Ladakh is a magnificent and an unexplored wonderland of the Himalayas. It is one place that is considered as a heaven by everyone who is on a lookout to satiate their indomitable love for adventure. Besides trekking in Ladakh, you can indulge in a series of adventure sports such as biking, water rafting, safaris, etc. Also known as the ‘Land of Passes, Ladakh forms an alluring part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India.
Set amidst snow capped hills, Ladakh is the center of Tibetan Buddhist culture. It is dotted with a number of colorful monasteries. Still unadulterated by modernity, Ladakh is where you’ll experience life coming to a standstill when you directly communicate with the nature and serenity around.
The days where the itinerary was covered presented Ladakh in its true shining colors. It’s a world of rugged valleys, snow-covered mountains, endless hills, barren lands, clean and curvy roads and the mystical Lamas where centuries old monasteries have still maintained their charm. The confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar rivers is a rare sight. One can clearly differentiate between the two waters from a distance. The rare phenomenon of Magnetic Hill leaves everyone astonished. For the uninitiated, the hill possesses magnetic properties that can pull cars uphill and compel passing aircrafts to increase altitude in order to escape the magnetic interference. And if you’re tired covering a few places on this route, you can halt at Gurudwara Pathar Saheb. Here you will be served with hot tea. Trust me, this one cup of tea is sufficient to rejuvenate your senses for the hilly ride. The most talked about (and not without reason!) attraction of Ladakh is the Pangong Lake which undoubtedly is one of the most peaceful (and obviously beautiful) places on this planet.
The start of the journey – Srinagar
chances are, you would have reached Srinagar by flight. Or, if you are on a longer holiday or are slow travelling your way to Ladakh, you would have taken the Jammu-Srinagar highway to reach Srinagar. In either case, make good use of the time you have in Srinagar.
If it’s just one evening, you will most likely head to the Dal lake, especially if this is your first visit to Kashmir. Even though the Dal lake is all kinds of a touristy place, it’s alluring. In one evening at the Dal lake, you can:
- Take a sunset shikara ride over Dal Lake
- Visit the Chashm-e-shahi Mogul garden
- The Tulip season is in April, which is not typically the season to travel to Ladakh. But if that’s when you find yourself in Srinagar, do visit the tulip garden which is just next to Chashm-e-Shahi.
- Pari Mahal is a little above the Chashm-e-shahi garden. We highly recommend visiting the Pari Mahal for the spectacular panoramic views it offers of the Dal lake and its surroundings.
- Dal lake is the centre of all tourist activities in Srinagar
As you leave Srinagar to start your journey to Ladakh you will take the exit towards Sonmarg. During your stay in Sonmarg you can:
- Visit the Thajiwas glacier and meet the nomadic tribe, the Gujjars, on your way
- Walk to the hidden village of Sarbal
- Run around on the meadows.
- There is an officially designated fishing Point in Sonmarg. You can rent equipment, get a fishing pass and try your luck with catching some trout.
From Sonmarg, a steady climb starts. If it’s the season of the Amarnath yatra, you will see camps set up on a flatland under the highway, at Baltal. Soon after, you will be on your first high altitude mountain pass – the Zoji la.
This is where the “heart-in-you-mouth” situation, which will become all too familiar during your travel in Ladakh, starts. Your driver should be able to pint you to some important landmarks of the Kargil war. You will also see shepherds who get their flocks here from as far as Minimarg, crossing by foot over some high mountain passes. Your car or taxi will have to make an entry at the checkpoint after the Zoji La. Foreigners have to show their passports at this point and make individual entries.
Kargil is the biggest town you will cross on the Srinagar Leh highway before you reach Leh. It is roughly only 60 km from Drass.Because of its close proximity to the line of control, Kargil has often been the site of border conflicts between India and Pakistan. The largest and deadliest of these clashes was the Kargil War, which took place in May–July 1999.
Fotu La is followed by the village of Lamayuru, famously known as the Moonland of Ladakh. There are a number of monasteries here. The biggest attraction here is the mountains that make you feel like you have landed on the moon.
Lamayuru to Leh is a distance of 115 km. In this stretch, you will cross villages at regular intervals. Places like the Sangam point (where the Zanskar and the Indus rivers meet), Magnetic hill, and the Hall of Fame are all on the way to Leh.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh
Heaven, Peace, Silence, and Tranquility at one place? Come and spend a few hours at Pangong Lake! A pristine place in Ladakh marked by subtle to high peaks around, crystal blue waters and the vast expansion catches the eye so much, so long as if a magic is happening right in front of the eyes.
Pangong Lake, also known as Pangong Tso, lies calmly at a breathtaking elevation of 14,270 feet. Interestingly, the lake is 12 km long and marks itself between the laps of India and China. Rather, 60% of the portion is stretching in the neighboring nation and this excites every traveler to be here.
The surreal clean blue waters are actually brackish or salty in nature and this feature doesn’t let any aquatic life survive in the same. Moreover, the temperature range between -30 to -10 degrees make even this salty lake freeze with thick ice sheets, which is quite opposite in case of salt ridden water bodies.
One of the most beautiful parts of the moonscapes of Ladakh, Nubra Valley is a deep cut gorge created by the combined effects of Shyok and Nubra (Siachen) rivers. A high altitude cold desert, Nubra Valley is actually an extension of the Tibetan Plateau (Qing-Zang Plateau) that starts in China and extends up to Ladakh. This valley in the plateau separates the Ladakh Range from the Karakoram Range.
But more than anything, Nubra Valley is the most beautiful region in all of Ladakh. Home to wonders like the Diskit Monastery,Hunder Sand Dunes, Samstanling Gompa, Yarab Tso Lake, and the villages of Turtuk and Panamik.
In this world, much in need of peace, the white, beautiful and serene Shanti Stupa on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir provides a fabulous, unobstructed view. This white beauty amidst the snow lets you experience a moment of breathlessness and it is one of the beautiful places to see in Leh Ladakh. Situated at a height of 4267 metres, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the Stupa is at a distance of about 5 km from the Leh City.
It was built by the Japanese monks to promote world peace and also to celebrate the 2500 years of Buddhism. Therefore if you wish to experience peace amidst all the noise, among the places to visit in Leh, there’s no one better than Shanti Stupa. It is a combo of serenity, peacefulness and exotic views.
Khardung La Pass
Khardung La pass is a gateway to some of the most enchanting and unexplored landscapes. This famed mountain pass is very popular amongst adventure seekers and regular tourists alike. Located in the Leh district of the Indian Union Territory, Khardung La is situated at an elevation of 5,359 meters. It is hailed to be the highest motorable pass all across the globe. Historically speaking, Khardung La is quite significant as it lies on the major caravan route that links Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia.
During the second world war, an attempt to transfer war well to China was made through this route. Khardung La was constructed in the year 1976 and was made accessible to public motor vehicles in the year 1988. The pass is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation and is of great strategic importance as it is used to carry goods to the Siachen Glacier.
Best time to visit: June to August
How to reach Leh: From Srinagar/ Leh Airport by road, From Jammu Railway Station
Accommodation: Hotels and Homestays
Transportation: Bike, Car, Mini buses
Must visit Places: Pangong Lake, Thiksey Monastery, Shanti Stupa, Zanskar Valley, Kargil War Memorial
No one can ever get enough of Ladakh in just one visit. Definitely, going there again myself!