Ladakh is my favourite place in India because of its excruciating beauty. It’s a paradise for any photographer; an adventure for every biker and a romantic destination for every honeymooners.
Ladakh has so much to offer- get mesmerised by its shimmering lakes; a place where you can hear silent echoes of your thought; the mountains welcoming you with its profusion colours; visiting the century old monasteries; known for its highest motor able road and last but not the least the warmth of the mystic lamas and loving people.
However, when we think of Ladakhies your heart does ache. The people don’t have easy access to water and air. They have to wait for the snow to melt to help with their drinking water. Most rural areas don’t have proper access to roads. Even with all this the locals welcome every tourist with a smile. Your heart wants to hear their story and your mind asks you to stay here forever. A place which till date leaves a smile on my face every time I think of my time spent here.
TIME TO VISIT LADAKH
The temperature is pleasant during summer and in winter it reaches extreme levels.
Mid-September to mid-October is the best time to see the stunning beauty of Ladakh. March is the best time for those seeking an adventure trip. April to May is said to be the peak season in Ladakh.
We decided to visit during June and were very happy with the weather. This is also a good time for cultural tours and treks. Since we went in the first week of June we didn’t experience much crowd. We saw maximum crowd in Khardungla and Chang La Pass, rest of the place we didn’t experience any crowd.
TRAVELING AROUND IN & AROUND LADAKH
We always like to do things on our own, but Ladakh was not possible to do using public transport. You had to hire a car, bus or as most people love to do is ride a bike. We weren’t keen on doing it with a large group. We both fall sick during long road journeys and we don’t like to wait for everyone to catch up with in a group.
While researching Ladakh we initially wrote down the taxi fares for all the places we wanted to go to. Then we checked the various hotel charges along with the food costs.
After taking all the above into consideration we decided to ask our local tour company. They gave us a deal which worked out roughly similar to our research when down separately. Based on this we decided to hire a private car for two with the tour company.
We were very lucky to have an awesome driver, Mr Jimmy. He took extra care in making our road journey smooth. Showed us every place with a smile, passionately explaining stories of his religion. We thoroughly loved the personalised touch we got in hiring a private car and I don’t regret seeing Ladakh this way again.
To get to Ladakh we initially did get a flight and then were picked and dropped by in our private car. Most people also hire a bus, tempos and many ride their bikes. There are also local buses but you need to find more information as I never used it. If you are driving on your own I would highly recommend taking into account all safety measures. Our driver made sure we were well taken care of in this matter.
WHERE WE STAYED LADAKH
In Leh we stayed at Lotus Lharisa Resort & Glacier View. We had stayed in this hotel for three nights in between our trips.
Every stay was in a different room with a different view and none we had any complaint. The owner upon arrival checks every visitor’s oxygen saturation to make sure they are adjusting to Leh weather. Personally we loved this gesture. The rooms are spacious and clean, they may not be very fancy but everything was maintained very well.
We especially loved the views from our rooms. We had chosen the full meal option and didn’t have any complaints. The staff were polite and made our stay as comfortable as possible.
In Ule we stayed at Ule Ethnic Resort (cottages with attached Bath) for one night. We loved the cottage, the rooms were clean and had all the necessary amenities provided.
The dining area was also clean and we loved the meals provided. The hotel was surrounded by lush greenery and had awesome views of the Indus River. We also loved the mountain views which formed beautifully as a backdrop. The staff were friendly and always available for help whenever we needed it.
In Nubra Valley we stayed at Valley Flower Luxury Camp for one night with full meal plans. We loved our tent experience here, I must say it wasn’t fancy tent as compared to our other accommodation.
Everything was very neatly organised and help from the team was always available upon request. The dining area had a very good hygiene and the food was also tasty. We had a short stroll around the neighborhood and met more friendly locals as well.
In Pangong we stayed at Pangong Retreat Luxury Camp (with attached bath) for one night.
I absolutely loved the view from our tent. We sat and watched both sunset and sunrise from our tent and were in total awe with the beauty of the place.
It’s a basic tent which had all the necessary amenities provided. They had arranged everything in the tent as it would be in a rooms. At night the winds were strong, we were fine but our neighbouring tent had kids who were scared. At night it does get very cold but warm blankets were provided. The food and dining area were clean and the staff were very courteous.
THINGS TO DO IN LADAKH
A number of small streets with shops on either side of the road. The place is filled with shops and small restaurants. We did manage to buy few souvenirs here and found the shop owners to be very friendly and not too pushy. I would definitely recommend buying from the Ladakhis as they were very polite. The restaurants although small had a lot of humbleness in the food they provide.
Also known as the “Lachen Palkhar” which was built in the 17th century by Sengge Namgyal. The nine storey high palace is now deserted but taken over by Archaeological Survey of India for restoration.
The palace has many rooms and a terrace with an awesome view of Leh and its surrounding valley. There is not much inside the palace but still we enjoyed seeing the ruins.
