Road Trip to Leh and Ladakh

It's better in the mountains, isn't it? Ladakh is referred to as the forgotten kingdom! A life in the mountains and one which is straight out of a beautiful picture! A cult among the wanderlusts or the Mecca for the thrill seekers, Leh in Ladakh is the destination that can tempt anyone to ditch the rest of the world!

Himalayas will remain a dream ride to all who love riding a motor cycle for years to come. For it's challenging paths and harsh environments, for the views on offer, for pushing your limits, for the feel of pride of achievements, this is one ride you shouldn't miss. If you are bored with your everyday life, then visiting Ladakh will be a good option. Ladakh is an important place for people who want to roam. Ladakh's Zanskar Valley, Khardung-La-Pass, Hemis National Park, and Spituk Gompa are excellent places to visit.

Seated high in the lap of the Indian Himalayas it's a traveler's delight and can satiate all your cravings for an adrenaline rush. The alluring landscape, cerulean lakes, cobalt skies, hospitable culture and roughly set monasteries make visiting Ladakh a picturesque place and such a dreamy vision to capture.

Ladakh can also be enjoyed with your friends through many tour companies. Such companies are always available to assist and entertain you through your Leh Ladakh tour offering the best of services throughout. Sumptuous breakfast, lunch, and dinner are mostly inclusive and many of such tour companies also offer a zero money on tour policy.

Ladakh is one of the most exotic destinations in India. If there is paradise, it's here as well. Most common on the list of all tour operators, Ladakh is a great and majestic place to visit but some precautions need to be kept in mind as well. Make sure you are fit and healthy and get a physical check-up done before you embark on any of the Ladakh tours to be doubly sure of your health.

Ladakh is at high altitude. The oxygen levels are generally low which are not taken too well by most of the travelers and especially people who are unhealthy in any sense. It's going to be an exhaustive journey to this place. Keep that in mind and prepare yourself accordingly.

Best Road Trips in Ladakh Some highlights of Leh Ladakh tour and the itinerary is mentioned here that are offered by most tour operators in Ladakh. Looking to plan your next road trip? Buckle up! From a biker's haven to unforgettable scenery and discovering skiing trails, here are some of the coolest and exciting road trips to plan your next 'pawri'.

Day 1: Arrival in New Delhi

Arrive at the airport in New Delhi. Go to the hotel to spend the night.

Day 2: Delhi - Leh (3,500 m)

Take a Delhi-Leh flight, very early in the morning, which flies across the Himalayas. On the first day, after reaching Leh airport, go to the hotel for check-in. Rest in the hotel and revel in the peace of this place. In less than 24 hours, be at 3500 m altitude, in the bustling bazaar of Leh to establish a first contact with the Little Tibet. Leh is a city rich in history.

Indeed, it was a recognized center of commerce. Caravans from Tibet and Central Asia stopped there before continuing on their way to Kashmir. In the old quarter, under the Stok Palace, come across women dressed in black dresses with a fuchsia pink belt. They are Ladakhi women who come to sell their vegetables. This 4-storey building, typically Ladakhi style, is the official residence of the royal family of Ladakh.

In the museum there are beautiful paintings, ritual, ceremonial and thankas. In addition, get surprised by a sword that they have exposed whose blade is knotted. Matho gompa, or Tibetan monastery, becomes one of the best visits of Ladakh. A young monk opens the doors of the monastery and shows a very dark little museum, but what impresses most is a prayer room with thick orange garments prepared for the winter ceremonies.

During the summer the monks do not live in this monastery, and they move to another and leave the prayer room ready for their return in the cold winter. Stakna Monastery is surely one of the most photogenic of Ladakh, since it is located in a privileged place, on top of a hill and with the Indus River meandering at its feet.

The views from the road before entering Stakna are impressive, although the gompa itself is not one of the prettiest in Ladakh. Travel the rooms alone, in the company of the monk and enjoy incredible places with hardly any visitors.

Arrive at the Takthok monastery but the old gompa, founded in the mid-sixteenth century. Approach the new gompa and there find all the monks of the monastery. In the Takthok monastery there is a mixture of Buddhism and Bon culture, an ancient shamanic and animist tradition from Tibet. The Gungpa order is present in the monasteries of Lamayuru and Fyang.

