Nestled in the Trans-Himalayan region, in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in North India, Ladakh has, in recent times, become one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in India. Riding across high altitude mountain passes, visiting monasteries, and camping by some stunning high altitude lakes are the major allure of Ladakh.
Besides spell binding landscapes, Ladakh is renowned for its ancient Buddhist monasteries. Ladakh is often dubbed ‘Little Tibet’ as it shares an international boundary with Tibet and plays host to a sizable population of Tibetan Buddhists.
Although a trip to Ladakh has a lot to offer, tourists are required to take some precautions since it is mostly a barren land and has low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen levels at higher altitudes.
Planning a trip to Leh is a difficult task, I was planning it from last 3 years but cancelled everytime. This year on July 4. I planned with my friend and we made necessary plans and arrangements and started my journey on July 6th 2019 at 4:00 AM. Journey started from Chandigarh at my Maruti Suzuki Brezza. Below are the directions to follow.
Chandigarh — Manali – Rohtang – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – Tanglang La – Gya – Upshi – Karu – Leh- Nubra Valley – Pangong Lake- Leh – LOC Kargil – Srinagar – Jammu Bypass- Pathankot- Hoshiarpur- Chandigarh.
If the reports from BRO are to be believed, then the Manali-Leh Highway, which is a mountain highway of high significance may just open almost 2 months earlier than expected, a feat to be repeated almost after 17 years. This is because of the width of the layer of snow that usually covers the roads that go from the Rohtang Pass to the Baralacha La, covering areas like Keylong.
Necessary steps to be taken:
Use BSNL Postpaid, only this will work.
Take electric air pump along.t
Take a rope along, for tow away.
Take an oxygen puff cylinder.
Carry as much soft drinks u can carry.
Carry cans to carry petrol/diesel.
Most important, try to start journey as early as possible to avoid excess water flow.
Located at an elevation 6725 ft above the sea level this hill station showcases a realm which never fails to entice you. While in the summers the weather turns pleasant in the winters the peaks are all covered with the sparkling snow.
The views are all paradisiacal and the adventures are always one peak. Be it skiing in the Solang Valley or Paragliding, each one of them is victualed at this destination. This spot is toured by vacationers all around the year and the beauty of this slice of Himalayas never fades away.
On the Manali to Leh road trip, get spectacular and panoramic views from the Rohtang Pass. Located 51km from Manali, at an altitude of 3900m, it is a route that leads to places such as Pangi, Lahaul Spiti and Leh. You get views of beautiful snow-capped peaks and glaciers from here. It is in this vicinity that the Chandra River flows too.
Just before getting to Rohtang Pass there is a Snow Point. You can enjoy yourself playing in the snow at this place. Open between June and October you can enjoy sledge rides and skiing during this time.
Whether you want to enjoy scenic walks through laid-back villages or enjoy grand mountain views, Keylong is the place to be. Alongside this place is the resplendent Bhaga Valley with its riches of greenery. Being the capital city of Lahaul, Keylong is a popular stop among the tourists and trekkers for an overnight stay.
More than this, it is adored as an oasis of greenery that has all the reasons to amaze the visitors. On a visit to Keylong, you can also visit monasteries such as Shasur and Gemur.
A scenic and picturesque stretch of land, Jispa is located beside the Chandra River. Journey to this hamlet is one of the fascinating trails of the Manali – Leh tour. Decorated naturally by streams, scenic peaks, picturesque valleys and lush greeneries, it gets the visitors close to the Mother Nature.
Due to its location; around 10,000ft above the sea level, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding like no other regions. A perfect setting for an overnight stay, there are numerous camping destinations in this village. While in this settlement, the different marvels of the nature will surely keep you spellbound.
Visit a picturesque Himalayan village called Darcha located beside the Bhaga River. From Keylong this place is around 23km. There is a huge camping ground available at Darcha which is commonly used as a camping ground by the tourists.
Among all the enthralling treks in Leh-Ladakh region, the Darcha-Padum trek is the most popular. If you have enough time during your Manali-Leh tour, you can plan this 9-10 days trek and experience a world never seen or imagined before.
A peace-over joint located on the way to Ladakh; between Jispa and Sarchu, Zingzing Bar is one of the highest roadside bars in the world. Well, don’t go by its name! More than bar, it is a resting ground of the army cadets and the exhausted travellers. None of the Manali to Leh road trips can get complete without a visit to this bar.
This place has an ambience that is almost on the verge of meditative bliss. You can simply sit and sip your tea and be at peace with yourself. The charisma of this place is such that, within a very few moments, you can feel all the peace descending on you.
Located in the altitudinous sections of the Zanskar region, this is a mountain pass or the confluence point of many roads. Connecting Lahaul to Ladakh Tour, you pass through this plateau surrounded by mountain ranges such as Pir Panjal and Himalayas.
Towering at over 16,000 feet, from Baralacha La, you can see the three valleys that surround it. Dividing the Bhaga and Yunam Rivers, this place is a starting point for the popular Suraj Tal trek.
