Ladakh is a destination which is in the bucket list of every travel bug. It is a place where you can see the clearest blue skies are decked with the different form of clouds. Driving across the world highest mountain passes, camping beside the beautiful serene lakes, enlighten yourself with the rich Buddhist culture while visiting the monastery and so much more to experience in Ladakh that
The best time to visit Ladakh is from May till Mid-September. If you want to see snow then you should plan your visit at the end of September. By the second week of October, all the camps & hotels start closing due to the harsh winter.
If you want to self-drive or ride then there are two different routes which will lead to Leh. One from Srinagar and the other one from Manali but if you have less time in hands you can always fly to Leh. If possible, you should drive or ride one-way as it is a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy such a scenic all along the way.
If you are going by your own you should get the Inner line Permits for Indians and Protected Area Permits for Foreign Travelers, these documents are available near the LEH DC office.
Here I will share my experience in Leh Ladakh & Srinagar and hope it helps you to plan your vacation. I will give you an insight about each day we spent there. I will also tell what I did and what I could have done.
However, a trip to Ladakh has many things to offer, there are few things which as a tourist we should adhere to, so we can enjoy the trip to the fullest.
In my previous post, I have jotted down the must-have packing essentials when you travel to high altitude terrains. People who fly to Leh are more prone to mountain sickness (AMS -Acute Mountain Sickness) because of the sudden change in altitude rather than people who ride or drive to Leh. Once you land in Leh, it is recommended to take 24-48 hours rest before you start the ladakhi adventure.
Our trip durations was Duration: 11 Nights / 12 Days
Day 0 – We boarded a late-night flight from Bangalore and reached Delhi, from there we boarded another flight for Leh. There is no direct flight for Leh from Bangalore.
Day 1 – Arrive at Leh
On arrival, we were greeted by our travel representative at the airport arrival, who assisted us in transferring to our hotel. Our stay was booked in Hotel Nature’s Land. They welcomed us by putting a traditional scarf around our neck. After checking in our room we relaxed for some time and then had our breakfast.
Due to the sudden change in altitude people are prone to mountain sickness, so take enough rest and acclimatize your body to the conditions the same was told to us by the hotel staff. We spent the first half of the day in the hotel and had lunch. In the evening we thought of exploring the Leh market as all of us were fine.
It is a street market, you’ll see shops selling shoes to clothes, woolen wear, and jewelry. Popular items with tourists are Pashmina shawls, stoles and other Pashmina wool garments. There is the Tibetan refugee market in which you can buy a lot of things like souvenirs. Cloths, Flags, Singing Bowls, Prayers Wheels, Metal Stuff, Bracelets, earrings, finger rings etc. Please bargain well when you buy stuff from here. After buying a few souvenirs, we went back to the hotel then had our dinner.
Day 2: Leh En route Khardungla, Nubra Valley (230 k.m, 5-6 hrs journey)
After a sumptuous breakfast in the morning, we started our journey for Nubra valley through the highest motorable road Khardung la pass, it is at a height of 18,380 feet. You will enjoy the scenic beauty along with the clearest blue skies overlooking you. But whether can be a spoilt sport and we had to face the wrath as suddenly the weather changed, and it was cloudy. There was no more sign of the blue sky which made us sad. But then we saw small white snow falling from the sky and we were ecstatic. This was our first snowfall experience. By the time we reached Khardung la, the weather had turned really cold. We clicked a few pictures and then we moved. You should not stay there for a longer time as many people experience AMS at that altitude. One of our travel buddies fell sick because of the same but as we drove down to lower altitude things became normal. We stopped at a small shop and had tea and Maggi.
Our next stop was at Bhag Milka Bhag shooting point where you can take ATB ride, we clicked some pictures as the landscape around was really beautiful.
Then we went to Diskhit Monastery. The main and unique attraction of Diskit monastery is the enormous colorful statue of Lord Buddha on a hilltop. You can click panoramic shot from the top.
Then we proceeded to Hunder, where we saw the white sand dunes and the Double Hump bacterian camels which are only found in this region of India.
Then we checked in a camp in Apple Nubra cottage. It was a nice well-maintained place very near to the sand dunes. You only have vegetarian options here. You don’t have electricity here, everything runs on a generator. The generator works from 6 pm to 11 pm and in morning 6 they switch it on for some time.
Day 3: Nubra – Turtuk (3-4 hrs)
In morning post breakfast we started for our drive to Turtuk. As we were driving away from Nubra to Turtuk the roads became smaller, the color of rock changed in the course of the journey. The road leading to it was truly beautiful & could not resist our self from clicking a few pictures. You will see many bridges connecting one hill to another. Due to rainfall/snowfall previous night, there were rocks falling from the mountain all along the way. People need to be careful while driving on this kind of terrain.
