If not for its cold desert like climate, Ladakh would have been all the more accessible to tourists. Ladakh’s climate is a little extreme – the summers can get a little harsh with direct sunlight falling at such a high altitude and winters can be really cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing point. So when is the best time to visit Ladakh? Read our month-on-month breakdown of weather in Ladakh and infer yourself.
January, February and December: One of the coldest times of the season, the temperature rarely goes above the freezing point starting from December. The nights are chilling and temperatures hover around -20°C. Days are still bearable with 2°C as average temperature. January is also the month of maximum snowfall and it is not uncommon to see 6” plus thick ice sheet formations over rivers and lakes. Most highways are closed and Ladakh remains practically inaccessible during these months. Frostbites are common and most locals develop scales and cracks on their skins. February is when locals get only a little respite from the cold and one may find a few shops open for business.
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March and April: Although relatively better than January, February and December, it is still too cold to resume a normal routine the months of March and April. Naturally, March is colder than April. Temperatures hover between 6°C in the day and -5°C in the night. April is still better and day temperatures go up as much as 12°C. There is still the occasional snowfall that further dips the mercury down.
May, June, July and August: This is when Ladakh receives the bulk of its tourists annually. Most highways open up the last week of April or the first week of May. May is when the action starts. The weather clears up and one can enjoy their Ladakh sojourn “sunny side up”. Temperatures are a pleasant 16°C during the day and a barely manageable 3°C in the night. The breeze still carries the winter chill and one may feel the bite if sitting in shade for too long. June is when the mercury really kicks up and temperatures soar up to 21°C (day). You still can’t do without a blanket at night when it’s 7°C. This is when tourism is at its peak and Ladakh is buzzing with visitors, most on month long treks and pan-Ladakh expeditions. This is also when most events and local festivals happen to be celebrated. The days are blessed with plenty of sun, sometimes a little too harsh. Direct exposure to sunlight for long can leave you sunburnt and tanned, and not in a good way. July is arguably the warmest month of the year. The day and night temperatures are 25°C and 10°C respectively. This is when Ladakh receives the odd raid, otherwise, the weather remains pleasant and inviting all through the month. August is when it starts to get chilly once again and the extra quilts have to be pulled out. If you happen to be traveling during August, make sure you’re packing a lot of extra woolens. The breeze is a lot gustier and carries a lot of bite.
September, October and November: It’s already cold, by now. At elevations higher than 3000 meters, there aren’t too many days you will not feel cold. All through September, the weather is somewhat similar to that in May. The days are a lovely 20-22°C and all of Ladakh is rinsed by ample sunshine. The nights are back to being bitterly cold and you would need a desi angeethi to warm things up inside. But it’s during the months of October and November that Ladakh goes back to its gloomy self. Since temperatures start dropping below 0°C on a lot more regular basis once again, all interstate roads and passes are closed again 5-6 months.