Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise

Tripoto
30th Aug 2014

Indus River

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Green Manali .. Enroute Rohtang

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Near Rohtang Pass

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Chandrabhaga River .. Enroute Jispa

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Camp at Jispa .. on the banks of River Bhaga

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Us :)

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Early morning traffic jam atJispa

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Deepak Tal

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

ChandraTal near Baralacha La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

The colourful prayer flags at Baralacha La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Gata Loops

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Stacking stones for good fortune

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Nakee La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Extra-terrestrial !

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Sand castles near Pang

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Lachung La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Tanglang La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Moore Plains

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Tea break near Upshi .. Cute lil Jignet :)

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Julley Gate

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Gangba Homestay in Leh ..

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Thicksey Monastery

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Prayer wheels at Thicksey Monastery

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Shey Palace

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Shanti Stupa

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Enroute Nubra Valley

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Khardung La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Maggi and Chai at Khardung La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

River Shyok

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Sand dunes at Diskit

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Double humped camels

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Camp at Diskit .. lots of apple and apricot trees

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Diskit Buddha

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Hot water springs at Panamik

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Colours :)

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Return via Khardung La and it snowwweedd !

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Enroute Pangong via Chang La

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Changthang cold desert wildlife sanctuary

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

The first view

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Pangong Tso

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

The beautiful shades of brown and blue

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Our camp at Pangong

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Morning drive

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Our ride at Chang La during snowfall

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Gurudwara Pathar Sahab

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Magnetic Hill on Leh Srinagar Highway

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

The flight back home

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Awesome view from the flight

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Defintely worth paying for that window seat

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

My Life

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

Hall of Fame

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

The confluence of Indus and Zanskar

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

LADAKH – the land of high passes – always mesmerized me. Ever since I went to Kashmir in 2013 I knew that Ladakh had to be next on my wanderlust list. The pictures on my Facebook feed from numerous friends amidst the most rugged mountains and the bluest lakes made it even tougher to resist planning this trip.

Unlike my husband, I’m not an impulsive traveller. I am one of those people who meticulously plan every single thing in advance. I even make and circulate pre-trip documents by putting google map screenshots outlining the planned route or the alternate route and what not. So yes I am an obsessive planner and I love to work out each and every detail of any trip I take. So what I did for the Ladakh trip was absolutely unimaginable for me.

One fine day in office I get a random mail where someone from Ladakh proudly informed that Delhi-Leh flights were at Rs. 3000 round trip for September to December. Without even consulting my family I chose the best suited long weekend in September, googled what it’d be like to be in Leh around that time and booked the tickets for myself, my parents and my brother. The dirt-cheap offer stood since this is the so called “off-season”. But I’ve never liked “the season” anyway as I hate appreciating nature with the crowds. I booked these non-refundable tickets well in advance and also took it upon myself to educate my family about the beauty that is Ladakh. I used to flood our Whatsapp group with Ladakh photos titled “Imagine! We’d be here in September :)”.

One of my friends who visited Ladakh one year before my trip told me how stupid I was to book direct flights to and from Leh. According to her the Manali-Leh highway was the highlight of the entire trip (She was absolutely right !!) and a road trip from Manali to Leh is a definite must. I listened to her advice but couldn’t do anything as I already had the tickets in hand. And then the worst happened. My brother announced that he would not be able to join us due to an important training at work. And with this even my parents backed out.

My dreams were shattered, my trip was ruined. Maybe it was the heavens telling me, ”How could you? You were supposed to plan in advance” ...

And just about the same time, the same thing was happening with someone else as well. My best friend (now husband) had planned a 2 week excel-sheet certified bike trip to Ladakh in September but could not take it up as he realised he wouldn’t be able to take that many leaves. He let go of his bike trip and planned a week long trip with his friends from office. I couldn’t resist and jumped in this plan with them. We decided to book with a tour planner after judging that self bookings would be much more cumbersome and probably more expensive as well.

