No matter, how bad you are at photography! No matter, how bad your mood is! And no matter, if it’s a journey or destination, you will get some of the best memories with the incredible landscapes of Ladakh!
Julley!! It was the fourth day in the stark landscapes of Ladakh, and an inquisitiveness to see the Bactrian camel tempted us to visit the Nubra valley.
Nubra Valley is known for its high-altitude sand dunes, home to rare double-humped camels, monasteries, and more. Hunder is the only site in India where one can witness them.
The weather gods gave us a hint that they were not favoring us by sending an early signal in Turtuk. Driver bhaiya said Hurry up as we bid goodbye to Turtuk at 1:45 PM with an aim to reach Hunder before sunset( because that’s the right time to see camels). A few patches on the road were blocked due to a recent sandstorm that caused some stones to roll down from the mountains. Being an advanced driver, bhaiya drove on the high hilly roads with the utmost attention.
Upon reaching the sand dunes, we went for a walk following camels. The camels boast of surviving in extreme weather conditions such as blistering heat and freezing cold. They can drink up to 57 liters of water at once and can walk without water for several days!
The calves were running around their mother, carrying tourists on their backs. They look adorable especially when they flaunt facial expressions. We found a good spot to sit and see the camels and..the sand storm was back and we rushed towards the car!
Most of the tourists continued the camel ride including our co-travelers. The sand in the air made it impossible to see mountains and camels. Some people with their kids rushed back to their cars, and some just went out to capture this moment. Driver bhaiya shared a few stories – about his days in the army, the weather of Ladakh, and when people lost their lives while driving in this weather.
What to do in Nubra Valley?
Visit Hunder sand dunes to see double-humped camels ( Locals bring their camels in the morning and evening )
The famous, Future Buddha statue in Diskit.
Visit the oldest and largest monastery in Nubra Valley
Enjoy adventure activities such as MTV rides, zip lining, river rafting, etc
Camping and bonfires in the cold desert.
Our stay in Hunder
The daylight is harsh while evenings are freezing. If possible, avoid booking your stay in tents. A warm place is vital to get proper rest so we booked our stay in a luxurious bamboo tent. The huts were quite spacious and warm. The cost of stay and food was 2000/- for two people at Nubra Valley Resort.
The huts were well equipped with modern facilities. Without a doubt, it’s an oasis amidst a desert for travelers. The buffet dinner was unexpected.
That’s it. Leave a comment if you enjoyed reading it or have any questions 🙂
It’s been 2 days since we are back at our little home in the mountains. On both days, we had regular office work to finish. Although we had the limitation of no nearby sweet shop and other important things required for Pooja in Aleo, I still wanted to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi.
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival widely celebrated in the Maharashtra state and nowadays is celebrated across India. Ganesh is the offspring of Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravati. It is a 10-day festival, and the first day is celebrated as the birth of Ganesh. With hearts filled with joy, people bring Ganesh’s idol home. They decorate it with flowers, leaves, and other creative ways. A pooja is performed followed by prasad ( Modak – sweet dumplings made up of coconut, jaggery, etc.) distribution. The first day is popularly known as Ganesh Stapna.
Ganpati is believed to take away obstacles from our house and these obstacles are destroyed with the Visarjan i.e. 10th day. On this day, Ganpati’s idols are carried to a nearby river in huge processions accompanied by drumbeats, devotional singing, and dancing.
Best place to celebrate Ganpati in India
Maharashtra – Mumbai, and Pune Month – ~August – September ( Check dates on the Hindu calendar for the year )
Roasting gram flour ( besan ) with Ghee
I had taken an early shower and cleaned the kitchen to prepare prasad. Ranjan had no idea what I was doing, he tasted prasad and my efforts went in vain. He felt so bad upon realizing it. Without wasting any time, we prepared another round of prasad with the same dedication and purity.
Adding sugar in the roasted gram flour
Besan Laddus ( gram flour sweet dumplings ) are ready.
