Julley everyone! How are you? 🙂
We just finished our road trip to Ladakh and were travelling back to Srinagar. We had planned for an evening Shikara Ride and a dinner at Krishna Vaishno Dhaba. Unfortunately, we got stuck in a curfew which has caused shut down in the whole of Kashmir. Kashmir is so unpredictable.
The political situation changes just like the way climate changes in Kashmir. And no one can do much about it except to wait for the situation to ease. Our friend says, ‘Yeh to roz ka hai, aap tension mat lo’. Well, I think the unpredictability is part of travelling to Kashmir. Onto Ladakh now. 🙂
We will cover our entire Leh, Ladakh road trip as a series of articles. This article is Part 1 of the series on planning a great road trip to Leh, Ladakh.
Part 2: An epic Leh-Ladakh Road Trip (Itinerary + Planning)
Part 3: Important tips, dos, don’ts for Ladakh Road Trip
LADAKH is the land of high mountain passes, barren panoramas, chubby kids and colorful monasteries. Ladakh is like no other place we’ve travelled before. The mountains feel like a desert, sometimes lifeless; and then there are the numerous rivers which are like an oasis in this desert. Together Ladakh is intimidating.
Our suggested itinerary/guide for a 3-day road trip from Srinagar to Leh –
Day 1: Head to Sonamarg from Srinagar.
Rent a car from the Srinagar Taxi Stand to Leh and head to Sonamarg on the first day. Sonamarg is a beautiful 2 hour drive from Srinagar along the Sindh river. Accommodations are not the best in Sonamarg. We would recommend Hotel Sonamarg Glacier. Do not expect luxury here. It is just comfortable enough for a one night stay.
We decided to stay at Sonamarg for two reasons –
- We had not covered the place during our previous trip to Kashmir Valley.
- We wanted to slowly acclimatize ourselves to the heights without a rush.
You can opt for a pony ride around the place or trek to Thajiwas Glacier. We hiked to a nearby hill with a beautiful view of the glacier and spent our evening just looking at it. The feeling of lying down on empty grasslands with mountains around you and having some mules for the company is bliss.
Highlights from Day 1 –
- Off-roading for lunch by the Sindh River. Rajma chawal tastes good, almost everywhere – must try.
- Having some gorgeous fruits for dessert. Right now, there are peaches, varieties of plums and cherries available in Kashmir. Truly a delight 🙂
If you running short of time, skip staying at Sonmarg for a night. Start early morning from Srinagar and head to Zoji La while passing through Sonamarg.
Day 2: Drive through Zoji La Pass, Drass, and Kargil
Starting early is the key. Have a good breakfast at Sonamarg because it is difficult to find a good restaurant after you cross Zoji La Pass.
- Experience the high in adrenaline as you drive through Zoji La. It is crazy. At a height of 11649 feet above sea level, with its narrow and broken roads, this mountain pass is sure to make you stick to your windows. Stunning views and dangerous ride ahead, I warn you. As we rode through the broken roads of Zoji La, we reached a turn called ‘Captain Mod’. Locals say an Army Officer (Captain) fell down from here and died and hence the name. Not a good thing to talk about when you are riding through such a pass.
Note – Be ready to experience heavy congestion and traffic jams at Zoji La.
- The crazy drive is bound to leave you tired. Stop at Zero Point (just after Zoji La) for a cup of Chai / Kashmiri Kahwa. There are also some snow sports at Zero Point such as skiing and snow sledging.
- Explore Drass – a little hamlet in the Kargil district. The green fields, small brooks are picturesque and it looks like a place just out of Ruskin Bond’s book. So beautiful and dreamy. Also, this is the last patch of green you’d see on your Ladakh Trip. After Drass, it is barren mountains and landscapes all over.
- Visit the Kargil War Memorial and the world’s highest battlefield at Drass. The memorial gives a real picture of the Kargil War that happened in 1999. It is sure to leave you emotional. The letters of soldiers, their sacrifice and the beautiful Indian Flag flying high in the Ladakhi Ranges are sure to leave you beaming with pride. This a must-visit place.
- Stop for lunch at Drass Main City / Kargil City – the options are limited and the food isn’t great.
- Camp at Wakha Wadoo – We chose this location to camp because it makes the travel on Day 3 much easier. We camped at The Horizon Ladakh Camp which is on NH1. A good place for a one night stay, but not luxurious. You get hot water in a bucket only in the morning. The facilities are basic but the people are really sweet. They try to do their best to make you feel comfortable.
Highlights from Day 2 –
- Kargil War Memorial – An emotional experience.
- At Wakha, we hiked to the the nearby mountains to view the beautiful sunset. The golden rays fall on the rocky mountains so beautifully – just the beginning before you experience the grandeur of the Ladakhi ranges.
- We ate at the Nepali Hindu Dhaba at Wakha. We had our best vegetarian momos here.
- The night sky at Wakha was so…stunning! I still cannot get over it because I saw so many stars after eons.
Day 3: Drive through Namik La, Fotu La, La Mayuru, Liker, Nimmu and Leh
On day 3, the Ladakhi Ranges will open up in front of you in all its glory. These mountains though barren and rocky have beautiful grooves and are stunning. Day 3 is important as most of the sightseeing places lie on this route.
You’ll start experiencing the grandeur of the rocky mountains as you drive through Namik La and Fotu La. These passes unlike Zoji La have good roads and is a pleasure to drive.
- Visit the La Mayuru Monastery and the Moonland mountain ranges at La Mayuru. The monastery is not great and can be skipped if you are short of time.
- There’s not many options for lunch. You can either stop by at La Mayuru or Khaltse for lunch at some decent dhaba.
- Drive through the straight roads of Liker. The roads in Liker are surrounded by barren land on both sides. Very picturesque and a great place for photography 🙂
- After you cross Liker, stop by for chai at Nimmu and refresh yourself. Watch the confluence of Indus and Zanaskar. Head to Magnetic Hill and Pathar Sahib. Pathar Sahib is a gurudwara on the way to Leh. The prasad given at the gurudwara serves as an energy booster – Seriously! 🙂
- After this, if you have some energy left, head to the Hall of Fame in Leh. But, I would suggest you visit the Hall of Fame when you’re fresh. This place gives a good overview about the Ladakhi people and their culture. Also, showcases the laurels of the armed forces. A must visit place.
At Leh, choose an accommodation that’s close to the main market. This will give you more choices for dining and will also give you easy access to Internet cafes. Internet cafes are very common in Leh due to the highly unpredictable Internet connectivity.
Highlights from Day 3:
- Roads in Liker.
- Exploring the Leh town and market
- Dinner at Gesmo – their Yak Cheese Pizza’s are so soothing after 3 days of eating at the road side dhabas.
Distance Covered: 420 km
List of places to cover on the Srinagar – Leh Highway:
Thajiwas Glacier (if staying at Sonamarg)
Kargil War Memorial
Namik La, Fotu La
La Mayuru Monastery & Moonland
Liker & Alchi Monastery (if time permits)
Indus & Zanaskar confluence at Nimmu
Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
Hall of Fame
Srinagar – Leh Highway is one of the most scenic stretch you’ll ever experience. The road trip can be done in 1 day as well, but this isn’t recommended. Slow ascend will not only allow you to get acclimatised to the heights but also gives you a lot of time to explore the beauty and places on NH1: Srinagar – Leh Highway.
Let us know if you are planning a trip to Ladakh. We’ll be glad to help you. For now, Julley! 🙂
P.S. Julley means Hi, Bye in Ladakhi.
For more pictures, check the gallery –