- Trip Outline
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Ladakh (“land of high passes”) is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture.
Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyulregions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north.
Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India. It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.
In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.
Alchi, a small village situated on low land, is about 70 km to the west of Leh district and is located on the banks of the River Indus. Alchi village is very fertile and it is all green with apricot trees on both side of road. This region had influence of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism because it falls on the route to Turkestan of China but its isolation helped the village and gompas to keep their cultural traditions safe from the outer influences.
The Alchi village is famous for the existence of one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh known as Alchi Monastery, which is Ladakh’s most valuable heritage. Alchi monastery is a Buddhist worshipping place and study center and is managed by the monks of Likir. The monastery was built, according to local tradition, by the great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958AD and 1055AD. The building is said to have been built during the 11th century and the architecture of the place is also excellent.
In Alchi, one can visit the Sumtsek Temple, Vairocana Temple, Lo Tsawa Temple, Manjushree Temple, Kangyur Temple with Stupas, Monk Cells etc. Beautiful wood carving arts, huge Tibetan Styled models of Buddha, Manjushree, historic wall paintings of Buddha’s teachings within a very calm, quite, pristine ambiance made Alchi more valuable. There are five shrines in the Choskor temple complex which has some splendid wall paintings. One of its walls features thousands of miniature sized pictures of the Buddha. It is a perfect place to relax and experience the quintessential Buddhist monastery.
Lamayuru is located Leh district, this is the famous Buddhist monastery at a height of 11520 ft. This splendid monastery is considered as one of the fascinating places that one must visit. If you are planning to visit Ladakh then you must enlist this place in your wish list as this monastery is said to be the oldest as well as the largest in Ladakh. Lamayuru monastery is a place where many legends were associated with. In the earlier days, this huge construction was a collection of five gigantic building out of which only one survives now. But still, this remains the largest monastery and houses near about 150 Buddhist monks permanently, in earlier days the number was 400.
This wonderful ancient structure is located on Srinagar-Leh highway. During the winter season at daytime, the weather is considered warm if the temperature is not at minus but at night the temperature plummets to minus 20 degrees. The area of the monastery is still very large even though only a small portion of the Lamayuru monastery remains alive. The travelers to this Buddhist monastery can only access the prayer hall which is only the key part of the whole monastery. This place has a unique appeal. From the monastery, tourists can experience the barren mountains along with the scenes of normal village life below.
Things to do in Lamayuru Monastery
Are you planning to visit Lamayuru monastery? Then do not forget to experience a small walk through the village apart from the monastery. The habitats at Ladakh are extremely generous and warm. If you apply the universal ladakhi greeting Juley along with a big smile they would easily open up to you. The people there are so cordial that some might invite at their stay to have a cup of tea. Else tourists who love adventure can try hiking on these amazing mountains. Do not worry, hiking is not a big deal, even during the hiking you can capture some excellent frames.
Lamayuru is also very well-known for YuruKabgyat which is a two-day cultural festival. This worth visiting festival takes place in the second month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. This festival is also called the mask festival as the monks were different mask during the ceremony.
How to Reach Lamayuru Monastery
The best and the earliest way to reach Lamayuru especially if you are traveling in the winter season is by hiring a cab from Leh. This is because during the winter season the buses do not ply on the highway on a regular basis. But in summer you are advised to board local buses as then the journey would be more fun and pocket-friendly. The drive to Lamayuru is an excellent journey. As you leave Leh the landscape start changing. However all that can be seen are dry and arid, only a few patches of green land can be found. During the journey, if you are lucky there are chances to experience wildlife animals. It would be better if you start your journey to Lamayuru in the early morning so that you can back safely before anafternoon in the Leh city.
Best Time to Visit Lamayuru Monastery
If you are planning to visit this monastery then you are advised to book your tickets for the months from April to June. During these months the weather remains quite warm and comfortable. It would be wise to avoid visiting this tourist attraction during the winter season as then there are chances that the weather would be too cold for the tourists to move around.
