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Hanle Ladakh Exploration | A Travel Guide to the Highest Motorable Road of the World

Source: krsaurabh – Under Creative Commons license

Located in the Changthang region of Ladakh is the most beautiful soul-satisfying, calm and serene filled place called Hanle.

It is the home of the 17th century Hanle monastery, which belongs to Tibetan Buddhism.

Hanle is one amongst the highest altitude villages in Leh Ladakh, with a breathtaking landscape, horrifying routes, and some amazing wildlife to explore. The land is so vivid and surreal, it makes you feel like you are on an Alien planet with limited people surrounding.

The place received a great interest in recent times due to its famous Hanle observatory, which is Indian Astronomical Observatory.

This indeed is said to be the place with the highest astronomical observatories. Globally, it is the second-highest optical observatory with an installed telescope of about 6.5 feet.

Hanle offers tourists one of the best aerial views and scenic experiences with a very odd panoramic picturesque landscape. This gives one a feeling of being transported to a whole new world, that is free from chaos but peace.

As you move further through the route, the size of the mountain contracts and you witness that it is the series of small mountains clustered together.

That’s when you realize this place is unique from the rest of the Ladakh region.

The sky seems close, lakes crystal blue, Hanle night time is the sky filled with stars. It is like an oddly fitted sight of Ladakh, that takes you through military camps, nomadic tents, and the mighty mountain right in front of your eyes.

Hanle Altitude | Location

Hanle is one isolated village in Ladakh, that is home to barely 1000 people in the village that says approx 300 houses in total.

Situated at a staggering height of about 4000m above sea level it ranks as one of the high altitude villages in Ladakh India.

Strategically closer to the Indo-China border and takes a journey of about 275km from Leh to Hanle Ladakh. The climate condition of this place is very extreme, especially during Winter.

Best time to visit Hanle

Best time to visit Hanle

Source: krsaurabh – Under Creative Commons license

December- March

In December to March, lack of oxygen can cause newcomers and tourists to find it difficult to enroute the journey. This simply means acclimatizing to a high altitude is not the only problem in the winters.

The Hanle village is mostly frozen, and one has no option but to spend most of the time at homestays. In fact, homestays during the night time can be chilled that won’t let you sleep properly.

This is not the actual purpose of you visiting Leh Ladakh, as you are here to explore and see the explored routes, so winter couldn’t be an ideal month.

April

During the month of April, winter has almost resided, ice starts to warm. You can manage to stay at homestays with ease, without getting caught up in the cold.

May- September

This is an ideal time for tourists to explore Hanle village and other Leh Ladakh regions.

The weather is extremely pleasant, welcoming, you get to explore remote places with ease. White Ladakh has turned to its actual colors, glorifying your experience a little too much.

It is probably the peak season, where camping, tents, homestays, and other accommodation facilities are excessive. You can also enjoy your time exploring the highest observatory in India.

For tourists to enjoy the maximum of their Leh Ladakh tourism, these are the months you must plan your trip.

October & November

It is when the tourist is less, the winter is bound to come again and the white snowy Ladakh is set to make its comeback. Homestays are manageable, but the cold won’t make you feel comfortable for a very long time.

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How to Reach Hanle

One has got different routes to pick, depends entirely upon the starting location you are going to embark on your journey from. Be sure to experience roads, wildlife, and mountains that you haven’t explored throughout Ladakh but here.

Below are two routes provided in detail, that starts from Leh & other from Pangong Lake. These are basically the general route that most people visit.

Route 1: Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Nyoma – Loma – Hanle

This route takes you through different locations and covers about 9 to 10 hours approximately, all depending upon the number of breaks you take.

There are so many monasteries that you will explore through this route, like Thiksey, Hemis, Shey, and not just that, you get the most relaxed experience on this journey.

Traveling through this route is where you cover on the Manali Leh highway until Upshi.

The benefit of choosing this route is, it is almost good throughout the journey and you explore small villages. One thing to know is Hanle is a photography restricted area.

One can do this route in a single day before sunset, as the journey is smooth, small rough patches, that too occasionally.

Route 2: Pangong Lake – Chushul – Rezang La – Tsaka La – Loma Bend – hanle

This route takes you through a very challenging yet adventurous journey. You will be crossing the Tsaka La which is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.646m.

The roads are basically rough, isolated, barren land with water crossing too and short mountain-like clusters that you will pass by which is sure to give you some vivid experiences to add in your trip to the Ladakh region.

