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Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Leh, Ladakh, Ladakh travel

The Geography

Ladakh is in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, surrounded by Jammu and Kashmir to the west and by Himachal Pradesh to the south. In the Leh district, the inhabitants are predominantly Buddhists of Tibetan ancestry who speak a Tibeto-Burmese language (Ladakhi). In the Kargil district to the west, however, the inhabitants are predominantly Muslim, and speak ‘Purik’, a language closely related to Ladakhi. The name in Ladhaki means ‘land of high passes’ or ‘highland’ in Turko-Arabic.

Ladakh travel

Along its western edge, are the Great Himalayas with a parallel branch called Zanskar range directly to the east. Ladakh covers some 22,800 square miles (59,000 square km) along the upper Indus River valley and is one of the highest regions of the world and the highest plateau in India with most of it being over 3,000 m. The Himalayas block the entry to monsoon clouds- creating a rain shadow area and making Ladakh a ‘high-altitude’ desert. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. The region is also prone to seismic activity, and light to moderate tremors are common. In this arid, cold and dry region, vegetation is limited to shrubs in the valleys. Animal life consists of the ‘bharal’ or blue sheep, the Asiatic ibex – a mountain goat, the Ladakhi Urial – an unique mountain sheep whose population is declining unfortunately, and last but not the least – the ever illusive snow leopard.

The History

Ladakh travel

From ancient times Ladakh was connected to China in East and Central Asia in west via Silk route

The Silk Route

The Silk Route – an ancient network of trade routes spanning around 4,000 miles or 6,400 kms. It originated in Sian (northwestern China) and linked the two great civilizations – Rome and China, and happened to passed through Ladakh. Silk from China travelled west, and wool, gold, and silver travelled east. This route was probably the most strategically important and one of the longest trade routes in ancient times that enabled people from Japan, China, India, Central Asia, Persia, Syria, and the Eurasian Steppe to exchange ideas, culture and commodities. China got Buddhism (from India) via the Silk Road as well as Nestorian Christianity. During the summer months, caravans from these regions arrived here after negotiating various mountain passes. Besides being routes for transporting merchandise, and cultural exchanges, these were also routes through which invaders arrived at mainland India ever since the time of Alexander.

The Dynasties

The Tibetan Buddhist influence in the region is evident through the exquisite handicrafts, paintings and architecture styles that have survived thousands of years. Even the traditional food of Ladakh like thukpa (a Tibetan noodle soup), Tibetan butter tea, and momo (dumpling) varieties like sha, shoogoi, and gonga has the strong flavours of Tibetan cuisine and the ancient cultural exchange.

Ladakh travel

Since 7th century Buddhism spread in Ladakh through the rule of different dynasties

The first groups of settlers in Ladakh (ancient name Maryul) were Aryans-Mons, from present day Himachal Pradesh and Dards – from present day Gilgit. Around the first century, Ladakh formed a part of the Kushana empire. In the 2nd century, Buddhism came to Ladakh by way of Kashmir. During the 7th century, a Tibetan commissioner was positioned for the first time starting Tibetan rule over the largely non-Tibetan population, local rebellion remained unsuccessful. By the 8th century, the Tibetan control was challenged by China, but in the 9th century, Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal representative annexed Ladakh and became Ladakh’s first Tibetan king after the break-up of the Tibetan empire and founded a separate Ladakh dynasty. Between the 8th and 13th centuries Ladakh underwent Tibetanization and marked the Second Spreading of Buddhism (the First being in Tibet), importing religious ideas from north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. In the 14th century, Crown Prince Rinchen Shah, son of King Lhachen Gyalpo, went to Srinagar, converted to Islam, and reigned as the first Muslim king of Kashmir. Thereafter started the era or two kingdoms – the Ladakh and Leh empires with repeated Arab invasions in the 15th and 16th century. In the chaos, the Namgyal dynasty, which is still in existence today, was found and Ladakh witnessed a golden age. The Leh Palace and Hemis Buddhist Monastery, were built during this time. The rule of the Namgyal dynasty continued until the 19th century when the Dogras, a group led by general Zorawar Singh, invaded Ladakh, momentarily disrupting the status quo of the Leh and Ladakh regions. Many monasteries were plundered. Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family received the jagir (revenue of a region) of Stok, which it appears that they still retain.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh had the option to accede to India or to Pakistan. In 1948, Pakistani invaded the region and occupied Kargil and Zanskar, reaching close proximity of Leh. The Indian government sent troops into the princely state after the ruler signed the Instrument of Accession making the state a part of India. Tourism in the region opened in the 1970s. It is today divided into two districts- Leh and Kargil. This was the brief history of Ladakh in few sentences.

Our Ladakh Trip

Ladakh travel, Ladakh natural beauty

Ladakh is a place of endless natural beauty blended with age old religious belief

We had in our mind an image of Ladakh and the curiosity to ‘feel’ the place. We travelled to Ladakh after spending some days in Kashmir and the difference in the two regions couldn’t be more obvious. The landscape is incredibly different – from the lush green in Kashmir to an almost arid rugged beauty in Ladakh. The blue skies and the beige brown landscape offer a beautiful backdrop to the stunning Gompas (monasteries) and the ever-present colourful fluttering prayer flags. In the monasteries you are welcomed with an incredibly peaceful atmosphere, the monks in their red robes and a plethora of intricate paintings. The nothingness in the surroundings almost compliment the massive Gompas and bring to life the colours of the paintings as well the prayer flags … we travelled with our local driver in his car through endless roads, some great and some that tested the strength of the vehicle and our backs! Passing through boulders and gushing water, it wasn’t unusual to see people stopping – either to enjoy the beauty or maybe just to do some deep breathing before embarking on the rugged terrain! Groups of bikers and cyclists pushed through the limits of their minds and almost floated in the roads hugging the hills at mind boggling heights. And to then stop and enjoy some Gur Gur chai (the Ladakhi cousin of the nun-chai from Kashmir) – pinkish and salty but with a dollop of butter! At first it is hard to imagine butter in your tea, but in those terrains, we didn’t mind a second dollop of butter of even a second dash of salt!

Ladakh travel

The increased commercial tourism has a direct impact on the environment of Ladakh

Unfortunately, the rate of commercial tourism is relentless and is hurting the fabric of the place. The huge influx of tourists from within the country has popularised the stereotypical northern cuisine pushing the traditional cuisines off the table. Bigger and louder groups of tourists have also slowly made extinct the adventurous backpacker trekking through the rugged mountains and willing to share shelter with the locals. Instead, what you see now is commercial tents and rooms coming up at breakneck speed and restaurants serving naan and butter chicken to please these crowds.

