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You can describe Leh Ladakh roadtrip in one single word, ‘Adventure’.Here I am going to tell you places to visit in leh ladakh, things to do in ladakh and complete travel guide about leh ladakh.Before going forward, one thing i want to tell you that there are more than 100 places to visit in leh ladakh region itself.Definitely you cannot cover all the places in your single trip.And there is no point in rushing from one place to another, you are going on vacations not on a treasure hunt.Hence i am categorizing places to visit in leh ladakh in terms of your vacation period.One more thing i want to tell you is that Leh Ladakh is not about destination spots unlike any other tourist place,Leh Ladakh is about its roadtrip journey,journey which will amaze you every hour either by its towering snow capped Himalayan peaks, rapid flowing Indus and Zanskar rivers or its lush green valleys.Whether you are going from Delhi or Srinagar in your car, on your bike or directly arriving in Leh from flight, I will guide you on each mode of transport.
In June 2015 I visited Ladakh, this place first make me speechless and now turned into a story teller.Checkout my travelogue on my roadtrip of 6506 km from Pune to ladakh on my bike.
Places to visit in Leh ladakh – Travel Guide-7 or lesser days trip
1) Nubra valley via Khardung la pass: Indian Cold Desert
Panamik Sulphur Hot Springs
Nubra valley has lot much to offer. Ladakh is mostly famous for its cold desert.You can find desert,sand dunes and icy mountains at the same place. It Sounds strange but you will get amaze by its own charm and beauty.Its Panamik Sulphur hot springs has something new to offer you.Things to do in Nubra valley and Khardung la pass,how to reach
2) Pangong lake via chang la pass: Best Eye candy on Earth
A must visit place to visit in Leh Ladakh.Feel peace with the best eye candy on earth.When I reached the lake after 7 hours of tough bike ride, suddenly all pain got vanished with its single view. Feel the peace around lake and take a sigh of bliss.While coming from Leh, you have to cross third highest motorable pass in the world, ‘Chang la pass’ to reach pangong lake.You might experience your first snowfall at chang la pass.If you are brave enough then take a dip in chilling lake in summer or when ice freezes in winter you might want to do ice skating at the bank of the lake.How to reach Pangong, where to stay and things to do,for all the queries here is our complete travel guide.
3) Zanskar,The Virgin Valley
This is the place which gets more attraction in winters for its chadar trekking, when all other parts of ladakh region is inaccessible.Frankly speaking, zanskar valley has nothing much to offer in summers.Specially if we consider 12 hours time to reach zanskar valley from Leh.If you love to ride on more rough terrains than zojila or khardungla pass, then you should ride to zanskar valley which offers more tough water crossings than baralachla pass.In summers there are mainly two attractions.
- River Rafting
- Sightseeing: Confluence of Indus and Zanskar River.
Well Rafting here can be even more adventurous than Rafting in Rishikesh (considered as the most adventurous location for rafting in India), if water intensity is above average.
Well trekking in summers is not as popular as in winters.You can walk(trek) on zanskar river in winters, as whole river got freezed.It is the only river in india on which one can trek in winters.Pangong lake also got freezed in winters, but walking or trekking on lake is not permissible because of security reasons as area is very near to china border.
Well most of the people visit ladakh only in summers as area is inaccessible in winters.But people who loves adventurous ice(chadar) trekking visit Zanskar in winters.
This trek is considered as one of the most exciting and unique treks – a very special and an extraordinary trek on shiny ice on the bank of Tsarap River.For cahdar trekking you need guide and proper gears for trekking.You can find some travel agencies in Leh which provides guide tour for chadar trekking.You can book your your slot for chadar trekking here.
4)Magnetic Hill: Feel Real Optical Illusion
Situated 30 Kms from Leh on Srinagar-Leh highway. If you stopped your vehicles at right place marked by BRO on road in neutral position, after sometime what you will notice that your vehicle(either bike or car) will start continue to move at a speed of around 20 KMPH on uphill road. Yes uphill, you will surprised to see this gravity defy phenomenon.
But let me tell you, this is not any gravity rule exception. Here optical illusion phenomenon exists. In layman’s language, road which seems to be uphill is actually downhill road, hence your vehicle will start moving automatically.
