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This was 2015 and I have been asking several of my friends to go to Ladakh but no one was willing to go so far and on such a high altitude and I decided to wait. This was 2018 and I left my current job in September and had to join the new company in the last week of the same month. I had 10 days of free time and I asked all of my friends again to go with me but with now avail, but this time I decided to go solo. I booked my ticket a week before. My plan was to take a flight from Delhi to Leh on 16th September 2018. Just 4 days before my trip, my school friend messaged me after 4 years to get some ideas on his business. I told him that I’ll tell you everything but at Leh, so you have to go to Leh with me. He called me after a day and said that he booked the ticket and we finalized a 7 days plan.
Below are the routes and days that I planned for the whole trip –
Delhi – Leh – KhardungLa – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso – Hanle – Leh
Day 1: Delhi – Leh
Day 2: Leh – KhardungLa – Nubra Valley
Day 3: Nubra Valley – Diskit – Pangong Tso
Day 4: Pangong Tso
Day 5: Pangong Tso – Hanle
Day 6: Hanle – Tso Moriri
Day 7: Tso Moriri – Leh
Day 8: Leh – Delhi
If you are a photographer, please keep 2 camera batteries, filters, and a tripod stand.
Our flight was from Delhi at 6:30 AM. I met my school friend at the airport after 7 years. He came from Pune and we were really excited!! If you are traveling after sunrise then take A column seat in the flight for a better view. If you are traveling just at the time of sunrise then take the F column seat to see the sunrise over the Himalayan ranges.
You will never get bored or feel sleepy in Leh’s flight, soon after 20 minutes, you will start seeing mountains. So enjoy the view!
We landed at 8 AM at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Leh airport. Please note Leh airport is a defence airport so photography is prohibited in the airport premises. This airport is operational until 12 PM for the public.
There are some points that you have to take care of it while reaching Leh:
One of my friends from the office recommended me to stay at Tsangbu homestay. We booked a taxi from the airport. Please remember, you have to book a pre-paid taxi from the airport only, you can’t book it directly. Also, taxi is very costly there, In 2018 the charge was INR 70/- per km. Tsangbu is located in the Upper Tukcha area which is approximately six kilometer from the airport, so we booked the taxi for 400/-.
We reached Tsangbu homestay but unfortunately, it was closed due to Maintenance. Then we roamed around there for 30 minutes to find another place to stay. We didn’t want to stay at the hotel as we wanted to know the culture of Ladakh. Our taxi guy Teja, helped me there and led us to a decent homestay which also had a bike rental shop.
We booked the homestay for one night for INR 1200/- for two people.
To visit anywhere in Ladakh other than Leh you have to take permits. Our homestay owner Ringzin asked me that he can arrange the permit and we don’t have to go there. That will save us 2 hours’ time. Charges were INR 480/- per head and his brokerage fees of INR 500/-. Names of all the regions are mentioned on the permit so that you can select the areas you want to go, but for Hanle and Tso Moriri you have to ask the authority to add it to the permit. Keep 5 copies of your permit as you have to submit it at Khardung La, Changla, Hanle, Tso Moriri check post.
We rented Royal Enfield Classic 350 Redditch Green to roam around Leh city for 1st day and rent was INR 1000/- per day. For the rest of the trip, we rented Royal Enfield Classic 500 Squadron Blue which was INR 1400/- per day. To rent a bike in Leh you don’t have to give security money. You have to give any of your government Identity card and the photocopy of the driving license. Also, you have to keep the slip from the rental shop because you have to show it at the police check post.
We had breakfast and went to roam around some places in Leh.
Hall of Fame is a museum constructed by the Indian Army in the memory of our brave soldiers who lost their lives in Indo-Pak wars.
Every place is so beautiful and you want to spend some time there. So wherever I found a good place I stopped and clicked photos.
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib was constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak in 1517. It is at Leh-Kargil road approx. 25 Km from Leh city.