Thiksay Gompa, Thiksey Monastery or Thiksay monastery is a gompa of Tibetan Buddhism religion. It is located on the top of the hill. It is very famous for its similarity with Potala Palace of Lhasa. This monastery is famous for pilgrim activities, architectural elements, sightseeing and exploration. The monastery has an interesting anecdote of how it was built in this exact location. It is said that when two Buddhist monks offered prayers and rituals at the Yellow Temple and were about to through a cake (offering to God) into the valley, a crow took away the cake and place it on a hilltop. They assumed this a divine order and built a monastery here.
How to Reach Thiksey Monastery-
The Thiksey Monastery is located on top of hill of 3,600 m altitude in Thiksey village. This village is located on the Leh-Manali highway in Jammu and Kashmir. The village lies 18 km to the south of Leh. Leh has a domestic airport, which is the highest airport in the country. The frequency of flights to Leh from other parts of the country is very less. Tourists usually reach India via Delhi or Srinagar airport and choose any land transportation to reach Leh. You can either hire cab to reach Thikse monastery or choose bus. The bus to the monastery starts at 9 in the morning. The bus tour includes many attractions including the monastery and thus, the time limited for exploring the monastery will be less. If you are planning to enjoy the monastery completely, it is better to visit in a car.
Best Time to Visit Thiksey Monastery-
The monastery is open to tourists from 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening throughout the week. October and November is the best months to visit the monastery. After November, the place will be closed due to snowfall and it opens by May. After November, the routes to the monastery will be blocked by snow and it becomes dangerous to visit. If you visit during early morning, you can enjoy many unique rituals. Numerous people visit the monastery by 6:00 in the morning to take part in the morning prayers with delicious hot local tea served by the monk.
Entry Fee of Thiksey Monastery-
The entry cost is 20 INR for both locals and foreigners. There is no fee for camera. It would take around 2-3 hours to scale the whole place.
Places to Visit in Thiksey-
The monastery holds ten temples, home for monks, assembly hall, nunnery and others. The monastery has 12 levels. It is one of the largest structures in Ladakh. As you enter the monastery, you can find the statue of the protector deity in the entrance. From the monastery, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the flood plains of Indus valley.
This is one of the important attractions inside the monastery. It is a large statue, which is two storey tall. This is the largest statue in Ladakh.
The Assembly hall entrance has a wall that has murals of Tibetan calendar. The prayer room next to this wall has many books and manuscripts. Beyond the prayer room, there is a small sanctum. Apart from these, the assembly hall has many pictures, statues and murals.
This is a small temple dedicated to the Goddess. There are 21 images of the deity in this shrine. You can find many murals here.
This temple holds many scriptures including Stangyur and Kangyur. Women are not allowed inside this temple. There is a small school on top of the temple where young boys are taught to become Lamas. You can find a large pillar with Buddha’s teachings engraved on it. Beyond the temple, you can find numerous white huts, the residence of Lamas.
This is the school for nuns.
Festival of Thiksey Monastery-
Festivals takes place either in November or in October. The festival spans for two days. During this festival, after the morning prayers, the celebrations begin. A sacrificial cake is distributed during this festival. Top attraction of this festival is the mask dance, which is performed by the monks. It is said that the masked dance wade off the evil. The Black Hat dance is performed to re-enact the assignation of Lang Dar Ma by a monk. The exact date of the festival changes every year with respect to the Tibetan calendar. During this festival, a fair takes place at the monastery’s base. This fair is the best place to buy souvenirs and socialize with people.
