Where is Leh Ladakh?
You might be wondering where is Leh Ladakh. It’s located in Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on high elevation ground of approximately 3500 meters above. Leh is a capital city of Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh so don’t get confused between Leh and Ladakh. The simplest way to understand is that Leh is a city and Ladakh is a region.
How can we go from place to place?
Hire a local guide
It’s the best option if you have no idea how to go from place to place. Furthermore, the road to each location is different. For example, going to Nubra Valley or Pangong Lake is pretty tough. It requires you excellent driving skill to some extent to go. Otherwise, it will be too dangerous to drive on your own
Rent a motorbike or SUV
If you are passionate about riding motorbikes on your own to the highest motorable pass (Khardungla Pass), this is of course the best option for you but be careful on your driving. I have met a German guy in the hospital spraining his legs. He went from Manali to Pangong Lake and ended up in the bike accident in Nubra Valley.
So where did we go?
Day 1: Rest half day, Leh Palace, Tso Mo and Shanti Stupa
Day 2: Thikse Monastery, Shey Palace, Lamayuru Monastery, Alchi Monastery
Day 3: Khardungla Pass, Stay overnight in Nubra Valley
Day 4: Back from Nubra Valley to Leh City, Stopped by Diskit Monastery for statue of Maitreya Buddha
Day 5: Changla Pass, Pangong Tso
Day 6: Go home!
Here is my itinerary
After landing in Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport (IXL) in Leh Ladakh at 8 am, the weather was so refreshing. We were approximately 3500 meters above the sea level. It’s no surprising that you will find a horde of army loaded with guns because at the airport, the planes used in military purpose are also landing and taking off here too but they posed no threat so relax yourself and don’t be scared of them. I talked to some of them and they are very friendly.
Currently Kashmir curfew is taking place but don’t worry about it too much. That is taking place in Srinagar. So if you want to come to Leh, just come. It’s perfectly safe. You won’t regret it.
There are things that you need to be aware of after landing in Leh Ladakh. Please take high attitude sickness seriously. I met a woman in the city and she is from Germany. Her friend didn’t feel well even after 2 days. There are no options but let her keep resting until she gets better.
Okay, so right after airport, we got picked up by a guy from our guesthouse and immediately headed to our guesthouse for having some rest. The views in the city are stunning and definitely unseen before. So we decided to take some street photos along the way to the guesthouse. Our guesthouse, Padma guesthouse, provided us a tour guide named Mr. Rigzen, a very skillful driver, who was with us for 5 days. He also took a very good care of us even when one of our members got AMS.
The WIFI in Leh is quite unstable. It can work for the night you spend but may not work
We ordered our brunch and then took 2 hours of sleep. And we tried to challenge ourselves by taking a walk to the Main Market. We then met our fellow country mate and she married to Leh husband. After a casual conversation for minutes, then she warned us about acute mountain sickness (AMS) that we shouldn’t be roaming around the town after just a few hours of napping. So we decided to go back to our guesthouse for another rest until our tour guide called us to go to a few places as planned.
Here is the point to note: You won’t feel acute mountain sickness in the first day of arriving in Leh Ladakh but on your second or third day, that’s when it will start taking its toll on you.
Our first day, we went to Leh Palace, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery and Shanti Stupa. The experience in Leh Palace was absolutely amazing.
We met new friends while we were taking photos. A few guys came up to us to use our camera as a prop. Then he introduced himself as a travel writer. It’s a good opportunity to explore ourselves to the new level. Later on, we met more of his friends whom one of them is a Bollywood’s star. As well as we got to meet retired English Indian teacher from Mumbai whom she is so nice to all of us and let us take a bunch of photos together. For me, that’s the best part of traveling because having to meet and befriend with local people is surprisingly fun.
Inside Leh Palace, there is an exhibition about India’s world heritage sites and old photos of Leh as well as animals dwelling here. Here you will never find snow leopards in other seasons but winter. The place to see them is at Hemis National Park, which is considered the world’s best place to see snow leopards in the wild.
And then we went to Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, which took around 20 minutes from Leh Palace. The highlight of this monastery is the yellow pieces of wood lining up, showing a square hole, which you can take pictures of the landscape through the square hole.
Lastly, we went to Shanti Stupa. Due to insufficient rest. I got dizzy and my head was spinning. Not only me, we all had it. So we just walked up to the top, took some quick photos and then left for our guesthouse. I guess because it’s our very first time here.
Early in the morning, we woke up and went to Thikse Monastery where that day is a big chanting day, a big group of monks and child monks got together at the main hall of Thikse monastery.
