Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget!

Tripoto
25th Jul 2015
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar
Photo of Do-it-yourself: 10-day trip to Ladakh on a shoestring budget! by Jyoti Desar

This must be the most budget-friendly trip to Ladakh ever! It all started with booking air tickets in a Spice Jet offer almost a year back. (In hindsight though, such offers were repeated every few months and by other airlines too, so we could’ve waited a bit.) Nevertheless, 10 days of our calendar were blocked for what some people call as the most beautiful place on the planet! (I’m yet to visit rest of the planet to verify this for myself :P) Anyway, here we go with one of our most memorable trips so far… planned entirely on our own!

Day 1: Mumbai – Srinagar

We took off from Mumbai at 6 am, bracing ourselves for a 5-hour flight to Srinagar (including 2 stopovers). But as the plane hovered over Srinagar, all the weariness due to lack of sleep and the long flight was forgotten. The view of the clouds and the greenery below was beautiful.

There was a strike in Srinagar the day we landed and nobody seemed to know the reason (we heard such strikes are frequent). We booked a cab and headed straight towards Dal Lake where our houseboat (booked a week back) awaited us :) As we neared the lake, we realized why it is called the “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir”. The view is breathtaking with several houseboats dotting the serene lake.

We checked into a houseboat named Alaska, owned by Shahbaaz Group of Houseboats. The houseboat was well designed and well furnished with beautiful wooden artefacts almost everywhere. The owner himself welcomed us, and helped plan rest of our day.

After a veg lunch at Delhi Da Dhaba, we set off for a visit to some of the famous Kashmir gardens. The owner of the houseboat, Mr. Farshid himself drove us around Srinagar, talking about houseboats, Srinagar, Kashmir, etc. In the meantime, our eyes were glued to the pleasant view of the Dal Lake on one side as we moved on the road parallel to it. We visited Nishat Mughal garden (entry fee: Rs. 20 each), Shalimar Bagh (entry fee: Rs. 20 each), and Pari Mahal (entry fee: Rs. 20 each). The gardens are beautiful and well maintained with various species of colorful flowers; worth a visit.

Late evening we took a shikara ride on Dal Lake to Meena Bazaar, the famous floating market, where one can buy Kashmiri handicrafts,  winter clothes, dry fruits, kahwa (Kashmiri green tea), etc. You would also come across floating vendors selling their wares in shikaras. It is a unique experience. Post the visit to the market, we had dinner in our houseboat; the food was simple and delicious. After dinner, we sat on the veranda of the houseboat, watching lightning playing over Dal Lake and enjoying the chilling night.

Cost for Day 1 (for 5 people):

Cab from Srinagar airport to Dal Lake: Rs. 600

Accommodation (with dinner and breakfast): Rs. 5,000 for houseboat with two bedrooms. (Contact: Mr. Masood Goroo  http://www.kashmirtoursonline.com/contact.php )

Lunch (Delhi da Dhaba, Srinagar): Rs. 800

Local sightseeing: Rs. 1,200 (drive to various gardens), Rs. 300 (garden entry fees), Rs. 500 (shikara ride to floating market).

Day 2: Srinagar – Sonamarg

We woke up to a splendid view of sun rays falling over Dal Lake, reminding us once again of the beauty of Kashmir. But our destination was Ladakh. So we had our breakfast in the houseboat, packed our bags and started our journey from Srinagar. Our intention was to cover Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zoji La – Drass – Kargil on day 2. However, on reaching Srinagar-Sonamarg check post, we were informed that there has been a landslide near Baltal (which lies between Sonamarg and Zoji La), hence, we were asked to return to Srinagar. But thanks to our driver’s ingenuity, we convinced the officers at the check post to let us proceed to Sonamarg.

We had lunch in one of the several small restaurants at Sonamarg and spent a couple of hours roaming around, watching the green meadows with towering glaciers in the background. The landslide was not expected to clear until the next morning, hence we had to spend the night in Sonamarg. We were lucky to find accommodation nearby, in cute little Swiss cottage tents along the banks of Sindh river. Though unplanned, this became one of the highlights of our trip.

