Ladakh-a land of high passes is all about phenomenal views of mountains, spiritual experience, historical significance and ladakhi culture. Travellers will say dasvidaniya to this place with thousands of stories and memories. This article will give you quick itinerary on planning trip to Ladakh. Information on preferred ways of transport are at the end of the article. Customised google map at the end of article will give you quick idea on planning your trip.
Leh (3 Days): First make sure you are properly acclimatized to the weather otherwise it will not be pleasing experience for you. On Day 1 get the feel of Leh city; just roam around and visit beautiful monasteries and palaces.
- Shanti Stupa
Shanti Stupa is white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only because of its religious significance but also location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. You get surreal sunrise, sunset and stargazing from this place. The stupa can be reached by a drivable road or on climbing 500 steep steps to the hilltop.
2. Leh Palace
Leh Palace is a former Royal Palace at the top of Leh city. The Palace is 9-storey high with museum having a rich collection of jewellery, ornaments, ceremonial dresses and crowns. Just 15-20 minutes hike from Leh palace brings you to the top point in Leh city which gives magnificent views of mountain ranges capped with snow.
3. Spituk Monastery
Spituk Monastery is founded in 11th century. This place is a collection of ancient masks, idols and antique arms . It’s on 15 minutes drive from Leh palace.
4. Shey Monastery and Palace
Shey monastery and palace is located 15 kilometers from Leh town on the Leh – Manali road. Shey palace and the monastery were built in the 16th Century AD. The monastery enshrines the Du-Khang with an almost 10 meter high copper statue of Lord Buddha.
5. Thiksey Monastery
Thiksey Monastery is located on top of a hill in Thiksey. It’s a 12-storey complex and houses containing many items of Buddhist art such as stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya Temple installed to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to this monastery in 1970; it contains a 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two stories of the building. It is on 5 minutes drive from Shey Palace.
6. Druk Padma Karpo School (Rancho’s school)
The school has been recognised with the ‘International Stone Architecture‘ Award. There are tourist hours in which guide will take you to visit school and embrace its architecture. It has become more famous after release of Indian film ‘3 Idiots’. This is on 2 minutes drive from Shey Palace on the way to Thiksey Monastery.
7. SECMOL School, Phey
SECMOL was founded in 1988 aimed at reforming the educational system of Ladakh. SECMOL Campus is located near the village of Phey; 18 km from Leh. Its campus is full of innovative projects such as Knowing the time with mathematics, Use of solar energy in brilliant ways, Structuring 2 storey house from Jeep and the list goes on. I bet you will not find anything like this in the whole world. It is on 15 minutes drive from Leh and must visit for offbeat experience.
8. The Lamayuru Monastery
Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident. It has collection of rich wall paintings, sculptures and murals. The history of Lamayuru monastery dates back to the 11th Century. Yuru Kabgyat is 2-days festival celebrated in the month of July where monks dance wearing different masks.
9. Magnetic Hill
Magnetic Hill comes just before entering Leh. It is known for ‘Phenomenon that defies Gravity’. This place attracts tourists due to unusual experience of backward moving the vehicles experience here. You can also visit Gurudwara Pathar Sahib just 5 minutes drive from Magnetic Hill point .
10. Hall of fame
The Hall of Fame is a museum constructed and maintained by the Indian army. It’s a 2 storey museum which represents Ladakhi culture and history. Another part of this museum is depicted towards Indian Army presence during Kargil war and siachen region. It is on 5 minutes drive from Leh city and Leh Airport.
Day 4: Once you are acclimatized to Ladakh weather, now is the time to visit other gems of Ladakh.
11. Khardung La
Khardung La Pass is highest Motorable road in the world at 17,982 ft. One has to pass through Khardung la to go from Leh to Nubra valley. It is famous among Bikers and cyclists. If you are lucky you can experience snowfall.
12. Nubra Valley (3 Days)
Your visit to Ladakh can’t complete without visiting Nubra Valley. Nubra Valley at 10000 ft above sea level is a high altitude cold desert with rare precipitation and scant vegetation except along river beds. Well known villages among tourists in Nubra Valley are Diskit, Hunder and Sumur. The main road access to the Nubra Valley is crossing Khardung La pass which is open throughout the year. For itinerary on things to do in Nubra Valley go to my article https://travel2spirit.co/3-days-in-nubra-valley/
13. Pangong Lake (Day 7)
You must be wondering why Pangong lake is so late in my itinerary but as they say special known surprises are to be kept at last. The changing colors of lake and surrounding mountains enhance nature’s beauty at another level. To reach pangong lake from Leh you have to pass Chang La pass. When you are approaching the lake, the first view of blue waters peeking out of the mountains take you to the different world altogether. There are plenty camping options just 50ft from lake, so even if you don’t book online no need to worry you can get on the spot tent even in busy tourist days. It is on 5 hours scenic drive from Leh.
14. Kargil war Memorial and Zanskar-Indus River confluence (1 day)
On your journey to and from Kargil to Leh, you will come across Zanskar river and Indus river confluence. You can literally notice turquoise Zanskar river connecting dark green Indus river. It is best seen in May-August.
No Indian can miss their visit to Kargil war memorial. The memorial is located on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. Tololing Heights, Tiger Hill, and Point 4875 (Batra Top) where Kargil war took place are visible from the site. Looking at these mountain tops you will wonder how Indian Army would have fought Kargil war in Winter of 1998-99. It is on 1.5 hours drive from Kargil city.
For best ladakhi cultural experience take home-stays with locals. It will be cheaper and memorable experience of the city.
Stays: Homestays in Ladakh are recommended.
Transport: Best route is air travel till Manali or Delhi and road trip till Leh as you get enough time to acclimatize. If you land directly on Leh especially from Mumbai or other sea-level cities , there are high chances you will get AMS. Trains, buses, taxis are well-connected to Leh city from Metro cities.
Best Season– June-September
Food: Try Momos, Thukpa, Chhurpe (dried yak cheese), in any local restaurants
Shopping (Leh Market): Apricot Jam (must try), Buddhist flags, Buddha Statue, handicrafts and Pashmina
Hope this article gives you insight on a week to spend in Ladakh. I would love to hear your views in comments section below.