We had lunch at the Langar organized by Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. I hadn’t thought I would find a crowded place in Leh but this was an exception. Food is what we all live for and while I am writing this Coronavirus is waking us up to that realization.
We spent an hour there and then we headed to Magnetic hill. Roads were really good and it’s a wide valley, so riding bikes was so much fun.
Magnetic Hill is located approx. 27 Km from Leh. There is a reason for this place being called a magnetic hill, if you place your vehicle on the designated mark on the road in neutral. Vehicles will start moving on its own upto a max. speed of 20kmph. I have experienced it on my bike.
It is approx. 35 Km from Leh city. This is the Sangam of two rivers Zanskar and Indus. The Colour of Zanskar is greenish whereas Indus is brown in color. You can also do river rafting here but only in summer as the river freezes during winters. People do Chadar trek from December to February here.
We chilled here for about an hour. Enjoyed the view with maggi at Sangam Cafe. After that, we headed to Alchi. You will really enjoy the ride here as the roads are in good condition with wide valleys which makes it surreal. I enjoyed the view and clicked some photos.
We headed to the bridge near Alchi but we had very little time left to reach back, so we just enjoyed the road journey. There is a monastery in Alchi. If you guys have time then it’s a must visit place.
At 5 PM we headed back to Leh. Below are a few glimpses of the journey.
At 8 we reached Leh market. The first thing after reaching there, was to scout for a wine shop. I found one in the market and took one bottle of Old Monk. If you guys drink then buy your drink from Leh only as you probably won’t be able to find it anywhere else in the Ladakh region and this really helps in keeping yourself warm. We roamed around the market, and I bought the Ladakh flag. We also located the Leh post office, which is at the market only.
After spending some time in the market we found some cafes. Amongst them, German Bakery is very famous so went there. We wanted to try some of Ladakh’s original food and we ordered Chicken Momo and Chicken Thukpa, both of which were really delicious.
If you have an interest in winter clothes, then you can look here for real Pashmina. But you have to be an expert in judging the real from the fake products.
Leh – Khardung La – Khardung Village (Happened)
We had to leave for the Nubra Valley via Khardung La. Ringzin, the rental bike owner, brought our bike. It ran only 20,000 KM. This means the bike was new. We fitted the Ladakh carrier as well.
Below is the itinerary for bike
We packed our bags and headed to the petrol pump first to get full.
We left Leh city at 10:30 AM. Leh to Khardung La is approx. 40 Km and it will take around 2 hrs to reach there. Till Khardung La roads are good. Just 2 Km to Khardung La we saw a frozen waterfall and some snow on the roads and I can still see the beauty of this place when I close my eyes every night.
We reached Khardung La at 1:30 PM. Khardung La top is a very small area. There is a gompa at the top of the hill. The gompa is not big. It has a small Stupa surrounded by flags. There is an army camp and a cafe as well. You Must try coffee at this cafe.
When we reached there, snowfall started pouring in. It was a heavy snowfall so we decided to wait there for it to stop and enjoyed ourselves till then. After 1 hour it stopped, we removed snow from the bike and headed to Nubra valley but just after a few meters of driving our bike started skitting. That was due to snow and mud on the road after KhardungLa which is a 5 km stretch. In this condition ask you pillion rider to walk for a while and you should ride the bike in 1st gear only. Don’t use break hard in the snow, it will skit. You have to control it with gear and legs. After many skits on the road we decided to park the bike at the side and walk back to the cafe. We wanted to try it after 2-3 hours when the snow melts. One group got scared because of the snow and they hired tata 407 coming from Nubra valley, to take the bike back to Leh, they wanted to try it on some other day.
We were back at the cafe. More than 50 travelers were waiting there. Some more groups decided to head back to Leh by taking bikes on Tata 407. We waited there for 3 hours.
