From past 5 years Srinagar to Leh road trip is in trending places, So we have came up with this Srinagar to Leh road trip guide.
The best option to reach Leh by road is via the 434 km long Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)-Leh highway. Also called NH-1D, this is a better alternative for going to Leh as compared to the Manali-Leh road. It winds with the fact that the Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)-Leh highway provides a gradual ascent, thereby limiting the chances of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) caused due to high altitude. Snowbound for over 5 months, the Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)-Leh highway is usually operational from mid-May to mid-November, although the official date of closure might differ
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Srinagar-Leh route details
Srinagar, the pretty summer capital of Kashmir with Dal Lake to welcome travellers, is a fairytale start to this epic journey. Most travellers prefer to break this journey over two days, making Kargil a favoured stop as it is roughly halfway; and, at 2700 m, lies at a comfortable altitude.
The highway crosses rows of pretty houses before reaching Ganderbal that is just 15 km away. The road passes through a never-ending landscape of verdant rice fields with an envious shade of green till it reaches Kangan.
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There are cartloads filled with fresh fruits; Kashmir is famous for its pears and apples. The road winds higher into the Sonamarg Valley and takes one into the land of the shepherds. This has traditionally been an area of Bakarwals and Gujjars (nomadic shepherds) and the lush green valley is a playground to hordes of goat and sheep and horses. Sonamarg is beautiful indeed, with the pretty Indus River flowing on the right side of the road coupled with lush greens.
Glimpses of the incredible vistas on offer are a treat for the eyes as we reach Sonamarg (that translates to meadows of gold.) Thajiwas glacier is visible from the road and a break for food can be undertaken here, there are hordes of dhabas serving all kinds of food in Sonamarg. It is a preferred eating place for vegetarians.
Also Read: 7 tips to hire taxi from Srinagar to Leh
The landscapes change as the valley narrows down and the road climbs higher to sight the scrabble of tents called Baltal (base for the Amarnath Yatra). It lies at the base of the valley just before the climb to the treacherous Zoji La (3528 m) begins. It is a pretty sight, shades of green is a treat for the eyes before the landscape becomes devoid of colour. The road becomes dusty and, at places, is non-existent. The craziest thing while crossing Zoji La are flocks of sheep on the road, causing traffic jams of a different kind!
Zoji La is one of the scariest passes in the mountains because of the shifting nature of mountains that are prone to landslides. Usually, there are long queues of trucks resulting in thick fumes of smoke on the entire climb. The pass marks a natural bifurcation between Kashmir and Ladakh. It is a narrow road with sheer vertical falls and you might find one-way traffic for surprisingly long stretches.
After passing the in-the-middle-of-nowhere post of Gumri after Zoji La, a metalled road is in the offing all the way till Leh. The golden barley fields of Drass are visible from afar and paint a pretty picture in the otherwise barren landscape of Ladakh. There are a few dhabas and restaurants, where you can have food in Drass in addition to a few options to stay. At 3100 m, Drass is at the crossroads of amalgamation of cultures of a majorly Muslim Kashmir and Buddhist Ladakh. Drass shot to fame when scientists recorded a freak temperature rating -66 degrees Celsius.
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A few kilometers after Drass is the Kargil War Memorial, built in the memory of martyred soldiers in the 1999 Kargil War. After crossing Drass, there is terraced cultivation on both sides of the road with the Drass river flowing. This green is a sight to savour after roughing it out at Zoji La. The drive to Kargil roughly takes an hour even though it is just 58 km away. Kargil is the biggest town in Ladakh after Leh and is a Kargil transit town, where most people travelling from Srinagar to Leh halt for the night.
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Kargil lies in the fertile basin of Suru Valley with a big market as roads to many different areas diverge from here. The Indus Valley civilisation is accessible from Kargil with a road to Batalik. The road to Zanskar begins at Kargil too. It is perilously close to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan with potentially scary signboards like ‘Beware, you are under enemy observation.’ Gorge on some of the best apricots in the world, while you are in Kargil.
A huge, tenth century stone statue of Maitreya Buddha welcomes you to the desert landscape of Ladakh—into the first Buddhist town of Mulbekh. Here, for the first time, whitewashed houses and a prayer wheel can be seen. Rain clouds rarely make their appearance after Kargil; Zoji La acts as a natural barrier.
