10 Days itinerary of Laddakh - A Valley in the Mighty Clouds (by Rida Irfan Ahmed)





Look in any direction and you will fall for it. That's what came to my mind whenever I gazed at anything in Ladakh. It makes me ecstatic to even ponder over the time that I was fortunate enough to spend there. I have been hearing about Ladakh and its beauty for ages and really wanted to experience it in real time. I believe that it's always better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.    Ladakh is situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India and in the recent times has become one of the favorite places of tourists to visit. It is also known as "Little Tibet" as it shares an international boundary with Tibet and is also home to many Tibetan Buddhists.    Ladakh being the highest altitude plateau region consists a number of hill stations. Now, when we think about hill stations we expect them to be lush green, filled with trees and flowers everywhere. However, Ladakh being one of its kind, you can expect to witness little to no greenery.    Before I present to you my itinerary, I would like to bring to your notice that Ladakh is a barren land and being located at a very high altitude, it has very low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen levels. I have put together a few points that you must take in account before planning your trip to Ladakh.

Look in any direction and you will fall for it. That's what came to my mind whenever I gazed at anything in Ladakh. It makes me ecstatic to even ponder over the time that I was fortunate enough to spend there. I have been hearing about Ladakh and its beauty for ages and really wanted to experience it in real time. I believe that it's always better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.

Ladakh is situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India and in the recent times has become one of the favorite places of tourists to visit. It is also known as "Little Tibet" as it shares an international boundary with Tibet and is also home to many Tibetan Buddhists.

Ladakh being the highest altitude plateau region consists a number of hill stations. Now, when we think about hill stations we expect them to be lush green, filled with trees and flowers everywhere. However, Ladakh being one of its kind, you can expect to witness little to no greenery.

Before I present to you my itinerary, I would like to bring to your notice that Ladakh is a barren land and being located at a very high altitude, it has very low atmospheric pressure and low oxygen levels. I have put together a few points that you must take in account before planning your trip to Ladakh.
• Dealing with low Oxygen levels and Acclimatization   Make sure you don't rush your trip when you are here as Acclimatization is an essential part when you are traveling to Ladakh. As soon as you arrive in Leh, don't immediately plan a road journey to Pangong or Nubra Valley. Please, give yourself at least the first two days to settle and adapt to the environment, or else you could easily get severe headaches, nausea or ataxia.   1. Even the most physically fit people can be affected by mountain sickness, so it's important for everyone to acclimatize.   2. If you suffer from asthma or heart ailments, you must double check with your physician and must take necessary precautions while being here.   3. Please avoid smoking and keep yourself hydrated.  4. If by any chance you feel inability to breathe, feel free to visit any physician and he could do a checkup and pump oxygen into your body, if needed.

• Dealing with low Oxygen levels and Acclimatization 
Make sure you don't rush your trip when you are here as Acclimatization is an essential part when you are traveling to Ladakh. As soon as you arrive in Leh, don't immediately plan a road journey to Pangong or Nubra Valley. Please, give yourself at least the first two days to settle and adapt to the environment, or else you could easily get severe headaches, nausea or ataxia. 
1. Even the most physically fit people can be affected by mountain sickness, so it's important for everyone to acclimatize. 
2. If you suffer from asthma or heart ailments, you must double check with your physician and must take necessary precautions while being here. 
3. Please avoid smoking and keep yourself hydrated.
4. If by any chance you feel inability to breathe, feel free to visit any physician and he could do a checkup and pump oxygen into your body, if needed.
Day 1: Delhi ---> Leh   We started from Delhi and took a 1hr 30 min flight to Leh. The flight to Leh is charming in itself. You get to see the beautiful snow-clad mountains much before you are about to reach Leh. As soon as I landed, the lovely cool breeze hit me and then I felt that I have finally arrived. Since my father is in the Air Force, we were going to stay in the Army Cantonment, so the drive from the airport to the Cant. was short and sweet. My father's friend advised us and told us the necessary precautions that we need to take for our body to completely adapt to the high altitude and low oxygen levels. So, we completely took rest for the first day and didn't step out anywhere. However, I took a small peek of the mountains that were visible from the Cantonment and was desperately waiting to explore the town of Leh.