The total distance that one covers from Pangong Lake to Hanle is 200 to 240 kilometers. The vehicle preferred on this route has to have good ground clearance as the route is quite challenging.

On the way, you can explore the Rezang La war memorial, and witness some exciting valleys, eye-soothing mountains, and beautiful terrains.

Stay option near Hanle

Stay option near Hanle

Source: krsaurabh – Under Creative Commons license

It is best if you do not expect any fancy hotel here. This is a very tiny village and the best accommodation facility to expect here is homestays.

You can get homestays in Khaldo village which is very close to the Hanle observatory. If you want homestays that have a landline phone, ask the locals and they will get you a better deal.

Few guest houses and homestays are available near Hanle monastery too, you can do good research once you visit the place. The options are plenty and reasonable.

This is quite preferable in Hanle as people offer you to stay in their home and charge you very nominal pricing including food.

The guest house and homestays may be quite simple but they are decent, clean, spacious, and comfortable. For you to enjoy your trip, your main purpose is to explore Ladakh tourism and this Hanle village.

Places to Eat ner Hanle

Being a remote location, there is no hope of having a restaurant or a good food joint here. The village is very small and doesn’t have any restaurant facilities for tourists, because there are fewer tourists too.

You will mostly find yourself eating in a guest house or homestays whichever option you have picked for one Hanle night stay.

Spending overnight in the village will make you taste your authentic flavors of Ladakh in the cuisine they will offer you.

The best part of eating in a local house is they prepare pure authentic Tibetan/Ladakh food which is more mouthwatering tasty than the one offered in a restaurant.

Another important thing is to pack some food and carry it along with you for the next day’s trip.

Places to Visit near Hanle

Places to Visit near Hanle

Source: krsaurabh – Under Creative Commons license

Hanle is a natural gem of a place, it is a location that is still behind time. Although you won’t get to witness a lot of things here as a tourist.

But if your intention is to explore the hidden places, the unexplored routes, than Hanle can become stored in your memorable moment’s diary.

1: Hanle Monastery

A 17th-century gompa, and of the Kagyu school of the Tibetan Buddhists, is this enchanting monastery located in the Hanle Valley, Leh Ladakh India. The monastery is home to 10 monks plus 40 more monks visit this spot and pray here.

The history of this monastery does speak a little about the tale of Sengge Namgyal. He was one of the most knowledgeable and prominent Kings of Ladakh which people of the time called “Lion King” strange but true.

He died at Hanle while he returned from an expedition that was against the Mongols, which he had earlier occupied Tsang, and they were threatening him to acquire Ladakh.

Hanle Monastery is a tribute and built under his patronage, situated approx 20km from the Line of Actual Control between India and Tibet.

The design and architectural style of this monastery are very iconic styled with the Tibetan architecture but the Indian and Chinese style of the structure as well could be depicted.

The entire region around the monastery falls under the sensitive area, as it is located close to the Tibetan border, so it is ideal if you follow the rules and seek permission as prior permission for Hanle is needed from the government of Leh to visit it.

2: Hanle Observatory

Hanle Observatory

Source: krsaurabh – Under Creative Commons license

Hanle observatory is the highest observatory in India which is remotely operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore.

It is currently the second-highest optical telescope in the world, which is one reason why this place has got huge importance.

The specialty of the Indian Astronomical Observatory is, having to be one of the world’s highest sites for infrared, optional, and gamma-ray telescopes.

Hanle observatory is situated on the top hill overlooking the village and is above at a height of 4600 from the sea level.

The whole station is powered by a solar-charged battery. The reason why Hanle became the base of this observatory is, the sky is always clear through the year, which made star gazing possible.

The telescope in the observatory is so huge, about 2 stories high. It is only operated during the night time to watch the Hanle sky and star activities. And photography of this place is highly restricted.

3: PhotiLa Pass

PhotiLa pass is one of the highest mountain passes which is at an elevation of 5.524m above the sea level. It is located in the southeastern Ladakh and said to be among the top 5 highest mountain roads in the country.

The road starts with Hanle village and passes through the route which is extremely dusty and rough. This route offers extremely beautiful scenery and it is the journey that will make you fall in love.

If you talk about how challenging the route is, it is extremely steep, with one side mountain and another side deep valley. We can say that there is no proper road, just a route and only souls that get satisfied with the challenge and thrill could conquer one.

Passing in the winter from this route is impossible. The road is a dirt track for sure, but the challenge you get and the excitement delivered will probably make you speechless.

