Nubra, Pangong and Zanskar - A trip to Ladakh

6th Aug 2016
Photo of Nubra, Pangong and Zanskar - A trip to Ladakh by Pramod Krishna Prasad

This is the second part of my Ladakh travel blog series.

The first part did cover the details of our 10 day itinerary, travel preparations and the 3-day road trip from Chandigarh to Leh (in Ladakh) via Manali , Jispa, Baralacha La and Taglang La. Check out the first part for some of the local sightseeing places that we explored in Leh on our Day 4.

Check out the first part here : Ladakh, the land of High Passes

Ladakh trip Highlights

a) Road trip from Chandigarh to Leh via Manali for 3 days exploring some of the high altitude passes such as Rohtang La and Taglang La and beautiful locales such as More plains, Jispa, etc

b) Excursion on some of the Highest motorable roads [Khardung La and Chang La]

c) Exploring the sand dunes of Nubra Valley on a double hump bactrian camel

d) Visiting one of the largest and beautiful lake, Pangong Tso

e) Exploring some of the magnificent monasteries in Ladakh such as in Diskit, Hemis, Thiksey, Stok Palace, Alchi Gompa

f) Zanskar River rafting adventure

g) Night stay at campsites with Swiss cottage tents at Sumur [Nubra Valley] and Pangong

In this part of the blog series, you will find details of the remaining days of our Ladakh exploration and below is the brief itinerary of our Day 5 to Day 10

Day 5: Leh - KhardungLa - Diskit - Hunder

Travel from Leh to Nubra Valley via the World's Highest motorable road, KhardungLa (18000 feet). At Nubra, visit Diskit Monastery which also has a tall statue of Maitreya Buddha and proceed to Hunder to explore the sand dunes on a double hump bactrian camel. Night stay at Sumur in a deluxe swiss cottage camp. Travel of approx 120kms roughly 5hrs.

Day 6: Sumur and Panamik - Back to Leh

Explore other regions of Nubra Valley such as the Samstanling Monastery in Sumur, along with beautiful valley views with Shyok and Nubra river and then visit Hot Sulphur springs at a small village in Nubra (Panamik). Return to Leh. Evening explore Leh Markets. Overnight stay at Leh

Day 7: Leh - ChangLa - Pangong Tso

Excursion to the most visited and the topmost tourist sites in Ladakh, the captivating heavenly lake in the region, Pangong Tso running at a length of about 130 kms and bordering the neighboring country of China. The journey is via the third highest motorable road Chang La (altitude of about 17500 feet)

Overnight stay at a lake side camp. Travel of approx 150kms roughly 6 hrs

Day 8: Chagar Tso - Hemis - Thiksey

Return to Leh. On the way, stop at Chagar Tso [one of the less explored lakes]. Also visit the largest Monastery in Ladakh in Hemis and explore the picturesque Thiksey Monastery. Night stay at Leh

Day 9: Confluence point - Magnetic Hill - Alchi - Hall of Fame

Visit nearby attractions from Leh such as the Confluence point of Indus and Zanskar rivers, Magnetic hill (a landscape of hill that provides an optical illusion that the vehicles passing by are rolling uphill where as in fact it is downhill). Explore the Alchi Gompa and then have an adventurous river rafting in the Zanskar river. Visit the Hall of Fame, a war memorial museum run by the Indian Army. Night stay at Leh

Day 10 : Return to Bengaluru by flight

Morning flight from Leh to New Delhi (T3) and then to Bengaluru

Photo of Nubra, Pangong and Zanskar - A trip to Ladakh 1/1 by Pramod Krishna Prasad
Hotel Charu Palace, Leh

KhardungLa and Nubra Valley excursion

On Day 5, after our breakfast, we headed to one of the thrilling journeys in Ladakh, an excursion on the highest motorable road, Khardung La which is a gateway to the Nubra valley and is about 39kms from Leh. Although considered motorable road, the road conditions are not good at many places and hence considered one of the adventurous rides. Also, being at an altitude of about 18000 feet, one can easily get AMS.

