Hanle, lying in Ladakh’s Changthang, is truly the most understated part of any Ladakh trip. Situated about 260 KMs from Leh and less than 100 KMs from Mahe and very close to the Line of Actual Control – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the roads in such a high-altitude desert. The view changes when you’re in Hanle – the mountains shrink in size and multiple clusters can be spotted – giving an exclusive vibe to the region.

The tiny village is home to only 1000 people and has the warmest vibe around! With a monastery perched atop a hill, you will be smitten by the views all around you. Hanle is also home to India’s highest observatory at an elevation of 4500 m. –  Indian Astronomical Observatory!

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The beautiful village of Hanle

Location, Altitude, and Preparation

Hanle village is one of the high-altitude villages in Ladakh at a staggering altitude of close to 4300 Meters. The place is very scenic and feels out of the world. But, there is a need to prepare mentally because the place is harsh and not for the faint-hearted. Because of the lack of oxygen at such a high altitude, you’ll have to acclimatize properly. It is said that a person is able to manage 1000 ft per 24 hours in an increase in elevation. So keep that in mind when planning your trip.

Best Time to Travel Hanle

May to September is the most pleasant time to visit Hanle. The weather is perfect to explore and sleep at night. Winters are freezing and running water at the village starts to freeze by 2nd or 3rd week of October. Though, if you’re looking for extreme winters – December to March will provide you with just that!

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Indian Astronomical Observatory at Hanle

Reaching Hanle

There are multiple things to prepare when planning your trip to the region. First and foremost – let’s discuss the permits:

Inner Line Permit

Great news for Indians visiting the region – you no longer require Inner Line permits. This is such a welcome change from the old rules as it promotes the right tourism for the advancement of the region. However, to protect the environment, you will be required to bear the Ladakh Ecology Fee (payable online) and show the receipt. Your fees would include:

      1. Environment Fee = Rs 400 one time
      2. Wildlife Fee/Something = Rs 20 per day
      3. Red Cross Fee = Rs 50 one time but Optional, you don’t need to pay if you don’t want to.

As of 2022, Foreigners/OCI card holders can only visit Hanle during the day and backtrack to Nyoma (75 km before Hanle) for the night. Foreigners/OCI card holders can’t visit locations/villages ahead of Hanle village such as Umling La, Demchok, Koyul, Photi La, Nurbu La, etc

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The endangered black-necked cranes

Route 1: From Leh to Hanle

The most generic route to reach Hanle will take you about 6-7 hours non-stop to cover (add in any pit stops you make). Here’s the route, with the best road conditions, for covering the total 256 KMs

      1. Leh to Karu (34 km)
      2. Karu to Upshi (13 km)
      3. Upshi to Kiari (62 km)
      4. Kiari to Chumathang (30 km)
      5. Chumathang to Mahe (24 km)
      6. Mahe to Nyoma (19 km)
      7. Nyoma to Loma (26 km)
      8. Loma to Rhongo (3 km)
      9. Rhongo to Hanle (45 km)

Other highlights you can cover during your journey include Shey Palace, Thiksey, Hemis, Chemrey, and Nyoma Monasteries, (add additional time to your journey for this or even plan night stays to cover them in earnest). I suggest covering the route in 2 days if you were to cover the entire journey with sufficient time to enjoy the journey.

Route 2: from Pangong Tso Lake to Hanle

There is another route for Hanle from Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso. This might be the most preferred route, given you’ll be able to cover a lot more and save a day on travel time and not need to head to Leh again on your return journey. This is possible because you’ll be exiting Ladakh from Tso Moriri and heading on to Manali – Leh Highway.

Another advantage of taking this route is better acclimatization as Pangong will help you get used to the altitude. One point to highlight here is that – Foreign citizens/OCI card holders are not at all allowed to go beyond Man – Merak Villages as permits are not issued to them for this route beyond Man village.

Here’s the route for your reference which will take you through a journey of 175 KMs.

      1. Pangong Tso to Man (9 km)
      2. Man to Merak (12 km)
      3. Merak to Kakstet (4 km)
      4. Kakstet to Chushul (24 km)
      5. Chushul to Tsaga La (33 km)
      6. Tsaga la to Tsaga Village (20 km)
      7. Tsaga Village to Loma (23 km)
      8. Loma to Hanle (51 km)
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The mighty pass of Umling La

Exiting Hanle Route from Hanle to Tso Moriri

You can exit from the same route as you came by – or you can choose to visit Tso Moriri. From here, you can choose to visit Leh, or you can skip it and head on back to Manali on the Manali – Leh Highway.

