Not seeing a thing is not the same as seeing its non-existence.... H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama
Ladakh?a roof of the world that exhibits magnificent landscapes,.. diverse and extreme. Blue skies and blue lakes, burning sun and extreme cold, greenery and grayish decaying mountains, glaciers and sand dunes, high altitude dwellings and spiritual atmosphere, passes and snow and freezing winds ?as diverse as this, is the land of Ladakh. No surprise one gets stunned by this spectacular vistas the land offers, as if He has manifested himself so that we can see His non-existence.
Prayer wheel in Diskit Gompa Visited Ladakh in the month of August which is a summer time. Though Ladakh is popular known amongst tourist as adventure holiday, even for a leisure tourist bit of planning and preparation is required. As I spent considerable time planning for duration, places to see, things to carry, medical precaution etc. would like to share some highlights before starting the travelogue.
Places : For the leisure travel, there were various options like 1. Leh and Monasteries 2. Lakes 3. Passes 4. Nubra Valley 5. Zanskar 6. Srinagar-Leh road journey 7. Manali-Leh road journey. Considering the family holiday, for this trip I zeroed down on Leh, Lakes, Passes and Nubra Valley for a 12 day trip.
Duration and Itinerary: Ladakh is not about just reaching the destinations but enjoying the journeys as well. Those journeys offer some exciting experience and you can enjoy it more by stopping the places en route to your destination. So giving sufficient duration for each place within our time constraint is the key to enjoy it. One must keep aside 3 days in the tour plan: Initial 2 days of rest (including the day of landing in Leh) and last day of travel from Leh. First 2 days can be used for local sightseeing if one is not feeling sick due to AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). Keep at least 3 days and 2 nights for Nubra Valley. Most of the tour operators plan it for 2 days which is not sufficient for this place, I believe. Similarly, keep at least 2 days for Pangong Tso. Again, many people make it one day return from Leh which is un-justice to the awesome lake. Keep 3 days for Tso-Moriri and Tso-Kar lakes. As the travel time from Leh to Tso Moriri is 7 hours minimum, you can extend it to 4 days if possible. Link for detailed day wise travelogue is given in the end of this article.
Managing the journeys : All journeys from and to Leh generally start in the morning and reach the destinations by lunch time (1~2 pm). For Tso Moriri, the journey is bit long but the hotels do give packed lunch when you depart in the morning. So you need not worry much about the food. And you do come across restaurants on the way while going to Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. The road from Tso Moriri to Tso Kar is almost deserted with no restaurants but the journey is hardly 4 hours. Dont forget to pack up things when you depart from Tso Moriri. Ensure that you have plenty of mineral water before starting any journey. Those are the only things you should take care of, rest leave it to the lovely Ladakhi drivers who manage the show very well.
Hotels : Pangong Hotel, Leh ? A good hotel near to Main Bazaar. Food was excellent. It helped to have hotel near to market at least for initial stay. So chose this one for first 2 days of stay. The Druk, Leh ? This is a good Luxury hotel with good view of the surrounding mountains but away from market. So not recommended for initial days. We used this for remaining stay in Leh. The Ladakh Camps (Sumur village, Nubra Valley) ? Tent camps right in the village. Location is awesome and veg. food was really very tasty. Ideal for touring Sumur-Panamik area. Nubra Sarai (Hunder village, Nubra Valley) ? Tent camps. Very near to Sand Dunes. Ideal for touring Sand Dunes and Diskit Monastery. The Nature?s Nest (Pangong Tso) ? Tent camps, perfectly located on the banks of the lake. Very few other camps are so near to the lake. Food and service was nice. The Nomadic Camps, Korzok ? Tent Camps. Nice location facing Tso Moriri Lake. Food and service were excellent. Camp Tso Kar (Tso Kar lake) ? There are only 2 camping sites in Tso Kar. This one was near to the lake with good restaurant. For all the tented accommodation mentioned above, tents were clean, spacious and comfortable for 2 adults and 1 kid with sufficient blankets (those were really needed for those chilly nights !). Except for tents in Korzok and Tso Kar, all tents have attached toilet/bathrooms.
Permits : All places outside Leh we visited required inner line permits. Seems this is hassle free and our tour operator managed that. Bring some sort of ID proof along with you along with 4 passport size photographs.
Altitude Mountain Sickness : Precaution against High altitude sickness is essential for those travelling to Ladakh especially those flying directly into Leh. Not all people show this symptom. To be on safer side, we (including kids of 3 and 5 years) had taken half a Diamox (i.e. 50 mg)2 days before the travel, on the day of landing and 2 days after that (total 5 days). None of us had any sort of problem during the entire stay.
Things you must carry : 1. Cold crème, Sunscreen lotion, goggles, sun cap 2. Woolen caps, thermal wear/woolen sweaters, woolen socks, hand gloves 3. Torch 4. Shoes (open footware not recommended) 5. Generic Medicines 6. Stand by batteries for the camera (Tents do not have charging facility, one has to use the sockets available in common places like food tent in the camps) 7. Pen drives containing your favorite music
- It is suggested not to indulge in any hectic activity on first 2 days to let your body acclimatized to high altitude. If you are feeling the sickness, take complete rest for first 2 days.
- Drink water in gallons to keep you away from dehydration, its really very dry place. Ensure water is at room temperature to avoid cough. Keep mineral water bottles in quantities before starting the long journeys outside Leh.
- Ask your car driver to have Oxygen cylinders in the car. Though we didn?t need it, it can be useful when situation arises especially on Khardung La and Chang La.
Vote of Thanks : Very thankful to Mr. Partha Mirani of Three Sixty Degree Himalaya for customizing and arranging the tour as per my requirement. These guys have on the ground presence in Ladakh unlike other tour operators most of whom just act as middleman. And this really helps you plan your tour with practical inputs from them. Also of great help was Mr. Dorjee, the chauffeur, who was very knowledgeable and nice person, he drove us to various unplanned spots en route to the destinations which added much of a fun to our tour.
Day 1 & 2 - Leh
Day 3,4,5 - Nubra Valley Day 6 & 7 - Pangong Tso
Day 8,9,10 - Tso Moriri, Tso Kar