The Journey so far…

Day 3 | Leh – Stakna – Hemis – Chumathang

It was 6 AM in the morning and I woke up with some great sunrise views of Stok Kangri range from the window. The night was pleasant and in fact did even knew when sleep took over the senses. Weather was again little dark and we have to leave by 8 AM. Today was an important day as we were all set to leave Leh for next 5 days in order to explore the remote parts of Changthang region of Ladakh better called Cold Desert. Excitement was raising day by day even though I was not getting the pictures of popped clouds with blue background due to overcast conditions but personal experience was just exhilarating. I decided to take a bath in the cold conditions even with whatever lukewarm water we had in our guest house. Immediately after the bath I realized that I had done a mistake 😀 … Soon, both Tejas and Himanshu were also ready and we went out for breakfast at about 7.30 AM to Lamayuru restaurant Like last night food, we had an awesome breakfast too and fell into love with the taste of Lamayuru. Soon the call came from Rigzin asking the whereabouts and we were all set for the remotest journey of our lives…

Roadway or Riverway… Beautiful Indus River…
Roadway or Riverway... Beautiful Indus River...

We paid Rs 1000 to the owner lady at Glacier View Guest House, for two days, thanked her and Juley!! Rigzin was all smiling again and since, Chang La was closed last day we decided to do the circuit in reverse direction starting from Tso Moriri rather as earlier planned via Pangong Tso. Hence, the planned target for overnight stay became Chumathang rather than Tangste On the way, we decided to cover few monasteries that falls on the way including Shey Palace, Thicksey Monastery, Stakna Monastery and Hemis Monastery We told Rigzin that we will cover any two on the way towards Tso Moriri and remaining two on the way back from Pangong Tso Rigzin decided to skip Shey and Thicksey and headed to Stakna Monastery.

Sunlight breaks at Stok Kangri Range…
Sunlight breaks at Stok Kangri Range...
Lamayuru Restaurant at Leh…
Lamayuru Restaurant at Leh
Gesmo Restaurant at Leh…
Gesmo Restaurant at Leh
A Cutie Ready for the Click…
A Cutie Ready for the Click...
Our Guest House at Leh… Glacier View…
Our Guest House at Leh... Glacier View...
Stakna Monastery

We moved along Manali – Leh Highway towards Karu / Upshi leaving Shey Palace and Thicksey monastery behind. Just after Thicksey about 25 KMs from Leh, there is right diversion that goes over Indus River through a lovely bridge to Stakna monastery. It was founded way back in 16th century by Bhutanese scholar and its name literally means “tiger’s nose” being built on top of a hill shaped like Tiger. Monastery houses the remains of the scholar’s wardrobe, equipment used,  beautiful scriptures and fine art painting over the whole walls of monastery gives it a great charm. We explored how they preserve their books in an organized and peculiar way. It was an extremely insightful session by the monk present in the monastery. The view of Thicksey monastery from outside Stakna monastery complex was a treat to the eyes as aqua coloured Indus River flows at the bottom of the scene. After spending some good amount of time we left for Hemis Monastery.

Bridge to Stakna Monastery…
Bridge to Stakna Monastery...
Stakna Monastery…
Stakna Monastery...
Thicksey Monastery as Seen from Stakna Monastery…
Thicksey Monastery as Seen from Stakna Monastery...
Thicksey Monastery as Seen from Stakna Monastery…
Thicksey Monastery as Seen from Stakna Monastery...
It is not an egg ;)… At Stakna Monastery…
It is not an egg...  Stakna Monastery
Hemis Monastery