An Inner Line Permit is required to for tourists which can be obtained at Leh and is checked at South Pullu, an army checkpoint on the way from Leh to Khardung La.

We reached the KhardungLa top around 11AM and spent less time here since at that high altitude, it is difficult to stay for long. The place was crowded with all tourists wanting to take pics near the signboard that says "Highest Motorable Road in the World". We too managed to get our pics and then proceeded towards Diskit.

On the way, we stopped at Khalsar for lunch and then reached Diskit Monastery and Buddha statue. Diskit is a village and headquarters of the Nubra region and is known for its large statue of the Maitreya Buddha and the religiously important Diskit Monastery [Oldest and largest monastery in Nubra region]. We first visited the monastery and one needs to do a small hike to reach the Monastery. The views of the valley that this monastery provides is fascinating. The tall 32m Maitreya Buddha can be seen from the monastery and is about 1km from the monastery. We then visited the site of the Buddha statue. The entire region is so picturesque that our cameras were filled with lots and lots of pictures.

Our next stop and probably the most exciting part of Nubra valley was to hit the sand dunes of Hunder [a village in Nubra famous for its sand dunes and Bactrian camels]. We took a 15-20mins ride on the double hump bactrian camels to explore the sand dunes amidst the mighty and fascinating Himalayan mountains. The ride costed about INR 200 per person and post the ride, we walked on the dunes and did multiple sessions of photography

There is a small water stream that flows near the sand dunes and a bridge across the stream and that was yet another spot for our photoshoots and then some of us even tried wearing traditional Ladakhi costumes which are available there for rent.

After enjoying the day thoroughly, we proceeded to Sumur for our camping experience at Mystique Meadows Swiss Cottage Tents. Post dinner, we did enjoy our campfire with lots of singing and dancing. It was past midnight that we headed to our tents for some sleep.

Day 5


Photo of Khardungla Pass, Khardung La Road, Leh by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Sand dunes at Hunder, Nubra Valley

Photo of Hunder Sand Dunes, Hunder by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Maitreya Buddha at Diskit

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Diskit Monastery view from the site of Maitreya Buddha

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Maiterya Buddha view from Diskit Monastery

Photo of Diskit Gompa, Diskit by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Swiss cottage tent, Sumur, Nubra Valley

Photo of OYO 5289 Mystique Meadows Swiss Cottage Camps, Sumur, 194401 by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Camp site, Sumur, Nubra Valley

Photo of OYO 5289 Mystique Meadows Swiss Cottage Camps, Sumur, 194401 by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Nubra Valley, Sumur

Photo of OYO 5289 Mystique Meadows Swiss Cottage Camps, Sumur, 194401 by Pramod Krishna Prasad
Day 6

Samstanling Monastery, Sumur, Nubra Valley

Photo of Samstanling Gompa, Sumur by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Our Swiss cottage tents and campsite was very good with nice breakfast and dinner served. The tents have a small courtyard with chairs and inside it has luxurious bedroom and an attached toilet with shower area. The tent and the toilet are entered through a zipped entrance.

On day 6, it was time to leave the campsite and after breakfast, we headed to explore Samstangling Gompa which is about 150 years old and it was so peaceful there as there was very less crowd. The monastery is very beautiful amidst greenery and mountains.

Next we headed to Panamik, a small village which is on the way from Sumur to Siachen and is known for its natural Hot water springs enriched with Sulphur. There is hot bath complex (charges of about INR 20 to use it) where one can take bath in this hot water which is known to cure ailments such as skin diseases. The village of Panamik is also very scenic and provides marvelous views of the valleys and Nubra river

After spending ample amount of time, we then headed back to Leh via KhardungLa. Evening was free to explore the local markets of Leh and the market area at Leh is quite huge. After some window shopping, we returned to our hotel for our dinner and then crashed.

