When I Visited the Roof of the World…

Leh – A Page From My Travel Diary

Snow covered mountains
The Himalayan range as seen from the room of Grand Dragon Ladakh

Leh – ‘the roof of the world’ is not just a spiritual town, interspersed with Buddhist monasteries and stupas but also an epitome of serenity, a quintessence of unparalleled unique beauty, which keeps changing with its mesmerizing views and seasons.

Any trip to India would be incomplete if you have not visited this desert of mountains. The hallmark of this place is its tranquility and simplicity, untouched and unexploited by commercial tourism. There is no mad race of fleecing the tourists like you may see at Srinagar or Manali.

It was a little unpopular due to lack of nightlife and poor digital connectivity but it is an extraordinary experience in itself. New luxury hotels (only a few) with all modern facilities and Wi-Fi have come up recently.DSC01886 2

When we visited in 2011, the only centrally heated hotel was The Grand Dragon at old Leh road, Sheynam. If you are not very fond of crowded places, if you like trekking, biking, mountaineering and rafting, you can find all these activities here to make your trip more memorable.

When we checked the best time to visit Leh, we were told that April to June is the peak season. We decided to visit in mid April to avoid the summer rush but we found very few tourists, which made our trip all the more enjoyable.

We didn’t have to wait on the roads, which is a common spectacle on narrow hill roads. When we landed at Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport, situated at the highest altitude in the world, the effect of winter could be seen all around in the form of bare trees and snow-clad Himalayan peaks, with no greenery around.

The landscape aroused a very distinctive feeling as if we had entered an absolutely new world of bare mountains. The view from our room was absolutely heavenly, with snowy mountains touching the horizon, a lower brownish range merging into the plains and few simple looking houses, which seemed sleepy!

A chilly breeze welcomed us in the morning as we stepped out to bask in the glorious sun, shining splendidly. Soaking in the sun, on the arid lawns of our hotel, we made the plans for the day, keeping in view the advice that we must get acclimatized to the high altitude before going further.

Road covered with snow
Enroute Pangong Lake

Pangong Lake was topmost on our list but it is 160 kms from Leh. As we were contemplating to order a taxi, another couple approached us and suggested that we could make this journey together. It appealed to us because we could split up the expenses and also have nice company for the day.

We decided that we would start early next morning as the journey to and fro would consume the whole day and nobody could stay at the height of 14,256 feet for the night. There are no hotels nearby to accommodate any tourists.

The journey by SUV cab was long, arduous but breathtaking. The snow had not melted and as we went uphill, cold kept creeping into our bones. As we travelled on the third highest motorable road in the world, covered with snow from all the four sides, we felt on top of the world.

The local driver knew exactly where to stop for refreshment and photography. Chang La Pass at the height of 17,585 feet was incredibly stunning with mounds of snow all around us. Indian army guards this pass as it is very close to China border and mythological Changla baba sits there to keep them warm and inspired.

Chang La Pass and temple at the height of 17,585 feet
Chang La Pass and temple at the height of 17,585 feet

Prayer flags could be seen all around Changla Baba temple. The stopover was very short, not more than 20 minutes due to high altitude, deficiency of oxygen, extreme cold and unpredictable weather.

This pass is the gateway to the Changthang Plateau and Pangong lake. The descent from this pass towards Darbuk is again very steep and the journey seems endless. Another amazing spectacle enroute Pangong Lake is a valley of rocks and boulders, formed by avalanches. You can’t see any greenery around though some pictures of late summer show it.

Standing on frozen Pangong Lake

At last we could see the magnificent lake, surrounded by bare hills of various hues of brown, black and golden. We were told that it is 134 km (83mi) long and extends into China. Almost 60% of this lake is actually in China. Alas we couldn’t see its deep blue color as shown in the pictures because it was completely frozen! We walked on it and took some memorable pictures.


Then was the time to start the long journey back and we came back extremely tired but in high spirits for exploring other parts of Leh next morning.

To be continued…

Have you visited such an amazing place?

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Thank you for your support. Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

©Balroop Singh.

48 thoughts on “When I Visited the Roof of the World…

  1. I am yet to find someone who has visited Ladakh and found it unimpressive! It is a different terrain; probably the only other place you will find similar topography is in Chile. This is first time that I have seen a picture of a frozen Pangong. I’m sure this trip will be close to your heart.

    1. It is indeed very close to my heart Arv and I yearn to go back whenever I look at the pictures. It is out of this world, entirely different, even the sky seems to be amazing, with distinctive hues. The Pangong Lake, said to be deep blue and beautiful looked so different from the usual pictures that can be found online.

  2. Places like these are so overwhelming and magnificent that they command silence.
    When I look at the beautiful photos I feel little, in a good and protected way.

    Wonderful photos and story Balroop.


    1. Thank you for understanding the emotion behind this story Miriam. Some places evoke special sentiments and I have tried to share them. I like your choice of words…beauty does overwhelm us!

  3. I like the idea that the place isn’t packed with tourists and that the connectivity is limited. It creates new opportunities for those who visit. What a cool trip, Balroop, to a unique part of the world. Thanks for sharing!

    1. People prefer commercialised places, which are crowded especially in the summer and therefore such places like Leh are left for loners like us who want to explore Mother Nature’s rare gems. I am glad we chose to visit this long awaited place on my list. I may never be able to go again but would always cherish the memories. Thank you for reading about it Diana.