We hope the soul of the place, the art forms, the local food remains available to the traveller who goes to experience the place.

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Ladakh, Leh, Ladakh monastery

The magical land of Ladakh

We explored Ladakh for 9 days, travelling through long unending mountain roads, stopping by marshlands, climbing hilltops to the sounds of bells and sight of paintings in the imposing monasteries, the bridges decorated with prayer flags, simple rustic people and unique arid and vast expanses of nature.

In first part of our Ladakh travel diary we have covered our visit to areas in and around the city of Leh as part of Leh local sightseeing and day trips from Leh to Indus River Valley and Sham Valley.

Leh, Ladakh, Leh Local Sightseeing

Our Leh Local Sightseeing, Indus River Valley and Sham Valley

Day 1 – Arrival and Acclimatisation:

We arrived at Leh, the capital city of Ladakh by air from Srinagar late morning. The approach to the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport which is located at around 10,600 feet was breath-taking. The aircraft was flying low and close to rugged barren mountains yet dancing close to the arid lands with patches of greens. An adventurous start of the journey to hinterland!! After collecting our luggage and exiting the airport we were met by our Ladakh road trip driver Sonam Namgail. After exchanging pleasantries we headed towards our hotel ‘The Bodhi Tree Hotel’. At the lobby of the newly built and well decorated hotel, we were treated to a welcome drink of refreshing sea buckthorn juice (local berries) and traditional Tibetan ceremonial white silk scarf (khata or Khatag) which symbolises purity. Apart from their use in wishing luck to arriving or departing guests, these are also used in ceremonies.

After completing the formalities, we checked into our spacious and airy room with a magnificent mountain view. As it was our day one, our plan was to relax in the room. We took our first dose of Acetazolamide (commonly sold as Diamox in India) to fight altitude sickness, which almost every traveller faces on their first day in Leh as it is located at an altitude of over 10,500 feet from sea level. We ordered lunch in the room and after a while the altitude sickness started to kick in slowly making us lightheaded and nauseous in spite of taking Diamox.

landing at Leh airport

Landing at and taking off from Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport always present a breathtaking view of the valley beneath

We tried to sleep and thankfully managed to sleep through the evening and night only waking up once to eat a little. The sleep and Diamox helped us to acclimatise and woke up feeling fresh the next morning.

Day 2 – Local Sightseeing, Leh:

Nearly acclimatised we started our first day of Ladakh travel in and around the city of Leh.

Ladakh Shanti Stupa:

Leh Santi Stupa

Ladakh Shanti Stupa - The highest located stupa in the world

We started the day with a visit to the iconic Ladakh Shanti (peace) Stupa (Buddhist shrine which is dome shaped). Located at an altitude of 11,840 feet at the top of the Changspa hill in Leh, the Stupa is the world’s highest and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city of Leh and its surrounding areas and mountains. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha and symbolises world peace. It was built by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamur in collaboration with the Founder of Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order of Japan, honourable Nichidatsu Fujii Guruji, who had built many such Shanti Stupas around the world. Brought to life by ‘Architect of Modern Ladakh’ honourable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, the stupa was built with his vision that echo Ladakh’s tradition of peace, harmony and tolerance. Work started in 1983 and in the year 1985 His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso laid the foundation stone of the Stupa.

city of leh

The panoramic view of city of Leh from Shanti Stupa

Today the Ladakh Shanti Stupa is one of the popular tourist attractions of Leh for travellers from India and around the world.

Chemrey Monastery:

Chemrey monastery

View of Chemrey monastery from the agricultural fields of Chemrey village

Located around 40 kilometres from the city of Leh, on the hilltop of the village of Chemrey and surrounded by the fertile agricultural land, the Chemrey monastery is considered one of the most picturesque monasteries. Due to its distance from the Leh city, the footfall is less and therefore chances are high that you will find solitude and peace without the crowds, maybe just a couple of others as we had. The absence of large group of tourists preserves the peaceful and tranquil ambiance of the monastery.

Chemrey monastery thangka painting

A part of the wall paining of thousand Buddha in Chemrey monastery

Founded in 1664 by Lama Tagsang Raschen, Chemrey monastery belongs to the Drugpa monastic order and dedicated to King Sengge Namgyal from the 17th century. The monastery houses a small number of monks and comprises of two Dukhang or assembly halls and a Lhakhang or temple. The wall of the old assembly hall has painting of thousand Buddha from the 17th century which are preserved well for visitors to appreciate. The monastery also houses a rare and valuable collection of Buddhist scripts. Among all these priced possessions, Chemrey monastery’s main attractions are its large (one story tall) statue of lord Padmasambhava and the 29 volumes of scripture written in silver and gold letters.

Hemis Monastery:

Situated at an altitude of approximately 12000 feet and located approximately 45 kilometres from the city of Leh on the west bank of Indus River near Leh-Manali highway, Hemis monastery is the largest and wealthiest monastery of Ladakh. It belongs to the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism, Hemis monastery was first established during the 11th century and then re-established during the late 17th century by Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. Hemis monastery is one of the most popular tourist attractions for visitors in Ladakh and every year a large number of visitors from around the world pay a visit to this monastery during a 2-day long Hemis festival dedicated to lord Padmasambhava.

Hemis monastery

The centre courtyard of the monastery of Hemis monastery

The monastery is one of the best examples of Buddhist architecture. The whitewashed walls of the monastery are decorated with Buddhist paintings with bright red, green, blue, yellow and golden colours. The two assembly halls of the monastery house a large collection of thangkas (Budhist religious painting). In the temples of the monastery visitors can find large status of Sakyamuni and lord Padmasambhava. The centre courtyard of the monastery holds religious festivals and the view of the monastery and the surrounding mountain from the courtyard is fascinating. The monastery has a museum which has extensive collection of golden sculptures, manuscripts, Buddhist thangkas, weapons and various other artefacts. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside the assembly hall and museum.

Stakna Gompa:

Stakna gompa

Stakna gompa on top of the hill by the bank of Indus River

Located on the west bank of Indus River around 25 kilometres from the city of Leh, the Stakna monastery or Stakna gompa is the only Bhutanese statue of Maitreya Buddha established by the Bhutanese scholar and saint named Chosje Jamyang Palkar during the late 16th century. The name Stakna literally means ‘tiger’s nose’ due to the shape of the hill on top of which the monastery is located. Due to its small size and proximity to two other famous monasteries in Leh, Stakna monastery does not feature on the top attractions for majority of travellers and tourists coming to Leh and due to this the monastery receives minimal footfall, which makes it a very peaceful place for the handful travellers who decide to pay a visit.

