Leh Ladakh is on every Indian’s bucket list. From the highest motorable road to the sand dunes of Hunder, from the biggest salt lake to the Bactrian camels, from the highest man-made bridge to the last standing village and from the humans of Ladakh to the cute little furry animals, Ladakh has it all. Ladakh gained its fame after the famous Bollywood movie – 3 idiots and the tourism shoot up. So, if you are dreaming about a dream holiday, now is the time to plan a Leh Ladakh one week trip.
For many, it’s a cakewalk to backpack and leave for Ladakh but for others, planning a trip to Ladakh is not so easy after all. Many factors come into the picture, such as low oxygen levels, dry climate, long travelling hours, nausea during travels through the ghats (motion sickness) and Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Some end up cancelling the trip or not getting enough courage to plan for one, whereas some brave hearts look forward to facing such challenges just to admire the beauty of this place.
How to reach Ladakh?
Well getting to Ladakh is pretty convenient. There are multiple options to get to Leh.
Airways: There are direct flights to Leh from Srinagar, Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu which commute daily. The airport is named as Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. Being a military base, photography at this airport is strictly not allowed
Roadways: The roads are pretty well connected all over India, so you can easily make a road trip from whichever place you want, to start from. I have known people who have made road trips from Kanyakumari till Leh, so the sky is the limit. Additionally, there are government and private buses which start from Srinagar and Manali. You can choose the vehicle (bike, bus or car) of your choice and get going.
Railways: Railways are a lot of time-consuming and it can take up to 3 days to reach Ladakh from the nearest railway station which is in Tawi and is around 700 km away from Leh. So commuting by train for Leh is not recommended, as by the time you reach there you will be completely exhausted with no energy to explore.
Getting around in Ladakh
So once you reach Ladakh, you will need a car/ traveller bus to travel around as there are no timely public transports available out there. The car hire charges are on a higher side in Leh due to presence of Ladakh Taxi Union which is operated by Ladakh Taxi Operator Co-operative Ltd. They have fixed rates for all the tourist destinations depending upon the car/bus, and it cannot be negotiated reason being the Ladakh Taxi Union again. You can check out the taxi rates on https://www.Ladakhtaxiunion.com
You can rent a Bike/ Bicycle if you want to feel the thrill of this terrain. Most of the roads in Leh are in good condition all thanks to the BRO (Border Roads Organisation) except for the roads near Changla Pass and Khardungla Pass. So get ready for a bumpy ride out here. Additionally, you will need permits to get around Khardungla Pass, so in case you are taking your own vehicle then do ensure to complete permit formalities beforehand. Carry necessary Vehicle documents as well as personal documents which will provide an accessible transit throughout Leh.
Which weather is best for Leh Ladakh?
Ideally, summer (April to mid october) is the best time to visit Ladakh as the snow melts over and you get unblocked roads to commute around in Leh. Many people ask me if it is OK to visit Leh in December? Yes, it is absolutely fine. Mid-October to March is the coldest period in Ladakh, many people do visit Ladakh in this period as well, for Chadar Trek or just to experience the magic of snow covered Ladakh. Snow brings in its own charm. However, getting a warm place to stay becomes a task in snow as most of the hotels do not have the luxury of heaters or even running water for 6 months. If you are in for such adventure, then winter is coming.
Who to travel with to Ladakh?
I am sure; we all have our preferences and choices when it comes to travel any part of the world. Ladakh is suitable for all types of travellers, be it a solo traveller, families, friends, cousins or a trip with the strangers. Ladakhi hospitality will never look away and will help you whenever you are stuck. But I would highly recommend travelling in a group so that the cost is divided (car cost being the highest) and you can end up having a budget trip
How much does a Ladakh trip cost?
Budget is subjective to the mindset and affordability of an individual when it comes to travelling any place. Some people go with the flow, whereas some are calculative at every step. Some people think that it’s ok to shell out any kind of money when you are out and travelling as you are never going to be at the same place again whereas for some if it’s not a necessity, then the money shouldn’t be spent, it is merely wastage.
In short, you can budget the trip in any manner you like, you can go all lavish and stay in a 5-star, or you can just backpack, hitchhike and stay in homestays. The choice is all yours. But for your information, the most significant expense will be car rental. A five star will cost you anything above 10000 rupees a night whereas you can get homestays for as low as 500 rupees a night. Food is reasonably priced. There are many food outlets throughout the way as well as army based wet canteens where you indulge in some piping hot tea and samosas. One meal can cost you anywhere around 100-500 rupees.
