peek right into the rich culture of Ladakh and adds a splash of colors to your trip.
- Magnetic Hill – A place that defies the rules of Nature
Magnetic Hill is a long stretch of road parallel to the Sindhu river flowing in the East that makes it a scenic and intriguing destination.
It is situated about 30 km from Leh town on the Manali-Leh-Srinagar highway and is marked by a yellow signboard that reads “The Phenomenon That Defies Gravity.”
There is a white box painted on the road that instructs you to park your car in it and when done so, the car starts moving upwards by itself at a speed of 20km/hour. The phenomenon has many myths related to it and invokes curiosity among travelers.
- Tso Moriri – Straight out of Heaven
When we talk about the best places to visit in Ladakh, Tso Moriri surely tops the list. A lesser-known paradise nestled amidst the high mountains of Ladakh, Tso Moriri is the largest lake in the region, about 26 km long and 8kms wide and counts amongst the undiscovered gems of Ladakh!
It is set against the scenic backdrop of snow-clad peaks and its surroundings are abundant in flora and fauna, flowers of all shades blooming by its banks as horses graze on its green fields making the place look like a little piece of heaven.
Compared to the other lakes, Tso Moriri is secluded making it a perfect spot to spend a few hours in tranquility. There are no hotels or homestays nearby but one can choose to Camp there and spend the day soaking up the views of its pristine blue waters glimmering in the sunlight.
Visiting this Lake on a trip to Ladakh is undoubtedly going to add a splash of colors and splendor to your getaway.
- Kargil War Memorial – Monument of Respect
To commemorate the war fought between India and Pakistan in 1999, Indian Army constructed a War Memorial at point 0 about 5 km from the city center across Tiger Hill on the Srinagar-Leh highway.
In the winter of 1998-1999 Pakistani troops crossed the Line Of Control (LOC) and occupied the roads that connected Kargil to Srinagar, to gain back control of the territory a mission named ‘Operation Vijay’ was launched under which multiple battles were fought leading to India’s victory over Pakistan in July.
The Kargil War is a testimonial to the sheer bravery and strength of our soldiers and the memorial was built with pink sandstone ears and brass plates that have the name of all the soldiers who were martyred in the war.
They have also collected the arms and ammunition used by the troops and give you a clear insight into the incident through a Documentary that is sure to revoke the patriotism in you.
- Diskit Gompa – Shimmering Crowned Buddha Statue
The 108ft Maitreya Buddha statue that stands tall overlooking the Shyok River towards Pakistan is one of the major tourist attractions in Nubra Valley.
It is located right below the Diskit Monastery atop a hill and its intricate design and color leave tourists bewildered. It was built to promote the idea of peace and harmony and to prevent evil in Diskit Village.
The monastery belongs to the 14th century and is one of the biggest and oldest in Nubra valley, it also hosts the very famous Dosmoche Festival also known as the Festival Of The Scapegoats which is a grand celebration in the month of February.
Recommended Read: Festivals of Ladakh that you must attend.
Literally heaven for all Astrophiles out there, Hanle is yet another bewitchingly beautiful place to visit in Ladakh. It is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory and one of the oldest Indo-Chinese style built monasteries and falls about 250 kms from Leh on the ancient India-Tibet trade route.
Being situated in the Hanle River valley very close to the Actual Line of Control with China, one needs to have proper permits to visit this place.
It has also gained massive popularity for recently becoming the first dark sky preserve region in India, the views of the Milky Way here are so clear and stunning that it automatically teleports you to utopia.
- Thiksey Monastery
The largest Gompa in Central Ladakh, Thiksey Monastery is built atop a hill and is a 12-story multi-layered structure that houses one of the biggest Maitreya Buddha statues in a sitting lotus position.
The golden statue took about 4 years to build and takes up 2 floors of the monastery, the temples here also have many elements of Buddhist art such as thangkas, stupas, wall paintings, statues, and swords.
One can spend their time meditating in peace in the halls and soaking in views of the snowclad Indus Valley from the terraces. You can also visit Shey Palace which is built in the heartland of Ladakh beside the Indus River and overlooks the entire valley.
A 2 floor long Shakyamuni Statue and Stupa made of pure gold are the major attractions of this Monastery apart from its intriguing historical significance.
Sitting at the northernmost part of Nubra by river Shyok, Turtuk is the last village that falls in the Baltistan region on the India-Pakistan border.
It is the entry point to Siachen Glacier and thus, is an extremely important area for the Indian Army.
Its apricot-laden orchards, verdant fields, pristine river banks, and gripping history makes it one of the best places to visit in Ladakh.
A postcard-worthy hamlet, time flies by when wandering its lanes. If the weather is clear, you might also be able to catch glimpses of the highest mountain in the world, K2.
Must watch: Visual Anecdotes from Ladakh!
- Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
An intriguing story revolves around the rock worshiped at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, it is believed that during one of Guru Nanak Ji’s voyages back to India, he stopped in Ladakh to meditate and rest and on a certain afternoon while he was deeply immersed in worshiping the god, a demon known to have created havoc in the region hatched a plan to kill him.
While he was praying, the demon threw a huge boulder hoping to crush Guru Nanak Ji but to his surprise, the rock turned into wax not hurting him at all, instead, the shape of his body was left imprinted on it.
To commemorate his visit to Ladakh and victory over evil, a sacred Gurudwara was built in the year 1517 on the Leh-Kargil Highway. It is a highly revered pilgrimage spot for not only Hindus and Sikhs but also Tibetans and can be visited while traveling to Magnetic Hill, Sangam Site, and Alchi.
- Umling La – World’s Highest Motorable Pass
Surpassing the nation’s expectations once again, BRO (Border Roads Organization) has made yet another massive accomplishment by constructing Umling La, the world’s highest motorable pass overtaking Khardung La and Mana Pass in Uttarakhand.
Built under ‘Project Himank’, a road journey at 19,300ft promises to fill you up with excitement, awe, and adrenaline rush coursing through your body throughout.
The journey is certainly a challenging yet bewitching one, recommended for those who like to challenge their own beliefs.
The cold wind hitting your face, unimaginably beautiful views welcoming you at every turn and the sense of overcoming your fears and having ridden on one of the highest roads in the world is truly uneatable.
Recommended Read: High Passes of Ladakh that Bikers love!
- Hall Of Fame – Tribute to the Army
As the name suggests, this museum built by the Indian Army showcases valor and pays a tribute to the sacrifices made by our soldiers during the India-Pak wars.
There are two floors in the museum that are divided into many sections, of which one is called the ‘Operation Vijay Gallery’ which displays the arms and ammunitions used during the wars, uniforms worn at Siachen Glacier, several pictures of how our army survives in shuddering cold and even biographies of our dear soldiers engraved on the walls.
There is a documentary that is played that lets you understand more about the enormous sacrifices made by the Indian army to protect our country and a frame named ‘The Last Post’ that is the last handwritten letter written by Captain Vijayant Thapar to his family along with other letters written by our gallant soldiers.
Recommended Read: Interesting Facts about Ladakh!
A backpacking trip to the land of High Passes is incomplete without exploring its above-mentioned treasured gems, to understand the culturally rich region and soak in the essence of the grandeur Ladakh is, we suggest you gear up for an unforgettable journey this Summer and visit all these places mentioned above!