Ladakh: Jhulay to Broken MoonLand!

Tripoto
3rd Aug 2017
Photo of Ladakh: Jhulay to Broken MoonLand! by Priya Parashar

Ladakh had been on my bucket list since forever. I had been planning it since 2014 but it always got cancelled for some or the other reason. But in 2016 I was determined to go, even alone. But fortunately, few friends joined. We had planned this trip very meticulously. Because it was our dream destination and we didn’t want anything to go wrong. From our cab driver to our hotel stay to routes, we had done good research for almost everything.

We then got down at Kargil War Memorial. It’s definitely not to be missed. Nothing but admiration, love and respect for all our armed forces.

We could see ourselves approaching the snowcapped mountains and glaciers with amazing landscapes all along the way. The Drass River kept us company till we reached our hotel (Hotel Green Land).

If you like clicking even half as much as we do, you'll go in a frenzy by the time you start entering Ladakh. We had to actually force ourselves to stop getting down for a click. We drove for around 9 hours today but we weren’t tired.

We were picked up by the very dependable Jigmet bhaiya (He has a xylo- Phone No.9596662887)- our Leh cab driver cum guide and lifeline in Leh. Checked in to our home stay (Aayat Homes) and headed out to explore the local market and food.

Photo of Leh by Priya Parashar
Day 1

Delhi-Srinagar

We landed at Srinagar Airport from Delhi late afternoon. Our cab driver dropped us at our houseboat which had a commanding view of the lake. It was really beautiful. We spent the entire evening sitting on the wood planks of the lake, chit chatting and eating. We opted 30 minute shikara ride as well. It started to drizzle by the time it got dark and the entire backdrop became gorgeous. (Ask for complimentary shikara ride when you book your stay with houseboat).

Photo of Dal Lake, Srinagar by Priya Parashar
Photo of Dal Lake, Srinagar by Priya Parashar
Day 2

Srinagar-Sonmarg-Drass-Kargil

We left Srinagar by 6:00 am as a curfew was declared in the city. Thanks to our driver who informed us last night. Thanks to our houseboat manager, who rowed the shikara himself and dropped us at the bank. We were lucky to leave the city without any disturbance. The beauty will leave you thrilled. We stopped at few places to click pictures (we just couldn’t resist getting ourselves clicked) and once at a local dhabha for a light breakfast.

We reached Sonmarg by 9:00 am. We now had to take another cab to go to Thajwas Glacier. (Entire J&K has this issue; you have to use local vehicle to explore. Outside vehicles are strictly not allowed). We bargained with a taxi driver to take us up for Rs. 1000. We skipped ice skating as our driver suggested that its more beautiful at Zero Point (en-route to Kargil, after Zozila Paas). Lot of pestering by pony riders though. We did trekking for some 2 hours before coming down.

Photo of Sonamarg by Priya Parashar
Photo of Sonamarg by Priya Parashar

We continued our drive towards Kargil and passing over Zojila Pass. The road conditions were bad with lot of twists and turn. One side we had huge mountain ranges and the other side deep gorges. We had terrible experience with the sledge owners at Zero Point. Be VERY VERY careful with them. The operators here fleece you left and right, are outright arrogant. We paid Rs 600 for sledge ride per person.

Photo of Zojila Pass by Priya Parashar
Photo of Zojila Pass by Priya Parashar

We stopped at Drass, the 2nd coldest inhabitant place in the world for lunch.

Day 3

Kargil-Mulbekh-Leh

After breakfast at hotel we started for Leh. We travelled through the Srinagar Leh highway crossing Kargil bridge through Famous River of Kargil KARO. The scenic beauty is simply gorgeous. You have to be there to experience it. After 40 odd kms, we reached Mulbek, which is famous for a temple which houses the future Buddha which is approx. 9-meter-high statue carved out of solid rock was built in 7th or 8th century.

Photo of Mulbekh by Priya Parashar

Next we reached the 2nd high altitude pass on this route, Namika La (La means Pass), a windy yet scenic pass. The Himalayan ranges look mightier and beholding. The road cuts through these ranges and the sun’s reflection changes the colors on the peaks.

Photo of Namika La by Priya Parashar

Roughly after 40 kms is Fotu La, the highest point on the Srinagar - Leh highway. After crossing Fotu la we descended down towards Leh. We passed the famous Hungaroo loops which are amazing to look at, the blend of these loops with the majestic peaks is mesmerizing. The rocky mountains appear in a very grand fashion.

