Snow Leopard

Ladakh Travel Guide

Practical information

Indian Rupee
Time zone
GMT +5.5

Ladakhi history and culture

Rock carvings dating back to Neolithic times, display evidence of human settlement in Ladakh since this period. The earliest inhabitants were an Indo-Aryan race, a mixture of Indian and Iranian heritage, and Tibetans. They consisted of tribes of 'Mons' and 'Dards' around the time of 1800BC. During the first century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire, which meant that although geographically it was situated in northern India, Ladakh had a Chinese ruler, Kanishka. This didn't cause conflict, however, until the eighth century when Ladakh was involved in tensions over the expansion of Tibet. In 842 AD, after the dissolving of the Tibetan Empire, a Tibetan royal named Nyima-Gon came to power. Under their rule, Ladakh became a predominantly Tibetan nation and Buddhism spread widely through it. Ladakh had a settled period until the 13th century, when raids from neighbouring Muslim countries over a few years, fractured the strong Buddhist communities and converted some to Islam. The reign of King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh when he founded the Namgyal dynasty, which continues today. In the early 1600s, the Namgyals expanded into Zanskar and Spiti and made efforts to restore the kingdom. However less than a hundred years later, disputes over religion between Tibet, Bhutan and Kashmir forced the Ladakhi king to convert to Islam and brought unrest to the state. This was resolved with the Treaty of Temisgam in 1684, which brought peace but meant that Ladakh lost a lot of it's independence and some unusual requests were to be completed annually, including 200 horse-loads of tea to be taken from Lhasa to Ladakh by the Grand Lama. The next invasion occurred in 1834 when the Dogras incorporated Ladakh into the state of Jammu and Kashmir, offering the area of Stok to the Namgyals. Ladakh then began to grow it's tourism industry and influences from the western world started to appear. The relative peace of a predominantly Buddhist state was broken when Ladakh was raided by Pakistani forces in 1947 but by 1948 it had signed the Instrument of Accession making the state a part of the Union of India. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, brought an influx of Tibetan refugees to the region, then China's subsequent invasion of Ladakh in 1962 brought with it the building of the Karakoram highway, linking Pakistan and Ladakh. It is still a politically disputed state today, but there is general acceptance of autonomy for the majority Buddhist Tibetan refugees who inhabit this wild land. 

Time Zone

The time zone is Ladakh is IST - Indian Standard Time (GMT +5:30 hours).



The local language in Ladakh is Ladakhi or "Phal-skad" as the locals call it which is similar to classical Tibetan, also known as "Bhoti". The Ladakhi language is grammatically different from modern Tibetan, however, as it derives from the grammar of classical Tibetan a lot of which is no longer used. This means that Ladakhi and Tibetan speakers are unable to converse between one another. It is also spoken by both Buddhists and Muslims so is seen as a binding language between religions. Even so, Ladakhi is only spoken by 30,000 people in India, making is one of the vulnerable Indian dialects. 
English is the main teaching language in Ladakh and Hindi, Urdu and English are also widely spoken and understood especially in the larger towns and villages. 

Useful Phrases


KHAMSANG-IN-A-LEY?  - How are you? 

KHAMSANG-LEY! -I am fine.

DON-LEY! Please eat/take! 

MAN-LEY - No, thanks!

D(r)IK-LEY. - it is enough!

DANGS-LEY - I am full.

O-LEY - Yes, please.

TSAPIK-LEY - A little bit, please.

SHIMPO RAK-LEY! -It is delicious.

NYERANGI-MING CHI IN-LEY? - What is your name?

NGE-MING … IN-LEY - My name is …


Indian Rupee

As Ladakh is part of India, the currency used is the Indian Rupee (INR). 

The Indian currency is closed which means you cannot carry Rupees into or out of the country. You can exchange foreign currency at banks and some larger hotels and you can also withdraw Rupees from ATMs with your credit/debit card. US Dollars and Pound Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange

Foreign Exchange -The State Bank of India and the J&K Bank have main branches in Leh, where foreign exchange facilities are available. The State Bank of India also operates an extension counter at the Tourist Information Centre located in the Dak Bungalow Complex in Leh. There is no foreign exchange facility outside these two towns.

Credit Cards may not be accepted by most of the small hotels and restaurants. Therefore, it is advisable to carry sufficient Indian rupees in cash. 



The power supply in Ladakh is 230-240 Volts / AC 50Hz. There are many different types of plug socket in use so we recommend bringing a versatile adapter to avoid any inconvenience. 

It is better to take extra batteries or power packs for digital products like cameras and mobiles phones as there may be some remote areas with no electricity in Ladakh. It is advisable to charge them fully before leaving for your tour. Be aware that at high altitude, because of the cold, the batteries get can loose power quicker than normal.


Winters in Ladakh are extremely harsh. From November to March the whole region is almost entirely cut off by the snows and the temperature will rarely rise above freezing even in the middle of the day. Lakes will freeze over entirely with a 6 inch thick layer of ice and even the larger rivers, such as the Zanskar, will freeze on the surface while the water continues to flow below the ice. 

