Ladakh is a land of magical beauty that seems part reality part fantasy. Mountains rising high towards the sky, the stark cold deserts and beautiful rivers carving paths through the terrain create a serene yet harsh landscape that beckons your spirit of adventure. It is isolated from the rest of the India by the mountainous peaks thus still remaining true to its unique ancestral culture where life is characterized by intense spirituality. Rich traditions of Mahayana Buddhism still flourish in the purest form in this region, which has often been referred to as Little Tibet. The rapid urbanisation taking place in India is yet to reach here, providing a great relief to those who need a getaway from the hustle bustle of life. Ladakh is like a forgotten moment in time. It is common in Ladakh to come across villages carved out of veritable mountainside, stupas reaching the sky, monasteries virtually hanging from the cliffs and crags. Their interiors are filled with priceless antiques and art.
A trip to Leh in Ladakh is one of the best trips you will ever undertake in your life. But there is so much to see and experience that it is easy to lose yourself in the hectic schedule and miss out on the thrill and calmness of the wonderful region. It is better to keep a planned itinerary to properly balance everything in you travel trip. Here we have a six nights and seven days itinerary for a travel trip to Leh, Ladakh. It is a very common itinerary followed by most tourists and covers all the major tourist attractions across this beautiful destination.
If you book a travel package though some travel agency of website, there is a very good chance they will provide a planned itinerary for you with a local travel guide. In most cases, it would look something like the schedule shown by us here.
There are taxis, cars and even bikes available for hire to tourists by many agencies. You can choose according to your need. Regular buses also travel to and from major tourist spots and they are also cheaper than rental vehicles. You can, of course, also take your own vehicle if you choose to reach Leh by road.
Leh is one of the major tourist destinations in India. Famous for its magnificent views and distinctive landscape, it hosts the tourist season in summers during the months of June till September-November. Ladakhi winter is too extreme to cater to many tourists. Thus, it is difficult to find free accommodation without making arrangements beforehand. There are many hotels at Leh and locals also rent out rooms to paying guests. As you travel to sightseeing spots such as Nubra valley or Pangong Tso lake, there are also lodging arrangements in and around them. Many tourists opt to stay at luxury camps to get the authentic Ladakhi experience. If you are unable to make hotel arrangements before reaching Leh, you have the option of staying as a paying guest.
Food is a reflection of the place and its people. Ladakhi food represents the simple lifetstyle of its people and the limitations of this land. Farm fresh ingredients create a perfect blend of wholesome meals made to satisfy hunger and delight your taste buds. It is a blend of different cultures with a lot of restaurants offering Tibetian, Chinese and Korean cuisine. You will also find a few places offering Continental, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine. This can be attributed to the rise in tourism in the recent years in Ladakh. Most of the travel packages provide two times meal that is breakfast and dinner. Also, these meals are mostly vegetarian. Food can be expensive when you stop at remote villages while travelling even if their menu is limited. It is better to stock up your car with enough water and snacks to last you at least one day in case you are not able to find suitable eating arrangements.
Day 1.Most people prefer to take a flight to Leh as traveling through such a mountainous area for such a long time can be a hassle, not to mention time consuming. You can book a tour guide with your travel agency or arrange for one upon landing in Leh by enquiring the locals. Settle into your hotel. It is recommended that you avoid visiting any major tourist spot initially. Take the entire day to relax and acclimatize yourself. Leh is at 11,562 ft, thus it is important to adjust to the high altitude conditions which can cause quite a bit of stress on our bodies which are adapted to the lifestyle of plain urban areas. Have a hearty meal and a restful night at your hotel. If you haven’t already in advance, this would be the ideal time to make any arrangements for your tour which you haven’t yet made. Although at the height of the tourist season, you will find it difficult to find many services or facilities which haven’t already been booked.
Day 2 Sightseeing at Leh
The adventure begins from this day as you embark on a trip to visit major tourist attractions around Leh. Don’t forget to eat a hearty and fulfilling breakfast as there will be quite some ground to cover this day. Start early and cover the following monuments: Thiksey Monastery, Hemis Gompa, Shey Palace and Stok Palace Museum. Each of them is a great wonder of Leh with their own unique history.
Thiksey Monastery: Located 20 km far from the towns of Leh and rising 3600 kilometers above the sea-level,the monastery is amongst the most important of the region of Ladakh. The gompa is a dazzling specimen of Ladakhi architecture and is situated atop the hill, forming part of the Gelukpa order. It shelters an extensive collection of stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and weapons, including a large pillar engraved with the wisdom and words of the Buddha.
