Photographer’s guide to Ladakh

A guide Photography Ladakh for who want to shoot in this unique himalayan region, in the north of India.

Intro photography Ladakh

The Indians call it a Little Tibet. Is situated in north of India, ufficially in the region of Kashmir but they are totally different. This area is a bit remote and of difficult access. Ladakh is basically a Himalayan region where authentic Tibetan people live in, where just in the last years more tourist and photographers has come. The whole area of Ladakh is located at a very high altitude,which extends from the Kunlun mountain range to the Great Himlayas. So the capital, Leh, is more then 3,500 meters above sea level, and around has a large number of peaks reaching over 6,000 meters. For those who love landscapes and buddhism. Indeed, for me it is one of my favorite location in India to photograph.

Location photography Ladakh

Start from the capital Leh

Take easy when you arrive, at least 2 days walk in the old town. The acclamation is really important. Anyway Leh is a fantastic place to explore. Leh palace, the most iconic building of the city, is definitely worth a visit. You can also watch the sunset from Shanti stupa, visit Tibetan refugee markets or simply wander around its narrow alleys and streets.

Nubra Valley

A vast sea of sand dunes in the Himalaya itself. Nubra Valley is a desert similar to those of Arabia but located at 4,000 meters above sea level and surrounded by the Himalayan range.

Pangong Tso Lake

A lake located at 4,350m above sea level which extends across India and China. People go to this lake to see the stunning landscape and for hiking.

photography Ladakh

Chemrey gompa

In my opinion, the most beautiful gompa out there in Ladakh, having been built and perfectly shaped on the top of a steep hill. Looking and Photography at it is merely impressive.

Tso Moriri Lake

The highest lake in Ladakh (4,522m) and one of the most beautiful ones owing to its surroundings, green pastures and white peaks. You can stay at home with some local family, they has some rooms to rent in the village. For me the best panoramic view to capture from the region. If you don’t have problems with altitude stay there 2 days, so you can , slowly, explore the amazing area.

Tso Kar Lake

On the road to Two Moriri you will met is little brother Tso Kar. Can be a really surprise and if you arrive in blooming time is really colorful and amazing. Also the nomads coming often to refresh themselves on the lake, or make laundry.

Ladakh photography
Lake Tso Kar, India

Thiksey gompa

Though the most touristic gompa, this fortification is almost like a small town. It has shops, restaurants, a hotel and a huge monk community living there.

The people photography Ladakh

You will met amazing and charming people in the area. Are really friendly and hospitality. Ladakhis are both ethnically and linguistically close to Tibetans. In fact during the 8th century, a royal Tibetan annexed the region to himself. So as a consequence, a huge number of Tibetans came and established roots there. Remember to resect their culture and their religion, a fundamental aspect in their life. For more responsible travel photography check my previous post.

Before booking your ticket

Ladakh is not for everyone! I want to introduce this advice in my photographer’s guide to Ladakh because I have experienced directly and heard a lot of stories about it. Therefore the region is on the Tibetan area, is really high altitude and you need to be in perfect shape and healthy conditions. Here the high altitude sickness is really common issue among most travelers that come to Ladakh, especially those who come by plane. For example Leh is already located at 3,500m above sea level. Almost everybody I met coming with plane, suffered a headache at least during the first couple of days. So thinking about before planning and booking any ticket. I personal knew experienced travel photographer who doesn’t shooting for headache and feeling tired during their trip.

You can read this article on medical advice.

How to move around photography Ladakh

The best transportation is hiring a private car with driver. Also because the public transportation such doesn’t exist in Ladakh. 

Private taxi when photography Ladakh

If you are in Leh taxi is the only way to move around. Please note that Leh is built on a hill, more then 3000mt and the distances are not short. If you got into Leh by plane, first you need to acclimatize to the high altitude before starting to ascend Leh streets. If your guest house is close to the city center then that’s fine. But if not, on the first day, I strongly recommend you take a cab every time you go back to your guest house. Trust me, I know it by experience. On my first day, I started walking up and down and got a strong headache by the end of the day.

For traveling outside of Leh, any guest house or trekking agency can arrange a taxi for you. Prices are standard, therefore there’s no place for negotiation. Moreover, most are shared taxi service with other tourists. Anyway if you want to be free as photographer I suggest you to hire a private car with driver, is more costly but worth it.

With bike

photography Ladakh
Me driving in Ladakh, India, photo by Ami Tuxworth

I travel in Ladakh with my own bike and was, maybe, the best experience I have had. For photographers is the best, but is for everyone. You can go and stop wherever and when you want. You can rent a bike, royal enfield most of, in center town of Leh or in Manali if you want make the marvelous and really hard road to Ladakh. For driving around the capital you can rent a scooter.

When to go: the weather

Summer: is high season for tourism in Ladakh. During the day the sun is very harsh and can gets pretty hot. However the climate here can change really quickly. At night, temperatures drop and the weather is pleasant. Snow has completely melted except on the highest peaks. This is the best season for trekking.

Spring and Autumn: Snow starts melting and days become pleasant. However the nights are still cold and though. Usually the restaurants start opening in April or start closing in autumn. If you are lucky some mountains are already feasible to hike.

Winter : Can be really hard travel there and in extreme weather condition. Ladakh is completely covered by snow and temperatures are always below 0. Roads to Ladakh are closed, which means the only way to get in is by plane. Also Restaurants and guest houses are practically all closed, but you can arrange accommodation with some local family, maybe without great service.

How to get in photography Ladakh

By air

Daily flights from both Delhi or Mumbai connect to Leh. In the winter can be often cancelled for climate conditions. However in the other season due to a strong wind, can be some delay.

By land

Getting into Ladakh by land is only possible between June and mid-October. During the rest of the year, roads remain closed. There are two main places to come from with share jeeps or bus:

Srinagar in Kashmir, the pass are less high and usually take 24, the road is open in May

The second route is from Manali, the road is open late, in June, is more high but more beautiful.

Travel Insurance for Ladakh

My last advice in the guide photography Ladakh is getting a really god insurance. Like any destination, traveling with proper travel insurance is a must. Take care of yourself in the Himalaya. In the high altitude you can get injured more easily and if you got seriously injured, you may have to be rescued.

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