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The Authoritative Guide to Snow Leopards in Ladakh

Quick Info about Snow Leopards in Ladakh

Best Place to See Snow Leopards

While tours happen across Central Asia and China, Ladakh, in North India, is the best place on earth to spot snow leopards in the wild.

Best Time to See Snow Leopards

Winter, winter, winter! Track snow leopards in Ladakh from November through the first week of April with Voygr.

Snow Leopard Expedition - Early Feb

The best wildlife experience on earth. All inclusive expedition with world famous trackers.

Feb 2- Feb 15, 2020
From $7,523



Snow Leopard Expedition - Mid Feb

Track snow leopards in Hemis National Park with top trackers (BBC’s Planet Earth II, NatGeo’s Hostile Planet), etc.

Feb 16- Feb 29, 2020
From $7,523

Book Now

Snow Leopard in Ladakh

Snow Leopard in Ladakh

Why are we snow leopard experts?

Voygr Expeditions is the world’s leading supplier of high-end snow leopard tours. Read on to learn more about what happens on a snow leopard tour, how our expert guides track them, where the best places to spot them are, and what a snow leopard tour is like from our CEO, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and Nikon Pro: Behzad Larry.

It is a spectacular feeling to look at a wild snow leopard. Your emotions will heighten when you are surrounded by the rugged ridges of the Trans-Himalayas of Ladakh. Over the last six years that I’ve been photographing and exploring this region of the world, I’ve seen snow leopards 23 times. I’ve seen them hunt, stalk, nap, eat, leave their scent on rocks, and even mate.

Snow leopards, after the Amur leopard (also a phenomenal Voygr tour), are one of the rarest big cats to see. Besides a fantastic tour operator, you also need really good luck. We take a lot of pride in providing the best guides, services, and expertise available to increase your chances of finding the ghost of the mountains on the best possible snow leopard tour.

Why is Ladakh the best choice for a snow leopard tour?

Ladakh, sandwiched between the Great Himalayas, the mighty Karakoram range, and the Tibetan Plateau, is an exceptional region. It is isolated by some of the world’s highest mountains yet linked by trade routes to the ancient trading towns of Western China, Central Asia, and the dusty plains of India. Ladakh has been a bastion of the Great Silk Route for over a millennium. Today, Ladakh’s ancient mix of Tibetan Buddhist and Balti Muslim cultures are a pleasure to explore and photograph with our guests. While cultural exploration and the stunning landscapes of the region keep us busy through the springs and summers, the cold Trans-Himalayan winter brings with it the rarest wildlife encounter on earth.

A snow leopard tour in Ladakh requires expert tracking, top notch logistics, high-end winter gear, a well trained support crew, and great luck. Traveling with a company like Voygr Expeditions on a snow leopard tour puts the odds in your favor. Tracking snow leopards in one of the highest mountain ranges on earth is no mean feat. Khenrab and Smanla, our lead trackers have over two decades of experience with snow leopards in Ladakh. If you can think of any famous snow leopard image or the recent award-winning film sequences of snow leopards shown in BBC’s Planet Earth II or National Geographic’s Hostile Planet, you know these trackers. Watching them pick up the trail of a snow leopard, or Tibetan wolf, that has passed by in the night is amazing. When we actually spot the ghost cat, there is a feeling of awe and wonderment. Our clients, many of whom have dreamt of this encounter, often feel their eyes well with tears. Then the cameras erupt in a frenzy of shutters.

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Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard in Ladakh

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard in Ladakh

Snow Leopard

Pair of Snow Leopards in Ladakh

How do you find a snow leopard in the wild on a snow leopard tour?

Snow leopards are fantastically adapted to life in these high mountains. Their fur is incredibly dense, with over 4000 hairs per square centimeter. The snow leopard’s long tail, ranging from 75-90% of it’s head-body length, acts as a balancing organ, allowing it to descend and ascend rapidly on sleep slopes. Snow leopards are known to leap over 15 meters. The tail also doubles as a dense blanket, insulating the paws and head from the biting cold at high altitudes.

