When I traveled to Ladakh, I did so over the course of seven days. It’s a good time frame for the region if you fly in and don’t want to be rushed while gettin a good impression of what is on offer. Of course there’s always more to see, but I thought one week was the sweet spot between taking in the region and not tiring out.
Here’s the itinerary that I followed when I wrote ‘When Your Lowest Point in Life is Still 3,048m Above Sea Level‘. There are many ways to skin a cat (exactly why anyone would though is beyond me…), so feel free to ask questions in the comments about altering this itinerary to whatever it is you would like to do. If you have any questions about budget, visas or other practicalities, you can also check out my in-depth guide to traveling in Ladakh.
Day One: Leh
Your main objective on your first day is to acclimatize to the altitude – preferably without checking in at the Vomit Hilton. Even with altitude sickness pills you should at least rest half a day before you get started. While you’re slumbering away, you can already have the following arranged:
- Inner Line Permit: In order to visit the most interesting sights in Ladakh (e.g. Nubra Valley, Turtuk, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri Lake…) , you’ll need to get an inner line permit. You can either arrange for those yourselves or have someone from your guest house do it for you for a small fee. The main point is to make sure it covers all the places you want to visit and that you have multiple copies (each police checkpoint usually keeps a copy).
- Find a driver or tour company: Most people explore the region by vehicle as part of a tour group or with a private driver. Which one you pick depends on your budget.
If you feel up for it, you can also hire a driver and explore some nearby sights on the afternoon of the first day – works well if you arrived by plane. There’s Leh Palace, Tsemo Gompa and Shanti Stupa which make for a decent excursion of three to four hours.
Day Two: Nubra Valley
If you haven’t had any problems with altitude sickness on the first day, you can head out to Nubra Valley on your second day. You’ll cross one of the highest motorable roads on the way: Khardung La. Aside from sight-seeing various monasteries like Diskit, you’ll also have the chance to ride camels in Nubra. While it’s possible to do this as a day trip, I recommend staying overnight in Hunder. You can get some hotel recommendations in this article.
Day Three: Sangam (Confluence) valley river meting point
This is Confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers. The Sangam point is located on the National Highway 1 to Srinagar. Watching the confluence of the muddy Zanskar water with the bluish green Indus is so breathtaking. En route to the Sangam point one can visit the Hall of Fame Museum, Gurudwara Pathar Saheb and Magnectic Hill.
Day Four: Leh
Exploring Ladakh can be very exhausting. The roads are very curvy and most sights worth visiting seem to sit atop of a hundred stairs. I found having a rest day between multi-day excursions is a good way to recharge your batteries. It’s a good opportunity to hit up the markets in Leh for some Tibetan souvenirs, local sweets, tea, Himalaya products and other souvenirs like yak wool gloves (which seriously keep you warm) or the mandatory lame pun t-shirt (‘I Got Leh’d’).
Day Five: Changtang Region
This area represents India’s Tran Himalaya region due to its cold desert environment and harsh climatic conditions in winters. The ecosystem has suffered a lot due to harsh weather conditions and thus many wildlife animals migrate to lower regions in winters.
The Changthang region is home to more than 3500 Tibetan refugees who primarily depend upon livestock for their food.
It is situated at an altitude of 14,600 meters above sea level in Rushpo Valley. The land is home to the Changpa nomads and stretches from Eastern Ladakh to approximately 1600 kilometers east into Tibet. The climate of Changthang is quite unpredictable and can result in thunderstorms at times.
Day Six: TSO MORIRI LAKE
Day Seven: Return to Delhi
Flights to Delhi usually leave in the morning, so you probably will find yourself heading to the airport after one last omelette and roti breakfast. There isn’t a whole lot of traffic in town and flights from the airport are few, so you don’t usually have to arrive excessively early at the airport (though keep in mind that your driver might have to make a stop on the way…). Don’t forget to identify your luggage before boarding your flight or you might find it left behind later on.
Sightseeing Around Leh
- Shey Palace
- Thiksey Monastery.
- Hemis Monastery.
- Stok Palace.
Please note though that I stuck to the more traditional way of experience the landscape with a hired driver and staying at actual hotels. I can’t comment on feasibility or advisability of the above, so consider them as ‘potential ideas to push the envelope’ rather than ‘how-tos’.
In the end there are many different ways you can explore the region and the above itinerary is a way that gives you an insight into the most interesting sights while skipping some of the most punishing drives. If you’re looking for additional advice on the region or other itinerary suggestions, you can also check out Devils on Wheels, one of the primary online resources for travel in Ladakh