Stanka Gompa thangka painting

Tibetan thangka paintings on the wall of Stanka Gompa

The main attractions of the monastery are the marble statue of Avalokitesvara which believed to be brought over from Assam and the spectacular view of the Indus valley from the rooftop of the monastery. The monastery offers a unique view of Hemis monastery and Thiksey monastery from a distance.

Thiksey Monastery:

Thiksey monastery

Thiskey monastery which resemblance Potala palace in Lhasa

Located around 19 kilometres from the city of Leh, Thiskey monastery is the largest Gelugpa monastery in central Ladakh. Located on a hilltop in the village of Thiksey at an elevation of approximately 11,800 feet, Thiksey monastery is considered one of the top tourist attractions of Leh.

Thiskey monastery thangka painting

Thangka paining on the wall of Thiskey monastery from bygone era

Thiskey monastery thangka painting

Thangka paining on the wall of Thiskey monastery from bygone era

Built during the 15th century, the monastery is a twelve-storey complex, painted in white, red and ochre and has a strong resemblance with the Potala Place in Lhasa, Tibet. The buildings of the monastery complex are arranged in the ascending order of importance where at the foot of the hill, the dwelling units or living quarters are located and above which sit the monastery and the official residence of the chief lama. The highest level of the monastery complex has a stupa.

Maitreya Buddha statue of Thiskey monastery

The Maitreya Buddha statue of Thiskey monastery

The monastery has a large collection of Buddhist artefacts such as stupas, thangkas, wall paintings and statues. The main attraction of the monastery is the 15 meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha which is one of a kind. The rooftop of the monastery offers a breathtaking and impressive panoramic view of the Indus valley and the Zanskar mountain range in the backdrop.

Shey Palace And Monastery:

Shey palace

View of Shey monastery from the ruins of Shey palace

The Shey palace and monastery complex is located on the Leh-Manaili highway 15 kilometre south of Leh on a small hilltop. Constructed during the 17th century by Deldan Namgyal, the king of Ladakh, the Shey palace which is now a ruin used to be the summer palace.

Shey Palace and Monastery, Shakyamuni Buddha statue, Leh, Ladakh

View of Shey village and lake from Shey monastery and the Shakyamuni Buddha statue

The monastery is famous for its 3 storeys tall Shakyamuni Buddha statue which is made up of copper gilded with gold and considered to be the second tallest such statue in Ladakh. The upper floor of the monastery has a number of beautiful wall paintings which are worth a visit. On the ground floor of the monastery is a library which stores many old manuscripts. Apart from the statue and paintings, the monastery offers a scenic view of the Shey village, the Indus River valley and the Shey lake which is located directly opposite to the monastery.

Day 3 – Indus River Valley And Sham Valley (North of Leh Towards Kargil):

On day 3 of our Ladakh adventure we drove towards north of Leh on Leh-Kargil-Srinagar highway (also known as National Highway 1 or NH1) along Indus River valley and Sham valley visiting some of the top and well-known attractions.

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib:

Travellers and locals in this part of the world stop by this sacred place while travelling to and from Leh and pay their respect and ask for blessing. So did we as this was our first stop of the day. Located around 25 kilometres from the city of Leh on NH1 highway lies this gurudwara (worshiping place for the people belonging to Sikh religion). It was constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak ji, founder guru of the Sikh faith. The gurudwara is not only a place of worship for the followers of Sikhism, but local Buddhist people and others also bow to this place in respect. People from all religions and faiths are welcome here as long as visitors respect the holiness of this place. The Indian army also helps in running and maintaining this gurudwara. In the gurudwara lies a stone which believed to have the shape of Guru Nanak ji.

Gurudawar Pathar Sahib, Leh, Ladakh

Entrance to Gurudawar Pathar Sahib and the holi rock which believe to have Guru Nanak ji's body shape

As the folklore goes when Guru Nanak ji was travelling though this place towards Kashmir he settled down in this very place to help the locals who pleaded Guru Nanak ji’s help from a cruel demon who used to frighten and eat people. One day when Guru Nanak ji was meditating the demon threw a rock from the hill on Guru Nanak ji, but by divine intervention the rock transformed into molten wax when it met Guru Nanak ji and embedded him and took his body’s shape. Angry with this the demon kicked the rock and again miraculously the rock transformed into molten wax and the demon’s feet got imprinted on the rock. Realising his mistake, the demon apologised to Guru Nanak ji and devoted rest of his life serving humanity as summoned by Guru Nanak ji.

When we visited the gurudwara, we found the place very peaceful and full of positive vibes. We paid our respect and asked for blessings for the remainder of our Ladakh trip.

Magnetic Hill:

Located around 30 kilometres from the city of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway lies a small stretch of the highway known as the Magnetic hill, a popular tourist attraction. This stretch of straight road is called so due to a strange phenomenon where vehicles appear to roll uphill even when the engine is turned off. Even the authorities have put up a board stating ‘Magnetic Hill – The phenomenon that defines gravity’. Almost every tourist car driver turns off the car engine at this spot to give visitors a taste of this strange and unreal phenomenon.

Magnetic hill

Magnetic hill on Leh-Srinagar highway, the uphill part where cars roll forward

There are two very separate school of thoughts that explain this phenomenon,

  • Magnetic force theory

  • Optical illusion theory

The magnetic force theory suggests that the hill that lies straight in front of the road has strong magnetic force that pulls all vehicles uphill and the optical illusion theory suggests that the topography of the surrounding area creates an optical illusion where a downhill road appears uphill to the naked eye. Whatever the real reason may be, the phenomenon does give an unreal experience. We did stop our car once we arrived and to our surprise we felt our car rolling forward uphill with the engine turned off!!

Indus River-Zanskar River Confluence:

Located around 35 kilometres from the city of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway or NH1 lies the confluence of Indus River and Zanskar River in Nimmu valley which is a major tourist attraction and a spot for river rafting for adventure seekers. Zanskar River which originated in Zanskar valley is one the major tributaries of the Indus River which originates in the Tibetan plateau and is the major source of water in the rugged Ladakh region.

Indus River and Zanskar River confluence

View of the Indus River and Zanskar River confluence from the Leh-Srinagar highway

There are two separate points from where the view of the Confluence can be observed. The first one and the better one is from the Leh-Srinagar highway which runs along the mountain near the confluence and gives a spectacular bird’s eye view. The second one is from the riverbank where the two rivers meet. The riverbank of the confluence is calm and serene and you can enjoy some peace and quiet here.

