A lot of people ask me this many a times on the blog to suggest the best time to travel to Leh Ladakh, and I thought it is better to pen it down in an article so that it helps others too and does not repeat on the blog all over again and again.
Well, there are two roads that lead you to Leh Ladakh popular by the names of Srinagar Leh Highway and Manali Leh Highway. Both of them generally remain closed for more than six months from November to April or Mid-May every year because of heavy snowfall on various mountain passes that comes on these adventurous roads.
So, the only time to travel by road to Leh Ladakh is from Mid-May to Mid – October. And the second half of October being a risky affair to travel and May being the only likely option for Srinagar – Leh Highway as Manali – Leh Highway generally opens by June first week or late May.
But, still, the question is :
Let's quickly dive into the details:
“What is the best time to travel Leh Ladakh in these 5-6 months?”
Leh Ladakh in April to Mid-May
April is the month when tourists or travelers from all parts of the world start to come into Ladakh. Restaurants start to either open or to set up for the coming season. Similarly, the guest houses, camps at Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri lakes also starts to set up.
By the second week of May, generally, the Srinagar Leh Highway opens, and the influx of tourists starts to get into Ladakh. Supplies flow in along with fresh vegetables and fruits. Hence the life comes to normalcy in Ladakh.
In late April, all lakes including Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri start to melt, and by mid-May, they completely melt and start radiating the ever beautiful blue hues under sunlight. Tourists / Travellers visiting these places get good discounts as it is the onset of the season and with fewer tourists around, it is indeed a better place to be.
The high mountain passes in Ladakh including both Khardung La and Chang La, are under heaps of snow and passing through them is quite an experience in itself. Carrying shades/glares/goggles are highly recommended at this time of the year.
Leh Ladakh in May – June – July
As I said, in May, most likely, you will only find Srinagar – Leh to be open, so if you are interested in the complete circuit, then it is not the right time. In June beginning or May end, Manali road opens with the opening of Rohtang Pass.
In the initial 7-10 days, the roads are pretty much unstable with common snow slides, and intermittent blockages also happen, but gradually it settles down. And from Mid of June to July just before the onset of monsoon season, it is a very nice time to travel, and indeed a lot of people undertake the road journey to Ladakh at this specific window only.
It is the perfect time for those who want to enjoy snow around the road and drive through the snow walls of Rohtang Pass / Rani nalla and Baralacha La too. However, keep in mind that snow starts to melt which means, ferocious water crossings and rivers are pretty common in this period.
Later you will reach a water crossing in the day, slim are the chances to cross it. So, plan to leave early in the day and reach early in the day on the destination to have buffer time as well.
from Mid of June to July just before the onset of monsoon season, it is a very nice time to travel and indeed a lot of people undertake the road journey to Ladakh at this specific window only.Best time to travel for seeing snow in Ladakh
Leh Ladakh in August
In August, monsoons are on full flurry and rivers, water crossings go ferocious at times when rain is pouring down. Landslides are common too in this period. However, there is a catch, that the region beyond Zozi La Pass towards Leh from Srinagar side and beyond Baralacha La pass towards Leh from Manali side, being rain shadow region do not get much affected by rains.
But, surely you will be facing the monsoon hassles up to Baralacha La pass from Manali side and Zozila Pass from Srinagar side. Of course, as happening for the last few years Rohtang Pass & Zojila most likely to be a nightmare in this period.
Even the definition of Ladakh being the rain shadow region is changing now. We have started getting rains in Ladakh too or at least overcast conditions with light rains now and then. Few cloudbursts and flash floods also have occurred in a couple of years, including 2018. So, be ready for surprises even in the rain shadow region of Ladakh too in the coming years.
Leh Ladakh in September – October
Personally, this is my favorite season to travel to Ladakh with vibrant & burning colors all over in full glory. Post monsoon, the region becomes devoid of rains and the chill starts to set in with some intermittent light snowfall.
