Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ladakh Part 1 (Leh, Pangong Tso Lake)

Ah Ladakh, this was hands down both mine and Jason's favourite part of our travels. This post will probably be a long one as I recollect on a wonderful time. I'm going to have to split our time in Ladakh up in to about 4 different entries because we did so much while there!

Ladakh is in the Jammu and Kashmir region of India. That state has had many troubles and many times it is unsafe to travel there, but luckily Ladakh never really sees those troubles and is safe to travel to. Leh is the capital of the region and when our plane started descending into Leh I noticed how barren the area looked, it seemed like it was too high up for any plants to grow. It was a bit scary landing in Leh as there are many mountains around and it seemed like the airport was just surrounded by them.

One of the first things that we noticed about Leh was the lack of pushiness from the taxi drivers. When we exited the airport a man asked if we wanted a taxi and as we were used to the Indian way we declined and he just said okay. At that second we knew we were going to like it here! Ladakhi people are very friendly people and many of them came from Tibet for refuge.

Walking around the backstreets of Leh

We didn't have any accommodation booked and after spending a sleepless night at the airport we were both ready to have a much needed nap. We found a guesthouse that was a little expensive but right in the center of town so we took it for a night. Unfortunately the room that they gave us had a wall outside right up against the window so had never seen the light of day which meant that high up in the Himalayas this room was like an ice box. I went for a nap with all of my clothes on (including a hat and scarf) and all of the blankets that were available to us in the room and was still freezing cold. We both agreed that we should look for a new place after this first night. After our nap we decided to go for a little walk around the town. As we were only planning on staying a week (we ended up spending two because we loved it there so much) we wanted to try to book some trips around Ladakh.

About a year before we began this trip I was looking through a friends photos on Facebook. He had been to Ladakh and after seeing those photos, especially of Pangong Tso Lake, I vowed that I had to go there some day. So here we were now in Leh, looking around at various agents with trips to Pangong Tso leaving every day. I was so excited!

We found one travel agent that had a couple that wanted to leave within the next couple of days and wanted to find people to share a jeep with. After chatting to the man inside we decided to go with them as he seemed very genuine and friendly. We met the lovely Dutch couple and were excited for our upcoming trip. Unfortunately the weather was quite cloudy the first couple of days so we decided to wait a couple of more days, both for the sky to clear and to hopefully find two more people to join the trip and make it cheaper for all of us.

We got lucky on both counts as a couple of days later a couple from Australia and Canada joined us and the clouds cleared. We had planned on driving the six or so hours to the lake and then spend a night there as people say that the lake changes its look at the different times of the day.

That day before going to the lake we decided to change guesthouses and had a walk outside of town in a wonderful country area but only 20 minutes away from the center of town. We found The Oriental Guesthouse and were amazed at how wonderfully relaxing it was, the owners were so nice too that we ended up spending a couple of weeks there!
The Oriental Guesthouse

The views from our bedroom.
The next day we drove to Pangong Tso. The drive there was just out of this world! We passed beautiful Tibetian monasteries that have been carved in to mountains, beautiful scenery and so many mountains!

Tibetan monastery

Amazing views on the way to the lake!

Driving on one of the many mountain passes in Ladakh.

One of the sweet mountain dogs...Willy wouldn't last a day!
We finally got our first look at the lake and it really was other worldly. It was surrounded by these huge beautiful sand coloured mountains and the colour of the lake was just astounding!

Pangong Tso Lake.
We stopped at a place on the lake for lunch and saw one of the many crazy bathrooms that we would come across in Ladakh. This hole in the ground was hilarious because you could see down to the biggest pile of s*it I've ever seen in my life, the best part was that there was no smell at all, I'm guessing because of the cold temperatures.

But anyway enough talk of s*it, after a nice lunch together it was time to find our home for the night. Most people that go to Pangong Tso lake usually go on a day trip, we had read that the lakes colours constantly change during the different times of the day so decided to stay overnight. There wasn't a huge amount of accommodation but we found a place right on the shore line. It was a family home and quite old but they provided a lot of blankets for us (because we were up in the Himalayas it got pretty cold in the evenings).

Another photo of the beautiful lake

...and again, but Jason is in this one :)

Once we got settled in, our group took a little walk along the lake. It was so beautiful and the fact that some cows were wandering around also just made it even better! Strangely enough though right at the shoreline there was one area with about 15 toilets. They were out in the open and didn't seem to have any plumbing, we had no idea what they were doing there. After our stroll we were all feeling a bit cold so we found a yurt to go inside and have some nice warm hot chocolate. It was a really awesome experience as the family were preparing the dinner for that evening, we asked if it was possible to stay for dinner but they only had enough food prepared for the people staying at their guesthouse.

The random toilets and sinks next to the lake.
Some prayer stones by the lake.
Just to make us remember that we were still in India!

Drinking hot choco in the Yurt.

We decided to head back to our guesthouse and have a lovely dinner there in a covered tent area. It was so nice getting to know our fellow travelers better and it was great to be on this trip with people that we really got on well with. The rest of the night we relaxed, played some card games, watched the sunset and layered up our beds for a peaceful nights sleep.

Pangong Tso at sunset.
The next morning we got up early, had some breakfast and spent some time by the lake, getting some last photos and taking in the beauty of it and its surrounds. Then it was back in to the car for the long trip back to Leh.

Early morning Pangong Tso.

Me and the lake.

This was the amazing backdrop when you turned your back to the lake!

I'm so happy that I got to visit Pangong Tso lake, as I said it was the main reason for us travelling to India and specifically Ladakh. I definitely had one of those awe-inspiring moments while there realising that I really am living out my dreams.

Getting there and away:

This is probably the toughest part about Ladakh is getting there. There is only 1 option for 9 months of the year and that is flying which can be quite expensive. During June, July and August the snow is cleared on the mountain passes which makes driving possible. It's a long journey that took us about 26 hours on our way home. We had heard that many jeeps take 2 days to do the journey which we would have preferred but there was nobody offering this option when we were trying to book our way out of Leh.

We flew up from Delhi and then drove back down.

Travel agent: 

For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the travel agent that we used to book our trips while in Ladakh. He was a really nice man and genuinely seemed interested in keeping costs down for us. His shop was on the main street and right by the delicious bakery/restaurant that everyone frequents while in Leh. (I hope that helps a little) He organized a jeep to and from the Nubra valley and Pangong Tso lake for us.

Where we stayed:

Oriental Guesthouse: We moved to here after leaving our ice box of a room at the previous guesthouse. We had seen that this place had excellent reviews on tripadvisor. We definitely weren't disappointed! For the same price as the other place we had a beautiful room that had the most wonderful views of the mountains. It was about 15 minutes walk away from the main area of Leh, but this walk was down wonderful small streets with beauty all around. I 100% recommend staying in this part of town, it was an amazing experience!
More views from our guesthouse.

The incredible drive

Jason napping during the drive.

Twas a bit windy during the day!



  1. i liked reading your blog. I hope to travel in Jul/jul. Hope it works :)

  2. Thank you!
    July is the best time to go to Ladakh so I hope you make it there!
    Good luck.