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: Arrival Srinagar Airport / Srinagar Local SightseeingArrival Srinagar Airport and transfer to houseboat for relaxation. After Lunch Visit the famous Mughal Garden, Nishat Bagh known as ‘Garden of pleasure’ built in 16th century (1633) by Mughal King Asif Khan. Then visit to Shalimar Garden known as ‘Garden of love’ built in 16th century (1619) by Mughal King Jahangir for his beloved wife Noor Jahan or (Mehr-un-Nissa. After that visit to Chashma Shahi. The Chashma Shahi Mughal gardens in Srinagar have been loved by emperors and picnickers alike, and have now been restored to their past glory - despite violent political unrest in the region. Overnight stay in Houseboat in Srinagar
Srinagar to Kargil via Sonamarg & Drass VillageAfter Early breakfast depart for Kargil (204 Kms) & drive thru Sonamarg. Situated at an altitude of 9000 Ft. Sonamarg – 84 Kms is also called as “The meadow of gold” has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with trout and mahaseer. Stop at Sonamarg for Photography/tea (If the clients are interested they can visit the Glaciers of Thajwas on ponies on direct payment basis) these glaciers remain throughout the year. Continue your towards Kargil and passing over Zojila Pass. Stop at Drass, the 2nd coldest inhabitant place in the World for & enjoy cup of tea. Then drive along the Drass River till one arrives at Kargil.& Check in at Hotel. Overnight stay in Hotel in Kargil.
Kargil to Leh vis Mulbekh & LamayuruAfter breakfast at hotel drive to Leh, For majority of people travelling through the Srinagar Leh highway crossing Kargil bridge through Famous River of Kargil KARO. Next 40 odd kms down the road is the town of Mulbek, with a statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. It is believed that the 9 meter high statue carved out of solid rock was built in 7th or 8th century. the statue itself isa must see for any one passing through Mulbek. Drive through small villages a unique and different style of houses made of mud and bricks Next is the 2nd high altitude pass on this route, Namika La, located at a height of 12,198 ft, a windy yet scenic pass. The Himalayan ranges look mightier and beholding. The road cuts thru these ranges and the sun’s reflection changes the colours on the peaks. Roughly 40 kms Namika La is Fotu La, the highest point on the Srinagar - Leh highway, (13,479ft). Passing Flotula we descend down towards Leh, we pass the famous Hungaroo loops which are amazing to look at, the blend of these loops with the majestic peaks is mesmerizing. Proceed further towards Lamayuru is considered the largest and the oldest Gompa in Ladakh. The road now is excellent, the drive get more scenic, Pass, Khaltsi, Nimmu on our way to Leh. On the way visit Sangam, Gurduwara Pather sahib. Overnight stay in Hotel in Leh.
Leh Local SightseeingAfter breakfast visit the monasteries of Shey, Thiksey, and Stok Palace. Shey – it was the ancient capital of Ladakh and even after Singge Namgyal built the more imposing palace at Leh, the kings continued to regard Shey, as their real home. The importance which was attached to Shey - the seat of Ladakh's heartland - is attested by the enormous number of Chorten about the village, particularly around the palace complex and barren plain to the north of the road. Thiksey –is one of the largest and most impressive Gompas. There are several temples in this Gompa containing images, stupas and exquisite wall paintings. It also houses a two - storied statue of Buddha which has the main prayer hall around its shoulder. Hemis – Beautiful monastery located in Karu. Overnight stay in Leh.
Leh to Nubra ValleyAfter breakfast at hotel drive towards Nubra valley via Khardungla pass(18350 feet) by surface passing thru Horzey & Gangles Village. On arrival in Nubra Valley, drive to diskit, visit Deskit, the HQ town of Nubra Valley. Driving for 30 Kms takes to Khalsar Bridge. Visit desklit monastry. Further drive from Deskit to Hunder, you may see a few Double Humped, Hairy and Bactrian Camels. Overnight stay at camp in Nubra.
Nubra Valley to Turtuk ExcursionTurtuk-village 80 kms from Hunder. Turtuk in Ladakh is a picturesque border village situated along the famous SilkRoute that has quite a past. Most recently, Turktuk was one of the biggest stages of the Kargil war in 1999 when Pakistan troopers occupied a small area on the ridges overlooking Turtuk . Locals depend on farming and providing mules and porters to the Indian Army the five villages of Turtuk, Tyakshi, Thang, Pachathang and Chalunka were in PoK till the 1971 war.Dinner and overnight stay in Nubra.