We zeroed in on “A Lifetime Trip” and booked the package tour for 8 of us. The package included Delhi to Manali by Volvo bus, Manali to Leh by road with one night hault at Jispa, sight seeing in and around Leh and overnight trips to Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. Accomodation on twin sharing basis and food (breakfast and dinner) were also part of the package. All bookings were made on phone. We had a personal tempo traveller from Manali to Leh and another one that took us for trips in and around Leh. They even gave us options to choose our accommodation and the executives were very cooperative and made the changes we asked for without any extra costs.

Our itinerary looked something like this :

Day 1 - Manali to Jispa - Night at Jispa

Day 2 - Jispa to Leh - Night at Leh

Day 3 - Leh sight seeing - Night at Leh

Day 4 - Leh to Nubra Valley - Night at Hunder

Day 5 - Nubra Valley to Leh - Night at Leh

Day 6 - Leh to Pangong Tso - Night at Pangong Tso

Day 7 - Pangong to Leh - Night at Leh

Day 8 - Leh Srinagar highway and Leh sight seeing - Night at Leh

Day 9 - Flight back to Delhi

Words are not enough to describe the amount of awesomeness this trip was packed with. The unmissable natural beauty of the Himalayas is a mesmerising spectacle. I was absolutely awe-struck as soon as the journey started in Manali and went click-crazy throughout the trip. It was interesting to note the transformation of the landscape throughout the 473 km long Manali-Leh Highway. A few hours of green, then white, then green again, then brown, then white, then green etc. etc. etc. The journey was a burst of colour and every scenery surpassed the previous one in awesomeness. There was one stretch, near Pang, that almost looked like a scene from a sci-fi movie. It was totally un-Earth-ish with giant sized hills and castles and gates made of sand. 

The two-day long journey was tiring indeed, but one look out the window and my whole life was sorted. Some may think I am exaggerating but every single worry or any ounce of tiredness would just vanish as I gasped in awe while witnessing nature at its best. We had our own personal tempo traveller so it was great having the freedom to stop anywhere we wished to and we took numerous tea breaks. While we were on the go, our staple diet became Maggi and Thukpa and Momos. After reaching Ladakh, I definitely missed the varied landscapes of the heavenly highway but the sand dunes at Nubra valley and the enchanting blues of Pangong Tso were a welcome change from all the brown rugged rocky mountains. Needless to say, the scenery throughout was so alluring that it will forever be etched in my heart and my memories.

Coming to the people of Ladakh, well they were very friendly and helpful. Almost everyone there was called Stanzin. Our homestay hosts, driver and other people around were extremely welcoming. September 2014 was the time when Kashmir was hit with the infamous floods caused due to torrential rains in the region. The weather in Ladakh region was also not very clear and on keeping account of the flights leaving Leh we came to know that the flights were disrupted for almost the entire week that we were there. But I guess that the weather Gods were not too angry with us and cleared the skies the day we were leaving. We went in Early September and didn’t expect much cold but we got rain, snow, closed roads and what not but there was no change of plan and we could visit and see all the places that we had intended to. The mountain roads were not very good and I would advise self-drive only for those who are well accustomed to hill-driving. The amusing road signs from BRO (Border Roads Organisation) were cool and witty and BRO does an amazing job in managing and maintaining the hilly roads there.

Leh is at an altitude of 11,500 ft. To put things into perspective, the elevation of Manali is 6,700 ft. and that of Delhi is a mere 700 ft. Before taking the trip I had read at a lot of places about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and how low levels of Oxygen at these high altitudes can make one uneasy. Infact I also read that taking the road trip from Manali to Leh for gradually gaining altitude would be better as compared to directly flying from Delhi to Leh. We took the former plan but unfortunately, one of our friends fell sick after Tanglang La which at 17,500 ft. elevation is much higher than Leh. As soon as we reached Leh, he had to be admitted to the hospital because of breathlessness and high altitude sickness. At the end, everything was OK but we learnt it the hard way that even the healthiest person can have a tough time there so AMS must be taken seriously. We then decided to carry portable oxygen cylinders as a precautionary measure when we went to Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso.

