Off Beat Destinations to Visit in Leh-Ladakha comprehensive guide
In today’s modern-day and age, Leh-Ladakh is popularly known as a tourist destination. Tourists from around the globe visit Leh-Ladakh for spiritual meditation, adventure, art, and culture. But back in the day, before tourism took over this land, Leh was a crucial stopover for various trade routes. Trades were frequently conducted between India and China, and Tibet to east Kashmir. Leh-Ladakh is also home to endangered heritage sites that are threatened by climate change and sheer negligence.
One such site is the old town of Leh, which is now listed among the 100 most endangered sites in the World Monuments Funds.
Just another interesting fact, as you know Leh-Ladakh is known to be the cold desert of Northern India.
We are sure you will be interested to hear that even a state like Uttarakhand is home for a small cold desert of this region known as the Nelong Valley. The rich history, calmness, and scenic beauty of Leh-Ladakh are unmatched. No matter how you travel to Leh-Ladakh, once you step foot on these grounds, you can certainly sense an energy enveloping you.
Many of you might wonder that this sense of energy comes from altitude sickness, but once you have accommodated yourself, you are left with a sense of calmness. Nevertheless, travelers who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues are advised to consult a physician and use oxygen cylinders during their travel. Now, while most of you are well aware of the popular places to visit in Leh-Ladakh, it is time to explore some offbeat places in Leh-Ladakh.
Key Highlights of Lama Dugh Trek
Now while there are various places to eat, shop, and visit in Leh-Ladakh, there are some low-key beautiful places hidden away, with interesting activities to do.
- Upper Karzoo: For extreme sport enthusiasts this place is heaven since the Ice Hockey Stadium is located in Upper Karzoo. Nestles between snow-covered mountains and extreme temperatures there are various frozen water bodies. And the one in Karzoo is home to international Ice Hockey tournaments. Countries like the USA, Canada, and many other countries enter tournaments that are held here.
- Sankar Monastery: While Leh-Ladakh has various spectacular monasteries to visit, the Sankar Monastery is a special place. Nature enthusiasts and photographers can find themselves walking through green fields to reach this monastery. The Sankar Monastery is approx. 2-3 km from Leh, and the distance can be easily covered by foot.
- Donkey Sanctuary: Nature and animal enthusiasts and photographers absolutely must visit the Donkey Sanctuary. Home to abandoned and helpless donkeys, this sanctuary encourages tourists to visit and feed these lovely beings. You can either sponsor the sanctuary or even adopt a donkey to help out in caring for them.
- Walking Through Architectural Heritage: The Old Town of Leh is a special place to visit. It is rich in art, culture, and history. The architecture of Old Leh depicts the 16th-century heritage and history. Walking through the small lanes of this town you will observe the destruction caused in 2010 by the flash floods and the town’s effort for its restoration.
- Datun Sahib Tree: This offbeat destination in Leh-Ladakh is a must-visit for religious and non-religious tourists. The legendary story suggests that a Guru Ji was once offered a tree branch to brush his teeth. He used half of it and sowed the remaining half back into the earth. The branch manifested into a huge tree, where no tree ever grew before.
Off-Beat Places To Visit in Leh-Ladakh
Now while the key highlights suggest some interesting activities to do, below are mentioned some off-beat places in Leh-Ladakh for you to visit and explore.
Uleytokpo is one such off-beat destination that is most attracted by solo travelers. Nevertheless, one must visit this place once in their lifetime. Uleytokpo is a picturesque land straight out of a fairy tale. With the Indus River flowing by the side of lush green valleys, Uleytokpo is the perfect place to hideaway.
You can set up camp by the river to be completely immersed in silence and nature. It is the perfect spot to meditate and take a break from city life. You can spend days here wandering about and exploring nearby areas. It is also an important stopover for travelers to acclimate themselves to the weather and altitude for their journey ahead.
If you want to experience some culture and history, the Yungdrung Monastery is one of the finest pieces of architecture. It was built in the 11th century and the detailed craftsmanship of the era is well-reflected. Life slows down or stops in Uleytokpo and you are simply in awe of this hidden destination. Uleytokpo is approximately 60kms from Leh and falls under Sham Valley of Ladakh. While known for its serenity, the folks of Uleytokpo enjoy celebrating festivals such as Holi and Diwali with utmost gusto.
Panamik and Yarab Tso Lake
One of the most exotic and off-beat destinations 150kms ahead of Leh is Panamik. This small and undiscovered village stands tall at 10,442ft rising above the sea level. A word of advice – though this may be one of the most scenic places to visit, it is known that Panamik has extremely harsh winters.
This is also the last destination open to civilians to visit, as it lies close to the Indo-Tibetan Border. Panamik is a photographer’s dream come true, as it offers uninterrupted wide vistas and therapeutic hot springs. The sulfur springs loaded with healing and curing properties are a must-visit.
The Yarab Tso Lake, also a lesser-known lake, lies just before you enter the Panamik village. You will drive through a rough patch before you arrive at a small hill. From here you start a small hike of 15-20mins that leads you straight to the Yarab Tso Lake.