The colorful camps known as Paradise Camping Resort, were situated at a picturesque location, nested between the Himalayan mountains with breathtaking view of the Sindh River and Thajwas Glacier.

There were benches lined along the river side, and the night sky was clear enough for star photography. The tent staff arranged a bonfire for us and we were joined by 4 businessmen from Mumbai who were stranded like us on their way to Leh. Then it became an evening of sharing food, swapping stories, giving suggestions and basically making the most of the situation.

Cost for Day 2 (for 5 people):

Lunch: Rs. 700

Accommodation:  Rs. 4,000 (for 2 tents) (Contact:  Mr. Sameer Ahmmad  http://www.paradisecampingresorts.com/)

Day 3: Sonamarg – Zoji La – Drass – Kargil – Mulbek – Lamayuru

Next morning, the landslide had been cleared to some extent and gradually the vehicles were allowed to proceed. We had our breakfast, arranged by the tent staff by the riverside, and set off towards Kargil. On the way, we saw about 400-500 trucks and innumerable passenger vehicles, which had been stranded due to the landslide and were slowly making their way towards their destination. After crossing Baaltal, we were on one of the most treacherous mountain pass in the world, Zoji La, the first pass of our journey. Looking at the snow-capped mountain peaks and the beautiful valley below, we soon forgot the uncertainty of the previous day. Negotiating precarious road through this pass was an adventure in itself. We moved ahead and soon noticed the sign board of BRO which welcomes travellers to Ladakh. That’s when our real journey started, with lots more to come :)

After Zoji La, the road seemed to be safe. We were then approaching the second coldest inhabited place in the world, Drass valley, a green beautiful valley by the side of river Drass. Also known as “The Gateway to Ladakh” this valley starts from the base of the mountain pass Zoji La. With the river Drass on our right, we continue to move forward. After a while we saw the Tololing Range, the recapture of which by Indian Army changed the course of Kargil War in India’s favour.

Our next halt was the Kargil war memorial at Drass, built by the Indian Army. The memorial was established to pay homage to war Martyrs who laid their lives during the 1999 Kargil War between India and Pakistan. The memorial has a huge epitaph with names of all the officers and soldiers who died in war. In the backdrop, one can see Tololing Range where one of the toughest battle was fought.

At the far right of Tololing, we saw Tiger Hill. An Army Officer narrated to us the history of the Kargil War and Operation Vijay, while highlighting the mountain peaks behind and their significance in the war. Hearing the story and walking through the memorial made us realize the sacrifices made by our soldiers for us, and filled us with pride for the armed forces of the country.

Swapping stories of patriotism, we headed towards Kargil, by the side of Suru River (Indus), where initially we had planned to stay the night. However, we just made a quick stop for tea and continued towards Leh, in order to make up for the lost time. Not being very hungry, we bought some bread and butter at Mulbek and had a light dinner in the car itself. Next on the way were NamkiLa and FotuLa pass which we crossed with ease at dusk.

It was past 10 pm when we reached Lamayuru. We then decided to spend the night at Lamayuru as we all wanted to visit Lamayuru monastery, which would open at 7 am the next morning. We contemplated spending the night in the monastery itself, but females are not allowed to stay the night in the monastery. We then found accommodation in Hotel Niranjana, situated right next to the monastery. The rooms were clean, however, there was a common bathroom between every 4 rooms. Nevertheless, with the remaining rooms on our floor being empty, we agreed to take it.

Cost for Day 3 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at Sonamarg: Rs. 810

Lunch at Drass: Rs. 620

Accommodation at Lamayuru: Rs. 2,100 (for 2 rooms) (http://www.hotelcontactnumber.in/niranjana-hotel-hotel-10993.html).


Day 4: Lamayuru – Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Nubra

Next morning, we woke up early considering we had a long day ahead. We had our breakfast in the hotel and started our day with a visit to Lamayuru monastery (entry fee: Rs. 20 each).

As we entered the monastery, we saw the idol of Shakyamuni Buddha in the middle of rear wall, surrounded by many small idols of Buddha. A helpful monk told us a bit about monasteries and Lord Buddha. Personally, I find monasteries very colorful and peaceful places of worship, giving a sense of beauty and calmness.

