The month of May is almost here and a lot of people are gearing up for their upcoming trip to Ladakh this year. Srinagar Leh highway was declared open last month; and Manali to Leh stretch too is expected to be cleared towards late May. It is usually the month of September that widely gets called as the best time to visit Ladakh; but if you ask which month is the most adventurous one than May will win hands down. It is the perfect time to ride to Ladakh for adventure junkies; and for people who want to see plenty of snow all around. A trip to Ladakh in May means that the road conditions will not be at their best and high rising snow walls on both sides of the roads at high altitude passes will present a magnificent sight.
If you were planning to visit Leh Ladakh in May this year, then in this article I will share some tips on how you can plan your trip; what you should expect out of the journey at this time; and how you can make the most out of it. If, after reading the article, you have any questions, you may comment and ask towards the end of this article.
The first thing that you need to do while planning a trip to Ladakh in May is to keep a close check on the status of the roads. A lot of things also get decided and changed during these initial few weeks of the tourist season. For example, in 2017, Srinagar Leh highway was declared open towards Mid May followed by Manali Leh route at around 10th of June. This year however, BRO declared the Srinagar route open in the last few days of March itself. But then a couple of weeks later, it started to snow at Zojila again and the road closed for a week altogether.
Same thing applies for Manali to Leh route as well. Estimate for this year was that Manali road will open by April 20th but the sudden change in weather pushed this date towards May end again. So before you finalize the dates of your trip and set out, keep a close watch on how the weather is trending and what the status of the road is. You definitely do not want to get stuck somewhere along the route in case the road ahead got blocked.
Also Read: How Safe Ladakh is for Tourists?
Another thing to look out for is how the situation is trending in Ladakh and if there was any major change. For example, in 2017, Inner Line Permit was brought in effect all of a sudden. This year, Hanle, Umling La and Chushul route were completely taken off the tourists list. Tons of people were planning to go towards Umling La but all their plans now got cancelled at the last minute. Before you finalize your itinerary for the trip, just check if there was any major change that you need to incorporate.
Speaking about the permits, Inner Line Permit or simply known as ILP, was reintroduced in 2017; and is a mandate to go towards areas like Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. This permit can either be obtained in person from DM office Leh; or applied for Online. For complete procedure on applying for the permit and related charges that you will have to pay; please read How to Obtain Inner Line Permit for Ladakh.
When it comes to mobile and data connectivity in Ladakh, it is pretty much limited to Leh city only. BSNL here has the widest coverage; but it is only Leh where you will get a stable connection with good voice clarity. All other networks will be dead the moment you leave Leh; but you will get intermittent BSNL connection in Nubra and Pangong as well. Voice clarity will be extremely bad but you will at least be able to send text messages if needed. For more information on this topic, please read Mobile Services in Leh and Other areas of Ladakh.
Is Ladakh Open in May
Yes Ladakh is definitely open in May. Most of the hotels and guest houses get functional by this time and several others tourism related activities too start in May. Bike rental agencies, taxis and public transport services too all get available. internal roads in Ladakh leading to Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri are open as well. So once you reach Leh, you will have no problem finding a place to stay or going towards any other areas in Ladakh for sightseeing.
Srinagar to Leh in May
Srinagar to Leh by road in May really depends on the weather conditions. Historically however, the highway remains open for most of the month; or at least the second half. If you are planning a road trip to Ladakh then reaching Leh via Srinagar and returning via the same way is really your only choice. To be on a safer side however, do not plan in the early part of May. Even after the snow has been cleared, avalanches at Zojila in early May are not uncommon which can block the road for several days altogether. To ensure that you do not get stuck somewhere and are able to travel as planned, prepare your itinerary around or after 15th of May.
Also read: Srinagar Leh Highway Route Guide & Road Map
Manali to Leh in May
Manali Leh highway in May will remain closed for either all or most of the month. Even if the road did get open, It will only be for the last few days of the month, around 25th or later. It is best advised to not include the Manali road in your travel plan though because if it did get cleared of snow, the condition of the road will be terrible with a high chance of temporary closure. If you however do want to travel from Manali to Leh by road in May; then ensure that you either start your trip in last week of May if going by Manali. If you were starting earlier than go to Ladakh via Srinagar and return via Manali; but keep the dates of your Leh to Manali journey in last week of May only.
