Chetan Rana shares beautiful photos and his experience of visiting the destination that was on his wishlist, Ladakh. If you’re planning a trip to Ladakh yourself, do not forget to read the travel tips by him. See more of his work on his Facebook photography page here and on his Instagram here. Hope you enjoy this real travel story!
His story in his words:
Every single traveller’s wish list includes a visit to the mountainous heaven Ladakh at least once and so did I. My travels in the Ladakh region are courtesy, Bijoo Khan who owns and operates a hotel in Ladakh , Hotel Bijoo. Let me take you through Bijoo’s and my journey through this real travel story!
My first visit to Ladakh happened in August 2010, with a tour operators’ group from Mumbai. Well, 6th August 2010 was a little disturbing since there were news of devastating flash floods in Ladakh region. For our trip, which was scheduled from 26th August, things had settled down a little but we had gone ahead with the trip.
From an apprehensive first trip to Ladakh to my eighth trip to this wonderland in March 2016, I am completely in love with this place, the mountains, the rivers, the terrain and most importantly the people. Alongside Ladakh, I have managed to travel to many new destinations each year but nothing comes close to me as much as Ladakh. I go in different months, to different seasons, to different regions and different parts of Ladakh to experience a different experience each time and I have not been disappointed ever!
From 2011 onward I have been travelling to this place with my friend Bijoo Khan but our bond and connect as friends and photographers has been increasing ever since my first visit. To pick up one trip and describe that as a whole would be a little injustice to my other trips so I have not put together a day by day travel itinerary here but a few photographs of mine as well as my friend Bijoo Khan’s with a description to know Ladakh better. For ones who wish to travel to this wonderland, I have put up few tips after the photographs.
Buddhism is the culture that a large part of this region follows. You will get to see a lot of Buddhist monasteries as you travel across the region. Just immerse yourself in the culture, rich heritage, simplicity of the monks and colorful structures as you roam around the region.
Pangong Lake :
Pangong-tso is an iconic place, visited by one and all who visit the Ladakh region. This happens to be one of the very few high altitude lakes. The crystal clear water, clear blue skies and mountains in the background will leave you speechless. I have seen this several times in my past visits, sometimes still, sometimes filled with waves like a flowing river, sometimes frozen in the harsh winters and yet its beauty is just intact.
Khardung-la / Nubra Valley :
Nubra Valley is a cold desert on the other side of the Khardung-la. Khardung-la is supposed to be one of the highest motor-able pass in the mountains. You must observe the way the terrain changes from the barrens to the desert of the Nubra valley. There are times when there is a strong breeze in the deserts creating the sand storm. Double humped camels are the specialty of the region. In the winters this region freezes beyond imagination. A 5-6 hours drive far is the village of Turtuk, last village near the border.
The lake is located 220 kms drive from Leh. This is not a part of many people’s visit. This lake is another high altitude lake located in the region and is as pristine as Pangong-tso.
People of Ladakh :
People here are down to earth and always greet the travellers, friends and families with a smile on their face. “Julley” (hello) is what you say to greet any one here.
Festivals of Ladakh :
Monasteries are colourful and very peaceful yet they also enjoy the festivities during a few special occasions. If one likes to experience a different culture, planning your trip around one of the monastery festivals is a good idea.
Rough Roads and mountainous terrain :
A trip to Ladakh is a journey through the mountains, some times rough roads and sometimes smooth. You don’t count miles / kilometres here, if you do count, it takes longer than what it otherwise would – you just count hours. Just enjoy the drive and the serene view as you drive through the mountains. In summers, you don’t get to see snow, different shades of the mountains are definitely worth experiencing in the peak summer of September.
Shanti Stupa :
Nestled within the mountains, resides this Shanti Stupa. You will get to see a glimpse of Shanti Stupa from various twists and turns in the mountains. It’s one of the most intriguing monument in the city of Leh.
Night Sky :
If wish to see millions of stars, this is the place! This was the cold month of Feb, winters in Ladakh, the mornings are cold so are evenings and nights, with constant negative temperature round the clock. We decided to step out to take a glimpse of the sky. We drove to Sindhu Ghat for open space, and got out of the car to see these, millions of tiny little twinkling stars with Milky Way clearly visible with bare eyes. With lights in the distant village beneath the mountain, it made a picture perfect settings for one of the best nightscape I have captured till date.
Best time to visit: June to mid October [winter too is heavenly only if you can sustain the nail biting cold of -15 to -25 degree centigrade. Be conscious and prepare well before you plan to go in winters]
How to reach: One can fly to Leh, which is the capital of Ladakh. However, the best way is to go via road from either Srinagar with a break at Kargil or around or Manali with a break at Jispa or Keylong. Go slow and enjoy the scenic roads!
Leh Srinagar route places to visit: Vijay Smarak (Kargil War Memorial), Mulbekh Monastery, Lamayuru Monastery, Moonland around lamayuru, confluence of Sindhu and Zanskar, Magnetic hill, Pattharsahib Gurudwara.
What to do in and around Leh?
- After reaching Leh, on day 1 – Stay put! Oxygen level is low in the ladakh region as its located 3,500 fts plus, just rest and do virtually nothing, not even sleeping, chilling in your hotel sipping the hot cup of tea or coffee!
- Do local sightseeing – visit to Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastary, Sindhu Ghat and other monasteries around if you have time.
- Visit to Pangong Lake via Chang-la. Very beautiful, very scenic, one can stay over at night during summers at Pangong.
- Visit to Nubra Valley via Khardung-la. Stay at Hunder village or Diskit, visit Diskit monastery. This is a cold desert, you get to see and ride double humped camels. You could visit Turtuk from Hunder. Turtuk is last village and close to the border, a day trip is required.
- Visit to Tso-mo-riri: Its an overnight trip, skipped by many but a must include a place in your visit, walk around the lake early morning or late evening.
- Ideally could be done in 10 days, however, one could spend days together if time permits at each of this places, the landscape is massive and mesmerizing.
- Monastery Festivals: You could plan your visit around monastery festivals. The festivals are colorful and will take you to a journey into the culture.
- Enjoy the food in town : You must schedule a visit to il-firno and Tibetan kitchen restaurants in the leh market area. Momos, Thukpa (a local soup), noodles, pizzas, butter tea (salted), ginger lemon honey etc. are some of the best have things.
- One could also visit to Zanskar Valley, part of Ladakh, another 10 days sort of a trip. Very few people visit this part of Ladakh. It’s on a different route from Kargil, roads are in very bad shape here, but is unexplored and you will be speechless to see the beauty of the place!
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