In this article, we share our 1 week Ladakh itinerary from September 2021. We spent 9 days / 8 nights exploring the wonderland and returned with a feeling of having found another place where we belong.
With spring around the corner, hope our experience helps you plan your travel too. Let’s get started.
Day 1 & 2: Leh and acclimatization
We flew in to Leh from Hyderabad (via Delhi) and started early in the morning from hour home. By the time we reached Leh, found our cab and checked-in to the hotel it was already afternoon.
The evening and the next day was reserved for acclimatization and local sight seeing. We cannot emphasize this enough, your body needs this time to adjust to the high altitudes and low oxygen levels at these high altitudes.
Just take it slow for a day or two, walk around, visit the local market and monasteries. Stay away from any kind of vigorous physical activity. Don’t try to climb stairs, run or swim etc. Altitude sickness is for real and can knock off the fittest amongst us. If you feel sick, seek medical help immediately. Signs include breathlessness, throwing-up and low blood oxygen levels.
Day 3: Day trip to Lamayuru moonland
Things start getting interesting from Day 3. We planned a day trip to Spituk monastery, one of the oldest in Ladakh. On the way (and back), we visited the below places
- Lamayuru moonland
- Sangam of rivers Indus and Zanskar
- Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
For lunch, we took a pitstop at the popular Alchi’s kitchen from Ronnie and Barty’s VLOG fame. The setting is really nice and the staff is courteous, but the food is good, not extraordinary.
They key here is to start early (latest by 9 am), have a good breakfast before leaving and keep enough snacks so that you don’t need to take long re-fueling breaks.
Travel snacks in Leh take a different meaning altogether. Think mini apples, dried apricots, mini almonds (or apricot kernels? still figuring this one out). Also pack a sandwich or two from your breakfast destination.
Day 4: Leh To Pangong Lake, overnight stay
This is where you need to make a choice. Leh, Pangong and Nubra are situated as the 3 vertices of a triangle. If you plan to visit all 3, then you can travel either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Visiting Pangong was something we were extremely excited about, so putting this higher on the list was an easy choice. That said, a lot of people do prefer to visit Nubra first, or even just plan a day trip to Pangong and return back to Leh in the evening.
Pangong lake is an other-worldly experience. We’ve written about it here, do check it out.
Pangong: A dream come true!
Where words fail, eyes brighten up. An infatuation, but also meditation, all at once.
Day 5: Pangong to Nubra
This was the longest drive of the vacation. We started at 8:30am and reached Nubra around 3pm. Were still tired after a rough night at Pangong and decided to have lunch directly at our resort. The Hunder sand dunes are situated on the way, but we decided to explore these the next day.
The road alongside Shyok (meaning शोक or sorrow in Hindi) river – and through the riverbed in a few places – is an experience in itself. You need a vehicle which can take a beating and an experienced driver to make it through safely. Do let us know if you would like to know more about the river and the reason behind it’s name.
Day 6: Day trip to Turtuk and LOC
It was a misty and rainy day. The plan was to visit Turtuk, the northernmost border town of India. The town is a part of the larger Baltistan region, most of which lies under Pakistan occupation and is inhabited by the Balti community. Turtuk was under Pakistan administration since 1947, but was secured by India during the war of 1971.
There’s a dense army deployment all along the route to Turtuk, and there still exist remains of old Pakistani bunkers on the way. The roads are tough, the bridges over Shyok river creaky, the weather unforgiving. Amongst this, the warmth of the army-men and the hospitality of the locals fills you with hope.
We had the fortune of tasting some homely Balti, Kashmiri and Ladakhi delicacies in Turtuk. Around 11 kms from Turtuk is the Thang village, which is the last village of India. It’s an access controlled and heavily guarded zone. The residents are shy, simple and hardworking people who welcome you with affection. They all have stories of relatives on the other side of the border, of broken families, and dreams of a better future. It’s these experiences and stories that live with you forever.
Let us know in the comments if of you would like to know more about our experiences in Turtuk.
Day 7: Nubra to Leh via Khardung-la
On day 7, the plan was to go back to Leh and visit the Hunder sand dunes on the way. It’s a wonder of nature that there exist sand dunes and camels at these high altitudes. What’s even crazier is that you can drive from sand dunes to snowy peaks in 2 hours.
The Khardungla, which one needs to cross, is one of the highest motorable roads in the world.
We also made a quick stop at the Thiksey monastrey and offered out prayers on the way. After reaching Leh, the evening was spend in exploring the market, cafes and some shopping.
Day 8: “Leisure” day
Yes, you read it right. Planning a day with nothing specific in to do has been a practice we’ve incorporated over the years. The idea is to use this day to catch up on unplanned experiences, roam around, meet the locals, send out some postcards and other random stuff.
In our case, we drank a bowl of hot Thupka, visited a sustainable local produce and services shop called Dzomsa, checked out the tourist information center and library, and also explored the lanes of the baker’s street.
Day 9: Return
Well, this was the day we headed back to our home, catching a flight from the Leh airport. Hope you found this itinerary interesting and hope it helps you to plan your travel too.
Trust us when we say this, we’ve just scratched the surface with this post. There are so many experiences from our 9 day trip that we could easily end up writing pages and pages. Do let us know if you would like to know more about a place or read about:
- Our army veteran cab driver
- The royal family and the Yabgo dynasty of Turtuk
- Phunchok Angchok and the Ladakh Rocks and Minerals museum
- How to prepare for a trip to Ladakh
- A random encounter with a war journalist
- Army memorial near Turtuk
- The best place to shop for Pashmina wool and Kashmiri textiles
A special thanks to Stanzin Namgyal, our friend, guide and guardian during the trip. We stayed at his hotel, the Yarab Tso, in Leh and were blown over by the hospitality of his team. He also helped us with the entire planning, transportation and local travel, safety measures and made us comfortable. We’re not going anywhere else whenever we visit next!
Do get in touch if you plan to visit Ladakh, and don’t forget to mention that you read about him here. 🙂