Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary has been written by Karan Bhalla who represented Drifter Planet at the Highest Blogger Meet that was organized and sponsored by Scout My Trip and OYO to launch OYOnauts. This epic road trip was complimentary and all the opinions (and jokes 🙂 ) in this article are Karan’s. 

Ladakh is the mother of all road journeys in India. As they say – Ladakh is truly about the journey, not the destination. It’s got the vibe – there is music there for sure, we just ain’t tapped into the right frequency.

My perception of the place prior to this visit was a collage of pictures posted on Facebook on personal accounts of interesting mini-adventures done by my brother and practically all my friends.

Most of the people I have interacted with use to be startled when we came upon a Ladakh story and I would confess – ‘Never Been there’, usual reply – ‘what an Idiot you are’.

SO I can safely say over the years of my traveling I DRIFTED into this one – Happily. Let the fun begin!

Where is Ladakh?

Ladakh is in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s partially disputed state that’s towards the extreme north. This state is often called the crown of India because of its position and also known as “heaven on earth” because Emperor Jahangir called it so!

Suggested: Balkans road trip itinerary – the most beautiful road trip in Europe

Ladakh is in the western region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and this area is also called Trans-Himalaya because this land is beyond the Himalaya. The landscape and geology of this area is often compared to that of Tibet. Ladakh is broadly divided into 4 parts – Kargil, Leh, Nubra, and Zanskar. You will find information about all these parts of Ladakh in this post and they are a part of the road trip itinerary. This post is mostly focused on Ladakh but check out this post as well for information about hiking in Kashmir.

 

Ladakh Road Trip –

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Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary - India

Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary – India

Day 01: Gurgaon to Jammu

With an ample time notice of 16 Hours, I was at the OYO Room property at 6 in the morning as per that time my Single Point of Contact (Vinit – ScoutmyTrip) – here on referred to as SPOC. SPOC – the first person from Scout my Trip initially looked as serious as somebody from the Finance team of OYO quickly wanting for all PO approvals…..but later did I realize this powerhouse of a guy with a mad/subtle sense of humor.

My first interaction with the bloggers’ community was Ajay Sood – Travelure, always on Time, the first person to be ready every morning come hail, storm, rum, mutton curry……nothing stops this man.

Loaded up and divided across 5 SUV’s – I see myself moving towards a Black – XUV piloted by Dr. Shakeel Khan and co-passengers Ragini Puri and Khursheed Dinshaw. We were zipping from the word go on songs going back in order chronologically to the 1940’s…..but first time saw there may be a co-relation between pre-independence era music and high speeds. We could safely say that we were the most well-stocked car in terms of food and beverages.

Checked into the hotel, had a great night getting to know each other over drinks and food

Suggested Reading: Crossing Hampta Pass – 5 Days of Trek through Himalayan Wilderness 

Day 02: Jammu to Ramban

Neha at Titanic view point - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Neha at Titanic view point – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Everybody’s up and on time, except yours truly still in La La Land woken up with a shake by Yayawar. Hangover and Dada first thing in the morning – that is one helluva sight. If used correctly he could be a WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction)…..all he has to do is wake up the enemy and smile. But thanks to him I made it to the Batmobile for another round of supersonic speeds.

Ate breakfast at a picturesque dhabha we ran into the first road block of the trip a place called Ramban alongside the raging Chenab. Due to Landslides and security reasons, we were not given permission to move ahead to Sonmarg.

Sonmarg - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Sonmarg – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

ScoutmyTeam quickly got into the thinking mode and before we knew it lunch and alternate accommodations were done. Over here is where I had one of the best meals of the journey – Mutton Curry and Rice……yes we made out with the food followed by a barrage of Zee Cone Ice Creams.

Day 03: Ramban to Kargil

Ramban - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Ramban – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Ready and the first cars at the police barricade and manage our way through by convincing the security personnel we are not for the yatra and would be moving up. Here onwards it started to really get beautiful. Sonmarg was gorgeous but the road ahead had loads more to offer.

Baltal based on the Sind River is the camping site for the start of the holy Amarnath Yatra – looked gorgeous when you looked at it from above, but seemed would be pretty chaotic with the sheer numbers down there at ground zero. Was totally surprised to see the number of helicopters doing frequent rounds ferrying the well-loaded bhakts.

Zojila Pass – My first experience of High Altitude and it was unbelievable, especially seeing so much greenery at those heights. It is from here started seeing the madness in Clouds which lasted all the way to Keylong.
Post Zojila is when the fun started for me as no road journey is complete without a breakdown. Enroute Kargill we realized one of our jeeps was taking unusually long to come so we decided to wait it out since we didn’t have any mobile signal in the area.

It is here that magical move into the THAR was made and a start of a mad friendship. Dr. Amit Nikam hereon referred to as Doc and he is one of the nicest guys I met with a mad streak of adventure and some common interest’s lol.

