Ladakh is a destination which many they want to cut off from their bucket list. So if you are amongst one of those then do not wait. Below is an account of a 5 day budget trip to Ladakh.
All you need to know:
Facts about Ladakh:
Ladakh is not a city, its a region.
Leh is the city and the second largest district in India.
In ancient times, Leh was the capital of Kingdom of Ladakh.
If you are planning to visit Leh by road, then there are two routes
>One through Manali in which you would take an overnight halt at Sarchu
>Other route is from Srinagar.
From months November to April the roads to Leh are blocked due to heavy snow, and the only way to travel is by Air. As Ladakh is a desert with temperature going as low as -35 degrees in the winter, there is very little that can be produced locally. The vegetables and fruits are bought in via flight for consumption during winter season.
How to reach
If you are planning to travel to Leh by air, then to get accustomed to the high altitude you need to start taking the medicine ‘Diamox’ two days prior to your travel and for three days after you land to get acclimatized.
The flights to Leh fly only in the morning due to the weather conditions. If possible try to get the window seat in the plane to enjoy the majestic view of the snow capped Himalayas.
Once you land, it is advised, and the right thing to do is to stay in and rest for the whole day. But if you have travelled by road your body would have already acclimatized as Sarchu (4,290 m) is at a higher altitude than Leh (3,500 m). After reaching Leh you may not feel the effect of acclimatization immediately, but you should take considerations of small things, example if someone is feeling dizzy or nauseated then it is advisable to rest and keep oneself hydrated by drinking lots of water.
We went to Leh in April,2016 by flight. The flights cost us INR 8000(Round trip) from Delhi per person, we had booked the flights a month in advance. As April is a non-tourist time, the flight rates were comparatively low. From the time we landed, it was an entirely different experience. It was nothing like the places we had ever been and seen. The place cannot be described in words; it can only be felt once you visit.
We stayed at Nezer holiday Inn on the old road in Leh, the room cost was INR 2500 but it could go much higher in the tourist season. We slept till late afternoon to make up for the early flight. After that we went for lunch, and went to see the main attraction of the city, “The Leh Palace”. Leh Palace is the former residence of the royal family of Ladakh, it has a strong resemblance to the Patola Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. You will get a beautiful view of the city from the many terraces of the palace.
Next we went to the second most visited monument in the city, Shanti Stupa. It is a Buddhist white-domed stupa with intricate paintings and sculptures, which is a pattern you’ll soon get familiar with by visiting many welcoming monasteries of Ladakh. For adventure enthusiast it is recommended to climb the flight of stairs that go up to the stupa.
If you still have some time left then you can go to the market to enjoy the Tibetan Refugee Shops and the local Leh way of life.
We went to visit the Lamayuru Monastery and covered Sangam of Zanskar and Indus River, Magnetic Hill and Gurudavra Pathar Sahib on our way back. There are a lot of abandoned homes in the vicinity of the Lamayuru Monastery as people have moved closer to the road because of economic development. The way to Lamayuru is very beautiful and picturesque. It is not much recommended to visit Lamayuru as it’s quite far and there are many several interesting monasteries nearby Leh. But if you plan to visit Lamayuru, then you must spend a night in Dras which is second coldest inhabited place in the world. We could not visit the place due to time constraints.
Sangam is a must visit for photography enthusiasts. You can carry snacks and have a picnic at Sangam. Sangam is the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers, Indus River starts from Mansarovar in Tibet and then Zanskar merges with Indus in India and flows to Pakistan.
Magnetic Hill is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill.
The slope of gravity hills is an optical illusion. The most important factor contributing to the illusion is a completely or mostly obstructed horizon; without a horizon, judging the slope of a surface is difficult as a reliable reference is missing. Objects one would normally assume to be more-or-less perpendicular to the ground (such as trees) may actually be leaning, offsetting the visual reference. The illusion is similar to the well-known Ames room, in which balls can also appear to roll against gravity.
We visited Pangong Lake on the third day in Ladakh. Pangong is a salt water lake, one fourth part of it lies in India and the rest is in China. It is recommended to start early as the journey is endlessly long. Throughout the journey there were entertaining road signs by BRO (Border Road Organization) that do a terrific job of maintaining the road at such a high altitude. On the way to Pangong we stopped at Chang La which is the second highest motorable road in the world according to the board there. Though, Chang la is the ninth highest motorable road in the world according to the modern GPS system.
From there on signs of civilization dwindled and all we passed through were army base camps. The road from Chang La to Pangong seemed just like a dream, the snowcapped hills had mesmerized us and we were in awe of the beauty of the place. In about 2 hours from Chang La we reached Pangong. The first view of the lake would just take your breath away and try to go as far as you can to get the best view.
ENROUTE TO PANGONG:
For the fourth day, we had planned to go to Nubra valley but could not go due to bad weather conditions. So then it was decided that we will visit nearby places which were not very far from Leh. We visited Stok Palace where the actual residence of the king is. Thereafter, we went to see a majestic statue of Buddha which is visible from all of Stok.
Then we went to the very famous Hemis monastery which is the host of the annual Hemis festival dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (the second Buddha). The festival brings in large number of people from all across the world.
Next we went to Thiksey Monastery, which is another very famous monastery amongst Buddhists travelers. There was a huge statue of Maitreya (future Buddha) covering two stories of the building and a temple dedicated to goddess Tara.
After having witnessed this splendid monastery we went to Shey Palace. The Palace is a monastery in disguise. Shey used to be the summer capital of Ladakh in ancient times and the palace is now in ruins and all that is left is the monastery. The best part of the day was Thiksay monastery and a visit to this monastery is highly recommended.
This was our last day in Ladakh, and we decided to visit the highest motorable road in the world Khardung La pass, as claimed by the board authorities. You have to cross Khardung La pass to reach Nubra valley.
On our way to the pass we witnessed a very unique local tradition of marriage. After a boy and a girl fall in love and decide that they want to get married, the boy with the help of his family and friends go and get the girl without the consent of the girl’s family and gets married. Then the boy’s family has to pay compensation (dowry) to the girl’s family for the stealthy fashion of the marriage.
In about 1.5 hours we reached Khardung La pass. It was very cold and snowy and the roads were frozen with a layer of ice over it. After enjoying the snow, we went back to Leh and strolled the marked and packed our bags for the flight next day.
The next day we woke up early for the flight and found out that it had started snowing outside. We were excited to see the snow and was also scared at the same time fearing that our flight back home might get cancelled which is not a rarity in Ladakh. We reached the airport on time and found out that our flight was delayed by three hours.
Our stay on this paradise had come to an end and it was time to back to our routine life. It was hard to believe such a place could exist on the same planet, just 55 minutes flight away.
- Ja Khang (a quite little cafe with an interesting decor; a good place to have a coffee)
- Chopsticks Noodle Bar (the best Thai & Chinese food you could get in Leh)
- Spic&Span (hotel restaurant)
- Singha Palace (the best dinner we had in Leh)
There are a lot more cafes & restaurant which open up in the tourist season by the foreign tourist. They serve the food of their nationality, if you like to try authentic cuisines of different locations then July & August is a good time to visit.
We found lot of little bakeries all over Ladakh region, as the bakery has been part of the Ladakhi culture for a long time. The goods are sold at a very nominal price.
Do try the Kavha (a traditional Kashmiri drink), which is available everywhere in Ladakh. It is very refreshing and will help your body in adjusting to the climate.