We planned our trip to Leh in September and trust me it was one of the beautiful and appropriate time to visit the place. However, you may plan anytime between June to September, as it remains open during this time only. During the rest of the year, it usually remains closed due to heavy snowfall and blockage of Manali-Leh and Leh-Srinagar highway. We already had heard a lot about the exotic beauty of Leh and our expectations were really high and we were all set to depart for Leh.
The easiest way to reach Leh is by taking a flight from Delhi. So if you are not from Delhi, the first thing you need to do is reach Delhi and then book your tickets to Leh. Though the tickets may be costly at times (our ticket for Leh cost around Rs. 4000/-) however if you are booking them well in advance, chances are high that you can get cheaper tickets also. The flight usually takes 50-60 minutes to reach Leh and the bird-eye view of the entire route crossing the hilly and snow mountains is a retreat to eyes. People usually make videos and click pictures on their way to Leh. Though there are other ways to reach Leh from Delhi. One may board Government buses which ply from Delhi every alternate day, however, one needs to check out the details of these buses from the bus station. The tickets can be availed offline from the bus stop itself. Usually, online tickets are not available for these buses.
It is advised to opt for two different routes for onward and return journey so that you can enjoy two different locations. (For e.g. going via Manali highway and returning via Srinagar highway). So, we planned to return via Srinagar.
For your information, to the best of my knowledge, you may not find train services operating in Leh, so the only medium for commuting from one place to another can be either by buses or Taxi.
Alternatively, if you love driving, you may hire bikes, which are available at relatively cheaper prices in Leh and Manali (most of the voyager travel to Leh by bike via Manali-Leh highway).
After we reached Leh, the feeling was one of its own kinds. The airport was surrounded by mountains and it made me feel as I was on the top of this world. To summarize, you can travel to Leh by taking a flight, hiring a bike, or buses (you need to check the details of the buses from bus station).
The place is beautiful but due to high altitude, there exists scarce of oxygen. Once you reach Leh, it is advised to take rest for some time, as this will help your body to acclimatize to the climatic conditions of Leh. The magnetic beauty of this place will not let you rest. The only possible way out for all the curious and impatient people who can’t resist themselves from exploring the place is that they check out some local attractions or can visit the local Leh market.
To my experience, visiting Leh market was fruitful, as it makes you familiar to the local crowd and also brings you closer to the culture prevailing there. The people are extremely friendly, very helpful and know how to help the tourist at their place. They will try to help you out in every possible way they can. Following on, if you plan to visit places such as Nubra valley and Pangong Lake on the next day, there are a couple of legal formalities you need to complete (such as taking permission) before starting your journey. You might need to show the copy of permissions at various checkpoints, so make sure you carry the sufficient number of copies of the same.
Additionally, please consider checking out the possible options by which you can travel to these places (such as taking taxi, cab which can be availed on sharing basis). If you look forward to sharing cabs, which are easily available, you can drop down to the tours and traveler offices/ agents in the market itself. We booked a sharing cab in advance for the next day which cost around Rs 2500/- (this included traveling to Nubra Valley, one night stay in the valley, followed by traveling to Pangong from Nubra and then back to Leh). This is only the cab fare and does not include any other expenses.
For a stay in Leh, you can get hotels in the market itself starting from Rs 400/- a day.
Also, keep in mind to take the medicines and necessary kinds of stuff which you might need. Next important thing is the mobile network. To my experience, most of the networks are not operating except BSNL and Airtel postpaid connections. So, you may not find your mobile operating in this area, you can inform the concerned persons well in advance, about your cell phone being non-operational, to avoid unwanted worries. So, to summarize, do not excite yourself on the very first day, instead allow your body to settle down and acclimatize to the altitude and for the scarce oxygen. What you can do is to go for nearby sightseeing such as Leh Palace and complete formalities required for the following plans.
Next day, early morning, we started for Nubra valley and the climate was superb. The mild wind and beautiful mountains were refreshing. The feeling of the panoramic views of the parallel mountains and beauty of Leh cannot be expressed in words. The best idea to get close to Leh is to keep looking at those mountains and talk to them, they will surely answer you. The route to Nubra Valley was exotic, one would fall in love with it for sure.
The bikers on their way waving hands at you to motivate will be just another feeling. You will start feeling energetic. If you are driving, you should be cautious and it is highly recommended to hire a cab if you are not a perfect driver. The steep curves and mountains, and at times the one-way road, will make your journey adventurous. So, I request all the bikers to drive safely by taking appropriate breaks and pauses.
The route to Nubra Valley comprised of steep curves and sharp turns followed by distorted roads at few places. It can be difficult to find restaurants and breakfast points at some places, so keep the necessary arrangements beforehand. On our way, we crossed Khardungala pass, which happens to be the highest motor-able pass in the world, nestled at an altitude of about slightly more than 18000 feet. The pass turns out to be a meeting place of almost all the drivers. The bikers and other travelers stay at the pass, enjoy coffee and also cherish their achievement of crossing Khardungala pass: The highest motorable in the world. We do have several coffee shops at that high altitude, so don’t forget to enjoy a sip of coffee at the highest motor-able altitude.
The places to visit in Nubra include sand dunes and this place hosts various camping based hotels for stay. One can enjoy the campfire and feel Nubra by staying in tents.
