Journey to Moon Land – Ladakh along with my office friend was planned all of a sudden. The journey took off on 7th July, 2013 with a flight from Pune to New Delhi and then to Leh. Delhi to Leh was the most memorable flight journey my life which lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes. Up & above the clouds, we witnessed a very beautiful sunrise at 5.30 am and that was just a beginning. Last half an hour of the journey presented us with glorious views of peaks & snow glaciers nestled in Trans Himalayan ranges. All the peaks were shining like a gold and it was a sight worth seeing.
Leh is at an altitude of 3524 meters (11562 ft.) above sea level & best season to visit Leh is between June and early October. Airport at Leh is one of the highest commercial airports in the world at 3,256 m (10,682 ft.) above mean sea level.Our stay at Oriental Hotel in Leh was very nice and offered splendid views of mountains from the room. First day in Leh was strictly reserved as a rest day to get us acclimatized to the high altitude. After taking a rest for entire day, we took a short walk near the hotel followed by a dinner.
We started our tour with a visit to Thiksey Monastery on Manali Road. It is located on top of a hill in Thiksey village, approximately 19 kilometers from Leh in Indus valley. It is a 12 story complex, which consists of stupas, monastic residences, prayer halls and small shrines. It also has a large engraved pillar, which features teachings of Lord Buddha.A 15 m seated statue of Buddha is enshrined in the main prayer hall of the monastery. Then we moved on to visit Shey Palace(which has a golden victory stupa and a Buddha status in copper and gold), Leh Palace (a yesteryear royal palace giving a panoramic view of Leh city) & Druk Valley School. The movie 3 Idiots was shot in this school they have named their cafe as “Rancho’s Cafe”. School is doing a fabulous job by imparting quality education to thousands of children from remote areas of Ladakh. Evening visit to Shanti Stupa located on a hilltop behind our hotel was really nice. It was constructed by both Japanese Buddhists and Ladakhi Buddhists. We saw a panoramic view of Leh city & nearby landscapes from Shanti Stupa.
Third day of our trip was the most exciting and thrilling day. Everyone was eager to move on to Khardungla Pass (highest motorable road in the world at height of 5602 meter-18380 ft. above sea level). Traversing a 40 km road from Leh was a thrilling ride full of winding roads. We saw glorious mountains, clear blue sky & a deep valley. A half an hour spent at the pass was really mesmerizing. It was cold and windy. While playing in snow, suddenly we saw two beautiful rainbows at the same time. Rainbow just above a snow mountain was marvelous. We were definitely riding our luck. Army also runs a cafeteria at the pass and one can enjoy a cup of hot tea/coffee and noodles.
Khardungla pass is a gateway to Nubra Valley & the famous Siachen glacier. Nubra is a high altitude cold desert and is famous for Diskit Monastery, Shyok River& Sand dunes. After lunch, we visited Diskit Monastery which is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in the Nubra Valley and enjoyed a camel ride in sand dunes. I could clearly identify the desert road and mountains shown in the film “Bhag Milkha Bhag”. In the evening, we stayed at a camp in Nubra valley and also enjoyed a cultural dance and music show performed by locals. While travelling, one should never miss the opportunity to interact with local people, understand & respect their customs and culture and relish the local food.
Next morning, we traveled back to Leh. On the way, we plucked fresh plum fruits from the trees in Nubra valley. Our next destination was the very famous “Pangong Lake” (locally known as “Pangong Tso“) situated at the height of 4350 meters from sea level and at a distance of 150 km from Leh. It is a 134 km long & 5 km wide salt lake and 60% of the lake lies in Tibet occupied by China. It became extremely popular after the shooting of last scene of the movie “3 Idiots”.
During this journey, we traveled through “Changla Pass” which is the 3rd Highest Motorable Pass in the world situated at the height of 5360 meters (17586 ft.) above sea level. A piping hot cup of Coffee at the Changla Cafeteria was really appreciated by everyone.
After a 5 hour journey from Leh, we reached a spot which presented us with a first view of Pangong Lake. It was hypnotic. Cool blue waters of Pangong were looking marvelous between rugged brown mountains.
We decided to stay in the tents, bang opposite the lake to enjoy the magic of ever changing colors of lake water and relish the opportunity to witness the sunset and sunrise on the backdrop of lake. From our tents, we walked along the shores of lake and clicked hundreds of ultimate snaps. One can see the different colors of lake waters. We saw many shades of blue, green, sea green, bluish green along with the reflection of golden mountains. It was very windy and cold at night but the experience of an accommodation in the tent was different and worthwhile. The dinner served with a hot tomato soup made our life easy. Next day, we witnessed the beautiful sunrise and then started our return journey back to Leh.
On our last day in Ladakh, we visited the “Hall of Fame” a museum dedicated to “Operation Vijay” conducted in Kargil. One feels extremely proud and emotional during this visit and everyone salutes our brave army soldiers. Next destination was “Magnetic Hill” on Srinagar Road. This hill has magnetic properties. Our driver switched off the engine and parked the vehicle at the marked spot on the road and vehicle automatically started moving, due to magnetic powers of the hill. It was another great phenomenon of nature.
Confluence of Indus & Zanskar rivers was also nice spot to visit. On our return journey to Leh, we also spent a quality time inside Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, constructed in the memory of Guru Nanak. The Gurdwara was built in 1517 to commemorate the visit to the Ladakh region of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder Guru of the Sikh faith.Everyone spent an evening in local market of Leh to buy some souvenirs.
Last day concluded with an air journey to New Delhi and then back home to Pune. A week spent in Ladakh was fantabulous, memorable & once in a lifetime experience. It was full of adventure, spellbinding locations, extreme climate & rich culture. A trip to Ladakh is highly recommended and everyone should go for it!!
Best time to visit – Mid of May to September is the best time to visit Ladakh.
Travel by Road – Manali to Leh is approx. 475 km and Srinagar to Leh is approx. 420 Km.
Travel by Air – Leh airport is connected to major cities in India but Delhi is the most convenient city to catch a flight.