Day 1: Delhi ---> Leh 
We started from Delhi and took a 1hr 30 min flight to Leh. The flight to Leh is charming in itself. You get to see the beautiful snow-clad mountains much before you are about to reach Leh. As soon as I landed, the lovely cool breeze hit me and then I felt that I have finally arrived. Since my father is in the Air Force, we were going to stay in the Army Cantonment, so the drive from the airport to the Cant. was short and sweet. My father's friend advised us and told us the necessary precautions that we need to take for our body to completely adapt to the high altitude and low oxygen levels. So, we completely took rest for the first day and didn't step out anywhere. However, I took a small peek of the mountains that were visible from the Cantonment and was desperately waiting to explore the town of Leh.
Day 2: Local Sightseeing (Spituk Monastery and Sangam Valley)   For the second day, we wanted to go out exploring but still not exert ourselves too much. So, we didn't have many places to visit on our agenda. My father's friend introduced a local monk who also happened to be his friend and he was supposed to guide us through the city and take us places. He had been living there all his life and was very well acquainted with the city. First, he took us to Spituk Monastery which happens to be 8 kms from the town of Leh. It is home to about a hundred monks and consists of three chapels. It provides a beautiful view of the town of Leh.   After that, we went to witness the Sangam Valley also known as the Confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers. It is a 48 km drive. The two rivers can be distinctly seen at the confluence and is a scenic place to relax, spend time with family and friends and take pictures.

Day 2: Local Sightseeing (Spituk Monastery and Sangam Valley) 
For the second day, we wanted to go out exploring but still not exert ourselves too much. So, we didn't have many places to visit on our agenda. My father's friend introduced a local monk who also happened to be his friend and he was supposed to guide us through the city and take us places. He had been living there all his life and was very well acquainted with the city. First, he took us to Spituk Monastery which happens to be 8 kms from the town of Leh. It is home to about a hundred monks and consists of three chapels. It provides a beautiful view of the town of Leh. 
After that, we went to witness the Sangam Valley also known as the Confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers. It is a 48 km drive. The two rivers can be distinctly seen at the confluence and is a scenic place to relax, spend time with family and friends and take pictures.
Day 3: (Magnetic Hill Road, Shey Palace and Monastery)    The Magnetic Hill Road is a tourist attraction and is called such because of a scientific reasoning attached to it. Magnetic Hill is basically an optical illusion in which a slight downhill appears to be an uphill slope. The alignment of the road with the slope of the background can give the illusion that cars are able to drift upwards. We even tried it with our own car and were amazed by the result.   Next, we went to Shey Palace and Monastery. It is located 15 kms from the south of Leh. The huge image of the seated Buddha is believed to be the biggest metal idol and the second largest Buddha state in the Ladakh region.

Day 3: (Magnetic Hill Road, Shey Palace and Monastery)



The Magnetic Hill Road is a tourist attraction and is called such because of a scientific reasoning attached to it. Magnetic Hill is basically an optical illusion in which a slight downhill appears to be an uphill slope. The alignment of the road with the slope of the background can give the illusion that cars are able to drift upwards. We even tried it with our own car and were amazed by the result. 
Next, we went to Shey Palace and Monastery. It is located 15 kms from the south of Leh. The huge image of the seated Buddha is believed to be the biggest metal idol and the second largest Buddha state in the Ladakh region.
Day 4: Always expect the unexpected (Khardungla Pass, Nubra Valley)    Now that we had adapted to our environment, we planned to finally go to Pangong, to behold the beautiful lake that we had been seeing in movies like "3 Idiots" and "Jab Tak Hai Jaan".  We left our place early at around 8 am in the morning and were hoping that "Khardungla Pass" wasn't closed because of snowfall.   Khardungla Pass is at an altitude of 5,359 meters and is 39.7 km from Leh. Journey from Leh to Khardungla was a painful 3 hours’ drive up on a winding road, interrupted by minor landslides and avalanches. It is also believed to be the highest motorable road in the world. Khardungla Pass is an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley.  Nubra Valley is about 120 km from Khardungla Pass and we were lucky enough to reach there in time as Khardungla Pass had closed down because of too much of snowfall and landslides.   We were quite tired when we reached Nubra, however we didn't want to miss the scenic sand dunes and double hump camel Safari. It is one of the most incredible activities and many tourists are seen enjoying it. The Camel Safari is a great way to enjoy the scenic view that the Valley has to offer.



