Unlike popular destinations like Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley or Turtuk, the remote corner like Hanle barely makes it into the tourist’s itinerary. This is due to a lack of knowledge and also certainly because of the remoteness of the place. Hanle is one of the most spectacular places in Ladakh. You will be blown away knowing the reasons why Hanle should be on your Ladakh bucket list.
In recent times, the far-flung place is slowly getting prominence amongst offbeat travelers. Hanle is officially notified as Dark Sky Reserve by the UT’s Wildlife Department. The 1,073 sq km identified area covers a cluster of six hamlets of Hanle including Bhok, Khuldo, Shado, Punguk, Naga, and the Tibetan Refugee habitations located within the Changthan Wildlife Sanctuary. Hanle is India’s first dark sky reserve.
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Where is Hanle?
Hanle is located about 260 km from Leh. It takes more than 9 hours of driving from Leh to reach the remote village of Hanle. The spectacular vistas can literarily make your jaw drop. It is better to start early from Leh if you aim to reach Hanle on the same day. You can reach Hanle via Pangong Tso as well. It will depend entirely on your Ladakh itinerary.
I would highly recommend taking a night halt at Nyoma on your way to Hanley from Leh. This was my route from Pangong Tso to Hanle:
Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Man – Merak- Chusul– Tsaga La– Tsaga Village– Mahe – Nyoma- Loma– Hanle
What to see and explore in Hanle?
Hanle flaunts vast wilderness in green pastures and giant mountains around. The emptiness of the surroundings, the sound of the wind, and the scattered villages make it an ideal place for slow travel. Hanle displays enchanting vistas which look straight out of a fairytale book.
Hanle houses the Indian Astronomical Observatory which is the world’s highest observatory in the world at an astounding height of 4500 meters. Apart from that, one of the must-visit places is Hanle Monastery. Let us find out what you can see and explore in Hanle.
Indian Astronomical Observatory
Your visit to Hanle is incomplete if you return without visiting the world’s highest observatory. The Indian Astronomical Observatory allows a visitor to enter the station on a guided tour where a detailed brief is given. I was lucky to get a brief about the telescope and how it functions.
Due to its remoteness, an advantage of more clear nights, minimum light pollution, background aerosol concentration, and extremely dry atmospheric condition, Hanle was chosen for the Indian Astronomical Observatory. Significantly, Hanle is located in the rain shadow area which makes it unaffected by both the southeast monsoon and the western disturbance. It results in cloudless clear skies. Hanle has around 270 clear nights in a year which makes it heaven for astronomers.
I was informed that wind flow is laminar in Hanle. This is why the stars do not twinkle here and with no light pollution. Therefore, the stars are visible to the naked eye. This is one of the biggest factors attracting Astro-scientists to Hanle.
Hanle was chosen due to its accessibility even in the winter months when temperatures drop down to minus 10 degrees Celsius.
If you are visiting Hanle, don’t miss the ancient Hanle monastery. Located in Hanle Valley, the monastery is located on the ancient trade route between Ladakh and Tibet. Built with the help and support of Ladakhi King Sengge Namgyal and Stag-tsang-ras-pa (a famous Tibet priest), Hanle was the first monastery to be associated with the Drukpa lineage.
When I visited Hanle monastery, the main temple was closed. It was only a few of us at the monastery at that time. What I loved about the monastery is that it has a powerful aura and the view from the rooftop is just amazingly breathtaking. The colorful prayer flags, the sound of the wind, and the peaceful aura around them were enchanting.
Umling La Pass
Photo Courtesy: Shiv Aroor
Umling La has earned the reputation of the World’s Highest Motorable road. This has become one of the top attractions in Ladakh nowadays. The Umling La Pass was forbidden for tourists till 2021. The restriction was lifted in 2022 which resulted in people wanting to visit Umling La Pass at the earliest. It is hardly 105 km from Hanle village. If you are visiting Hanle, you must include Umling La Pass on your itinerary.
Where to stay in Hanle?
Hanle being one of the remotest corners in Ladakh, you will not find any fancy accommodation options. There are a lot of local accommodations in Hanle Village. You will find decent Homestay options. Prior booking is recommended in season. Otherwise, one can find plenty of homestays that are quite affordable.
After searching for more than an hour, I found quite a decent Homestay in Hanle. The homestay name is Kalsang Homestay Naga. It is a budget homestay and an excellent option for backpackers. It has 5 rooms and one of the rooms has an attached washroom. So, even if you are traveling alone you can opt for the homestay.
The best part about the homestay is the location. The night view from the homestay is beyond excellent. Even though it is a budget homestay, the host is quite accommodating. I remember clearly that whatever I demanded, was fulfilled. Even though it is a budget homestay, I found the price a bit high considering you are on a shoestring budget.
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