Namika La Pass and Fotu La Pass
The road then climbs up to the pretty Namika La (3700 m), lined with pretty prayer flags. Buddhists tie prayer flags on high passes, making them flutter and believing wind to carry these prayers far and wide. The little village of Bodh Kharbu passes before crossing Fotu La (4100 m), the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh road as we come across the jalebi bends at Lamayuru, a cluster of crazy winding roads. It gets comparatively easy for the travellers as every village after Kargil has staying options.
The ancient monastery town of Lamayuru lies a bit off the road, amidst wind-eroded landscapes and is rightly called the ‘moon land’ with multi-coloured gorges. Lamayuru is a photographers’ delight and a lovely place to spend some time while marvelling at the scenic monastery. We descend almost 1300 m in 32 km to reach the Indus at Khaltse. It is a gorgeous sight to see a smooth road for miles ahead while the golden coloured plateau shines
Nurala - Nimmu - Likir - Sangam River
The road is thick in the middle of the apricot territory as the village of Nurla appears. Likir around the town of Basgo (there is a crumbling fort in Basgo.) As the road nears Nimmu (Nimoo) Village, we witness the grand confluence of turquoise colour Indus with the muddy waters of Zanskar. The Indus river accompanies us all the way to Leh. There is the Pathar Sahib Gurudwara at Nimoo and is also the end point for rafting in the Zanskar river.
It is only 35 km before Leh but stunning rock formations on the mountains and pretty monasteries clinging to hillsides will make you wish that the ride never ends. The Srinagar-Leh highway is one of the top road trips in India and reminds us of the travellers’ adage, ‘The journey is more important than the destination.”
Stopover points on Srinagar to Leh Road Trip
1) Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)- There are houseboats on the Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake and plenty of guest houses and hotels in Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir). Delicious food is plentiful on the tourist hill station to Sonamarg at the dhabas along the way. The lineup of dhabas at Sonamarg makes it a recommended pit stop for food (vegetarian options available).
2) Sonamarg – Accommodation options with glorious views are aplenty in Sonamarg.
3) Kargil and Drass – For people looking to break their journey to Leh into two days, Kargil and Drass with plentiful hotels and guest houses are preferred locations to stay for the night. It is a difficult task to find a vegetarian restaurant in both these towns.
4) Mulbek – For the weak-hearted, who can’t bear to stay the night in a town scarred by war, the best alternative is to reach Mulbek in the dominantly Buddhist Ladakh.
5) Lamayuru – Dhabas and restaurants appear on sides of the road every 15-20 km on the Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)-Leh highway except on the Zoji La stretch. After Mulbek, Lamayuru is the biggest town with lots of homestays and hotels with beautiful views.
After Lamayuru, Khaltse and Basgo are stopover points for food and have homestays in case of emergencies. Leh caters to all kinds of travellers with cheap homestays, guest houses and luxury hotels.
Book Your Srinagar to Leh Taxi Service
Best Way to Travel from Srinagar to Leh is by Pvt Taxi
Personal taxis and SUVs can be hired in Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) for a drop to Leh, and costs approximately INR 18000, But we offer a best price fare fro Srinagar to Leh is Rs 13000 for Sedan Cabs and INR 16000 for Innova Cab with the journey spread over two days. Check out the Taxi rates in Srinagar 2020
Book Your Srinagar to Leh Taxi Service
Things to Keep in Mind
1) Mobile phone networks – Only postpaid connections work in Jammu & Kashmir and BSNL and Airtel are your best bets. These have decent network coverage in Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru and all the other major towns enroute.
2) AMS (dizziness, headaches accompanied by nausea) can occur at altitudes over 3500 m. The Srinagar-Leh road lets you acclimatise slowly; drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. A tablet, Diamox, is known to aid if dosage is started a day in advance, but should be taken only under medical supervision.
3) Fuel—plenty of fuel stations enroute; but make sure to keep your tank full before leaving from Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) to avoid any trouble that might arise.
4) Sunlight can be very harsh as you cross into Ladakh, so remember to liberally apply sunscreen and lip balm. Use of sunglasses is advisable coupled with covering your ears from the fierce wind in case of sudden weather changes. Keep ample winter clothes ready for sudden dips in temperature. Also remember to carry waterproof clothing.
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