Nubra Valley to Pangong Via Shayok VillagePangong Lake 150 km from Leh is a beautiful lake. The name Pangong is derived from the Tibetan word Banggong Co meaning long, narrow, enchanted lake. There is a narrow ramp-like formation of land that runs into the lake which is a favorite among tourists and photographers. Due to the saltiness in the water of the lake, there is very less micro-vegetation. There are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. However, numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface can be spotted in plenty. There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake Overnight stay in Pangong.
Pangong to HanleyAfter breakfast drive from Pangong to Hanle. Hanle is a village in Ladakh, India. It is the site of the 17th century Hanle Monastery (gompa) of the "Red Hat"Tibetan Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism and is located in the Hanle Valley on an old branch of the ancient Ladakh - Tibet trade route. The valley is home to about a thousand people, with about 300 people living in Hanle village. Overnight stay in Homestay at Hanle.
Hanley to Tos-moririAfter breakfast leave from Hanle and drive towards Tso-moriri Lake via Mhe Bridge The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft). It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. The Tsomoriri Lake is 23 km long and 10-15 km wide and the panoramic view of the Lake is amazing with Turquoise coloured water. Overnight stay in camps at Tso-moriri Lake..
Tso-moriri to Leh via Tso Kar & Taglang LaMorning drive back to Leh, en route visit Chumathang Hot sulphur springs Evening free in Leh bazaar. Overnight stay in hotel in leh
Leh Airport dropAfter breakfast transfer from Leh to Airport to catch flight for your further journey while recalling all the memorable moments of your exotic trip...
Pick up from Srinagar Airport / Volvo Stand by individual Cab and drop at Leh Airport
10 Nights Accommodation (Family Wise Room)
Meal Plan – As mentioned All transfers & sightseeing by 1 Non AC Cab (Innova / Xylo / Scorpio / Tempo Traveler) as per the itinerary
Non Alcoholic (Tea, Coffee, Juice etc….) welcome drink on arrival in Hotel (If available)
Taxes& Expenditures Included: Parking, Toll Tax, Luxury Tax, Green Tax Fuel Exp., Driver Exp & Personal Tax
Air Fare / Train Fare / Volvo Ticket / Monument Entrance Fee / Camera Fees.
Travelling or Accidental or Death Insurance or Claim or Settlement or Refund.
Any Adventure Activity River Rafting, Yak ride, Boating, Paragliding Etc.Any Personal Expenses – Laundry, Shopping, Tip, Extra Meals Etc.
For Heater Requirement Directly Contact to Hotel with spot payment. Hard or Soft drinks and Mineral water are also excluded from this package
The monastery offers dinner at 6:30 pm. You can join the monks to enjoy the simple dinner. You have to pick a bowl and stand in a queue to receive thukpa, a noodle soup with many vegetables. You can also get butter tea here. If you are dining in the monastery, you are requested to clean your dishes.
Spituk is yet another interesting monastery, on the hill top near Indus about 18 kms. from Leh on Srinagar road. The Spituk monastery offers a commanding view of Indus. It has a totally new Gompa within the monastery as well as the old Gompa has also been restored meanwhile. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. Higher up in the hill is a chamber which houses the enormous statue of goddess. Its face is covered and uncovered only once in a year during the festival time.
The Spituk Gompa was founded in 11th century by Od-De, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub-od. The Gompa was named Spituk (exemplary) by Rinchen Zangpo, a translator came to that place and said that exemplary religious community would rise. Initially the Gompa was run according to the Kadampa school then during the reign of king Gragspa Bumide he converted it to Gayluk Pa order. Many icons of Buddha and 5 thangkas can be visited in this 15th century monastery. The Dukhang Hall is the largest building and has two rows of seats running the length of the walls to a throne at the far end. Sculptures and miniature chortens are displayed on the altar. There is also a collection of ancient masks, antique arms and fine thangkas. Higher up the hill is the Mahakal Temple, containing the shrine of Vajrabhairava. The terrifying face of Vajrabhairva is unveiled only at the annual festival in January.