After 3 hours we walked back to our bike. But some bad news was waiting for us, somebody stole our fuel cans and they also stole my friend’s wallet from inside the bag. That was a very bad experience for us in the Ladakh region. So guys never leave you belongings, always take it with you.
I decided to walk and my friend started riding the bike slowly. Walking in fresh snow is not easy. You can slip multiple times. Below you can see the condition of the road.
Due to the sun, snow was melting and I was not able to walk fast enough to catch with my friend on bike, so I took a lift from the local guy who was heading to Nubra valley. He had a Bolero and dropped me 5 KM down the road, there was no snow. You can see the road that we just got after 5 KM in the image below. From there we headed to Nubra valley.
In the evening, around 5:30, the temperature decreased. We couldn’t reach Nubra valley on time due to a delay in Khardung La, so we decided to stay wherever we would get a homestay. At 6 we reached Khardung village and stopped at one Dhaba and asked the guy for the homestay. He offered us a homestay for INR 1100/- per night. Breakfast and dinner were included. Below was our homestay at Khardung.
Temperature and oxygen were so low there that I had a headache in the night, I took Diamox and dozed off.
Next-day we woke up at 7 AM, roamed around the village and had breakfast at the homestay.
We left from Khardung village at 10 AM to Pangong Tso. As per our plan, we had to reach Pangong Tso on the 3rd day so we skipped to stay at Hunder (Nubra Valley) instead we rerouted to Diskit for refilling petrol. It’s the last petrol pump in the Ladakh circuit and is on the opposite side of the Pangong Tso. Khardung to Diskit is approx 40 KM and it will take around 2 hrs to reach there. You will ride along the Shyok river.
Guys, Ladakh is not a destination trip, it’s a road trip. So enjoy it while riding. Take a break, enjoy the view, feel the silence, and make stories.
At 12 noon we reached Diskit, although we had decided to skip all the parts of Nubra valley from our trip we covered Diskit anyway. We first covered the Diskit monastery.
Diskit monastery is also known as Deskit Gompa. It is the oldest and largest monastery in Nubra Valley in Ladakh. The monastery also runs a school.
There is a 32 meters high statue of Maitreya Buddha near the Diskit monastery facing the Shyok river. It’s a beautiful sight.
We had lunch at Diskit and then we headed to Pangong Tso. Diskit to Pangong Tso is approx. 220 KM and it will take around 6 hours to reach. You will hardly find anyone on the road. Sceneries, as usual, were amazing en-route Pangong Tso.
We saw the very first view of the Pangong lake at 5:30 PM. It was amazing. We still have to drive nearly 30 minutes to reach the camp area.
After the success of the 3 idiots movie, Pangong Lake became famous. When you reach the tent area you will see lots of tents. It starts just from the movie shooting area. Even I booked the tent 2 KM far from the shooting area but if you guys want peace and privacy then you guys should travel 5 more Kms. You will find a more beautiful area and no crowd at all.
Here are some views of Pangong Lake from the tent area.
There we found a tent and a homestay. It was a dilemma, one provided the rough adventurous feeling of travelling while other brings us close to the culture. Moreover, money is always a consideration and, Rate of the tent was 2000/- per day including breakfast and dinner for 2 people and the homestay for 1100/- per day. We decided to stay at homestay. We booked for 2 nights there.
Guys, you should spend at least one whole day at Pangong Lake as you can see the changes in colors of the Pangong Lake due to the reflection of the sun.
1st night we relaxed as we were tired of the riding. There we met many travelers, one group of girls came from Delhi, one all-male group in their 40s came from Kerala riding Jeep Compass completing the circuit from Kerala. I also met one solo rider, who came from Chandigarh on Himalayan.
We shared drinks and many stories at night. Also, I clicked some photos of the beautiful night and a timelapse I couldn’t click the milky way because of moonlight that day, although I would have loved to do it at Pangong lake.
Next-Day we woke up at 7 AM. We had to wait 1 hour for ice to melt in the water pipes, frozen due to low temperature. Do not take bath guys as these people have limited water and it’s very difficult to fetch water in that Area. We just had our breakfast and went to the lake.