There are a series of camp tents and hotels nearby sand dunes. You may also enjoy safari and camel riding which is unique in itself. To our limited constraints, we visited the monastery on our way, followed by sand dunes and then went to the hotel for night stay. The routes provide a different feel of the valley and also include mountains ranging from different shades and colors. They also provide different view during the day, evening and early morning. I was lucky enough to take the luxury of all the three different views. The hotels in Nubra ranged from Rs 700/-, the one we opted for. The food were decent enough and we were more excited about our next day to Pangong. If you are a passionate photographer and love capturing nature, then this is the best place for you. Climate usually is normal here. Being a desert region, at times it becomes colder suddenly. Make sure you have sufficient woolens with you.
We started our journey from Nubra to Pangong early morning again. The roads were silent, not very well developed at some places. However, again the mesmerizing mountains and few rivers followed us. The frequent movement of bikers was making it even more interesting and attracting us towards the Pangong Lake. As suggested by the cab driver, the lake changes its color and show different shades because of which it has been the prime shooting location for a couple of Bollywood movies.
The beauty of the Pangong Lake is difficult to express. The travelers usually plan a night stay at the tents near the Lake, to observe the lake early morning. However, one can also appreciate it if they are observing it late morning, sometime around 9.00 am. While appreciating the beauty of the lake, it is however advised to carry sufficient woolen clothes, as the temperature may be really cold during the night. Further, we had a plan to return to Leh (back to our destination), so if you plan to return Leh again then you should start early, as returning to Leh from the Pangong Lake may take about 5-6 hours and also travelling during evening may be difficult, so it is advised to start from Pangong sometime around 12-1pm. While returning to Leh you will cross Changla Pass and in our case, we could also find heavy snowfall at Chang La. One can enjoy nice tea and coffee at Changla, which counted to a different experience. Overall, the tour turned out to be a dream comes true for all of us.
The military camps at almost all the places, assuring full safety, made us feel really secured and they just made sure that travelers and bikers are in good health. Miles away from your home the strangers become your friends. And on our way, we also found a few strangers and we became really good friends.
After completing our tour to Leh, we headed towards our last destination which was Srinagar. We were supposed to return Delhi from Srinagar. Different from Leh, the city had a lot to gives us. Please make sure that you enjoy every bit of the route from Leh to Srinagar. The route is beautiful and you will also encounter magnetic hills on your way. It will give you a different feel and experience.
The best possible way to reach Srinagar from Leh is to take a sharing cab (which may cost you around Rs 2000 to 2500/-). However, there are other cheaper mode available. So, we opted for Jammu and Kashmir Government buses plying daily from Leh at 2 pm in the afternoon and promised to reach Srinagar by 6.00am next day. We reached Srinagar by 5.45am.
The buses are also a comfortable way to reach Srinagar. Due to contingencies, the buses may halt at Kargil and then start again at early morning.
The buses were cheap and they cost around 1050/- per passenger. The highway as expected was beautiful and different from the rest of the locations. They were different in shades and also, we passed magnetic hill on our way to Srinagar. The route covers Zoji la Pass, Kargil, Sonmarg and finally Srinagar. One should enjoy the route to Srinagar.
The moment you enter Srinagar, you will notice Dal Lake and traditional houseboats floating all over the lake. The lake is long and on your way, you will find out famous Shalimar Garden, Mughal Garden, Pari-Mahal and floating market. You may find good deals in the floating market, lovely flower shops, and what not. We stayed at houseboat for one full day. For local sightseeing, you can take sharing cabs which will take you to Shalimar Garden and other tourists hotspot locations on your way. Those sharing cabs are cheap (approximately Rs 20/-). Otherwise, you can also take a bus from Lake itself which will take you to the main market. I purchased dry fruit and we had lunch there in the market itself. If you have one day spare, Gulmarg is a highly recommended place to visit. Getting buses is easy and it would take almost 2-2.5hrs to reach there.
This is how we ended our journey to Leh – Ladakh – Srinagar.
The feeling was awesome. As I already mentioned, words are not enough to express my experience of the tour, but ever since I talk about it, it makes me feel that I’m still traveling, I’m still there. I had been a frequent traveler, but the emotions associated with this tour were different. We enjoyed, we had fun, we went emotional, we met some new friends, we felt proud, we captured every possible feelings and emotion we can during the entire journey.
If beauty is there, we witnessed it. During the entire journey, I felt as if, I was in my dreams. The people of Leh are lovely, very cooperating, one can easily fall in love with them. If you ask me the best part of the tour, I must say the route to Srinagar; it was a retreat to the eyes. At the end, I would highly recommend the readers to at least for once; plan a trip to Leh-Srinagar.
My future directions include the unexplored areas and to plan another tour to Leh, but this time I shall plan it via Manali highway and with my brother.
This help in connecting with fellow travelers and also I would be happy to elaborate further along with any queries, suggestion or piece of advice in this regard are highly appreciated. Feel free to connect with me!! Will be happy to help you.
Towards the end, I wish all of you a happy and safe journey…
This article is contributed by Purvendu Sharma, Education: M.B.A (Marketing), M.E, B.E and currently a doctoral student.
He is a post graduate in engineering and management and currently a doctoral student. His research areas include travel and tourism, sports and branding. He is a passionate writer who believes his writing would help readers in planning their travel and acts as a guide in motivating them to be a part of this wonderful journey.