Besides the famed Khardung La, Nubra Valley, and Pangong Tso, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ladakh is the Magnetic Hill, where gravity seems to take the backseat – 27 km from the town of Leh.
Nestled between the Himalayan and the Karakoram mountain ranges, Ladakh is a cold desert literally meaning ‘the land of high passes.’ Known for its pristine lakes, barren mountains that change color at every turn of the road, and for clearest of night skies in all of the world, Ladakh has been called the heaven on earth, for more than one reason.
In today’s article and travel guide, let us talk about one of the most visited tourist places near Leh – Magnetic Hill.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Magnetic Hill in Ladakh
This small stretch of road surrounded by scenic hills from all sides on the Leh – Kargil highway, prima facie appears to defy the phenomenon of gravity and how!
At the start of the stretch of the Magnetic Hill, there is a yellow box demarcated by BRO (Border Roads Organization), where you can park your car in neutral gear and witness the mysterious magnetic abilities in full swing pulling the car uphill.
This strange natural wonder is supported by many versions of theories and beliefs. Let us look at them in this article.
Magnetic Hill Explained
We all know that Magnetic Hill in Ladakh defies gravity but what is the theory behind it? Many theories explain the truth behind the mysterious Magnetic Hill of Ladakh. Let us look at them one by one in this section.
The Myth – Road to Heaven
The local people of Ladakh believe that this magnetic hill near Leh was once a road that led people straight to heaven. The ones who were worthy were pulled directly to heaven through the road, and the ones who were not considered deserving could not make it there.
Magnetic Force Theory
A widespread and more believable theory about this stretch of road is that the magnetic force emanated from the hill is so high that it pulls the vehicles uphill. Some say that airplanes divert their route to avoid magnetic interference from this Magnetic Hill. And that’s how it gets the name.
Is it Real or Optical Illusion?
At Magnetic Hill near Leh, vehicles appear to move uphill slowly, as if pulled by force, even when you have killed the engine. But in reality, the magnetic hill is nothing more than an optical illusion where a slight downhill road appears to be an uphill slope, due to a completely obstructed horizon.
The obstructed horizon contributes to the illusion because the human eye is adjusted to judge the slope of any road with the reference of the horizon. That’s how the human mind is tricked into believing that the car is moving against gravity, as the reference of the horizon is obstructed.
How to reach Magnetic Hill near Leh?
Magnetic Hill is at a distance of 27 km from Leh town towards Kargil, on the Leh – Kargil – Srinagar National Highway – 1D. It is located in what we have popularly known as Sham Valley.
By road – The easiest way to reach the Magnetic hill near Leh by road is hitting the Srinagar – Leh Highway if you are traveling by road from Delhi. You can reach Leh also by the Manali Leh Highway if you are traveling from Manali side.
The state-run JKSRTC buses ply within the Ladakh region. You can also take your private vehicle (cars/bikes) to Magnetic Hill from Leh as well.
By air – The nearest airport is Leh Airport, which is well connected with some major airports in India, including New Delhi. From the airport, taxis can be hired to reach the hotel in Leh and then make a day trip to the Magnetic Hill from Leh and back the next day after acclimatization to avoid acute mountain sickness.
By train – The nearest major railway station from Leh is Jammu Tawi, at a distance of 812 km from Leh. Taxis can be hired from the railway station to reach Leh over Srinagar Leh Highway in a 3-day journey with overnight halts at Srinagar and Kargil.
Joginder Nagar railway station is just 635 KM from Leh via Manali Leh Highway but is not a major one.
Best time to visit Magnetic Hill
The roads to reach Ladakh via Srinagar and Manali are closed from November to May, because of heavy snow, therefore traveling via air is the only option to reach Leh and Magnetic Hill during this time.
Henc, the best time to visit Magnetic hill is same as the best time to visit Leh Ladakh, that is, from May to September / October when the roads to Leh Ladakh are open from Srinagar and Manali side.
The road to Magnetic Hill from Leh is also open in the winter months. So, you can surely plan a trip to Magnetic Hill from Leh in the winter months as well. Please ensure that you are willing to endure the cold weather and want to witness the white beauty of Ladakh.
Where to stay?
There is only barren land around Magnetic Hill for miles, so a day trip is recommended with your base at Leh. You can visit Magnetic Hill on the same day you are planning to explore the local places in Sham Valley which includes Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Nimmu Confluence of Indus, and Zanskar, Basgo Plains, Alchi, and Likir monasteries or nearby monasteries from Leh.
Where to eat?
I will suggest that you have your meals at Nimmu village where there are plenty of local shops right on the road itself. Some do offer very nice and tasty local authentic Tibetan food as well as samosas.
Travelers are advised to consult their doctors before commencing this journey because it can be tedious and demanding, and the climatic conditions can get extreme.
Besides being unbearably cold in the winter season, AMS (acute mountain sickness) is sure to hit even the most experienced travelers, as the altitude is high and vertiginous. For altitude sickness carry medicines and give yourself enough time to acclimatize when you reach Leh.
While on your way to the Magnetic Hill from Leh, you can halt at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, which is at a distance of around 23 km from Leh. This Gurudwara was built in the early 16th century to commemorate Guru Nanak Dev’s visit to Ladakh.
It is important to note that there is not much food or stay options near Magnetic Hill, so it is advised to make a day trip from Leh and return by evening. Also, better stock enough food and water before your trip to Magnetic Hill in case you do not like what is available at Nimmu village.
Mobile Network Connectivity
BSNL and Airtel postpaid numbers work fine near Leh, other networks do not get any reception. BSNL has the widest coverage and Reliance Jio has also begun its operation starting 2018.
While some people make it a point to visit Magnetic Hill on their trip to Ladakh, some come across it on their way and fail to notice the illusion. And yet, some don’t even know of this amazing phenomenon. Nature (and Physics) has its mysterious ways to surprise Magnetic Hill and us near Leh is one of the rare yet dramatic natural illusions that you just cannot miss.
So, if you are planning to visit Ladakh in the future, keep Magnetic Hill on your list and find yourself stuck with awe at how our minds are tricked into seeing and believing things that are not there but are only a fragment of imagination and strange ways of nature.
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Ladakh, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Ladakh trip.