Now that I fondly look back at the memories of this wonderful week, I can hardly pick out an experience that was my personal favorite. The road trip from Manali to Leh, the excitement of passing the high passes, the night at a riverside camp in Jispa, the awesome food and chilled out luncheon in Leh Market, the quiet evening stroll at Pangong Tso, eating the apples and apricots plucked from trees at our camp, the time with the cutest and most innocent Ladakhi children, playing midnight UNO with my new-found friends and the feeling of immense national pride at Indian Army's Hall of Fame museum. Every experience was unique and remarkable in its own way.

It was the trip of a lifetime indeed and they definitely don't call it PARADISE ON EARTH for no reason.

We started our journey from Delhi at 6 in the evening in an overnight bus to Manali. We stopped at Chandigarh on the way and had a sumptuous meal at a Punjabi dhaba. We reached at about 9 AM next morning and met the tour representative at the bus station who took us to our hotel. We deliberately did not plan a rest day at Manali as we were eager to start the journey without wasting any time. The weather here was perfect and sunny and there were apple trees all around. We went to a hotel to get fresh and after breakfast, started our journey of many ups and downs on the epic Manali-Leh highway which is only open for about 4-5 months in the year (Mid May to September End) .

Photo of Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

After a heavy breakfast we started around 11 AM. We were informed by our driver that we would need to cover about 140 km on taht day to reach Jispa and must therefore control our emotions and resist the growing temptation to stop at every other nook and corner of this scenic journey. We crossed Solang Valley to reach Rohtang Pass which is about 50 km away from the town of Manali and is at an elevation of 13,060 ft. I have read accounts of people getting stuck in crazy traffic jams (lasting days) and sleeping in their cars while crossing Rohtang Pass in June or July. We crossed Rohtang Pass without any trouble and that is precisely why I love off-season. This was the first of five high mountain passes that we crossed on the Manali-Leh highway

Photo of Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

The highway then continued along the Chandra river and we entered the Lahaul region. The valley views were breathtaking and we could see the Sissu waterfall on the mountain in front.

Photo of Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

Next came Tandi where we took a hault for a few minutes to witness the confluence of Chandra River and Bhaga River which continue further as River Chandrabhaga. Tandi is also famous for having the last petrol pump on the Manali-Leh highway until Upshi or Leh. There is a board reading "Next filling station 365 km ahead !!" so everyone stocks up on fuel here.

Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Tandi, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

Our next stop was the town of Keylong where we stopped for tea and snacks. I do not remember the name of the restaurant/dhaba but the view it offered of the valley beneath was outstanding.

Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

We finally reached our destination for the day, Jispa (11,000 ft.) at about 5 PM in the evening. According to the itinerary handed to us, we knew that we were staying in a camp but we were absolutely thrilled to see that it was adjacent to the bank of the Chandrabhaga river. We dumped our bags in the tents and went running to river bank which was just about a minute away from the camp. It was the greenest and cutest little riverside camp and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. It was almost sun-down when we reached here so the sky was very dramatic. At night we enjoyed campfire under the clearest night with a billion stars shining bright. This was probably the maximum number of stars that I had ever seen and undoubtedly the most beautiful night sky that I had ever witnessed. The post dinner session involved chatting with many other interesting travellers from different parts of the world and also with our driver who warned us of the hardships that Day 2 had in store for us. Since we had to cover a mammoth distance of ~340 km the next day to reach Leh, we decided to leave the camp at 6 in the morning. In the morning, getting out of bed was a traumatic experience. It was technically the first morning of our trip and it was back-breaking cold. We somehow gathered the courage and started by 6 AM. The staff was very kind and sweet and they had packed us sandwiches for breakfast.