Instead of taking route along Karu, (main road) Rigzin took the shortcut through the pasture lands behind Stakna Monastery. The road was in very bad shape at most places but somehow we managed to reach the ascending roads to Hemis monastery. The ascend was quite steep and for the first time I started to have a mild headache as we reached Hemis. Hemis monastery is about 47 KMs from from Leh was developed way back 11th century but was re-established back again in 1672. Hemis houses a a museum where you can see the beautiful art work,  wardrobes, equipment, arms used by deities in Buddhist mythologies. This monastery also hosts a famous festival honouring Padmasambhava every year in early June. We paid the entry fee of Rs 50 per person and entered the complex where the preparation for the festival was going on as monks were dancing to the soothing music. We explored the museum quickly as it was pretty cold down in the basement and feet were getting almost numb due to coldness down there. We quickly cam out and headed back to our vehicle and called up Rigzin to get going again. Meanwhile Rigzin came in we got a chance to change the long lens and shoot the Lord buddha statue present atop of a hill in front of Hemis complex. In came Rigzin and we were all set to head toward Chumathang now. As we descended, the headache started to lower but still I was not feeling 100% fit and this was not a good sign when you ascend to high altitude 🙁

Hemis Monastery…
Hemis Monastery...
Hemis Monastery…
Hemis Monastery...
Hemis Monastery…
Hemis Monastery...
Preparations for Hemis Festival…
Preparations for Hemis Festival...
Lord Buddha at Hemis Monastery…
Lord Buddha at Hemis Monastery...
Views from Hemis Monastery…
Views from Hemis Monastery...
Upshi – Chumathang Hot Springs

We decided to halt for lunch at Upshi, which is about 60 Ms from Leh, as Rigzin was hungry and we also wanted a bit rest before you start the long part of the journey. As we ordered food for Rigzin we decided to have some black tea which settled my headache a bit. It was cold, shall I say very cold. We bought some wafers and biscuits as well so as to keep ourselves fine upto 4 PM types as Chumathang was about 88 KMs from Upshi. At Upshi, we had to leave the Manali – Leh Highway which goes to right towards Taglang La and Manali where as Chumathang is on the left side road which further goes to Loma, Hanle into the Changthang region of Ladakh.

At Upshi, Left goes to Tso MOriri and Right Manali…
At Upshi, Left goes to Tso MOriri and Right Manali...
Upshi Village… Some information…
Upshi Village... Some information...

As we ran few KMs into the road towards Tso Moriri, we just had a landslide ahead and waited for it to get cleared. After about half an hour, it was cleared and we were again all set to run towards the Chumathang There is no civilians settlement before Chumathang where you can get something to eat so Wafers and Biscuits we just bought was a perfect decision. The vistas enroute are much like you are running between the canyons because of narrow valley like terrain. The Indus river flows aside you and so as the mountains on both the sides. The color of the Indus River was almost green and at many places it was still frozen into white snow. There came a ruined bridge where we stopped for a while and had nice photo session. We tried to step over the bridge but didn’t have the courage to do so apart from Rigzin who jumped across it in no time 🙂 … After some smiling moments, off we were again on road.

Landslide on the way to Chumathang…
Landslide on the way to Chumathang...
Landslide on the way to Chumathang…
Landslide on the way to Chumathang...
Would you dare crossing that bridge…
Would you dare crossing that bridge...
Would you dare crossing that bridge…
Would you dare crossing that bridge...

Sadly, after a while the road widening operation was under way and bulldozers were at work to completely throw huge wall of rocks below. This wasn’t going to get over soon, so wafers were the rescue here as it took about 1 Hr to get the clearance from the BRO guys. We started again and my headache was back again. Not sure, what it was, AMS or the side effects of morning bath, perhaps the latter. In between, as we passed Kiary hamlet, an idiot had placed his truck leaving almost very little space to let other vehicle pass by aside the gorge. He was drilling into the mountain to plant the blasts for blasting and as Rigzin asked him to give the side, some exchange of helping verbs between the GREF guys and Rigzin and soon between us. The idiot was not ready to give the space even when there was plenty on the side of mountain where he was drilling. As we were having words with him, Rigzin in frustration took the risk and in one go, got the vehicle from the narrow space aside 😯 … I could not believe my eyes as the tiers were almost on the edge of the cliff at one stage and Tejas who was only sitting with him had his heart in the mouth 😀 … Ahh!! We took some easy breathes and again threw some helping verbs to the idiot GREF guys and helped one more Xylo behind us to get through and were back on the way to Chumathang. The conditions were pretty cold and the cold wind was making the matters worse but scenery held us along 🙂 We took some clicks at the “3 Idiots” shooting point near the bridge as well.

