From Leh to Srinagar: 10 Days Journey

Sunday, September 03, 2017
Day 1: Arrive in Leh. Acclimatize.

Arrive in Leh by airplane. Head directly to your guesthouse. Do nothing! Leh is located at an altitude of 3,524 meters, which means your body needs to acclimatize to the high altitude. Lie down for the first couple of hours, drink plenty of water and tea. Don't push yourself psychically for the first 12 hours, at least. Note: If you've acquired a pre-paid Indian sim-card it won't work in Ladakh, due to security reasons. There are wifi available in restaurants and guesthouses, but I'd recommend to download an offline map of the area beforehand.

Indian Himalaya near Leh, India

Day 2: Leh. Main Bazaar Road. Leh Palace.

On Day 2 you should still take it easy, if you feel any signs of altitude sickness contact a doctor. If you feel fine, take a stroll down the Main Bazaar Road in central Leh. Enjoy diverse cuisines from cultures like India, Tibet, China and Israel. Shop a few souvenirs in the Tibetan markets.

Main Bazaar Road in Leh, India
From the Main Bazaar Road you'll find a path towards Leh Palace, which dominates the city with it's hill top position. Former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh. The hike to Leh Palace is about 10-15 min.

Leh Palace rising above the city, India
Make sure you visit a travel agency and book a trip to Nubra Valley. You'll need a permit to go there which takes some hours for them to acquire. Even though trip prices are fixed, it can be affordable to ask around for prices during the off-season, as discounts are obtainable. You can even share your trip with other travelers to save some cash.

Day 3: Trip to Nubra Valley.

The road to Nubra Vally includes higher altitudes, so make sure you're absolutely fit for the journey. First stop on your way to Nubra Valley should be Khardung La Pass. With an altitude of 5,359 meters (17,582 ft.) the pass is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. Local summit signs and dozens of stores in Leh selling shirts, incorrectly claim the elevation of the pass being 5,602 meters (18,379 ft.), which would make it the highest motorable road in the world. Some say, the error happend because the pass inherited the old summit signs from the original mule track through the mountains.

Top of Khardung La Pass near Leh, India
Second stop should be somewhere along the Shyok River leading into Nubra Valley. Absolutely stunning views meets the eye as the valley is opened up by the river.

Shyok River leading to Nubra Valley, India
Next on, stop at the oldest and largest Buddha monastery in Nubra Valley; Diskit Monastery. You'll spot the giant Buddha painted in lively colors and residing on a hilltop from afar. The entrance fee is a mere Rs. 30 per person.

Giant Buddha at Diskit Monastery near Nubra Valley, India
Last stop should be at the Hunder Sand Dunes. Here you can get up close and personal with the rare double-hump camel. Stay overnight in Hunder village, preferably in a luxury tent including dinner and breakfast. Head back to Leh next morning.

Double-Hump Camel at Hunder Sand Dunes near Nubra Valley, India

Day 4: Trip back to Leh.

Enjoy the journey back to Leh, make a few stops for lunch and a photo. Stop at Khardung La Pass again if you feel like. See if you can spot a few Wild Yaks along the mountain roads.  Arrive in Leh during the afternoon and relax or go back to the travel agency to book your trip to Pangong Lake. Permits also needed here.

Wild Yak in the Himalayas, India

Day 5: Trip to Pangong Lake.

The trip to Pangong Lake is slightly longer than the Nubra Valley trip. Make sure to stop along the way to cut the trip into pieces. First stop should be for a quick photo at Shey Palace, but continue on a little further to Thiksey Monastery for a longer tour inside the temple. Entrance fee is Rs. 30 per person. The largest monastery in the Leh-Ladakh region and located on a hilltop, this monastery is not to be missed.

Thiksey Monastery near Leh, India
Stop at Chang La Pass which is located at an altitude of 5,360 meters (17,590 ft.). Snap a photo, grab a snickers. But do not stay too long.

Chang La Pass near Leh, India
Arriving at Pangong Lake is truly magical. The deep blue lake approaches, as the contrast sandy colors of the mountains creates an unbelievable view. The lake itself is located with a surface elevation of 4,250 meters (13,940 ft.). It's 134 km long and stretches from India to China, creating a border which cuts the lake in half.

Pangong Lake in Ladakh, India
Spend the afternoon skipping stones or going in for a dip. Stay overnight in one of the luxury tents along the lakeside. Hit the early hours for an astonishing light show, as the sun rises from the mountains across the lake. Have a decent breakfast before heading back to Leh.

Luxury Tent view towards Pangong Lake in Ladakh, India

Day 6: Trip back to Leh.

Arrive in Leh during the afternoon. If you're not out of energy from the exhausting ride, trek to the Shanti Stupa. Or simply enjoy the many restaurant choices in Leh's Main Bazaar area. Book your trip to Kargil, either by local bus or with taxi.

Shanti Stupa seen from Leh Palace, India

Day 7: Trip to Kargil.

First stop of the day should be Magnetic Hill. This "gravity hill" located near Leh is a road which creates an optical illusion due to the layout of the surrounding area. Cars may seem to be rolling uphill, when they are in fact rolling downhill. Go see for yourself.

Magnetic Hill near Leh, India
Close to the town of Lamayuru you'll find a landscape named Moonland. And with good reason. The otherworldly-looking hills and rockformations gives a feeling of being on the moon.

Moonland near Lamayuru, India
Lamayuru Monastery is one of the oldest and most mysterious monasteries in the Ladakh region. The monastery houses around 150 monks who lives there permanently. From the top of the monastery you can also spot the Moonland area for a larger view of the odd-looking rockformations. Not too far from Lamayuru you'll cross the Fota La Pass which stands with an altitude of 4,108 meters (13,478 ft.).

