Weather Conditions in Ladakh
For many people, visiting Ladakh is a dream. The seemingly unending winding roads, the open skies, the rugged mountains and the snowy peaks in the distance – who wouldn’t want to be a part of the world here? But Ladakh is also rugged terrain and you have to know the best time to visit Ladakh before you plan your trip.
Most people have this image of themselves on a touring bike, zooming down the roads in Ladakh. But it is not like that all the year round. It is a good idea to read up on the best time to go to Ladakh before you plan your trip. Here’s a month-wise guide the best time to visit Ladakh.
The tourist season truly begins in summer, from the month of April to be exact. In summer, lakes like Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri begin to thaw, and hotels and guesthouses begin to offer discounts. In April, the heavy snowfall stops. But the maximum temperature is 15 degrees centigrade while minimum is -1.
However, the roads and passes are not open yet and the weather is still not sunny enough. So, if you’re wondering whether this is the best time to visit Leh Ladakh by road, it isn’t. It’s preferable to take a flight to Ladakh if you do want to visit in April.
If you’re in Ladakh at this time, you will be treated to a glorious vista of open blue skies. But it’s still a good idea to wear warm clothes at this time.
The Srinagar-Leh roadway opens up at this time but it is still not the best time to visit Ladakh on bike. The temperatures are still on the low side and you don’t want to be caught unawares by the after-effects of winter as the roads are still slippery and wet from melted snow. There are still people who come into Ladakh at this time, but most of them do so by air as this is most comfortable. The Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport is the main airport where flights from Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu land. If you love snow, you will enjoy the sights around you as remnants of snow still persist at this time. It’s a good time to visit the monasteries as well.
In early June, the Manali road along Rohtang Pass opens up and June is actually one of the best times to visit Ladakh. You can still find snow on some of the roads and mountains. By mid-June most of the snow melts so you can visit the monasteries, stupas and lakes as well. From early June till November, you can reach Ladakh via the Kargil route. Some of the roads are flanked by high snow banks, especially around Rohtang and even Baralacha Pass. The snow, even as it melts away, can create some stunning landscapes.
If you are a biking enthusiast, then these months definitely are the best time to visit Leh Ladakh on bike. All the passes and roads are open and clear. The different shades of browns, greens and white create beautiful vistas all around you, making for some stunning photo-ops. The max temperature at this time is a pleasant 25 degrees while minimum is at 10 degrees.
For those taking the Manali route, do note that the Rohtang Pass can get quite congested at this time. If you’re travelling from Srinagar, it is a good idea to leave early in the morning to avoid heavy traffic at Zojila Pass.
The climate at this time is equable but it’s also unpredictable. The weather is overcast and Ladakh could get rainfall. Also, by mid-August, monsoons are in full swing and this means that rivers will be flowing full, so take due care while travelling.
By September, the peak season is over and there will be fewer people around. In late September, if you’re lucky, you might be in for a treat with an early bout of snowfall. Road conditions are usually better in September, and so this is the best time to visit Leh Ladakh by road.
The seasons change once more from late September to October. Ladakh is beautiful at this time and both, Srinagar-Leh and Manali-Leh roads are open and perfect for driving or riding on bikes. In fact, many people say this could be the best time to go to Ladakh.
However, by late October the weather turns really cold and there are places that experience sub-zero temperatures as well. By this time, there are very few tourists around. By November, even though the highways are open, most people avoid travelling because of the extreme cold weather and the black ice which begins to appear by the end of this month.
This is Ladakh’s winter, where maximum temperatures are at 7 degrees and minimum hover at around -6 degrees. The weather is freezing cold and the highways are closed at this time. The Pangong lake and others will freeze over. But the roads to the lake and Nubra Valley over Khardung La Pass and Chang La Pass are kept open.
December is the coldest month in Ladakh, and it is cut off from the rest of the country by road. Winters at this time are extreme. However, in January, up until mid-March, adventure enthusiasts come to Ladakh for the famed Chadar Trek across the frozen Zanskar River. It is extremely cold, with frequent and heavy snowfall. This weather is really for those who can bear the biting cold. Nevertheless, you will come across some amazing sights that will stay with you for the rest of your life.