Are you headed to Ladakh this summer? And have about ten days with you? Here is a suggested itinerary for you assuming you are on the road from Manali onwards.
Posts on Ladakh
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Reach Manali by air or by road
Manali to Jispa, reach in about 6-8 hours. Stop at Rohtang Pass and Keylong if you like. You can also read the following posts on Jispa
Drive from Jispa to Leh: There is no need to spend a night at Sarchu on the way as many travel operators will advise you unless you are on the way to Tso Moriri from Jispa. Read my post on the experience at Sarchu: Sarchu in Ladakh: Spending the longest night of my life
Take it easy in Leh, just roam around town and get familiar with it. Avoid going to monasteries as it will entail steep walks up and down. You can visit Shanti Stupa in the evening for some stunning sunsets. Check out the Donkey Sanctuary too – its unique. If you are missing a good coffee, drop by at Desert Rain located right in the main market.
Day 4 / 5
Visit Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Stok Palace, Shey Palace and Leh Palace for sure. Each of these can take half or one third of a day – they are all villages around Leh. If you have the time check out the monasteries at Matho, Phiyang and a few others too. Take a dawn or dusk walk along the Indus river: a good place is from across the Shey Palace.
While at these monasteries, besides looking around, do chat up the lamas. They are usually willing, are very friendly, some even have a sense of humour and they always have stories to share. Even without asking you, some of them prepare butter tea for you as their way of being hospitable. Go early morning to monasteries like Thiksey where they have a highly serene and worth attending prayer session with over a hundred lamas praying together.
Head out to Pangong Tso for an overnight trip
Go to Nubra Valley via Khardungla Pass. You can keep moving on the way back from Pangong Tso – it may mean a full day drive but you may want to save time.
Head out straight to Alchi from Nubra Valley. You will reach in the afternoon and you can look around the village and the monastery.
Go to Likir and Lamayuru monasteries, spend a few hours there and back to Leh.
Take a flight or start the drive back.
Variation 1: Tso Moriri
From Jispa head out to Tso Moriri. If you start very early you can make it the same day. Or take a break in Sarchu. You can also go to Tso Moriri from Leh – I have not been there but believe it is a full day drive. Spend two nights there and then come back to Leh. Another way is to go to Tso Moriri on the way back from Leh, and head out towards Jispa and Manali from there.
Variation 2: Zanskar
If you want to go to Zanskar, you need to set aside two days to get there. On day one from Leh, go to Kargil. Spend a night in Kargil, and then do a full day drive to Zanskar. On the way back you will have to stop at Kargil again, and then return either via Srinagar or Leh. You can spend only one full day in Zanskar but at least two are recommended.