Located on the Manali – Leh highway and surrounded by the Himalayan range is a beautiful region called Sarchu. Locally known as ‘Sir Bhum Chum’, it is a perfect destination for camping and overnight stay, you can enjoy a night’s sleep amidst a treasure trove of scenery. There are various camps in Sarchu where you can stay and enjoy.
At an altitude of 14300 feet, expect the winds to be cooler than usual, but refreshing nevertheless! You are encompassed by picture-perfect scenic quotients. The sight of the majestic mountains overlooking you from a distance is equally thrilling; the experience is inexplicable and surreal.
LACHULUNG LA PASS
Located on the Leh-Manali route, this is a mountain pass at about 16,000 feet above sea level. From here you get undulating views of the scenery beyond. You can see the entire Ladakh plateau in some sweeping glance of your eyes. Located 54 km from Sarchu, this mountain pass is considered a relatively easy route to traverse.
There is a Nala that passes through this place and simply moving alongside can accomplish your task of crossing this pass. After crossing Lachulung La, the landscape changes where the road meanders through a canyon.
TANGLANG LA PASS
One of the highest mountain passes in the Leh Ladakh region, the Tanglang La pass is like a jewel in the crown on the Manali – Leh stretch. Claimed to be the second highest motorable mountain pass on the planet, your ascent from here is unceasingly upwards. It is like driving towards the clouds given that they are so close as well.
Along the way, the snow-clad mountains will mesmerize you for sure. During the journey through this high-altitude place, you can witness the Tso Kar Lake behind the gigantic mountains.
Located along the Indus River and 45 km southeast of Leh, is a quaint and picturesque village called Upshi. Towards the east of this region is an ancient trading route that is connected to Tibet. There is also a helipad on this route that is used by helicopter-borne tourists and the armed forces.
As the main economic activity around this region is goat farming, you can witness the goat farmers and their livestock in abundance all through the way. Tiny villages cocooned within the region adds to the pristine and surreal beauty of Upshi. Nothing short of bliss, living and staying in this paradisiacal village is indeed a privilege!
At Karu, you are flanked by lofty mountain peaks and hills. In this secluded bliss, you are charmed by the beauty of nature. The manifestations of nature’s finest representations lies at their best in this region. Sparkling streams, resplendent valleys and majestic mountains are the hallmarks of this region.
Serving as the dream destination of many, this land of rustic charm is famed for numerous passes and high elevations. The roads connecting Manali to Leh Ladakh have exceptional topography and are well-suited for the thrill seekers.
Though the terrains are not that easy and the weather is also harsh, but these factors cannot keep away the adventure lovers. Owning a number of panoramic views of the snow-covered mountains and picturesque surroundings this place is a true delight for the eyes and soul alike.
Positioned at an altitude of 18379 feet, Khardung La Pass that can be seen in a Manali to Ladakh trip is renowned as the highest motor-able pass in the world as different sources mention. The pass is located just 40 KM from Leh and acts as the doorway to Shyok and Nubra Valley. It is a prominent space in the trade history of India and China and now it is a highly recognized place for Indian Army.
A lifetime experience of biking in Ladakh is the prime reason for the unending flood of bike riders toward the spot. From the month of May to October, the pass would support any kind of travellers but during winter it poses threats as thick covers of snow makes it tough yet undeniably beautiful. Winters in Ladakh is extremely cold and it covers most of the places in Ladakh with snow.
Glorified for the religious significance and strikingly enhanced by the surrounding landscape, Shanti Stupa has been influencing an ample number of visitors and travelers, especially those who travel from Manali Leh highway. A white-domed pagoda built by a Buddhist Bhikshu as a part of the Peace Pagoda Mission. The relics of Buddha are being preserved in the base of the stupa and a photo of the current Dalai Lama can also be seen. From the stupa, the views of Leh lying across the majestic valleys are magnanimously alluring.
The visitors of the stupa have to climb a breathless steep of 500 steps to cover the altitude of 3609 meters or can be accessed by a vehicle as well. You can ambulate around the shorter, meditate by sitting inside where an amicable yet quiet ambiance is prevailing and pray.
Nubra Valley is a quite popular name among the trekkers and travelers of Leh Ladakh. A large valley forming as the separation of Ladakh from Karakoram Ranges holds the utmost beautiful confluence of Shyok and Siachen Rivers. What is awaiting the visitors in this valley is a mix of stark slopes, monstrous arid mountains, sand dunes, the remnants of a glorified palace, monasteries and so on. Nubra valley is famous for camel safari.
Nubra Skat speakers form the majority of the inhabitants of this tri-armed valley, and most of them are Buddhists as well. Once a famous trade route between India and China, this magnanimous cold desert have lush vegetation especially due to the presence of the confluence of the rivers.
Despite being the fact that it is completely frozen during winter, Pangong Lake or Pangong Tso, 135 KM in length steals any beholder’s heart undoubtedly. Stretching across an area of 604 sq.km, majority of the lake lies in China but Indians who visit the Himalayan ranges never miss out the opportunity to visit Pangong Lake. It is a separate land locked river basin with saline water in it and geography says that it contains no fish and microorganisms.