We were trying to climb the stony mountains.
The village is about 115 km from Nubra valley and can take about 3 to 4 hours to reach here, the total population of Turtuk is just 4000, they follow Islam and speak Baltistan language. Before the 1971 war, this village was under Pakistan rule. You have do not have much hotel options here. We stayed in Balti Residency. We had traditional Balti food for lunch; we explored a few places, the walk to K2 mountain viewpoint is amazing. In the night we had home-cooked food, served in a traditional way. The electricity is only till 11 pm. A more detailed blog on Turktuk will be uploaded soon.
The wild berries.
Boys of Turtuk
Day 4: Nubra – Leh (215 km) 6 hrs drive.
We woke at 6 in the morning; the owner provided us with hot water. In breakfast, we had staple buckwheat roti & Omelet post which; we began our journey around 8 am. We were supposed to visit Shanti Stupa & Leh Palace post reaching Leh, but the journey took almost 10 hours. Because of the heavy snowfall the previous day, the roads around khardung la pass was blocked.
The journey was mesmerizing, everything was white covered with snow. It seemed like we are in a different place as we had crossed the same pass two days back. The car driver had to put chains on the tires so that it doesn’t skid. By the time we reached Leh, it was almost 6 pm and we were exhausted. So, we planned to postpone our visit stupa & Leh palace. We checked in Hotel Kidar and had one of the best dinners of our trip. The hotel is situated very near to the market. We had planned to stay all 3 days of Leh in this hotel but did not get the booking.
Day 5: Leh – Pangong (Via Changla Pass) 5 Hours
After an early breakfast, we left for the famous Pangong Lake via Changla Pass; we were so excited to see the beautiful divine lake. En-route we decided to visit Shey Monastery and the famous Rancho’s school from 3 Idiots movie.
Shey Monastery – Also known as Shey Palace or Shey Gompa, the monastery is famous for housing a 3-storeyed huge copper with a gilded gold idol of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha. The statue is counted as the second largest idol in Ladakh. The view from the top is scenic.
Rancho’s School from 3 Idiots – This is also known as Druk White Lotus school. The clean and eco-friendly structures of the school are designed to withstand seismic disturbances. This school was conferred one of the most beautiful schools in the world by BBC London in the year 2016.
After visiting the school, we proceeded with our journey. Due to bad weather and snowfall, the road to Changla Pass was blocked, and the traffic was moving at a very slow pace. It is the second-highest world motorable road after Khardung la, it is at a height of 14000 feet. At Changla pass we stopped to have coffee and Maggi. By this time we had been accustomed to the weather, and no one was showing any signs of AMS.
Our timepass while we were stuck.
The journey is worth it, with snow-clad mountain and clear blue sky. We reached there by 5:30 pm and checked in Royal Camp which was on the banks of Pangong lake. The view from the camp was lovely, with the sun rays in the sunset hour falling on snowcapped mountains and making it sign like gold. It was the most beautiful evening of the whole trip. I was so spellbound at that moment with the beauty of Pangong Lake.
We had our evening tea and went inside the camp as it was getting really cold. My husband is a passionate photographer, so he wanted to try firewool photography at night in that freezing temperature. While clicking the pictures we saw one of the best sights of our life. It was a full moon day, the moon was coming out from behind the mountain and the moonlight falling on the lake made it more stunning. Whatever we were seeing through the eye, could not be replicated in a picture. It is an experience to be nurtured throughout life. At night they provided us with hot bags to beat the cold. The food was very homely and delicious. We were the last guest of the season, the camp was closing the next day.
Day 6: Pangong to Tsomoriri
We started our day by viewing one of the most beautiful sunrises, it was equally as beautiful as the sunset. Alu paratha & tea was our breakfast, in that weather, it was like bliss. Post which, we went to the photo point near Pangong lake where 3 idiots last scene was shot. We spent an hour there, clicked lots of pictures. You could spend the whole day there staring at the lake and the surroundings. The water was crystal clear and you can see the different tinge of blue in the lake. It feels like the lake changes the color of the water according to its mood. People even take a bath in the lake but the water is really very cold. It was really difficult to let go of Pangong Lake as you are so mesmerized by the beauty of it that you just don’t want to leave.
Our ride for the entire journey.
