Ladakh High Altitude Lakes
High Altitude Lakes
Duration - 6 nights / 7 days
01: Arrive at Leh airport by morning flight from
Delhi. This flight is one of the most sensational flights
in the world. On a clear day from one side of the aircraft
can be seen in the distance the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat,
Gasherbrum and on the other side of the aircraft, so close
that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun
Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel. You
would take a little time to settle in and acclimatize since
you have gone from a relatively low elevation in New Delhi
to over 11,000 feet! During the afternoon, you can walk
through the old town, beneath the Leh Palace, to allow you
to get oriented to this fascinating city. Overnight in a
You may book your flights at www.indian-airlines.com
Day 02: In Leh - visit to Shankar Gompa & Castle
(HT 3730 M)
The morning is at leisure to acclimatize to the rarefied
air. You may choose to stroll along the main bazaar - observing
the varied crowds. Looking into curio shops is an engaging
experience. A particularly attractive sight is the line
of women from nearby villages sitting along the edge of
the footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables brought for
sale. Behind the main bazaar, Chang Gali is less bustling
but has interesting little shops selling curios and jewellery.
Further on are the labyrinthine alleyways and piled-up houses
of the old town, clustering around the foot of the Palace
Hill. In the other direction, down the bazaar, are the Tibetan
markets where one can bargain for pearls, turquoise, coral,
lapis lazuli and many other kinds of semi-precious stones
and jewellery, as well as carved yak-horn boxes, quaint
brass locks, china or metal bowls, or any of a whole array
of curios. When tired of strolling, one can step into any
of the several restaurants; some of them located in gardens
or on the sidewalks and serve local Tibetan, Indian and
Also walk to the Leh Palace & SHANKAR GOMPA, which belongs
to Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gompa
is a branch of Spituk Gompa, founded by the first incarnation
of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of Spituk monastery). Return
to your hotel for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 03: Leh - Across Chanag La (5320 M / 17,800
Ft) - Pangong Tso - Leh - 160 KM one way / 9 hrs return
A trip to Ladakh cannot be considered complete without experiencing
the majestic as well as serene ambience of its high altitude
lakes. Today's drive takes you to Pangong Tso.
You start early heading out on the Leh - Upshi road driving
upstream along the Indus River. From Karu you turn left
to ascend through the Sakti valley. As you drive up the
amazing sight of CHEMREY GOMPA rising majestically on a
hill to the left with the residences of the lamas spilling
along its contours greets you. As you negotiate a number
of hairpin bends climbing higher towards the pass, green
cultivated fields dotted with village houses in typical
Ladakhi architecture continue along the base of the valley.
Finally you cross over Chang La (5320 M / 17,800 Ft), a
signboard proclaims it to be the third highest motorable
pass in the world.
On reaching Pangong Tso, the largest brackish water lake
in Asia, an absolutely amazing and captivating sight is
laid out in front of you. One third of the lake is in India
while the rest two thirds of the lake is in Tibet. Most
of the streams feeding the lake are on the Tibetan side.
It seems never ending. The crystal clear water of the lake,
the desert sand mountains in the background, some herons
swimming around, and above all, its' absolute virginity
not being disturbed by any human settlements gives it an
ambience of total serenity. The turquoise blue to dark blue
colour of the water depending on the sky conditions, the
hazy reflection of the mountains, and the glittering of
sunlight in the water of the lake is a picture of a lifetime.
One can drive up to some 300 meters from the beginning of
the lake. After that, there is no proper road. One of the
few types of the birds that may be seen here is the Black
Necked Heron, a rare species. They are usually to be seen
at around the beginning of the lake.
After having thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the lake,
you drive back to Leh for an overnight stay.
Day 04: In Leh - visit Takthok - Chemrey -
The days' tour of monasteries begins with a visit to TAKTHOK
GOMPA in the morning. In the 8th century, the great propagator
of Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava set out from India to journey
across many lands en route to Tibet. Along the way, legends
speak of numerous halts one of which was at a cave at Takthok
("a ceiling made of rock") where he meditated.
