Trekking in Ladakh isn’t for the faint-hearted. For starters, the entirety of Ladakh is in the high Himalayas, which means a lack of oxygen. Then there’s the barren landscape, which, despite its beauty, can suck your soul out when climbing up a challenging slope. So let’s explore the challenging high-altitude treks in Ladakh.
However, one thing’s for sure – completing a trek in Ladakh feels incredibly rewarding, and if you want to experience how it feels, read on. This article will take you through the best high-altitude treks in Ladakh.
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1. Phyang to Hunder via the Lasermo La
This is a 5-day trek that starts at Phyang in the Indus Valley and ends in Hunder in the Shyok valley. While Phyang and Hunder are beautiful in their own right, the undoubted highlight of this trek is Lasermo La – a high-altitude pass situated at 5,438 m or 17,841 ft. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the pass buried in snow. But even if you’re not, the view of the towering Karakoram range from the top of the pass will make up for it. Once the trek ends, feel free to spend a few days in the Shyok valley and explore the spectacular dunes.
2. Darcha to Padum via the Shingo La
The trail from Darcha village in Himachal’s Lahaul Valley to Padum town in Ladakh’s Zanskar Valley is among the most challenging in the Ladakh region. So, if you’re new to trekking, we recommend giving this a miss and picking an easier trek from this list. However, if you’re an experienced high-altitude trekker, you should consider this 10-day trek. The highest point on this trail is the top of the Shingo La, which is 5,090 m or 16,700 ft high. Shingo La has become partially motorable now, and in a few years, a tunnel will connect Darcha and Padum. So, if you want to experience the raw beauty of the trail, better plan your trek sooner rather than later.
3. Lamayuru to Alchi via the Kongskil La and the Stakspi La
Lamayuru and Alchi are villages in western Ladakh near Leh famous for their respective Buddhist monasteries. While Lamayuru is the more famed village due to its location on the highway halfway between the towns of Leh and Kargil, Alchi, too, has become a tourist hotspot in recent years. This 5-day trek connects the two villages via two high-altitude passes – the Kongskil La, which is 4948 m or 16,233 ft high, and the Stakspi La, which is 5153 m or 16,906 ft high. However, the good thing is that the passes, despite heights of more than 16,000 ft, aren’t very challenging.
4. Padum to Lamayuru via the Hanuma La, the Singge La, and the Sir Sir La
The Padum to Lamayuru trek, similar to the Darcha to Padum trek, is tough enough to challenge even the most seasoned trekkers. It takes around ten days to complete this trek, and trekkers are treated to the majestic sights from no less than three high-altitude passes – the 4,724 m or 15,499 ft high Hanuma La, the 5,009 m or 16434 ft high Singge La, and the 4,832 m or 15,853 ft high Sir La. Throughout the trail, you’ll be greeted with countless small villages that retain their old-world charm. Also fascinating to witness on this trail are the ancient and isolated Buddhist monasteries.
5. Spituk to Stok
We’ve saved the most laid-back trek for last. The Spituk to Stok trek takes trekkers from the village of Spituk in the vicinity of Leh to Stok village, which lies at the base of the Stok Kangri mountain. Before you start hiking along the trail, which meanders its way through the rolling hillsides, you might want to catch a glimpse of the Spituk Gompa – one of Ladakh’s most famous monasteries. There are no passes to climb on this trail, so you can take your time and explore the trail at your own pace. Once you reach Stok after completing the 3-day trek, visit the royal palace, which dates back to the early 19th century.
When is the best time to do these treks?
All the treks in Ladakh we’ve mentioned so far are best experienced during the summer months, i.e., June – September. While you can also attempt them before or after this period, be warned – some sections, especially near the passes, will be difficult to cross due to excess snow. It’ll also be extremely chilly and windy. So, for safety’s sake, think of doing these treks only during June – September. You can hire guides and porters at Leh to make things easier for yourself and your co-trekkers.
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