If you are scared of height, this road is not meant for you. The trail is pretty steep, and a good ground clearance vehicle is required to pass through it.

4: Umling La Pass: World Highest Motorable Road

From a distance of 105km from Hanle, is the Umling Pass in Ladakh, at an altitude of 19000 feet, probably 5883 meters. It is the highest motorable pass in the world.

Many adventure seekers have added this in their list and few have visited the pass to add an adventurous moment in their memories.

In 2017, BRO opened and built the world’s highest motorable road over Umling Pass. Starting from 2018, no civilian is allowed to visit this location, only a special permit can take you through this route.

Only a Hanle permit won’t be sufficient enough for you to enter the pass. You will be stopped at the checkpoint to learn about your documents and permits.

The route to reach this destination can start from Hanle Village to PhotiLa pass and till Umling Pass. All the more, the journey is extremely adventurous with a steep slope, a route that is not proper roads.

While going to Umling Pass, you ill be required to cross few challenging bridges, that will blow your mind for a while so be concentrated.

People also prefer a different route that takes you through Ukdungle village, but the entire route is like a dirt track, except for a few km where you might get a normal route. Regardless of choosing the route, you will need a good ground clearance vehicle.

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5: Chiling Tso (The Twin Lake)

The twin lake Kyun Tso and Ryul Tso, also known as the Chiling Tso are situated at a height of about 5000m above the sea level.

These two lakes are separated by miles but the strange part of it is, one being sweet while the other being Brackish.

Not all lakes that you visit in Leh Ladakh should be adventurous, sometimes it is all about soothing, calm, and soul satisfaction purposes and these lakes do their job pretty well.

It is located towards the high altitude rangeland of the Changthang plateau. Kyun Tso & Ryul Tso is one of the admired lakes of Ladakh for its beauty and breathtaking aura.

Kyon Tso lake comes first from Hanle, which takes you through the snaky road, some water streams with dirt tracks majorly. The journey is entirely lonely but the destination will leave you in awe.

One can take a long walk from Kyon Tso lake to Ryul Tso lake with beautiful bluish crystal clear water. It will make you feel like you are connected to nature a little more.

Ryul Tso Lake is a spread out, magnificently large lake, occasionally witnessing the herds of Pashmina goats and sheep around it. With clear blue sky and turquoise water, both the lakes have a beauty of its own.

The red-colored mountains in the backdrop and the lake are quite soothing, you will lose your senses and get lost in the charm of the serene beauty this magical lake has. The weather becomes increasingly chilly all of a sudden here.

These lakes near Hanle village will feel your hope with something new, give you a break from the stress and become everything good that you wanted for so long. Savor the sunset view and meditate yourself while you are around the place. It is going to be a terrific time to spend here.

Medical Facilities near Hanle

If you are wondering whether or not, you will be supplied with proper medical aids and medicines at Hanle, you need not have to worry about it.

There are medical army settlements, where one can get an oxygen cylinder in any case of emergencies.

However, if you are smart and want to be sure you book the trip with complete safety. One can carry an oxygen cylinder with themselves, that can be availed from Leh, Lakadh Region.

Also, there is a local pharmacy in the Hanle village, but make sure all the important or special medical assistants are carried along with you. Do not rely on the local pharmacy as they can support you with the basics.

Further, the village Rhongo, near Hanle has a medical pharmacy.

Leh Ladakh tourism is evolving and getting better and better day by day. This is because many tourists are preferring to visit the recently discovered heaven on earth. Thus you can expect the facilities to evolve slowly but steadily.

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Mobile Connectivity and Internet

One best thing to know is, BSNL supply power is installed in Hanle, which means you can probably have signals, however not always but at times yes

The phone connectivity is present in the village, but it all depends upon how you are conducting your journey. If you are in remote areas, extremely, you won’t get a connection.

One thing to know before you embark to Hanle location is, do not rely on phone connectivity. Keep your family or friends back at home updated about your trip and location in prior.

Also, to add on with that, there is a public satellite phone located in a village called Khaldo near Hanle. Also, the guest houses are there that have landline phones, so you can pretty much have a chance there.

Enjoying the Hanle trip calls for keeping all the gadgets aside and living life like a local. Just relax and keep away all the stress behind It is the time when you are exploring the most unexplored part of India in a very vivid manner.

Petrol Pump & ATM

While you are on the route, you may be wondering whether there are any petrol pumps in case of an emergency. However, there is a petrol pump nearest to the spot situated at Kaur.

