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Posted on: Tuesday , Mar 15, 2011 At 11:24 AM

Diskit Monastery - Nubra Valley, Ladakh

A very sought after jeep safari from Leh is that of Nubra Valley.  After starting at early morning from Leh and covering 40 km, one is delighted to have visited the highest motorable pass in the world, the Kahardung-la. Another 56 km drive and one arrives at Khalsar. From Khalsar one can take a  detour to Shyok valley and proceed to Sumur and Panamik. Alternately one can drive on 20 km to Diskit, famous for its ‘cold desert’, which are full of sand dunes.

On 2nd of June 2010, on our return journey from Hundar village, with plenty of time in our hand, it was worth while visiting Diskit monastery, the largest in the Nubra valley.  On the way we came  across a beautiful looking Monastic School, run by Monastery administration.

Alighting from jeep, we entered the huge compound.  The elegant looking structure was freshly painted and spruced up on the eve of His Holiness Dalai Lama’s visit. Behind the School on a small hillock, huge Buddha idol was undergoing fresh coat of painting.

From School compound we got an awesome view of seven storied Diskit Gompa clutching the mountain side.

We resumed our short journey towards the Diskit Gompa and on the way come across students from Monastic School carrying the big diameter cable in their own way.

A climb to seven storied Diskit Gompa through a few hundred steps takes some time and effort; but the effort is adequately rewarded. From elevation of upper stories of the Gompa, the panorama of hills and the greenery around the Diskit village looks spectacular.

The final flight of steps gives us a view of Gompa hall; it looks spectacular, with the court yard painted with murals.

The Gompa Hall, housing Buddha idol, was dimly lit compared to other Gompas like Shey and Thiksey. As camera flash is not supposed to be used hence a good shot in low lighting conditions proved to be difficult. Also, there was objection to video camera to be used in this monastery. The Buddha idol appeared to be installed in a rectangular box, recessed into wall, as shown.

Another image of a close-up of Buddha idol as below :

The Gompa Hall walls are decorated with Thangkas or painted scrolls as shown :

From Nubra Valley, we drove towards the Shyok valley. From road, a view of Shyok river with a very low level of water during early summer, breaking into many small rivulets, created some kind of abstract painting in sand.

Having written a few words on various Gompas of Ladakh, some readers may feel tad monotonous on this aspect of Ladakh. If one is at Ladakh, he can not wish away Gompas and Chortens  which are fountain heads of Buddhist religion and will make their appearance in every possible destination. These mountain clutching multistoried structures, invariably give a kind of divine dimension to the mountains of this Trans-Himalayan region and from layman’s point of view, break the monotony of the rugged hills.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Feb 16, 2011 At 08:10 AM

A Stack Of Picture Post Cards – Stok, Ladakh

Making our entry in Ladakh in early summer, we were not in a position to undertake Zingchen – Rumbak – Stok trek.  Stok Palace consisting  of Gompa and Museum  was a part of Monastery Safari circuit which we took from Leh, on day after our arrival. Stok village which is merely two km from Palace, was not a part of the tour, as it is rarely visited, because of dearth of any worth while tourist spots of importance. 

On 30th May 2010, we took the fourteen km jeep drive from Leh, to Stok village, without having any prior knowledge of the place, but it turned out to be hugely rewarding.  Sonam the driver of our hired Innova car dropped us at the point in Stok village, where the asphalt road seemed to end and trail to the hills began. A garage converted into a tea stall cum eatery was a welcome sight, in early morning, when we alighted, to have a chance to wet our throats and combat the chill,to get the circulation going. As we looked around the hill side panorama, a young Ladakhi girl served us tea and took care of the place till her parents arrived.