Also read: Manali to Leh Route Guide and Road Map
Ladakh Weather in May
The weather in Ladakh starts to clear in the month of May. This is the time that officially marks the arrival of Summer season here. Temperature will hover between a pleasant 15°C to 20°C during day but will drop close to 5°C at night. However, even during the day, the breeze will still carry the winter chill and one may feel the bite if sitting in shade for too long.
Clothing for Ladakh in May
Your regular cottons, some light woolens, gloves and a thick heavy windproof jacket is what you will need while visiting Ladakh in May. The trick is to bring clothes that you can wear in layers. There will be a major difference in the temperature at day and at night. Sun will be quite harsh while the wind will carry a chill so your clothing will also change accordingly. One moment you will be feeling warm and the next moment you will be cold as you step in the shade. So you need to bring clothes that can be worn or removed one by one in layers per your comfort. Do not bring all your thick woolens. For more details, please read Clothes for Ladakh Trip – What to Pack?
Leh Ladakh Bike Trip in May
Going to Ladakh in May by motorcycle will actually be a preferred way over going by car. Bad road conditions, water crossings, all the slush at Zojila will be easier to manage if you were on a bike. Other passes en route like Khardung La and Chang La will also have bad road stretches towards the top in May where riding a motorcycle will be easier than driving a car. This however is just a small part of trip and cannot be the deciding factor on whether you will go by car or motorcycle.
Ladakh in May
If you were traveling to Ladakh in May first week or before 15th May actually; then the only way to plan is to go via Srinagar and return the same way. You cannot come back via Manali as Manali to Leh route will definitely be closed in early May. If your plan however was of going to Ladakh in May End then you may include Manali Leh highway as well but keep a check on the road status before you finalize everything. Weather will be colder towards earlier part of the month but will keep getting warmer as the month progresses. All internal roads however will remain open throughout the month and road conditions too will mostly be the same; mix of bad and average.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with Children
The bus service to Ladakh from Srinagar, Manali and Delhi remains unavailable in May. You may however find shared taxis from Srinagar to Leh towards later part of the month. The local buses within Ladakh too starts by mid to late May; depending on the weather and road conditions. May however is not the best time to travel to Ladakh if you are going to rely on public transport services.
When to Book a Flight
If your plan is to travel in first few days of May; if you are short on days; or if you were traveling by public transport, then it would be better to book a flight to Leh. The motorcycle rental agencies and taxi services become operational in this month; so after landing in Ladakh, you can easily rent a motorcycle or a taxi for local sightseeing. Shared cabs too become available that you can board form Leh bus stand. If renting a private taxi or motorcycle was not a convenient option for you then shared taxis are a great way to travel locally.
If you reached Ladakh by Air, then acute mountain sickness will be one of your biggest worries. Your gain in altitude will be huge in a matter of couple of hours and you are bound to suffer from Mountain sickness, at least on first day of your arrival. To know more in details on AMS and what its symptoms are, please read How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh.
Road Conditions in Ladakh in May
Since the Srinagar route has just opened a few weeks before, it will be in its worst ever shape. Melting snow would have created numerous water streams and slush all across. Bad sections of the road will majorly be between Srinagar and Sonamarg. Worst section however will be between Sonamarg and Drass in form of Zojila. You will have to tackle a lot of mud and slush while crossing over Zojila at this time. Between Drass and Leh however, roads will be average with a few bad patches in between. Same will be the case with Manali Leh highway after it gets opened in last few days.
After you have reached Leh, roads towards Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri will be a mix of good and average. Bad sections will be limited to the top of Khardung La and Chang La. Presence of snow and water streams creating by melting of it will however be in plenty on these routes as well.
Suggested Itinerary for visiting Leh Ladakh in May
Mentioned below are a couple of sample itineraries that you can follow for your trip. I will first suggest an itinerary if you reached Leh by Air; and then I will suggest an itinerary for road trip as well.
If reaching Ladakh by Air, below is an example of an itinerary that you can follow.
- Arrive in Leh. Rest and arrange Permits – Day 1
- Leh to Lamayuru to Leh – Day 2
- Leh to Diskit – Day 3
- Diskit to Leh – Day 4
- Leh to Pangong – Day 5
- Pangong to Leh – Day 6
- Leh to Tso Moriri – Day 7
- Tso Moriri to Leh – Day 8
- Fly Out – Day 9
This of course is just a sample itinerary but it is one plan that you can follow irrespective of your time and mode of travel. The connecting roads between Nubra, Pangong and Moriri may not be open in April in which case you will have to come back to Leh from each of these destinations. If you hired a motorcycle in Leh or a private cab, you can follow this itinerary but in case the connecting roads are open as well, then you can travel directly between Nubra and Pangong via Shyok road; and Pangong and Moriri via Chushul route.