Photo of Jispa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Jispa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini
Photo of Jispa, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

After the mandatory registration at Darcha police checkpoint, we came across this tiny lake called Deepak Tal. We stopped here for a few minutes and had our sandwiches. The green scenery of Himachal visibly reduced after Darcha and the mountains became more and more barren. After this lake we stopped for tea at a dhaba in Zinzingbar and then began the ascent to Baralacha La.

Photo of Deepak Tal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

Before reaching the Baralacha La pass we passed Suraj Tal. This aqua coloured lake shone beautifully amidst the surrounding mountains and we just couldn't resist stopping here for a few clicks.

Photo of Suraj Tal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

After a steep ascent we finally reached the second out of five mountain passes. Baralacha La pass at an elevation of 16,500 ft. connects Lahaul and Ladakh. There were a number of colourful prayer flags here (just like all other passes) and also many stacks of stones. On enquiring, our driver informed that this practice is done for good luck and fortune.

Photo of Baralacha La Pass, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

After descending from Baralacha La and driving another hour through the mountains we reached Sarchu which lies at the border of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

Photo of Sarchu, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Smiti Maini

Gata loops are a series of 21 non-stop hairpin bends which increase the altitude by about 500 m. Although the zigzag drive made me dizzy but the view outside was fantastic. It was like a picture postcard - mountain, valley, meandering river, blue sky.

Photo of Gata Loops by Smiti Maini

At an elevation of 15,547 ft. this was the third of five high mountain passes. By now, vegetation was non-existent and we could only see rugged mountains all around.

Photo of Nakee La 4739 m by Smiti Maini

Next came the fourth out of five high passes - Lachalung La at an elevation of ~16,616 ft.

Photo of Lachalung La by Smiti Maini

Pang, at an elevation of 15,000 ft., is moon-like. The unique sand structures standing mighty tall looked amazing and we stopped here at a dhaba for tea and food.

Photo of Pang, Leh Manali Highway by Smiti Maini
Photo of Pang, Leh Manali Highway by Smiti Maini

Moore plains are unique in the sense that its a long flat road of about 30 km in this high mountain region. Like all other drivers, our driver also sped through this stretch and it became unbearable with all the dust and loose soil coming in.

Photo of More Plains by Smiti Maini

Finally we reached the fifth and final pass. Tanglang La is at an elevation of 17,500 ft and is the highest mountain pass on the Manali-Leh highway. There is no vegetation at this place and very low levels of oxygen in the air. By this time, most of the people in our group were feeling dizzy with the ascending descending journey. A few of us dared to get out of the vehicle to click a few pics but the air was so thin and wind was so chilly that even 2 minutes there made my head spin. Tanglang La also marked the first point of the trip where I promised myself that I would never ever return to Ladakh so I must endure and fight the chill and the headaches and the breathlessness and see everything I can once and for all. I had to do the same at a few other places, but more on that later.

Photo of Tanglang La by Smiti Maini

We quickly started our descent from Tanglang La and reached Rumtse where the feeling of breathlessness reduced. At Rumtse we got the first view of River Indus and the highway runs parallel to it. It was also pleasant to see some greenery in the surroundings and my mood became better with the amazing panoramic views. We stopped here for tea and then started the last leg of our journey to Leh.

Photo of Rumtse by Smiti Maini
Photo of Rumtse by Smiti Maini

Finally we were welcomed to the valley of Leh after entering the Julley Gate and crossing the police check post at Upshi.

Photo of Upshi by Smiti Maini

Leh is at an elevation of 11,500 ft and it was surprisingly greener than I had imagined. We reached Leh at about 6 in the evening.