On the hilltop of Chanspa even from a distant you can see the white-domed stupa. It was built by the Japanese as a symbol of world peace and was inaugurated by Dalai Lama.
The stupa is built in two-level structure. The first being the Dharmacakra with the deer on one side. There is a golden Buddha in the centre on a platform surrounded with the turning of the wheels. The second deficits birth of Buddha, the death of Buddha and Buddha while meditating.
The place is beautiful, from here the whole of Leh can be seen. The lush greenery and the snow covered mountains are all visible.
Sunset would be the ideal time to visit, but the place gets too crowded then. I would recommend visiting during this time as the view is awesome.
LIKIR MONASTERY/ GOMPA
At an elevation of 3,700m in the Likir village near the Indus River is the Buddhist monastery. The name Likir means “The Naga- Encircle” which is bodies of two great serpent spirits.
The view of the Likir Monastery from far is beautiful. There is a 75 ft. tall statue of Maitreya Buddha which has prayer flags hanging around it. From far we were able to capture beautiful photos of the Likir Monastery and the Maitreya statue.
This was a very interesting and rather strange place to visit. The layout of this area is such that the surrounding slopes created an optical illusion of the hill. The roads is actually downhill but cars and objects appears to be rolling uphill.
Our driver showed this in the car and we were totally stunned by what we were experiencing. Many people have complained they couldn’t feel the effect but we weren’t one of them.
GURUDWARA PATHAR SAHIB
On our way to Ule we also stopped at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. It’s 25 km from Leh on the Leh-Kargil road. This is built in honour of Guru Nanak, a place where it’s believed he conquered a demon.
The Gurudwara is managed by the Indian army and is maintained very well. I was very touched with the humbleness of the people inside.
Lanayaru is a very popular place for seeing the moon landscapes in Ladakh. When you closely see the surface you can see the resemblance to the moon. The blue sky when meets the mud cliffs is a sight which has a lasting effects on our minds.
Our driver told us many tourists never really liked or understood this place and we both looked at him in shock. You have to really see it with your own eyes to understand the beauty of it.
This beautiful white with brown roof monastery is situated at a height of 11,520 ft. Thus is said to be one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh.
The monastery is very popular for its scenic views. You get to see the bird’s eye view of the lakes surrounding the area.
Alchi monastery is the oldest in the Alchi village. The monastery has Dukhang (assembly hall), Sumtsag Lhakhang (a three tier shrine), the Lhakhang Soma (new temple), The Jayant Lhakhang (Manjushri temple), the Lotsava Lhakhang (Translator temple) and the Kangyur Lhakhang.
Our driver who turned into a guide told us the significance of all that we saw in the monastery. Many of the paintings, statues and wood craft were said to be from Kashmiri which was bought in the 11th century. Everything preserved with such care even today.
HALL OF FAME
A museum which is maintained by the Indian Army. The place gives a glimpse of the armed forces. There is a lot of information on display for everyone to enjoy. There are also some information on display about the culture of Ladakhis.
If that wasn’t enough you can also enjoy activities outside especially for kids but we had fun too.
A mountain pass which is needed should you want to visit Shyok and Nubra Valleys. The world’s highest motor able road which is at an elevation of 18,380 ft. In history it was said this route was used for trading wool, silver, tea, candy, skins, velvet, silks, gold, carpets, musk, coral, borax, jade cups, salt and many more.
The experience is beyond words, you have to be at that height to truly understand the beauty of the place. The place was freezing, a simple maggi and pagoda was a delicacy at this height. The road journey was not that great but when we reached the top it’s like we have conquered something. Every tourist had an expression on their face when they looked at what they have achieved by reaching the top. Imagine standing at a height especially when you just rode a bike up the road. Words really fall short when I describe this place, it was my favourite place in Ladakh.
SAND DUNES IN NUBRA VALLEY
Ladakh has so much to offer, sand dunes in Nubra Valley was equally pretty. One we visited is exactly located near Hunder village.
Just when we were in awe of the beauty of the place, we were also welcomed by the double hump camels. Our visit was in the evenings when the weather was perfect.
You can also enjoy a camel ride, we personally didn’t enjoy the way the camels were treated during the ride hence we avoided it.
The oldest and largest monastery in Nubra Valley. It was founded in the 14th century and was still very well maintained. Of all the monastery we visited I would say this was my favourite.
There is a 32 m statue of Maitreya Buddha, facing the Shyok River. The statue is visible from a distant as well. It looks like the Buddha is protecting the village, a beautiful sight. I loved the statue, the smile had a warm feeling every time you looked at it.
Every climb to the monastery had a scenic view of the town. Inside the monastery on one side there is the huge statue of Maitreya Buddha and another side has the old temple and monastery. There are prayer lamps, paintings in the walks, huge drums and prayer flags. The whole place felt very peaceful.