Below you can see the view of Pangong Lake from our homestay.
Some part of the lake is commercialized because the attraction developed after the 3 idiots movie. They kept yellow scooters, drums and chairs to click photos with it. Girls can also wear red lehenga worn by Kareena Kapoor. Here are some pictures for you.
We enjoyed the lake view until noon. Watching the lake change colors due to the sun was mesmerizing. Watch these timelapse and get lost in these colors:
We enjoyed the evening at the homestay with other travelers.
The next day we had to go to Hanle and for that we planned to leave Pangong max by 9 AM.
Pangong to Hanle is approx 200 KM via Spangmik and Chushul. Roads are not built in this route. Upto 120 KM there is no road, after that you will find a good road that will take you to Hanle.
We had breakfast at Pangong Lake homestay and then we left for Hanle.
The view of Pangong Lake that we saw at the stretch of Spangmik is more beautiful. It is more wide, and the color of the lake seems more blue. You will find some greenery over there.
You will also find some glass tents with the lake view. I had seen only foreigners there and you must have guessed my budget range, so no chance! Here are some views of Spangmik.
I’ll recommend you to download the offline google map for this stretch, because there are no directions and no internet. You will be confused many times.
Due to the bad road my bike got hit by a stone and the rear disk brake stopped working. I tried to fix that unsuccessfully and nobody was there to help us. Also, you will never find any bike repair center other than in Leh. So I controlled my speed from the front disk brake and gears.
We also met a group that came from Manali. There were 20 people. All are from different places, they booked the Ladakh package from Manali.
We reached Chushul in approx. 2 hr. There is a maggi point. We had lunch there, took some rest and then headed to Hanle. Just at the maggi point there is also a hot water spring. You can wash your face.
In Chushul you will see many animals, the best of nature for you.
At Rezang La it was snowing but that was very less. We visited the war memorial. War memorial was made in the memory of Major Shaitan Singh. He led the Indo – China war in 1962.
Soon you will reach the Indus river crossing. The bridge takes you to Hanle.
From here you will see colourful mountains. Do spend some time there and click some photos.
We entered the Hanle area at 5 PM in the evening. It is really a heaven in Ladakh. Here also, you have to submit one copy of your permit.
Hanle is famous for the Indian Astronomical Observatory. It is the world’s 2nd highest observatory. We decided to take a homestay first and then went to the Observatory. Hanle is a very small village. Approx. 300 people live here.
We found a nice homestay.
Soon we headed to the observatory. It is at the top of the hill. The observatory is open for tourists. You can go inside and see the office. Most of the time the telescope is under control of ISRO, Bengaluru. If you were lucky then you can see the stars from the telescope.
There we met an observatory engineer. That was his first day at the observatory, He was from NIT, Srinagar and was a resident of Nubra Valley.
Here are some photos of the observatory.
We came to the homestay. There is a shop where you can buy petrol but at double the rate. We are out of petrol so we filled our tank and cans anyway. We had dinner with the family. Most of the people work at the observatory only. From the family, the woman runs homestay, her husband drives govt. Taxi to take officers to the observatory from the city. Her son works as an electrician at the observatory.
At night I clicked some photos and timelapse.
Hanle – Tso Moriri (planned)
We skipped our plan to Tso Moriri as we heard that the weather is very bad there and my rear brake was also not working.
We had breakfast at 7:30 AM and then at 8:30 AM we headed to Leh. Since I don’t have much time so I spent only one night at Hanle but I’ll recommend you to stay for at least 2 nights.
Here are some views of Hanle in the morning.
Hanle to Leh is approx. 260 Km and it will take around 6 hrs to reach. Roads are good in this stretch. They are wide till Nyoma valleys..
Here are some views of Nyoma, Chumthang en route Leh.