Used my iPad in place of Ganesh’s idol
Ganesh idol was unavailable in my area
Pooja, aarti and prasadam
Had to prepare besan laddu instead of modak
We haven’t done Ganpati Stapna but a routine pooja. My iPad is not going in Visarjan 🙂
With the constraint of a few hours on weekdays, our family went out to see the beauty of Kota during the monsoon. The city was drenched in rains and nature’s HDR was turned ON with a high vibrance value. Due to heavy rains, the district collector announced a public holiday for kids, teachers, and other government employees. The rare contact of feet with clutch and brakes added comfort to driving on so-called the busiest roads of the city.
We parked the car 200 meters away from the bridge and rain showers added a thrill to the experience. Walking to the bridge in a shared umbrella, I ran out of words on getting the first glimpse of the Kota barrage. The waves in the water were monstrous and gigantic.
Never underestimate the power of water!
We spend 15-20 minutes on the bridge, got back in the car, and headed to a dam near the city. Before the tingling in our stomachs got out of control, we took a break at a roadside stall and ate Poha. With happy stomachs, we continued the journey towards the Aalniya dam.
Aalniya dam got name from a nearby village, Alaniya. It is located at a distance of 25 km from Kota. It is a perfect picnic spot in winter and monsoon season.
The deserted and deteriorated road to the Alaniya Dam added some delay. The water was flowing in the village fields and low-lying areas.
Walking against the winds to see the other side of the Aalniya Dam
Spotted a peacock
Even a slight movement of a peacock is pleasing
A lotus pond near the dam
Water canal from the dam
The fields were in sync with the nature and winds.
Surplus water gushing out of the dam
Sarus crane laid a few eggs in her nest
When to visit Aalniya Dam?
Monsoon (July to August) – for a family picnic, day outing, and bird watching with rains. Winters (December – March) – Watch migratory birds and picnic day out with family.
Don’t worry! If you planned to visit this place during summer, go and visit in the early morning hours or evening. The golden hours of Rajasthan will never disappoint you.
How to get around Aalniya Dam
Train – The nearest city is Kota, book the ticket for Aalniya from IRCTC.
Book an ola/uber from Kota city to reach the dam. The most convenient option is a personal vehicle.
On a Sunday of a long weekend, while going back home, I booked a flight for Jaipur and my partner joined me from Kota. Dressing up in a cotton Indian suit at the airport with a backpack was an unusual combination but I had no other option. Pune airport was less crowded, rain showers outside and the city was no less than a hill station. It was magical!
Rajasthan is quite close to my heart and so is the capital city of this beautiful state. It has mountains, lakes, age-old forts, colors, a rich culture, a variety of food, and more. It is also a perfect place to explore with the family.
Upon landing at Jaipur airport, I booked a cab for Patrika Gate located nearly 2.5 Km from the airport. This place recently got a lot of attraction from tourists, locals, and photographers.
Our One Day Itinerary for Jaipur
1. Patrika Gate
Spend 20-30 minutes admiring and ogling the artwork at the Patrika Gate. It is usually crowded on weekends and public holidays. It is open 24*7 but the best time to visit is when Sun is up and there is decent light inside the gate.
No entry fee.
Located at Jawahar circle.
Also a pre-wedding shoot spot.
Add an hour or two to get the perfect Instagram-worthy picture.
Book a cab and head to Galta Ji, aka the Monkey Temple to see a series of natural pools amidst mountains, a short hike in the Aravalli mountain range, and a holy dip in the sacred Kund.
2. Galta Ji, The Monkey Temple of Jaipur
An ancient Hindu temple located at a distance of 10 Km from Jaipur city with a few natural pools amidst the Aravalli mountains.
Visit during monsoon or winters – lush green mountains and kunds filled with water.
No entry fee.
Safe to visit during daylight.
It is a beautiful site but the waste is not managed properly. One can contribute a little by bringing back their waste to respective hotels and leaving no footprints.