Indus River and Zanskar River confluence

View of the Indus River and Zanskar River confluence from the river bank

The colour of the two rivers at confluence changes depending on the time of the year. During the month of April and May, the two rivers reflect different colours – Indus green and Zanskar blue, which makes the view of the confluence spectacular. From June onwards, Zanskar starts to change colour to brown and by monsoon and in the months of July-August, the Indus also turns into brown due to the mud the monsoon brings along. When we visited in the month of August both rivers had turned into different shades of brown.

Likir Monastery:

Likir monastery

View of Likir monastery from a distance

Likir Monastery is located in a picturesque Ladakhi landscape on the top of a small hill at an elevation of over 12000 feet, in the village of Likir in Sham valley and is around 52 kilometres from the city of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway. To reach the monastery you need to take a 6 kilometres long side road from the highway.

Likir monastery Maitreya Buddha

75 feet high Maitreya Buddha statue of Likir monastery

Likir monastery, Thangka painting

Thangka painting on the walls of Likir monastery assembly hall

It is one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh and was established in the 11th century. Likir means ‘The Naga – Encircled’ represents the two serpent spirits Nanda and Taksoka who are believed to be the guardians of the monastery. When established in the 11th century by Lama Duwang Chosje, the monastery used to belong to Kadampa sect of Buddhism and during the 15th century it was re-established under the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The original constriction of the 11th century was destroyed in a fire and the present-day monastery was reconstructed in 18th century. The monastery has two assembly halls, main temple, monk’s quarter, a central courtyard and a school. The main attractions of the monastery are the old manuscripts, collection of thangkas, murals, various statues, wall paintings and a 75 feet high Maitreya Buddha statue covered in gold.

Lamayuru Moonland:

Lamayuru moon land

View of Lamayuru moonland from Lamayuru monastery

Located around 115 kilometres from the city of Leh in Sham valley at an elevation of over 11500 feet lies the village of Lamayuru on Leh-Srinagar highway. The village, apart from its monastery is also famous for its unique landscape which earned the place its name ‘Moonland’. The rugged mountainous surroundings of the village of Lamayuru and its unique geological characteristics – the presence of soft rocks and clay-rich soils, steep slopes and crevices created due to erosion resembles the lunarscape. There are a few vantage points close to the village from where the beauty of the landscape can be witnessed. The landscape is said to look even more magical and unreal at night in moonlight and attracts a large number of tourists during full moon nights.

Lamayuru Monastery:

Lamayuru monastery

Lamayuru monastery, located on top of the Lamayuru village

Located in the village of Lamayuru, the Lamayuru monastery which is also known as Yuru monastery is one of the oldest and largest monasteries of Ladakh and belongs to the Drikung Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery was constructed during the end of the 10th century by Mahasiddha Naropa who came to Lamayuru to meditate in a cave. The cave in which Mahasiddha Naropa meditated can still be found inside the monastery next to the assembly hall or Dukhang.

Lamayuru monastery

Lamayuru monastery's chortens are among the most colourful and decorated

The original monastery used to have five building, however at present only the central building exits and the remains of the four corner buildings. The monastery houses an assembly hall or Dukhang, temple, residential buildings and three stupas or chortens. The chortens of Layamuru monasteries are among the most colourful and decorated. In the courtyard of the monastery, in front of the assembly hall, on the wall, you can see bright and colourful thangka paintings. The monastery holds a notable collection of scriptures, thangkas, murals and statues of various deities.

Basgo Palace:

Basgo palace, Leh, Ladakh

View of Basgo village and Palace from the Leh-Srinagar highway

About 45 kilometres from the city of Leh near the village of Basgo in Sham valley lies the ruins of Basgo palace and Basgo monastery on the mountain slope above the village. Basgo once was a strategically important location on the trade route and gained political importance with the establishment of the second Ladakhi dynasty during the end of the 15th century. At present day the Basgo place and the fort is in a state of ruin, however the monastery is functional. We did not visit the monastery due to time constraints and only stopped at a distance to enjoy the view of the Basgo village and the monastery and palace above.

Leh Hall of Fame:

Located near the Leh airport, the Hall of Fame is a military war museum constructed and maintained by the Indian Army in the memory of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation during the Indo-Pak war. The Hall of Fame houses three main sections – the war museum, the war cemetery and the war memorial.

Leh Hall of Fame, City of Leh, Ladakh

Display of weapon captured in Kargil war at Hall of Fame

In the war museum, you can see the weapons used by the Indian Army as well as those captured during the Kargil war. The museum also exhibits numerous photos taken during the war, photos and letters of brave soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending the nation and its people. The museum also showcases a 30-minute informative film on the Kargil war. There is also souvenir shop selling various memorabilia.

Leh hall of fame

The war cemetery at Hall of Fame

On the open ground in the rear section of the Hall of Fame is the war memorial and the war cemetery. The war memorial with blue skies and mountains in the backdrop offers a magnificent view.

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  • Writer's pictureSlow Coach

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

After spending 3 days exploring the city of Leh, we set out to further afield to Nubra valley and beyond by crossing the second highest motorable pass in the world – The Khardung La pass. During our trip to Nubra valley we travelled to the edge of Indian territory for a glimps of Baltistan - the village of Turtuk. This is our Ladakh travel diary of Nubra valley and Pangong lake.

Nubra valley travel itinerary

Our travel though the Nubra valley, Batlistan and Pangong Tso

Day 4 – Journey To Nubra Valley From Leh By Crossing Khardungla Pass:

Khardungla Pass

Situated at an altitude of 17,982 feet, and nearly 40 kilometres from the city of Leh, Khardungla pass is world’s second highest motorable mountain pass located in Ladakh mountain range and maintained by BRO – Border Roads Organisation of India. This pass connects the Indus River valley with the Shyok River valley and the Nubra valley. The journey through winding roads to Khardung La pass from Leh takes around an hour or sometimes more depending on the traffic towards the pass.

Khardung La pass, Leh, Ladakh

Khardung La - World's thrid highest motorable pass

At the top of the Khardung La pass there is a sign post/landmark stone from BRO where the altitude of the place is written. Quite a touristy stop for taking a picture but you will need to queue up with all other visitors. The pass has a café and a medical centre to assist anyone feeling sick due to high altitude and toilets which you should avoid! The pass is under the control of the Indian army and a notable presence of army is visible at the pass. It is recommended not to spend more than 10-15 minutes at this location at this altitude as the oxygen saturation in the air is very low and the body gets stressed quickly. We spent around 5 minutes at the top, took some pictures and continued our journey towards Nubra valley.