Day 4: Always expect the unexpected (Khardungla Pass, Nubra Valley) 
 Now that we had adapted to our environment, we planned to finally go to Pangong, to behold the beautiful lake that we had been seeing in movies like "3 Idiots" and "Jab Tak Hai Jaan".
We left our place early at around 8 am in the morning and were hoping that "Khardungla Pass" wasn't closed because of snowfall. 
Khardungla Pass is at an altitude of 5,359 meters and is 39.7 km from Leh. Journey from Leh to Khardungla was a painful 3 hours’ drive up on a winding road, interrupted by minor landslides and avalanches. It is also believed to be the highest motorable road in the world. Khardungla Pass is an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley.
Nubra Valley is about 120 km from Khardungla Pass and we were lucky enough to reach there in time as Khardungla Pass had closed down because of too much of snowfall and landslides. 
We were quite tired when we reached Nubra, however we didn't want to miss the scenic sand dunes and double hump camel Safari. It is one of the most incredible activities and many tourists are seen enjoying it. The Camel Safari is a great way to enjoy the scenic view that the Valley has to offer.  
Since, Pangong is too far and it at an even higher altitude, we didn't want to travel at night, so we decided to stay the night in a small village close to Nubra known as Shyok. As there are no hotels in Nubra Valley, 'Homestay' is quite a popular way to reside there. 'Homestay’, a word used to refer to accommodations in people's own houses where they provide you food and accommodation and charge you accordingly. Now, speaking of our home stay, I have a very important point to bring to you. You only get electricity there from 7pm to 11pm and the power is cut for the rest of the day. This is the case in most of the parts of Ladakh. Shyok village is even famous for their Sulphur Water Baths which are known to be great treatments medically.

Since, Pangong is too far and it at an even higher altitude, we didn't want to travel at night, so we decided to stay the night in a small village close to Nubra known as Shyok. As there are no hotels in Nubra Valley, 'Homestay' is quite a popular way to reside there. 'Homestay’, a word used to refer to accommodations in people's own houses where they provide you food and accommodation and charge you accordingly. Now, speaking of our home stay, I have a very important point to bring to you. You only get electricity there from 7pm to 11pm and the power is cut for the rest of the day. This is the case in most of the parts of Ladakh. Shyok village is even famous for their Sulphur Water Baths which are known to be great treatments medically.
Day 5: Like I said, always expect the unexpected (On our way to Pangong)  We left in the morning at around 10 am for Pangong. Pangong is almost 274 km from Nubra Valley and we were expecting to reach Pangong by 5-6 pm. We left for Pangong and were amazed to see the beautiful mountains and deserted areas with no tourists around. Our journey was long but still smooth and easy, until we were driving on the road and suddenly, much to our surprise our car had stopped. It was horrifying for all of us. Why? Because our car had been stuck in the sand. And what was even more horrifying?  The fact that our car was stuck in the sand in the middle of nowhere, with nobody around to help. It was almost 4 pm and as you know it gets darker early there and the sun had almost started setting. We waited and tried to remove the car from the sand but nothing happened. However, we were lucky enough to receive help at around 6 pm, as a few workers were returning home. We finally left and reached Pangong at 11 pm in the night. Out of all the road trips I've had, this one was the most terrifying. There were no lights around, and the mountains were scary looking and the roads were not wide. Honestly, this is the reason why you shouldn't travel to Pangong late at night. Please don't risk it.    Day 6: (Pangong Lake and Returning to Leh)  The first glimpse of Pangong Tso is a sight I'll never forget in my life. The huge lake is more like a land locked sea, only one third of which is in India and the rest lies in Tibet (controlled by China). We were mesmerized by the shades of the blue water. At one glance it was turquoise, the next azure and next indigo... and so on... It is truly one of an experience and cannot be put into words. You have to visit it yourself to truly understand what I am trying to convey. We then left for Leh and were very tired, so we had dinner and slept.