On our snow leopard tours Voygr’s phenomenal trackers use a variety of skills to find these elusive cats. While they use high-powered scopes through the day to search for movement on the slopes, many high ridges also provide valuable clues. Scrape markings are the most common type of signs left by snow leopards. These are often found on the top of ridges, near marking rocks, at the confluence of streams and gorges, and at the base of cliffs. Snow leopards also communicate with each other by spraying urine at certain well-trafficked sites, which our snow leopard trackers routinely visit and inspect to gauge recency and direction of snow leopard movement.

Not only are snow leopards rare, they also cover enormous territories. Recent research indicates that there may be between 4-5 snow leopards in 100 square kilometers in what would be considered a densely populated area for snow leopards in Ladakh, such as in Hemis National Park.

Another variable for a successful snow leopard tour is understanding prey behavior and movement. In Ladakh, the snow leopard’s primary prey base are wild sheep and goats such as the blue sheep (Bharal), the Asiatic Ibex, and the Ladakhi Urial. However, snow leopards are also known to prey on smaller mammals such as marmots, hares, pikas, and even some birds. On average, snow leopards can successfully kill every 8-10 days with 70-90% of attempts at hunting resulting in failure. Thus, Voygr’s trackers also monitor and look for herds of prey animals such as blue sheep. Finding and tracking a decent sized herd of such mountain sheep over a few days usually results in discovering a snow leopard that is also following the sheep.

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Snow Leopard

Blue Sheep in Ladakh

Snow Leopard

Ladakhi Urial in Ladakh

Snow Leopard

Blue Sheep in Ladakh

Where should I go on a snow leopard tour?

We recommend a snow leopard tour in Ladakh for the best chances of seeing one. Snow leopard tours in Ladakh have the highest rates of success. This is because snow leopard tours in Ladakh take place in terrain that is much steeper than that in other parts of the world. This means that snow leopards in Ladakh need to traverse high ridges to look at prey movement on either side, which allows trackers with high powered scopes to spot them when they move at dawn and dusk. Elsewhere, snow leopards are on much flatter terrain, making line-of-sight tracking and spotting much more difficult.

Voygr operates its snow leopard tours in Ladakh within Hemis National Park. While snow leopards have been spotted across Ladakh and the remoteness of the region allows for a decent population of prey animals (relatively speaking), sound conservation strategy dictates that Hemis National Park is the best place to see snow leopards in Ladakh and it is also the most sustainable place to run snow leopard tours.

What about spotting snow leopards outside Hemis National Park?

Besides Hemis National Park, people also visit the village of Ulley to see snow leopards in Ladakh. Numerous guest houses and B&B’s have cropped up in a few remote villages such as Ulley outside Hemis National Park over the past few years specifically marketed to tourists coming in search of snow leopards. Ulley village, nestled in a beautiful valley about 3 hours from Leh has a couple of snow leopards that are routinely sighted throughout winter. Unfortunately, since the village is outside Hemis National Park boundaries, the same strict rules that govern human-wildlife interaction, road traffic, and baiting cannot be enforced as strictly. Throughout winter, the number of cars traveling to and from Ulley have a significant impact on the local ecology and disrupt the natural routes of both prey-animals and the snow leopards. It has also come to our attention that some unethical tour operators are baiting snow leopards using baby yaks outside the national park due to the commercial pressures of “needing” to show their guests a snow leopard. On the other hand, Hemis National Park has several strictly enforced rules in place to minimize the disruption of the natural way of life of snow leopards from tourists. Vehicular traffic is banned in the park, camping is confined to a few designated spots within the park to minimize human disruption of wildlife traffic, and there’s a much higher population of both prey animals such as blue sheep, urial, and ibex to support a healthy population of snow leopards.

Snow leopard tours in Mongolia are also catching on, but with far fewer sightings due to the much flatter terrain. In the end, we practice what we preach and run snow leopard tours in Ladakh only within Hemis National Park as running these tours in a way that is sustainable for the ecosystem is more important than commercial opportunity.

What is the best time to go on a snow leopard tour?

Snow leopards in Ladakh can be seen primarily from November through early April. Our fixed departure tours are scheduled in February and March, while we conduct bespoke departures during this entire period.

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Snow Leopard

Voygr's Exceptional Camps

Snow Leopard

Ladakh in Winter

Snow Leopard

Voygr's Exceptional Camps

What is a snow leopard tour like? Why are Voygr’s better?