Hemis Gompa The richest monastery of Ladakh!
Dating back to 1630 the Hemis is the largest as well as the wealthiest monastery in the region of Ladakh. It is positioned inside a gorge at a stretch of around 47 kilometers from Leh. Belonging to the sect of the Dugpa Order, the Hemis Gompa contains a vast and rich collection on ancient relics including a copper-gilt statue of Lord Buddha, gold and silver stupas, scared thangkas.
Shey which was once the summer capital of Ladakh, houses the famous Shey Monastery which dates back to 1655. It is primarily noted for the giant copper statue of Shakyamuni Buddha which is made with gilded gold. Shey can be trekked 4 kms upwards from the Thiksey monastery, a route which is lined with chorten fields with hundreds of whitewashed shrines of varying sizes across the desert.
Stok Palace Museum:
The Stok Palace, home of the royal family of Ladakh, is a beautiful architecture rising high on the hills of Ladakh. Located a short distance of 14 kms across the Indus river in Leh, the palace is a great mixture of ancient and modern architecture. The Stok palace museum, which houses rare artifacts like royal attires and paraphernalia, copper coins, precious stones, antique royal jewelley and prayer tools are the main reason for its fame. Its cultural importance is due to showcasing the Thangkas depicting the life teachings of Lord Buddha which dating back to the 16th century.
The last place to visit on day two will be Shanti Stupa. The shanti stupa or the Japanese Pagoda is a white domed structure located in Changspa on a hilltop. It provides a panoramic view of the entire city of Leh. It offers a beautiful view for sunrise and looks magical during sunset when the sky lights up with shades of sunlight with the vast canvas of the sun as backdrop.
Day 3 and 4: Leh – Khardung-La Pass Nubra Valley
Having acclimatized a bit to the harsh climate at the top, it is now time to leave Leh and travel further to explore one of the most wonderful destinations in Ladakh – the Nubra valley. To reach Nubra we would have to travel through Khardung La, which is the highest motorable pass in the world. The way is steep and even dangerous to an inexperienced driver but the picturesque scenery makes the tough climb worth the effort. While passing through the snow covered mountains, you feel a real sense of adventure which can only be had while facing the true force of nature. It is truly an experience of a lifetime.
Make a stop at Diskit to visit the famous Diskit monastery which will give you mesmerizing views of the Nubra valley. Further onwards at Hunder you can marvel at the great white sand dunes and take Bactrian camel rides which is one of the highlights of this trip. Stay the night at either Diskit, which has more accommodation options, or Hunder. But do not miss out on the opportunity to appreciate the starry night of Nubra Valley.
Next day, travel from Diskit to Sumur and further towards Panamik where you can refresh yourself by taking a dip in the hot springs. After exploring the Nubra valley to your heart’s content, travel back to Leh before nightfall.
Day 5: Leh – Pangong Lake – Leh
Most people agree that visiting the Pangong lake is the highlight of the entire trip. You can either make it a one day trip, or to experience the night near the Pangong lake, make it a two days excursion. Though it is recommended to make it a two days trip to fully appreciate the sunset and sunrise at this beautiful site, but it can be undertaken in one day as well. Depends on how flexible your schedule is. Pangong Tso Lake, considered to be one of the most beautiful places in India, is also one the largest brackish lakes in Asia. This beautiful lake with deep blue waters and surrounded by tall mountain peaks lies on the Indo – China boundary, with only one fourth of the lake being in India. Situated at a height of 14,270 ft, it is one of the coldest places on earth. Located at a distance of about 170 kilometers from Leh, it can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh, most of it on a harsh mountain road. Though the landscape is beautiful but treacherous, the roads are mostly smooth. Have full day excursion to this famous lake en route crossing the Chang-la Pass which is at the altitude of 17370 ft.
Day 6: Local sightseeing
Make the full use of the last day of your trip to visit the remaining major tourist spots in Leh. Embark on a half-day sightseeing tour of Leh visiting Sangam (confluence of Indus & Zanskar Rivers), Magnetic Point (a great illusion to baffle your mind), Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Kali Mata (Temple of Guardians in Spituk monastery) & Hall of Fame (dedicated to our soldiers who give their lives for the country). You can explore the local markets within Leh to buy souvenirs for your loved ones.
Day 7: Back Home
This is the day you finish your adventure filled trip and return back to your home. Pack your stuff properly and don’t leave anything important behind.