The Drugpa order maintains the monasteries of Hemis, Hanle, Chemré and Stakna and the saskyapa order is represented in the Matho monastery. Head to the Thiksey Monastery, a 15th century monastery, that holds Tibetan manuscripts, numerous works of art and murals. See the panorama on the the Indus valley.

Then head to the Chemrey monastery, one of the most photogenic monasteries in Ladakh. It is impressive for its size and unusual architecture. Take the road back to Leh. In the evening visit Shanti Stupa and Leh market for meeting locals. In the evening relax with a good tea in the garden of the pleasant guesthouse. Have dinner in front of the Stok Kangri while eating momos.

Day 3: Leh - Dah

Leaving Leh, cover the Leh to Srinagar Highway for some sightseeing in the daytime. Supposed to be built to mark the visit of Guru Nanak Dev to this area, visit the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, the Hall of Fame and Kali Mata Temple. Admire the confluence of Indus and Zanskar which are simply gorgeous and experience the effects of Magnetic Hill which is set to defy the law of gravity. Visit Alchi Monastery, Likir, and Basgo.

Dah is a village 130 km from Leh and northwest of the town of Khalsi, in the Ladakh area. The road to Dah is of an unexpected slowness. The streets in Ladakh are in very poor condition and in permanent repair. The hours will pass and the expectations will be transformed and the path becomes abstract.

Dah is not accessible by car. Dha is lost in time and in the desolate geography of Ladakh. It does not have a single street. To access the village, you have to leave the road that borders the Indus River and walk along a high path over a narrow valley full of flowers.

From time to time, travelers like me, with a backpack on their shoulders, appear in the village and stay a couple of days, in love with their golden valley, their solitude and their infinite peace.

The people of this area are known as Drokpas or Brokpas, literally meaning people who live in the mountains. Its origin is unknown but for its features and its skin color, and perhaps for its clear eyes are believed to be Aryans, descendants of the invading forces of Alexander the Great.

Their religion is called Bon and seems to be similar to Buddhism, and the dialect is Tschina - an archaic language. And for centuries they have protected their race by prohibiting inter caste marriages. Arriving in Dah was quite an experience.

After so many hours of travel (which do not amount to many kilometers), the tiredness and late night was having to surrender to the moon to illuminate my path and sleep in what I thought was a cave where someone offered me a mattress.

Day 4: Dah - Parkachik (3400 m)

In the morning pass the Mulbekh chorten, impressive in size. Leave for Parkachik and the green Suru Valley. The number of hamlets start reducing until the Nun Kun pass. A ride through Himalayas is never a usual ride that you do on our most touristy spots. The mountains will keep throwing challenges at you. It's a test of your will and might. And hence it's a one of a kind experience.

Motorcycle is one of best way to connect with your surroundings on your travel. Unlike the closed protection offered by four wheelers, it's a different feel to ride out in the cold or under hot sun or under rain or in mist covered valley. Of course take necessary precautions to protect yourselves using proper riding gears.

And this connect is a stronger one when you are in these mountains. Because at the end of the rise you would have experienced atleast two different climatic conditions if not all. It has all sorts of landscapes on the route. From lush green forest areas to snow caped mountains to barren lands and cold deserts. It's the nature at its best as an artist. Just make sure you don't get hypnotised or fall into a trance with all those breathtaking views.

You are all in your comfort zones at your workplace or at your homes. Well this one ride is your chance to push your limits. Value the things that we are blessed with in our life's in the plains, the things we took all these years for granted. Food, water, air etc.

Camp here.

Day 5: Phe - Ating - Dzongkhul Gompa - Camp near Malung river

From the center of Phe, the large agrarian village located on the Kargil-Padum road and 25 kms from Padum, walk on the road for 2 km. After the last houses of Phe, find the pedestrian bridge that allows us to cross the Stod Chu and find ourselves at the foot of the village of Ating. Go up a small path along the meadows to reach the track that passes in the middle of houses.

From Ating a vehicle to reach the gompa effortlessly can be found for a few hundred rupees, this one being located at 3850 m and the distance from the village is about 9 kms. Cross the Doda river on a bridge before entering the Malung valley. On foot, it is not necessary to follow the laces of the track when it rises to the right to bypass a gigantic landslide from above.