We reached Leh at 2 PM and booked a homestay. It’s Haldupa homestay at Upper Tukcha road. We booked the homestay for 2 nights. The charge was INR 2000/- for 2 nights and 2 people.
Here are some views of the homestay.
We have to return the bike with the repair cost. It took around INR 2000/- for the rear brake. We took another bike to visit Leh for a day which was another INR 1000/-.
We went to the market for food. We had snacks from the German Bakery. At night we went to Shanti Stupa. We clicked some good photos there and I made a time-lapse. You can see the whole Leh city from Shanti Stupa.
I wanted to turn off the light as I want to capture the Shanti Stupa with stars but the caretaker of Shanti Stupa said 1 year earlier the controls of the light shifted down at the Leh city. So I was unable to click Shanti Stupa with starts.But I clicked some photos with light and a timelapse .
We went back to the homestay. Aunty, who was the owner of the house, made meatballs for us, and it was delicious. There is nothing more amazing than having an experience similar to the locals of a place.
I wanted to see the Shanti Stupa in the daytime as well so we went again on the 7th day in the morning.
Shanti Stupa was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomo Nakamura. Shanti Stupa is the center of attraction because from here you can see the panoramic view of the Leh city.
Here are some photos of the Shanti Stupa.
Leh to Thiksay monastery is approx. 20 KM and it will take around 30 minutes to reach there.
Thiksay Monastery is also known as Thikse Gompa. Thiksay monastery was built in 1430 AD and affiliated to the Gelug group of Tibetan Buddhism. The center of attraction here is the statue of Maitreya Buddha. It is 15 meters tall and covers a 2 story building.
We reached at 10:30 AM at Thiksay, we were lucky as prayers were just about to start. Before prayer they play Tibetan horn also known as dungchen.
After that we went to the prayer hall for chanting. It’s a beautiful and serene experience, I will recommend all you guys to experience this whenever you get a chance.
Shey Palace was built in the 10th century. The center of attraction is Shakyamuni Buddha, which is 12 meters tall and covers three floors of the monastery.
Leh Palace is a former royal palace constructed in the 17th century by Sengge Namgyal.
Leh Palace provides a panoramic view of Stok Kangri and Ladakh mountain ranges.
At this point,The weather at Leh started turning bad, In the evening rain started. We dropped the bike to the rental shop and then went to the homestay.
One couple came to the homestay. They were from Dubai but of Indian origin. They had completed the summit of Stok Kangri. Stok Kangri is the highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas in Ladakh. We talked a lot about our trips, it was fun sharing our experience..
The next day we all had to catch the flight in the early morning. I asked the aunty to book the cab to the airport for 4 AM.
We woke up in the morning but the weather was really bad. However, We reached the airport on time. All flights were being delayed by an hour every 30-45 minutes. Since Leh airport is a defence airport and no passenger flights can land after 12 PM. Ultimately all flights got canceled and we headed back to the same Haldupa homestay again. Due to this my joining in the new company got deferred.
We two and one couple enjoyed the day at the homestay. We could not go outside because of the continuous downpour. We rescheduled our flight to Delhi for another day without any additional cost.
The next day rain was not happening but the clouds were there. Flights started delaying again and after some time our flight got canceled again. The girl with us went to the Go Air office and asked the manager to offer 4 seats on any flight which will go to Delhi as we have some urgency. That girl was lucky for us and we got the ticket with seat number “0”.
The “0” number seat means you will get the vacant seat in the end.
Our flight took off at 11:30 AM. All passengers on the flight started clapping because most of the passengers were struggling for 2 days.
So, guys, it was an amazing journey and I have learned many things from this journey. Like how to survive in bad weather, how to ride a bike on snow, and many other things. If you guys want to see little snow in Ladakh then visit Ladakh at the end of May. If you want to see the spring of Ladakh then do visit in the midweek of September. Also try to plan on no moon nights for amazing night views..
You can also see the pics on my Instagram page – thefocalab
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