Where to stay in Ladakh
Ladakh is a vast union territory and with vastness comes in a lot of confusion while deciding on a place to stay. Nature lovers would want to stay at a place somewhere near nature, whereas people looking out for convenience would love staying near the stations, markets for easy accessibility. Staying near the markets in Ladakh is a win-win, mainly because it is a hub of cafes and restaurants. Who wouldn’t want to have a scrumptious meal, right? You can explore the surroundings until late at night without any fear. Generally if you are staying at a remote location, it gets a little scary with no one around at night), Ladakh market is pretty vibrant with numerous duds and embellishments to grab on, the shop owners keep their outlet open till late in the night, you get stuff at a pretty reasonable rate, and there is something available for every type of a shopper. I am sure I have answered your question of where to shop in Ladakh. There is only one market in Ladakh, and it is easy to find that out.
Different kinds of accommodation are avilable: luxury, mid-range or budget
- The Grand Dragon Ladakh in Leh is highly recommended for an excellent quality stay and high-end services
- Turtuk Holiday Resort in Turtuk is a charming property surrounded with dandelions and apricot orchards
- Nubra Organic Resort in Hunder serves some lip-smacking organic food
- Home Stays, paying guest accommodation and guesthouses are readily available in Ladakh
What to eat in Ladakh
Picturing Ladakhi food, we end up thinking of momos and thukpa. But the Ladakhi food is more than that. Jolting down some of the yummiest local dishes you can try in Leh. I am sure, by the end of the list, you will feel famished.
- Momos – Momos are definitely the highlight of Ladakh food. The chicken and mutton momos can make anyone drooling
- Butter Tea – Yes, there is actually some butter in this tea. This tea is pretty different from the ones consumed in various states of India. It will make you linger for more.
- Thukpa – Thukpa is a toothsome soup and is available at most of the food outlets. It is loaded with vegetables and is apt for cold temperatures like that of Leh
- Thentuk – It is a variant of Thukpa. The only difference between the two is of noodles, Thentuk has noodles in it whereas thukpa doesn’t have one.
- Mutton seekh Kebabs – I remember having it on the streets of Leh market, and it was love at first sight. They are full of flavours and are rightly cooked
- Qahwa – It is a Kashmiri tea consisting of saffron and cinnamon. The tea helps in keeping your body warm.
- Garlic soup – It is a delectable soup loaded with garlic to help you acclimatize in the high altitude of Ladakh region
- Yak cheese – Made from the milk of Yaks, it is famously known as Chhupri in Ladakh. Yak cheese is an acquired taste, so it is not mandatory to like it in the first go
What to pack for Ladakh
Being a cold region, Ladakh gets quite nippy in some specific areas. Make sure you pack some warm jackets, ear muffs to cover your ears from the nasty and frosty winds, hand gloves to avoid it from getting numb in touristy places like Khardungla, Pangong lake and Changla pass. The lake area gets chilly even in the day time. You can also carry your thermals if your body is not suited for frozen temperatures. It is advisable to not roam without your warm clothes in the crispy chill weather as it will make you fall sick. Precaution is anytime and any day better than cure.
What are the top things to do in Ladakh
Aptly quoted by Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. By saying that I am not implying that it is vital to perform some adventure activities when you are travelling to a new place, but it will be useful if you get out of your comfort zone once in a while to make and cherish memories for a lifetime.
You can satiate your adventure soul by venturing in motorbiking, trekking (Stok Kangri), River Rafting (at the confluence of Zanskar), snow leopard trails, mountaineering and then there is this double-humped camel safari in the Nubra Valley as well, but I would not recommend it, as the animals are not taken good care of.
How many days are enough for Leh Ladakh?
That’s a difficult question considering even a lifetime is not enough for Ladakh. But on a safer side (and, if you are tight on holidays), a Leh Ladakh one week trip is the bare minimum you should plan.
Suggested Leh Ladakh one week trip:
The following Itinerary can be tweaked as per your likings:
Day 1 – Accalamatise & local sightseeing
Arrive at Leh and rest for the whole day to acclimatize. Kindly do not take AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) lightly, it is real, and it has its causes if proper precautions are not taken. It is suggested to whiff camphor to prevent dizziness as well as intake garlic soup.