Here’s the preferred route of 151 KMs

      1. Hanle to Loma (51 km)
      2. Loma to Nyoma (22 km)
      3. Nyoma to Mahe Bridge (25 km)
      4. Mahe Bridge to Tso Moriri / Korzok (53 km)

The other route is via Chumur – however, for this route – you’ll be at the discretion of army folks in the area. I know of people who have traveled this route – but, this depends upon the Army allowing you to travel further. I suggest being very upfront and candid about your purpose of the visit, duration, etc. Also, don’t try to be authoritative with the army – that won’t get you anywhere (literally, and figuratively). Indian nationals can take the route via the Chumur border, no additional permissions required. The route is as follows: Ryul Tso – Chilling Tso – Salsal La (17,063 ft) – Chumur & Chumar border – Charchagan La (16,154 ft) – Tso Moriri. The road from Hanle to Chumur is under construction, but there is a beautiful blacktop road from Chumur to Tso Moriri. P.S there are no petrol pumps or cell phone receiption on this route.

Traveling by Bus

Yes, there’s a bus available from Leh to Hanle, leaving at 6:30 AM on Saturdays, and returning from Hanle on Sundays. The cost, as of 2022 is Rs 525.

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Pashmina sheep grazing at the beautiful village of Hanle with the Hanle Monastery in the backdrop.

Things to do in Hanle

      1. Do visit Hanle Monastery and nunnery, which are beautiful and serene. There’s a lot of history you’ll absorb and learn about the culture of the region. Hanle monastery was founded by Singee Namgyal, king of Ladakh in the 17th century, making it not just one of the largest monasteries in Ladakh but also one of the most important ones. Also, although the monastery was built in 17th century or so, there are manuscripts in the monastery dating back to 13th century.
      2. Visiting the Indian Astronomical Observatory (Hanle Observatory) should also be a priority when you’re here. Situated at 14,764 ft., the IAO is one of the world’s highest-located sites for optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes. It is currently the tenth-highest optical telescope in the world and the highest in India.
      3. There are beautiful pastures across the span of Hanle. Do explore on foot and interact with the locals.
      4. Hanle is also home to the beautiful yet quite unexplored Koyon Tso twin lakes, which have been renamed Chilling Tso and Ryul Tso. The route is epic; you start from Hanle and take the road going from behind Hanle Observatory to reach Ryul Tso and Chilling Tso. It’s a 58 km one-way drive. The route is pretty simple, but pre-download the route on Google Maps to avoid getting lost. The lakes are mesmerizing, beautiful, and simply out-of-this-world. In fact, if you carry on – you can reach Tso Moriri.
      5. When returning, prefer to travel via Tso Moriri and if you do – I highly recommend covering Korzok Monastery and Kyagar Tso.
      6. You can even visit Umling La pass. The quickest route from Hanle is through Nurbu La (17,328 ft) – Chisumle – Umling La. The other route will take you through Photi-la (18124 Ft) – Chisumle – Umlingla.  The route takes you to a staggering and literally mind-numbing pass of 19,024 ft. En route, you’ll cover Photile Village. Expect an 8-hour drive. But, trust me – it will be well worth it. Read more on Umling La Pass here (click here).
      7. There’s even a wildlife guide available including coverage of wetlands. You’ll be able to spot migratory birds including the state animal black-necked cranes, Eurasian eagle owls, ruddy shelduck, Bar-headed goose, and many more, mammals too. Here’s the contact details for the President of the Guide Guide Association: Phone: (+ 91) 94695 17704
      8. Lastly, Hanle is India’s first dark-sky sanctuary. Any such place as Hanle – so secluded and beautiful – is mesmerizing for stargazing.
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Stargazing at India’s first dark-sky sanctuary

Offbeat Itinerary for Hanle – a few options

Keep in mind that the itineraries shared below are after taking into consideration 2 days of acclimatization in Leh. So, let’s dive in:

Day 1: Leh to Teri

Enjoy all the important places of exploration in and around Leh. The journey for the day would cover the following:

      1. Singhu Ghat
      2. Shey Palace
      3. Thiksey Monastery
      4. Rancho School
      5. Hemis Monastery
      6. Karu – Upshi
      7. Night at Teri Village (Stay at Cho House Homestay in Teri – Dechan Owner +919906718048 / give reference of Unplugged Life).
Cho House Homestay at Teri Village

Day 2: Teri Village to Hanle

Today’s day is quite adventurous. You’ll start your day at Teri Village and cover Chumathang Hot Springs, Mahe, Nyoma, cross the Loma Bridge to reach Rhongo, and finally your mail destination of Hanle. You can rest a while and then head on out to visit Hanle Monastery & Observatory.

Day 3: Explore Hanle

Get out and adventurous and explore Hanle Wildlife Spotting (2 nights are needed if going especially for wildlife) & watch the sunset from Hanle Observatory.

Day 4: Journey Day

You’ll leave the magic of Hanle. The route today covers Nurbu La – Umling La – Demchok & night at Koyul Village.

