A 2 week Trip to Ladakh

You need at least 2 weeks to see Ladakh properly and try to cover most of the places so this was our biggest vacation break. However we managed to do the 13 day trip in 60k/person.

Day 1: Arrive at Leh and get acclimatized

Leh is just the start of high altitude scenario you will get to experience in the trip and even if you don’t have altitude sickness, you need to give yourself some time to acclimatize. I bought some Camphor for smelling in case i felt altitude sickness which turned out a big help when we had to travel to Pangong and Tsomoriri lake. Our hotel was quite near the Leh market so we spent the evening touring the local market and restaurants. Hogging on momo and Thukpa was just the start of it.

our pretty hotel

Day 2 : Local city tour of Leh

Our guide wanted us to take more time to acclimatized to the altitude so we spent the next day touring the Leh city. We started with LEH PALACE which was still under construction by Archeological survey of India but it is on top of the hills and gives a beautiful view of the city from each of its 9 floors. Then we moved on to spend some time at SHANTI STUPA where we witnessed the daily prayers and meditation. This too is on top of the hill and by this time you will get used to high altitude as well as long walking. The last of the visit was to SANKAR GOMPA which was residence of the head priest as well as one of the famous monasteries in Leh. The day ended with more time spent at the Leh market and enjoying very cheap and highly tasty Apricots. Try to get hotels close to this market as it makes the travel easier.

view from the palace

Day 3: Lamayuru and Kargil

Magnetic Hill: The trip started with going to the place defying law of gravity. If you stop the car and put it in neutral , you can actually watch it move uphill without any help. There’s also an ATV drive that can be taken for half n hour or so as the area is almost a desert.

Gurudwara shri patthar sahib: A historical gurudwara run by many of the army people and we got one of the best tea here. Very calm and serene place to visit plus as the name suggests, it is home to a boulder having the Guru Nanak’s print on it.

Meeting point of Zanskar and Indus river: You can clearly see the two distinct colored rivers meeting at the point still flowing wildly. There is also option of water sports but we continued the journey to Kargil.

The two rivers can be seen distinctly with different colored water : Zanskar & Indus

The evening was spent in exploring the Kargil area and lucky for us , our hotel overlooked the river and the hills so we cold enjoy the sunset.

reached Kargil

Day 4: Lamayuru Gompa and Back to Leh

Trip back to Leh started as we didn’t get time to visit the Dras war memorial so in case you want to visit that , you need to leave early morning from Kargil.
Lamayuru Gompa: The oldest monastery in Leh is often home to many religious festival conducted  and the sheer magnificence of it takes time to comprehend.

Alchi Gompa: its on the bank of Indus river and one of the few monasteries in Leh which is not on the hills. You can enjoy the Indus river flowing right near the Gompa.

Day 5: Khardungla Pass and Nubra Valley

The highlight of the day was Khardungla Pass which is highest motorable road and stands at around 18000 ft. So as imagined, its paradise for the bikers and it would take a long time for you to be able to take photos due to the crowd. The place can be difficult for people having altitude sickness as oxygen level is pretty low. There are army run canteens where you can get maggi, momos and hot tea. If you get lucky like us then you can play with snow on the mountains.

Nubra Valley: So we left and reached nubra valley by nearly evening so we just had time to visit HUNDAR VILLAGE. The terrain here is completely different from the mountain clad Leh as you will get to see huge stretches of desert. You can opt for either drive in desert using ATV ride, kind of quad bikes or enjoy a double humped camel ride ( quite uncomfortable though). You can also go for camping in Nubra Valley but we chose a quaint hotel nearby.

snow near khardungla pass
Nubra valley desert

Day 6 : Deskit village in Nubra

We start the morning by visiting Deskit Gompa as the next stop which is part of the Thiksey monastery of Leh and as built in around 1400AD. Its on a hill top so we took a cab plus the place starts getting tourists after 10 so we avoided the traffic by reaching there early morning. The area is part of Deskit village of Nubra valley and the hills along with greenery can be enjoyed when you stop over for food.

We started the journey back to Leh and didn’t have time to visit Hundar village , another of the nature’s masterpiece. On the way we stopped over at the world’s highest motorable road again : Khardungla Pass and luckily got to enjoy the snow. Since we reached Leh early, we got the time to explore the market and buy some souvenirs to take home like shawls and spices.

the cafe at Khardongla pass- best Maggi!

