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The two most fearsome mountains in the world, the Himalayas and the Karakoram 3 of the highest motorable roads Chang La, Khardung La and Tanglang La, desert mountains stunning night skies and rainbows, Tibetan monasteries, blooming rivers, rainbow hills and breathtaking landscapes, Ladakh is bound to be among the most spectacular trips you can take in India.
No seriously. Nothing I said was exaggerated. As a solo traveler I was in Ladakh last year for about 45 days. After traveling by bus, bicycle or vehicle, and even jumping in rickshaws from one locality to another, here is my advice for you. You are free to use it as the ultimate travel guide for Leh or Ladakh.
So let’s get started.
How to reach Leh
Leh isn’t the most convenient destination to reach, and that’s why there’s this. You must first travel to Delhi, Manali or Srinagar from anywhere in India.
From Delhi to Leh
The most efficient way to get to Delhi from Leh is to fly, which can be costly for your wallet. On the plus side, it’s easy and saves you a lot of time.
Alternatively, travel by train to Delhi towards Manali, and another bus will take you to Manali towards Leh. More details are below for your Ladakh tour.
From Manali to Leh
We are looking forward to an exciting and massive game on the road from Manali to Leh, which is recognized as one of the most difficult highways to drive. Along the way, you will pass Rohtang, Suraj Tal, Baralacha Pass, Tangalang Pass and several other lovely settlements.
Here’s the deal. It’s just an HSRTC bus that runs from Manali to Leh and leaves at 4am, a good time to start. You will probably arrive in Leh around 6-7pm or the next day at 11am, depending on whether or not the driver decides to stop for the night during the journey.
You can also use a shared taxi or a tempo voyageur for Manali to Leh. They are expensive, however, they can save you time.
The views along the way are fantastic. During the whole trip, I didn’t have enough time to sleep!
Srinagar to Leh
The trip from Srinagar to Leh can be done with JKSRTC bus or shared taxi or traveler pace.
If you are traveling on an early morning bus leaving at 8:00am, you will be in Leh around 4:00pm; you will disembark at Kargil in the process. Be aware that there are no overnight buses from Srinagar to Leh. Therefore, plan your trip accordingly.
If you plan to visit the valleys and lakes together, make sure you have a minimum of 12 days in Ladakh. Your body needs at least a day to get used to the environment, so the best alternative is to use the time to go on local excursions. Here is an example of a perfect Ladakh itinerary that might look like:
Day 1 : Reaching, giving the body time to adapt, tasting Tibetan food at the market.
Day 2: Starting from Leh, take the left path to Shey Palace and Thiksey Monastery. Stok Palace, Hemis Monastery, Shanti Stupa
Day 3: The most direct route to Leh including Leh Palace, Phyang Monastery, Magnetic Hill and Sangam (river confluence)
Day 4: After visiting Diskit, travel to Nubra Valley via Khardung La and stay in Hunder.
Day 5: From Hunder go towards Turtuk. Spend the night
Day 6: Travel to Pangong Tso from Turtuk, stay overnight in Pangong Tso.
Day 7: Return to Leh from Pangong. Take a rest.
Day 8: Head to Tso Moriri, stay overnight (Can also visit Chumathang or Tso Kar, which are ongoing, with some discrepancies)
Day 9: Spend the night in Hanle Village for stargazing.
Day 10: Return to Leh and take a break.
How to start?
The most well-known method of covering all the popular tourist spots in Ladakh is by motorbike. However, the journeys are long, tiring and uncomfortable in the majority of cases. Suppose you are not a fan of cycling, alternative ways to travel to all villages in Ladakh.
As a solo traveler on a tight budget, I would rather take a nearby JKSRTC bus. The cost was low and the ride was comfortable. The only downside to the buses seems to be that they follow a strict schedule.
For example, the bus that goes from Tso Moriri to Tso Moriri only runs on the 10th, 20th and 30th day of each month. It is recommended to consult the bus timetable before making plans, and it is possible to refer to this timetable which I accessed in July 2018.
Another option for getting around is to use shared taxis; although they are expensive, they can take the stress out of fatigue and long journeys. Shared taxis are accessible from Leh. A typical taxi seats up to five people and costs 2500-3500 per person for a 1-D-2D ride (a bargain can be arranged up to a point).
If you are driving past your vehicle, make sure you know all the gas stations along your route before departure. The roads are long and gas stations are very rare. You may need to transport gasoline from Leh to the city itself, especially if you are traveling to remote areas where they do not have access to pumps.
Depending on the skills you use to bargain and your bargaining abilities, the availability of the bike you want and the duration, you can rent a bike from INR 600.
If you are looking to hire an extended ride like Leh to Tso Moriri, or Leh to Pangong Tso, I highly recommend you take the RE Himalayan, and that is the RE 500 CC, as the ride is likely to be strenuous and you want your bike and its seat to be comfortable the way they are. Since they are sturdier bikes, renting them will cost a bit more. However, I guarantee it will be worth it once you get back and you can stroll around without the embarrassment of the bach!
The car rental process is complicated; it is therefore suggested to take taxis instead. You will even be able to find out more about the car rentals available in the market.