The Scenic Airport of Leh, Ladakh

by Ajay Prakash
SpiceJet flight in snow bound Leh Airport

Leh (IATA: IXL, ICAO: VILH) is the lone civilian airport in the Union Territory of  Ladakh, India. The airport, however, is jointly shared by the military and the civil aviation Airports Authority of India.

Leh Airport, Ladakh, India, named as Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, is one of the most scenic airports in the country. The airport is named after the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, a prominent Buddhist monk. He is considered one of the 16 direct disciples of Lord Buddha, a statesman, and an international diplomat.

Dangerous Yet Scenic

Leh airport occupies 3rd position in Travel Radar’s list of the most dangerous airports in the world. The main reason being that the airport is located 3256 meters (10,682 feet) above sea level. The pilots keep facing natural challenges like high winds, high terrain, and a rarer atmosphere. Despite these challenges, the airport remains one of the most scenic airports in the region.

Indigo over the Himalayas

Indigo Over Ladakh – Photo Indigo

Leh is surrounded by some of the highest mountain peaks of the Himalayan region. The highest elevation in Ladakh is 7742 meters or 25,400 feet. The area is sparsely populated and has lots of similarities with ‘Tibet.’ For that reason, the region is called “Little Tibet.” Ladakh is also famous for the scenic beauty of Pangong lake. The crystal blue water with the surrounding landscape enchants the people. In wintertime, the lake’s water is frozen up and becomes an ideal place for ice skating. The lake is also a great place for viewing migratory birds. (Source – Incredible India).

Ladakh A Tourist Paradise

The Government of India has been promoting Ladakh as a tourist destination. This Himalayan Union Territory is frequented both by Indian and foreign tourists.

Flying into Leh has its advantages when compared to reaching there by road. The road trips are long and take two days to get there from Srinagar, with a night halt en-route. Secondly, there are breath-taking views of the Himalayan range that one should never miss, especially during the winter when all the mountains are covered with a white sheet of glittering snow.

The only downside of air travel is that fares tend to be unpredictable. One-way airfare from for the one and a half hour Delhi – Leh flight can be as low as INR 3,500 ($50) to INR 15,000 ($200). The fares tend to depend upon the season, weather, and demand. Booking your travel a couple of months in advance is always prudent.

New Passenger Terminal

According to the Airports Authority of India, more than 730,000 passengers travelled through Leh airport from April 2019 to March 2020. During the same period, about 6,000 civil aircraft made scheduled flights to and from Leh, and an annual increase of 10%. The passenger traffic has been growing at a CAGR of 20.3% from 2016-2020. Therefore, a new domestic Passenger Terminal is being constructed at the airport. The salient features of the building are given in the figure below.

Snapshot of Leh Airport

Snapshot of Leh Airport

Leh is well connected to Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu, and Chandigarh, with over a dozen daily flights. SpiceJet has recently started dedicated cargo flights to Leh.

We leave you with some pictures of picturesque Ladakh taken from the air. Do write to us about your experience if you have traveled to Leh Ladakh.

Air India over Ladakh

Photo: The Thumping Nomad

Go Air over Ladakh

Photo: The Bum Who Travels

Aerial View of Leh City

Photo: Freepik

Night time view of Leh

Photo: Airlines Airports

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