From March onwards, the temperature begins to rise and the snows gradually melt away. The main tourist season in Ladakh is June to September which is when the Monsoon rains are wreaking havoc on the south side of the Himalayan Range. If your travel time is limited to the summer months, Ladakh makes the perfect location to enjoy the stunning Himalaya while conditions in Nepal or Bhutan are not suitable.  During the summer months you can expect temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees during the day and the thin air can make the sun feel very intense. When the sun goes down, even in summer the night time air is chilly and you will need to wrap up warm in the evenings.   

By October,  the season has begun to change again and the temperatures are getting noticeably colder. By November / December the high roads are blocked with snow and the lakes and Rivers frozen over yet again.   

When to go?

The short answer is to either go between June to October.

In the spring from April to May, the snows begin to melt and the roads leading to Ladakh from Himanchal Pradesh and the Kashmir Valley will become passable after winter. Although daytime temperatures will be a little more bearable, night time temperatures are still well below freezing. There is very few tourists at this time of year, so it is a nice time to do a cultural tour and see the many villages and monasteries before the peak season tourists arrive. For trekking and climbing, conditions are still too cold and unpredictable but some lower routes may be possible.

Ladakh's monsoon season generally hits between July and October, however being a dry state it doesn't receive the same levels of rain as other areas. During these periods there is likelihood of heavy but short downpours. Outside these periods the weather is mainly dry and clear. This is peak season in Ladakh, you can expect daytime temperatures between 10°C and 25°C with sunny days. Night time temperatures can still drop well below freezing, especially at higher altitudes, so a dependable sleeping bag is essential even in the summer months. Because of the high altitude, the sun is intense and it is easy to burn if you are not careful. The snows have entirely melted except for the tops of the highest peaks and this is the best time of year for all trekking and climbing routes.

Safety and security

Your safety and well-being is always the number one priority at Kandoo Adventures.

We operate all our travel destinations in accordance with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice, which publishes travel advisory notices for British nationals. We also closely follow the advice of ABTA (The Association of British Travel Agents) which provides support to UK tour operators.  

We always recommend that you regularly check the FCDO's travel advice, in order to keep up to date about the country you are planning to visit.

If you are not a UK resident, we would recommend that you visit your government's travel advisory website for further information:

Lost or delayed luggage

We recommend that you wear your walking boots to travel and pack as many essential items as possible in your carry-on luggage. If your luggage is delayed we can then do our best to kit you out to start the trek on time. In the event that your luggage is delayed or lost, our procedure is as follows: 

  • Establish what items are missing and a contingency plan for each critical item
  • If it reaches 6pm on the evening before starting the trek and your luggage has not arrived we recommend buying and/or hiring items immediately as a precaution
  • We will take you to a shop where you can buy toiletry items, e.g. toothbrush. You will be able to find everything you need in Leh.

We will do everything we can to help if your luggage is lost or delayed. Be sure to check your insurance policy coverage for lost luggage cover.


Alcohol is not prohibited in Ladakh, however the entire region sits at a high altitude so if you wish to have a drink, moderation is strongly suggested. 

What to wear

July to October is Monsoon season in Ladakh.  Monsoons can be heavy and unexpected. Beginning in July, monsoons in Ladakh do not last long, and whatever little rainfall the area receives is generally in the form of heavy but short-lived downpours. The temperature at this point stays between 3 degrees to 17 degrees so interchangeable layers and waterproofs are a necessity. 

Being situated in a remote province conservative dress is expected for free days. It is always best to be respectful of the local culture. In smaller towns and rural areas female travellers may want to ensure their shoulders, upper arms and knees are covered up. Wearing shorts is often considered disrespectful for men as well as women so a couple of pairs of loose cotton trousers are always a good idea.
Ganda La Pass Ladakh


Ladakh sits in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, the height of the Great Himalayan Range prevents the monsoon rains of India from pushing any further north, instead breaking like a wave on the southern side of mountains. This makes Ladakh a high altitude desert with very little rainfall, the main source of water being snow melt. 

The Indus River, which separates the Himalaya from the Karakoram, the worlds second highest mountain range, passes through Ladakh and is surrounded by several lesser ranges. The Ladakh range forms the northern boundary of the Indus Valley and the Zanskar range the south. The Karakoram mountains have their south eastern end within Ladakh but culminate in the summit of K2 (8611m) further north in the Baltistan region of Pakistan.
Ladakh is a high altitude cross roads, sitting at the western end of the Himalaya, which run from here all the way through India and Nepal to distant Bhutan and the eastern end of the Karakoram, which can be followed from here all the way to Afghanistan and the Pamir mountains beyond. Ancient trade routes connecting the Middle East and Southern Asia with the Tibetan Plateau, all meet up here in this high and harsh Buddhist landscape, dotted with hill top monasteries and fluttering prayer flags.

Hemis National Park, west of the regional capital Leh, is the largest National Park in India and home to the largest population of endangered snow leopards anywhere in the world.  As well as beautiful and illusive snow leopards, Ladakh is also home to Ibex, Lynx, Tibeatan Wolf, Red Fox and Himalayan Marmot. The protected area of Hemis NP also includes the 400 year old Hemis Monastery and encompasses the Markha and Rumbak Valleys as well as parts of the Zanskar Range. 


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