We then proceeded towards Leh and next tourist spots on our itinerary were Alchi and Likir Monastery. However, these monasteries, were off the highway, thus, for want of time we skipped the visit and continued our journey towards Sangam, located around 40 km, before Leh. The Sangam or Confluence of River Indus with its tributary Zanskar is a glorious place to stopover and we couldn’t miss it. The river Indus, originating from Tibet, flows through Leh and meet with its tributary Zanskar at this point. Water of Indus appeared to be clearer than that of Zanskar.

Then we moved on to experience the much renowned, Magnetic Hill, where it seems vehicles are pulled uphill automatically. We experienced the phenomenon ourselves and requested the driver to repeat it, just for fun! (As an aside, we had experienced the magnetic hill effect in Kutch, albeit much stronger, but more on that in my article on Rann of Kutch visit).

Next we halted at Gurdwara Sri Pathar Sahib, a beautiful Gurdwara of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Sahib, built and maintained by the Indian Army. The legend of the Gurdwara is very interesting, and is oft repeated by the caretakers present there.

After the Gurdwara, we finally reached Leh! It was a short halt of about 15 minutes as we switched vehicles (Srinagar vehicles are not allowed in Ladakh and vice versa, unofficially of course). And then we started off towards Nubra, as we were still trying to cover up for the lost time. Our new driver, Zakir bhai, kept us entertained with stories of Ladakh, and never let us feel the weariness of the long journey.

The road to Nubra goes through Khardung La (18,380 ft), famous as the highest motorable road (although debated by few). At Khardung La, we had our first close glimpse of snow, and the view from the pass is heavenly :) 

However, being at high altitude might give some Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), hence it is advisable to keep Diamox tablets handy (or people like me, who believe in natural remedies more than allopathy, can sniff camphor when feeling breathless at high altitudes). We started descending and as we moved ahead we saw the river Shyok, one more tributary of river Indus. The river had good rapids though the water seemed muddy. We continued our journey along the bank of river Shyok.

Around 25 km before Nubra, we halted for lunch at a small restaurant. We eagerly ordered thukpa, a famous local dish. It is mainly noodle soup with lots of vegetables (or chicken for the non-vegetarians), and momos. Frankly, we didn’t like the thukpa at all; the soup was bland and the noodles seemed under cooked. On asking for more options, the restaurant owner served us Wai Wai noodles, which brought back the smiles on our faces :)

With our energy restored after the yummy noodles, we proceeded towards Nubra, with our next halt being the Diskit monastery (entry fee: Rs. 30 each), where we saw one of the tallest seated Buddha statues, the Maitreya Buddha. It looks magnificent!

Next attraction on our list was the Sand Dunes of Hunder (entry fee: Rs. 30 per vehicle), a high altitude cold desert in India. It was raining when we reached there, and we were amazed to see snowfall, rains and desert in a span of just one day! We could see many dunes of silver sands, surrounded by the barren mountains, with few cultural activities going around.

We spent some time roaming around, walking and playing on the sand dunes, and clicking pictures with the famous bactrian camels. (You can ride the double humped camels if game for it. The camel safari is open from morning 9 am to 12 pm and evening 3 pm to 6 pm ). One can also visit the Panamik hot water springs nearby, which we somehow forgot :P

We then checked into Himalayan Eco Resort and Camp for the night. Located in Hunder, it is a nice little resort with 20 private cottages. The rooms were clean, the beds were comfortable and hot water was available. Dinner and breakfast at the resort was simple and nice. The resort also has a small garden, exhibiting numerous flower plants, which adds to the beauty of the resort.

Cost for Day 4 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at Lamayuru: Rs. 110

Lunch: Rs. 730

Local sightseeing: Rs. 100 (Lamayuru monastery), Rs. 150 (Diskit monastery), Rs. 30 (entry to Nubra)

Accommodation: Rs. 1,900 (for two rooms) (http://www.himalayanecoresort.in/index.php)

Day 5: Nubra – Khardung La – Leh

In the morning, we spent some time admiring the resort’s beautiful little garden, before having our breakfast and heading back to Leh. On our way back we passed through a tiny green village called Khardung where the beautiful mustangs were seen grazing in large numbers, We proceeded and halted at Khardung La military cafe, where we had Maggi and military tea (black tea with strong cinnamon and cardamon flavor). The hot refreshments were much needed at that high altitude and with chilly winds blowing. We spent some time there feeling the joy of being on one of the highest altitude pass, clicking some pictures, and chatting with bikers. We then set off again and continued towards Leh.