Doc, SPOC and I decided to backtrack to look for the missing party. We were lucky to meet Deepak, Yayawar and the infamous tire at the army check point. Our missing crew had a mishap with their tire and were stuck at Zojila Pass. The plan of action was that SPOC, Yayawar, and Deepak would go get them while Doc and I would proceed to the Kargill memorial and then ahead to our hotel in Kargil.

Drive to Kargil was real fun as Doc and I were busy chatting, exchanging stories etc. and before we knew it we were at Kargil War Memorial.

Kargil War Memorial – Is one of the most powerful places I have ever visited in all my travels. The detailed account of the war, letters from soldiers to their families, tombstones was too much for me to handle. I left the place with a sense of pride being an Indian with the bugle playing in the background and our National Flag.

Kargil war memorial - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Kargil war memorial – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Kargill – On reaching Kargill I played my first round of Treasure Hunt/Lost & Found with Deepak and SPOC which will now remain as one of the many memories from the trip. We were all finally together and looking forward to the journey ahead.

Day 04: Kargil to Leh

NamikaLa Pass - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

NamikaLa Pass – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

One of the best days visiting some incredible monasteries/passes and were settled for lunch at Lamayuru. Here is the time when one really started seeing the difference in the people, food, and general happiness. We managed to play cricket with the local young lads aided with some fun Boomerang.

 

It is here we had our first bout of AMS – Altitude Sickness. Doc on duty was the savior of the day and decided to go directly to Leh instead of stopping at Magnetic Hill and other places for photography.

We reached Leh and I was surprised or rather shocked as I had NEVER thought it would be so crowded with all the taxis parked everywhere.

We found our hotel (OYO Rooms Leh) which was ideally located away from the maddening city crowd yet walk able distance. Doc and I ended up going out for a coffee and soup at a local cafe which gave a very old Manali vibe in the late 90’s followed by an early night.

Day 05: Leh

NH1D to Leh - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

NH1D to Leh – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

While the rest of the crew went sight-seeing around Leh I decided to give Doc company as he was monitoring the Oxygen levels which were generally fluctuating.

Lamayuru Monastery, Leh Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Lamayuru Monastery, Leh Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

We sat outside at the reception and ended up having random conversations with other travelers and the whacked out hotel manager – always fun to see how people live their lives differently. In he evening we decided to go for a Ladakhi meal with 2 of our biker friends from DON – Dukes of Nagpur who did the complete stretch on their bikes….superb effort. We ended up eating the tastiest Mutton Shaptah, Ting Mo and Kothey (Pan Fried Momos) truly authentic Tibet/Ladakhi cuisine.

Suggested Reading – 11 Hippie Villages in the Himalayas 

Day 06: Leh to Khardung La to Hunder

Leh to Khardungla - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Leh to Khardungla – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Time for the Highest Blogger Meet. No better way to start the day with Neha joining the THAR. She was truly the soul and voice of the car. Since both Doc and I are not really gifted vocally….from here on called the HIPPIE CAR. Photo sessions were done, we had decided to do our own Victory Dance for making it to the top.

Karan Bhalla and Thor at Khardungla Top - Ladakh Road Trip

Karan Bhalla and Thor at Khardungla Top – Ladakh Road Trip

Highest Blogger Meet and the Launch of OYONAUTS

The venue for the highest bloggers meet was Khardung La – it was kickass! we were joined by a few more bloggers, and the OYO team where everyone got to know each other and the much-awaited launch of the latest offering from OYO – OYONAUTS.

Ktop - View from Khardungla Top - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Ktop – View from Khardungla Top – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Khardungla Top - Ladakh Road Trip

Khardungla Top – Ladakh Road Trip

After spending a considerable amount of time we finished the meet and headed towards Hunder Sand Dunes. Hunder is in Nubra Valley by the way. The picturesque road from Leh to Nubra valley passes through Khardungla – click here to read more.

Enroute we stopped at Khalsar – for the best Chicken Chowmein I’ve ever eaten in my life. Khalsar had a superb vibe to the place and you know it’s special when you see 12-15 dogs of all sizes come out and play and all the locals enjoying looking at their pride. The drive onwards saw rivers, sand dunes and crazy mountains all in one frame.

One of the most stunning views - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

One of the most stunning views – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

The OYO property at Hunder was clearly the best for me during the trip. Everything about the place was amazing from the pool made out of the river water flowing through the property, and yes we did jump into the water…BRRRRRRRRRRR.

At the sunset time, we went to the dunes but hurriedly left the spot after seeing the number of tourists and decided to have a drink at the local bar with the biker boys. After having spent so much time and some rum with Doc it is here where I unknowingly started saying HAU for HAAN and bonds were being formed.

We reached back to the lobby witnessing Samarth doing one of his old school Bollywood renditions. Everybody especially the ScountmyTrip (Deepak finally smiled) team were relieved in pulling off the Highest Blogger Meet – kudos.