Sipping tea and munching a few biscuits from our ration, guideless, clueless, we were just three wandering souls contemplating from where to begin our trek. We had a modest goal of trekking up to Stok Kangri base camp. Stok Kangri is a major mountain peak nearest to Leh and is attempted by adventurous trekkers in month of September.  The sign board denoting ‘Stok Trekking Point’ appeared in an agricultural plot containing a single storied home stay guest house. It looked deserted at this time of early summer. Home stays are basically accommodations where tourists stay with the Ladakhi household at a pre-determined rate. The food cooked for the family is shared by the tourists. In Ladakh, if one does not spend at least one night in home stay accommodation, he has missed some thing. We had our share of home stay at Tsomoriri, but here we were just having a days outing.  


Stok landscape, with deep blue skies, the fluffy white clouds, the mountain tops scattered with snow, the sky piercing Poplar trees, the brooks, the cottages, created many picture post card images on my retina. I unleashed my digicam to do some photo shooting, before we set on a journey to unknown, with our back packs, through a grassy green passage alongside a tiny stream. It was nothing short of an exciting dream!

At this point, I would take the liberty of going fast forward, since our trek from Stok to Changma is covered in my travelogue as per following web address :


We pick up the thread, when we returned back to Stok after the trek.  While seated on the road side culvert, waiting for the Innova car to pick us up and to take to Leh, it was opportune moment to shoot some more Stok landscapes around us.

We were not he only ones enjoying the nature’s bounty around us. A group of overseas tourists were reveling in their own style. A guy photo-shooting the Ladakhi owner of the garage eatery, in the scenic environment, in his own inimitable style, gave me a photo shooting opportunity as well!

The photographer shared the results of photo shoot with his model through LCD image of his digicam, to his delight.

The duo posed for me, to capture their moments of happiness, in this scenic environment.

Getting a phone call from driver Sonam that he was on his way to pick us up, assured, we captured some more of the scenic surroundings.  Tall Poplar trees and smaller willow trees are the main vegetation in Stok village.  The single storied cottages blend perfectly to give the village a picture post card image.

The short two km drive from Stok trekking point, through Stok village to Stok Palace, will remain one of my best road journeys in Ladakh. The landscape is awesome to say the least. We got a photo shoot of Stok Palace from about two hundred  metres  distance, with a large number of chortens on the way side.  The cloud formation was just right to give dimension to the landscape.

I could not resist yet another shot much closer as we approached the Palace.

The Stok Palace houses the Stok Gompa and a Museum which is very popular with the tourists. The Vista from Stok Palace is magnificent and soothing to the eye.

Stok info : 


Visiting Stok in early summer i.e. in end May or first week of June, when the mountain top snow has not melted fully, the clear blue skies give a picture postcard landscape and one is in tune with the nature; it will remain one of my most favorite destinations in Ladakh. If one wants to stay here, there is a single storied home stay guest house, in a huge compound at ‘Stok trekking point’. There are a few more guest houses, we came across at a short distance on way to Changma. One does not have to book these places in advance and just walk in. There are a few restaurants as well, which we could make out from spiraling smoke through the chimneys of the road side cottages. Cell phone connectivity at this place is a great advantage. Both Airtel and BSNL  work here. The travel agencies at Leh will arrange for drop and pick up from this place at a reasonable rate. One can trek to Changma, about 5 kms. and will be in Hemis wild life sanctuary; a chance encounter with wild life is a possibility. A two km drive will bring one to Stok Palace. The vista from Stok Palace of the adjoining hills is magnificent.  A casual walk through the Stok village will be a rejuvenating experience for tired souls.  Stok has the potential to be a great destination in Ladakh, if given the due recognition it deserves by local government as well as the travel community.


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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 01, 2011 At 15:24 PM

Hunder - Idyllic Village In Nubra Valley, Ladakh

Connectivity of Leh through land and air route has seen tourists of all hues pouring in this Ladakh town in summer months between June and September.  Most of the tourists avail of the tour packages offered by travel companies with duration anything between 7 days and 14 days. The discerning group of travelers make their own arrangement of jeep hiring from Leh and chart out an itinerary of their own. Leh being focal point of all jeep safari circuits, one rarely stays and has a feel of so many idyllic villages dotted all across Ladakh. During jeep safaris, at the most one gets a night halt at villages like Hunder, Tsomoriri and Pangong Tso.  Those who go for trekking or on expeditions do come across many more villages for their over night halts.

