The high altitude deserts surrounded by giant mountains of the Indian Himalaya are the last refuge of pure Tibetan Buddhism and the haunt of the elusive snow leopard.
Desiccated and stark but wildly beautiful, Ladakh remains one of the most remote and sparsely populated regions on earth.
This forgotten ‘Land of the High Passes’ once extended its influence far across the Indus Valley, into Baltistan, across the Tibetan plateau, and over the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges, its importance coming from its strategic location at the crossroads of trade routes on a branch of the Silk Road.
Cut off from the rest of India by snow for much of the year, families work collectively in spring to divert precious snow-melt from mountain streams into ancient irrigation channels, persuading the inhospitable high altitude deserts into life. By May the little fields are inching into green with barley and apple and apricot trees are frothy with pink and white blossom.
The capital of this former Himalayan kingdom is Leh (3525m). It’s dominated by a massive nine storey palace, which towers over the old town, built in the Tibetan style that was later made famous by Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Leh has since outgrown its 17th century walls but the narrow lanes, mix of crumbling and renovated buildings, and markets supplied from Kashmir make it a fascinating place to spend a few days.
For us, Ladakh is about the thrill of vast open spaces, rustic simplicity, and experiencing something almost – dare we say it – transcendental. These highlands are saturated in the spirit of Tibetan Buddhism; walk to crumbling monasteries perched on barren hillsides, cycle over army-issue metal bridges festooned in faded prayer flags blowing in the wind and visit ancient temples where red robed monks chant mantras – then you’ll know what we mean.
+ Read More
- Rustic, simple and vast open spaces
- Head to the mountains in search of the snow leopard
- Stay in gorgeous villages houses
- Strike out with a luxury mobile camp
Top Reasons To Visit Ladakh
Often the best safaris involve looking beyond the obvious highlights. It’s about the exhilarating encounters that will make your heart sing. These are encounters that nobody could ever predict, but that make your safari genuinely unique.
Best Time To Visit Ladakh
The best time to visit Ladakh for walking and cultural trips is from May to September. Ladakh experiences a high altitude desert climate and lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas which stop monsoon rain clouds.
The road to Ladakh’s capital, Leh, from Manali in the south usually only opens after snow is cleared in mid-June and the peak season here is July and August. A number of important Tibetan Buddhist festivals are celebrated at this time, complete with masked dances and village fairs.
It is bitterly cold in winter and most guest accommodation closes. Many places are completely cut off by snow. However, January to April is the best time to visit Ladakh in search of snow leopard as they follow and hunt blue sheep, their primary prey, as they descend to the lower valleys. Other high altitude wildlife you may also see at this time includes Himalayan wolf, Tibetan red fox, Eurasian lynx, and argali (great Tibetan sheep).
Because the window of opportunity for visiting Ladakh is so small, accommodation and flights from Delhi to Leh get booked up well in advance, especially at peak festival times. Once you’ve reached Ladakh the best way to avoid other visitors is to stay in villages so that you have them entirely to yourself when the day-trippers have gone home.
Best Time To Visit Ladakh
Top experiences in Ladakh
Tracking Snow Leopard in the Indian Himalayas
Found only in remote mountainous areas of Asia, tracking the enigmatic snow leopard in the depths of winter is a genuine wildlife adventureDiscover More
Our Favourite Camps & Lodges
Shakti’s village houses are like no other home in Ladakh, bringing a whole new level of simple sophistication to this remote region while offering an authentic experience.Learn More
Ladakh (FAQS) NEED TO KNOW
How many days do you need in Ladakh?
Arriving in Leh (3500m), the second highest airport in the world, the thin air literally takes your breath away. A quiet day or two are essential to safely acclimatise to the high altitude – a sunny terrace overlooking Leh or a village riverside garden make the perfect places to start. How much time you then spend in Ladakh depends on what you’d like to see and how active you like to be. Many roads are well maintained but journeys between villages, temples and monasteries, lakes and passes can be torturously slow as you snake your way through the mountains so it’s usually best not to try and fit in too much.
The landscape lends itself to exploring on foot, whether on scenic village walks or a more challenging point to point camping trek, and by river from a gentle float to exhilarating white water rafting. Whatever you choose to do you will be in the safe hands of your private guide who’ll introduce you to local life from the ceremonies at Buddhist temples to the wildlife of the mountains. All our itineraries are tailormade and we would plan this with you.
Is Ladakh a suitable family destination?
