When in Ladakh, visit the northernmost place of India accessible to civilians
Say Ladakh and people will suggest you to visit Pangong, Kargil, Magnetic Hill, Nubra, Hunder and few other places. Very few would suggest you to visit Siachen Base Camp. The reason being Siachen Base Camp was off-limits for civilians until recently. Army curbs on entering the base camp discouraged tourists and they often visited Diskit and Hunder side on the western flank of Nubra region.
With the celebration of World Tourism Day, September 2021, Siachen Base Camp was opened up for Indian civilians as was confirmed by the Official Twitter Handle of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh.
This initiative received a positive response from across the country and gave Indian citizens an opportunity to not just visit the place, but also know of its rich history and get to know the first hand experience of the Indian Army that is guarding the National borders.
Siachen Base Camp, located approx. 12,000 feet above sea level is a base camp of Indian Army which protects 110 km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) with several military outposts and observation posts in the disputed region of Siachen Glacier in Ladakh Union Territory of India.
Siachen Glacier is considered the highest battlefield in the world! From the base camp, you can see the mouth of the Siachen Glacier which is the longest glacier (76 Kms) in the Karakoram Range and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. Siachen Glacier battlefield has been looked up as the world highest battlefield as a result of the Siachen Conflict in 1980's. The entire Siachen Glacier, with all major passes, has been under the administration of India since 1984. Pakistan maintains a territorial claim over the Siachen Glacier and controls the region west of Saltoro Ridge, lying west of the glacier, with Pakistani posts located 3,000 ft. below the Indian posts on the ridge.
How the place got its name?
"Sia" in the Balti language refers to the rose family plant widely dispersed in the region. "Chen" refers to any object found in abundance. Thus the name Siachen refers to a land with an abundance of roses. The naming of the glacier itself is attributed to Tom Longstaff.
The government is making ongoing efforts to improve connectivity and most of the road conditions to reach the base camp are good and easily accessible through a bike or a car. Located, at a distance of about 200kms, it is approximately a 6 hours drive north from the town of Leh via one of the highest vehicle-accessible passes in the world, Khardung La. You can reach here via the route of Khardung La - Khalsar - Sumur - Tiggur - Panamik - Sasoma - Warshi - Siachen Base Camp.
Inner Line permits (ILP) are required for visiting the Siachen basecamp. You can apply for this permit online or get it from your local tourist operator in Leh. Only Indian civilians are allowed to visit the base camp. Foreign nationals and non- Indian residents can visit only up to Panamik village and are not permitted entry to Siachen Basecamp.
What to explore at the base camp
Note that you are not allowed to take photos or videos at several places near the basecamp and the army officials positioned will let you know the places where you can capture and where you cannot. As a responsible citizens, do adhere to their instructions.
At the basecamp, you can visit the following places
Siachen War Memorial
The Siachen War Memorial has been constructed at the Siachen Base Camp in the fond remembrance of all martyrs who have made supreme sacrifice for the 'Izzat and Glory' during Operation Meghdoot.
OP Baba Temple
A temple built in memory of Om Prakash, an soldier who lost his life while guarding the glacier. It is believed that O P Baba not only protects the personnel on the Glacier from the enemy, but also from the hostile nature and terrain.
As the name suggests, you can click selfies here ;)
See and learn how a soldier is transitioned and trained to be a Siachen soldier
History of Siachen
A small museum which showcases the history of Siachen and the sacrifices of our brave soldiers. Photography is prohibited here, so do keep in mind not to click any photos.
Souvenir Shop and café
A small shop where you can buy souvenirs such as t-shirts, mugs, caps etc. for a very nominal rate. You can also enjoy some snacks and a cup of tea at the café.
Accomodation and Food
You can stay at Panamik village located about 50 kms before the basecamp. There are multiple homestays there which serve amazing local food. You will also get to interact with locals and learn about their life and experiences. You can visit the natural hot springs as well in Panamik
For people who are not afraid of high altitudes and are in complete awe of such adventurous offbeat places, the Siachen Base Camp experience is worth the effort. Soak in the rich history of the highest battlefield on earth and know the sacrifices made by our defense forces to keep this beautiful place, a part of India.