3. Chokhi Dhani – A special village
Get an insight into Rajasthani culture and tradition within a few hours at Chokhi Dhani. The entry fee varies from INR 800/- to INR 1200/- per person depending on the tourist season. This fee includes dinner and other free activities – Mehndi, magic shows, pottery experience, etc.
Try to reach before 4:00 PM, take tickets and take a stroll in the village during daylight.
Dance to the Rajasthani folk music, get amazed by magic tricks, and eat some snacks.
There are 4 to 5 places to enjoy food – buffet, the traditional way with Bajot at two to three settings. Our favorite is Ghoomar Jeeman.
Eat dinner early to avoid long queues at the dining place.
Wear comfortable footwear as you will walk for hours exploring the village and dancing.
Some Tips and Information
The temperature is high during the daytime except in winters, keep yourself hydrated and prefer loose cotton clothes over skin-fitted jeans, etc. Don’t forget caps/ scarf etc.
The peak season to visit Rajasthan- is November to March.
An auto driver can smell a tourist from miles away so bargain till a fair point and follow the same tip while shopping.
Where to stay in Jaipur?
The capital city of Rajasthan has hundreds of hotels to choose from. Here are my favorites.
Budget option – Zostel.
Medium range haveli like hotels – There are some Havelis near Railway station.
In the past 2 years, it was one of the rare times when we slept at 1:15 AM IST on Saturday. However, the body clock was set to wake up at 6:30 AM, and there was a slight discomfort in our body due to insufficient sleep. Both of us had completed the routine morning tasks. I have prepared vegetable pulao and my partner packed it in a steel box.
At 11:00 AM we reached the Aleo bus stop, the sun was shining bright and there were fewer cars on the road. Both of us enjoy walking instead of waiting for a bus but this day we decided to wait. 30 minutes later, the bus had arrived and it took another 20 minutes to reach Sajla village.
Sajla village is located around 10 km from the Manali bus stand. A short hike of 15-20 minutes will leave you at a beautiful hidden waterfall which is also a picnic spot for locals. The water from this waterfall is used by locals for cooking and drinking as well so make sure you don’t pollute it. Many waterfalls and lakes in this region are considered as holy so refrain from hurting the emotions of the locals. Rather pack some of your favorite food and do a little picnic.
There were hardly 20-25 people around the waterfall. We could hear chirping birds, the water flowing downhill, and the cold breeze flowing through trees. It was a peaceful and rejuvenating weekend.
How to reach Sajla waterfall?
You can rent a bike from Manali or Naggar and reach Sajla. You can also take a HRTC bus going towards Naggar. It will not take more than 30 minutes to reach Sajla village. From this village, hike for 15-20 minutes to reach the waterfall.
You can either do a picnic or eat at stalls installed by locals near the waterfall.
Say Julley, when you are happy. Say Julley, when you are meeting people. Say Julley, when you are welcoming someone. Say Julley, to thank someone. Say Julley when you are mesmerized. Say Julley, to wish – good night and good morning.
Julley is a magical word, sometimes a sentence or a story. It is used by locals of Ladakh, Buddhists, and the people of Himachal. So, whenever you meet any one of them then say Julley! 🙂
Last night, we booked a shared taxi with a couple. At 8:30 AM IST, we had breakfast at Punjabi Tadka. The breakfast was fresh and hot, we would have eaten an extra paratha but we had a long journey ahead through high mountain passes so we avoided it. There was traffic in Leh city but once we crossed the city to drive up on mountains, the drive was smooth. The roads were in good condition with the most amazing views.
En route to Khardungla pass, we learned a few things about our co-travelers and driver bhaiya. We were fortunate to travel with an ex-army (driver bhaiya who loves driving on these roads ), a guy(Tony) from the Indian navy, and a girl(Vinni) who works in Mumbai and visited Leh to participate in a high altitude 30 km run.
