Trekking in Ladakh

“Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it”
We should often take time to disconnect from all that is part of our daily life — technology, social media — and reconnect with nature and our inner self.

LADAKH – A stunning landscape, humble and good hearted people, trekkers and bikers paradise….
Ladakh is situated at an altitude ranging between 2750 – 7672 meters, above sea level. Known as “Little Tibet’, this place is blessed with an amazing topography that comprises of hilly terrain, rocky cliffs, lush green grasslands and high altitude peaks.  This is a place that is unique in its beauty and unparalleled in its serenity.  Also suavely called as the ‘Land of Passes’, the region forms the magnificent part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Ladakh has become a favourite place for tourists during the last few years not only because of its natural beauty but also because of its peace and tranquility. Ladakh is the only region in Jammu and Kashmir not affected by militants. That makes it an ideal place as a tourist destination. Ladakh offers a challenge for the adventurous and a chance to relax and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature for the less adventurous. Apart from trekking in Ladakh one can also indulge in other adventure activities such as mountain climbing and biking, safaris, water rafting etc.
Leh, with an area of 44000 sq. km, which probably makes it the largest district in the country in terms of area, is one of the coldest and most elevated inhabited regions of the world.  Most of the villages are situated on the banks of the river Indus or deep in the mountains where there are snow streams.  Though the valleys enjoy beautiful weather in summer, the mountains are snowcapped round the year. In the mountains, one can enjoy the sight of sapphire blue lakes and springs with crystal clear water.
As with all my trips there is extensive planning done before hand.  I am not the backpacker kind. My friend, Anjali, will definitely agree as we have done a couple of trips together in the past few years.
Link below for our final itinerary which can be used as a template:
Template for the list of items we packed for the trek:
Snapshot below from my travel handbook:
Trek map
Weather forecast showing what weather we might run into so we packed accordingly
Plotted points of interest using google map
Plotted points of interest using google map
We reviewed a couple of trekking destinations in India and finalized Ladakh since my friend Anju was keen on visiting this place.  Next was to reach out to a local tour operator and we will not use anyone but our tried and trusted Himalayan Path Finders.  We used this company for our Shimla-Kulu trek a few years back.  While looking for a tour operator I always look for safety, budget, knowledge of the local guides, schedule, environmental impact.  I highly recommend Mr Negi’s services at Himalayan Path Finders.  They offer group/customized tours that use expert, friendly guides and acutely monitor all your travel arrangements from start to finish. They cater to all last minute requests and are super accommodating. Their guides are experts in North India with profound local and cultural knowledge so if you go on a tour with anyone, especially in North India, go with them.

We travelled from Dubai to Delhi and then took a domestic flight from Delhi to Leh.  Do insist on a window seat as you will get to see a magnificent aerial view  of the snow capped mountains – depicted in the image below.


Taken from the aircraft while descending into Leh
Baggage belt at Leh airport

I had researched a couple of hotels in Leh and after going through the reviews of Grand Dragon hotel on Trip Advisor, we decided to book this one for our arrival in Leh.


With the team from Mountain View Trek & Tour at The Grand Dragon, Leh
Upon arrival at the hotel, Ladakhi girls adorned us with the katak (silk stoles akin to a garland) upon arrival at the hotel. 
If I had to summarize the view from our room in one word – STUNNING!
We headed straight to the buffet breakfast to appease our growling stomachs.  My friend Anju relishing the spread.  Now that’s one contended traveller 🙂
Ladakhi cuisine is heavily influenced by the high altitudes and freezing weather. Their food is laden with fat that is essential to keep the body warm. Try eating the same way anywhere else and your cholesterol will shoot through the roof in no time.
Butter (salted tea) served at the hotel during breakfast… can best be described as an acquired taste

The drinking tradition:  Tibetan custom calls for butter tea to be drunk in separate sips, and after each sip the host refills the bowl to the brim. Thus, the bowl is never empty; it is constantly topped off. If one does not wish to drink, the best thing to do is leave the tea untouched until the time comes to leave and then drain the bowl. The host will not be offended this way.


