While the entire of north India is blessed with stunning landscapes in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, very few places take your breath away like Ladakh does. Ladakh is a region in Jammu and Kashmir state that extends from Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the main Great Himalayas in the south. The sheer vastness of the place with its barren landscape and snow covered mountain tops will leave your heart awe-inspired. Ladakh is a place that transports you in time and really epitomizes what the natural earth has to offer. The roads to Ladakh remain inaccessible for most of the year expect between June to September when the snow melts. If you are in Ladakh, you’d want to take considerable time exploring its beauty and you’d still be wanting for more.
Day 1:Travelling to Leh from Delhi and Acclimatizing
Leh is the capital of Ladakh district. There are flights to Leh from Delhi early in the morning and while it only takes about 40 minutes in the flight, you’d find yourself transported to an entirely different world. Step out of the flight and you’d be amazed by the stunning mountain ranges around you. Ladakh is a high altitude region and you should take time acclimatizing yourself to the region. That however does not mean you have to spend a lazy day at the hotel. Once you have checked into your hotel and rested some while, step out and explore the streets of the Leh town. Visit the main market, meet the locals (they are very warm) or just find yourself a peaceful spot to simply gaze the magnificent mountains in the horizon.
Day 2:– Local Sightseeing around Leh
With many Tibetans in this region, Ladakh of course has lots of Monasteries. Start your day early as you have lots of places to visit. Visit the Hemis Monastery, Shey Palace, Thikse Monastry, and the Shanti Stupa. Each of these places is serenely peaceful and offer stunning views of the mountain ranges around. You’d never get tired of just gazing at the mountains, really. You could also just sit by the Indus River soaking in the beautiful mountain breeze. You’d want to end your day at the Leh Palace which is the official residence of the King of Leh. With a stunning sunset in the horizon, and the city lights of the Leh town down below just starting to glimmer, you’d be left wondering how beautiful the natural world is.
Day 3:– Travelling to Nubra Valley Via Khardungla Pass
Start your day early after some good breakfast at your hotel because you have a long way to go through winding mountain roads and you could be stopped on your way by landslides or heavy rainfall. Nubra Valley is a cold white sand desert located about 160 kms from Leh. On your way to Nubra Valley, you will be driving through the Khardungla Pass which is the highest motorable road in the world. Just 40 kms away from Leh, the elevation changes from 11,562 ft in Leh to 17,582 ft at Khardungla. It would take an entire day’s drive to reach Nubra Valley but being in Ladakh is about being on the road all the time, watching the stunning landscapes pass by your window. You’d find shelter at a tiny village called Hunder in Nubra Valley where you’d be spending your night. If you are lucky enough to visit Nubra Valley around full moon, you’d definitely want to take a walk through the desert at night time.
Day 4:Camel Safari at Nubra Valley and travelling back to Leh via Khardungla Pass
Now in the light of the day, travel to the Nubra desert just beside the Hunder Village and treat yourself a ride on the double humped camels through the desert. Riding these camels on a white desert with magnanimous mountains in the distance is going to be one of your most memorable experiences. After the desert ride it’s time to make your way back to Leh but on your way you’d find the Diskit Monastery which deserves your stop. It has a 106 ft tall statue of Buddha and with the mountains in the backdrop, you will feel tiny in your surroundings. Also, on your way back to Leh, you would want to stop at the Khardungla Pass this time and get yourself a photo with the board saying “Highest Motorable road in the World” and maybe also play around with some snow. You’d be back in Leh by late afternoon and after some lunch you could rest or you could still continue exploring Leh on foot.
Day 5:Visiting Pangong Tso via Chang La
Pangong Lake is an absolute must visit when in Ladakh. Pangong Lake is situated about 225 kms from Leh and takes you through Chang La which is another high altitude mountain pass. The drive is as usual supported with stunning views and once you have reached Pangong Lake, it’s likely you’d not want to come back. Do not worry as there are many cottages and tents available along the banks of the lake and you would be indeed be taking shelter here. Pangong Lake is one of the highest saltwater lakes in the world, is 134 kms long and is shared between India and China. You’d definitely want as much time here as possible. Take a walk along the banks of lake. The winds will freeze you but you will be frozen in time with the winds too. The crashing waves of the lakes and the vastness of it gives you the feeling of the sea but with snow covered mountains in the backdrop. It is also a perfect place for star gazing at night time.
Day 6: Travelling back to Leh via Chang La
After spending a night in a tent by the Pangong Lake, start your day with some warm tea and some good breakfast. Make your way to the lake, soak in as much of the beauty around you and freeze some moments in your camera before you start your journey back to Leh. Pangong Lake, and the entire of Ladakh for the matter, happens to be a photographer’s paradise and you’d want to make the most of it. On your way back to Leh, stop of the Chang La Pass, grab a warm cup of coffee and if you happen to be dog lover, then the dogs here are amazingly friendly. The route via Chang La is slightly challenging and you could get caught up in heavy snowfall or landslides and you would want to be careful about them. Once back at Leh by evening, the rest of the day is for your leisure or maybe some shopping.