Suggested Reading: Chandra Taal – the Moon Lake in Spiti Valley

Day 07: Hundar to Pangong Tso

Leh Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Leh Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

All prepared for the long journey ahead since due to landslides we had to re-route our trip going all the way back to Leh and then proceed to Pangong Tso.

Chicken chowmein and chilling with the dogs had to be done again since we were passing through Khalsar. This time for once Khardung – La was not as crowded and we made Leh in good time but were smart enough to bypass the city and stop for a quick bite – ended up having some really good pizzas and club sandwiches at a coffee shop run by the monastery.

Surreal Views - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Surreal Views – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Here onwards was the tough part of the journey where suddenly all roads disappeared and we were truly on the beaten path. Waded through rough terrain, some water crossings and made it to Chang La where we could see bikers in huddles deciding to go ahead or not – happy to see responsible riders making informed and calculated decisions rather than just being heroes…. the power of Ladakh for me.

Our convoy is lost and we decided to sit at the Indian Army post and have chai. The Chai session breaks into a great conversation ending with Neha singing a song for the soldiers at an elevation of 17,000 feet….Power of Ladakh☺.

Chang La Army Bunker - Ladakh Road Trip

Chang La Army Bunker – Ladakh Road Trip

Post waiting for the rest of the convoy we slowly start driving towards Pangong Tso and make it only by nightfall but happy to be reunited with our team. This is the day when Yayawar plays agony aunt while all of us wait patiently for midnight to wish Samarth on his birthday. By the way, I highly recommend you check out the camps at Pangong lake to experience the surreal beautify of this place.

Day 08: Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri

Pangong Lake - Ladakh Road Trip

Pangong Lake – Ladakh Road Trip

 

Finally got to see Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake) in all its glory. Went for a superb walk with Khursheed Dinshaw while the Sun was slowly coming out and one could see all the different shades of blue. On the way back saw the number of campsites and tents – that was something totally unexpected for me.

Near Pangong Tso - Ladakh Road Trip

Near Pangong Tso – Ladakh Road Trip

We finally started moving towards Tso Moriri – arguably the best drive for me during the trip. Best was the instructions given to us that NEVER to take a left as we may enter China…….Damn.

Rezang La - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Rezang La – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Crossed some of the most beautiful terrains and finally got to see the Indian Wild Ass. Stopped on the way for Maggi / Wai Wai and ended up chilling out there for a bit.

Sumdo cafe before Korzok Monastery - Ladakh Road Trip

Sumdo cafe before Korzok Monastery – Ladakh Road Trip

Finally, we made it to Tso Moriri – the lake looked gorgeous although if it wasn’t raining would have been even better. Btw, this is one of the highest lake in this world of this size – it is at the height of 4,522 m.

Tso Moriri - Ladakh Road Trip

Tso Moriri – Ladakh Road Trip

It was the coldest here compared to all the night halts during the trip. The icing on the cake was Deepak and Vinit making it all the way from Leh to getting some repair work in one of the cars.

Day 09: Tso Moriri to Keylong

Yellow Billed Chough (the Alpine chough) - Ladakh Road Trip

Yellow Billed Chough (the Alpine chough) – Ladakh Road Trip

Beautiful Sights on the way - Ladakh Road Trip

Beautiful Sights on the way – Ladakh Road Trip

Driving from Tso Moriri to Keylong was epic and I finally got see some beautiful birds and animals. I saw yellow billed chough, wild horses and marmot. We covered more plains, Ghata Loops, Tsarchu, Jispa and finally reached Keylong.

Suraj Tal a.k.a. Vishal Tal enroute to Keylong - Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

Suraj Taal a.k.a. Vishal Tal enroute to Keylong – Ladakh Road Trip Itinerary

We even got to see Suraj Taal, which is also known as Vishal Taal. Suraj Taal (the Sun Lake) is the sister lake of more popular Chandra Taal (the Moon Lake). This day had the most variation in terrain and was really soothing to the eyes.

Day 10: Keylong to Manali

Rohtang Pass, Manali - Ladakh Road Trip

Rohtang Pass, Manali – Ladakh Road Trip

The highlight of the drive from Keylong to Manali was Khoksar. The views were stunning everywhere I looked. I even found a few dhabhas that served mutton curry and rice while overlooking the road that goes down to Spiti Valley.

Suggested: All you need to know about Leh Ladakh Inner Line Permit

Karan Bhalla Drifter Planet

Karan Bhalla loves dogs, chai, mutton curry, beer and the mountains (in no particular order). He is a simple guy with not so simple jokes and doesn’t believe in sugar coating his words.

He started as a travel and marketing professional with brands such as Amex, InterGlobe, SAS and Coca Cola.

Bitten by the wildlife and adventure bug, he first floated a rafting community ‘Ganga Panga’ with a friend for like-minded adrenalin junkies. He later launched a customized wildlife and adventure outfit ‘Big Shot Adventures’, with Jim Corbett National Park as the base of operations.

Living in Jim Corbett National Park turned him into a birding enthusiast and he became actively involved with the local community.

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