Leh Ladakh – Visit the Heaven on Earth
That’s the first thing I heard as I landed in Leh. Julley is a greeting in Leh and nearby regions.
While landing, a lot of thoughts and emotions came rushing to my mind- excitement because I was finally going to tick off Leh Ladakh from my bucket list and anticipation because I researched a little too much for this trip (a wise advice for the solo travellers- do your research). I also felt bad for Kopal who missed this trip but then I looked out of the window and everything seemed perfectly fine.
Duration: 4 days
Best time to visit: May-September
1. Delhi to Leh
2. Leh – Khardungla pass- Diskit – Hunder
3. Hunder- Pangong Tso
4. Pangong Tso- Changla pass- Leh
5. Leh to Delhi
Air: Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Leh has direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar etc on daily basis. It does burn a hole in your pocket but if saving time is a priority, book yourself a ticket right on time.
Road: If only I could ride a bike! Manali-Leh road trip is on the bucket list of almost all the travel enthusiasts. Leh is 472 Km from Manali, and the road trip is full of spellbinding views and landscapes. You can either rent a bike (Bullet preferred) from Manali or can easily find a bus or a private cab.
LIST OF THINGS YOU MUST CARRY
Before we get started with details, please note that you carry the following with you at all times. Leh is a difficult terrain and it can be harsh on you.
1. Diamox – Helps in case of altitude sickness
2. A jacket – You may not need it during the daytime but weather changes within seconds.
3. A water bottle – You will be in a low oxygen area. Drinking water will help your brain function normally and will oxygenate your body.
4. Some sort of snack/munchie, preferably energy bars or nuts- to beat the fatigue.
5. Don’t forget your camera and an extra set of batteries. You will cry to bed if you did. It’s that beautiful!
My first day in Leh was all about relaxing and actually coming to terms with the fact that I was FINALLY in Leh. When I met Mr Tsetan, the guest house owner, he advised me to take rest and not do anything which might lead to physical exertion because the Oxygen levels are very low in Leh. It is imperative to give our body 12-15 hours to acclimatize to the sudden change in altitude and oxygen levels. After keeping my bags in my room, I went for a stroll around the Main Bazaar, which is a must-visit if you are staying in Leh.
The next thing on the agenda is to sort out the Inner Line Permits.
Inner Line Permit is required for the following places-
* Pangong Tso
* Khardung La
* Tso Moriri
* Nubra Valley
You can ask your hotel/guest house to arrange an Inner Line Permit for you, they do it for nominal charges. You can also walk down to the DC office in Leh and get it done yourself, an option I preferred. After getting the permit, the next task on the list was to find fellow travellers to share cabs with. I happened to meet Vaishali and Manoj at a local tour & travels booth, they had a similar itinerary which made things way easier. We booked a cab, exchanged phone numbers and decided to meet early the next day.
After a heartfelt dinner at the Apple Tree Restaurant & German Bakery, I returned to my guest house as I had to pack for the next three days!
Mr Tsetan was kind enough to give me a ride till Diskit Villa Hotel at 8 in the morning. I was supposed to meet Vaishali and Manoj to start our road trip. We picked a lot of snacks and water bottles for the road trip. It is advised to drink a lot of water, as frequently as you can. Also, water is cheaper in Leh than Nubra valley and Pangong.
The first stop was Khardung La Pass, which is the highest motorable road in the world, situated at 18,380 feet above the sea level and is just 40 km from Leh. It took us an hour and a half to reach Khardung La Pass. The pristine beauty of snow-laden mountains was breathtaking! It started snowing within minutes which left me mesmerised. We had a bowl of Maggi and masala tea at the only cafe at the pass. We could only stay there for only 30 minutes because of the low oxygen levels.
Next stop was Diskit Monastery which is another 75 km from Khardung La Pass and we covered the journey in around 2.5 hours. Diskit Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in Nubra Valley with a 32-meter statue of Maitreya Buddha facing down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. You’d have to climb around a 100 steps to get to the main temple. The monastery has a statue of Cho Rinpoche (Crowned Buddha) in the prayer hall, a huge drum and several images of fierce guardian deities. There is a Teapot museum in the monastery premises which was recently set up to preserve the antiques. The monks also invited us inside the museum and offered us a hot cup of tea.
After the tea at the museum, we headed to the famous Hunder Sand Dunes, it’s just 5 Km from the Monastery and took us only 10 mins to get there. Hunder in Nubra Valley is famous for double hunch back (Bactrian) camels. Bactrian camels are native to central Asia. They offer a 15-minutes camel ride for Rs. 250, in case you are interested (we don’t take animal rides for entertainment/amusement purpose unless it is the only mode of transport). I spent around 2 hours in the sand dunes, taking pictures and hanging out with the friendly Bactrian camels. We then headed to the Goba Guest House, where we stayed the night.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and started early for the highlight of the trip, The Pangong Lake. It was about a 5-hour drive from Hunder via Shyok River and you will be driving along the river for most of the time. Be prepared to witness the most picturesque and larger than life landscapes, take breaks now and then to appreciate the wonder that this place is and soak it all in with deep breathes. I felt like I was in a different world altogether. It reminded me of Tatooine from Star Wars but colder and with more mountains. We also spotted Pashmina goats, Wild horses and Marmot on the way. What a day!
Our driver overheard us talking about having a bonfire at Pangong. He told us that having a bonfire at Pangong could be expansive as it is very difficult to find wood, so he suggested we pick up wood on the way. We picked up enough wood for just Rs. 100.
We stopped for lunch at Tangtse which is about 40 Km before Pangong and has a couple of restaurants. We reached Pangong at 3 pm and couldn’t believe our eyes. I’d never seen that shade of blue, ever.
After spending a couple of hours at the Pangong Lake, we checked-in at the Pangong Resort Camp and rested for a while before heading out again for the bonfire. It was a full moon night, the surroundings were well lit despite no electricity and the lake looked magical under the moonlight.
We were given hot water bottles to keep inside the blanket as the temperature was around -3 C. We filled the buckets in the bathroom as the water in the rooftop tank would freeze during the night. It was indeed one of the coldest nights I’d ever experienced.
After having a scrumptious breakfast at the resort, we headed back to Leh which took about 5 hours from Pangong.After keeping my bags in the guest house, I decided to visit the market to have lunch. On my way to the Leh main market, I found a cafe called La Piazzetta with the most beautiful view. If you are in Leh you have to visit this cafe.
The market has a lot of shops that sell pashmina shawls and stoles at a reasonable price. After having Qahwa and spending some time at the Leh-Ling Cafe, I came back to my hostel to pack my bags, after all, I had an early morning flight to catch the next day.
Budget (for one)
Flight: Delhi ⇄ Leh: Rs. 9000
Cab for 2 nights and 3 days: Rs. 6000 (The cab costed us Rs. 18000 in total which was divided among three people)
Tsetan Guest house (Single room): Rs. 450/night
Goba guest house, Hunder: Rs. 2300/night
Pangong Resort: Rs. 2000/night
Food: Rs. 1000/day
Permit for Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso (3days): Rs. 480