….. along with Kashmiri saffron tea with almond sliver
Once in Leh, do not neglect the good old advice of acclimatizing for at least a day or two. Acclimatization is very important in high altitudes to avoid any health issues.  After resting for a couple of hours we decided to explore this small, charming town  using the vehicle booked by our tour operator.  We started our journey with the Shanti Stupa.
At the Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist white-domed stupa on a hilltop in Chanspa, situated at a height of 4267 meters overlooking Leh city
The stupa gives a panoramic view of surrounding snow capped mountains
Buddhist temple near the Stupa
Interior of the stupa
Interior of the temple
We then travelled to Leh market.  The Tibetan Refugee Market is a must visit. Lovely Tibetan lady selling some awesome silver jewelry and antiques.
For the best Tibetan dishes in Leh, meals at The Tibetan Kitchen is highly recommended. The staff are extremely friendly and always suggested the right dishes for us to try. We had all our meals on the last day at this restaurant. Received a complimentary dessert towards the end of our stay – it always pays to be loyal 😉
Steamed mutton momos, grilled trout and chicken sabagleb (Tibetan bread stuffed with chicken and minimal spices) – simple, healthy and sumptous!
At Gesmo, another popular restaurant patronized by tourists in Leh.  Try their Coffee and banana pancakes.  You will thank me for the recommendation 😉
Leh main market lined up with numerous adventure shops, travel companies, mountain-bicycle shops, taxis, garden restaurants, terrace restaurants, coffee shops etc….


Cappuccino served  in a LV cup at Leh-Ling book shop in the main market – that was seriously one good cup of coffee!
Local artist playing some amazing music on this instrument at Leh Market.
At dinner we tried the Thukpa dish.  Thukpa in Tibetan language means noodles. The origin of this dish is in the eastern part of Tibet, thus, Amdo Thukpa is popular amidst Tibetan & Nepalese populace. Gradually, the dish became popular in Bhutan, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and other regions of India. Thukpa is basically a noodle soup, prepared by mixing noodles with chicken or vegetables. In Ladakh, this soup is very popular and is also prepared in different varieties.
Following day, we left the hotel early am to Likir and stopped on the way at Magnetic hill for a pic. I had read that at the Magnetic hill vehicles moved at a speed of 20 km/ hour with the engines off, not that we experienced any of this.
On our way back stopped again at the Magnetic hill for a pic.
There were Indian army and camps all over Ladakh.
Magnificient views enroute Leh to Likir.
Drive to Likir was around 45 kms towards Srinigar in the Scorpio.

Trek starting point (3550 meters) – desert like terrain. We walked from Likir to Yangthang, across Yangthang and Sumdo villages crossing small passes called Phobe La (3550 meters) and Charatse La (3650 meters).


Tekking path through streams….


mountains; uphill; downhill…


flat terrains, river ……..



Indus river

Overnight camped near the village.


A visit to one of the homes in the village.


A typical Ladakhi kitchen which is used only during winters.


They have a separate kitchen that is used during the warmer months.


Feast prepared for us in the camp by our fabulous Nepali Chef.


Next day… post breakfast, trek towards Hemis Shukpachan village.



Overnight at the guest house in Hemis Shukpachan.


Massive statue of the Buddha built by the locals
Peas, potatoes, cabbage garden grown by the locals


Lunch break… enjoying the packed lunch in the shade.


Group pic with our amazing trek team …. miss their smiles, warmth, humility and hospitality.  We miss Lundup (guide standing between us) who kept us motivated throughout the trek and never gave up on us!