Having reached Leh by late afternoon, we found accommodation in Horzay Hotel, situated about 10-minutes walking distance from the main market. The hotel was value-for-money, providing comfortable rooms, hot water, towels, and TV. The service was appreciable.

The rest of our day was dedicated to local sightseeing and visiting Leh market (there is not much to be seen in Leh itself, hence half a day is sufficient). We started with Leh Palace (entry fee: Rs. 5 each), a former royal palace, built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. Although ruined, the palace still provides a glimpse of the royalty, and one can get a 360° view of Leh from the higher floors.

Another tourist attraction in Leh is the Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of Lord Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama, and depicts the life cycle of Lord Buddha.

The stupa is famous not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. At Shanti Stupa, we met a local, who enlightened us about the life of Buddha and some of their religious practices.

We then proceeded to explore what Leh market could offer us in terms of shopping. You can buy good quality woolens at reasonable prices, artifacts as souvenirs, and imitation jewelry. You can also buy items with religious significance, such as prayer wheels, Buddha idols and prayer flags. It is advisable to buy things from Tibetan refugee market, which has a lot of scope for bargaining. However, the Tibetans generally start closing shop by 8-8.30 pm, while the local shops remain open until 9.30 pm.

We had dinner at a restaurant called Yum Yum, where we had our first taste of yak cheese. The sandwiches and fried momos were good, however, the fried rice were bland (perhaps to suit foreigners’ taste).

Cost for Day 5 (for 5 people):

Day 4 dinner and Day 5 breakfast: Rs. 1,645

Lunch at Khardung La cafe: Rs. 260

Local sightseeing: Rs. 25 (Leh Palace entry fee)

Dinner at Yum yum: Rs. 800

Accommodation: Rs. 2,000 (for 2 rooms) ( http://www.horzay.in/home.html )

Day 6: Leh – Pangong Tso

This was the most awaited day of our trip as we were headed to the famous Pangong Lake, which is known to reflect 7 colors at a time (depending on weather conditions). It is advisable to spend at least one night at Pangong Tso unlike many travelers who complete the Leh-Pangong excursion in one day leaving very little time to witness the beauty of the magnificent lake. Post breakfast, we started our journey towards Pangong, through Chang La (17,590 ft), also known as the third highest motorable road in the world.

The journey to Pangong starts on the Leh-Manali Highway until you reach the town of Karu. From Karu, you need to turn left from Shakti village and the real ascent of the Chang La begins a few kms later. The ascent is steep for most part with good road conditions initially but the incline increases, along with deteriorating road conditions as you approach the final patch making the affair more challenging and memorable to reach Chang La- one of the steepest and the toughest. There is no doubt why it is called The Mighty Chang La. We took a small break at Chang La clicking pictures and continued our journey for Pangong Tso. Again the roads were not so good for few kms but after Tangtse it was well laid.

The Himalayan region has so much to offer that there can never be a dull moment on the trip. As we moved ahead, we spotted a flock of Pashmina sheep grazing in a meadow. We played with the lambs, clicked pictures and chatted with the shepherds. Few kilometers away, we saw mustangs prancing about. Further down the road, we came across marmots playing in the grass. On seeing humans, they hid in their holes. When offered food, the marmots came out of their holes, grabbed the food, and scampered back, looking very adorable :)

As we neared our destination, we were mesmerized at the first sight of the lake! :) It is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in Ladakh! At Pangong, we  met many adventurers. E.g., a man who had been riding his bike all the way from Germany since the last 3 months; a guy from Ranchi who had quit his job and had been riding since the last 8 months, starting from Kanyakumari; and a 23-year old Israeli girl, who had been traveling since a year, having covered Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, before exploring India. Meeting them we felt motivated to travel more, at least as much as we can while holding on to our jobs.