Continue on a artificial slope to find the track a little further at a concrete ford. Reach the foot of the monastic complex. See the various prayer rooms and especially that which is at the top of the building in a cave. Unfortunately the murals are very old and especially too blackened by the smoke to be appreciated at their fair value.

The descent starts. There is no need to go down to the grassy areas at the foot of the gompa because a path has been traced at the base of the cliffs. Beyond, it descends slowly to reach the edge of the stony moraine at 3770 m. The trail is well serviced despite the hostile atmosphere of scree large blocks.

Pass a chorten. Just behind go back to bypass an avalanche corridor. Descend into a green hollow where wild rhubarb grows. The zangskarpa are very fond of it. Continue to reach a little further to one of the arms of the river in a big meander. Cross a space before a small climb to a big rock. A slight descent leads to a large grassy area by the river, the last opportunity to find a welcoming space after two hours.

Day 6: Camp near the Malung River - Hinju Pullu

Leave the turf spaces of the doksa to tackle a day with a mineral character a little more assertive. Continue crossing the moraines of the Malung Togpo valley using a few traces and cairns to squeeze between the granite blocks. Now cross a large scree of yellow rocks before descending to a wide grassy clearing in the middle of which grow young willows.

Continue on the moraine down to cross the river on a bridge using a tracery of fallen stones with the torrent rumbling below. Move into the valley side to see the Malung Glacier at the bottom. At the level of a large dejection cone, cross a torrent that has a high flow before continuing on a green expanse. Reach the site of Gaura.

From the grassy platform go through a collar in the middle of blocks before descending just behind to reach an alp where graze yaks. Then cross a stretch of pebbles before turning on the G to take an alley between two stony moraines towards the valley which opens on the left. Climb to the side of the cliff on crumbling rocks and enjoy in the distance the end of the Malung Glacier which has greyish seracs.

The climb is not very steep but the terrain is rough so look for the route in the middle of the blocks that overlap. Finally reach the moraine lock with a well-shaded alpine lawn opening the view of a new glacial complex at the foot. Start to go to cross a daring stone bridge, again enjoying a rocky chaos and under which roars the muddy torrent.

Then cross an area of pastures until reaching a source that dies from a lateral moraine. Continue towards the valley floor where the trace helps to find the best passage between the collapsed blocks and the tiny meadows present around the springs that spring from everywhere. Around 4480 m, move away from the bed of the torrent to pass a collar and just behind reach Hinju village in Pullu located at the confluence of two glacial valleys.

Day 7: Pullu - Omasi La

From the camp on the moraine, cross the large flat expanse and bypass the moraine to get a little further on the black glacier covered with stones. Go up the glacial tongue to the slight slope until the altitude of 5000 m. Go up the rocky banks often covered with snow to reach the Omasila.

Located in the Paldar Valley, Umasi La rises to 5300 m altitude, and overlooks a sea of ​​ice. This valley opens on a magnificent glacier which contrasts with the usual landscape of Ladakh. See the Zanskar in the north, Kashmir and Pangi in the west and finally Lahaul in the south. Sersank is a magnificent peak of about 20000 feet in the Himalaya Range.

The Sersank Pass is a mountain pass that is left of the Sersank and connects Sural Bhatori in Chamba valley with Dharlang. This difficult passage has fallen into disuse. Currently there is virtually no marked track in the glacial areas. But it is used by climbers. People of Sural Bhatori are Buddhists and have an ancient connection with Zanskar and with Tibet. Go back through the glacier to reach the place to camp for the night.

Day 8: Hinju Pullu - Ating

Descend by the same path as that of the climb until the crossing of the big stream after Gaura. But instead of going to the stone bridge below, continue to a large grassed area. Follow the river on a trail that is better serviced and come to the face of Dzongkhul gompa. Follow the path drawn on the side of moraine to reach the top of the pastures of Ating and quietly reach the village.

There are many variations to cross the Sach Pass, but the most beautiful circuit is from Bairagarh to Killar and forward to Udaipur in the Pangi Valley and beyond to Lahaul, a part of the tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. A longer circuit that can be tried is from Dalhousie to Manali through Sach Pass.