One Scary Moment Among Many…
One Scary Moment Among Many...
3 Idiots Shooting Point…
3 Idiots Shooting Point...
One Vehicle at a Time… 3 Idiots Shooting Point…
One Vehicle at a Time...3 Idiots Shooting Point...
Ahh.. The roads are pretty fine to Chumathang…
Ahh.. The roads are pretty fine to Chumathang...
Posing in Cold Conditions…
Posing in Cold Conditions...

Soon, we reached Chumathang where the Dhabha/restaurant owner runs a basic guest house and a general store that almost had everything on offer, be it baby’s  Lactogen/Farex or be it boy’s old monk 😉 and everything in between… All the army jawans around come over to dhabha for any such requirements 😀 … He asked us to select the room and we decided onto one and were surprised to see the Bathtub (though self made) but it was there 😯 … The room was pretty basic but that is what we only needed, a place to sleep. Chumathang has natural hot springs and the water coming out of it was super hot!! I was surprised to see such hot water even in such cold conditions, thank god I put my hands into is cautiously. I put on a layer of thermals more as it was getting colder and colder, even Rigzin had a headache there as my trouble kept increasing. We tried to sleep for a while before ordering food for the night at late evening. As we stepped out around 6 PM, whooaaa… the super cold wind was almost trying to sweep us with it. Quickly we ran to the restaurant where the ladies started preparing dinner for us as the sunset concludes. The headache was troubling me alot but there was no other sign of nausea or fatigue which was a good signal as it might not be AMS but the cold wind into my wet head 🙁 … I was cursing myself why I took the bath!! Within half an hour, dinner was ready and as we had it, wow, it was very tasty and almost gave us the feeling of home. Dal, Mutter Paneer, Curd, Rice and Tawa Roties were much welcomed as we concluded the dinner with black tea. Juley to everyone including the ladies who cooked such nice food and we were back to our room for a good night sleep.

Hot Springs of Chumathang…
Hot Springs of Chumathang...
Hot Springs of Chumathang…
Hot Springs of Chumathang...
Guest House at Chumathang…
Guest House at Chumathang...
Hot Springs of Chumathang…
Hot Springs of Chumathang...

I knew it was not going to be easy night to sleep and I took a doze of a headache medicine and slept in sitting posture for about 3-4 Hrs. Finally, the sweet sleep set into the senses and I was dreaming for the next day for colours of Tso Moriri lake…

The Journey ahead…


I am Dheeraj Sharma - a traveler, techie, and Himalayan lover. Since 2009, I have been helping thousands of travelers every year plan memorable & budget-friendly trips to the Himalayas - Smartly, Safely, and responsibly.


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  2. Jawahar Singh on

    Dear Dheeraj,
    Hi & Good Evening.
    I am Jawahar Singh. I am a Police Inspector. Every year in August-September a police party
    which consists of one Police Officer from each state visits Hot Springs of Ladakh dist. in Aksai Chin area on
    Indo-China border to pay tribute to martyrs of Indian Police Forces. This area is generally out
    of bounds for civilians. This year, a party consisting 22 police officers is going and I am one
    of them. I have read your highly informative blogs providing minute details regarding travel to
    Leh Ladakh. I also need your help to get the maximum out of this trip.
    First I’ll tell you our tour programme and then my requirements.
    Tour programme is as under.
    24.08.2012 Report at Chandigarh
    25.08.2012 Leave Chandigarh by road and arrive at Kullu.(Night halt at Kullu)
    26.08.2012 Leave Kullu and arrive at Keylong.(Night halt at Keylong)
    27.08.2012 Leave Keylong and arrive at Sarchu.(Night halt at Sarchu)
    28.08.2012 Leave Sarchu and arrive at Leh.
    29.08.2012 & 30.08.2012 Stay at Leh for acclimatisation.
    31.08.2012 Leave Leh for Hot Springs(Indo-China border) via Pangong Tso and Phobrang.
    Return to Leh latest by 07.09.2012 with a halt at Phobrang during return journey)
    07.09.2012 & 08.09.2012 Halt at Leh
    09.09.2012 Leave Leh and arrive at Keylong.(Night halt at Keylong)
    10.09.2012 Leave Keylong and arrive at Kullu.(Night halt at Kullu)
    11.09.2012 Leave Kullu and arrive at Chandigarh.(Night halt at Chandigarh)
    12.09.2012 Dispersal of officers to their respective states.