In our ten day trip to Ladakh in early summer, with our own preset itinerary, we came across many idyllic villages, stayed overnight in some of them. If I have to select top three such villages as my choice, I would unhesitatingly select Hunder, Stok and Shey. Each of them are worth a stay for 2/3 days.

Hunder  village, located in Nubra Valley,  will be on top of my list of idyllic villages in Ladakh. Situated at an elevation of 10,000 ft, much lower than even Leh at 11,500’, keeps the visitors free from those high altitude sickness if at all one is prone to. This idyllic village has all the ingredient of modern amenities which will take care of a comfortable stay for every tourist and his family. There are plethora of guest houses, located in huge plots of lands, surrounded by greenery, with 24 hours water supply and good food. Some of them we came across are two storied Goba guest house, single storied Ibex guest house and a huge complex housing tented accommodation known as Organic Retreat.  Some guest houses offer the genuine Ladakhi cuisine, including Ladakhi bred and low spiced yet tasty curries. For the non-vegetarians, egg preparations are always available for asking.


A view of Goba Guest House :

A view of Ibex guest house located on adjoining compound :

Hunder village abounds in willow, poplar, apple and apricot trees in almost every compound. An early morning walk in lush green environs, through the narrow but clean streets  is a rejuvenating experience.  From terrace of every house the wonderful vista of hillside enhances one’s perception of nature in its pristine glory. A careful eye on the flying aves among the trees will possibly result in a sight of specie of a beautiful bird with a few feathers in its crest and the wings with black and while patterns. Camera totting, I had a quite a chase in spotting and trying to shoot this bird by trespassing through the tented camp, but could not get a clear crisp shot to my dismay. Later I discovered this species has a common name as ‘Common Hoopoe’ with biological name as ‘Upupa Epops’.

Crossing outskirts of Hunder village, one arrives on the road which brings the tourists to this idyllic place.  Distant snow clad hills is a reminder to the tourists, that it is still early summer and that one is at 10,000’ elevation.

The road, facing the hill is dotted with chortens of different sizes scattered rather randomly, breaking the monotony of otherwise barren hills.

Those tourists who are thrilled to do some climbing exercise in the adjoining hill, can take mud-stone steep track going up. Stepping over scattered pebbles one comes across ruins of few religious structures at different elevations.

Lay tourists who are perplexed by Ladakh being mentioned as high altitude cold desert, will have a real down to earth feel of desert , with sand dunes, the seabuckthorn bushes, the camels of Bactrian species, at a walking distance from Hunder village. As the sun rises, so do the Bactrian camels on all their fours in their camps. The owners along with their camels in tow, begin yet another of their journeys to the sand dunes, to earn their livelihood. From village, tourists take a short journey to arrive at the spot to have an experience of Bactrian camel ride.  For me, the two humped animal was some kind of a novelty; kept busy my shutter finger as much as possible, capturing camels in their various moods and postures. The young ones of the camels, stayed glued to their mothers and even if got separated, reunited  with them without any hassle.

A view of sand dunes at Hunder :

At the end of the day at sand dunes with sunlight fading, momentary golden glow on the distant hills looks spectacular.

Places to visit around Hunder: 

Diskit is a short  8 km drive from Hunder and has the biggest Gompa in the Nubra valley. Monastic School at a some what lower elevation is an imposing structure and offers a great view of Gompa.

Sumur is 40 km drive from Hunder, via the diversion point Khalsar. The journey from Khalsar to Sumur, is through greeneries interspaced with wild rose bushes. Samstanling  Gompa at Sumur attract a lot of tourists.

Panamik is 20 km further is a place of hot water springs. Beyond Panamik, the drive is restricted to Army who head in the direction of Siachen, the biggest glacier outside of polar region.


1D       .....................................

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