After a quick lunch of Maggi and Momos (which was soon becoming our staple food :P), at Lukung, we started our hunt for a good accommodation. We were advised to check for accommodation at Spangmik for better options, which was another 10 kms away. It is the last village up to which travellers are allowed.

We learnt the hard way that it is better to book Pangong accommodation beforehand (plenty options available online), in order to get the tents with the best view, and nearest to the lake. Nevertheless, we found tents suitable to our budget, at a 5-minute walking distance from the lake.

It started pouring late evening and the weather became quite cold at night, hence we could not spend much time at the lake-side. We decided to retreat to our tent and venture out in the morning, when hopefully the weather would be more pleasant.

Cost for Day 6 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at Hotel Horzay: Rs. 505

Lunch at Pangong: Rs. 670

Accommodation at Redstart camp: Rs. 3,600 (for 2 tents) (http://www.campredstart.com/#!/page_home )

Day 7: Pangong Tso – Thikse monastery – Druk White Lotus School – Leh

Next morning we got up early and compensated for the missed out time of last evening, taking a nice leisurely walk, observing the beauty of the place, and capturing beautiful innumerable pictures! :) 

Then it was time to pack our bags and reluctantly head back to Leh.

On our way back to Leh, we visited Thikse monastery (entry fee: Rs. 30 each), the largest monastery in central Ladakh. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, at an altitude of 11,800 ft. It is a twelve-storey complex and houses Main Prayer Hall, Mahakala Temple, Maitreya Temple, Tara Temple and many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, wall paintings and swords. The main attraction is the Maitreya Temple which contains a 15m tall statue of Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of Future). The Monastery itself is a beautiful structure and has been maintained very well (Opening time: 6 am, Closing time: 6 pm).

Post Thikse monastery, we halted at Druk White Lotus School (which featured in the movie 3 idiots). The school, located in the village Shey, has become a popular tourist spot after the success of the movie. Its building got damaged by the cloudburst that struck Leh in August 2010. Currently, it is undergoing renovation and expansion and being a modern school, it contains residential blocks, laboratory, playground and dining hall. One need to take permission from the visitor’s center after which an escort, deployed by the school management, will give a guided tour of the school. Bothi (local language), English, Hindi along with maths, sciences, arts and sports are some of the subjects taught in the school.

We had our lunch in a newly opened restaurant called Desert View Bistro, and the food was mouth watering! We had parathas, fried momos, rice, chicken gravy, and thukpa (which surprisingly, turned out to be delicious!)

Having covered all the major spots of Ladakh, we headed back to Leh, where we spent some more time hunting for good bargains on souvenirs. We spent the night in Horzay Hotel.

Cost for Day 6 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at Pangong: Rs. 400

Lunch at Desert View Bistro: Rs. 670

Local sightseeing: Rs. 150 (Thikse monastery entry fee)

Dinner at Lamayuru Cafe: Rs. 800

Accommodation: Rs. 2,000 (for 2 rooms) http://www.horzay.in/home.html

Day 8: Leh – Sarchu – Jispa – Keylong

We had to change our vehicle again as Ladakh vehicles are not allowed in Manali, and vice versa. We had been advised to leave as early as possible, as the journey was likely to be a long one, and the road conditions were unpredictable. However, our new driver, Rishi, believed in need for speed :P 

We had intended to visit Shey palace and Sindhu Ghat, which fall en route, but decided to give it a miss to save time.

The Leh-Manali is the preferred route to return from Leh Ladakh. Through the five highest mountain passes road in the world, the route is far more strenuous than Srinagar Leh route however the route has its own charm and the vistas that it offers sufficiently offsets the difficult gradient! The landscape was also quite different from the one on Srinagar-Leh route; the mountains were greener and the roads were better. After couple of hours from Leh we were on Tanglang La, the second highest mountain pass in Ladakh region, with an altitude of 17,480 ft above the sea level. The pass provides for a scenic view with  ample vegetation on both sides. Next we crossed the famous Moore Plains, a stretch of around 40 kms, situated in a plateau at an average altitude of 15,700 ft and flanked by mountain ranges on both sides. At some places it runs along the Sumkhel Lungpa river featuring  stunning sand and rock natural formations. The road is mostly straight for 30-35 kms, and we even touched a speed of 120 km/hr. After enjoying the bumply ride, we halted at Pang for lunch (again Maggi, Wai Wai and thukpa!)