This destination is about 240km from Hanle and this is on the route that you take from Leh via Chumathang to Hanle. It is always advisable to top up the fuel of your vehicle at Leh before you are enroute to the journey.

Also, one thing important to know is, locals might be providing fuel from their shop. But it is only best for emergency purposes. The quality is compromised and advisable for the short journey only.

ATM Availability

Talking about ATMs, you will not find any ATM’s at Hanle, being a remote village. So it is best you carry cash and you can use the ATM from Leh Ladakh.

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Useful Information about Hanle

Everything About Permit

Having close proximity to the Indo-Tibetan border, the line of actual control; this place is pretty sensitive and an Inner Line permit is crucially required.

Getting a permit for Hanle online is not an option, one needs to visit the DC office and get a special stamp from the office or from the tourist information center.

Foreigners must know that they are not allowed to go beyond Man-Merak, as the permits are not issued for them on the route.

For UmlingLa pass, As of now, Leh Ladakh officials did not have given any permission for a civilian to grant access to the pass. There is a lot of ambiguity about this specific place, and it does require a special permit.

This special permit is written and duly signed by the District Magistrate of Leh in order to enter. So, if you think your Hanle permit is sufficient enough to visit the place, you are completely wrong.

The reason for the permit is why only a few people plan to travel to Umling La pass, and the chance of obtaining the special permit is very unpredictable.

Tips for Hanle Travel

  • If your body is not properly acclimatized, due to the high altitude, you may feel extremely low and lack of oxygen is the route cause of it.
  • Keep yourself updated on how to plan the journey to the Hanle Ladakh region.
  • The preferred vehicle that is required on this route and probably the entire Ladakh has a good ground clearance of 4×4 ones or an adventure motorcycle.
  • Generally, the ideal trip you plan for Hanle observatory is for about 2 nights, it will help you enjoy the pleasant and mesmerizing beauty of Hanle.
  • One night stay can help you see the star gazing which is the most popular activity at Hanle, it will give you an overlook of the galaxy pretty clearly.

FAQs on Hanle

Is Hanle worth visiting?

If you are someone who likes to see the unexplored routes, the war history of India. You will be surprised to know that Hanle fits perfectly as an ideal place. It is a village situated on the Indo-China border and this place will make you mesmerized in the history and the scenic view offered.

How do I get to Hanle?

Hanle is located in Ladakh, one can witness this breathtaking location by visiting via Leh. Being isolated the routes are not properly constructed, but it will give you a worth remembering the experience for sure.

Which is the largest telescope in India?

The Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment Telescope (MACE) is the largest telescope in India which is situated in Hanle Ladakh (Hanle observatory). The highest observatory in India is situated above 4300 meters from sea level. It is said to be the world’s second-largest gamma-ray telescope ground-based with a 21-meter diameter dish.

Where is India's highest astronomical observatory located?

The Indian Astronomical Observatory is located in Hanle, Leh Ladakh region India. This particular Hanle observatory is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. The place is quite huge and photography is prohibited in this area.

How do you get to Hanle from Leh?

There are two ways one can reach from Leh to Hanle valley. One is from Leh via Chumathang to Hanle. While the other one is a little long enough that it goes via Changthang Valley. The route will cover some enchanting monasteries, beautiful valleys, snow-clad mountain, and the mountain together like small clusters.

How can I get Umlingla pass?

The route to UnlingLa pass from Hanle will take you through the highest motorable pass which is PhotiLa pass. From there, the location is 50 km and then you reach an altitude of about 19300feet. There are 2 bridges to pass by while reaching the destination via the Photila Village.

Hanle Valley | A destination for Adventure Seekers

It is truly one of the most beautiful destinations in Ladakh tourism to explore without fail. Aso, it is a destination wholly for the adventure seeker and challenge enthusiast.

From dust and dirt track to bridges and criss-cross valley. From snow-clad mountains to small clusters like brown mountains. Hanle is a totally unique spot, which will make you feel like you are lost on alien land.

Hanle monastery, the highest Indian astronomical observatory visit is a sight behold and the night filled with stars, like the diamond in the sky will make you go aww.

Do you have anything exciting to share about your Hanle Trip? Which routes of Ladakh made you excited as well as scared to the core at the same time? We would love to know your story.

Also, if you have any queries, do not forget to share your doubts with us about the Hanle trip. We will assist you and keep you updated, so you have a fantastic journey of Ladakh, the way you want.

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