You can also hike to the lake from the Panamik side, which is much longer and tougher – perfect for adventure seekers. Be sure to acclimate yourself before you arrive in Panamik and carry a good supply of warm clothing. Nevertheless, there are also stores nearby from where you can buy authentic pashmina and other clothing items.
Nestled between Ladakh, Tibet, and Zanskar – which is part of the Changthang plateau is a small sleepy village called Rumtse. It is also the beginning of the Tso Moriri trek and is about 70 km east of Ladakh.
Even though Rumtse is known for its barren landscape, the mesmerizing beauty and unexpected wildlife encounters are what attracts tourists. Extreme adventure enthusiasts can embark on the challenging trek of Kibber. Certain experience and acclimatization are necessary to go on this trek as it stands tall at 5800m. While trekking through Kibber you will also cross the Parang La pass.
Since Rumtse is a small village, there are limited places to eat and stay. Tents are available for campers or you can also carry your camping gear. Since the best time to visit Rumtse is between June to September, you must visit the Taglang Pass. If you do not fancy extreme adventure activities, you can also opt for fun activities such as – white water rafting, jeep safari, and camping in Zanskar. The Chadar Trek is famously known among mountaineers, trekking, and campers, which also begins from Zanskar. The best time to conduct this trek is during the winters since you will need to walk over a frozen river.
Despite being a favourite hotspot for Bollywood shootings, Bagso receives very few tourists. Maybe that is why it is such an offbeat place to visit in Leh. Bagso lies approximately 40km from Leh on the way to Sham and Lamayuru valley. If you are not traveling by your transportation, you can easily get a cab from Leh as the roads are very well connected.
To enjoy a beautiful uninterrupted drive toward Bagso, the months of April to June is the best time to visit. The town of Bagso is about 100 years old and is a crucial symbol of history and the Buddhist culture.
For those of you who are looking to experience rich culture, art, and history without an unwanted crowd, Bagso is the place for you. The town consists of only 150 households and is placed on the northern mountain range of Himalaya and Karakoram. Bagso is paradise for photographers of all kinds, historians, and art and culture enthusiasts. The three famous temples of Bagso are: Serzang temple, Chamba Lhakhang, and Chamchung temple – which was formerly a mosque, but later converted to a Buddhist temple by the queen.
The landscape is mystic and surreal, which you will only experience once you visit Bagso.
If you are fond of Cashmere and Pashmina and ever find yourself wondering, where is it sourced from – The Changthang Region is your answer. Home to the nomadic Tibetan tribe, this region expands to about 1,600km east into Tibet and south-eastern Ladakh. Changthang is scarce, vast with extremely harsh winters, and stands tall at 14,600ft above sea level. The summers are not so warm and are also equally unpredictable and it can rain or snow at any given time. Therefore, it is wise to always carry rain and winter-proof clothing with you, when visiting Changthang.
Given the harsh weather and extreme terrain of Changthang, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to travel so far. Nevertheless, exploring Changthang is an experience in itself. The silence and simplicity leave you awestruck and forces you to think about the hard living conditions of the nomads.
For those who enjoy discovering nature and wildlife, the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visit. The sanctuary stands tall between 14,000 to 19,000ft and is a part of the Hindu Kush Himalaya.
The sanctuary holds within itself various endangered and rare species of flora and fauna and is divided by the Indus River.
Best Time to Visit Leh Ladakh
As most of you know, Ladakh is known as a cold desert. To be able to thoroughly enjoy Leh-Ladakh, summer (April-June) is the best time to visit. Winters can also be enjoyed by those who can tolerate temperatures dropping to -45 degrees.
The famous Chadar Trek is conducted especially during the winters so trekkers can walk over the frozen river with ease. Many snow leopard and wildlife expeditions are also conducted during the winters for better chances of a sighting. The air is relatively very thin with low levels of oxygen, therefore tourists and travelers, especially those with respiratory illness should visit Leh-Ladakh during the summers.
Due to extremely heavy snowfall, the roads to Leh-Ladakh are closed for almost half the year. Flying till Leh is also an option, but you must still give yourself a day or two to acclimatize to the weather. There may be several passes and permissions required to enter and visit certain places, make sure to gather all necessary documents before arrival.
Once you have fulfilled all the requirements and adjusted to the climate, you will begin to feel rejuvenated and energized. To enjoy the Buddhist festivals like the Hemis festival June-July are the best months to visit. Many biking enthusiasts from all over the world bike through Leh-Ladakh during July, August, and September.
Almost everyone has visited Leh-Ladakh at some point in their life. And those who have not, this section is especially for you. It is about time you visited the enchanting land of Leh-Ladakh.
Leh-Ladakh is home for another enchanting destination known as the Markha Valley, where you get to feel the essence of both Kashmir and Leh-Ladakh.
This land is like no other as you can sense and see a truly calming vibe. If you are a solo or group traveller, Leh-Ladakh has something for everyone. You will truly discover yourself while discovering this magical land. You will not be the same after your visit to Leh-Ladakh and you begin to view life with more depth and perspective.