We reached Sarchu by 4 pm, much before our estimated time. The low oxygen level at Sarchu affects the health of those halting overnight at Sarchu, hence we wanted to cross Sarchu as soon as possible.

Our next possible halt was Jispa, however, due to some festival, there was no accommodation available. We then proceeded to Keylong, where we checked into New Gyespa hotel for the night. It is a definite value for money hotel, having 3-star like facilities, serving good food, and providing an amazing view of Keylong.

Cost for Day 8 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at Horzay Hotel: Rs. 500

Lunch at Pang: Rs. 440

Dinner at New Gyespa, Keylong: Rs. 210

Accommodation at New Gyespa: Rs. 2,400 (for 2 rooms-with-balcony) (http://gyespahotels.webs.com/newgyespahotel.htm)

Day 9: Keylong – Manali

After the exhausting 11-hour journey of the previous day, we started our day a bit late. A good night’s sleep, followed by leisurely breakfast, and we started off towards Manali (about 4-5 hours drive from Keylong). The route took us through luscious green mountains, with gushing streams alongside the road.

Rohtang pass, with its snow-covered mountains on one side and beautiful valley on the other, is another scenic route, not to be missed. For a few kms, we had to drive through fog, with near-zero visibility, which was an experience in itself. Also, while crossing Rohtang Pass, we saw many cyclists and were intrigued. Upon inquiring, we were told that there is a cycle race and a cycle tour organized annually from Manali to Leh.

As we neared Manali, we saw apple gardens, with almost-ripe apples hanging from the trees, with the harvest season being just around the corner.

We reached Manali in the afternoon, and headed for lunch. If one wants to stay overnight, there are plenty of hotel options available at reasonable rates near the main market (agents approach you as soon as you enter the main market area). After many days of noodles and thukpa, we were overjoyed on eating familiar North Indian food at Sher-e-Punjab!

Thereafter, we spent couple of hours shopping on Mall road (the main market of Manali). One can buy Kashmiri woolens, Tibetan handicrafts, and small local souvenirs (such as key chains, bells, etc). If you plan to stay overnight, you can also visit Old Manali (Hadimba temple, Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art, Siyali Mahadev Temple, and Van Vihar National Park). It takes abot 3-4 hours to cover these spots, so one night halt should be sufficient.

Then the last leg of our road trip started, from Manali to Chandigarh. Buses are operated by HPTDC as well as private operators, generally leaving in the evening and reaching Chandigarh early morning.

Cost for Day 9 (for 5 people):

Breakfast at New Gyespa: Rs. 550

Lunch at Sher-e-Punjab: Rs. 1,900

Bus fare for Manali – Chandigarh: Rs. 3,000 (Rs. 600 each)

Dinner at a small hotel on Manali-Chandigarh route: Rs. 450

Day 10: Chandigarh – Mumbai

We reached Chandigarh in the wee hours of the morning. The bus dropped us at Sector 43. Luckily, we have a friend in Chandigarh who came to pick us up at the bus stop and graciously took us home at such an odd time. The alternative is to take an auto rickshaw to Sector 17, which has several inns, where one can rest for few hours. From Sector 17, you can also arrange for city sightseeing, covering the major attractions of Chandigarh – Rock Garden, Rose Garden and Sukhna Lake.

The airport lies in Sector 31, and falls under Zirakpur district, outside the main city. After breakfast, our kind friend dropped us to the airport and from there we took a flight back home, with fond memories :)

Cost for Day 10: Almost nil, thanks to our generous friend!