Travelling off-grid among spectacular natural beauty allows everyone to enjoy screen-free family fun together. Children and adults alike will find delight in the sights and sounds of Ladakh from its gentle mountain people tending the land and crafting by hand, red-robed boy monks taking time out from prayers to play a game of cricket or football on a dusty makeshift patch, giant gilded Buddhas, 10 foot long Tibetan horns and the tapping of the metalsmith at work. In the evening star studded skies and warming fires, comfortable beds, fluffy pillows and western-style bathrooms complete the Himalayan magic.
With a dedicated private guide, our expeditions in this stunning part of India can cater for all ages and levels of fitness. Whether on foot rambling through villages or demanding multi-day hikes, adrenaline pumping mountain biking and river rafting, your vehicle and driver will always be on standby and you will always be fully but discretely supported.
What is the best way to explore Ladakh?
We recommend staying in remote villages high on the western end of the Tibetan plateau that have stylishly renovated traditional houses for exclusive use during your stay. Each house has its own unique charm, plus a private cook for a truly authentic village experience without scrimping on comfort. An excellent accompanying guide is a must to give introductions to people from shamans to smiths, visit Buddhist monasteries and lead walks to colourful oases and turquoise lakes, all with views of rugged snow-capped peaks.
From our Travel Guides
For the love of Zambia’s bushcamps
What is there to do in Victoria Falls?
About the Serengeti Plains Formation
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Our second unforgettable trip with Natural High, hopefully not the last!
Fantastic Christmas trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar, organised at very short notice. Wonderful staff at every camp, an unforgettable family experience. …
Claire & George
Outstanding customer service well above the call of duty.
Natural High arranged a trip to remember …accommodation first class, transportation on very long road trips was excellent. Spotless . air conditioni…
Personal service and excellent organisation
This was our first holiday to be organised by Natural High. We made the enquiry on New Year’s Eve for a departure in February and within a few days…
Ken and Caroline
Fantasic Natural High
Brilliant, everything is so well organised. We have had two trips of a lifetime organised by Rod Tether who is also a guide extraordinaire!…
Antony & Jane Braithwaite RT
Fantastic Natural High
Perfectly organised trip to two great Nomad camps in Tanzania!…
Natural High nailed it again
Sledding in Sweden was our second wonderful holiday with Natural High. From the moment you speak to them to when you get home the service and attentio…
Fantasic Natural High
We are repeat customers and NH never fail to deliver an exceptional trip. They understand exactly what we want to experience and tailor the adventure …
Ruth Maxwell AH
Enjoyed EVERY second of an action- packed two weeks in Kenya. Asante Sana👏
This was my fourth safari booked with Natural High and, as previously, it surpassed my expectations. Vanessa’s Itinerary was spot on – the three cam…
Julie Baxter VJ
Fantasic Natural High
They picked out good places to stay that fitted the criteria. Very thoughtful and attentive. They called back and they sent emails with suggestions….
Morroco was a pleasant surprise
This was certainly not our first trip with natural high. As any other trip, organization was great, ie pick up, vehicles, local guides, food, all well…
Don and Bernice Willoughby RT
The holiday was absolutely perfect. The recommended places to stay were spot on, excellent service throughout. It shows that each property has been vi…
Susan And Russell Holdsworth VJ
Everything went smoothly and selection of accommodation was perect for us
Excellent, no problems…
Fantastic Kenya 🇰🇪 Safari thanks Vanessa
We stayed at three beautiful lodges; The Emakoko Nairobi National Park, Tortillis Camp Amboseli National Park and Kicheche Valley Camp Mara Conservati…
David Poninghaus VJ
Seamless service, Catherine was able to accommodate my changing needs, even last minute changes that were my fault, and ended up with a wonderful vaca…
Very helpful and accomodating
Very helpful and Catherine went out of her way to accommodate us. It was also short notice from our side and yet it all worked very well. Good advice …
Phenomenal Safari which will certainly stay with us for years to come
Our main contact, Rod, was extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the Safari that we ultimately decided upon. We trusted his recommendations throug…
Matt & Lucy Worthy RT
First class. Experts in the holiday adventure field. Great to deal with
First class! Natural High are experts in their field. All the boxes are ticked which leaves you to travel without any worries. Excellent destinations…
Perfect family Safari!!
Our family Kenyan safari trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary was perfectly planned by Catherine from the moment we landed in Nairobi, to ou…