Then we started our journey for Tso Mororiri, the road is known as “road less taken’. The road has long vanished and these tracks are all that remains of some other traveler. Follow the tracks all along and they will lead you to your destination. You will drive along the banks of Pangong for first 2 hours and it will be one of the best drives of the trip. Then you get on the plains stretching to eternity. We stopped tea near chulsul village. You will see lots of wild animal on the way and you also find mountains of different colors
We reached Tso Mororiri around 5:30 pm and checked in Tso Moriri inn. The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. It was really cold there almost zero degrees. We went out for a walk but could not stay out for long. We came back went under the blanket. The only time we got out was for evening tea and dinner. At night the temperature reached -7 centigrade. My husband tried Firewool photography here, but it was so cold that it was impossible to get out of the room. We used four blankets still we were feeling cold, please don’t forget to wear woolen socks as the feet doesn’t get warm. Tso Moriori & Pangong are equally beautiful but as Tso Morori is less commercialized, you would find fewer people and more peace.
Day 7: Tso Mororiri – Leh
We woke up to see the beautiful sunrise, post which we were to get ready. We realized that the water has frozen.
We had to wait for water so that we could get ready. In breakfast, they served us hot Puri’s and aloo. After that, we proceeded to the viewpoint, which is on top of a small hill. From there you can see the full lake. Then we came down, We walked by the side of the lake and clicked a lot of pictures. En-route to Leh, we visited Hemis Monastery followed by Leh Palace.
Hemis Monastery – This is the oldest and richest monastery in Leh region. You will get a chance to experience peace, culture and amazing scenic view. It has a grand museum where sacred Thangkas, murals and other artefacts of different centuries are displayed and maintained in their museum.
Its stupas have gold and silver coverings. The architecture is colorful and very attractive. Most of the place photography is not allowed. There is an entry fee of Rs100.
Post Hemis visit we went to Leh Palace, on the route, there was Thiksey Monastery but we skipped it because of time constraint.
Leh Palace – The Leh Palace, visible from everywhere in the city, is the most popular tourist attraction of Leh along with the Shanti Stupa. The palace with its Tibetan architecture is an interesting nine storied building with alleyways & open to sky courtyards, offering amazing views of the city from the top. You can view entire Leh from the palace. Please visit this place before 6 pm as it closes post that.
View from Leh Palace
Day 8: Journey to Kargil.
After a filling breakfast, we went to see one of the famous landmarks of the city, Shanti Stupa. It is a white-dome structure on a hilltop, it gives a panoramic view of surrounding snowcapped mountains and Leh city. Moving around this Stupa, one gets a very comforting feeling of peace & tranquility. You can visit the stupa between 5:00 am & 9:00 pm. The best views from Shanti Stupa can be enjoyed during Sunrise & Sunset. You can click good pictures here. From there we went to the Hall of fame.
Hall of fame – The Hall of Fame is a museum built and maintained by the Indian army in remembrance of the heroic soldiers who lost their lives in the wars. There is an entry fee, if you are carrying a camera, there will be extra charges. You will get to see pictures, terrain and also learn the difficulties of war at different altitudes. It also has an area for the fallen heroes of wars who have been given the highest medals of valor.
Our next stop was Magnetic hill, Pathar Gurdwara Saheb, Sangam & Lamayuru monastery.
Magnetic Hill – Everyone is fascinated by these physics-defying place. There is a spot where you park your vehicle and see it going uphill when you’ve put it in neutral on an incline. It is certainly fascinating. Many theories have developed why this hill may be untrue, a simple illusion or how it may be a great discovery and one of the Earth’s many geological wonders. It is alleged that the absence of a visible horizon and the backdrop scenery make a faint downward sloping stretch appear to be an upward slope, creating the illusion of the vehicles moving upwards. Irrespective of the theories and beliefs that surround it.
Gurdwara Pathar Sahib – Peaceful, Calm & devotional Gurdwara maintained by the Indian Army and is a place of must-visit in Leh. Located on the Leh-Kargil highway, the place offers some scenic views of the surrounding landscape. The stone in gurdwara has a very interesting story to it, which you can learn about inside the gurdwara. The Langar is served by the armed personnel maintaining it. Please do not forget to have langar & tea. You get a sense of peace & tranquility at this place.
Sangam – The confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers in Leh happens at Nimmu, which is located around 25-30 km from Leh just off the Leh-Kargil highway. The muddy waters of the Zanskar River mixing with the greenish Indus offer a spectacular view. Here is the world highest river rafting point.
Lamayuru Monastery The monastery is on a hill overlooking the town and one can’t quite miss it. The landscape around the monastery is serene and exquisite. We visited around the noon and saw the monks reciting their prayers and mantras, and the traditional musical instruments being played. The interiors are covered with ancient paintings and thankas or handmade embroidered wall hangings.
