The Incredible Cold Desert

The land of enchanting Himalayan vistas

The Incredible Cold Desert

  • India
  • 11 Days
  • Delhi | Leh | Nubra Valley | Pangong Tso
  • Monasteries such as Lamayuru, Shey, Thiksey and Hemis
  • The highest motorable pass in the world, Khardung La
  • The gorgeous Nubra Valley with Bactrian camels
  • The high altitude lake of Pangong Tso


The Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir is unusual but gloriously different from anything else that you might have seen. The cold desert region at the foot of the Himalayas, has its capital in the city of Leh, from where many bumpy mountain roads radiate to stunning valleys and capillaries of rivers, ideal for rafting. Hill-top monasteries sever themselves from the hum-drum of the city so maroon robed monks can meditate in peace. For the travellers, the peace comes from gazing at the sprawling Pangong Tso (lake) with its mirrorless water spreading till China.

Ladakh offers a dizzying experience, quite literally and figuratively. High passes, snowed in during the winters, steer you towards the most cut-off villages, monasteries perched on hills and old palaces casting a shadow below at the villages. In a terrain like this, one cannot cruise over rocky passes and lush meadows. Instead, the roads offer an unforgettable adventure. With long hours on the road, there is ample for the eyes, soul and the camera. And when you head back to your homestay or hotel, the stupendous views don’t leave you. You get first row seats to the Himalayan mountains, capped with snow all through the year.



Delhi – Leh : Fly from the capital city to Leh, the main junction to explore Ladakh’s different territories. Leh lies at 13000 plus feet above sea level. It is recommended to take it easy and let the body acclimitise to the high altitude. We suggest you keep hydrated and rest on this day. Overnight at Leh.


Leh : We ease into sightseeing on this day, spending time at the Leh Palace, Sankar Gompa and the local markets of the city. The centre of town has a cobble-stone street with plenty of cafés and shops around. From here, one can head to Leh Palace, that overlooks the town. Modelled after the Potala Palace in Tibet, this was built in the 16th century. The other sight that we go to is the Sankar Gompa, a monastery that lies about half and hour away from Leh.


Leh : Our day in Leh is reserved for the Shey, Thiksey and Hemis monasteries. Shey used to be the summer palace of the Ladakh Kings, while Thiksey is known for its vantage spot. It is located 11400 feet above sea level and houses notable thangka paintings and other spiritual memorabilia. If travelling in July, the Hemis Festival should be included in the itinerary. The two day festival is celebrated with masked dancers and musicians. Overnight at Leh.


Leh : More hill-top monasteries lie in store on this day. The Lamayuru, Alchi and Bazgo monasteries offer a serene tryst with Buddhism. Overnight at Leh.


Leh : Travel to Likir on this day. The monastery apart, this offers a view of the villlages and the famous Indus River of the region. Many rafting expeditions are held on this river. Later, climb up to the Shanti Stupa in town for a view of the snow-clad mountains. Overnight at Leh.


Leh – Nubra Valley : This is an exciting day of crossing the highest motorable pass in the world at 13800 plus feet and reaching Nubra Valley on the other side. The pass, Khardung La, is ideal to stop for photos and a small snack at the lone canteen here. On the other side lies the tranquil setting of Nubra Valley, which looks right out of a picture book. Shepherds with their horses and yaks, green meadows and streams gurgling through them are a balm for the soul. Overnight at Nubra Valley.


Nubra Valley : In Nubra Valley, you can see the stunning Shayok Valley, Diskit Gompa and the cold desert of Hundar. In fact, this is the only place in India where the double humped Bactrian camels are found. Spend the day exploring different parts of Nubra Valley and stay overnight at the hotel.


Nubra Valley – Leh : Use this day to trace your way back to Leh and take rest. Overnight in Leh.


Leh – Pangong Lake : It is imperative to leave Leh early on this day to reach Pangong Tso via Chang La. The high altitude lake is one of the most photogenic sprawl of water that you will ever set eyes on. More than 60% of this lies in China. In the winters, the lake stays frozen, but in the summer months it offers a mirror flat surface that reflects the high mountains. We spend overnight at the edge of the lake.


Pangong Lake – Leh : Use the day to wend back to Leh town and spend the day at leisure, especially exploring the markets. Overnight in Leh.


Leh – Delhi : Fly from Leh to Delhi on this day.
October – March: Winter months, not recommended as most of the roads are closed down.
Mid April – June: Avoidable as the snow keeps the roads closed.
July – September: Dry months, ideal for travelling.
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