Total Trip Cost:

Vehicle hire charges (Srinagar to Manali): Rs. 50,000

Accommodation, food and sightseeing: Rs. 42,625

Total: Rs. 92,625, which amounts to Rs. 18,525 per person 

Miscellaneous:

The above post does not include flight costs, tips, and sundry expenses like tea, water bottles, cold drinks, etc.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Driver: A trip to Ladakh is essentially a long road journey, and therefore, having a good driver is most important. Book your vehicle in advance, and speak to the driver several times before your trip. Ladakhi drivers have to undergo a month-long training (including safety and rescue process) before they can can drive commercially, hence, you can rest assured about your safety. Nevertheless, it is helpful to ask for the driver’s total experience if you intend to use his contacts and expertise in finding accommodation and places to eat. (Our Drivers Contact if needed.  Srinagar to Leh:- Hussain# 09419832633;   Leh, Pangong, Nubra:- Zakir Bhai# 09419242966/09622228576;     Leh to Manali:- Rishi# 09459829000).
  • Private Vehicle: The permit rules from Srinagar – Leh – Manali keep changing with time. So do check with Ladakh authorities if any special permits are required for passing through or visiting Inner Line Region. You can then work out all the feasible options. On the 490km Leh to Manali highway, there is only one petrol pump at Tandi around 110 km from Manali. Make sure you have enough fuel before leaving Leh.
  • Accommodation: In Srinagar and Pangong, it is advisable to book accommodation in advance. In Leh, there are many options (right from luxury hotels to guest house and homestays), but you might end up spending a lot of time just checking out and finalizing the hotel. Therefore, you might want to check out the options online and shortlist a few, based on your requirement.
  • ATM: ATM and Banking facilities are available only in Leh and Kargil. So keep sufficient cash handy or plan your withdrawals accordingly.
  • Clothes & accessories: Check weather reports and weather forecasts online, and pack accordingly. You can also check with your driver beforehand. Carry at least one pair of thermals and one warm jacket. It is advisable to wear shoes and socks throughout the journey. Sunglasses are recommended. Gloves, monkey caps, mufflers are optional.
  • Photography: Ladakh is truly a beautiful place, with majestic mountains and picturesque landscapes. So don’t forget to keep spare memory cards and batteries for your camera.
  • Medication: There are few hospitals and chemist shops in Leh. Hence, it is advisable to carry essential medicines. Also, stock up several bottles of drinking water. During the road trips, drinkelectral to keep yourself hydrated, especially when traveling at high altitudes. Keep Digene and camphor handy. Other optional medicines are Avomine, Diamox, and any other medicines that you normally take for cold/ cough, fever, indigestion, etc.
  • Food: It is best if you can adapt to the local food. If not, you can rely on Dal rice, instant noodles, or sandwiches, which are readily available. Carry emergency food such as dry fruits and dry snacks for your road journey or in case you are held up somewhere for any reason. You can rely on your driver to suggest restaurants.
  • Locals: The local people are simple, peace loving and mild natured. You can befriend to understand their culture better and for more information about the places.
  • Buffer days: Keep at least 1-2 days as buffer in case of any unforeseen halt or delay. You can also use these days to spend more time at any place you like, or to just rest before embarking on your return journey.

I had first published this post on https://insatiablewanderers.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/mesmerizing-ladakh-jul-25-to-aug-3/

6 Comment(s)
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Superb!!!!!
Sun 07 30 17, 00:12 · Reply · Report
awesomely written :)
Thu 05 26 16, 23:32 · Reply (1) · Report
Thank you! :)
Sat 05 28 16, 01:04 · Report
ahhh!! you wrote it so well with the minute detailings loved your writing skills and the places i picturised while reading...thanks a ton for this wonderful piece
Thu 05 26 16, 12:41 · Reply (1) · Report
Thank you so much! ☺
Sat 05 28 16, 01:04 · Report
You missed Tsomoriri... I have follow pretty much the same schedule last year But by Road Delhi - Srinagar-Leh- Manali -Delhi
Thu 05 26 16, 12:28 · Reply (1) · Report
Yeah we skipped tso moriri. It was a bit out of the way and needed one day more.
Sat 05 28 16, 01:05 · Report
We are also planning 9 dayz roundtrip.
Thu 05 26 16, 11:11 · Reply (1) · Report
That's nice. Hope this article helps you. Enjoy your trip!☺
Sat 05 28 16, 01:06 · Report
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