If however you were looking for a bus or shared taxi, then you will have no other choice but to return to Leh city every time. There is still no public transport available on Shyok road, across Wari La or Chushul / Hanle route.
Also read: How to Plan a Solo Trip to Ladakh
Srinagar to Leh in May
If you were planning a complete road trip to Ladakh, below is a sample itinerary that you can follow. For the sake of this article, I will assume Delhi as the starting point. Manali to Leh route mostly remains closed in May so you really will have no choice but to get to Leh by Srinagar and return the same way.
- Delhi to Jammu – Day 1
- Jammu to Srinagar – Day 2
- Srinagar to Kargil – Day 3
- Kargil to Leh – Day 4
- Leh – Day 5
- Leh to Diskit – Day 6
- Diskit to Pangong – Day 7
- Pangong to Leh – Day 8
- Leh to Batalik / Kargil – Day 9
- Batalik / Kargil to Srinagar – Day 10
- Srinagar to Jammu – Day 11
- Jammu to Delhi – Day 12
Following this itinerary, when you reach Leh from Kargil on Day 4, you will do so via Lamayuru. But on your way back on Day 9, you can chose an alternate route via Batalik. However, please note though that a permit is needed to travel on Batalik route; so ensure to add this name on your ILP application form.
In case Shyok road is closed at your time of arrival then you will have to return to Leh from Diskit on Day 7; and go to Pangong on next day. If you have more time in your hand, then you can plan a trip to Tso Moriri as well. To get to Tso Moriri, you can either come back to Leh form Pangong and go to Karzok the next day via Chumathang. Or you can directly reach Tso Moriri from Pangong via Chushul route.
Srinagar to Leh Bus in May
The bus service from Srinagar to Leh starts towards Mid to Late may. So if traveling by Public transport was on your mind, then you must plan your journey towards later part of the month. Another choice to travel on this route would be to board a shared cab from Srinagar; and of course to rent a private taxi.
Manali to Leh Bus in May
Since the road itself opens towards late May, there is no way that the bus service from Manali to Leh will remain operational in this month. Even the shared cabs starts by early June so you will have to keep this road off your plan completely. The booking for HPTDC bus however opens in May so you can book the ticket in this month for June or July.
Accommodation Choices in Ladakh in May
In terms of accommodation, you will have no trouble finding a place to stay on Srinagar Leh highway; Leh City and Nubra Valley. The Camp sites at Pangong and Tso Moriri however start to set up in May so you may have a bit of limited choices in this aspect if you were traveling in early part of May.
Temperature in Ladakh in May
Temperature in Ladakh in May will fluctuate between a pleasant 15°C to 20°C during day but will drop close to 5°C at night.
Challenges of Ladakh trip in May
Visiting Ladakh in May means that you are traveling early in the season. If traveling by road from Srinagar, then bad road conditions and unpredictability will be your biggest challenge. You are bound to face some really bad sections of the road, Water crossings, slush. BRO continues to work on the road in April and temporary closures are not surprising at this time. If that happens, then you will be stuck or stranded unless the road is opened again.
If flying by Air, then Acute Mountain Sickness will be your biggest challenge as I described previously in the article. Limited accommodation choices will remain to be a challenge in both the cases.
Manali Leh highway will have to be kept off the itinerary which will be your greatest disadvantage of going to Ladakh in May.
Also read: A Complete and Detailed Road Map of Ladakh
Benefits of Leh Ladakh Trip in May
Believe it or not, even Ladakh has started to get a bit crowded these days. In the months of June, July and August, there is a huge rush of tourists. It can even be so much that you will have to get in a line to get a picture clicked at some of the tourist spots; like in front of the the board at top of Khardung La which reads highest motorable road in the world. This however will not be the case if you went in early May. Tourists will be limited in number and you will enjoy the journey better. Getting cheaper accommodation and commute deals will also be an added benefit of this.
Can we visit Ladakh in May
The answer to this question is that yes you definitely can. Just keep in mind the points I suggested above and you will have a fun and enjoyable journey. I hope the information above was of help. If you need any further details or have any other questions; please feel fee to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.