By evening if you feeling healthy, you can drive up to Shanti Stupa and snap the sunset. Do wear a light jacket with earmuffs as it gets a little windy in the evening.
Shanti Stupa – It was built as a peace symbol after the Hiroshima attack as the Japanese wanted to send a peace message in the world. Shanti Stupa was built with an equal effort of Indians and Japanese people. It was built in 1991 as a part of Peace Pagoda mission. The Stupa is a beautiful white coloured Tibetan structure overlooking the Leh city.
Day 2 – Thiksey Monastery and Sangam
Drive to Hemis to visit Thiksey Monastery, have a filling and continental lunch at Cafe Cloud 9 with the views of barren mountains. As it is just the second day, have some rest in the afternoon and then leave for Sangam to witness sunset at the confluence of Zanskar and Indus River.
Thiksey Monastery – It is 20 kilometres away from Leh. It a man-made wonder and probably the most picturesque monastery in Leh. It houses 500 monks, and the buildings are made in a hierarchal order.
Sangam – It is around 50 kilometres away from Leh. It is a confluence of River Indus and Zanskar. Different colour river water is quite evident from the confluence viewpoint. There are river rafting activities performed in here, and if lucky you will get to see the azure Sangam
Day 3 – Turtuk via Khardungla Pass.
Turtuk – Turtuk is the last standing village which is just 10 km away from POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Turtuk came under the Indian regime in 1971. To be precise, India occupied Turtuk on 16 December 1971. It has around 450 houses with a population of approximately 3000 people. Although their mother tongue is Balti language, but they even know Ladakhi and Hindi. Things to do in Turtuk include exploring Bali villages, apricot orchards, the heritage home museum and meeting with the King of Turtuk (Yabgo Mohammed Khan Kacho)
Khardungla Pass – It is the highest motorable pass in India situated at an altitude of 18379 ft above sea level. It is a gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valley in Ladakh. It also serves as a gateway to the Siachen glacier, all the troop supplies are transported from Khardung la. Spending more than 10 minutes here is not advised as AMS can kick in any moment. If you have breathing issues, kindly carry oxygen cylinders to help you with a constant supply of oxygen.
Day 4 – Nubra Valley
Diskit Gompa – Largest Monastery in Nubra Valley. It is built in between the mountain ranges, and it’s vividly colourful. You will get a pleasant view of the Shyok river from this hill.
Sand Dunes – By now, you must be wondering that what is it that Ladakh doesn’t have? Sand dunes right in the middle of the brown mountains with cute Bactrian Camels to give you company. They are found only in Nubra valley in India. Single humped camels are found in hot desserts whereas double-humped are found in high altitude and cold regions. It is believed that some Bactrian camels were left behind following the closure of the Silk route and hence we can have banter with these cuties. When we visited sand dunes, there was a crazy line of tourist waiting in queues to take a ride on this camel. The camels were always on toes without any rest. I would request you to avoid taking a ride on these camels and be a responsible tourist.
Day 5 – Pangong Tso and return back to Leh
Pangong Tso – It is approximately 130 kilometres in length, and the water changes its colour depending upon the sunlight. One-third of the lake is in India whereas the remaining two-third is in China. It is the highest saltwater lake in India. It gets nippy near the lake so dress accordingly. Please do not go inside the lake and spoil the water. It takes in a lot of effort to maintain nature’s beauty, but somehow many people take it for granted and ruin its charm. They have a metal board fitted right at the start of the lake clearly laying down the rule of not going inside the water, and I could still see many people taking a dip in it.
Day 6 – Explore the Leh market
Enjoy your last day at leisure, explore the markets, buy some souvenirs for your friends and family and return back with happy memories
Day 7 – Fly back to your home
Hope you find this leh ladakh one week trip article useful. Have you been to Ladakh? If yes, please share your experience in the comments section. below.
Nikita Panchal travelled on the behalf of Travel See Write to Leh Ladkh and she was hosted by Grand Dragon Ladkh. Everything expressed above is based on writer’s personal experience in the region. All images used were either shot by her or provided by the hotel. Please don’t use any image or text without written permission.