Ladakh, the “Land of High Passes,” is a mountainous region within the Jammu and Kashmir state of Northern Indian. It is in the area known as the Trans-Himalayas Range, bordered by Pakistan, China, and Tibet.
Lonely Planet describes Ladakh as being spectacularly jagged. “Arid mountains enfold this magical Buddhist ex-kingdom. Picture-perfect gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) dramatically crown rocky outcrops amid whitewashed stupas and mani walls. Colourful, fluttering prayer flags share their spiritual messages metaphorically with the mountain breeze.
My 8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Ladakh
#1. Known as “Little Tibet” or “Roof of the World” to some, you can experience Tibetan culture and remote mountain landscapes.
#2. You receive the privilege of travelling to an exclusive region that is closed to the world for 6 months every year because of harsh winters. Temperatures can dip to -30C.
#3. Fly into Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and see amazing views of snow-capped mountains right below you. Remember to request a window seat!
#4. The bright, starry Milky Way shines above you every night. Shooting stars are almost guaranteed!
#5. You can find scorching deserts, rugged mountains, high-altitude lakes, and snowing high passes on the same trip.
#6. You can combine a 1- to 3-day village trek to experience Ladakhi culture and take a road trip to visit the extraordinary landscapes if a full trek doesn’t seem right for you.
#7. Ladakh has a population mix of Tibetan Buddhists and Shia Muslims that makes it distinctively different from other areas of India. Even for women travelling on their own, the region is safe and easy to navigate.
#8. And if you would like to experience AMS… (Acute Mountain Sickness).
Here’s the journey of our amazing trip to Ladakh.
We arrived in Leh Town (3650m), the city center of Ladakh. Immersing ourselves in the rich culture and acclimatising to the high altitude, we visited several of the city’s popular attractions and walked the main streets.
Throughout the road trip, we returned here multiple times as a transfer point.
A spread of local food
SHAM VALLEY TREK
On the second day, after a hearty, but simple breakfast of bread and omelets on the rooftop of our guest house, we journeyed to the Sham Valley for our 3-day trek. It is a breath-taking, amazing adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
KHARDUNGLA PASS / NUBRA VALLEY / PANGONG LAKE / CHANG LA PASS
After completing the 3-day trek, we began the road trip portion of our journey. Our first stop was Khardungla Pass. At 5359m, it is one of the highest motorways in the world.
As we gain altitude, queues of cars begin to form behind military vehicles. The roads are wet, bumpy because of potholes, and a sudden, heavy snow makes things worse
The trip down from the pass is just as spectacular as the journey toward it
From Khardungla Pass, we made our way into the Nubra Valley (3048m) a tri-armed valley located northeast of Ladakh Valley at Diskit. We were in search of the double-humped camels that are native to the region.
The next morning, we were glad to see the clouds clearing, revealing the hopefulness of blue skies.
Then we move to Pangong Lake (4400m). Also called Pangong Tso, or “high grasslands lake,” it is a beautiful, endorheic lake that is 134km in length, stretching into China.
Pangong Lake greeted us with its clear waters and stunning hues of blue. It is a memorable moment, to say the least.
After settling down for the day at our tents, we continued taking photographs of the beautiful lake.
The next morning, we set off in search of Changla Pass (5360m) and Tso Moriri (4595m). On the way up to the pass, we see ever-changing scenery that always includes the snow-capped mountains. It feels as if we are driving straight up the mountain with our 4WD.
We took a lot of fun shots and jump shots during the 30 minutes spent there, then hurried off before AMS kicked in to give our brains a throbbing headache.
TSO MORIRI / TSO KIAGAR / TSO KAR
The second half of our road trip began with an impromptu stop by the highway to take photographs of the road. Where else can you get such a long, straight road against a backdrop of mountains and blue skies?
In the afternoon, we stopped by the village of Durbuk and Tangtse in the Changthang region for lunch. There we discovered hot spring water.
Bubblin’ and smokin’ hot!
We visited 3 of the top 10 most beautiful lakes in Ladakh on this portion of our road trip.
Why did we visit so many lakes? Because each has something special to offer.
Tso Moriri, arguably the most popular lake after Pangong Tso, is the largest high-altitude lake in the region within India’s borders. Unknown to many, it is a wetlands conservation reserve, so many rare and endangered animals live there.
We watch the bright, blue hue in the clear skies disappearing slowly as the sun sets. It is an exhilarating moment of serenity, knowing that one is so close to the sky.
A relatively smaller salt-water lake compared to Tso Moriri, Tso Kiagar attracts mountain sheep and yaks to graze. The lake is also shrinking, unfortunately, due to the effects of global warming and its impact on the surrounding glaciers.
Tso Kar, also known as White Lake, is popular because of its otherworldly feel. This is due to the distinctive salt deposits that are on the banks of the lake
We hopped onto the little spongy grass patch and panted all the way to the bank of Tso Kar to witness the unique scenery.
As we made our way to these lakes, we encountered nomadic villages and grazing sheep herds.
On the way to Tso Moriri
What did I like best about this trip? It happened with a group of fun, like-minded travelling companions. We stargazed together on the last night of our trip at Tso Moriri, where we saw the largest, brightest, and clearest expanse of the Milky Way.
Visit Ladakh. You’re sure to catch a shooting star.
Written by Lim Yi Zhen
Yi Zhen is an inquisitive girl with a flair for English and Chinese copywriting and translation. She has a silly persistence to pick up random skills in life, such as learning to write with her left hand when she is a right hander. Every year, she racks her brains to find an interesting place to do her "Trip-of-the-Year".
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