Day 5: Like I said, always expect the unexpected (On our way to Pangong)
We left in the morning at around 10 am for Pangong. Pangong is almost 274 km from Nubra Valley and we were expecting to reach Pangong by 5-6 pm. We left for Pangong and were amazed to see the beautiful mountains and deserted areas with no tourists around. Our journey was long but still smooth and easy, until we were driving on the road and suddenly, much to our surprise our car had stopped. It was horrifying for all of us. Why? Because our car had been stuck in the sand. And what was even more horrifying?  The fact that our car was stuck in the sand in the middle of nowhere, with nobody around to help. It was almost 4 pm and as you know it gets darker early there and the sun had almost started setting. We waited and tried to remove the car from the sand but nothing happened. However, we were lucky enough to receive help at around 6 pm, as a few workers were returning home. We finally left and reached Pangong at 11 pm in the night. Out of all the road trips I've had, this one was the most terrifying. There were no lights around, and the mountains were scary looking and the roads were not wide. Honestly, this is the reason why you shouldn't travel to Pangong late at night. Please don't risk it.

Day 6: (Pangong Lake and Returning to Leh)


The first glimpse of Pangong Tso is a sight I'll never forget in my life. The huge lake is more like a land locked sea, only one third of which is in India and the rest lies in Tibet (controlled by China). We were mesmerized by the shades of the blue water. At one glance it was turquoise, the next azure and next indigo... and so on... It is truly one of an experience and cannot be put into words. You have to visit it yourself to truly understand what I am trying to convey. We then left for Leh and were very tired, so we had dinner and slept.
Day 7: (Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Monastery)   The monasteries in Ladakh are much more than religious centers. Located in heaven that Ladakh is, these prestigious monasteries are purifying places where one can find inner peace.   We visited Thiksey Monastery which is 19 km from Leh. If you are interested in staying in monasteries in Ladakh, Thiksey lets you realize your dream.

Day 7: (Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Monastery) 
The monasteries in Ladakh are much more than religious centers. Located in heaven that Ladakh is, these prestigious monasteries are purifying places where one can find inner peace. 
We visited Thiksey Monastery which is 19 km from Leh. If you are interested in staying in monasteries in Ladakh, Thiksey lets you realize your dream.
Then, we went to Hemis Monastery which is 40 km from Leh. This is one of the most charming Buddhist monasteries in Leh Ladakh, managed and run by the Drukpa sect of Buddhism. It boasts of a spectacular copper statue of Buddha and beautiful paintings, Stupas, depicting various aspects of Buddhist culture.

Then, we went to Hemis Monastery which is 40 km from Leh. This is one of the most charming Buddhist monasteries in Leh Ladakh, managed and run by the Drukpa sect of Buddhism. It boasts of a spectacular copper statue of Buddha and beautiful paintings, Stupas, depicting various aspects of Buddhist culture.
Day 8: (On our way to Tso Moriri Lake)   The lake is located to the southeast of Leh in eastern Ladakh, at a road distance of 240 kms the road is in a good condition for the most part. One can also reach Tso moriri directly from the Pangong Tso via the remote Changtang region.  It was freezing cold along the way and we reached the Tso Moriri in the late evening and stayed in our hotel. As it was dark, we couldn't get a glimpse of the lake. The Tso Moriri lake is almost untouched by tourists so you will not see many people around.

Day 8: (On our way to Tso Moriri Lake) 
The lake is located to the southeast of Leh in eastern Ladakh, at a road distance of 240 kms the road is in a good condition for the most part. One can also reach Tso moriri directly from the Pangong Tso via the remote Changtang region.
It was freezing cold along the way and we reached the Tso Moriri in the late evening and stayed in our hotel. As it was dark, we couldn't get a glimpse of the lake. The Tso Moriri lake is almost untouched by tourists so you will not see many people around.
Day 9: (Bewitched by the Enchanting beauty of Tso Moriri Lake)  Due to its long distance of 250 km from Leh, Tso Moriri is not visited by too many tourists. It was 6 am and I had the first glance of Tso Moriri Lake from my window. My heart was thumping with excitement. It had already sensed some magic. I knew I was about to witness something special.   In its isolation, unending vastness and sheer raw beauty, we sensed an untouched purity,mighty, endless, vast, abundant, clear, beautiful and pure…it touched and moved me like only nature can.

