Gone are the days when you needed half a month to travel to and explore Ladakh. These days with corporate pressure increasing day by day, disposable income on the rise and thanks to plenty of flights to Leh, the possibility of exploring Ladakh on a long weekend has become a reality for many!
Even though having at least 6-7 days in hand is preferred for a trip to Ladakh, here is how you can explore the major sights in Ladakh, with just 3 days in hand!
Day 1, Fly to Leh: With just 3 days in hand, flying directly to Leh is the only viable option. Since you will be traveling to high altitude directly, it is best to rest in the hotel for the major part of the day. Trying to keep yourself hydrated and only going out towards late in the afternoon, if you’re feeling well enough.
Today you can explore Shanti Stupa and Leh Main Market, leaving rest of the sightseeing for the next couple of days.
You will also need to get inner line permit for Khardung La and Pangong Tso, so make sure you get it through your hotel or a travel agent. In case you’re flying into Leh on a public holiday, book your hotel in advance and ask them to arrange the permit for you, beforehand.
If you can afford to, then rent a portable oxygen cylinder with enough oxygen for at least 20-30 minutes. It should cost around 2-2.5k and could prove to be beneficial if you’re feeling severely out of breath. Though in the case of any medical emergency, it is best to head to the hospital, rather than attempt self-medication. Do go through Ladakh AMS Survival Guide to understand the effects of AMS and the precautions to take.
Day 2, Khardung La and Sham Valley: Waking up early in the morning and starting from the hotel as soon as possible is essential today. Since you have a lot of places to cover during the day. Get the hotel to give you packed breakfast (mention this to them the night before) and keep yourself hyderated throughout the journey.
First up is Khardung La, world’s highest motorable road. Traveling to it from Leh can take around an hour and a half if the weather is clear and road free from disruption. En route you will get to see breathtaking views of Leh and the Stok Kangri Range.
While it is certainly tempting to spend a lot of time at Khardung La pass, it is best to limit your exposure to extremely high altitude to no more than 10-15 minutes and then begin the journey back to Leh.
Once you’re back in Leh, head on the Leh – Srinagar Highway and visit Hall of Fame, Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Alchi Monastery and then on your way back to Leh, visit the Indus and Zanskar Confluence.
Finish off your day by visiting one of the numerous cafes on the Changspa and Fort Road for a delicious meal. You can also include Spituk Monastery in your plan if you have enough time left and are feeling alright.
Day 3, Pangong Tso: Since you will be on the road today for 12-13 hours, it is crucial you begin your journey as soon as possible in the morning. You can either take packed breakfast from your hotel or have it at Karu.
Pangong Tso a beautiful lake, 134 km long and that too at an altitude of 14,000 ft. Due to this, the majority of your day would be spent at fairly high altitude and hence it is crucial to not to overexert yourself and keep yourself well hydrated.
Considering the beauty of Pangong Tso, this arduous journey is well worth it.
After reaching Pangong Tso, spend an hour around the lake, relaxing and taking photographs, before beginning your journey back to Leh.
En route you can visit Thiksey Monastery, though please keep in mind, you will have to climb quite a few stairs in order to reach the monastery. Alternatively, you can watch the sunset at Sindhu Darshan Point or from Namgyal Tsemo Gompa in Leh.
The evening is best spent in Leh main market, having some wonderful food and doing a bit of shopping, before catching the flight back home the next day.
Points to remember
- Book a taxi for the entire trip, as tempting as renting motorcycle sounds, it is best avoided in such a short trip. Drivers I normally hire in Ladakh are Dorjeychubi Inder (+919906971501), Rigzin (+919622954779 and +919469472772) or Sonam Angdus (+91-9469272773).
- Flights to Leh arrive early in the morning and also depart from Leh in the morning. So you have to plan around that.
- As tempting as it may seem to begin sightseeing as soon as you reach Leh, it is best to avoid doing that. Else there is a very real possibility you could end up spending rest of your trip in the hospital, due to AMS!
- Do not try and include Nubra Valley in day 2, passes can be unpredictable in evening and it could also lead to overexertion on the second day. Remember, your body would still be trying to acclimatize to the high altitude of Ladakh.
- Inner line permit is essential for visiting Khardung La and Pangong Tso, please do not treat it as an after thought and get it arranged as soon as possible on day 1.
Disclaimer: I prefer to explore Ladakh at a much slower pace and there are health concerns due to high altitude which you should be aware of (read Ladakh AMS Survival Guide). So follow this blog post and itinerary at your own risk, after weighing all the options.