Diskit Monastery

Diskit monastery, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Diskit monastery on the slop of the mountain

The Diskit Monastery is located at an elevation of over 10,300 feet on the slope of mountain adjacent to Shyok River valley, near the village of Diskit in Nubra valley. Diskit monastery is the oldest and the largest monastery in the valley and belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Built during the 14th century, it is famous for its 106 feet tall Maitreya Buddha statue. The statue is located on a hilltop just below the monastery and the view of the Shyok River and the valley from the foot of the statue is breathtaking. The statue was inaugurated by His Holiness Dalai Lama during 2010.

Diskit monastery Maitreya Buddha statue, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The 106 feet all Maitreya Buddha statue of Diskit monastery

Diskit village, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

View of Diskit village and Nubra valley from hill of Diskit monastery Buddha statue

The monastery houses a notable collection of paintings and murals. The monastery also runs a school for Tibetan children which is located below the hill where the statue is located.

Hunder Sand Dunes and Double-Humped Camels

Just outside the sleepy village of Hunder, 10 kilometres from the village of Diskit at an elevation of over 10,000 feet by the bank of Shyok river is the cold desert of Nubra valley and the sand dunes of Hunder. The Hunder sand dunes is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Nubra valley and famous for its unique white-silvery sand, scattered bushes of sea buckthorns and the rugged mountainous backdrop. Everyday hundreds of tourists visit the sand dunes early morning or in the evening to enjoy the spectacular view nature has to offer.

Cold desert - Sand dunes of Hunder

The main attraction of Hunder sand dunes is its resident – double-humped Bactrian camels. Native to central Asia, double-humped camels are the remnants of the glorious past – Silk Route. Due to its location at the crossroads of silk route, tradesmen for centuries used to carry silk, nuts, dry fruits etc. on the back of these double-humped camels. Many that were left behind during the epic journey survived which lead to the hundred odd population of these camels in Nubra valley. These camels carry tourist on their backs now, a bit of a change from the ancestral profession!

Hunder camel ride, double humped camel, Nubra valley

Riding double-humped Bactrian camels is the most popular activity at Hunder

We arrived at the sand dunes when the sun started going down behind the mountains in the west. The sky was painted in hues of red and violet with mountains creating the perfect backdrop for the sand dunes. We walked a good distance away from the crowds interested in camel ride to find the peace and quiet to compliment the beautiful surrounding, the slightly cold breeze and the colourful sky.

Our Resort And The Village of Hunder:

Nubra valley accommodation, Hunder accommodation , Hunder, Ladakh

Mud-walled Mongolian chalets at Chalet Sea Buckthorn

In Hunder our refuge for the night was a picturesque resort called Chalet Sea Buckthorn. Located just next to the main road off the village of Hunder. The resort has about a dozen of circular shaped mud-walled Mongolian chalets scattered around the vegetable patches and flower beds. The view of the surrounding mountains emphasized the closeness to nature. By some stroke of luck, we were the only guests that night and received all the attention and hospitality of the resort staff.

Hunder village, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Local villagers form Hunder selling vegetables in the village market

Hunder, Nubra valley, Chalet Sea Buckthorn, Hunder, Ladakh

Campfire at Chalet Sea Buckthorn elevating the ambience in the evening

Just before the sunset we went for a stroll on the main street and ended up in the middle of the hustle-bustle of the small market. Local women were selling their home-grown vegetables and fruits, we checked out few shops, clicked few photos and were offered fresh apples by the friendly sellers. We took a few apples and paid the lovely lady who refused to take the money initially and walked back to our resort. When we arrived, we were pleased to find firepit with roaring flames providing much needed warmth and ambience to wrap up the day.

Day 5 – Glimpses Of Baltistan In The Village Of Turtuk And ATV Ride At Bollywood Movie Location:

Turtuk – The Last Village Of India:

We started early as the journey from Hunder to the village of Turtuk was going to take us through long winding mountain roads and valleys. Turtuk is Located 85 kilometres from the village of Hunder and sits around 10 kilometres from Pakistan Line Of Control (LOC) and nestled in the Karakoram range at the edge of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. It is considered as one of the remotest villages of India and therefore often referred to as ‘the last village of India’, though Thang, a small village which is around 9 kilometres from the Turtuk is technically the last village of India.

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The picturesque village and its buckwheat fields of Turtuk

Before 1947, Turtuk was part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir ruled by the Dogras. From the time of Independence of India in 1947 until 1971, the village of Turtuk was part of Pakistan. During the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 India recaptured the territory from Pakistan and the village of Turtuk and its residents became part of India overnight.

The inhabitants of Turtuk village are from the Balti community and are culturally and ethnically part of Gilgit-Batlistan. Balti peoples are Tibetan Ethnic group and follow Islam. Their culture, lifestyle, customs, rituals all are quite different from rest of Ladakh.

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The glacier stream that divides Yul from Farool of Turtuk village

The village is mainly divided into three areas. The area near the Shyok River is known as Chutang where local schools, health centres and other modern facilities are located. The two other parts are called Yul and Farool which are also sometime called as upper and lower Turtuk respectively. Yul and Farool are separated by a glacier stream and are connected by a wooded hanging bridge. Yul is the oldest part of the village which has many old houses, museum and Royal palace. The Farool part of the village has several homestays and guest houses for visitors, some popular restaurants serving Balti cuisine to visitors and also has a number of buckwheat and apricot fields which are accessible to visitors. Buckwheat is one of the main ingredients of Balti cuisine.

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The narrow lanes and traditional Balti house of Turtuk village

For about half of the year, the village remains cut off from the other parts of Ladakh due to heavy snowfall. Very recently, in around 2010, the village was opened to tourists to boost its economy. Since the village opened-up to tourists and visitors, people from Balti community have also tried to preserve their culture and showcase it. Most of the old houses in the village are almost two centuries old and have wood carvings done by craftsman who came from all over Gilgit-Baltistan and from central Asia. The traditional heritage houses in the village have preserved original Balti artifacts dating nearly 400 years back. We spent the entire morning and afternoon in the village of Turtuk and explored Yul and Farool. A glimpse of what we did during our half day visit to the village.

