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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.