At 4420 m, the Sach is a treacherous and narrow passage and lies on what is widely considered to be the most dangerous road in India. Another path from the pass leads to Kashmir, to Kishtwar. Stock up on food in Bairagarh, since there is absolutely nothing after that until you reach the charming town of Killar.

There are no roads in the country of rocks, and nature rules here. Pray your prayers to the gods and count your rosaries; This is a trip you will never forget.

Day 9: Parkachik - Padum (3600 m)

The big day of departure arrives. Everything is ready on our side. The great adventure begins in the direction of the West Valley of Indus to Zanskar, Padum! The circuit will allow us to explore a beautiful alpine valley to the foot of Umasi La and to the pass.

The delimitation between the Muslim part and the Buddhist part is constituted by a long plain. Visit the Rangdum Monastery. Going towards the Padum valley, the Drang Drung glacier is visible from the highest point of the road from the Pensi La pass, which rises to 4400 m height.

Pass by Zangla, Thongde and Karsha monastery. Founded between the 10th and 15th centuries, Karsha is arguably the largest and largest Buddhist monastery in Zanskar, with some thirty buildings on a hillside. About 150 yellow hat monks from the Gelugpa sect live here. Spend the night in guest house, in the direction of the east of Zanskar.

Day 10: Uleytokpo - Leh

Cover a good stretch of Leh and proceed to Lamayuru (the oldest monastery in Ladakh). Take some good snaps of the moon landscape (land which reassembles the lunar surface) and enjoy the stunning views on the way.

Day 11: Leh to Pangong Lake

Proceed to Pangong via Changla Pass, the third highest pass in the world and make some lovely memories and as you visit places like Shey and Thiksey. Nothing remains of Shey Palace. You cannot visit because there are only a handful of ruins. This palace was for some time the summer residence of the kings of Ladakh, until it was abandoned. We have read that it is in the process of being restored, as is the royal Leh Palace.

Being 6 to 7 KM broad at the longest point and 135 KM in length, Pangong Lake is a saltwater body. It is bisected by the international border between India and China (two third of the lake is in China's possession). Enjoy outing along the banks of the lake as you visit the lake which is the exact location of the famous 3 idiots movie.

Chushul was an airstrip used in the Sino-Indian War. It is close to Rezang La and Pangong Lake at a height of 4360 meters. Stay overnight in one of the camps in Pangong Tso.

Day 12: Pangong Lake to Leh

Travel back to Leh and give rest to some of your nerves. Enjoy a cup of hot steaming tea en route Leh as you take a short halt at Changla Pass. Return to Leh after visiting the Hemis Monastery. We had already been to the monastery of Hemis on the day of the Tshechu festival, but we decided to return so that we could tour it without crowds.

We are fortunate to find a young monk who tells us many things about Buddhism, his life in the monastery and the history of the monastery of Hemis. It seems incredible that days before there were so many people in the courtyard of the gompa, and today we are walking through the rooms of the monastery alone.

Day 13: Leh to Nubra Valley

Considered to be the highest motorable road in the world, Khardung La is a must visit. Offering a spectacular view, are the never-ending snow-capped mountain ranges around Khardungla Pass (17,580 feet). Khardung La is the gateway to the Nubra Valley and the Siachen Glacier. After spending some time at Khardungla, proceed to Nubra.
Drive back to Leh via Khardungla pass.

Day 14: Departure from Leh

Get transferred to Leh Airport for boarding the flight to your destination on the last day of your journey. Tour concludes with some wonderful long lasting memories.

Best Time to Visit Ladakh

The best time to visit Ladakh is from April to June and September to Mid November. At a given time the weather remains pleasant and there is not any kind of climatic difficulty you will face. In monsoon, the Ladakh trip is not advisable due to heavy rain and the worst conditions of roads. May to October is the most popular period to travel in Ladakh.

This is when there are more tourists, especially between June and August. If you want to do trekking, it’s better to come at that time.

During winters there is freezing temperatures below zero so many activities remain closed. It is also possible to travel to Ladakh in winter, and this is a great time with a different atmosphere and ambiance and almost no tourist at all. Be ready for cold temperatures. In winter, all roads within Ladakh remain open (road to Nubra valley, Pangong lake, etc.).

We wish you an absolutely wonderful, adventurous and rocking journey to this place which is full of magical stories!
Kalyan Panja