(13 nights 14 days)
This is unarguably the finest way to visit Ladakh: you get to see all the high altitude lakes and unique landscapes (except Zanskar) that the region has to offer.
- Day 1: Reach Manali (2050 M) or Solang (2600 M) • Board a morning flight from Delhi to reach Kulu Airport around 8AM. Drive 1 ½ hrs to reach Manali.
• Board the morning Kalka Shatabdi to Chandigarh or take a morning flight from Mumbai. Reach Chandigarh around noon. Drive 320 km / 9 hrs to reach Manali at night.
• On the previous evening board a Volvo Coach from Delhi & reach Manali in the morning.
• On the previous night board Himachal Express travel overnight by 2/3 AC to reach Kiratpur Sahib at 0600 hrs. Drive 230 km / 7 hrs to reach Manali in the afternoon.
• Leave at dawn from Delhi and drive 570 km/13 hrs to reach Manali by late evening.
Stay overnight in a hotel in Manali/Solang
- Day 2: Manali - Jispa (3150 M) 140 km / 7 hrs Leave after an early breakfast and drive across Rohtang to the starkly barren landscape of Lahaul and Ladakh. Reach Jispa by early evening. Avoid strenuous activity but go for a short acclimatization walk. Stay overnight in a campsite & lodge besides the Bhaga River.
- Day 3: Jispa - Serchu (4253 M) 84 km / 3.5 hrs Leave Jispa after a leisurely breakfast; drive past Suraj Tal and over Baralacha La to reach Serchu in the afternoon. Stay overnight in tents at a campsite. Please note: the combination of high altitude and the cold winds that set in by late afternoon, can make you fall sick if you spend too much time outside the tents – please avoid this.
- Day 4: Serchu - Tso Moriri (4520 M) 235 km / 9 hrs Leave after breakfast, negotiate the hair- rising Gata Loops - 21 back–to-back switchbacks. Cross Naki La (4740 M) & Lachalung La (5060 M). Leave the main highway at Mangzul and drive via Tso Kar and over Polo Kongka La (5030 M) to reach Tso Moriri by evening. Stay overnight in tents/rooms at a resort in Korzok overlooking the lake.
- Day 5: Tso Moriri - Leh (3505 M / 11500 ft) 226 km / 7 - 8 hr After morning Tea/Coffee go on an hour’s hike to a nomadic settlement of the Changspa and get a peek into their unique and timeless lifestyle. Check out after breakfast and do a picturesque drive over Mahe Bridge, all along the Indus to reach Leh by early evening. Stay overnight in a hotel/resort in Leh or its outskirts.
- Day 6: Leh - visit select gompas, monuments & villages in Leh Valley Visit Shey, Thiksey & Hemis Gompas. Later enjoy a Ladakhi meal at a traditional home in Stok Village. Late afternoon and evening at leisure in Leh – see the palace & walk around in the bazaar.
- Day 7: Leh - Nubra Valley at Deskit/Hunder (avg. alt. 3048 M) 140 km / 5 hrs A stunning drive over the mighty Khardung La (5602 M) brings you to the verdant Nubra Valley. Do a ride on the double-humped Bactrian Camels in Hunder and spend sunset at a vantage point near Deskit Gompa. Stay overnight in a hotel in Deskit or in tents at a campsite on the sand dunes of Hunder.
- Day 8: Deskit / Hunder - Turtuk 90 km / 3 hrs Post breakfast drive further north, past the Thoise airstrip to Turtuk - a part of the Balti region of Pakistan till it was annexed by India during the 1971 war. Have a traditional Balti lunch and spend the rest of the day walking around in the village and interacting with the warm & hospitable locals with cherubic European looks- the kids are especially adorable. Overnight in tents at a campsite.
- Day 9: Turtuk - Leh 215 kms / 8 hrs Post breakfast retrace you route past via Hunder- Deskit and over Khardung La to reach Leh by early evening. Spend sunset at Shanti Stupa for great views.
- Day 10: Leh - Pangong Tso (4260 M / 14000 ft) 150 km / 5 hr Leave post breakfast on a great drive over Chang-La (5,475 M / 17950 ft) to reach the grand Pangong lake by late afternoon.. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains of the Changchenmo range to the north, their reflection shimmering in the ever changing blues and greens of the lakes brackish water. Stay overnight in tents at a campsite bang on the lake shore.
- Day 11: Pangong Tso - Ulleytokpo (3300 M) 215 km / 7 hrs Enjoy morning tea by the lake. Leave after breakfast and drive past Leh on the Srinagar Highway to reach Ulleytokpo in Sham Valley. En route stops at Hall of fame – Army Museum, Magnetic Point, and Nimmu- confluence point of Indus & Zanskar Rivers.
- Day 12: Ulleytokpo - Kargil (2820 M) 165 km / 6 ½ hrs Carry on your drive towards Srinagar, en route stop at Lamayuru to see the moonscape terrain and perhaps have a bite at the quaint cafeteria beside the ancient gompa. Carry on over Namika La & Fotu La to reach Kargil in the evening. Overnight stay in rooms at a hotel. OPTION: an interesting variant would be to leave the highway after Fotu La and drive via Chitkan to reach the Dha-Hanu region – check out the unique lifestyle & traditions of the Indo- Aryan Drokpas who inhabit this region. Later drive via the little explored & scenic Batalik sector to reach Kargil. Of course this route is longer at 220 km / 9 hrs but it is a really off-beat experience.
- Day 13: Kargil - Srinagar (1730 M) 203 km / 7 ½ hrs OR Kargil - Sonamarg (2740 M) 120 km / 5 hrs A great drive over Zoji La via Drass – the 2nd coldest place on the planet gets you to the verdant meadows of Sonamarg. Stop for a bite and carry on to reach Srinagar in the afternoon. Rest of the day at leisure in a houseboat on Nageen Lake. Also do a relaxing Shikara ride through sunset. OR spend the day (& night) relaxing in picturesque Sonamarg – the weather here would be much more pleasant than in Srinagar. Overnight stay in rooms at a hotel.
- Day 14: Srinagar - Fly Back OR Sonamarg - Srinagar - Fly Back 83 km /2 ½ hrs Morning transfer to the airport in time to board your return flight to Delhi/Mumbai. OR Leave after breakfast from Sonamarg to be dropped at Srinagar Airport in time to board an afternoon return flight.
PLEASE NOTE: this itinerary is also perfectly suited for those wanting to drive on their own. Of course in this case you’d drive about 8 hrs on Day 14 to Jammu, and on Day 15 you do an 11 hrs drive to reach Delhi.