Ladakh is a mountainous region nestled in the Indian Himalayas. Ladakh means “land of high passes”. The 270,000 inhabitants live at an altitude between 2,800 metres and 4,500mt.above sea level. Several peaks in the Ladakh mountain range are above 6,000 metres. Ladakh has an area of 88,000 square metres and a population density of only three inhabitants per square kilometre. The main town is Leh and it is at an altitude of 3,500 metres. It has a population of 30,000 with a majority of Buddhists. Kargil is the second largest town with 11,000 inhabitants, mainly Muslim. It is located at an altitude of 2,680 metres above sea level.
Board your morning flight to Leh and contemplate the beautiful mountains of Ladakh from above. The flight from Delhi to Leh takes approximately 90 minutes and it is one of the most impressive in the world. Upon arrival at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, transfer to your hotel in Leh. The height of Leh is 3,500 metres above sea level and your body needs to adjust to the rarefied oxygen level at this altitude. To do so, you need to drink a lot of liquid (water, tea, juice, soup, etc.) and you should walk at a leisurely pace. For lunch, head to the Main Bazar or Changspa Road where you can find many restaurants. This could be the opportunity to try local dishes such as skiu, chowmein and momos.
After lunch, head to Leh’s old town. It’s easy to get lost exploring its maze of small winding streets flanked by mud-brick houses and crumbling chortens. The Leh Palace that dominates the town of Leh is a typical example of medieval Tibetan architecture. This tall dun-coloured complex of nine storeys contains a shrine and an interesting museum with objects belonging to the royal family. From the palace, follow the path climbing up to the hilltop where hundreds of colourful prayer flags are floating in the wind and reach Namgyal Tsemo gompa. This Buddhist monastery rising above the city was founded during the 15th century. The main shrine contains a 3-storey-tall statue of Maitreya Buddha and a number of statues of protector deities. Next, go to the Shanti Stupa that dominates the city and admire the spectacular panorama of Leh and the surrounding mountain peaks. This large white stupa is a Japanese gift to Ladakh to commemorate 2,500 years of Buddhism. It was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1991. Walk back to the Main Bazar where women clad in Gonchas (traditional Ladakhi dress) sell homegrown fruits and vegetables. As you take a stroll in the bustling market, visit the Gompa Soma and the Jama Masjid mosque.
Overnight stay at hotel in Leh
After breakfast, start your 2-day tour in the west part of the Indus valley tour called “Sham Region” (which means “West” in Ladakhi). A 20-minute drive from Leh brings you to the Phyang monastery which belongs to the Drikung Kagyu order. 90 Buddhist monks live here. Then, you reach the intriguing Magnetic Hill where a car left out of gear will appear to be moving uphill against gravity. There are several theories trying to explain this strange phenomenon, the 2 most commonly accepted are the magnetic force theory and the optical illusion theory.
A few kilometres further on the Leh-Srinagar highway, stop at the popular Sangam viewpoint, the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers. Follow the valley until you reach the mud-brick Basgo Gompa which spectacularly crowns a rocky peak. Located on the left bank of the Indus river, the village of Alchi is a good place to stop for lunch. The village is famous for its 11th-century Alchi Monastery which contains the most beautiful murals in Ladakh, an exceptional example of Ladakh’s Indo-Tibetan art. From Alchi, the main road winds west, passing Ulley Tokpo enroot to Lamayuru. Located 116 km from Leh along the route to Srinagar.
The pretty village of Lamayuru has a wonderful medieval gompa overlooking around 100 mud-brick homes. The barren mountains next to the village resemble moonscapes with unique rock formations, the area is known as “Moon-land”. If you want to discover the Ladakhi culture and try authentic local food, you should spend the night in a homestay in Lamayuru. Ask your driver to help you find a host family.
Overnight stay at hotel in Lamayuru
Start the day off with the morning prayer in the gompa’s assembly hall where all the monks gather to chant mantras and recite sutras. The Lamayuru Monastery (also called Yungdrung gompa) was founded in the 11th century by Rinchen Zangpo. In the main prayer hall, there is a small cave where Naropa, Milarepa’s teacher, is said to have meditated.
Heading back east, visit the Rizong Monastery located in an impressive rocky amphitheatre. It is home to 40 monks of the Gelugpa lineage and it is known for its strict discipline. Nearby, the Chulichan Nunnery school is picturesquely set in orchards. Led by the younger brother of the Dalai Lama, the Likir Monastery has 120 resident monks. A huge 22-metre-tall golden statue of the Future Buddha is located beside the main temple.