Also known as Pangong Tso, a beautiful lake which changes colour in every direction and looks different during different times of the day. It’s at a height of 14,270 ft. and the road leading to the lake may not be too friendly but up on seeing the lake your mind is suddenly calm.
60% of the lake is in the Tibetan Region, China and is said to be 134 km long. Although the lake has saline water it’s said to freeze during winter. We were lucky to enjoy the transparent water with pebbles and saw the ducks enjoying their time in the lake.
This place is a photographer’s paradise, every photo clicked is different yet pretty. The colours of the lake is different in every shot. I personally could sit here forever, my mind relaxed away from the busy schedules of our life.
This lake became more popular after a popular Bollywood movie was shot here. I personally feel the lake is pretty on its own without being linked to anything. It’s a beauty on its own.
CHANG LA PASS
This is a mountain pass and is said to be the third largest motor able road in the world. The name translates to “Northern Pass”. It is at a height of 17, 585 ft. and it’s said not to stay more than 25 mins owing to the high altitude.
The road up is not the friendliest, hence care has to be taken. We had crossed this on our way to Pangong Lake. There are lots of prayer flags on the way, locals believe it’s for protection.
Loved the view and also got to see many military cars along the way. The view of the glacier backdrop makes it totally another scenic place.
At an altitude of 11,800 ft. this twelve storey complex had houses, stupas, statues, wall paintings and prayer wheel. The view of the monastery across the valley and mountains is incredible.
It is said to be the largest structure in central Ladakh. We also saw the monks perform a ritual during our visit. There is a climb to reach the monastery but what you see is every bit worth it.
This is located on the hillock in Shey. It is now in ruins but in the 15th century the Mogul noble used to stay here during his invasion of Ladakh.
Another place where the city view of Leh is extraordinary. A place well worth visiting. Although old, it’s nice to see a piece of history still attracting tourists.
OUR ITINERARY IN LADAKH
Took an early morning flight to Leh. Transferred to the hotel where we rested and had lunch. In the evening were taken to Leh market, Leh Palace and Shanti Supa
After breakfast we were on our way to Ule. We were going through Lamyuru and saw Likir Monastery, Magnetic Hill and Gurudwara Pathar Sahib along the way. After lunch on route we visited Moon landscape and Lamayuru Monastery. Evening checked into our Ule hotel and rested for the night.
After breakfast we checked out from our hotel and made our way back to Leh. On the way we saw Alchi monastery and Hall of Fame. Checked into our hotel in the afternoon. In the evening we explored the neighbourhood on foot.
After breakfast we checked out and were on our way to Nubra Valley. We first had a pass through Khardungla pass. Enjoyed the place and even tried local cuisine at the top. Made our way to Nubra Valley where we checked in, had lunch and rested. In the evening we were taken for camel safari in the sand dunes of Nubra Valley.
After breakfast we were on our way back to Leh. On our way we also saw Diskit Monastery and enjoyed views of Nubra Valley. We also passed through Khardungla pass and enjoyed the place. After checking to our hotel we went out to explore the Leh market on foot.
After breakfast we left for Pangong Lake. On our way we passed Chang la Pass. We then checked into our camp and had the evening to yourself. We decided to explore the lake on foot. We also enjoyed the sunset at Pangong Lake.
Early morning enjoyed the sunrise at Pangong Lake. After breakfast we made our way back to Leh. On the way we also saw Thikse Monastery and Shey Palace
Had breakfast and were taken to airport to board our flight back home.
THINGS TO NOTE IN LADAKH
- First half a day after arrival rest to acclimatise. Since the place is in a height and our body is new to this environment it’s advisable.
- Carry a headache medicine, one which your body accepts. Most of the people suffer from headaches and hence advisable to have one during your travel.
- If you are using private vehicle avoid honking. Our driver told us the ice melts and hence can cause cars to skid on the road.
- Most of the tourist love to travel on their bikes here. I would suggest taking every precautions possible and maybe travel with fellow bikers.
- Avoid littering the place, you may be visiting for a couple of days but think of the locals who call it their home.
- Speak to the locals, they don’t talk to you unless you do. They love sharing about their culture and tradition. Our driver told us lots of things and we loved his stories. Initially he was shy and also told us many tourist don’t like the place.
- Ladakh is very scenic place, road trips can be tiring for many. If you are not into road journey you might struggle.
- Identity proof is require at various points, keep in hand always.
- Most of the monastery and stupas are holy places. Be mindful and respect the local’s belief in the place. Shoes are always to be removed, silence should be maintained and avoid touching.
- Around the monastery and stupas always walk clockwise. The prayer wheels should also always be turned clockwise.
- You do need to take permission from the monks as in some parts of the monastery photograph is prohibited.
- On our way in most of our car journey, our driver requested at times if we could give lift to the locals. Since we trusted our driver we allowed him to help locals in the car. They were very grateful for our gesture and we loved helping the locals.