Imagine you are in a jewel shop
You are given a bowl full of gems (the jewels, not the candy. PS: the anecdote works with candy too)
Now choose your favorite gem.
You can take only one (Yes, you would have taken all if given a chance)
I am sure everyone would choose a different variety of gem. Some would choose a ruby. Another might pick an emerald or a diamond. And no one could be wrong. It is not the material worth or the popularity. It is just that people have different tastes and they have their own criteria (or whims and fancies) to select one.
Selecting the best road trip in Ladakh is exactly like that. There is no right or wrong choice. But it is not just our liking. We sat down and have selected the road trip that not just felt awesome but also ticked the right boxes for us. And probably the best road trip in Ladakh is
Pangong Lake to Tso Moriri (via Maan and Merak villages, Chushul and Mahe Bridge)
So what makes this lesser known offbeat road trip awesome?
Variety is the spice of life
As clichéd it might sound, it is still true. And this route serves you complete variety of experiences along the way. Be it the condition of the road or the sights. You would be exposed to a wide spectrum of challenges and treats alike.
Variety of Sights
Views and scenery are the highlight of any route in Ladakh. And in our humble opinion, this route might have the best sights of them all.
The sojourn starts with mind blowing views of Pangong Lake. Un-touched lake stretching far. Un-encumbered views with no man or man-made creations to hamper it. It feels like we could stay here forever and ever.
We move ahead to cross through petite villages. The houses and vegetable gardens give us a brief peek in the Ladakhi life. But by the time we realize it is a village, it is now behind us.
We found the barren stretches of land further ahead rather soothing. This part had an undertone of Ladakh. Be it the rising mountains or the narrow streams or the sparse vegetation. Nothing jumping out to catch the eye but everything just seems Ladakhi. Also it was sort of a palate cleanser for us.
After touching Chushul (and getting back to civilization) shortly we were along another river. And to our surprise it turned out to be Indus, in a completely new form. It wasn’t as wide or raging as near Srinagar. Far narrower but far more beautiful. Shimmering and glimmering under the afternoon Sun, the river looked like a silver blue snake winding alongside us.
Crossing the Mahe Bridge we were transported to green pastures and marshlands. We were struck by the contrast in the scenery and enjoyed the sights of yaks grazing.
As a prequel to the finale, Suchung Lake welcomed us first. Nestled in the lap of mountains, it looked like straight out of any landscape painting. So beautiful and serene.
But the best was again saved for the last and we had no words to describe the beauty that Tso Moriri is. Such a deep shade of blue could only be found in the nature. And the mountains on the back just accentuate the spectacle. To reach the village (where we were staying overnight) we had to drive along the lake which was awesome. And this brought a fitting close to our road trip.
There are no road signs or for that matter there is NO ROAD for a long stretch
You don’t know the way
The driver doesn’t know the way
There are no other travelers for a long distance
You cannot see a living soul for kilometers on a stretch
And no network on phone (Obviously)
You have only the land beneath the tires and sky above you for company
Could it get more adventurous? I guess not.
So, this route was by far the most adventurous trip in Ladakh.
No, the road wasn’t crossing top of a mighty mountain like Khardung La. But still we had all the reasons to keep the adrenaline pumping. The Pangong to Chushul route had everything which comes with off-road driving: lakes, deserts, streams, hilltops and pastures. And all of this without reliable navigation.
During some of the stretches we were even worried that we might have taken a wrong route and would end up nowhere or even worse if we end up somewhere unwanted. But we kept driving on. And then reaching the civilization was such exhilarating feeling.
This is the only parameter where this route might fall short, well for about 20-30% of the journey. So, the route from Chushul to Tso Moriri is complete metaled road with most of the road in perfect condition.
The catch is the route till Chushul, all 50-60 km. of it is completely off-road drive. There is no road. No paved nor un-paved path, and no metaled nor un-metaled road. We found a hint of rocky paved path during our trip, but that is not drivable and we were better of driving besides it.
Though even the other routes are also in similar league with few stretches bad to treacherous and others smooth as anything. Be it Khardung La, Leh – Manali, Leh – Pangong or Srinagar – Kargil – Leh. All pass regions are the same everywhere.
So, this was our choice for our favorite. What would be yours?
Do you have a story to tell about your Ladakh experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.