5) Hall Of Fame: Dras War Memorial
Situated 5 km from dras city centre, across the Tiger Hill.Memorial was made in the memory of soldiers wh0 died in 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan.Every year on 26th July ,Kargil Vijay Divas is celebrated at this place.If you are planning your ladakh trip in july. Then its worth to adjust your dates around 26th july to be there in Kargil for this spectacular event.
During my Ladakh trip in june 20115, I visited Kargil War Memorial thoroughly.You can find war time bunkers and weapons used in the war. Main attraction of war memorial is war time photos and stories written by one soldier to another or soldier to their family. Be there, its worth to read all those war time stories. Your heart will definitely fill with emotions and you will understand what heavy price our young soldiers had paid just to save our borders.After reading these stories, i went completely silent for about two hours.Must visit place, spend at least two hours there.You can pay your homage to our war heroes who rests beneath this memorial.Have a cup of coffee and watch some war time videos at memorial’s cafeteria.
6)Hemis Monastery And National Park
Hemis Monastery located 45 kms from Leh city which is easily accessible by roads well maintained by BRO.Monastery originally built in 13th century and later rebuilt by ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal.Hemis monastery considered as the weathiest monastery for its rich collection of remnants like copper statue of lord Bhudha, stupas made of gold.The Tibetan Buddhist monastery belongs to the Drukpa Lineage or the Dragon Order of Mahayana Buddhism.
Hemis Festival, usually happens in summer in month of june or july.Its better to plan your itinerary such that you can visit monastery at the time of festival.Main attraction of this festival is Mask dance performed by Lamas.Dance takes place in rectangular courtyard around a sacred pole.Dance is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava, who lost his life while fighting the evil spirits to save ladaakhi people.This ladakhi dance also gets featured in movie Haider also.
Hemis National Park,one of the highest altitude national park in the country is close to the monastery.The park is famous for rare animals like Snow leopard.
You can find hotels and homestay as well near Hemis Monastery. Monastery itself provide overnight stay to tourists.Monastery also provides food to tourists.Don’t forget to have a butter tea in monastery, which also considered as the tradition of offering butter tea to visitors in monastery.
7) Shanti Stupa: Sign of Brotherhood between Japan and India
It was built in 1991 by japanese buddhist Bhikshu. Shanti stupa also holds the relics of Bhudha at its base, enshrined by the 14th dalai lama.The Shanti Stupa features the photograph of the current Dalai Lama.The Shanti Stupa was built to promote world peace and prosperity and to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism.It is considered a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh.
The Shanti Stupa overlook the city of Leh,providing panoramic view of the city. Sunrise and sunset are considered to provide the best views from Shanti Stupa.The stupa is illuminated with lights at night time. The stupa is open for tourists from5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
8) Thicksay Monastery: City In Itself
The monastery is located at an altitude of 11800 feet on hilltop. It is a twelve-story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art such as stupa, statues, wall paintings and swords. It contains a 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest such statues in Ladakh,covering two stories of the building.You can find this monastary 19 km from Leh while coming back from pangong lake. Thicksay Monastary is like compact city in itself. In one of the twelve story complex, one story consists of school for children monks. Monastary also consists medical facilities for monks and nuns live permanently at Thicksay.
You can visit all the above places in your seven to ten days trip in ladakh. Above places are must and will cover almost all of your ladakh experience, below are some places which you should visit if you are going Ladakh on extended trip.
9) Tso Moriri Lake: Under rated but better than Pangong Lake
Well Pangong lake receives much attention after 3 idiot’s climax. Pangong lake beauty is also adorable, but Tso Moriri has something which will definitely amaze you. Tso Moriri attracts less tourist than Pangong Lake mainly because of its less popularity and certain distant geographic location from other tourist spots.One can easily cover Tso Moriri lake after Pangong lake while moving down towards Manali from Leh. For more details like how to reach Tso Moriri, you should visit Pangong lake travel guide in which i discussed about all possible routes to reach Tso Moriri lake as well.
Tso Moriri lake is the highest fresh water lake in India at a staggering altitude of 15075 feet.Tso Moriri comes under Ramsar convention which mainly emphasis on conservation of wetland reserves, hence you won’t find any tents and camps near lake.Lake is also a major habitable place for migratory birds.