But the visitors of the lake spotted different types of ducks and some other birds and it proves that the lake has been acting as the laying bed for breeding for many avifauna. Hushed by the mighty Himalayan ranges so well, the lake appears as an unforgettable image forever.
Shey Monastery is easily accessible from Leh around 15 KM, and near to the gompa located the Shey palace complex too. There are a lot of histories relating this monastery but the primeval reason why the monastery is a hot potato is because of 10 meter statue of a seating Buddha made of copper along with gilded gold in it.
This is termed as the second largest statue in Ladakh. The palace near to the monastery holds only some ruins for namesake now but still it attracts a number of visitors towards it. An umpteen number of wall paintings depicting the image of Buddha add more charm to the monastery though the architectural style of the whole monastery has been noted by critics and historians in a detailed manner.
HEMIS NATIONAL PARK AND MONASTERY
Yet another remarkable contribution of King Sengge Namgyal is obviously seen on the architecture of Hemis Monastery which was reconstructed by Sengge, an esteemed site visible during a Leh Ladakh road trip. The hillocks around and the greenery make it hidden once again despite being hidden in a gorge already. 45 KM is the distance between Hemis and Leh, easily accessible by any vehicle.
An adorable interior decorated by numerous gold statues and stupas enhanced by the precious yet rare stones. The venerated Lord Padmasambhava has a significant role to play with the monastery; the annual festival dedicated to him. It falls on the month of May or June. This 11th century born (approximately) monastery has gone through multiple destructions and conquests.
As every other Gompas in Ladakh safeguard their origin, establishments and existence, Spituk Gompa that can be seen during your Manali to Ladskh road trip also has an inevitable source of existence in the mainstream features of Buddhism. Od de founded this monastery years ago, almost in the 11th century. Unnaturally,different to the similar Gompas, the Spituk monastery reveals a huge statue of Kali.
Overly 100 monks are in the Gompa, praying, paying tribute to the Goddess and meditating. Gustor Festival conducted annually in the 11th month of the Tibetan Calendar has an unparalleled significance. The whole gompa is lulled by the pristine Himalayan mountains; at an elevation of 3307 meters it exists. Along with the ancient temples, newly constructed temples in the Gompa bring forth a stunning view.
The Gelug sect of Buddhism has the authority over another beautiful and verily described Thiksey Monastery. 19 KM east to Leh is Thiksey Village and on top of a sheer beauty exists the gompa. In the same complex, there are multiple buildings dedicated to different sets of people.
Due to its resemblances to the Potala Palace in Tibet, Thiksey have attained fast recognition from all over the world. One point cannot be missed out is the statue of Maitreya, 15 meters high, the largest statue in Ladakh and it covers the two stories of the buildings.
Anyone who visits Nubra Valley would definitely set his foot on the soil of Diskit, the administrative center of Nubra and thus Diskit Monastery also shares the visitors with its glorified architecture. It is located at a height of 3142 meters above sea level and can be accessed through the rugged and tough roads from Diskit, letting one cross a small stream in between also.
The Tibetan style construction with numerous frescos and murals make the monastery different. The parental authority of the gompa remains in the hands of the yellow sect of Buddhist or commonly called Gelugpa order and they deified the idol of Tsong Khapa. An immaculate nature not yet competing with anything else in the surroundings can magnify the experiences people expect to have here.
Those who have travelled to Leh Ladakh must have come across a signage saying ‘the phenomenon defying gravity’ at Magnetic Hill. The reasons for the miracle happens at Magnetic Hill are still vague. The topic of discussion is that when you park your car or any vehicle in a specified box marked on the road and leave the engine off and the gears on neutral, the car starts moving.
Though it can be argued by saying it is because of gravity, the experienced ones are suggesting you turn your vehicle to the opposite direction and repeat the same. To surprise you, the vehicle will start moving uphill; if gravity is the force here how a vehicle can climb the steep hill without its driving force on. This mysterious hill has gained monstrous popularity among trekkers, travelers, and hippies.
A remarkably adorable spot during the Manali to Ladakh trip is the Sangam Point or the confluence of two mighty rivers Zanskar and Indus. The confluence has been replacing wonders after wonders every year so that the tourists of Leh Ladakh arrive here to apprehend the divine spectacle. A point to be remembered but extremely surprising is that during winter, the Zanskar River embraces the snow cover and expresses herself as a snowflake while the Indus hesitates to stop her journey.
Nimmu Village is the neighbour of this unique confluence. How anyone can defy the glittering dark blue rivers carrying themselves in utmost beauty shimmering with the reflections of the surrounding snow-clad peaks.
CHANG LA PASS(AMS)
Wondering what AMS is? Well, it is the Acute Mountain Sickness which is the biggest challenge for the people traveling to Ladakh. When we reach out to the higher altitudes there is a scarcity of oxygen and our body faces severe levels of AMS.
While some of them are lightly affected by it others might even have severe side effects. Headache, vomiting, nausea, and more such symptoms are seen quite a lot of travelers. To avoid this one must make sure that they carry Diamox which helps to overcome this problem or one can avoid using the Manali to Leh highway where this is more prominent.
Be careful, fit and courageous.
Thanks and Regards