  4. Such an incredible place, Balroop! Although the coast is one of my favorite places to take in nature’s beauty, our visit to Yosemite in California was incredible too. Thanks so much for sharing. ❤ Blessings and love…

    1. Mountains have always allured me, probably because we always visited the Himalayan range at various places. Yes, Yosemite is a wonderful place and so is Crater Lake National Park. We visited Yosemite during the drought year – 2012 and could see the beautiful falls but staying inside the park is an amazing experience.
      Thank you for sharing your experiences Bette. Love and hugs.

  5. Snow! What a sight and it sounded so worth it to Chang La Pass. Very scenic. Never knew Pangong Lake could look so stunning and it is completely in ice – and strong enough to stand on too. A frozen lake can be as beautiful as a clear one, and looks like you caught it on a good day in the colder season 🙂

    1. Chang La Pass looks scenic but it is a very difficult terrain and due to high altitude, it doesn’t suit all though Indian soldiers tough it out all the time in sub zero temperatures too. It was a long and tiring drive but was worth the scene that we carried in our mind’s eye.
      Thank you Mabel for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  6. Wow! I am sooooooo jealous. I have been fascinated with mountain climbing since I was a kid, but have only been able to dream of actually visiting the high peaks such as those you have written about. Good for you and J.P. And thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

    1. We visited the foothills of Himalayas each summer as they were nearer to Delhi, just few miles drive but this was a long standing desire! Higher altitude was our only concern but we did very well to acclimatize. We have visited Sikkim too but the pictures are not digital and the memories quite hazy as I didn’t record the visit in words.

  7. Wow, very cool (and literally as well!)! I find myself breathing deeply as I read, feeling the expanse of the landscape apart from hordes of tourists and the normal chaos of such pilgrimage places. By the way, I love the silver shoes! 😉 So glad you were able to visit and share your journey with us. Aloha, Balroop! Enjoy your weekend. ❤

    1. Your deep breathing is sending a happy vibe Bela. I am glad you noticed my silver shoes…aren’t they matching with the frozen lake? Ha ha! Thank you for a lovely comment. 🙂

  8. Dear Balroop, what a most fantastic trip.. And you walked me through the drive and that atmosphere that soaked cold into your bones.. But the views, wow, how wonderful.. What a super trip to have taken.. I bet even the air you breathed in felt refreshing and clear..
    So loved the photos you shared… And like Bela said… I too found myself breathing in the cool mountain air into my lungs…
    Love and Peace dearest Balroop ❤ Loved your happy smiles on your photos 🙂

    1. It was beyond fantastic! I am delighted that my pictures and words could take you along Sue. There are very few places that evoke inexplicable emotions and this is one of them! The beauty and the aura is breathtaking, unmatchable! This is the description of just one day, there is much more! Thank you for your heart-felt response, I am touched by your words. Stay blessed dear friend.

    1. More than that…images and words seem hollow as far as the experience is concerned! Thank you for standing by to read and share your thoughts 😊

  9. Wow! 😀😀 Balroop, thank you so much for letting us tag along on this amazing trip! I must admit it took me a while to start reading your words as the first photo is so breathtaking and just staring at the view brought me such inner peace. I’ve never heard of Leh but what a brilliant name and a captivating title for your post! The lake looks extraordinary even if it is frozen; set in the midst of the mountains it almost looks surreal. I’m so happy you had such a fantastic trip and have a chance to share it with us here … and I can’t wait for the next instalment. The photo of you and your husband is lovely. I meant to ask did you feel any effects from the high altitude … that would worry me.

    As to your question I have travelled to a few unusual places. As young I went inter railing in Europe and one day took the train round Switzerland and at one stage paused to take a pedalo out into Lake Interlaken .., it was heavenly to just lay back and look at all the surrounding mountains and only a few hours later we were walking upon a glacier! Astonishing … I was overcome with joy! 😀❤️

  10. I am glad you liked the images but they paint half the picture of this marvel of Nature, with an unusual landscape! Thank you for such a heart-felt response to this post Annika, I was a little hesitant in sharing this as it is not a popular tourist spot, that’s why I have divided it into two short posts. High altitude didn’t affect us though it is a major concern of people and we were mentally prepared for the consequences.
    Thank you for sharing your reflections about Lake Interlaken, I can visualise the beauty from your description. 🙂 Have a wonderful week dear friend.

  11. Wow, that is spectacular!! Lovely photos and your descriptive words made me feel the chill. Sounds like a long day trip but definitely worth it. I lived in cold climate in Canada for many years and also with snow skiing in the winter we enjoyed the mountains and snow. I don’t think we were that high up in altitude though. Great post, Balroop. Thanks for sharing your trip.

    1. Thank you Lisa. This was a 4 day trip and I have just described one day. The airport is situated at the highest altitude in the world!! Isn’t that amazing to land at such a place! ♥️

  12. Thanks for this beautiful travelogue Balroop. Its been on my bucket list for long, somehow couldn’t make it so far. Waiting to enjoy and soak in the sheer beauty of the pristine nature. Just wanted to know,do some people suffer some kind of altitude sickness?

    1. Yes, some people do suffer from altitude sickness but there are some medicines that could help. It is better to consult your doctor before you plan such a trip. Also the day of arrival should be spent relaxing and getting acclimatised to the surroundings.

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