Every year, on the 17th and 19th day of the 11th of the Bodhi month, the Gelukpa order of monks celebrate the Spituk festival known as Gustor. During the festival, the lamas wear the masks of religious deities and perform the dances, which is normally about good and evil and mythological stories related to the Buddhism.
Shanti Stupa was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu, Gyomyo Nakamura as a part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The stupa is a symbol of the ties between the people of Japan and Ladakh. Within the stupa, there are relics of the Buddha, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama. The stupa is spread over two levels. First level has Buddha idol, and second features relics depicting the "birth" of Buddha, the death of Buddha (mahanirvana) and Buddha "defeating the devils" while meditating.
One can also visit the Leh Palace, which is quite close to the Shanti Stupa. Don't forget to click some amazing pictures against the backdrop of the stupa. From here, the view of Leh is extremely beautiful. Tourists can also consider visiting the market nearby the Shanti Stupa to pick some local handicrafts.
June to September will be the best times to plan a trip to the Shanti Stupa as the roads are clear. The day remains warm and sunny with a sudden dip in temperatures towards the evening.
Khardung La Pass placed there name in the eleventh number on the list is the falsely claimed highest motorable pass in the world named, situated in Ladakh, India at an altitude of 5,359 Mtrs or 17,582 Feet.
Thousands of tourists travel every year to this mountain pass and I assume that it may be one of the most clicked passes in the world for sure with maybe thousands of photographs produced every year by tourists over the Internet who visit Ladakh. Almost, everyone who visits Ladakh, do visit Khardung La pass and get a picture clicked up there with its signboard.
Almost all kinds of bikes or cars have traveled up there as the ascend to it is not that treacherous as compared to some other even less altitude passes. Do not miss a black tea or tomato soup up there at the Canteen similar to Chang La. You can also get some souvenirs of world’s highest motorable road too from the shop up there at Khardung La.
I want to clear some confusion on World Highest Motorable Pass. As per latest news there is some changes in the list on that. The top 13 passes are follows-
1. Umling La or Umlingla Pass – 5,883 Mtrs or 19,300 Feet
2. Road to Uturuncu – 5,777 Mtrs or 18,953 Feet
3. A Road uphill Mana Pass or Dungri La – 5,610 Mtrs or 18,406 Feet
4. Marsimek La or Marsimik La – 5,582 Mtrs or 18,313 Feet
5. Semo La – 5,565 Mtrs or 18,258 Feet
6. Photi La – 5,524 Mtrs or 18,124 Feet
7. Dongkha La or Donkia La Pass – 5,486 Mtrs or 17,999 Feet
8. Kaksang La – 5,438 Mtrs or 17,841 Feet
9. Suge La – 5,430 Mtrs or 17,815 Feet
10. Chang La – 5,360 Mtrs or 17,586 Feet
11. Khardung La – 5,359 Mtrs or 17,582 Feet
12. Taglang La or Tanglang La – 5,328 Mtrs or 17,480 Feet
13. Wari La – 5,312 Mtrs or 17,428 Feet
Maitreya Buddha, the impressive 32 meter tall statue, is visible from a distance as soon as one enters the Diskit Region. Perched atop a hillock, facing the Shyok River towards Pakistan and complementing the surroundings, Maitreya Budhha was constructed in 2006 keeping in mind three objectives - protection of Diskit Village, prevention of further war with Pakistan, and to promote world peace. The statue was inaugurated by H.H Dalai Lama in 2010. The imposing and colourful image, also known as Jampa is mounted on a large hall that has a preserved a huge drum and a collection of statues and Buddhist literature. One can see statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and Guru Rimpoche inside the hall.
The higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable and 4×4 ones would definitely be helpful especially between Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri via Man – Merak – Chusul – Nyoma (Changthang) route. However, for the general route from Chumathang, quite a few people do it in hatchbacks and sedans as well which depends upon your skills to drive and road conditions at the time of travel.
In general Leh to Tso Moriri road condition via Upshi – Chumathang route is good enough for any type of the car including hatches and sedan.