Day 7: Some more sightseeing around Leh
After four days of long distance travelling, this day shall be a lighter day. There are numerous other places to see around Leh as well. Visit the Leh Hall of Fame; Magnetic hill which very mysteriously does not let your vehicle roll down a steep hill without parking brakes; Gurudwara Pathar Sahib which is very holy for the Sikhs in the region; the Stok Palace and also the Sangam of Zanskar and Indus rivers. If you are an adventure enthusiast, you would definitely want to raft in the Zanskar river. Zanskar is very popular for its white water rafting activities. Also, you’d want to visit the lovely village of Alchi which is home to a 900 year old Buddhist monastery and landscapes you wouldn’t forge in a lifetime.
Day 8:Travelling to Tsomoriri from Leh
This day again has a very long drive from Leh to Tsomoriri for around 220 kms and should take up your entire day. The drive to Tso Moriri is a mix of both bad and great roads. After you have exited Leh, the road really gets treacherous for quite some kilometers but do not worry, you will have stunning views out of your window to completely make you forget about the broken tarmac. Once you are past the bad roads, and as you would be nearing Tso Moriri, the roads and the views, both turn heavenly. The last 50 kms or so before entering Tso Morini are absolutely ecstatic. This stretch probably has the best views in the entire trip and it’s a sheer pleasure to be driving down the roads here. Studded with wildlife all along from Yaks, mountain goats, deers, horses, and sheep to vast sloping grasslands, the scenery almost seems surreal. Once you have reached Tso Moriri, the views of the lake itself will leave you speechless. Just like Pangong, your shelter would be tents or cottages and it’s also a paradise for star gazing. You’d reach Tso Moriri by evening and you’d definitely want to take a walk along the lake as the serenity and the calmness of the place will definitely take over your senses.
Day 9: Travelling to Keylong from Tso Moriri
Wake up early to maybe catch the sunrise by the lake. This is going to be your last day in the Ladakh district before you enter Himachal Pradesh and you’d want to take the most with you. You would be travelling from Tso Moriri to Keylong in Hiamchal Pradesh which is 336 kms away. The roads after exiting Tso Moriri are really treacherous, in fact, there are no roads for the first few kilometers and you would literally be driving on the surface of the mountains. The vastness and barrenness of the landscape will leave you awe-struck. On your way, you will also pass the Tso Kar Lake which is a very beautiful glacial lake and deserves to be stopped by. The roads will soon get better and again, you will have one of the best drives on your way to Keylong with stunning views. You will pass many mountain passes such as the Baralacha la Pass. Sarchu is the first village you would be entering in Himachal Pradesh from Jammu and Kashmir which is also a breathtaking place. It would be already dark by the time you reach Keylong and you would just want to check in your hotel and rest after the long but absolutely amazing drive. There’s nothing much here at Keylong but it just serves as a stop for the night on your way to Manali.
Day 10: Travelling to Manali via Rohtang Pass
Manali is located just 115 kms from Keylong and should just take about five hours to drive. However, on your way to Manali, you would want to stop at the Rohtang Pass. Rohtang Pass is about 64 kms from Keylong but the last 10 kms before you reach Rohtang are again very treacherous. Once you are at Rohtang, you would immediately notice the differences in the mountain ranges from those in the Ladakh region. The mountains are much closer to you, much steeper and also much greener. If you are v lucky, you will also find yourself some snow at Rohtang Pass or you can also engage in some paragliding which is very popular at Rohtang. After spending time at Rohtang, make your way to Manali but be careful as this road is pretty prone to traffic jams. You should be there at Manali by early evening and you’d want to have some proper rest for yourself after travelling such long distances over the past few days.
Day 11: Sightseeing around Manali
This is essentially the last day of your trip and you have this day at your leisure. You could visit the Hidimba Temple in Manali which is a very famous temple in Manali and Solang Valley should also feature on your list. If you are adventure junkie, Manali has plenty in store for you. You could go Zorbing or paragaliding or rafting in the Beas River. Manali’s mall road is also very famous and if you want to take some souvenirs for your loved ones, you would want to visit the mall road. Manali also has a very good collection of winter garments and you could also go shopping some for your next Himalayan Expedition.
Day 12: Travelling to Chandigarh from Manali
It’s finally time to bid farewell to the mountain and travel to Chandigarh which is the nearest airport from Manali. Chandigarh is located at a distance of almost 300 kms from Manali and again would take up your entire day. As you drive down the mountains to the plain lands of Chandigarh, you’d still be left in amazement of the sheer beauty of the Ladakh region that you just saw over the las few days. Once you have reached Chandigarh, you could schedule your flight late at night or early next morning.
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