April 11, 2023
If you are looking for a new and exciting destination to visit this summer, look no further than the Siachen Glacier in Leh-Ladakh. This is one of the boldest and bravest places you can visit and the Kohinoor in the crown of any seasoned traveller.
The Siachen Glacier was earlier though to be inaccessible but in October of 2021, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh declared the outpost open for domestic tourists. Since then, a steady stream of seasoned thrill seekers have dared to venture into what is believed to be the highest, coldest and most hostile terrain in the world.
Siachen is located in the northernmost corner of our great nation. It is now a famous place due to to the Siachin conflict, which demonstrated just how cruel and unforgiving the terrain can be. During this brief war between India and Pakistan in 1984, more soldiers are said to have died from the harsh weather and terrain than from enemy action.
If you are planning to visit Siachen, this blog will help you get acclimatized and condition you for your journey. We will discuss how to plan, what to bring, how to get there and what to do once you arrive.
The word Siachen literally means “abundance of roses.” Its etymology is derives from the word “Sia” which means “wild rose” in the local dialect and “Chen” which means “an abundance of.” This name was given to the glacier by British explorer Tom Longstaff in 1909 when he, along with a party of mountaineers and explorers attempted to chart its length.
What makes the Siachen glacier geopolitically important is its unique location. Since it lies at the exact crossroads of several important mountain ranges and international borders, it is strategically very important for India in order to protect its border from both Pakistan and China. In a sense, it is India’s front door.
Due to its strategic importance, a war fought here, at “the world’s highest battlefield” in 1984, when the Indian army subsequently secured the area. Many brave Indian soldiers lost their lives defending this small but existentially vital strip of land and therefore, many people visit the site out of patriotism.
How to Plan your Trip
A trip to Siachen is no joyride and should not be taken lightly. In fact, it is one of the coldest and starkest places in the world. Sometimes called “the third pole,” Siachen is a slow moving glacier measuring approximately 75 Kms in length.
To travel to Siachen, you must prepare thoroughly. This means researching the location, deciding when to go, taking adequate precaution, outlining how to get there and packing the essential items that will help you stay alive and get the most out of your trip.
The best time to visit Siachen is obviously in the summer. As you can imagine, winters can be incredibly cruel and unforgiving around these parts. With gale force winds, -50 degree temperatures, elevations of over 15,000 ft and oxygen levels of 10%, survival itself becomes an issue at this heavenly abode.
There are several essential supplies that you must bring with you to help you traverse this terrain. Amongst the most important things to bring are: oxygen tablets, oxygen tanks, visors, thermal bodysuit, gloves, boots, walking stick etc.
Siachen is so high up that it is advisable that you consult your doctor before going. If you have health issues such as lung problems, blood pressure, heart issues or any other condition, you may have to take special precautions and may not be able to travel all the way up to “Kumar Camp,” located at an unbelievable 19,000 ft above sea level.
If, however you are physically fit and up for the challenge, it is time to make a written itinerary, packing check list and travel arrangements. If done right, Siachen and the neighboring Nubra valley, also called “the Valley OF Flowers” can be one of the most sublime and rewarding experiences one can have in their lifetimes.
How to Get There
Travelling to Siachen is harder than most other places but easier than you think. One does not have to risk life or limb or know mountain climbing to make the trip but a little bit of extra care and mindfulness is definitely required. All it takes is good knowledge about the weather conditions
The best way to get there is to fly to Leh. This is the capital of Ladakh and the airport closest to the Siachen glacier. Interestingly, Leh is at an altitude of about 10,000 ft and if you rest here for a day or two, you will automatically be acclimatized to these dizzying high altitudes.
The next leg of your journey involves the 160 Kms drive to Nubra Valley. This dive takes you over Kardung La Pass, one of the highest motorable roads in the world and affords sights unlike you have ever seen before. The road bifurcates soon after the pass and it is advisable to take the road which takes you to the pristine side of Nubra Valley via the scenic villages of Sumur, Paramik, Tegar and then finally Siachen.
What to do in Siachen
Visiting Siachen is an accomplishment in itself but the glacier offers more than just photo opportunities. There are a lot of things to see and do in this high elevation hinterland and many places to visit in Siachen.
You can visit the war memorial, take pictures with Indian flags at specially made photo booths, nibble on fresh local fruit and admire the sublime and surreal mountainscapes all around this famous glacier.
Jest before the glacier is the famous Nubra Valley, also called the “Valley of Flowers” due to its sudden and unexpected burst of bright flowers at this high altitude. This beautiful and fertile spot was once the last stop for the fabled caravans that plied the silk route on the way to Central Asia and China.
In Nubra Valley, one can go one immersive treks to view the surreal surroundings around beautiful riversides, lakes and valleys. One can also bathe in the natural hot sulfur springs of Sumur, which are said to have healing powers that benefit the skin and lungs or visit the strange sand dunes of the cold desert where a handful of Bactrian Camels still graze.
Besides its geography and natural beauty, the local culture of Ladakh is itself a fascinating confluence of Greek, Indian, Tibetan, Buddhist and other ancient influences. The people here are evolved and enlightened with a very specific and ceremonial way of life. Much can be learned from these learned and peaceful peoples.
Despite these interesting tourist spots and enticing attributes of local culture, the most popular activity in Nubra is to simply sit and stare at the scenery and observe the eternal dance of nature, as it shows off its true force and fervor against the stark backdrop of Ladakhi skies and mountain ranges.
Where to Stay
When you think of visiting Siachen, the first thing you need to find are hotels in Siachen. Since there are very few hotels or resorts near it, one would expect to have to rough it out. Luckily, there is one great resort here that makes the journey so much easer. This is Lchang Nang Retreat – The House of Trees, a heaven send for travellers who visit Siachen.
The Lchang Nang Retreat is an amazing resort that is a tourist destination in itself. It is made and run by an illustrious Ladakhi family that has always been here and has always aspired to make the resort a shining example of sustainable living and green tourism.
The resort provides a truly authentic Ladakhi experience by imbibing the philosophy, word view and rich culture of the local people of Ladakh. Its wood and stone structure represents and reflects visages of an evolved and eternally mindful people who have long ago conquered the lofty heights of the Himalayas and their own inner selves.
Lchang Nang is ideally located for travel to Siachen. You can rest in the comfortable rooms, stylish setting and sanctified ambience of this great resort before making the final push to the glacier. Making the resort your base, you can trek and travel to all that Nubra and Siachen have to offer on what promises to be the journey of a lifetime.
Frequently asked Questions
Q 1. How do I get to Siachen?
Ans. To travel to Siachen you have to take a flight to Leh and then travel about 120 Kms to Nubra Valley and then another 80 Kms to the Siachen Glacier.
Q 2. What is the check-in and check-out time at Hotel in Siachen?
Ans. At the Lchang Nang Retreat – The House of Trees, check-in time is usually around 2 pm while the check-out time is 12 noon.
Q 3. Which is one of the best Hotels in Siachen?
Ans. The best hotel anywhere near the Siachen Glacier is the Lchang Nang Retreat – The House of Trees. This is an eco-resort, which offers an authentic Ladakhi experience for its guests.
Q 4. What are amenities available at Siachen?
Ans. At Siachen, there is an army base camp, several small tea stalls, an army hospital called “The 403,” an army outpost and several shrines and places to take pictures.
Q 5. What are the famous places to visit in Siachen?
Ans. Around Siachen, you can visit several famous places like the Army Base Camp, Siachen War Memorial, Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley, Buddhist Monasteries, Hot Springs at Paramik Village etc.