Photo of Fotu La by Priya Parashar

We stopped at Lamayuru’s oldest Gompa in Ladakh. You can see the young monks in the monastery, along with the senior monks praying and chanting. The wind here sounds like nothing I have heard before. It's soulful. The cold desert is a treat to the eyes. We had lunch in one of the cafes nearby.

The road became excellent (thanks to BRO) and the drive gets more scenic.

We then reached the famous Magnetic Hills. We were very fascinated with the phenomenon and took photos and videos of the vehicles going uphill when kept in neutral.

Photo of Magnetic Hill by Priya Parashar
Day 4

We started our day with Hemis Monastery which is some 1-hour drive from main Leh. There was an entry fee of Rs. 50. It is big and has an underground museum. You can buy some souvenirs from their local shop.

Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Priya Parashar

We then headed to Thiksey Monastery. It is one of the largest and most impressive Gompas. There are several temples in this Gompa containing images, stupas and exquisite wall paintings. It also houses a two - storied statue of Buddha which has the main prayer hall around its shoulder. We had our lunch in the small restaurant of the monastery itself before leaving (pancake was amazing). We had our lunch in the small restaurant of the monastery itself before leaving (pancake was amazing).

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Priya Parashar
Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Priya Parashar

3 idiots school was our next destination for the day. We registered ourselves at the reception and then they took us with a batch of some 25 people. The guide will tell you some facts about school. We weren’t allowed to interact with the students. Visitors are only allowed to see 1 wall of the school where the shooting of 3 idiots happened and that's it. You can avoid it.

Photo of Druk White Lotus School, Shey by Priya Parashar

The last destination of the day was Shey Palace. The monastery here was more rugged and you can call it off beat due to the less people visiting here. It indeed is a nice construction example.

Photo of Shey Palace, Shey by Priya Parashar

Today we had dinner with the Ladakhi Family we were staying with. They were such warm people. The food was delicious esp. the Ladakhi tea (pink in color and salty in taste- a definite try).

Day 5

Leh-Khardungla-Diskit-Hunder

We had to start for Nubra Valley today (permits required). Jigmet Bhaiya insisted on leaving early so that we don’t encounter traffic at Khardungla pass. Roads leading to Khardungla pass was in bad condition (Not the entire stretch but probably some 10 kms before and after). It was cold at Khardungla Paas and we had to take out our jackets. We got down and took photos next to the signboard (definite click). We had maggi and tea at the café which is maintained by the Army. You should definitely have something in the café as you can’t expect food for a very long time.

Photo of Khardung La by Priya Parashar

We saw the changing vistas of Nubra Valley. Few kms into the road leading to Diskit, the scenery changes from arid desert to a small oasis. The roads were almost deserted. It felt as we are the only people left in the world. So peaceful. So calm. We stopped at Diskit Gompa. The main attraction of the Gompa is the main Deity, which holds in its hand the mummified human forearm and head, which is believed to be of a Mongol warrior. Perched on top of a hill overlooking town of Diskit, it provides some breathtaking panoramic views.

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Priya Parashar

We then proceeded towards Hunder where we did double humped camel ride. The prices were fixed (thank God, 200 per person) but it was a mad affair to find a rider who has exact no. of camels as you require. Sand dunes camels and rock formations will remind you a landscape from Mars. LOL. The phenomenal valley’s landscape blew our mind. We were hungry so we again had maggi and tea in nearby café. We saw the cultural show (tickets 100 per person). It was so beautiful. The ladies were singing themselves. Amazing!

Photo of Hunder Sand Dunes by Priya Parashar
Photo of Hunder Sand Dunes by Priya Parashar

It was almost 8:00 PM by the time we checked into our hotel (Sand Dune Guest House). We had organic food for dinner which the owner itself grows in their farm. Lovely dinner! (You can opt for camp stays also).

Day 6

Hunder-Turtuk

We were going to Turtuk today (permits required). Turtuk is the farthest accessible points for the tourists in India and has been opened in 2010. We had added this place in our itinerary only by reading a single article of a traveler and we weren’t disappointed. It was actually heaven. The picturesque border village situated along the famous Silk Route is something you shouldn’t miss. The drive to Turtuk is a gallery of unspeakable beauty.