  • Explored the Narrow Alleys Of Village (Mainly Farool Part)

Turtuk village, Nurba valley, Ladakh

Walking through the narrow lanes of Farool

On arriving at the Turtuk we decided to visit the Farool first. Stopping and clicking some pictures on the wooden bridge we climbed a few steps towards lower Turtuk. Soon we stepped inside the maze of narrow alleyways lined on either side by old traditional Balti style houses made of wood and stone. We occasionally saw small vegetable patches between houses as well as apricot orchards with few fruits still hanging from the branches. The surroundings were quiet and peaceful and every now and then we passed along a very narrow stream of fresh ice-cold water for the glaciers. We saw villagers drying apricots on rooftop terraces of their houses. Livestock – hens, roosters, goats and cows roamed freely in the backyards of many houses – a typical village setting and minus the fast paced craziness of our world today!

  • The Viewpoint And The Buckwheat Fields

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

View of Chutang from the buckwheat field of Farool

Turtuk village, Buckwheat fields, Baltistan, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The buckwheat fields of Farool, Turtuk Village

The narrow alleyways soon took us to the buckwheat fields at the edge of the village. The view from this part of the village was truly majestic where on one side we could see village houses, agricultural fields with towering mountains in the backdrop and on other side we could see huge buckwheat fields that ran till the very end of a cliff. We could also see the Shyok river and mountains at a distance. The steep cliff overlooked the Chutang part of the village and Shyok river. The time of year when we went to Ladakh (August) it was just about the time for buckwheat harvest. The fields looked glorious with blooming white flowers. The local women were busy harvesting the crop under the midday sun. We walked over the narrow path between to buckwheat fields until the cliff which revealed a stunning view of the Karakoram range, the valley and Shyok river flowing through it.

  • Balti Heritage House And Museum

Bati heritage house museum, Turtuk, Nubra, Ladakh

Balti heritage house museum and some of exhibits

Sitting at the edge of the Farool part of the village inside a narrow alleyway, this traditional Balti house turned museum showcases some of the well preserved old Batli artefacts – storage pots, cooking utensils, furniture and old traditional Baltic costumes. The house was built and reconstructed during the end of 19th century by Ghulam Haider Ashourpa from Ashourpa subclan of Yangdrungpa clan. Yangdrung was one of the two founders of the present-day settlement of Turtuk. During his lifetime, Ghulam Haider Ashourpa carried out notable social work for which he was later recognised by the government of the region. Today, the current generation of Ghulam Haider Ashourpa resides in the house and maintain the museum. As we entered the house, we were greeted by a friendly young lady who is the youngest generation of Ashourpa. She explained the history of the house and Batli culture and customs in detail, showed us around the house museum. There were large stone pots that were used for storing grains. The kitchen had a collection of century old brass pots and plates and other tableware. In one of the bedrooms, old traditional Balti real fur robes, dresses and shawls were kept. The house had an old charm and definitely worth a visit for a glimpse of the traditional Balti life of the by gone era.

  • The Balti Kitchen For Lunch For A Traditional Balti Cuisine

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Nurba valley, Ladakd

Seating area of the Balti Kitchen restaurant in the middle of kitchen garden

It would have been sinister to leave the village of Turtuk without eating authentic Batli cuisine, especially when there were some options of family-run restaurants that cooks up authentic Baltic meals. One such restaurant is the Batli Kitchen which opened its door to hungry travellers during the year 2015. The owners Rahim Khan and Hajira Khan prepare and serve wholesome and flavourful ancient Balti recipes using fresh and organically grown ingredients in the restaurant’s backyard. Through their food the restaurant gives a flavour of the history and culture of Baltistan. The restaurant sits in the middle of a lush green kitchen garden growing seasonal vegetable, fruits and flowers which adds to the experience.

Turtuk village, Baltistan, Balti food, Ladakh

Balti food from the Balti Kitchen restaurant

We ordered few items from the short menu the restaurant offers along with fresh apricot juice. Every dish we ordered was unique with delicately balanced flavours. Read more about Baltic cuisine and food we tried during our trip to Ladakh here.

  • The Royal Palace – Yagbo Palace

Turtuk, Yogba palace, Batlistan, Ladakh

The courtyard of Yogba palace

Turtuk, Yogba palace, Batlistan

The museum turned kitchen of Yogba palace

Located in Yul part of Turtuk, the Royal palace or the Yagbo palace is a two storey larger than normal traditional Balti house – it doesn’t fit the image of a palace perhaps closer in appearance to the residence of the village chief. The palace is the current residence of the King of Turtuk, Yagbo Mohammad Khan Kacho who is the descendant of the Yagbo Dynasty of Chorbat-Khaplu, a region of Baltistan that falls on the other side of the line of control. Though the present king does not have any power and is not officially recognised as royalty, he is referred to as the king in this part of the world. Yagbo Dynasty ruled the lands of Khaplu for centuries and expanded to region of Ladakh before the Dynasty came to an end when Dorgas took charge of Jammu and Kashmir and expanded their kingdom during the mid-19th century.

Turtuk, Yogba palace, Batlistan

Yogba dynasty lineage written of a wall of the palace

Turtuk, Yogba palace, Batlistan, Nubra Valley, Ladakh

The present king Yagbo Mohammad Khan Kacho

The entrance to the Yagbo palace leads up in a courtyard. The rooms on the ground floor serve as a museum where many of the artifacts from the Yagbo family are in display including large cooking utensils in the kitchen area. A staircase at a corner of the courtyard takes you to the first floor where the present-day king resides and greet visitors. The present king Yagbo Mohammad Khan Kacho speaks very passionately about his past, his family and the Balti culture. In the room where he entertains his guest, the lineage of the dynasty is written on one of the walls. The King carries a sceptre with a metallic serpent head attached to it – perhaps a nod to his royal past! Apart from the family tree in the room many other items are in display including bows and arrows, swords, jewellery and photographs from the past. The king explains the significance and history of most of the items on display with great detail to his audience. We spent a good amount of time with the king in his palace listening to him, took a family photo with him before bidding farewell and continued our Ladakh adventure.

ATV Riding In The Dunes Of Desert Himalaya Adventure Park - Khalsar

ATV riding in Khalsar, Nubra valley, Ladakh

ATV riding in Desert Himalaya Adventure at Khalsar

We left Turtuk late afternoon and set off to return to Terith for the evening. After crossing Distik, we arrived at the Desert Himalaya Adventure Park by the bank of Shyok river. It is famous for ATV riding for adventure seekers. Travellers take the ATV rides over the sand dunes and enjoy the open vastness of the surroundings. A ride typically lasts for around 15 minutes. We also had small groups of Buddhist monks having some fun! The area where the ATV rides takes place is also famous as a shooting location for a well-known Bollywood movie, so a favourite stopover of Bollywood fans.