Takthok monastery developed around this cave. In the 16th
century a learned monk, Tsewang Norbu arrived from the Kham
region of Tibet, mediated in this cave and laid the foundations
of the monastic order. Within the dark interiors of the
cave, the slow dripping of sacred water or Dhukchhu from
the rocky roof can be heard. The wall paintings can barely
be seen obscured by layers of soot from the constant burning
of butter lamps. Some fine butter sculptures made by the
head lama of the gompa can be seen at the Udgyan Photsang.
The monastery belongs to the Nyingma-pa Sect.
Returning from Takthok, the CHEMREY GOMPA rises majestically
on a hill to the right of the road with the residences of
the lamas spilling along its contours. Though most of the
books, including the Ladakh Chronicle, tell us that the
great lama Stag-tsang-ras-pa, under the patronage of Sengge
Namgyal, founded it, but Professor Luciano Petech has shown
that it was actually founded after Sengge's death as a funeral
act of merit for him. The building was started in March
1644 A.D. and completed in 1645 / 1646 A.D. Overlooking
fields and houses, the monastery is perched picturesquely
atop a small hill, down one side of which spill the monks'
dwellings. The main du-khang, a large rather bare temple,
has images of Stag-tsang-ras-pa and other Drug-pa lamas,
together with a fine silver chorten about fifty years old
made at Chiling. The murals are mainly manifestations of
Sakyamuni, as is common in Drug-pa temples; there are also
fine mandalas of Kalchakra and Akshobya. Twenty-nine volumes
of the scriptures have title pages whose lettering is in
solid silver of exquisite craftsmanship, the text is pure
gold. A smaller temple upstairs houses a nondescript collection
of images of Drug-pa lamas.
Continue your drive to HEMIS GOMPA, crossing over the Indus
River at the village of Karu. The most famous of Ladakh's
monasteries, Hemis or Changchub Samstanling (The love palace
of the compassionate person), dates back to the 17th century
and was built over a period of 40 years (1602 - 1642 A.D.).
Today Hemis is well known for its festival or Hemis Tsechu
commemorating the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. In the
year of the Monkey (every 12 years) a giant thangka depicting
Guru Padmasambhava is unfurled from the terrace draping
the five-storey facade. Delicately wrought in pearls and
appliqué, it is one of the most famous art treasures
of Ladakh. The central courtyard forms the focus for the
masked dances held every year in summer. In the dukhang,
remnants of the original 17th century murals can be seen.
The gompa boasts of an excellent library, well preserved
frescoes and murals, silver gilt chortens and a Kashmiri
lacquered wooden throne.
By the evening drive back to your hotel for dinner and an
Day 05: Leh -
Tso Moriri - Karzok (15,075 Ft) - 227 KM / approx 6 hrs
Tso in the Ladakhi language means a Lake. Tso Moriri is
one of the most exciting places in Ladakh; some rate it
better than Pangong Tso. A visit to Ladakh is incomplete
without visiting Tso Moriri. It is a brackish water lake
about 28 km long and 8 km wide at an altitude of 15,000
Ft above sea level. The complete area is considered as a
protected wildlife sanctuary and special permits are required
for the visit.
From Leh you set out on an early morning drive on a broad
well mettled road traveling upstream along the Indus River.
At Upshi there is a bifurcation, the left road taking you
to Mahe still driving along the Indus River, which remains,
on your right. The valley in which you are traveling narrows
in a couple of places. Here you have steep rocky escarpments
alongside the road. The landscape appears different to other
areas in Ladakh as the barren rocky mountains are up front
along the road. Especially at Kiari you get a close look
of purple coloured rocks. Further ahead is Chumthang, which
has hot springs. At Mahe you cross over the Indus River
and head into a narrow gorge-like valley. This brings you
to Puga Sumdo from where the right road goes to Tso Moriri
and the left one goes to Tso Kar. On your way to Tso Moriri
you cross over Namshang La (4800 M), which is a very wide
pass. Shortly after crossing over you come across a small
lake called Tangtse Karu. It is a small, brackish water
lake at an altitude of more than 4000 metres above sea level.
It is something of a prelude to Tso Moriri. Driving through
an awesome vast wilderness the scenery is simply breathtaking.