We reached Turtuk around lunch time. We checked into our camps (Turtuk Holiday Camps) and had lunch. After relaxing a bit, we left to explore the village. The camp manager became our guide for today. The village is very scenic with plenty of apricot trees all over the village. A stroll through the village was beautiful. The natural refrigerator in the middle of the village is something not to be missed.

Photo of Turtuk by Priya Parashar
Photo of Turtuk by Priya Parashar
Photo of Turtuk by Priya Parashar
Day 7

We left for Leh on the same route we came to Nubra. (Turtuk-Hunder-Khardungla-Leh)

Day 8

Today we covered the local sightseeing of Leh and we started with Sangam point (Zanskar River and Indus River confluence). Watching the confluence of the muddy Zanskar water with the bluish green Indus was breathtaking.

Our second destination for the day was Gurudwara Pathar Saheb which is maintained by Indian Army. We even had langar there cooked and served by army people.

Photo of Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Leh by Priya Parashar

We then visited Leh War Memorial. The museum housed records of all the wars fought in the treacherous terrains of this region. You can even write a message for army there.

Photo of War Memorial, Leh by Priya Parashar

Later on, we headed towards Leh Palace which is in ruins now. It was deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s.

Photo of Leh Palace, Leh by Priya Parashar

Our last stop was Shanti stupa which was located on the hilltop at Changspa. The aim behind the construction of the Stupa was to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism and to promote World Peace. The place was so serene. Well laid and spacious too. We enjoyed the sunset here.

Photo of Shanti Stupa, Shanti Stupa Road, Leh by Priya Parashar
Day 9

Leh-Chang La-Pangong Tso

It was Pangong Tso (permits required) Day today. We were super excited. The route from Leh to Pangong were gorgeous. It was like a postcard painting. We reached Chang La Paas (third Highest motor able road in the world). It was extremely cold when we reached Chang La. Though it was around 11:00 AM, still it looked like it was early morning. Weather literally changed every 15 minutes. We had coffee at the Army café.

Photo of Chang La Pass by Priya Parashar

We reached Pangong Lake around 3:00 PM. Jigmet Bhaiya took us towards the off-beat side of the lake (away from the cafeterias and tourist) and we were greatful to him. There were very less tourists this side. As soon as we were out of the car, we went click-crazy. We had imagined ourselves here long before. The downside was that it the weather was becoming cold with each passing moment. We wore our jackets and then took a leisure walk along the lake. Words are not enough to describe the amount of awesomeness of this place. The place looked like straight out of a fairy tale novel. No matter how much you read about this place, you have to witness the beauty yourself. It’s an experience in itself. The lake was changing colors (the lighting effect).

We checked into our camp (Pangong Delight Camps) before it got dark. Our camp was bit far from the lake but still we had a front facing camp so we were happy. (Tip: Choose a camp which is nearer to lake and do stay overnight). No point rushing.

Photo of Pangong Tso by Priya Parashar
Photo of Pangong Tso by Priya Parashar
Photo of Pangong Tso by Priya Parashar
Day 10

Pangong Tso-Rezang La- Tso Moriri

The drive from Pangong to Tso Moriri (permits required) was something else. In the beginning (roughly 2-3 hours) there was actually no road. The car was making its own way. But it was fun. We crossed the Indus River up to Mahe Bridge. On the way we saw many beautiful villages of Changthang valley, Hot Sulphur Spring at Chumathang and many Nomadic Camps with their domestic animals like Pashmina Goats, Yaks and Sheeps.

We stopped at Rezang La War Memorial (Salman Khan’s movie Tubelight was shot here). Its built to honor the soldiers who were killed during battle of Rezang La pass with China in 1962.

Photo of Rezang La War Memorial, Leh by Priya Parashar

We drove for approx. 6 hours before we reached our camps (Tso-Morriri Resorts and camps). This lake is totally a gem to visit. Beautiful…Beautiful…Beautiful. The journey is surely tiresome but once you see the lake, everything is worth. The panoramic view of the Lake is amazing with Turquoise colored water.

Photo of Tso Moriri by Priya Parashar
Day 11

Tso-Moriri- Sarchu

After an early breakfast we left for Sarchu. Driving to Lachungla pass, which is at a height of 5065 mts.

Photo of Lachalung La by Priya Parashar

Sarchu-Manali

We had decided to stay overnight in Sarchu and start for Manali the next day. You can even stay in Jispa. The roads are well maintained. Food options on this route is more. The drive is good.

Photo of Sarchu, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Priya Parashar
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