Photo of Leh by Smiti Maini

We were dropped at the Gangba homestay by our driver and were told that another vehicle with J&K registration would take us in and around Leh. We were welcomed by our host Stanzin and his brother Stanzin who informed us that our driver Stanzin (who's son was also named Stanzin !!!!) would come to pick us up in the morning and take us for sight seeing around Leh.The rooms were nice and clean and the staff was very friendly . The breakfast and dinner was served at the living room where we all sat together for hours, talked about the present day and planned for the next day, met other fellow travellers and played UNO. Our only complaint with the food was that we had too much potato while we were there. The host also helped us when one of our friends had to be taken to the hospital due to low levels of oxygen. On the last day of the trip, I picked out fresh apples from the trees in their backyard and took them to Delhi for my family. Overall our stay at Gangba with Stanzin and family was very pleasant and I would highly recommend this place for a nice homely experience.

Photo of Ladakh: The Pursuit of Paradise by Smiti Maini

This was our first stop on Day 1 in Leh. Its an old Buddhist monastery situated at a hillock in the outskirts of Leh.

Photo of Thikse Gompa, Leh Manali Highway, Thiksey by Smiti Maini

This monastery and palace complex is situated at a hill near Leh. There is a massive Buddha statue in the building and the surroundings were very peaceful to witness. After visiting Thiksey and Shey, we went to Leh Market for lunch and some shopping. It was raining in the afternoon but the weather cleared by evening.

Photo of Shey Palace, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Smiti Maini

The Shanti Stupa was visible on the mountain just in front of our homestay. It was also lit at night in white-green light. We went to Shanti Stupa on Day 1 in Leh and reached around sunset. This place is definitely worth a visit, not only for its religious and spiritual significance but more so for the panoramic views it offers. Since it is situated on a hill, it overlooks the city of Leh and also offers 360 degree clear views of the mountains around Leh valley like Stok Kangri. After sunset it became extremely cold here but I loved the views all around.

Photo of Shanti Stupa, Shanti Stupa Road, Leh by Smiti Maini

This is a wonderful museum constructed and maintained by the Indian Army and is located near the Leh Airfield. We visited Hall of Fame on Day 1 and also on the last day again. It also has a war memorial and lots of information about the day-to-day lives of the heroes that guard our Motherland. The also play a documentary on the Kargil War which fills your heart with a lot of respect and national pride.

Photo of Hall of Fame, Leh by Smiti Maini

On Day 2 after reaching Leh, we started our journey to Nubra valley around noon. We had to cover about 140 km which would take roughly 4-5 hours. I was excited as we were going to cross Khardung La on the way, which is claimed to be the 'Highest Motorable Road in the World'. It is about 40 km from Leh city and situated at an elevation of 17,582 ft. This was the highest place we witnessed during the entire trip and in life. Immediately after stepping out of the vehicle I felt a bit of headache. We took a few pics with the famous sign board and also had Maggi and Tea at the restaurant there. We hardly stayed there for 10-15 minutes and within that short time itself I could feel the headache grow in intensity. As expected, after descending a little, the headache vanished as the air became thicker.

Photo of Khardung La by Smiti Maini
Photo of Khardung La by Smiti Maini
Photo of Khardung La by Smiti Maini

After a few hours on the road we came across the Shyok River flowing parallel to the road. The surroundings became dusty and sandy and it seemed like we came far away from the familiar rocky terrain of Ladakh. I was spell-bound with views of huge mountains of sand and rock with the Shyok river flowing in the valley.

Photo of Shyok Valley Road, Turtuk by Smiti Maini

We reached our destination around sunset. The drive culminated with huge sand dunes on the roadside surrounded by mighty mountains all around It was extremely cold at this mountainous desert and we enjoyed playing in the sand. Apart from being famous for its sand dunes, Hunder is also famous for double humped camel safari. Our stay was arranged at a camp near by. As soon as we reached there, it started raining. The camp was full of apple and apricot trees and the caretaker waskind enough to pluck a few for us. After an early dinner, we enjoyed playing UNO in our tents upto late night. In the morning we enjoyed breakfast and chats with the owner's children who loved Bollywood songs and also gave us a live performance on 'Aaj Blue Hai Pani Pani Pani ..'

