Updated: Jun 14, 2022
Date: May 21st - June 4th, 2022.
This was not one of my best planned trips, however, it went on smoothly. Taking 2 weeks off from work to explore Leh/Ladakh region, initially the plan was to include four close friend's families, but that did not work out so it was necessary to do it on my own. I booked tickets from Bangalore to Leh via Delhi, and it came out to be 55K which is more than double the regular price if you book 2 months early. I would suggest planning in advance for this trip for better prices.
The Bangalore flight got delayed because of weather conditions at Delhi, and moreover I had only 2 hours between connecting flights to go to Leh. The sad part is that, in Delhi, the terminals are around 8 kms apart so I had to go through security check within an hour. I was very worried, as my flight tickets were already expensive and in India they don't accommodate for delayed flights. Luckily I was right on time.
The majority of the Ladakh region is dry and almost nothing grows in this region. Most of the mountains are rocky mountains which neighbour the Chinese border. Apparently the region attracts the majority of foreign tourists and only after the "3 Idiots" movie, more of the Indians are traveling around this region.
Generally from May to the end of August is the best time to travel in this region. Temperature in the afternoon went up to as high as 14°C, while at night it fell to 2-3°C. If you are not used to cold weather, then you had better be prepared if you plan riding on your motorcycle.
I rented Himalayan motorcycle for 13 days from Leh and it turns out to be best for the roads in
Ladakh as half the roads are just off roads. Starting from Leh I spent 3 day there, then 3 nights at Nubra Valley, 2 nights at Pangong Lake, 2 nights at Tso Moriri, 2 nights at Hemis Monastery and rest of the 2 days in Leh. The majority of the roads are good however lot of sections are also gravel road so one has to mentally prepare for it. I would suggest going for a Himalayan bike as its suspension is high and very comfortable instead of going for Royal Enfield bullet as it will hit the ground often because of the low clearance. Also, from Nubra Valley to Pangong to Tso Moriri there are no petrol stations so be prepared to carry an extra 5 litres with you. Having said that there are folks who sell petrol at Durbuk, or you can also arrange by calling the folks at the place you stay to arrange for petrol; no assurances though.
Tips: For motorcycle riders, it is better to have non-perforated shoes, otherwise it gets cold very quick. I used hiking boots which covered up to ankles, but they are perforated. In the middle of the journey I used plastic bags to cover over socks and then wore the shoes; it worked like a charm as it shielded against the cold air. Also I would suggest non perforated gloves, as it gets cold around the passes. I had to stop few times especially at Khardungla Pass and on the way to Tso Moriri to warm my hands by holding the exhaust pipe which kept my hands warm! 😉.
I did not use any of my motorcycle gear and just got a leather jacket and sweater to wear while riding which was more than enough. Based on the suggestion of a friend, I got some thermals which helps especially at the stay where you don't want to wear pants all the time. Other than these I carried some sunscreen lotion, moisturizer, oxygen tablets - dymoxin and a bunch of clothes. I used clothes for multiple days and it doesnt smell as you do not sweat at all which ended up having only a small bag. I also carried bag of dried nuts for some munching. Pre paid phones do not work in Pangong lake, Tso Moriri, or Hanle regions, so it is better to download offline maps.
I stayed at different hotels, homestays and hostels. Hotels and homestays can range anywhere from 1500-3000Rs in May and hostels are around 500-1000Rs range. I prefer not to stay in hostels as Indians are especially loud well past evening time, however I stayed the last 2 days in a hostel just to know more people as I was doing a solo trip.
Buddhism is the main religion in this region. Initially my understanding was Buddhism was started by Gautama Buddha but I was wrong; Bhuddism existed long before Gautama Buddha. The majority of the architecture of the houses, homestays and hotels are very similar with wood decorations on white lime and stone structures which makes it very beautiful. Lot of monasteries and palaces are made of stone, lime and wood decorations. Inside they are fully decorated with lot of murals, art work, and hand made cloth art work which is very impressive. Even the Jamia Masjid exterior is very Ladakhi architecture. Unfortunately I could not take pictures as this is not allowed.
Leh - On the 1st day visited Shanti Stupah and Leh Palace, pretty good views from both the places.
Apparently during the evening time the view is good from Shanti Stupah. One can view Leh city from Shanti Stupa.
The king initially stayed in this palace but then moved on to Stok Palace. It is not that elaborate, made of stone and mud. One can see the palace from the Leh Market and also view Tsemo Goenkhang which is the white structure, a Buddhist temple on the hilltop.
Leh market is a good place to relax in the evening where you can see lot of tourists hanging out.
. You can see a lot of shops to buy local stuff like mufflers, carpets, and woolen clothes here. Apparently they are heavily priced given that Leh is opened for tourists only for 4 months. You can buy some souviniers in the Main Street and across the main road there are lot of vendors who sell dried fruits. There is a Himalayan cafe at the centre overlooking Leh Palace and Namgyal Tsemo. They serve good food, I liked the ThukPa there. Also there is a small shop where you can get apricot and seabuck berry juice for just 35Rs, make sure that you ask for the place to have some fresh juice.
On the 2nd day I visited Shey Palace and Thiksey Monastery. Shey Palace looks very similar to Leh palace in appearance built with stone and mud. The rooms are smaller and it's like 9 levels of building inside. There is a small hike from Shey palace for better views. I saw this little baby girl, apparently her name means Oracle in native language, who came to have one year birthday ceremony at the back of the palace where they lit lot of oil lamps.
Leh city from hill top
Thiksey is an impressive structure, simple and yet elegant. The majority of the monasteries in Ladakh are build with stone, lime, white walls with rough texture. Lot of paintings on the wall and also the art work on the cloth which is spread across the walls and floors. The Buddha statue actually spans two levels where one can see the upper body in the top floor. I witnessed a monk reciting some prayers in some dark room.
This palace is bit remote from the main Leh region and one can see incredible views from this area. I love the little coffee section where one can relax and enjoy the views. At the tail end of the trip I came to the palace couple of times just to enjoy the views with little hustle and bustle of tourists. There is a Gompa similar to a temple with a huge Buddha statue from this palace.
The next day went to visit Hemis Monastery. I will cover it towards at the end of the article.
August is when lot of fruits like apples, apricots, plums, etc are ready to relish, but during May you get only dried fruits, I relished on mangoes this time. The main dishes are Thukpa, Momos and vegetable fried noodles. And for tea the Ladakh special is Chashul which is basically milk + hot butter made by pounding in a barrel. The locals drink it to keep their body warm and it is very light. However, they also add flour and Yak milk solids as well.
checkout the next days itineraries at:
In the final 2 days left in Leh, strolling around the city, I visited Sangam where the Zhanskar and Indus rivers meet and a military museum, then relaxed at Stok Palace with some apricot juice and enjoyed the view.
Overall the trip was amazing. It came out to be a bit expensive, but if you plan 2 months in advance it can be considerably cheaper. Indians book though agents or travelers to do this trip for better pricing with short duration, I would rather suggest to do this with at least 2 weeks time for enjoying the beauty and the rides.