However, the colors of fall/autumn are almost burning with beauty all over the Srinagar Leh Road, Manali Leh Road and, of course, entire Ladakh, including Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri & Nubra Valley. The road conditions also improve a lot in comparison to the rest of the season. You will witness the best roads of the season since the maintenance works also settle by that time. It is the best time to self-drive to Ladakh if you are taking a small car like a hatchback or sedan to Ladakh.
Even the water crossings are timid in flow with less water in them and are easy to pass by. The rivers turn into aqua blue color again, giving an entirely different aura to the region. Your body is at the maximum exposure of UV rays, and due to lack of moisture, it becomes a bit difficult to acclimatize as well. But, the beauty on offer is worth anything in the world 😀
Also, it is time when some camps have closed, packed up and some still run. There is occasional snowfall as well, which might close the road for a day or two temporarily. The Raid-De-Himalayas rally also happens in this window which also disturbs you as a traveler to some extent.
Personally, this is my favorite season to travel to Ladakh with vibrant & burning colors all over in full glory.for those who love vibrant fall colors
Leh Ladakh in November
The period of late October and November is when the cold settles into Trans Himalayas completely with sub-zero temperatures at almost all places above 14000 feet especially over Manali Leh highway and the high altitude lakes. The colors though are still beautiful in the region, tourists have almost gone away and only a few brave ones remain 🙂 :).
Most of the guest houses, hotels, and restaurants are closed by this time along with camps at Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri lakes, which are packed up by the last week of September. Dhabhas and camps at Manali Leh Highway are also deserted, and locals go away to their homes to get ready for the hibernation in cold winters.
Though both Manali Leh Road and Srinagar Leh Road remain open unofficially, it is highly not recommended to travel over them, especially the Manali Leh Highway with such cold conditions. There will not be many shelters available and black ice on roads that make driving a dangerous affair. Black ice is quite common in this period it starts to appear in October starting as well at some of the places though it does not last long in early stages or the winter season.
Interesting Read: 5 Reasons to Avoid Manali – Leh Highway in October – November
Leh Ladakh in December – January – February – March
This period is the coldest in Ladakh where January is the coldest month of all seasons, and Ladakh is cut-off from the rest of the world by road. Only a few brave and bold tourists are around even though the roads to Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso Lake over Khardung La Pass, and Chang La Pass respectively are kept open all around the year barring few days of heavy snowfall.
Late January to February is also the time when many adventure tourists come to Leh Ladakh to walk over the frozen Zanskar River from Padum in Zanskar Valley to Leh, popularly known as Chadar Trek.
In this period, you are at the mercy of extreme cold. Snowfall as well is pretty common and mingled with high altitude terrain; it makes life difficult to survive and acclimatize as well. The key is to take rest, ample rest in the initial days. Then, gradually start overreaching other high altitude places. The food options are minimal, and most of the restaurant’s lives are deserted as their cook is out to their homes.
From November to December / Mid-January types, if the sun is shining the colors in the Lakes such as Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri is breathtaking but the options to stay near them are none or limited. Just some Home Stays in nearing villages where basic facilities will be available to brave the extreme cold.
After Mid-January, both Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri along with other high altitude lakes start to freeze and become solid as earth as you can drive your car over it, leave alone walking over it. Be responsible and don’t do that of course 😉
These lakes remain frozen almost up to April. So, those looking forward to seeing the magical changing colors of these lakes with sunlight in the day shall refrain from making a trip to Ladakh from January to late April, which is almost for four months.
Well, the best time to visit Leh Ladakh is, September to mid-October, if you love the vivid colors of nature or you are a photographer looking for natural colors or someone who loves to have fewer tourists around yourself. However, you will not find any snow around you. Otherwise, if you are one of those who loves to see snow up there in Ladakh road trip then make the journey to Leh Ladakh in June when both Manali Leh Highway and Srinagar Leh Highway are open.
Are you still confused?? Don’t worry. I will suggest if you want to see heaps of snow and have a good adventure, then you must plan your road trip to Ladakh starting June first/ the second week up to mid of July types.
However, if you are more interested in nature’s lovely colors pallet and maybe you are very much into photography, then the late season is the time. You do not want to miss out on, i.e., late-September up to the second week of October when colors are oozing out vividly all over Ladakh!!
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