Our Stay At A Picturesque Echo Resort in Terith

We called it a day after reaching our refuge for the next two nights, a picturesque eco resort ‘Osay Khar’ in the small village of Terith in the Nubra valley. We arrived at the resort while the sun was still looming over the surrounding mountains.

Osay Khar echo resort, Terith, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Vegetable garden at Osay Khar echo resort

The resort is spread over an area of 25 acres of farmland in a remote location at the edge of the village. The resort is dotted with stone and concrete cottages. There is plenty of open space between two cottages to give the sense of peaceful seclusion in the lap of nature. The resort grows its own produce in large vegetable and fruit gardens which is worth a visit. We spent a good amount of time exploring the vegetable gardens during our stay. Our son (then 9 years) was thrilled to explore the vegetable patches and suggested we do something similar in our small back garden at home.

Osay Khar echo resort, Terith, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Potato fileds at Osay Khar echo resort

Osay Khar echo resort, Terith, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Outdoor seating area of at Osay Khar echo resort

The dining area had indoor and outdoor setup for the visitors to enjoy and relax. The open-air outdoor dining area and traditional ‘lounges’ under the apricot trees was one of the highlights of the resort. We spent the entire evening lazing around and sipping masala chai and devouring onion and vegetable pakodas (fritters). Additionally, the staffs were friendly with a great sense of hospitality for the guests.

Day 6 – Sumur, Tiger and Panamik (Along The Bank of Nubra River)

Panamik Hot Spring

Located around 30 kilometres towards north from the village of Terith lies the small village of Pamanic along the bank of Nubra river which is known for its natural hot spring. Located at an altitude of over 10,400 feet, the village of Panamik is the one of the last settlements before the Siachen glacier towards the Indo-Tibetan border. The hot spring at Panamik is located on a hill side above the village. The water of the hot spring is rich in sulphur and is believed to carry medicinal properties for curing skin related diseases.

Panamik hot spring, Panamik village, Nubra valley, Ladakh

The source of the hot spring on the slope of mountain at Panamik

The source of the hot spring is at the slope of the mountain from where a small stream runs downhill. Part of this water stream is diverted into a small hot spring ‘bath’- a facility with separate pools for men and women. There is a minimal entry fee (around 20 Indian rupees when we went) for visiting the source of the hot spring and getting into the pool. When we visited the pool lacked basic maintenance and upkeep. The temperature of the water inside the pool was quite warm. The pool area was not particularly clean. There were few changing rooms next to the pool which were not in usable condition. We tried to take a dip in the pool, but the water was too hot for that. There were a couple of buckets and jugs left next to the pool for the visitors to use. We did a quick splash and headed out.

Panamik hot spring, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Panamik hot spring with Panamik village in the backdrop

The view of the Nubra river valley and surrounding hills from outside the hot spring pool building was truly magnificent like other landscapes of Ladakh. Due to its location and hot springs the place could have had great potential to be one of the top tourist attractions of Ladakh but unfortunately lies in an abysmal state today.

Local Tibetan Food From The Kitchen Of Village Women Co-Operative

Ladakhi food, Panamik, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Kitchen of the village women co-operative at Panamik

Ladakhi food, Panamik, Nubra valley, Ladakh

With a bowl of Chutagi from the kitchen of the village women co-operative at Panamik

Adjacent to the hot spring, you can experience local Ladakhi food at a nominal cost from the kitchen run by the women co-operative from the village of Panamik. The place has a kitchen and a traditional Ladakhi style dining area. We were warmly welcomed inside the kitchen when we asked if we could take a look! The women take turns to cook simple yet flavourful food from scratch. They also demonstrated their cooking techniques. We ordered chutagi, khambir and butter tea. Chutagi – a kind of vegetable soup along with bowtie shape noodles in it, was a light flavourful dish. To know more about what food to try in Ladakh, please check our blog on Ladakh food here.

Samstanling Monastry

Tibetan thangka, Samstanling monastery, Sumur, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Intricately drawn Tibetan thangka on the wall of assembly hall of Samstanling monastery

Tibetan thangka, Samstanling monastery, Sumur, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Tibetan thangka from Samstanling monastery

Established during the early part of the 19th Century, Samstanling monastery is a relatively new monastery in the region of Ladakh. Located near the village of Sumur in Nubra valley, on a hilltop by the bank of Nubra river, Samstanling monastery holds significant importance to the local Buddhist community. The monastery has two assembly halls and houses 50 monks. Inside the assembly halls, visitors can find intricately made and well-preserved Buddhist paintings and thangkas.

Sumur Sand Dunes and Freshwater Spring

Sumur freshwater spring, Nubra valley, Ladakh

Sumur freshwater spring

Sumur freshwater spring, Nubra valley, Ladakh

A dip in the icecold fresh spring water in Sumur

Located in between the villages of Sumur and Terith in Nubra valley, the Sumur sand dunes is overshadowed by the popularity of the sand dunes in Hunder. When we arrived at Sumer sand dunes during late afternoon we were the only ‘tourists’. There were some local school kids enjoying themselves and taking a dip in the freshwater spring adjacent to the sand dunes. We also took a refreshing dip in the ice-cold water under the warm sun, at the foot of the mountains.

Day 7 – Pangong Tso And Homestay at Man village:

We started the day early as we had a very long road ahead of us. It turned out to be the most treacherous roads on our Ladakh trip so far and took us around 6 hours to cover the distance between Terith and starting point of Pangong Tso. Some parts of the road were non-existent as we drove over the dried-up bed of the Shyok river.

Pangong tso, Ladakh marshy grassland, Ladakh

Picturesque vast marshy grassland near Pangong Tso

Pangong tso, Ladakh marshy grassland, Ladakh

The picturesque marshy grassland worth few camera clicks

Once we arrived near Pangong Tso we found a huge and picturesque marshy grassland by the road. Beauty of that place was worth a break to soak in the surroundings and take a few pictures.

Pangong lake, Ladakh

Breath-taking view of Pangong Tso

We continued our journey towards the mighty Pangong Tso and after a few twists and turns and bends through mountain roads, the lake revealed itself. Located at an altitude of nearing 14250 feet, Pangong Tso is one of the high-altitude lakes of Ladakh and world’s highest saltwater lake. The name Pangong translates to narrow and enchanted lake which precisely describes its shape as Pangong Tso is around 140-150 kilometres in length with an average width of 3 km. Situated along the actual line of control between India and China, majority (two thirds) of the lake belongs to China. The lake is also known for changing its colour from deep blue to green to red. When we arrived by the bank of the Pangong lake we were blown away by its vastness and beauty. The deep blue colour of the lake and surrounding arid brownish coloured mountains created a contrasting picturesque view.