Photo of Hunder by Smiti Maini
Photo of Hunder by Smiti Maini
Photo of Hunder by Smiti Maini

On Day 3 in Ladakh, we started our return journey to Leh. Our first stop in the morning was at the Diskit Gompa. We stopped here for a few minutes only and enjoyed the panoramic views from this hill shrine.

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Smiti Maini

Next we made a quick stop at Panamik village which lies close to the Siachen glacier. Panamik is famous for hot sulphur springs and for some reason unknown to me, people came in huge numbers to take a dip in this water. We just had coffee and Maggi and started on our way back to Leh.

Photo of Panamik Hot Spring, Panamik by Smiti Maini

While returning we crossed the Khardung La pass again and it was covered in white. We were sad that we missed snowfall but in a way it was ok as we didn't get closed roads due to snow.

Photo of Nubra Valley by Smiti Maini
Photo of Nubra Valley by Smiti Maini
Photo of Nubra Valley by Smiti Maini

Before reaching Leh, we stopped at North Pullu for snacks and tea.

Photo of North Pullu by Smiti Maini

On Day 4 in Ladakh, we set out for the ever-so-pretty Pangong Tso after crossing the mighty Chang La pass (at an elevation of 17,600 ft.). On our return we witnessed snowfall at Chang La and were elated to cross it off the list.

Photo of Chang La Pass by Smiti Maini
Photo of Chang La Pass by Smiti Maini

We traveled through the lush greens of the Changthang wildlife sanctuary and could see Yaks and Horses grazing around. We stopped for tea and maggi at Tangste.

Photo of Tangtse by Smiti Maini

Spangmik is a small village on the bank of Pangong lake where our camp was located.

Photo of Spangmik by Smiti Maini
Photo of Spangmik by Smiti Maini

We reached Pangong just before sun set. The aqua blue-green lake is massive and is surrounded by high mountains on all sides. The shades of blue and brown were absolutely marvellous. I stared into the limitless horizon but the end of the lake was nowhere near. This natural marvel is located at a height of 14,300 ft and is 134 km long. 60 % of the lake lies in China and at its broadest point, it is 5 km wide !! Woah .. That is VAST ..We left our luggage in the vehicle and came to the shore to enjoy the dance of colours and click some awesome frame-worthy pictures. We then drove all the way along the lake to reach our camp. By the time we dumped our luggage and came out, it was already a bit dark. So we walked to the nearest point of the lake from our camp about 2 minutes away. There are some things which cannot be discussed or described in words. I quietly sat there, staring into the vast nothingness of the lake and enjoying the cool breeze from the lake. At this point I reminded myself, I may never come to Ladakh again and I was already sad that the trip was nearing its end. After dinner we gathered again in one of the tents and thoroughly enjoyed Uno and Bluff. The next morning on Day 5 we started our return journey to Leh and reached around evening.

Photo of Pangong Tso by Smiti Maini
Photo of Pangong Tso by Smiti Maini
Photo of Pangong Tso by Smiti Maini

On Day 6 in Ladakh we ventured to the Leh-Srinagar Highway (National Highway 1D) and our first stop was Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. It is built in the honor of Guru Nanak and is very well maintained by the Indian Army.

Photo of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, National Highway 1D, Phey by Smiti Maini

Next we stopped at Magnetic Hill, a point which claims to defy gravity and all that. In reality it is only an optical illusion and only due to the surroundings it seems as is your car is rolling uphill with ignition off. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent here.

Photo of Magnetic Hill by Smiti Maini
Photo of Magnetic Hill by Smiti Maini

Next we saw the beautiful discoloured confluence of River Indus and River Zanskar.

Photo of Confluence of Indus(right)and Zanskar(left) by Smiti Maini

On Day 7 in Ladakh, with a heavy heart we said goodbye to Paradise and flew back to Delhi. I got a window seat and couldn't stop staring at the awesome views.