Nubra Valley view from Panamik Sulphur springs

Photo of Panamik Hot Spring, Panamik by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Pangong Tso

On Day 7, we were heading to one of the primary reasons why Ladakh tourism became so popular, which is none other than the heavenly beautiful high altitude lake surrounded by mountains, the lake of Pangong or Pangong Tso. It is one of India's trans-border lakes that is shared between India and China. With a length of 135kms and width of 5kms, about 40 percent of the lake lies in Ladakh in India. Tourists can visit the lake by reaching Spangmik which is at distance of about 150kms from Leh and the travel takes about 6hrs.

On the way to Pangong Tso, we had to cross one of the highest motorable passes, Chang La which is at an altitude of about 17500 feet. We reached Chang La around 12:30PM and when we were there, we even witnessed snow fall (my first time of witnessing a snow fall) and it was so beautiful (although it was for a short duration). Chang La is about 75kms from Leh.

We then stopped for lunch near Tangtse and then proceeded towards the lake. About 13kms before Spangmik and about 4kms from the start of the lake, one can get the first view of the lake seen between two mountains. This point is a good stop for some photos and we too did take some snaps here and then reached the Lake. We spent a nice time here enjoying the mesmerizing nature and enchanting views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. We then clicked some pictures with the yellow scooter that is placed here which was used by Kareena Kapoor in the movie "3 Idiots" [The Aamir Khan starrer was a major reason that many started considering Ladakh for their trip and a picture at this spot where the film's climax scenes were shot is definitely a must for movie buffs.]

We then had some evening snacks and coffee at a food stall opposite the lake called "3 Idiots Food Stall" and then proceeded further towards China border and visited the movie shooting spots

We stayed at Camp Martsemik La, a camp site opposite to the lake and the camps here were also Swiss tents.

Day 7

ChangLa (snow fall)

Photo of Changla Pass, Pangong Lake Road by Pramod Krishna Prasad

The Enchanting beauty of Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Tso by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Pangong Tso

Photo of Pangong Tso by Pramod Krishna Prasad

3 Idiots shooting Point - Kareena Kapoor's yellow scooter

Photo of Pangong Tso by Pramod Krishna Prasad

After a not so good sleep in the tents due to very cold night, our day 8 began with witnessing the Indian flag hoisting by the ITBP jawans near the campsite. Post breakfast, it was time to leave the campsite and head back to Leh.

[While traveling to Pangong make sure you carry some warm clothes since the temperatures can drop at night. Also, for AMS, carry diamox or get small oxygen cylinders. If not comfortable staying in Spangmik, one can drive back to Tangtse to stay in a hotel]

On the way to Leh, we stopped at one of the beautiful and probably one of the underrated lakes in the region, Chagar Tso. This is a small lake seen from the Pangong Lake road and boating is available here. We did boating, spent some time for photos as well and then headed towards Leh via Chang La. We had lunch at Karu and then proceeded to visit one of the largest monasteries of Ladakh region in Hemis.

Hemis and Thiksey

Around 40 kms from Leh, Hemis monastery is the biggest, most visited and one of the very beautiful monastery. With white walls and colorful prayer flags on all four sides, this monastery is perched on a hill close to the Indus river and was re-established in 17th century by the then King Sengge Namgyal. The monastery also has a wide collection of historical and religious paintings called Thangkas. There is also a museum that displays a wide collection Tibetan books, Thangkas, gold statues, weapons, carriers, etc.

Our next destination was another monastery which is of religious importance - Thiksey Gompa or Monastery about 19kms from Leh. The monastery is also on a hill in Thiksey and is a 12 storey complex. The main attraction here is a tall Maitreya Buddha statue that covers two stories of the building.

After visiting the monastery, as we descended from the hill, we stopped to get some nice snaps of ourselves with the beautiful Thiksey Monastery in the backdrop.

Later, we reached our hotel Charu Palace in Leh to spend the rest of the evening at leisure.

