I’m sure your adrenaline levels would be at an all time high after reading my previous blog Ladakh Travel Guide – Part 1 about the Cold Desert and will be eagerly waiting for the next adventure.
Ladakh Travel Guide: Day 5 – Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La
Day 5 of the journey will take you on a drive on the Silk Route, the claimed Highest Motorable Road in the World – Khardung La (18,380 ft). The ride is a bumpy one with a number of hair pin curves but gives you an unbelievably fantastical view of the mountains. If you are lucky you’ll also experience snowfall at this point. Enjoy a few moments and make sure you get yourself clicked next to the Signboard put up by BRO (Border Roads Organization) at the Khardung La Pass. There is a Cafe at the top where you can enjoy a quick cup of tea and Yesss… our very own Maggi noodles!! One thing I can guarantee you, you go anywhere in the world, the Maggi you get at the top is the BEST! 🙂
Important Tips / Notes:
1) Inner Line Permit: You need an Inner Line Permit to visit places like Khardungla, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, etc. It is a travel document issued by the Government of India which allows Indian and foreign travelers to travel to a protected area for a limited time period. You can apply this online through the portal.
Permit Charges: Rs. 400/- Environmental Fees per person + Rs. 20/- per day
Address for Fee payment and Permit collection: TIC Office, Opposite J&K Bank, Main Market, Leh
2) Protection from extreme cold weather: The temperatures are very low and make sure you are dressed up in 2-3 layers to protect yourself from the blustery winds. It is not advisable to stay outside at this point for more than 5-10 min due to low Oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
Hunder Village / The Nubra Valley
Head towards Nubra Valley, situated 150 kilometers from Leh and at a height of about 10,000 ft above sea level. This cold desert is known for its sand dunes and scarce vegetation. The valley is of historical significance as it played an important role in the ancient Silk Route, promoting trade nation-wide and internationally. Enjoy the numerous waterfalls that fall on this route. The Shyok River, a tributary of Indus river, meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges.
His Holiness – Dalai Lama
Another lucky thing that happened during my 2017 visit is that His Holiness Dalai Lama was staying at the Diskit Monastery and held preaching sessions. I got the opportunity to witness it and take his blessings. This is indeed once in a lifetime opportunity!
Once you reach Nubra, check in to the Camps / Tents which will be your home for the night.
Nubra valley is also home to the phenomenal two hump bacterial Camels, the only one of its kind found anywhere in the world. Enjoy a ride of this unique creature in the beautiful Sand Dunes.
In the evening, get ready to shake your legs to the soulful Ladakhi folk songs. You can also dress in the traditional Ladakhi Attire and get yourself clicked.
Ladakh Travel Guide: Day 6 – Nubra Valley to Leh via Khardungla
Your feet don’t want to leave this valley, your heart will say – Yeh Dil Maange More, but there are more wonders waiting for you. On your way back, climb up the Diskit Monastery, which is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley. There is a 106 ft. tall statue of Maitreya Buddha near Diskit Monastery facing down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. The statue was built with three main functions in mind – protection of Diskit Village, prevention of further war with Pakistan, and to promote world peace.
You can either go back to Leh for overnight stay or travel towards the famous Pangong Tso for overnight stay from Diskit via Warila (17,428 ft) if the roads going towards the lake are operational. It is recommended to travel on this route via Warila only after first week of July till last of August. There are possibilities that the roads are washed away due to melting snow water or heavy rainfall.
A Taste of Local Cuisine and Shopping
I preferred going back to Leh to taste some local cuisine – Momos, hot Bowl of Thukpa, Khambir, Butter Tea and shop in the Leh Market. You will find shops as well as Tibetan Market where you can buy mementos for your near ones. Do not miss out on buying a Tibetan Prayer Flag (It is considered nice to gift this flag).
Ladakh Travel Guide: Day 7 – Leh to Pangong Tso via Chang La and Back
Get Ready for the Final Adventure of the trip – The Pangong Tso. Start at 5 am in the morning from Leh and set foot towards the mighty Lake. The first image that pops into one’s mind when thinking of Ladakh is of the lake that has been immortalized in Bollywood movies such as Jab Tak Hai Jaan, 3 Idiots. During summer, a vast amount of migratory birds make their temporary abode in the vicinity, including Bar-Headed geese and Brahamini Ducks. The lake is at about 220 km from Leh.
Chang La Pass
You will experience the most diverse landscape on this route. It starts with some green mountains, steep terrains, snow clad mountains that will lead you the one of the highest motor-able roads in the world – The Chang La Pass (17,688 ft). You will sure shot see snow around. Personally, I enjoy a bowl of the hot Noodles a lot at the Changla Cafe.
Move on to see the roads covered with melting snow. You’ll definitely chuckle reading the creative signboards by BRO flanking this route to create awareness about safe driving on the risky, slippery curves. “Be Gentle on my Curves”, “After Whiskey Driving Risky” will make you wonder about the creativity of these brave border men.
Pangong Tso (Lake)
Crossing amazing valleys, waterfalls and rivers you’ll finally reach the much awaited destination after more than 5 hours. Located at height of about 14,270 ft above sea level, this 134 km long salt water lake on the Indo-China border is a spectacle to every one’s eyes. One-third of the Pangong Lake is in India while the remaining two-third is in China. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water.
The 3 Idiots Throwback
You can also enjoy a click on Kareena Kapoor’s famous scooter from the movie 3 Idiots near the lake. Another common site here is the Hotels near the lake side that are named after different characters in this movie. Sit down on the sand, stare in the distance and let the moment sink in!
Set on the return journey after spending these precious moments here even though your heart says the opposite. The 3 Idiots fever is not yet over as there is the famous 3 Idiots School awaiting you. Step in and see the The Idiotic Wall.
You can also visit the Thiksey and Hemis Monasteries on the way before concluding the memorable day.
I cannot end this, without making a special mention of the Hotel Leh Stumpa in the heart of Leh and its owner – a 56 year old lady. She is very soft spoken, caring and gives you a feel of home away from home. The commendable part is she cooks herself with love for all the guests and personally caters to their needs.
Ladakh Travel Guide: Day 8
This is the nostalgic moment of the Tour when you have to bid adios to this beautiful place, knowing in your heart that one day you will come back here again (and I did follow my heart ;)). You’ll fall in love with this town not only because of its mesmerizing landscape but also because of the people!