While driving back to Leh, make a stop at the Sikh place of worship Gurdwara Pathar Sahib and the Spituk Monastery that houses an exceptional collection of thangkas (Tibetan scroll painting) depicting the 21 forms of Tara. If you want to visit the Hall of Fame museum, inform your driver and he will take you there too.
Overnight stay at hotel in Leh
Today is the start of an exciting 5-day road trip taking you to the most remote parts of Ladakh. Drive 2,000 metres uphill to reach the Khardung La pass which connects the Indus valley to the Nubra valley. Khardung La is the world’s highest motorable road and it offers a beautiful panorama of the Karakoram mountain range. Drive down to the Nubra Valley which is also called the “valley of flowers”. The valley lies at an average altitude of 3,100 metres along the Shayok and Nubra rivers. Stop at the 15th-century Diskit monastery, the largest gompa in the Nubra valley, perched atop a rocky peak above the village. On a nearby hill, there is a gigantic 32-metre-high statue of Maitreya Buddha, one of the landmarks of the valley.
A few kilometres from Diskit, experience a Bactrian camel ride across the rolling Hunder Sand Dunes. These camels are a reminder that Hunder was a stopping point for the caravans travelling on the old Silk Road between Central Asia and India. Then, head to Turtuk, India’s northernmost village located just a few kilometres from the border with Pakistan. In this charming Muslim village, you can stay in a homestay in a traditional stone house and you discover the culture and traditions of the Balti people, an ethnic group of Tibetan origin.
Overnight stay in Turtuk
After breakfast, take a stroll through the village and the surrounding fields. Turtuk is located at 2,800 metres altitude, therefore it is warmer than in other parts of Ladakh and apricot orchards can be found here. The world’s second highest mountain at 8,611 metres above sea level.
Next, head to Panamik Hot Spring where you can relax and soak in the soothing hot sulphurous water flowing out from the mountain. This hot spring is well-known for its medicinal benefits. In the afternoon, drive to Sumur and visit the Samstanling monastery. Sumur is a pleasant village on the bank of the Nubra river and it offers several accommodation options.
Overnight stay at Sumur
From Sumur, follow the Shayok river to the east towards the Changthang Region. The small and remote road passes through scenic mountain landscapes. One of the gems of this region is the mesmerizing Pangong lake located at an altitude of 4,250m. This brackish lake is 140 km long and a large part of it is in Tibet. In winter, the lake gets completely frozen and visiting the area during this season is an unforgettable experience. Pangong lake became popular in 2009 after it was featured in “3 Idiots”, the famous Bollywood movie with Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor.
Overnight stay at Tented Accommodation in Pangong Lake
Today morning after having breakfast we head towards “Tso Moriri lake” in Changthang region of Ladakh is one of the most beautiful, calm and sacred (for Ladakhi’s) high altitude lakes in India. In fact, it is the largest high altitude lake in India that is entirely in Indian Territory. This beautiful blue pallet lake is about 7 KM wide at its broadest point and about 19 KM long.
Overnight stay at Tso Moriri Lake
Today we drive towards the smallest of the three high-altitude lakes of Ladakh, the remote “Tso Kar Lake” lies about 50 km from Tso Moriri. Situated at a height of 15,280 ft, it is bordered by lofty mountains that are home to the elusive snow leopard. Also called white lake due to the white salt content in the water deposits on its shore, it leaves visitors in awe of its beauty. The area surrounding the lake is rife with wildlife and flora, and it also makes for an important point for bird watchers.
Hemis Monastery located on the western banks of the Indus River. The Hemis Monastery is the biggest and very richly endowed monastery of Ladakh. It was built in 1630. Impressive and intriguing, Hemis is different from the other important monasteries of Ladakh. The monastery is decorated on all four sides by colourful prayer flags which flutter in the breeze and send prayers to Lord Buddha.
Thiksey Monastery located to the North of the Indus River on a hilltop, less than 20km from Leh town, Thiksey Monastery built in 1430 AD belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. The Maitreya Buddha statue here is probably the most photographed statue of the Buddha of the future! The 15 m (49 ft) magnificent high statue took over 4 years to craft.
Overnight stay at hotel in Leh
Today a bid farewell to your Experience Leh, Laddakh with Sham Region, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake and Tso Moriri Lake tour. After having the breakfast, you will be transferred to the Leh Airport for onward journey. It is time to bid goodbye to the captivating region of Ladakh as you proceed on your onward journey. From the plane, enjoy one last time the sensational aerial views of the Himalayas. Return to your home with the lifetime memories.
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