The majority of the tourism happens between the months of June and September when both Manali Leh and Srinagar Leh Highways are open. This means that a large portion of the tourists each year travels to Ladakh in Monsoon. But is it really safe to be planning a trip at this time? If you do, what precautions should you take?
The risk that the monsoon season poses in the hills is very real. The picture above is of a cloudburst that occurred on Manali Leh highway near Sarchu. It blocked the road for 2 days and people on both sides ended up spending the night on the road.
The best thing to do is to not plan a trip at all to Ladakh in the monsoon season. If you can, then postpone it by a few weeks and go in September. If you cannot do that, then mentioned below are a few things that you should keep in mind while preparing for the trip.
How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh in Monsoon Season
The cloudburst that I posted the picture of above happened in a region that is supposed to be in a rain shadow area. The actual definition of a rain shadow area is that it either does not rain there at all; or so less that it is almost equal to none.
Much however has been changing in the recent year, all thanks to Global warming. The 2010 cloudburst of Ladakh that claimed the lives of several is an example of how rules like this do not apply anymore. This year, there was a cloudburst in Kargil that did a lot of damage.
There have been numerous occasions lately when tourists from Nubra Valley could not get back to Leh for days because of heavy rains on Khardung La road.
Incessant Rains in Lower Himalayas
While traveling to Ladakh during the rainy season, be prepared to face rainfall in the early part of the trip which really can be non-stop. If you were traveling from Manali, then it may constantly rain on the entire stretch from Chandigarh to Keylong.
From the Srinagar side, you will encounter rain the moment you start to climb via Jammu and then will continue to travel through the deluge well until Dras.
Risk of Getting Stuck / Stranded
This has started to happen quite often in the last few years. Landslides caused by rain will block the traffic completely until help arrives to clear the road. Depending on the severity of the roadblock ahead, there is a high risk of being stranded for several hours altogether or even a day.
Slush is a big problem around Rohtang top, some areas near Keylong, Jispa, and Darcha on Manali Leh highway. You will also find it in plenty between Srinagar and Sonamarg, and then Zojila top on Srinagar to Leh road.
I wish I could say there was a way to avoid it but there really is not. You will have to know how to drive or ride through the slushy areas safely. The good part however is that the slush mostly is limited to the places I mentioned above. In Ladakh, there could be some towards the top of the passes, specially Khardung La and Chang La.
There are really two aspects to it. One is of the melting snow and then the Monsoon. So the melting snow would have created the water stream and the rain would have just made it even more furious.
Also Read: Motorcycle Water Crossing Technique & Tips
This is another challenge that you just cannot avoid. It does not matter which month you go to Ladakh, you will definitely have to cross these rivulets. But in Monsoon, the flow of the water will be twice as much.
What is a shooting stone? It is nothing but a piece of stone that will fall from a hill above straight on the road. With that being said, even the smallest of these are capable of causing some very serious enough damage.
The risk of shooting stones is high in Monsoon season. Thankfully though, all the areas that are prone to this risk would be highlighted and marked.
You will see a huge board put up as warning you that you are now entering a shooting stone zone. Make sure that you do not stop or take breaks in such areas and continue to drive through carefully.
Keep a Check on the Weather
I know that a Ladakh trip is planned months in advance but it is always wise to take a final rain check before you start. If there is news of heavy rains all across or people getting stuck or stranded due to landslides, it is best to delay your trip. Wait for the monsoon to pass and plan in September.
Also read: Best time to visit Leh Ladakh
This will apply to both the kind of clothes you pack and how you pack them. Try packing clothes that are rather easier to dry. Carry a good waterproof rain jacket and waterproof shoes.
If you are traveling on a motorcycle then it becomes of even utmost importance. You will have to carry an entire rain suit that is capable of taking the beating of the rain for hours if required. Do not carry just one pair of shoes and if possible, carry a pair of rubber sandals as well.
Now comes the part about packing your stuff. If you were traveling by car, then make sure that you do not put anything on the roof. Even if you have it all well packed and sealed, prefer to accommodate as much of the luggage as you can inside the car itself.
If you were traveling by motorcycle, then follow the steps below.
- Find a good waterproof bag and some large polybags (like the ones they give you in showrooms after you buy new clothes)
- Get a large tarpaulin or black packing polythene
- First, put your clothes in the polybags.
- Then put them in your bag.
- Now wrap the bag in the large black polythene or tarpaulin before you mount it on the bike.
Also read: Traveling to Ladakh with Children
Protect Your Electronics
This will include all your electronics including the camera, chargers, phone, etc. The worrying part is not just limited to either of it getting wet in the rain but it is rather the moisture that poses an even greater risk.
Use water-tight packing bags to pack it as securely as you can while it rains. Also, make sure that you do not leave them switched on while not in use.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Before you travel through a specific bad section of the road, slush for example, then stop for a minute and make the best judgment on how to get across. The same applies to water crossings as well.
Along with all your spares, keep an extra pair of windshield wipers. Do not rush through anywhere. Take your time and drive slow to ensure a safe trip.
If you are riding a motorcycle and it starts to pour down like crazy, then stop and let the rain pass. Continuing to ride when you can barely see anything ahead can be very risky.
For more details on this, please read Driving Tips for a Road Trip to Leh Ladakh.
Keep Buffer Days in your Itinerary
I always advise this to people irrespective of the time they are traveling. It becomes of even more importance in Monsoon, because of all the risks above. Try not to tie yourself down to a very strict itinerary.
Keep it a bit flexible with at least 2 days in addition to the overall plan. This way, if you ended up getting stuck somewhere then you will at least be able to do so peacefully.
You will know that you can afford the delay without risk of any major loss back home in your absence, or getting criticized at the job for extended leaves or missing your flight, etc.
Monsoon time in Ladakh
Monsoon season in Leh Ladakh arrives sometime towards the end of July. But then again, these are in my opinions rules now that do not apply anymore. It possibly can rain anytime these days but your highest chance of encountering rain is between 15th July to 31st August.
Ladakh in Monsoon – Conclusion
I hope the information above on Ladakh in the monsoon season was of help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum, and I will be happy to answer.