    Dear ,
    There is no scope of change at all in the schedule from our side. We will be moving in
    two to three govt. vehicles. All lodging & boarding arrangements have already been done
    by the govt. at all halts.
    I am not sure but i assume that the distance between any two halts is not much. I mean,
    after reaching the next halt we might get at least half a day to stay there. What I want
    to do is that on reaching every halt that is Kullu, Keylong, Sarchu, Leh, Phobrang and
    similarly during the return journey, if possible i want to hire a bike at each halt and explore
    the nearby beautiful places & monstaries worth visiting and worth seeing. Have some b’ful
    photographs and feel the local culture and local life.
    For this, i humbly request you to help/guide me regarding the following points.
    1) Is it possible to get bikes on rent at each of these places.
    2) Kindly give me list of b’ful places worth watching nearby to all these places that could be
    visited keeping in mind the time of halt and also which place to give enough time and
    where to move quickly.
    3) How is the weather there during this time of the year. Do i need extra winter clothing.
    4) Some dos & donts during this journey.
    5) I have heard much about the beauty of Lahaul & Spiti valleys. I am not sure whether our
    journey route passes through these valleys or not. Will it be possible to visit some b’ful
    places of these valleys.
    6) Will it be possible to visit Tso Moriri, Chumathang, Pangong Tso, etc. without a hurry.
    7) I am a first timer. So kindly let me know for which places do i require permits. And is it
    possible to get the permits in advance to save the time?
    8) Can i get to visit the 3 idiots shooting points near the bridge as well as at Pangong. Are
    the waters at Pangong really that blue as shown in 3 idiots?

    I am sorry, I dont know ki kahin maine bahot jyada information to nahi mang li hai.
    Kindly bear with me. You can also send me your reply on my mail id
    Also if possible can i have ur cell no. plz.
    Waiting for a reply.
    Jawahar Singh.

    • Hello Mr. Jawahar,

      1. No, bikes are only available for rent in Leh.

      2. At all these places there is no certain place defined. There are lots of trails that goes from these places and you can explore any of them depending upon the time left in the day and be back for night stay.

      3. in Ladakh, it generally do not rain much but yes on Manali – Leh Highway before Sarchu at least you might face some hassles of rains otherwise it is all pleasant.

      4. Well, since plan is actually fixed, cannot really say about them 🙂 … You have like 8 days in between and are you going all the way to Askai Chin? Would be awesome for sure… The only thing I feel is you guys should have skipped Sarchu on the way to Leh and would have opted to stay at Sarchu while coming back. It would have negated chances of AMS.

      5. You will be apssing partially through Lahaul Valley (not Spiti Valley) as once you cross Rohtang Pass it isLahaul Valley all the way to Baralacha La Pass and you will be seeing Suraj Tal, Deepak Tal on the way. If you reach early to Keylong may be give try to explore Sissu Waterfall before Keylong.

      6. Not sure, if you have Chumathang and Tso Moriri in plan of 7 days.

      7. Well, if the plan is booked for 7 days and the rest of the days you are in Leh or traveling aorung will not require you any permit. If you are going through Pangong Tso and further to other places inside, then you guys must have arranged the permits.

      8. Yes, if you are going to Pangong Tso, you will see the shooting point and the water is much more beautiful than shown in the pictures 😀 … The bridge comes when you come from Chumathang to Leh.

      I hope this helps. Let me know incase you need more info. or have any queries or doubts.