Last day of the trek.. Unbelievable!! Our cook baked this delicious chocolate cake especially for us with minimal equipments. We had pizza, pasta etc.. prepared by our cook for lunch that day!!! We wished he would come with us to Dubai 🙂


Being a bastion of Buddhism in India, Ladakh offers a dozen big and famous monasteries, perched majestically atop hillocks. Apart from their majestic art, architecture and aesthetic beauty, they are a repository of old Tibetan and Indian culture. The paintings on the walls of several monasteries tell us about Indian great traditions of art and culture.
The more famous ones of these monasteries are Hemis, Thicksay, Spithuk, Gaon, Alchi, Lama Yuru and Rizdong. Each one of them organises a yearly monastic festival. Hemis festival is held in the month of June-July and is the biggest draw for tourists and locals alike. People flock in thousands from all over the world to witness this two-day festival. For the locals, the festival is of great significance more as a religious practice. But for the outsiders, it gives a glimpse into Ladakhi’, in fact into India’, past and present. The locals, attired in their best colourful traditional and cultural dresses, are a tourist’ delight. It offers a great photo opportunity too.

We managed to visit a few monasteries the next day, starting with Alchi monestary. This is the oldest monastery and one of the most important Buddhist centers in Ladakh.  All over the region are monasteries with Tibetan prayer wheels called Mani wheel where powerful mantras, generally the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra, printed on paper are coiled inside the wheels. It is believed that the the sight of a mantra is as effective as reciting it. To experience a spiritually moving prayer offering, visit the prayer wheels enshrined within the monasteries of Leh.


Apricot and apples are the main fruit trees of Ladakh and are widely grown in the warmer and lower reaches of Ladakh, particularly in Sham, Nubra and Kargil. Traditionally, the apricots are sundried on the roof of houses or on large stones and sold in markets in Leh and Kargil.


The following day we attended a 2 hour prayer session at Thiksey Monastery. Highly recommended as you get to see the entire ritual conducted by the monks. Felt really good at the end of the ritual.


We then visited Hemis Monastery which is the wealthiest monastery in India and famous for its rich collection of ancient remnants like the statue of Buddha made of copper, stupas made of gold and silver. Hemis Monastery also has sacred Thangkas, murals and various artifacts.



On the last day we visited Tibetan SOS Children’s Village (TCV). TCV is a registered, non profit, charitable institution for the care and education of orphaned and destitute Tibetan children in exile. Much remains to be done as Tibetans continue to flee the persecution in their homeland!

Tibetan SOS Children’s Village (TCV)

For donations or to sponsor a child, please write to:
Ms Sonam Youdun at
“When you put goodwill out there, it’s amazing what can be accomplished!”


Ladakh through my lens: a photographer’s dream

I really don’t think you can take a  bad photo in Ladakh. No matter where you point the lens you’ll get a great contrast between the endless blue sky, the crystal clear water and the arid brown peaks.


How can I desribe Ladakh? Barren beauty at it’s best

At an awesome altitude, this highland is the bridge between the earth and the sky!
Ladakh, is where, the forces of nature conspire to render a magical unrealistic landscape… burning sun and freezing winds…
glaciers and sand dunes….
A landscape of extremes…. desert and blue waters….
A primeval battleground of the titanic forces which gave birth to the Himalayas
Ladakh gets a “double thumbs up” from us!



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Pinky says:

    Loved reading ur post…wish to do it sometime…keep visiting places and keep writing….good luck

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you liked the post Pinky 🙂


  2. Dipti says:

    What a fantastic read, it felt like I am experiencing the full trip and living each moment. This is extremely helpful for anyone planning a trip with each detail in there. Loved it Pats and look forward to our trip together. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you liked the post!


  3. Super! Nice read early morning 😊 Here’s to many many more trips n blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mithra says:

    Oh wow … hitting my head for not joining you guys in this trip … the Himalayas …the indus … so much has been read but must have given u guys goosebumps actually seeing it . I agree with what they say ..You have but one life to witness the architecture of the maker .. spirituality of our universe is found here!! !!And my materialistic being says sigh !!! I missed all the tibetan jewellery!! So when are we going now ??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just let me know when you are ready! As you know organizing one is no trouble whatsoever 🙂


  5. John says:

    I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet
    I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the
    net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very kind of you! Thanks v much!


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