Day 7: Pangong Lake

The main and most commercialized place in Leh to visit is Pangong lake made famous by the several Bollywood movies shot here. Its nearly a 5 hour drive from Leh city so its better to start early from your hotel so that you get to enjoy the evening at Pangong Lake. The trip to lake goes through another pass called Chang La which is at nearly 18000 feet so it gets a lot windy here and you cannot spend a lot of time outside. On the way there’s a bridge which was used in 3 Idiots movie shoot so you can have some photographs here. The entire path is quite hilly so better to go in a car or choose a good bike if you ant to ride yourself (and try to avoid pillion riders as in many places due to icy water, drive gets tricky)

The lake surrounded by mountains is a sight in itself and the vastness will not make you realize that only few km is in India and rest all is claimed under China. You will need permit to visit this lake so try to come to this place through proper local guides who can help out with the permits even if you are bike riding. The lake has some memorabilia of all the movies that have been shot here and many tourists can be seen taking photos with them. You can also relax at the side of the lake but remember the water is quite cold most of the year and you are also not permitted to wade too far in lake or try other activities like swimming or boating.

The night can be spent at several camps around the lake and some of them also offer a bonfire for a little extra money. The food at these camps was very homely and served at a separate camp used as a restaurant. The light goes off around 11pm and then you can enjoy the sight of millions of stars in a completely unpolluted sky quite different from a city life.

clear blue Pangong lake

Day 8: Sunrise at Pangong and Sindhu Ghat

Get up early to enjoy the sunrise and also the limited hot water. We left after the breakfast at Pangong and on the drive back stopped at Sindhu Ghat. It is built at river Indus and many local festivals are held here. After that you can touch Leh hotel by evening and then we had time to go to the local market area again. We stocked up on momos and thupka at the restaurants here.

Sindhu Ghat

Day 9: Kyagar Tso, Chumthang hot springs and Tsomoriri

Tsomoriri like Pangong is a lake at around 15000 feet but much less visited so has escaped the commercialization. The drive to the lake takes nearly 9 hours mainly due to narrow hilly roads which are not very conducive for travel specially bike rides. On the way we stopped at a small but very beautiful blue lake far from any sort of civilization: Kyagar Tso. It is kind of a mini Pangong lake but without the commotion of people.

Chumthang hot springs: One of the wonders of the place are the hot springs of Chumthang in the extreme cold weather of Leh. We had lunch in the area and enjoyed the springs before heading back to Tsomoriri lake.

Tsomoriri:We reached in evening and got only an hour before sunset so that was spent at the calm and serene lake. It is surrounded by mountains which gives it a picturesque look specially around sunset. The place has several migratory birds and just like Pangong, you cannot wade too far away into the lake. We came back to camps near the lake for dinner and star gazing at night gets even better here.

Camping at Tsomoriri

Day 10 : Tsomoriri and the trip back to Leh

There is a river flowing right in between the camps which was our morning amusement. The camps provide good homemade dinner and breakfast along with hot water so we didn’t feel any lack of amenities at top of the hills. The travel back to Leh is equally tiring of 9 hours but on the way you can see several nomadic constructions as well as local animals like Yak and marmot can be spotted in plenty. We crossed one of the passes Tanglang which again is at quite a bit of height of nearly 17000feet. The day ended with dinner at Leh hotel.

last view of lake as we leave
Yak

Day 11 : Monastery tour
Shey Palace and Gompa: This is situated at a height so you have to travel on foot here. They place is very old and has one of the largest Buddha statue in the Gompa. We also bought a few souvenirs from this place.

Thiksey Gompa: It is one of the largest and great architectural marvel at Leh. It includes a large no. of temples around ith mutiple wall paintings of Buddha and the drive is also through the hills so we spent nearly 2-3 hours at this place.

Hemis Gompa: It is the biggest Gompa in Ladakh and the annual festival is held right here increasing its popularity. There is an assembly hall and the main temple or monastry. The place gives a detailed history of Buddhism inside its displays.
We covered most of the Gompas around Leh and on return to the hotel we tried to stop at the Druk Padma School , the one shown in the 3 Idiots movie, but that day as a school closing day.

Day 12: Leh exploring

We explored the markets and famous local spots as well as restaurants on our last day. In case you want to buy something here, the must buys are: Saffron, Walnuts, Apricots and Yak wool shawls.

Souvenirs

Day 13: Sad departure from Leh airport but heart full of lovely memories and a resolve to do this trip again

Time to say Bye Leh!!

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