The Great Debate: Ladakh or Spiti

Spiti Valley
Lovenish

Lovenish

Lovenish considers himself an amateur travel writer and believes that travel writing should be more about authentic individual experiences and less about listing landmark sites and itineraries. He has travelled extensively in India and has a dream of doing a cross country road trip covering all the states and union territories of Mainland India. Apart from travel, he enjoys listening to comedy podcasts and watching a tonne of movies. He is a folk music aficionado and is currently trying his hand at learning the guitar. He currently lives in rural Haryana and right now there’s nothing that he likes more than his daily commute to work of 100Km, on his motorcycle.

Lovenish rarely uses any social media so if you wish to chat with him about travel, riding and music etc. then you may reach out to him at lovenish.kalra@adventurenation.com
Lovenish

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The Himalayas, which translates to the abode of the snow, has been home to some of the most popular tourist destinations in India. For decades, a flock of tourists has been visiting places such as Shimla, Manali, and Kashmir Valley, etc. during the busy summer season. But over the last decade, there has been a gradual shift towards less explored areas in the northern Himalayas, especially among the relatively young travellers.

Out of all the relatively new tourist destinations, Ladakh has become the most visited over the last decade. It is usually the first destination on everyone’s travel bucket list. Although people visit Ladakh for various reasons the primary one of them is to get away from the usual busy tourist towns and explore something remote and unique. Historically, our country has not been very big on long road trips but that has completely changed over the last few years. Travelling to Ladakh by road has become one of the most sought after road trips in the country. That has probably been the biggest factor in the growth that Ladakh has seen in the number of travellers over the past few years.

Must Read: Why is Spiti Valley a distant cousin of Leh Ladakh?

Morreh Plains in Ladakh
Morreh Plains in Ladakh

Meanwhile, Spiti has also been creeping up into the same category as Ladakh but has always remained a distant runner-up. As beautiful as the place may be, it hasn’t lived up to its true potential as a commercial tourist destination and has only remained a niche place to visit. Having said that, people who have travelled to Spiti will swear by it as the most beautiful place they have ever seen. The landscape of the valley is truly similar to no other place in the country.

Read: Lahaul Spiti – The Enigmatic Valley

ki-monastery
Key Monastery in Spiti

While both Ladakh and Spiti are located in the same region and offer quite similar landscapes, the resemblance is only visible on the outer layer. Beyond the landscape, both these places have so many unique things to offer to someone looking for an authentic Himalayan experience. Now let’s address the million-dollar question; Ladakh or Spiti. Ideally, one should explore both of these places but if one has to choose one, it comes down to their personal choice. Still, a comparison based on different factors is done below, which may help you decide.

Accessibility

Ladakh Spiti
  • Ladakh is well connected to all the major cities through air transport with frequent flights throughout the day to Leh. If travelling by road, then the most common route is the Manali Leh Highway. Manali to Leh generally takes three days including two overnight halts which helps in acclimatizing. One may also start from Srinagar and reach Leh via Kargil.
  • Spiti can only be directly accessed by road as there’s no airport in the valley. Nearest airports are Shimla and Kullu but both are not well connected. The two most common points to enter the valley by road are Shimla and Manali. From Shimla, it generally takes three days to reach the valley and two days if you enter from Manali.

 

Tourist Season

Ladakh Spiti
  • Ladakh is open throughout the year as one can directly fly to Leh and explore the surrounding areas. Although, Ladakh is primarily a road trip destination and the roads to Leh, from Manali and Srinagar, generally remain open between June and early October.
  • Spiti does not have an airport nearby, yet it is accessible pretty much throughout the year by road if you enter from Shimla. Although there may be several roadblocks during the winter season so the ideal season to explore the valley is similar to that of Ladakh i.e. June to Oct.

