Rated as one of the top 10 destinations by every Indian Travel magazine, home to the highest motorable road & the longest natural lake found at a height of ~14000 ft -Ladakh but had to be our next holiday destination!! Situated in the eastern part of Kashmir, Leh -Ladakh is a cold desert , a vast contrast to the lush green pastures of Pahalgam and Srinagar.
The connectivity to Leh(the capital of Ladakh) is very limited. Only a couple of flights operate between Leh and Delhi. The flight journey is very adventurous as at one point the flight deftly navigates through mountain peaks!! Locals usually advise to take it easy on the first day at Leh, to give time for the body to adjust to the high altitude. A quiet walk in the flea market and a visit to a local monsatery marked the end of our Day 1 at Leh.
Other local points of interest in Leh is the ‘Sangam’ or confluence of the rivers Zanskar and Indus located in the Nimmu valley. Indeed a treat to the eyes to watch two mighty rivers merge and then flow in between the gorgeous Zanskar gorge.
Day 2 was Khardung La. ‘La’ means mountain pass in the local language. It is located at a distance of about 40 kms from Leh. Situated at an altitude of about 14000 ft, it is one of the highest motorable roads. The latter half of the road stretch is mainly rock and dirt particles. Local vehicles with experienced drivers is always a safer option
Khardung La acts as a gateway to the Nubra valley. One can see the famous Bactrian camels or the double humped camels in this valley.
Nubra valley is a simple valley with no luxuries, no resorts , no hotels, no traffic and mainly NO WI-FI. Simple yet clean camping sites are pitched in a couple of different places. Spending the night in a tent is a welcome change from the monotonous concrete buildings we are so used to.
All along the drive to Nubra Valley, you can spot millions of manicured sand-dunes. They are so symmetrical that it almost looks man-made.
The best of Ladakh in our trip was yet to come and it was the Pangong Lake. The drive from Leh to Pangong is about 7 hours and it is mainly due to the poor condition of the roads but the scenic surroundings more than make up for it. The terrain changes from daunting mountains to luscious meadows. The mountains looked like enormous heaps of chocolate icecream topped with chocolate syrup!!
Wild horses and marmuts ( wild squirrels) can be spotted in plenty. The marmuts live in burrows underground and hibernate 9 months in a year. We were lucky to spot an active marmut during our drive.
Some facts about Pangong Lake
- It is a saline water lake
- It is situated at a height of about 14000 ft
- It is 5 kms wide at its broadest point
- The lake extends into China, with almost 60% lying in China
- The colour of water appears different at different times during the day
An overnight stay at the Pangong lake is a must. If the lake looks magnificent during the day, the night view of this lake is breathtaking.There are a couple of properties on the banks of the river. Rooms are basic and they need to be booked well in advance. Tents are also available , but for most part of the year the tents could be very chilly especially in the nights.
Chang La – another spectacular pass and the second highest motorable road lies enroute to Pangong from Leh. Military officials don’t allow tourists to stay for more than 20-25 minutes , since the extremely high altitude could be hazardous to one’s health.
Having completed all the imporatant places in Ladakh we headed home.. mind filled with memories and a silent prayer and sense of gratitude dedicated to the Indian army for protecting us 24/7 even in the most inhumane conditions.
The best time to visit would be between May -August since the temperatures are warmer during this period and all the passes (Khardung La and Chang La) are open. Reservations need to be made well in advance for a smooth trip.
L for Leh-Ladakh, L for La jawaab and L for LET’S GO !!!