      Dheeraj Sharma

      • Jawahar Singh on

        Dear Dheeraj,
        Thanks a lot for your valuable suggestions. While reading your blogs, I feel like I am sitting
        and talking with a local Ladakhi person. You know so much about the route, places, atmosphere
        and everything. Well, Few more queries are there.
        1) While going we’ll have two & a half to three days halt at Leh and while returning we’ll
        have one & a half to two days halt at Leh. During this small halt if I hire a bike, is it
        possible to visit Chumathang Hot Springs and Tso Moriri and be back in time. Or if there
        are any other better suggestions to utilise this time in a better way, kindly suggest.
        2) The permits for Pangong and further will definately be arranged for us by the govt. but,
        do i need any type of permits for above places if i wish to visit these places on my own
        on a bike. And, if the permits are needed, how to get the permit in advance so as to save the
        time later.
        3) Further, by weather I mean to ask what would be approx. temperature around this time of the
        year and do i need any thermal inner wear or some extra winter clothing.
        4) Any other general suggestions or tips from your side.
        5) On Wednesday, 22.08 I will be having one day halt at Chanakyapuri, Delhi and since you also
        stay in Delhi, is it possible to meet or can i have ur cell no. in case i need to talk to you during
        the journey. My mail id is
        Thanks a lot.


        • Hello Jawahar,

          Thanks alot 🙂

          1. If you have 1.5-2 days at the end of the trip, then yes, you can hire a bike a day before or early in the morning and you will be able to visit Chumathang and Tso Moriri and be back. It takes two days for this trip.

          2. Yes, you will need permit for Tso Moriri if you wish to visit Tso Moriri. You can ask any hotel guy and they will be able to help you get the permit. You can ask for the permit when you are present in Leh for first few days. It is hardly a 10-15 minutes job if you go prepared and the link here will help you document everything before hand. For more details on inner line permits process and to download application form read the link here

          3. Yes, it is better to carry at least a pair or two thermals and a jacket at least. Weather though remains pleasant but when overcast it generally gets cold especially at night.

          4. Just enjoy the local people and culture as well, I am sure you will love it…

          5. I have offs on weekend only so meeting might not be possible, sorry for that but surely I will email you my contact and you can get in touch with me.

          I hope this helps. Let me know incase you need more info. or have any queries or doubts.

          Dheeraj Sharma

  3. Rahul Sinha on

    Great write up and photos Dheeraj and thanks for the tips well arranged on the site.

    We are planning a 12 day trip from Pune to Leh during August using a hired (black plated, yellow numbered) Innova. Do you think we will have issues with the vehicle due to taxi union at Leh? Any idea about the SUV(Scorp?) hire charges at Leh, in case?

    • Hello Rahul,

      Thanks alot buddy for the appreciation, glad you liked the pictures and the blog. With black number plate, they will not create any trouble, so no worries on that front. Still, for the current leh – ladakh taxi union rate list 2012-13 including the contacts of some reliable taxi drivers within Leh – Ladakh, check the link here. You can get about 10-15% of discount by directly getting in touch with drivers and of course, talking in person rather on phone always help in bargaining more.

      Also, you can check a very balanced and most common itinerary for Leh – Ladakh followed by many travelers including me at the link here: Most Common Itinerary for Leh – Ladakh.

      For accommodation, check the nice, preferred list of accommodation options in entire Leh – Ladakh including moderate and cheap budget hotels as well in the series of articles starting on the link here

      I hope this helps. Let me know incase you need more info. or have any queries or doubts.

      Dheeraj Sharma

  4. Reading this makes u feel excited 😉

    Visiting same next month 🙂 hope it will be gr8 fun 🙂

    • Thanks alot Swapnil, I am sure it will be a great trip for you too, stay tuned for other parts of my Ladakh – 2012 journey as well 😉

      Dheeraj Sharma

  5. Please recommed for a 12 day trip from 1st August where should one start from its an all boys trip

    • Hi Hiren,

      Day 1 | Delhi – Jammu / Patnitop
      — Overnight at Jammu or Patnitop

      Day 2 | Jammu / Patnitop – Srinagar
      — Enjoy walk around Dal lake and may be Shikara ride as well
      — If you have time then check out, floating market, Shalimar Garden.
      — Overnight at Srinagar

      Day 3 | Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil
      — Enjoy the vistas enroute
      — Have late drunch meal at Drass is you are a vegetarian as sometimes it gets difficult to find veg. food at Kargil
      — Overnight at Kargil