Important: Due to lack of oxygen, some people might face difficulty in breathing. In this case, go back to the car and take a rest. If you still don’t feel fine then inform your friends and driver(being localities, he will be able to guide you). Also, please read the guidelines to deal with AMS.
Khardungla pass located at an altitude of 18,379 ft (5602 m) above sea level is the second highest motorable road. This famous high mountain pass milestone was flooded with people waiting for selfies. Within a few minutes, we left the idea of waiting near the milestone for a photo and walked on the road for a few minutes. Walking a few steps was equivalent to jogging a kilometer. I wondered about the fitness level required for the high-altitude run.
As we crossed Khardungla, the condition of the road deteriorated due to ongoing road construction. At the construction site, workers were working hard under the rays of the scorching Sun and in presence of a lot of dust. Because of them, our journey is effortless and memorable in the mountains. Kudos to them!
We had taken a nap in the car. We had given a copy of the permits to driver bhaiya and he got it verified at the check post. We drove on the most gorgeous and picturesque roads of Nubra valley to reach Turtuk.
Bhaiya decided to meet his friends and we had taken a random stop at the Siachen Warriors memorial. It was not a part of the itinerary but we head out of the car to see the valley. All of us rented electric bicycles and explored the place. Living indoors in extreme weather of the valley was a thought miles away, I could hardly process the idea of going out in glaciers and fighting for the country. The warriors of our country are born with tremendous courage.
Flying high tricolor at the hall of fame can give goosebumps to any tourist. A warrior also showcased the devices, stories, and life of the Siachen warriors.
Driver bhaiya drove carefully on narrow roads, keeping an eye on the scree slopes and mountains with gravels. The mountains in Nubra valley are prone to landslides especially if it’s windy. It is always better to travel with a proficient driver who drove hundred times on the same route. Also, he was well informed about storms and recent landslides. If you are driving on your own then take extra precautions on this route.
It was near dusk the sky was growing magical, and the stiff breeze blew through hairs and took away intolerable heat. We drove on mountain roads to reach Turtuk, a small village located on the bank of the Shyok river and home to the Baltic people. Bhaiya parked the car near the bridge as we waited for a message from the host.
We had wholesome food in dinner and had a good night sleep. On waking up, we head out to explore Turtuk!
We walked near the bridge and the river, little kids were dressed up, and offered fryums. As we walked a few more steps, a little girl also offered us the same. Then we realized it was Eid! The villagers were in joyful mood.
What to do in Turtuk?
Get to know about the Yagbo dynasty at the Yuthok museum.
Natural cold storage of the village.
Go hiking to a hidden waterfall with the help of a local guide.
Buy dehydrated apricots and other local food items.
With the permission of locals, pluck apricots.
Go for a morning stroll in the village.
Hike to the monastery to see an aerial view of Turtuk.
Visit Thang village near LOC.
Take a walk along the river.
Spot K-2 from the monastery.
The young prince of the Turtuk is a knowledgeable and kind person, we spent around an hour talking about the history of this place and its people. He is available at the vacation home to share stories and details of the palace.
Important things for the Turtuk trip?
Turtuk is a small village where you will see a different culture, people, and lifestyle. The people of Turtuk are very friendly and kind, and one should follow a few things in Turtuk.
You can click anything you want but please take permission before clicking pictures of locals and kids.
Don’t play loud music while walking in the village.
The people of Turtuk are conservative in nature and respect the local culture.
Don’t wash anything in the water running across the village as the water is used for drinking and cooking purposes.
Ask for permission before entering any house.
Where to stay and eat in Turtuk?
We wanted to stay with locals, but most homestays are converted into guest houses. For Turtuk, our co-travelers have made a booking at Appricot Villa so we haven’t put any effort into finding a place to stay. The rooms were decent and the host was very helpful. The cost of accommodation including food was INR 2000/- for a couple. Also, this fare varies with the tourist season.