As you are about to reach Tso Moriri, excitement is on high,
because having driven through a high altitude vast desert
land the last thing to expect there is a lake. Then suddenly,
a vast expanse of turquoise blue water appears, you will
see some ducks swimming around.
Tso Moriri or "Mountain Lake" is situated in the
middle of the elevated valley of Rupshu surrounded by snow-capped
peaks. This valley is inhabited by a small-scattered population
of "Changpas" who are nomadic shepards who also
engage in trade and work in Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti. The
area is rich in wildlife including the "Kyang"
(wild ass), red fox, black necked crane and geese.
On arrival check in to your accommodation. In the afternoon
explore the surrounding areas of the Lake. The village of
Karzok is besides the lake. It is the Nomad Headquarters.
A large meditation center has also come up besides the lake
a little ahead of the village. One can visit the ancient
Karzok Monastery or take the opportunity to catch hold of
some nomadic tribesmen to get a glimpse of their lifestyle.
The lake itself is surrounded by mountain peaks with a strong
wind causing waves in the lake. As the sun is about to set
it gives a golden tinge to the peaks: the dense blue colour
of the lake contrasts with the golden coloured peaks against
the backdrop of a light blue sky, which is simply captivating.
After an early dinner, do not miss seeing the sunset and
the reflection of a clear starry sky in the waters of the
Retire to your tents for an overnight stay.
Day 06: Tso Moriri - Tso Kar (4485 M) - approx
55 km / approx 2 ½ hrs - Leh - approx 145 km / approx
3 ½ hrs
Rise early in the morning to capture some unforgettable
snaps of the deep blue waters of the lake against the backdrop
of rocky mountains of unimaginable hues.
After breakfast you continue your journey to TSO KAR. You
will be retracing your path till Puga Sumdoo from where
you turn left. What catches your eye is that the large basin
of the valley that you would be traveling through is absolutely
white with salt deposits. About 4 km from Puga Sumdoo you
suddenly start experiencing a very strong smell of sulphur.
Immediately on the right of the road you will find large
amounts of sulphur deposits with yellow rocks and the heat
being generated by these sulphur springs is clearly discernable.
Quite suddenly the wide base of the valley turns in to a
green carpet of grass. In the center of this green carpet
you get to see a geyser sprouting out hot water. The going
is slow due to the road conditions. As on nears the ascent
of a pass the road is rough slowing you done considerably
- it is part of the experience of traveling in the wilderness
of this high altitude desert. An hours' drive brings you
to Polo Kongka Pass (4920 M). This is a long and wide pass
and gives you the feeling of driving on a tabletop. The
descent takes you through a deserted nomad village, whose
houses now only have half-standing walls.
On getting to the bottom of this descent you get your first
glimpse of Tso Kar also called "White Lake" because
of the salt deposits around it. It is a small lake with
the backdrop formed by a chain of snow peaked mountains.
The waters are deep blue in colour and the mountains, like
the rest of the Ladakhi landscape are of varying shades
of brown and purple with snow capped peaks. The banks are
covered with salt deposits. The water of the lake is so
salty that the salt that is deposited on its banks is sold
all over Ladakh and Kashmir. A Nomad Headquarters (Samad
Rockchen) is located next to the lake.
After lunch at the lake, you commence your journey back
to Leh. A 20 minutes drive gets you onto the Manali - Leh
highway. On this route you cross over Taklang La (5260 M
/ 17, 582 Ft), a signboard proclaims it to be the second
highest motorable road in the world. On crossing over the
pass the full force of the awesome stark grandeur of the
barren mountains greets you. The near distance mountains
are greenish - brown in colour, the middle distance ones
are purplish - grayish & snow-capped peaks are visible
in the distant. Descending from the pass the road gets you
back in to civilization passing through picturesque villages
with well-cultivated fields and finally meets the Indus
River at Upshi. From Upshi to Leh you are back on the road
on which you started your journey
You arrive in Leh by the evening and spend the night at
Day 07: Leh - Delhi
Transfer to the airport to fly to Delhi. Tour Ends.
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