Treks and tours in Ladakh

Nubra Valley, north of Leh: up and over the 5602 meter Khardung La Pass and via the world’s highest motorable road, maintained courtesy of the Indian Army, whose trucks and bases are omnipresent. Take a four wheel drive car w/driver, and if you’re afraid of heights, do NOT look down – but then you miss out on amazing views. The 3 day tour is sufficient, and includes Sumur, Diskit, Panamik and Hundur. The Panamik very unexciting hot springs can be skipped, and Hundur’s only claim to fame are the sand dunes (ignore the tourist camel rides), but the gompa (monastery) in Diskit is worth getting up at 5 am for the morning puja, and in Sumur, there are beautiful hikes around the Samstem Ling gopa. Best place to stay is Sand Dune Guesthouse in Diskit, near the main bazar, tel 01980 220022 and ask for the new rooms. 

West of Leh: a 2 day monastery tour including Likkir, Alchi, Rhidzong and Lamayuru. Each gompa has its highlight – Likkir ancient thangkas, Alchi 11th century wall murals, Rhidzong wall paintings undergoing painstaking preservation, and Lemayuru perched atop a vertical cliff.

Day trip from Leh: Stok (the palace) and Tikse, a beautiful gompa from whose roof terrace the Ladakh countryside is one big panorama.

The day trip is easily done with local transportation – minibuses run from the bus station at the bottom of downtown Leh directly to Tikse. Between Tikse and Stok, try hitching to the nearest bus stop. My lifts included a pilot come to check out the airport, and a department of education official who’d been visiting the Tibetan refugee camp at Choglamsar (which is equipped with solar panels for electricity – as are, astonishingly, many of the gompas we saw). 

Longer trips require booking with driver and four wheel drive, but if you’re traveling solo, it’s easy to find a group to join and share costs with. As food on the road is sporadic, travel with muesli, dried fruit and bottled water (from Dzomsa  – see Leh recommendations)

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