For us, food was included in the package. Most of the accommodations provide a farm-to-table experience so no need to worry. Otherwise, you can eat at a café located near the bridge.
Best time to visit Turtuk?
You can visit Turtuk anytime between May to October which is also tourist season. Plan in June to see the village full of apricots. During winters, Turtuk is inaccessible on some days due to heavy snowfall at Khardungla pass.
Rohtang Pass is one of the highest passes in Himachal Pradesh situated at a distance of 51 km from Manali(3,980 m/13,058 ft from sea level). The word Rohtang means a pile of corpses (pile of dead bodies) because a number of people have lost their lives while crossing the pass. It is also a tourist attraction in Manali and thousands of people visit it. We had planned it as a day trip with family.
A day before this trip, we booked our tickets for an electric bus at INR 600/-(round trip) from the Manali bus stand. Four to five electric buses at regular intervals are deployed for tourists during peak season time by the government.
For breakfast, we had soaked chana and homemade mango shake at around 8:00 AM, then walked for 30 minutes to reach the Manali bus stand and boarded the bus at 9:30 AM.
What to pack for Rohtang Pass?
Pack some healthy snacks and carry your own water bottles.
Woolens – Due to high altitude and unpredictable weather in mountains, the temperature can drop drastically. One should pay attention when they are traveling with kids.
A woolen scarf (to protect face/ nose from chilling winds)
It stops for breakfast/ lunch at 11:00 AM for 30 minutes.
At Rohtang pass viewpoint for 2 hours, there are 3-4 viewpoints.
Atal Tunnel for 20-30 minutes.
Solang Valley for 30 minutes or more, depending on the interest of the travelers.
Drop point – Manali bus stand.
The bus journey was quite comfortable and scenic. No regrets!
The snow almost disappeared to let the baby flowers sprout during mid-June. We had taken a short hike to touch snow.
Some other information and tips for Rohtang Pass
Get a Rohtang pass permit online using the given link for your personal vehicle. You don’t need a permit when you are traveling in a shared taxi or a bus.
There are small stalls that sell roasted corns, maggi, tea, coffee, etc. on either side of the road. You can also pack some home-cooked food and enjoy a picnic. Make sure to leave the place clean.
Avoid alcohol at high altitudes.
Try to make it a better place for others by not littering. If you are going for a short hike then collect the polythenes/thrash in a bag, bring it back, and help to clean the Himalayas.
The pass is open from May to September, the peak tourist season for Manali is May and June so expect thousands of tourists around you.
Don’t visit Rohtang pass to see snow. Sometimes, the snow might melt till mid-June and it can add to the disappointment. Instead, visit Rohtang to experience an epic drive on the high pass and spectacular scenery.
You can also enjoy activities such as paragliding, hiking, sledge rides, yak ride, ATV ride, tyre dropping, and more.
Avoid driving and get a shared taxi or a bus if you don’t have the skills to drive on high mountain passes.
Don’t play loud music in mountains, it’s not a place to do a party but soak in the beauty of Rohtang with a sip of tea or coffee.
Due to very heavy traffic, it took almost 4 hours to reach Manali from Atal Tunnel which usually takes an hour. We were disappointed and very tired due to prolonged sitting at the same spot in the bus. Besides this, the overall experience was amazing!
Have you been to Rohtang or any other high passes in India, let me know in the comments.
Last night, we fell into deep slumber soon after we laid down in not so comfortable guest house. We woke up at 7:30 AM, took a bath, and started looking for better hotels to stay in on google. Fortunately, we were able to find one deluxe room at Zostel. We checked in to our hotel and rented a scooty to explore Leh, and nearby places.
Important Tip: On day one, either take complete rest or go easy and explore nearby places.
Pathar Sahib Gurudwara
The story of a demon and power of Spirituality – Who is powerful, any thoughts!