Shooting Location For The Movie ‘3-Idiots’:

Pangong Tso, Ladakh

By the shore of Pangong Tso at Bollywood movie shooting location

The lake gained immense popularity among domestic tourists a decade back though a popular Bollywood movie ‘3 Idiots’ where the climax scene drama unfolded by the bank of Pangong Tso. At present a battalion of yellow scooters stand by the bank of the lake representing the yellow scooter used in the movie for visitors to take some snaps (paid of course). We spent some time by the lake and started for our final destination of the day – Man village, a small sleepy village by the bank of Pangong Tso.

Man Village

Man village, Langong lake, Ladakh

Man village by the bank of PangongTso

A small picturesque village by the bank of the Pangong Tso, Man village is home to around 30 families mainly from Changpas, the semi-nomadic tribe of Ladakh. Until very recently, before the tourism boom in this part of the world, the villagers livelihood mostly depended on farming and livestock. Even today the villagers depend on their own harvest due to the remoteness of this place. So there still are a number of wheat and vegetable fields dotted around the village. Various small freshwater streams coming from the mountains behind the village provides sufficient water for irrigation and domestic use. Now with more and more tourists coming, most of the villagers have also started offering homestays for travellers. However new tourist camps are popping up by the bank of the lake as well which may soon overwhelm the place and take a toll on its beauty and delicate balance with nature.

Man village, Pangong lake, Ladakh

Local Ladakhi couple from Man village harvesting crop

We stayed in a homestay hosted by a Ladakhi family and were delighted by the hospitality we received. Once we checked into our homestay, we re-energised ourselves by sipping a cup of hot tea with some biscuits and went walking to explore the village. We came across and chatted with an elderly couple who just finished harvesting wheat from their field. Life in this part of the world is simple, technology free and slow paced.

Pangong lake, Ladakh

Watching the sunset by the bank of Pangong Tso almost gives zen like feeling

We strolled to the bank of the lake just before sunset and enjoyed the quiet and peaceful nature around us. The setting sun, the cold breeze and the silence of the surrounding area almost gave a zen like feeling. Sitting by the bank of a lake and doing nothing is a novel and unforgettable experience for city dwellers like us. With the sun sent, we headed back to the homestay and were greeted with another cup of hot tea. A simple and hearty home cooked dinner followed soon – rice, lentils and vegetables. The remote location and lack of internet access worked like a technology detox for us and we quietly enjoyed the night sky from the courtyard of the house and went to sleep.

Day 8 – Bank to Leh passing through the third highest motorable pass – Chang La pass:

After spending a day in the lap of nature in a remote location in Ladakh it was time for us to get back to of the cities and technology. After breakfast we started our journey back to the city of Leh. The distance between Man village and Leh is around 170 kilometres which can be covered in 4 to 5 hours depending on the condition of the road and traffic. During our visit to Ladakh, part of the road from Pangong to Leh via Chang La pass was under construction, this added an hour to our journey due to slow moving traffic on the already narrow mountain roads. However few kilometres after Chang La pass where the construction had completed, the road was wide and smooth until we reached the city of Leh.

Chang La Pass

Situated around 78 kilometres from the city of Leh, at an altitude of 17,586 feet from sea level, Chang La pass is the third highest motorable pass in the world. Chang La pass is named after the saint Changla Baba and meaning ‘Pass towards the South’. The local nomad inhabitants of the area around the pass are known as Changspa. The pass is open for travellers from the month of May until October and is maintained by the Indian Armed Force due to the proximity to the ‘Actual line of control’ between India and China. Chang La pass connects the city of Leh with the Pangong lake towards north and is known for its breathtaking beauty. The view of the valley beneath and the mountain ranges around the pass present a spectacular view. Apart from its natural beauty, the pass has significant historical and ecological importance. The pass is believed to be a part of the ancient silk route that stretched from China to Europe and North Africa via Central Asia. And recent discovery of Jurassic ammonoids in this area has enhanced its ecological significance.

Ghangla pass, Ladakh

Chang la pass, world's third highest motorable pass

The pass has a post for travellers indicating its altitude and significance – a popular point of pictures. There is also a temple of Changla baba for travellers to pay their respect. The pass has basic amenities like toilets and a cafe for travellers. As the pass is located at a high altitude, travellers are advised not to spend more than 15 to 20 minutes at the top of the pass to avoid falling to altitude sickness. As we had stayed at high elevation in Ladakh for past 8 days by this time, we did not feel anything different. We spent around 10 minutes at the top, had a cup of tea and started our descend towards the city of Leh.

Leh Market

Leh market, Leh, Ladakh

Leh market is the best place to buy local handicrafts

After the long road trip, our journey came to an end from where we had started 8 days ago, the city of Leh. We checked back into the same hotel and after resting a bit, headed out to explore the explore the famous Leh market to buy Ladakhi handicrafts to take back with us – a reminder of our trip to the land of lamas for years to come. Leh market is considered as the heartbeat of the city where thousands of tourists come every evening to shop and eat and experience the local vibe. We visited a few shops and settled on a mask of Mahakal (Tibetan Buddhism) and a hand painted thangka of Vajrasattva from a handicraft shop. Leh also has a number of rooftop restaurants on the main market road. We headed back to our favourite rooftop restaurant with its charming view of the city and delicious food and with that dinner and evening, our Ladakh adventure came to an end.

Day 9 – End of our Ladakh Adventure and bank to the plains of Indian capital – Delhi:

After completing an unforgettable journey through the mountains and valleys of Ladakh, it was time for us to bid farewell to this magical land and fly back to the plains of Indian capital – Delhi. Our stay at Leh on our last day of the trip was brief as we headed to the airport just after breakfast to catch our flight. While we took off from Leh airport, the surrounding landscape of rugged mountains and valleys dotted with green pocket and the Indus River flowing through it mesmerised us for one final time. The flight was on time, and we touched down to Delhi just after midday.

Ladakh is place that leaves a very visual memory – the vastness of the place, the unique topography and for us the nonstop Buddhist chanting our driver played made us feel like we had gone on a journey to reflect, though some of the non-existent roads and questionable toilets jarred us back to reality occasionally! We hope the place retains its charm and culture and its delicate relationship with nature.

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