Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Chronicles of Ladakh - Part 10 - The Remoteness of Hanle

Previous: Pangong to Leh
Day 10, 17th September, 2012 – The Remoteness of Hanle
Leh > Karu > Upshi > Chumathang > Mahe > Loma > Nyoma > Hanle (275 KM)
Around 8.30 in the morning we left Leh towards Hanle (the locals pronounce it as ‘Aanle’). We already submitted the required papers to the Leh IIA office for our accommodation at the IIA guest house at Hanle.
We were again on the Leh Manali high way through which we already travelled partially when we traversed towards Hemis and when we returned from Pangong. We crossed Karu and reached Upshi in no time. From Upshi one diversion towards the right leads the way towards Manali, crossing the Tanglang La. The road towards the left goes to Chumathang further from which Hanle is situated.
The journey again was uneventful and the landscapes were familiar to even us, so without wasting much time over photography, we drove all the way to Chumathang. It was a little village with only a single guest house – so staying here was not always a good idea if the guest house ran full. It did when we reached Chumathang. Anyway, at a small roadside dhaba we had our lunch with some tasteless food and Rigzin loaded some more Diesel.
Chumathang was popular for a hot water spring. We expected a lot from this hot water spring and in reality, it was just a small spring after all, but the water was too hot. The dhaba owner stated smilingly that they normally get the eggs boiled from the water within minutes.
Chumathang Hot Spring
Chumathang Village
From Chumathang, we reached Mahe where we had to submit our permits. A small wooden bridge towards our right indicated the road towards Tso Moriri. Rigzin mentioned that while driving to Tso Moriri we have to backtrack towards Mahe and then take the towards Tso Moriri crossing the bridge.
After Mahe, the landscapes changed completely, only similarity was the aridness. The mountains became too colorful gradually, vast patches of sandy valleys appeared and remoteness was too strong. As far as the eyes could behold, no symbol of human civilization could be found. That’s why perhaps this region was the abode of many wild creatures – one of them was the Kiang (Wild Ass), we saw many of them grazing in hordes. The Kiangs were too colorful as well.
The Kiangs
The remoteness of the route was so appealing that we wanted to stop our car at almost every nook and corner, we did so at many occasions but Rigzins mentioned to save some energy as we had to visit the Hanle Observatory as well and since we have to return through the same roads. We agreed. We crossed Loma, Nyoma and had to submit our permits once again.
The Way Ahead
We saw the diversion towards Koyul, Dungti, Fotula and Fukche but unfortunately tourirts are not allowed in these regions anymore, so we had to drive straight towards Hanle. Hanle Monastery appeared at our right side and the village on the left. One thing which struck us was the greenery all around. The whole village was more or less covered by a carpet of grass which was very strange given the desertscapes all around us. We asked our Encyclopedia – Rigzin. He mentioned that beneath the whole village there’s a big lake flowing which supplies the water to the village!
Where is it leading to?
Kiangs grazing
Hanle Monastery
Some Himalayan Buzzard - flying with speed of a jet
Hanle Wetland
We drove past the village and started ascending a hillock, on top of which the Observatory was located. When we reached the parking at the top, the village houses seemed tiny little boxes from there. The monastery even looked a house of the Lilliput. A 360 degree view of the gorgeous surrounding was a welcome, despite our tiring journey.
Hanle Monastery from the top
The observatory dome

The observatory curator explained the functionalities with eagerness to us, we saw how the telescope functions, how the dome above actually slides during the night in order to watch the night sky and how the mirror feeds the data to the computers. We saw how the liquid nitrogens were used to cool the machinery. We were too proud when we learned it was the 3rd highest observatory of such kind in the whole world.
Coolant - liquid Nitrogen
Hanle Village from the top
Hanle IIA Guest House and the scattered data collection centres

The IIA observatory guest house was located at the base of this hillock. We reached there at around 5 in the afternoon. Getting a room was an easy task by showing the permission granted by the authorities. Rigzin dropped us there and left for his friend’s house where he’d spend the night.