We found out that there are a lot of westerners interested in such a big morning chanting day as they were sitting inside, excitedly waiting for the monks to arrive and chant.
And then on the way back to our guesthouse, we stopped by at Shey Palace. Shey Palace is located in the south of Leh in Ladakh. It’s basically a ruin palace now.
After resting for a short time, it’s time for the highlight of the day. We’ll be going to Lamayuru Monastery, which took us 3 hours of driving. On the way to Lamayuru, there are a few checkpoints you shouldn’t miss out.
- Magnetic Hill
- Indus River
These three viewpoints are great to stop by and each takes approximately 10-15 minutes for sightseeing and taking photos.
On the way from Lamayuru, we stopped by Alchi Monastery. What is great about this monastery is the entrance. It’s full of souvenir shops where you can shop from small colorful flags of prayer that come in many sizes to big metal traditional masks. For those interested in culture and heritage like me, it’s definitely an eye candy to just look around and it would be fantastic to carry them home.
These two days we only went to Nubra Valley on third day and then came back to Leh city on fourth day. What is not to miss out here are riding double humps camels in Nubra and stopping by at Khardungla pass, the world’s highest motorable pass with its elevation at 5,359 m (17,582 ft).
The road to Khardungla pass isn’t that impressive though. People with motion sickness will have a rough day. Furthermore, the road is pretty narrow so make sure your driver is skillful enough to take you there safely but to be honest, the frequency of accidents in Leh is pretty low as spoken by my driver but anything could happen so better be careful!
At Khardungla pass, the duration you can go out is very short. It only lasts for 10-20 minutes. Otherwise, acute mountain sickness will take an effect on you. The temperature on the top is approximately -6 Celsius degrees in the beginning of September. Of course, I was staying too long (around 20 minutes). So when I got back to our car, I got a fever and my head was so heavy. So on the way to Nubra, we needed to go to the hospital immediately. Instead, we found a sub center of Health department along the way but all they can do was to give me more oxygen but no medical injection due to lack of equipment. They suggested us to go to the hospital in the city in Diskit.
We only took around 20 minutes in the hospital in Diskit, that included injection and seeing doctors. Here in Leh Ladakh – You will never have to worry about being unable to communicate with Ladakhi people. Most of Ladakhi people can speak English pretty well.
Then we arrived in our guesthouse in Nubra. After a few hours of sleep, I feel almost completely recovered from my sickness. So at night, we went to shoot a milky way but no luck, the clouds were all over the sky. We did a few shots where there were less clouds but in different direction of the milky way.
Late morning, we went to the sand dune of Nubra Valley. It’s very famous for riding double hump camels. The price for riding? Just 50 Indian Rupees. I must say, the first timer riding it, things you need to know are when it will get up or get down. Once it gets up, it’s very thrilling but a lot of fun. The same goes with when it gets down. Riding it for 15 minutes just already gave me a slight pain on my crotch but come on, do you think when will you see the camels again in your life? You only live once!
Then we went to Diskit Monastery for statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is a huge statue of 32 meters. You will probably notice a big wooden platform in front of the statue. This is where people are praying for Maitreya Buddha. The procedure for praying might need to be consulted with local people or your guide because it’s entirely different from what we do in Thailand.
Then we headed back to Leh city and of course, we had to pass Khardungla Pass. Those who wanna retake the photos there, here is the last chance to do it!
One of our members got seriously sick from AMS. So we went to the hospital in Leh before leaving for Pangong Lake (Pangong Tso) for injection and checkup whether he can continue our journey to Pangong Lake or not. The doctor said YES! but he didn’t feel well the whole way to Pangong Lake and back to Leh. However, my recommendation is that let the sick person rest, don’t take them with you because it’s too dangerous!
Pangong Lake takes approximately 4-5 hours of driving and the road, of course, is as bad as the road to Nubra Valley. Similar to the trip to Nubra Valley, you will pass the infamous Chang La Pass, which is less well known than Khadungla Pass. However, it’s still ranked as the second highest motorable pass in the world with elevation of 5,360 m or 17,590 ft.
The lake is as beautiful as you can see in the pictures. Blue sky, blue water, all of these. It’s astonishingly extraordinary experience!
Quick facts about Pangong Lake: The elevation of the lake is 4,250 metres (13,940 ft) above. So you need to pay extra attention to your health before going to Pangong Lake. If you come to Leh Ladakh in winter, Pangong Lake will be frozen.