Once upon a time, a demon lived near the mountains of the Gurudwara whose terror couldn’t be tamed. While traveling back to Punjab, Guru Nanak decided to take some rest at this place. On learning about this, the frightened people approached Guru Nanak for help. So, he decided to help people and spend a few days here. One day, when Guru Nanak was meditating, the demon pushed a boulder from a nearby hill towards him. When the stone came in contact with Guru Nanak, it transformed into soft wax. The demon was not ready to accept defeat and he tried to push the gigantic boulder with his right foot. Guru Nanak was unharmed and continued meditating and the demon was shocked by such a powerful personality. The impressions of Guru Nanak’s back and right foot of demon are still preserved here.
Locals built the Gurudwara to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak. Now, this region comes under the Indian government so it is maintained by the Indian army. You will see a lot of military presence in this area. We had langar with Prasadam and continued driving towards the famous magnetic hills of Ladakh.
The Mysterious Magnetic Hill of Ladakh
Some villagers believed that there was a time when a road existed at the same place that could take people to heaven!
At this place, you can park the car in neutral and the car rolls backward uphill. This phenomenon stirred up many scientists as well. It might happen due to the optical illusion of landscape where an uphill seems to be downhill or vice-versa. No doubt, this place is scenic and one can’t resist capturing it in their memory. Have you visited Magnetic hills? Share your experience in the comments.
Sangam of Indus and Zanskar river
It is another touristy spot in Leh that should not be missed. If you are driving from Kargil-Leh then you can visit it on your way. The confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers is clearly visible. We had spent an hour near the riverside then the sand storm had some other plans for us.
It was a spontaneous decision to drive towards Nimmu and go for a village walk. We haven’t explored any specific place but spotted some old mud houses.
Shanti Stupa – A Buddhist Stupa
The stupa is huge and, located on a hilltop in Leh. When evening prayers started, this place became more magical. From this place, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
You can also enjoy an evening meal at the café inside the Stupa premises.
On the 6th day of the trip, while returning back to Leh from Pangong Tso, we visited Thikshey and Shey monastery which gave us some insight into the life of Buddhist people and monks.
An evening at Leh Market
Buy some dehydrated berries, and apricots from locals.
Enjoy local bread if you enjoy trying new food.
Buy some local woolens for winter.
Enjoy an evening at a Café.
More places to explore near Leh
Hall of fame
Leh Palace to see the panoramic view of the city.
Monasteries – Stakna Monastery
Where to stay in Leh?
Stay is not a problem in Leh. It can cater to all types of travelers right from budget to luxury. We had booked our stay with Zostel and Smanla Guest House, both of them are located close to Leh market.
Where to eat in Leh?
Leh has good restaurants, cafes, and marts. You can get a lot of options in the Leh market.
Punjabi Tadka Restaurant ( Leh market) – For good quality North Indian food at an affordable price. We enjoyed eating aloo parathas with chole, curd, and pickle. So yum!
De Khambir (Leh market) – You can enjoy local bread such as Khambir, juices, and traditional butter tea at this place.
Bikes and Scooty – You can get a range of two-wheelers in and around Leh market. We rented a scooty for INR 800/- per day.
Self-Drive Cars – The roads and terrain of Ladakh are tricky for inexperienced drivers. It’s better to travel with drivers who drove100 times on these roads and are aware of the terrain and weather. It is not allowed to rent a self-drive car in Ladakh. You can hire a car or a sharing taxi from the taxi stand. We booked a Tata Aria and shared it with another couple with the help of Ancient tracks. The driver and staff are very polite and experienced.
Best time to visit Leh?
The peak season to visit Leh is summer, April to June, and thousands of tourists explore this valley. Winters are extremely harsh in Ladakh and most of the places are inaccessible. Unsurprisingly, you can visit Leh in winter via flight. Some hotels and restaurants operate in winter as well. Chadar Trek is a popular attraction in Ladakh in December.
When are you planning to visit Leh! Share your thoughts in the comments.