You cannot find any accommodation near lake unlike Pangong lake.You can find accommodation in Korzok village either in home stay or tented accommodation.You can pitch your own tent as well near other tents.From Korzok village as well you will have a distinct view of lake which streches from 6 km wide and 24 km long. You should also visit Korzok monastery situated near the Korzok village.
Lake water is mainly fed by springs and snow melt from the mountains of Changthang plateau.Color of water in lake is the pure reflection of sky.In afternoon, lake reflects clear sky blue color.Similarly at the time of sunrise it reflects little reddish color.If you love to do some photography, then you should wake up early in the morning at around 5:30 a.m. to take some breathtaking pictures.Just be there at the lake side and feel the serenity of such beautiful place.You can also find some rare bird species around lake like black necked crane etc.
While coming back from tso moriri to leh, one can also visit Tso kar lake as well and passes through the Taglangla pass,’World’s Second highest motorable pass’.
10) Tso Kar Lake: For Widlife lovers Only
Lake has nothing much to offer if you already visited Pangong and Tso Moriri lake.Tso Kar is comparatively smaller than Tso Moriri and Pangong Lake.As Tso Kar is salt water lake hence supports more life, you can find higher flora and fauna than Pangong and Tso Moriri lake.You can find couple of rare mammals and birds around the lake.Large number of breeding colonies are present near the lake to feed birds like brown headed gulls,strip geese, rust geese and terns.Black necked crane and tibetan Grouse are common in lake vicinity.Basin of Tso Kar and its tributaries also habitats couple of other rare mammal species like Tibetan gazelles, Tibetan wolves,foxes and Mormots.
In terms of climate temperature, one can find low temperature in Tso Kar as compared to Pangong and Tso Moriri lake.If you are visiting Tso Kar in winters in month of November to february,only the extreme lovers would come at that time of the year.Then you can also find majestic views of kiangs, Red Foxes,Wolves and very rare Snow Leopards in the wild.
You won’t find any telephone n/w there, not even BSNL. Only mode to communicate to the outside world is wireless phones available to some local people.Apart from oxygen cylinders and basic medical facility, no medical aid will be available at Tso kar. Hence it is advisable to carry some regular medicines.Nearest petrol pump from Tso kar is in Karu, which is around 200 kms from there.It is advisable to carry extra petrol in cans while coming from Leh.
Well Tso Kar will not come in must visit place in Ladakh itinerary. But it has something special to offer which other lakes won’t provide.Well recommended for wildlife and adventure lovers.
11) Donkey Sanctuary: Great Initiative
Donkeys are used for carrying loads in day to day life. In kashmir donkeys are extensively used for trekking and other use.But donkey owners abandon them once they were aged,retired or injured. Sanctuary is a great initiative from some foreign journalists and Indian people.Sanctuary is a home for many homeless donkeys which were abandoned by donkey masters.Sanctuary provides food, home and care to these estranged donkeys. You can also feed them with your own hands.They accept donation to run the sanctuary effectively.Donate according to your budget, that will help them to own more and more helpless donkeys.
Other Things To Do In Ladakh
Adventure Sports: Are you ready for Adrenaline Rush
In India, one can do skiing either in Himachal Pradesh or Jammu and kashmir. In J&K, Gulmarg is famous for skiing and adventurous lovers.Skiing Professionals from all the world came here in winters, from December to March. In summers as well one can do skiing, as there is enough snow there in Gulmarg.
2) Horse Polo
In the month of september, local people organizes horse polo in dusty ground with the help of Army people who also has some interest in playing this adventure game.
3) Ice Hockey
Sponsored by Ladakh Winters sports club in winters. Sports club organizes ice hockey event near stok mountain ranges at a height of about 20,000 ft. Unlike Canada or other countries, where ice hockey is played as an indoor game. Here in Ladakh, ice hockey is played on natural ice in open air.
I have tried to covered all the tourist destinations in Ladakh. One thing i would like to mention about this place, Ladakh is all about experiencing its journey, its tough terrains, its chilling wind, its natural beauty, hefty mountains,their culture and food.Spend some time with local people and you will get to know how difficult to survive at such remote places specially in winters.We travel different destination in ladakh to experience all these aspects.If I have missed something, then please let us know by your comments below or you can visit my travelogue of my bike roadtrip of 6506 km from Pune to ladakh. Please let us know through comments for your further queries, will try to respond as soon as possible.