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Leh-Ladakh: Your Complete Travel Guide!

Rating :
''Places to visit in Ladakh valley: Spiti Valley & Keylong, Leh and around, Zanskar.''

Ideal Number of Days : 15 days or more – If you are a nature and peace lover, you could spend more time in Spiti and Zanskar. Leh, you can wrap up in 3 days.

Cuisine : Ladakhi cuisine is similar to Tibetan cuisine, so it is dominated by thukpa (a thick soup with noodles and vegetables) and momos. One can easily find non-vegetarian food in Leh. Other cuisines like Chinese, Thai and Indian can also be found easily in Leh town. German bakeries are the best bet when in Leh, there are several in the Leh market area. Bengali food fanatics can be surprised too, with 2 Bengali restaurants in the market area. However, if you go beyond Leh town, you will be hard pressed for choices. All over the Ladakh valley, including Spiti and Zanskar, all you can get is Maggi and bread omlette (which is yum by every standard!). Also, if you want to try local drinks, make sure you stop by a local dhaba and ask for butter chai – made of tea, milk and yak butter. Alcohol drinkers can try homemade beer – chang, made of fermented roasted flour.

Travel tips : All smokers, kick the butt at least one month before you embark on the trip, because high altitudes of Ladakh, especially Spiti and Zanskar, can leave you breathless and feeling sick, strictly if you want to trek. Families with kids and old people should stick to road travel and not opt for trekking, not only because of breathlessness, but also because the terrain is tough. Travellers with kids, please make sure you stock up on readymade food, fruits and light drinks. One can stock up in Leh too. Trekking or no trekking, please carry your sports
shoes, warm clothes for mornings and nights. Afternoons are generally hot due to sharp sunrays, so make sure you carry 80 SPF sunscreen lotion. Definitely carry something to cover your head and mouth to save yourself from excessive dust in the afternoons.

Shopping : Ladakh is more of a traveller’s paradise than a shopper’s delight. Do not expect street shopping hubs anywhere in the valley. Although, if you want to take back nick-knacks, you can go to the Leh market where you will find hand carved Buddhist souvenirs, traditional Tibetan painting scrolls called Thanka, Buddhist prayer scrolls, or silver jewellery. Make sure you bargain, because they are most likely to ask an exorbitant amount. Elesewhere in Ladkah valley – Spiti, Keylong and Zanskar, you are unlikely to find anything to shop at all.

The trip I recommend : Although Leh is the popular tourist destination, there is more to Ladkah valley. Adventure seekers can do a road trip to Spiti valley, which is defined by arid mountain ranges with amazing rock patterns and patches of green in a landscape dominated by rocks. Public transport is meagre in this area and very few road side dhabas to stop by. But, if you get one, make sure you stop to enjoy the hospitality. The ride to and in Spiti Valley is very bumpy with non-roads in most of the stretches. In Spiti, you can find homestays in Losar, which is the most beautiful hamlet in the valley. There is not much to visit here, but one can take long walks and enjoy the scenic beauty. From Losar, you can drive to Kaza, and can visit the local monastery there.

From Kaza, you can drive to Keylong in Lahaul district. There is nothing to do in Keylong, except star gazing. But, a night’s stay at Keylong is advisable before you embark for Leh. There are several hotels in the small town.

From Keylong, you can drive down to Leh, or take a bus from Keylong bus station. Before deciding the mode of transport, consider that the travelling time will be anywhere between 13-15 hours.

In the recent past, Leh has become the most visited of tourist destinations, thanks to 3 Idiots! The place has a lot to offer to the travellers, from adventure, to a peaceful holiday, to great shots for photographers. When in Leh, one can visit the Leh palace, but do not expect any opulence. Monasteries are a must visit. One can cover Hemis, Shey, Thiksey and Spituk monasteries, which are within 20 kms from Leh. Also visit the shanti stupa in the Leh town.

From Leh, one can also plan a day trip to Khardungla pass – World’s highest motorable road at 18380 ft. Majority of the road from Leh to Khardungla is covered with ice and is spectacular in simple words. On the way to Khardungla, you will also meander through Changla pass – the third highest motortable road. When at Khardungla pass, enjoy a bowl of soupy maggi and chai at the canteen. From Khardungla pass, one can go to Nubra valley where you will find white sand dunes and double hump camels. Pay a visit to the Diskit monastery or gompa, the largest in the valley. All this can be covered in a day. However, you can also stay at Nubra valley or camp midst the white sand dunes.

Needless to say, a trip to Leh is incomplete without a visit to Pangong lake. It takes about 5 hours to reach the lake from Leh and the way is extremely scenic with narrow streams, wild horses, barren mountains and practically no human occupation. The ride will be bumpy at the end, but it is totally worth it! Considering the time of travel to the lake, going to and from pangong in a day can be taxing, so you can stay at tents or homestays in Spangmik village on the banks of the lake. It is a few kms away from the starting point of the lake. Make sure you do not miss the sunrise and sunset.

From Leh, you can drive to Zanskar valley. There is not much option other than driving if you want to go to Zanskar. The way to Zanskar, however, is extremely bumpy, you may have to drive through waterfalls. Make sure your car is properly serviced and has a healthy spare stepney; punctures are common on these roads. One can stay at Padum, the main town in Zanskar valley. But, if you want a more rustic experience, you can stop 2 kms before Padum at Phey village, a small village in Zanskar. Here people do not get many tourists, that’s why people are very friendly and curious. Have farm fresh vegetables and bask in the banks of Zanskar river at this village.

Source / Review By : Durba Ghosh

Durba is a journo with Cogencis

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