View from the top of Lamayuru Monastery, India
Before you reach Mulbekh Chamba, you'll have to drive through Heniskot. An area roamed with dispute between the Leh Taxi Union and Taxi Union of Kargil. Passing here can be difficult if you're in small taxi. Even in a larger bus-like vehicle the taxi drivers from the Kargil Union might stand in front of the car, preventing your driver from going any further. Other mafia-like methods might be used in an attempt to damage the other taxi union. Most of the local drivers knows their way around this conflict, but during high tides of the dispute, trouble is meant to be.
Once you've made it through safely, drive until you reach the village of Mulbekh. Stop there for a visit to the Mulbekh Chamba. A striking Buddha statue carved into the rock face on the left hand side of the road.

Mulbekh Chamba in Mulbekh town, India
Reach Kargil in the afternoon. Check into a hotel. Get some rest. Find some local food or get a bargin on fashion wear.

Day 8: Trip to Srinagar.

The ride from Kargil to Srinagar is quite far and complex, which makes it perfect for a few stops along the way. First thing to notice is the river dividing near Kakshar. Where Drass River is joined by the Shingo River which runs across the  Pakistan border entering India. This is the closest you'll get to the border without crossing it.
Next up. A must-see place; Kargil War Memorial. A war memorial built by the Indian Army. Located on the foothills of Tololing Hill and with views towards Tiger Hill, which the Indian Army captured back from Pakistan. The memorial is built in memory of those soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice while serving during the 1999 conflict between India and Pakistan. Friendly soldiers welcome you on site and there's no doubt that this place is important. Most definitely worth a visit.

Kargil War Museum near Drass, India
Supposedly the town of Drass is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. They claim to be on several signs down the main road of the mountain town. A quick Google search however, spreads disbelief towards that fact. Some lists put Drass in second place, others in 8th or even lower. Lowest temperature measured in Drass was somewhat in the area of -50 Celsius. Probably one of the coldest place on earth during the winter, but also quite unreachable during that season.

Drass town in Kashmir, India
One of the reasons why Drass is quite closed-off during the winter is Zoji La Pass or simply Zojila. A mountain pass providing vital road connection between Ladakh and Kashmir Valley. Approximately 3,528 meters (11,575 ft.) in altitude, this pass is built with narrow roads which is not for the faint-hearted. During the Indo-Pakistani War, Zojila was seized by Pakistan invaders in an attempt to capture Ladakh. The pass was re-captured by Indian forces in an assault codenamed "Operation Bison", which included tanks rolling into Zojila's high roads.

Zojila Pass in Kashmir, India
Sonamarg is a perfect place for a lunch stopover. This town is a popular tourist destination with several glaciers and peaks above 5,000 meters. Especially the Amarnath Cave Temple draws many Hindu pilgrims to the area. The town has a Norwegian feel to it, since many of the guesthouses and hotel buildings are made from wooden planks or even red stone bricks.

Wooden hotel in Sonamarg, India
After a stop in Sonamarg you're almost at your end-destination for the day; Srinagar. Check into your guesthouse and get some rest.

Day 9: Srinagar.

The seven terraced garden - Pari Mahal or The Angel's Abode - located on top of Zabarwan mountain range. Has an astonishing overlook towards the city of Srinagar. The gardens functions as a popular meeting spot for locals.

Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar, India
Shankaracharya Temple also known as Takht-e-Suleiman (Throne of Solomon) relies on top of the Shankaracharya Hill not too far from Pari Mahal. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu God; Lord Shiva and dates back to 220 BC. No cameras allowed, but the temple is open for tourists, who shows respect towards this holy place.
After visting the temple head downtown and walk around the streets of old town. Eat a local meal or shop new styles.

Old Town of Srinagar, India
Near old town there's a tomb, which has been surrounded by mystery for more than a hundred years. Roza Bal is believed by locals to be the tomb of Muslim holy men Yuz Asaf and Mir Sayyid Naseeruddin. The shrine was relatively unknown until 1899, where the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed the place to be the tomb of Jesus Christ. That he survived crucifixion and spent the rest of his life in Kashmir.
If you chose to visit this shrine, tread with care. Local sunni caretakers of the shrine believe that "the theory that Jesus is buried anywhere on the face of the Earth is blasphemous to Islam". Locals can be offensive toward tourists visiting the shrine, and somewhat with good reason. In the late 1990's American author Suzzane Olson tried to dig up the tomb in search of DNA proof towards her claim of being the descendant of Christ. Since then, locals have been keeping a close watch on tourist visiting the shrine. In an effort to clear the myth locals have placed a notice board with the following quote:

"That they (Jews) said in boast we killed Christ Jesus the Son of Mary, The Apostle of Allah, but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ there in are full of doubts with no (certain) knowledge but only conjecture to follow for of a surety they killed him not, nay Allah raised him up un to himself; and Allah is exalted power wise."

Besides the notice board there's also a sign which clearly states "No Photos". Go have a look for yourself, but expect to be told to leave by the locals.

Day 10: Srinagar.

Dal Lake in Srinagar or simply Dal, as Dal means "lake" in Kashmiri, is tucked in, as the city of Srinagar surrounds it. There are several fountains around the lake and you can hire a local boat for a trip on the water or stay overnight in a houseboat.

On the East side to Dal Lake is the Nishat Gardens. A huge gathering point for locals, especially during the big Eid (or the second Eid). From the Nishat side of Dal Lake you can grab a coffee or an ice cream from Nishat Market as you watch the sun sink into the lake during the last daylight hour disappears with it.

Nishat Gardens near Dal Lake in Srinagar, India

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