By– Rachna Shah (L&T- Corporate HR)
Inhabited by the people of the Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent, Ladakh spans from the Karakoram Mountain range in the north to the Great Himalayas in the south. Full of natural wonders, Ladakh is home to scenic lakes, hilltop Buddhist monasteries and the world’s highest motorable pass. The road to Ladakh has been a pull to many road travelers like Jatin Kapoor, Managing Director of Alternate Atlas Travels. I had no idea that the most magical lakes exist in this part of the Himalayan region. The trip was dotted with uphill driving, adventure, excitement, fun and thrill!
To put it precisely, the Ladakh road trip is an experience which will not fade from my memories for this lifetime. In fact, we were so driven by unquenchable thirst for thrill that we drove to Zanskar Valley beyond Leh.
We started from Mumbai and directly landed at Kushok Bakula airport Leh – 3500m above sea level. This was aging of 11 girls called as the “Women Power”. We spent a couple of hours to get acclimatized to the weather followed by a visit to Leh Palace. The Leh Palace is a former royal palace overlooking the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh. Modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, the palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. It is nine storey high; the upper floors accommodate the royal family, while the lower floors comprise of stables and store rooms. The palace is open to the public and the roof provides panoramic views of Leh and the surrounding areas.
Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh district, Ladakh, in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura and part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The stupa has become a tourist attraction not only due to its religious significance but also due to its location which provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. There is truly amazing Shanti Stupa Café where we tasted the Ladakhi Tea, specially called as the butter tea. Awesome varieties of tea such as White tea & Butter Tea along with Maggi were an attraction after reaching this place.
Day 02 started with river rafting at Indus – Zanskar valley- the best river rafting destination that one could think of. River rafting in Ladakh is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. It provides the best opportunity to enjoy and experience the natural beauty of the spectacular landscape with deep gorges, towering snowcapped peaks, hilltop monasteries, hillside villages, and glimpses of the unique wildlife.
On the way to Zanskar valley, we came across a fascinating yet interesting place called as the Magnetic Hill. Objects and cars on the hill may appear to roll “uphill” in defiance of gravity when they are, in fact, rolling downhill.
A fantastic drive to Lamayuru or Yuru Monastery , a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Lamayouro, Leh district, India. Lamayuru is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks. It has, in the past, housed up to 400 monks, many of which are now based in gompas in surrounding villages.
Each passing day was an experience in itself. Tour to Khardungla Pass 18380 Ft., followed by Nubra Valley and Hundur Sand Dunes – A drive of 120 Kms from Leh. Deskit monastery, Hunder Villages and camel Safari in Sand Dunes are some of the attractions between Deskit and Hunder Village.
You can spot the double humped Bactrian camel here. They were probably abandoned here centuries ago by passing caravans and have since flourished in this terrain. Hunder is the last point for tourists and the road beyond leads to the army base for Siachen glacier and it serves as a base for tourists exploring the Nubra Valley.
The most exciting day still awaits. The drive from Leh to Pangong Lake. The long awaited place on the bucket list finally got ticked off. The amazing Pangong Tso is a photographer’s ultimate delight. We were at the ramp for about 30-45 minutes taking in the glorious view all around and clicking pictures – as many as the memory card could hold. We were mesmerized by the shades of the blue water. One moment it was azure, the next turquoise and next indigo… and so on. From there we again drove to reach Camp Watermark at Spangmik, where we were to spend the night. We fell in love with our camps as soon as we saw them. Nestled right on the shores of the lake, this is the best choice for a night stay at Pangong Tso. We were given the last three camps and hence we never compromised on the privacy part. The camps are made of canvas and the floors were covered with jute carpet to provide warmth. Each camp has an attached bathroom with cold running water. The beds had thick blankets and a hot water bag under each blanket – just perfect! While everyone else headed to the canteen tent for a steaming cup of tea or coffee, I headed towards the lake. I was so spellbound, that I lost track of time. I sat on a rock and gazed at the lake – as far as my eyes could take me. I have never seen something so magical and beautiful. ‘Pangong Tso’ means ‘long, narrow, enchanting lake’ and it’s aptly called, as it put me in a trance like state. It churned up so much emotions inside me that I felt like spending my entire life there. I don’t know how long I was missing, but when my friends finally found me they didn’t disturb my silence. Instead they occupied a nearby spot and started admiring the lake – their way. It was the sound of their loud ‘whoa’s and ‘wow’s, that brought me back.
Must visit restaurants at Leh:
Gesmo for Yak Cheese Pizza
Neha Snacks for Indian Chat
Payer flags for friends & family
Apricot Fruits and lot of other interesting items from Leh market.
Best time to visit- May to August (preferably July)