Snow leopard tours are a unique combination of winter camping, trekking, and a walking wildlife safari. Surrounded by the towering mountains of the Trans-Himalayas of Ladakh, our snow leopard tours put you in the ghost cat’s terrain. Voygr’s snow leopard tour is a class apart from all the other snow leopard offerings on the market. It’s because we’re the only western tour operator that controls the entire chain top to bottom. We have our own office in Leh, own our own vehicles, and Voygr has invested in incredible facilities for our guests. While other tour operators simply sub-contract their tours to local operators, Voygr innovates and crafts experiences that are unique.

While others have to bring (or buy) their own sleeping bags and then crawl into store bought tents that are not rated for winter expeditions, we use custom made 12×12 ft heavy canvas bell tents with a 8 foot ceiling. Our insulated tents are heated, carpeted, furnished with comfortable camp cots, sleeping bags rated to -40ºC, and side tables. Before you return to your tents from your 4 course dinner, a hot-water bottle will be placed inside your sleeping bag and a thermos of hot water will be placed on your bed side table by our turn down service.

The dining lounge tent is large, luxurious, and also equipped with gas heaters. Guests can relax in a traditional Ladakhi style in the carpeted section with carved Ladakhi wooden tables or be seated at the dining table. A full bar accompanies Voygr’s expedition dining lounge.

What is an average day like on a snow leopard tour?

Voygr’s snow leopard trackers leave camp before dawn and climb nearby vantage points from where they can scope for movement on ridges. Snow leopards move most frequently at dawn and dusk. They ascend to the nearest ridge and walk along it to get a good luck for potential prey on either side. As they walk these ridges, they form silhouettes that are easy to spot. Movement itself also makes them more detectible to the human eye, aided by our high end Swarovski spotting scopes.

Usually mornings start early, around 7. A steaming french press of freshly ground coffee or a pot of tea are served to guests in their tents to get them started for the day. Many guests head straight to where the spotters are after some coffee. If the spotters are lucky, our guests enjoy a snow leopard sighting right in the morning, usually returning to camp in about an hour or so. A handful of spotters keep tracking the snow leopard while a few leave the high vantage points to secure a closer location from which to see the snow leopard. After breakfast, guests get ready for the day and hike to a closer vantage point to see the snow leopard from.

If no snow leopard has been sighted from camp, guest leave with trackers after breakfast towards trails where it snow leopards were recently spotted or to other valleys from where Voygr’s spotters can monitor more ridge lines. Voygr’s expert snow leopard spotters also visit marking rocks to see if a snow leopard came by during the night and to see if they can follow its prints in a certain direction.

Guests usually hike between 2-6 KM each day. If a snow leopard has had a successful hunt, it generally stays near its kill for a few days. This sets the itinerary for each day that it is near its kill. The day’s plans are always flexible and Voygr’s trackers stay in radio contact with other expeditions. In case someone else spots a snow leopard in a different part of the valley from where we’re searching, we change course and head there. If we find a snow leopard, we also alert other camps.

Lunch is served on the trail wherever we may be at lunch time. It is carried from camp in hot cases and served in multiple courses.

Dinner is always served at camp, often preceded by a sundowner.

Behzad Larry is Voygr’s CEO. He is a professional photographer and adventurer who specializes in documenting the remote reaches of the world. He covers wildlife, portraiture and landscapes in the high Himalayas, Central Asia, and the Tibetan Plateau. Behzad is also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Voygr’s guides have incredible experience and have hosted filming expeditions for National GeographicThe Discovery Channel, and the BBC, including BBC’s snow leopard filming for the “Mountains” episode of Planet Earth II.

Book Your Snow Leopard Tour in Ladakh

14 Day Snow Leopard Expedition

The best wildlife experience on earth. This itinerary starts and ends in New Delhi, India. All inclusive expedition with world famous trackers.

Book Now


2nd Departure. 14 Day Snow Leopard Expedition

Another departure with the best trackers and spotters on earth. Explore Hemis National Park in search of the Snow Leopard.

Book Now

Bespoke Snow Leopard Expedition

Email or call us to create a private and bespoke experience in Ladakh that includes snow leopard tracking with the best guides in the world.

Send us a message.

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