Day 8

Chagar Tso

Photo of Chagar Tso by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Hemis Monastery

Photo of Hemis Monastery Museum, Hemis by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Thiksey Monastery

Photo of Thiksey Monastery Leh Ladakh, Leh Manali Highway, Thiksey by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Zanskar and Alchi

On our last day in Leh, we decided to check out the attractions that are located near Leh and can be reached by the Srinagar -Leh highway.

First on the list was the popular Magnetic Hill - about 27kms from Leh. This place is known to defy gravity where vehicles appear to move uphill while actually moving downhill. It is considered an optical illusion by many and many believe that the landscape nearby has the magnetic force. There is a signboard which mentions about a yellow box marked on the highway where this phenomenon can be experienced.

Next up, we headed to the confluence or the sangam point of the two rivers, the Indus river and its largest tributary, Zanskar river, that flows entirely in Ladakh. The confluence is clearly visible from Leh-Srinagar highway at about 35kms from Leh. The Indus river is seen on the left and Zanskar on the right. One can take a road downhill from the highway to reach the confluence point.

We then visited the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of Alchi Gompa Choskhor, the oldest monastery built somewhere around 1055. Located at a distance of about 65kms from Leh, off the Leh-Srinagar highway, the monastery consists of a main assembly hall, a main temple, many chortens [stupas] from the 13th century and Manjushri Temple [a square temple dedicated to Manjushri, a bodhisattva, dating back to 12th century]. Indus river can be seen flowing near the backyard of the Alchi Gompa complex.

Post lunch, we headed to one of the most memorable adventures of mine, river rafting in the Zanskar river. The rafting starts at a distance of about 15kms from the confluence point in the Zanskar valley [near Chilling] and ends at the confluence point. With multiple rapids of grades 1 to 3, this was the first time that I did rafting and what an awesome experience it was. At some places during the rafting, one can even get into the ice cold water [places where there are no rapids].

The rafting activity is conducted under the supervision of an expert guide and they take care of the safety by providing safety equipment such as life jacket and helmet and also take us to the starting point in their vehicle. There are changing rooms available near the rafting booking place where one can change to swim suits which are also provided.

Day 9

Confluence point of Indus (left) and Zanskar (right)

Photo of Zanskar River by Pramod Krishna Prasad

River Rafting, Zanskar

Photo of Zanskar River by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Zanskar River rafting

Photo of Zanskar River by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Signboard at Magnetic Hill

Photo of Magnetic Hill, Srinagar - Ladakh Highway by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Indus river flowing behind Alchi Gompa

Photo of Alchi Monastery - Choskhor, Alchi by Pramod Krishna Prasad

Hall of Fame

Our last place of visit at Ladakh was the Army memorial museum called Hall of Fame. Due to our rafting activity, we got delayed and we reached Hall of Fame almost at its closing time around 7PM (while on our way back to Leh). The Army officials were kind enough to let us in. The entry ticket is INR 25.

Hall of Fame is about 5 kms from Leh and is close to Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar Highway and is constructed by the Indian Army in memory of the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives defending our motherland in the Indo-Pak wars.

The museum is two-storied which displays many photographs and weapons used in the Kargil War and is a fascinating account on how our soldiers fought the war. Also, it has sections to showcase the life of soldiers at Siachen region that highlight army posts on the glacier, accommodation and the training process of the troops. There is also a wall on the ground floor that displays photographs of all the soldiers who gave their lives for the nation during the war and that reminds us of all the sacrifices that these men do to defend and protect our country.

Other nearby places (which we could not cover) include the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib [a place of religious importance to Sikhs and is constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak who is the founder and first guru of Sikhism] and Spituk Monastery.

Hall of Fame, Leh, Ladakh

Photo of Nubra, Pangong and Zanskar - A trip to Ladakh by Pramod Krishna Prasad

On Day 10, we left Leh in the morning around 8 for our flight to New Delhi and then to Bengaluru

This brings us to the end of a splendid memorable trip

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