The room was state of the art with all the modern facilities. When we were served with sandwiches and hot tea, we found some of our lost energy. After getting freshened up with hot water (the weather outside was too cold with severely chilled wind) we took rest till the dinner. The dinner was sumptuous too – no less than an extravagant hotel. So immediately after the heavenly food we sank into a delicious slumber.
To be continued...

Next: The Magical Tso Moriri


  1. Leh-Hanle road is 275km while Spangmik-Chusul-Hanle road is 176km, would you pl. advise me about any difficulty in Chusul route. I am planning to go to Hanle on 19th July & want to stay one extra night at Pangong( if I don't have to return to Leh for Hanle journey). Pl. advise.

    1. Hi Subhankar,

      I saw your email but I was a bit tied up.

      There are two difficulties for the Chushul route:

      1) As long as I know the Chushul route is closed for tourists since the last Indo-Sino activity across the border in 2012. Hence we also could not take this route. You have to talk to the Leh Permit office.

      2) The route is a bit unpredictable as well.

      I would suggest you to add one day to your journey if you would like to spend an additional night at Pangong. Or you have to cut down on your wish list.

  2. Thank you Sir. I shall tell Rigzin about your advice while drawing itinerary,after reaching Leh, on 13/7. Regarding accommodation at IIA Guest House, Hanle - pl. reply to my mail.

    1. Hi Subhankar,

      Have replied to your email.


    2. Hi,
      A very nice post with really awesome pics!
      I too am planning on visiting Hanle sometime next month. Can you let me know how/from where we can get permissions/authorization letter for staying at the IIA guest house?


  3. Hi Saugata,

    Your travel blog is splendid..One of the best I have read. Will be waiting for your next travel..and your blog..

    I am planning to visit Leh this month. Need your feedback. The plan is:
    18th: Pahalgam
    19th: Srinagar
    20th: Sonmarg( I heard it is one of the best places in Kashmir)
    21st: Kargil
    22nd: Leh
    23rd : Leh (rest, acclimatization, small sightseeing)
    24th: Nubra Valley(Hunder)
    25th: Pangong Tso (Through Shyok)
    26th: Tso Moriri(through Chushul)
    27th: Back to Leh
    28th: Fly out

    Please let me know how the plan looks.
    Q1. Can I start for Nubra on 23rd itself, considering we will have acclimatization while travelling from Sonmarg to Leh (If any permit is required to get to any of these places, I will need this day).
    Q2. Is it possible to travel from Pangong to Tso Moriri? I heard that Army controls the movement in this region.
    Q3. If I have an extra day, do you recommend Rigzin as a driver and his car. If you do, can you share his number?
    Q4. Can you share your phone number? I wanted to have a chat with you over the weekend for about 10-15 mins. As my team consists of my parents, sister, wife and son talking to someone who has been there with his family would give me some confidence. You can share this by writing to Many thanks in advance.

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Partha

      Thanks for going through the blog and the encouraging feedback. Sorry for the delay in responding but I was a little occupied.

      I have sent you an email with my comments to each of your queries.

      Hope the same helps. Please do drop me a note for anything.


  4. Hi,
    I enjoyed reading through your blog! Really amazing pictures too!
    I've got a question- do you need to know anyone at the observatory to get accommodation there? Are there any sort term internships? If not I'd love to look around for a few days! Their website didn't seem to have much information either.


    1. Hi joel,please send me an email from your personal email id and i shall share the contact details.

    2. Hi joel,please send me an email from your personal email id and i shall share the contact details.

  5. we are reach on leh 28 august evening ,can you suggest itinerary for 7 day's from 29,including Hanle village

    1. Please drop me an email and I shall respond. If this is your first time I would suggest skip some places as 7 days are really short to cover all places. Do send me your places of interest.

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