Photo of Leh Airport Travel Terminal, Leh by Smiti Maini
5 Comment(s)
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HI, Could you please tell us from which tour operator you made the booking
Mon 06 25 18, 07:53 · Reply · Report
Hi Smiti, Thanks for the post, your trip seems really amazing. I am also planning a trip to Leh this summer with my husband. We are thinking of flying to Chandigarh from Bangalore. Travel to Leh via Manali and then to Srinagar from Leh. What's the best way to travel these places? The only reason we are thinking of going to Srinagar is that the flight from Leh to Bangalore is very expensive. What are the other options to return to Bangalore from Leh?
Tue 04 25 17, 08:32 · Reply (3) · Report
Hi Divya .. sorry for the super delayed response .. you can enquire about a tour so that you have a vehicle from Chandigarh to Srinagar .. because when I was there I realosed that the taxi unions in J&K are quite strict and do not allow outside taxi operators .. so i doubt that you would get a cab from Chandigarh to Srinagar .. I would also suggest to include atlease one lake .. either Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri .. Tge latter is ever farther so I guess if possible you should include Pangong .. it mag be a bit crowded in the summers .. but you can easily find your corner and thw views are just breathtaking .. totally bot over rated .. :) hope I could help .. wish you a happy trip .. :)
Mon 05 15 17, 19:35 · Report
Thanks Smiti for the quick response. Do you think it's easy to get a cab starting from Chandigarh and ending at Srinagar? Also this is the itinerary that we are thinking right now: Day 1 - fly to Srinagar, Day in Srinagar, Day 2 - Srinagar to Kargil, stop at Sonmarg, Day 3 - Reach Leh, Day 4 - Leh local sight seeing, Day 5 - Leh to Nubra, Day 6 - Nubra to Leh, Day 7 - Leh to Jispa, Day 8 - Jispa to Manali, Day 9 - Kullu + manali local sights; overnight drive to chandigarh, Day 10 - return to bangalore, Does this look fine to you? We are thinking of skipping Pangong Tso as it seems very far. Should we consider including it?
Wed 04 26 17, 21:33 · Report
Hi Divya, Thanks for the appreciation and thanks for reaching out ! Your plan sounds great. In fact its awesome that in one trip you can get a chance to covet both Ladakh (Leh) and Kashmir (Srinagar). Even though both belong to the same state, the landscape is worlds apart ! The only thing you have to worry about is the length of the trip. Also, I don't know of any other option to reach from J&K to Bangalore. Its either a flight from Leh or from Srinagar. Some people go further and cover Wagah Border (Amritsar) in the same trip so you can maybe look at Amritsar to Bangalore (you might have to catch a connecting flight via Delhi). But again, the limitation would be the number of days you have. Chandigarh to Manali is an overnight journey. Since you plan to do both Manali to Leh and Leh to Srinagar by road, you would need at least 2 days for each of these. In and around Leh you would need ~ 5-7 days. Feel free to contact me for any further doubts ! Have a wonderful trip : ) Smiti
Wed 04 26 17, 10:10 · Report
hi Smiti ....after reading ur article i m also feeling like pack my bag and get going .....its my dream destination ...i m thinking to go in end of aug /starting of sep ....wt u suggest ...and plzz tell me apporx cost for 6-7 days trip ..thanks
Thu 07 07 16, 04:23 · Reply (1) · Report
Hi ! The beginning of september is when i visited Ladakh. Its the perfect time since you won't find many tourists around. It will be cold but manageable. We even got fresh snow and snowfall at the passes. Cost depends on your plan. I travelled from Bangalore and my friends from Hyderabad. I spent roughly 25k fr Delhi Leh Delhi. In this around 18k was the tour operator cost which included everything, 5k was the flight from Leh to Delhi and approx 2k was for misc expenses.
Fri 07 08 16, 07:21 · Report
thanks uncle .. will do soon ..
Sat 03 12 16, 03:57 · Reply (1) · Report
thank u dear
Mon 07 11 16, 12:24 · Report
very nice Smiti. Take a trip to Kaza too
Thu 01 28 16, 10:42 · Reply · Report
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