      Day 4 | Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh
      — Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
      — On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 5 | Leh Local Sighseeing + Inner Line Permits
      — Local sightseeing include Namgyal Gompa, Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, Shankar Gompa, Main Market, Hall of Fame, Spituk Gompa, Changspa Road Stroll in evening
      — For more details on inner line permits process and to download application form read the link here
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 6 | Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder
      — Head for Nubra Valley and stay overnight at Hunder / Diskit
      — On the way enjoy a cup of soup at Highest Motorable Pass (as claimed) Khardung La
      — Diskit has monasteries with tallest lord Buddha statue and Hunder has sand dunes and bacterian camel safari

      Day 7 | Hunder / Diskit – Sumur – Panamik – Sumur – Khardung La – Leh
      — Sumur has a famous monastery to check out and Panamik has hot water springs
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 8 | Leh – Hemis Monastery – Pangong Tso Lake
      — Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on the go towards Pangong Tso
      — Overnight at Pangong Tso (Spangmik or Lukung)

      Day 9 | Pangong Tso Lake – Thicksey Monastery – Shey Palace – Leh
      — Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on return to Leh
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 10 | Leh – Taglang La – Moore Plains – Pang – Sarchu
      — Stay overnight at Sarchu

      Day 11 | Sarchu – Baralacha La – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
      — On the way cover Suraj Tal, Deepak Tal which are on the road sides only
      — Overnight at Manali

      Day 12 | Manali – Delhi
      Day 13 + 14 | Buffer days to be kept incase of road closure due to landslides or snowfall or perhaps you want to enjoy more.

      I hope this helps. Let me know incase you need more info. or have any queries or doubts.

      Dheeraj Sharma

  6. Hi Dheeraj,

    Thanks for relieving those memories of Lamayuru, Hemis and all…. I haven't been there for a long time. Planning to go there soon…


    • Hello Sabyasachi,

      Pleasure is mine and yes, this is the beauty of blogging as it help us relive those moments again and again through varied experiences 🙂 … Let me know whenever you plan for it, if I could be of some help 🙂

      Dheeraj Sharma

  7. bangalorean on


    We are planning for a visit to LEH during Aug. We are starting from Bangalore on Aug 15 , flight to delhi. Delhi to Manali Volvo bus. What are the options to travel from Manali to leh? We are 4 guys. Is self driven rented car an option? Heard it is a great scenic drive. we want to enjoy the beauty. Please give us ur opinion. Is it possible in taxi?

  8. This sounds like awesome experience. i had a nice time reading about places , i visit, as an armchair traveller.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. I loved the photographs … so want to go to Laddakh ! May be next year. Thanks for this virtual tour though 🙂

    • Thanks alot Puru, it is the place that makes them beautiful :)… Whenever you go, let me know if I can be of some help with regards to planning a trip to Ladakh 🙂

      Dheeraj Sharma

  10. Beautiful place. You are lucky to visit these places. I am still dreaming.

    • Hello Rajesh,

      Yes, I consider myself really lucky being visited Ladakh and my urge and love to keep visiting it again and again!! I don't know but somehow I love this place so much that almost my heart beats for it all day long 🙂 … I am sure your dream will be reality soon, may be next year 🙂


  11. Ok–I did not read all of your post. I focused on things I liked, sorry. I loved that guest house you stayed at. It is cute. And that Thicksay monastery–lovely shots. I wonder how they built it there and that too so beautifully. And the roads–you had a good four wheeler I guess. And that bridge–that must have been amazing. Thanks for sharing Dheeraj!

    • Hi Bhavana,

      Thanks alot. Yes, guest house was pretty decent just that they didn't server the food. And, yes the monasteries are so beautiful placed and this is the wonder of Ladakh. I could not get similar shot for Stakna but that is more interestingly places right on top of a hill. Standing on that bridge (just one step) gave me shivers and I could not take a step ahead hearing the sound of gushing river below which can be seen from gaps in between the steps there but Rigzin went all the way to the middle. Salute his courage!! It was indeed a good experience.

      Dheeraj Sharma