 

Altitude And Weather   

Ladakh Spiti
  • The altitudes in Ladakh vary a lot in different places. The city of Leh is located at a moderate 3500m but the mighty Khardung La stands at 5,359m which generally happens to be the highest point in a road trip to Ladakh.
  • The temperature in Summers:- 0 to 25 degrees
  • The temperature in Winters:- -30 to 5 degrees
  • The average altitude in Spiti remains slightly higher around 4000m. The highest motorable in the valley is Kunzum Pass situated at an altitude of 4,551m.
  • The temperature in Summers:- 0 to 20 degrees
  • The temperature in Summers:- -20 to 5 degrees


Travel Infrastructure

Ladakh Spiti
  • Over the years, Ladakh has rapidly developed as a major tourist destination, thus the infrastructure is also well developed. The roads inside the region are mostly tarmac and easy to access. Accommodation is also easily available throughout the region. One has the option of choosing from upscale hotels to basis guesthouses and homestays to backpacker hostels. There are plenty of eating joints throughout the entire region with Leh having a few upscale restaurants as well. Cell reception is available in major towns with internet cafes in Leh. Public transport is minimal.
  • The tourist infrastructure in Spiti is minimal at best when compared to Ladakh. The roads aren’t in particularly great shape. The valley receives fewer people thus the lack of funding from the authorities.  Accommodation in Spiti is easily available but one has to choose between a basic hotel and a homestay. Although, a couple of backpacker hostels have opened up recently. There are a few cafes that serve different cuisines in the valley but one mostly has to manage with the local Dhaba style food. Basic cell reception is available in major towns. Public transport is minimal.

 

Leh-Castle-and-Kibber Village
Leh Castle and Kibber Village

Things To Do/Attractions

Ladakh Spiti
  • Incomparable landscape from vast plateaus to shimmering blue lakes.
  • Biking at a few of the highest motorable passes in the world.
  • Ancient monasteries.
  • Trekking and Camping.
  • White water rafting.
  • Indulge in Ladakhi/Zanskari food.
  • Popular Places: Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri Lake, Hanle, Sarchu, Khardung La, Chang La.
  • Picturesque landscapes from vast barren lands to beautiful lakes.
  • Ideal for road trips.
  • A few of the oldest monasteries in the world.
  • National Wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Trekking and Camping.
  • White water rafting.
  • Indulge in Tibetan food.
  • Popular Places: Kaza, Kalpa, Chitkul, Chandratal Lake, Dhankar Lake, Kunzum Pass, Rohtang Pass.

 

khardungla-and-chandratal
Khardung La Top and Chandratal Lake

Adventure Offerings

Ladakh Spiti
  • Every year, Ladakh attracts thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the globe. Getting a picture clicked on a motorcycle with Pangong Lake as the backdrop has become an adventure certificate in itself. Apart from Ladakh motorcycle trips, Ladakh is home to some of the very popular treks such as Stok Kangri and Markha Valley. In winters, the Chadar Trek is operational which happens to be the only frozen river trek in India.
  • As the landscape in Spiti is quite similar to Ladakh, it automatically becomes a great place to go for a motorcycle trip. Although, trekking and backpacking are more popular in the valley. The most popular treks in the valley are the Pin Bhaba Trek and the Kanamo Peak Trek. It is also home to some of the most beautiful wildlife sanctuaries such as the Pin valley National park wherein you can spot the endangered species of the stunningly beautiful snow leopard.

 

 Biking at Pangong Trekking at Pin Bhaba
Biking at Pangong and Trekking at Pin Bhaba

Both of these places have more resemblances than differences because of the similar kind of landscape and cultural demographic. Thus, it becomes extremely difficult to choose one over another. It eventually comes down to the fact that what kind of experience are you looking for. If your idea of travelling is to have a tonne of adventure and see some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world, then Ladakh is the place for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for more immersive travel experience and wish to indulge more in cultural things, then head to Spiti. Ladakh being a popular destination is quite crowded during the season so it becomes the perfect place to meet from all over the world. Spiti, on the opposite, is ideal for solo travellers who are looking to spend some quality time with nature.

About Author

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Lovenish
Lovenish considers himself an amateur travel writer and believes that travel writing should be more about authentic individual experiences and less about listing landmark sites and itineraries. He has travelled extensively in India and has a dream of doing a cross country road trip covering all the states and union territories of Mainland India. Apart from travel, he enjoys listening to comedy podcasts and watching a tonne of movies. He is a folk music aficionado and is currently trying his hand at learning the guitar. He currently lives in rural Haryana and right now there’s nothing that he likes more than his daily commute to work of 100Km, on his motorcycle. Lovenish rarely uses any social media so if you wish to chat with him about travel, riding and music etc. then you may reach out to him at lovenish.kalra@adventurenation.com