Day 9: (Bewitched by the Enchanting beauty of Tso Moriri Lake)
Due to its long distance of 250 km from Leh, Tso Moriri is not visited by too many tourists. It was 6 am and I had the first glance of Tso Moriri Lake from my window. My heart was thumping with excitement. It had already sensed some magic. I knew I was about to witness something special. 


In its isolation, unending vastness and sheer raw beauty, we sensed an untouched purity,mighty, endless, vast, abundant, clear, beautiful and pure…it touched and moved me like only nature can.
Day 1o : (Rancho's School, Ladakh and SECMOL School)  After a very tiring yet amazing trip to Tso Moriri, we decided to go sight-seeing locally. The first stop on our list was, Rancho's School Ladakh.  This school became famous after the Aamir Khan's movie Three Idiots, hence the name. The name of this school is Druk Padma Karpo School, this is also known as Druk White Lotus school. The clean and eco-friendly  structures of the school is designed to withstand seismic disturbances. This school was conferred one of the most beautiful schools in the world by BBC London in the year 2016. We were given a full tour of the school by a guide. After this, I can say that it is very different from other schools.  SECMOL is located 20 kms from Leh and follows the pattern of 'Self learning'. The school is made of mud and clay hence it is an example of green construction. They also have efficient energy solutions to local problems. To give an example: For cooking, the campus uses biogas. On days when sunlight cannot be depended on for electricity, they have a backup of solar batteries which are charged when sunshine is abundant. The conserved electricity is used on dull, cloudy days. In a nutshell, the students of SECMOL are exposed to overall and complete learning. I think that is a beautiful vision to give the youth of today, isn’t it?

Day 1o : (Rancho's School, Ladakh and SECMOL School)
After a very tiring yet amazing trip to Tso Moriri, we decided to go sight-seeing locally. The first stop on our list was, Rancho's School Ladakh.  This school became famous after the Aamir Khan's movie Three Idiots, hence the name. The name of this school is Druk Padma Karpo School, this is also known as Druk White Lotus school. The clean and eco-friendly  structures of the school is designed to withstand seismic disturbances. This school was conferred one of the most beautiful schools in the world by BBC London in the year 2016. We were given a full tour of the school by a guide. After this, I can say that it is very different from other schools.
SECMOL is located 20 kms from Leh and follows the pattern of 'Self learning'. The school is made of mud and clay hence it is an example of green construction. They also have efficient energy solutions to local problems. To give an example: For cooking, the campus uses biogas. On days when sunlight cannot be depended on for electricity, they have a backup of solar batteries which are charged when sunshine is abundant. The conserved electricity is used on dull, cloudy days. In a nutshell, the students of SECMOL are exposed to overall and complete learning. I think that is a beautiful vision to give the youth of today, isn’t it?
Day 11 :  Our Last Day - (Lamayuru Monastery)  Lamayuru or Yuru Monastery  is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. It is 15 kms from Leh, and this splendid monastery is considered as one of the most fascinating places that one must visit.   At night, we stayed in our Cant. where my father's friend had organized a bonfire. We all had a great time, where we relaxed, ate some good food and recalled our lovely experiences that we had on this trip.

Day 11 :  Our Last Day - (Lamayuru Monastery)
Lamayuru or Yuru Monastery  is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. It is 15 kms from Leh, and this splendid monastery is considered as one of the most fascinating places that one must visit. 
At night, we stayed in our Cant. where my father's friend had organized a bonfire. We all had a great time, where we relaxed, ate some good food and recalled our lovely experiences that we had on this trip.
 • Bidding bittersweet Goodbye to Ladakh  Probably the hardest part of my travel experiences is bidding a goodbye. I cannot fathom leaving a place after spending such a lovely and sweet time there. But, as they say, Good things have to come to an end so that better things can happen. I had a marvelous and charismatic stay in Ladakh and I took so many memories that will leave me nostalgic for years.

• Bidding bittersweet Goodbye to Ladakh
Probably the hardest part of my travel experiences is bidding a goodbye. I cannot fathom leaving a place after spending such a lovely and sweet time there. But, as they say, Good things have to come to an end so that better things can happen. I had a marvelous and charismatic stay in Ladakh and I took so many memories that will leave me nostalgic for years.

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