Leh-Ladakh

How to explore Ladakh in 5 days

Ladakh is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Little wonder then, those who have never been there, wish to travel there and those who have been there earlier, wish to go back and explore it even more!

Even though it is best to explore Ladakh at a leisurely pace, not everyone can afford to take out a couple of weeks or more from their busy schedule.

If you’re in the same boat, here is a travel plan for 5 days to help you explore Ladakh and see some of its most beautiful sights.

Day 1, Arrival in Leh: Flying in from the plains, it is best to keep this day for rest and acclimatization in Leh. Trying to rush out and begin sightseeing will only ensure that the Acute Mountain Sickness will likely end up spoiling rest of your travel plan or worse, negatively impact your health. Stay put in your hotel, eat light food, drink plenty of water and if feeling alright, explore the main market in the evening. You can check out AMS Survival Guide written by me for more information.

leh-main-market

Leh Main Market

Day 2, Sham Valley tour (Hall of Fame, Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Indus and Zanskar Confluence, Alchi Monastery and Leh Palace): Today is the day of exploration. However, it is best to err on the side of caution and make sure, you do not overstress yourself and take rest if you are feeling sick.

You also need to arrange Inner Line Permit for Nubra Valley or Pangong Tso, which can be easily obtained through a travel agent or your hotel, so that you can concentrate on exploring Ladakh.

After breakfast, head out to explore the beautiful Sham Valley along the Leh – Srinagar Highway. First up is the Hall of Fame on the outskirts of Leh, a beautiful museum built by the army to tell you about the history of Ladakh and our armed forces there.

Hall of Fame, Leh

Hall of Fame, Leh

Next, travel to Magnetic Hill to witness the supposed gravity-defying effect in which vehicles move uphill in neutral. Then travel to the Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, built in 1517 and dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev. Next up is the beautiful confluence of Indus and Zanskar Rivers and even though rafting is available here, it is best to avoid it until later in the trip, in order to avoid overstressing yourself. Next, travel to Alchi Monastery. Unlike other monasteries in Ladakh, it is actually located downhill from the parking lot. So you can explore it, without climbing a flight of stairs.

Then after a drive back to Leh, you head to the Leh Palace to watch sunset occur over the beautiful Leh city.

Bonus tip: If you wish to explore monasteries, then skip Alchi and instead head to Likir, Phyang and Basgo Monasteries in Sham Valley.

Day 3, Nubra Valley (Khardung La, Sumur Monastery, Panamik Hot Springs and Hunder Sand Dunes): Today you get to travel on the highest motorable road in the world. In less than a couple of hours after starting from Leh, you will reach the Khardung La, the first mountain pass of your trip, at an altitude of 18,368 ft. Avoid the urge to spend a lot of time there to minimize exposure to extremely high altitude and after a quick photo and maybe even a tea, head towards the Nubra Valley. Stop at the beautiful Khardung Village for a quick bite, before heading to the beautiful Sumur Monastery.

After a tour of Sumur Monastery, travel to Panamik Village in order to see the hot springs. Even those who aren’t interested in bathing at the hot springs, it is best to drive up there for a beautiful view of the valley.

nubra-valley

View of Nubra Valley from Panamik Hot Springs

After the hot springs, it is time to head to Hunder Village for the night stay, en route you can stop at the sand dunes to watch the sunset or leave it for tomorrow, especially if you’re interested in camel ride.

Day 4, Nubra to Pangong Tso (Hunder Sand Dunes, Buddha Statue at Diskit and Pangong Tso): If you’re interested in capturing the sunrise, then wake up early and head to the sand dunes. Otherwise head there after breakfast and explore the dunes on foot or on the back of bactrian camels.

Bactrian Camels at Hunder, Nubra Valley

Bactrian Camels at Hunder, Nubra Valley

Thereafter travel to Maitreya (future Buddha) Statue at Diskit Monastery, before beginning your journey to Pangong Tso via Agham – Shyok or Wari La routes. Make sure to stop for food at Khalsar Village, since you won’t find a place to eat until you reach Shyok or Shakti Village (depending on the route you take.)

After a long yet beautiful drive, you arrive at the beautiful Pangong Tso lake, which draws maximum tourists in Ladakh after Khardung La, thanks to being featured regularly in songs, movies, adverts etc..

Lake beautiful, Pangong Tso

Lake beautiful, Pangong Tso

Watch the sunset occur at the lake and stay at Lukung or Spangmik.

Day 5, travel back to Leh (Pangong Tso, Thiksey Monastery, Sindhu Darshan Point, and Shanti Stupa): After watching the beautiful Pangong Tso change its hues every few minutes, it is time to travel back to Leh.

pangong-tso-lake

Pangong Tso

En route, you can visit the beautiful and ancient Thiksey Monastery and relax for a while at Sindhu Darshan Point, before reaching Shanti Stupa in evening to watch this beautiful monument of peace and the lovely Leh City all around you.

Beautiful Leh from Shanti Stupa

Beautiful Leh from Shanti Stupa

After shopping and dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants in Leh, it is time to go to sleep, for tomorrow, you have a flight back to reality.

Bonus tip: for those who have limited time and cannot even spare 5 days, you can reduce this travel plan by one day like this:

Day 3: Travel to Khardung La, Diskit, and Hunder, then come back to Leh by evening.
Day 4: Travel to Pangong Tso and come back by evening to Leh.

Both these days trips will mean you will be on the road for around 12 hours each day and these can only be done if the weather is good.

In case of any questions or queries, please leave a comment below.

Julley

2 Comments

  1. Howdy!

    I’m planning to spend my wedding anniversary at Leh. From 8th – 11th September, 2017. I’ve read many blog posts you’ve published, it has helped me a lot 🙂 Here’s my plan: Day 1 – Arrive at Leh, rent a bike and start riding to Pangong. Day 2 – Ride back from Pangong and reach Leh by 5 pm. Day 3 – Leave Leh around 7 am and ride towards Nubra valley. Day 4 – Ride back from Nubra Valley to Leh. Please let me know if this is a good plan and is it really safe to do this trip with just us (me and my wife), without tagging along any other gang. Also, I don’t know how the bike renting works, is it available at the airport. Please help and let me know your suggestions.

    Thanks!
    Harsha

    • Harsha, it would be an extremely bad idea to start traveling on the first day, that too to Pangong Tso, which is located at an altitude of 14,000 ft. It will surely cause AMS to both of you, and in extreme cases, AMS can lead to permanent brain damage or even death! My suggestion would be to follow the above plan, it has been designed keeping high altitude sickness in mind and ensures you gain altitude gradually. Though it too is no guarantee, that you won’t suffer from AMS.

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