Day 1: Leh
Reached early morning in Leh at around 7.00 AM. Last half hour stretch of the flight was very exciting journey, flying very low over the dramatic regions of the Great Himalayas. This magnificent top view and the one while landing gives the glimpse of what we were going to enjoy. It was a fantastic welcome. Checked in into the hotel and had complete rest (sleeping/watching TV etc.). Tried roaming around near the hotel but was feeling very tiring even for a walk of 10 meters. Hotel Manager warned of AMS as such cases do happen on arrival in Leh. August being peak tourist season, Leh was flooded with tourist.
At 4 p.m., we started for local tour of Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa. The places are nearby for a car drive and not much walking in those places, so it was safe adventure ! Leh Palace, once a royal abode, is on Namagyal hill and considered to be a miniature version of Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The nine storey, 17th century palace is no more in perfect shape and is now deserted. It offers a very spectacular panoramic view of the Leh city. You can walk inside the palace for a nominal fee. It is an interesting architecture worth a visit.
Shanti Stupa on fort road is another place one can visit on same day. This white domed structure is located on hilltop and was built by Japanese Budhist organization. It too offers stunning views of Leh city and surrounding mountain ranges on the backdrop of clear blue skies. Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa both can be covered easily in 3 hours time. After visiting these places, we took a time to stroll around Main Bazaar which was very much near to our stay, Pangong Hotel.
Day 2 Around Leh:
After breakfast, we started for Alchi Gompa (Monastery) which is around 60 kms from Leh on Kargil road, west to Leh. The place is somewhat on lower altitude than Leh. So if one is suffering from High altitude sickness, this visit brings much relief to them. Alchi is probably only Gompa which is located on ground as against most of the gompas which are located on hilltop. The gompa is situated on the banks of Indus river and is considered to be thousand years old. It is famous of Buddha murals. There are few temples in the campus of gompa and few shops selling Tibetan arts.
While returning from Alchi Gompa, you come across The Confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers near the small town, Nimu. The confluence is a spectacular view and you can drove right upto the banks of the rivers. Kayaking and white river rafting facilities are available here.
From Alchi Gompa to Leh, we came across, the Magnetic Hill, a place supposed to have strong magnetic field sufficient enough to pull the idling car uphill. Our driver told us that you can enjoy the magic on a four wheel drive vehicle as it becomes difficult to control the two while drive vehicle once you are uphill. We couldn’t experience the magic !
Further on the way to Leh we stopped at Pathar Sahib Gurudwara which dates back to 16th Century. The monument was discovered by Indian Army during the road construction work. Needless to mention, the gurudwara was very clean, offering water, tea and prasad. You have to walk few steps uphill to reach the Gurudwara from base. We were totally exhausted with heavy breathing due to paucity of oxygen. But the efforts were worth as we could spend some time peacefully in the shrine.
Hall of Fame, the glorious war memorial museum is a must visit for every Indian citizen. Its very on the Kargil highway which we visited en route to Leh after Pathar Sahib Gurudwara. The museum houses pictures of wars, soldiers, short biographies of war heroes, weapons used in wars (notably those used in Kargil war), letters recovered from the martyrs. The section on Siachen is very interesting and informative giving details of the hardship our army has to go through, the extreme climate (-30 to -50 degree centigrade), highly specialized gear required etc. Most of the casualties in Siachen are due to extreme weather than the war !
In the evening we returned to the hotel and after rest went to the main bazaar again for some shopping for the onward journey. Strolling around main bazaar was very refreshing. You would get everything here right from groceries to woollen clothes, wind chitters etc. So if you have forgotten something to bring, this is the place where you need to spend some time. Tibetan market at the end of the Main Bazaar road is also worth visiting. For your initial stay in Leh, it helps if you have booked your hotel near the Main Bazaar area.
Day 3,4,5 - Nubra Valley