It was late evening by the time we reached our hotel in Kargil, we stayed in Royal Gasho. After checking in we went for a stroll inside the Tourist Facilitation Center where we had one of the best coffee. The dinner spread in the hotel was really good.
Day 9: Kargil to Srinagar (245 KM / 8 9 Hrs drive) –
After a heavy breakfast, we started our journey for Srinagar, en-route we visited Kargil War Memorial.
The place is dedicated to the martyrs of the Kargil war of 1999. It is an inspirational place for each Indian. The well-maintained memorial will definitely remind of the Kargil war and portray the scenario of 1999, where our brave soldiers fought for nation’s pride in a very adverse and challenging position. You need to be properly dressed to enter here, No shorts or 3/4th’s will be allowed entry. We clicked a few pictures and started our journey.
We had to go through Zojlla Pass, the most dangerous road in India. Not for the fainthearted but exhilarating. If you want to be struck speechless with simultaneously the jaw-dropping beauty and the scary ride, this is definitely the place for you. Stunning views, and scary passes so narrow that a car can hardly fit through, but when trucks have to pass beside you and you’re on the very precipice of the mountain looking down thousands of feet, you’re amazed at the view that could kill. The driving skill should be really good to drive on these types of road.
After crossing the pass, we reached Sonmarg and all you could see was greenery all around and it looks so beautiful. That’s why it has been named ‘Meadows of Gold’. You can take a pony ride and visit Thajiwas glacier and other points, but as the weather was not good we skipped the ride. Instead, we walked up to an uphill spot where we could click good pictures of the valley and us. People who want to travel on a pony to the point, please bargain well. First, they quoted 2200 later they reduced to 900. We had our lunch near the Sonmarg Market, which was next to the Sind River, the view was just stunning from there.
Bridge where Jab tak hai Jaan shooting was done.
Then we proceeded with our journey to Srinagar, where we checked in Hotel Aksa, which very next to the market. The hotel staffs were very courteous and made us feel at home. In the evening we went to the market where we bought dry fruits & Pashmina shawls.
Day 10: Dal Lake & Gardens.
After breakfast, we planned to visit Shankaracharya Hill, followed by Chashma Shahi, Nishat, Shalimar Bagh collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. We only went to Chashma Sahi Bagh, it was a huge garden with beautiful flowers and hot spring flowing across the garden. You can see people doing a picnic here with their family.
Shankaracharya Hill – Located on top of an adjacent hill facing Dal Lake Srinagar, this temple dating back the 9th century, at a height of 1800 feet. It offers a 360 view of Srinagar and Dal lake. You can offer your prayers in the main temple but you need to climb around 250 steps to reach it. Please leave your cameras or phones in your car as it is not allowed in the temple.
Then we went to Dal lake for Shikara ride. The Dal Lake is the lifeline of Srinagar, your trip to Srinagar is incomplete without visiting the Dal Lake. Once the Shikara rides start you will enjoy the scenic beauty in between you get interrupted by the floating sellers. The variety of things they sell in the Dal Lake amazed us. The shikara-man would stop steering and this seller would come and try to sell jewelry item, Momentos, and saffron saying it’s the purest form. They even have a mobile photo studio, they will show us a sample photo album and asked us to choose the picture of our choice. This all will happen only in the first 10 minutes of the ride. The shikara man would give you information about each point. We will give you a detailed review of Kashmir in a separate blog.
After the ride, we went back to the hotel. In the evening we went out to enjoy the street food.
Day 11: Day trip of Gulmarg
After breakfast in the morning, we proceeded towards Gulmarg. You can go for a Gondola ride in Gulmarg. A Gondola ride up to 1st Phase Kangdoori, there’s a great view of the green field and the mountains. The 2nd Phase Affarvat can give you a view of the snowcapped mountains but sadly there was no snow at the time we went. Snacks are very expensive up there. The cost of the ticket for both phases will be around 1600 per head.
The best time to enjoy Gulmarg is during winter when everything is covered with snow. After clicking a few pics we came down. There we found a small shop which served the authentic kawa .
We left for Srinagar, where our last day stay was booked in a New Jersey Nigeen Lake Houseboat on Nigeen Lake. You need to stay on a houseboat when you in Kashmir, but do a little research before you book one. As all of them are not hygiene prone.
The view from the boat was stunning.
Early morning you can enjoy the chirping of the bird. More details information will be available in our Kashmir blog.
Day 12 – Back Home
We woke up early to enjoy the scenic beauty of Nigeen lake.
With loads of memories amidst mesmerizing landscapes, it’s time to bid adieu to our 11 days long journey. We would love to do this trip again.
Please stay tuned for our Vlog, it will be updated soon.