Day 5: Head back to Leh / Pangong Tso

Today you’ll leave Koyul and take the following route: Photi La – Hanle OR Koyul – Dungti – Rhongo – Loma Bridge – Nyoma – Mahe – Chumathang – Teri & Night at Karu or drive 50 km ahead to Leh.

OR

You can even take the following route and reach Pangong instead Koyul – Photi La – Hanle OR Koyul – Dungti – Rhongo – Loma Bridge – Loma Bend – Tsaga La – Rezang La War Memorial – Merak & night at Spangmik at Pangong.

Day 6: Bonus Day at Pangong Tso

Pangong to Leh via Chang La & Karu

Alternatively,

Day 5: Koyul – Photi La – Hanle OR Koyul – Dungti – Rhongo – Loma Bridge – Nyoma – Mahe Bridge – Kyagar Tso – Tso Moriri (Korzok)

Day 6: Tso Moriri to Leh via Karu OR Tso Moriri to Leh via Puga Hot Springs / Tanglang La OR Tso Moriri to Jispa to exit via Manali

Accommodation in Hanle

Given that you’re travelling to a very remote and isolated region of Ladakh – I have pulled up some of the best homestays for your easy reference –

  1. Milkway Homestay, phone: 9419011529
  2. Gua Homestay, phone: 9469521065
  3. Padma Homestay, phone: 9469224302
  4. Namdruk Homestay, phone: 9419309751

There may be some challenges in reaching out due to cellular connectivity issues – but, be assured that they are of sound quality. However, I would like to give a very important warning – homestays in the Changthang region, including Hanle, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri might not honor an advance booking even if you might have paid them an advance. So, be careful in choosing the right places and be a bit cautious.

Key things to keep in mind when traveling to Hanle

      1. Ideally, you should have at least 2 days of stay in Hanle
      2. Be respectful of the army and their requests for checks, IDs, etc. It is so, for your own safety – always comply! The army will also, always be available to help – if you feel unwell, lost, or need some form of support.
      3. There’s a local pharmacy in Hanle – but this is usually understocked. You’ll have better luck at Rhongo village’s medical facilities. Carry sufficient medicines.
      4. For cellular reception, BSNL postpaid MIGHT connect – but this is not reliable at all. However, the 4G Network of Jio is available at Nyoma Village 75 km before Hanle.
      5. The nearest petrol pump is situated in Tangste Village near Pangong 186 KMs from Hanle. A new petrol pump has opened in Nyoma Village 75 km before Hanle, but we still recommend you to carry sufficient fuel as the pump is not reliable yet. However, in case you run out of fuel you can buy fuel by asking around in the village. The quality might be diluted. Petrol pumps are also available at Karu about 220 KMs from Hanle & Tangste Village near Pangong 186 KMs from Hanle.
      6. Another important piece of advice – carry sufficient cash. Although there is a J&K Bank now open in the Nyoma main market, so you are sorted from that front – but, just for exigencies – it is better to be prepared.
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Sunset view from Hanle Observatory

In conclusion

Stunning, beautiful, outer-worldly – all these words are merely words and don’t do any justice to the beauty that is Hanle. It is truly one of those places that you’ve to see with your own eyes to believe it (and even then, you’ll be pinching yourself to truly check if you’re hallucinating or not!). This one’s usually on the list of places to cover for seasoned Ladakh travelers.

Hope the guide was helpful to you. If you’ve any questions – shoot them in the comment section – happy to answer any doubt you may have. If you’ve been there before – please do share your experiences – I know it helps travelers gain confidence for their journey.

2 Comments

  • by
    Sonali
    Posted January 29, 2024 3:02 pm 0Likes

    Hi.. I must compliment you for sharing such a great summary of Hanle. I am Indian origin but Australian passport holder. Do you think I can stay in Hanle home stays for 10days? I will process the permits with an agent who has helped us before with treks etc. also, do you have recommendation for home stay as I will be staying for a longer duration. Thanks in advance. For your help. Cheers, Sonali

    • by
      unpluggedlife
      Posted January 30, 2024 3:04 am 0Likes

      Hello Sonali,

      Thank you for your kind words and the comment. Just a few months ago, the authorities had given the go-ahead for allowing foreigners and OCI card holders the permit for an overnight stay in Hanle.

      It’s wonderful that you’re planning to explore Hanle, and staying in homestays is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture. That said, homestays in Hanle aren’t the best. I can suggest two places for your stay: Holiday Inn – 9797986475 & Milky Way Homestay – 9419011529.

      Please note:
      1) Foreigners and OCI card holders aren’t legally allowed to visit villages/places ahead of Hanle.
      2) You will require some kind of mobility for Hanle. The valley is huge, and walking everywhere won’t be possible.

      Hanle is a unique and beautiful destination, and I hope you have a fantastic and memorable experience!

      Cheers,
      Ken

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