Planning a Journey on Srinagar-Leh Highway (A 2023 Travel Guide)
Once we decide to answer the call of the mountains, the next question arises which route to take? Out of the two roads that connect Ladakh with rest of the India, Srinagar Leh highway (434 KM) is also known as National Highway 1D. So here is the travel guide if you want to go from Srinagar to Leh by road.
The Srinagar-Leh Highway route has its added advantages. It acclimatizes your body as you gradually ascent, compared to the other track of Manali-Leh Highway to reach Leh, thereby decreasing the chances of Acute Mountain Sickness. You are also able to see both the amazing highways which are completely different be it roads, thrill, people, culture, food or borders.
Srinagar-Leh Road Map
Srinagar-Leh Highway Details
Srinagar Leh Road journey starts from Srinagar the heart of Kashmir Valley. Soak in the beauty of Kashmir, before you start this epic road trip. It is best to break the journey from Srinagar to Leh into 2 days stopping over at Kargil for the night. The road takes you through various villages of Kashmir with never-ending sights of rice fields, small streams till you reach Kangan. You will also experience heavy military presence along the highway due to its strategic importance.
After a wonderful travel experience for a few hours, you will see a sudden shift in the environment. Leaving behind the hustle n bustle of the city, and you will reach the meadow of gold called Sonmarg. The extravagant beauty of Sonmarg will mesmerize you.
[Road to Sonmarg]
Take a riding break and enjoy the nature with the Kashmiri cuisines. Energise yourself for the mighty Zozi La, which on any given day will test your driving/riding skills and if its monsoon time you are for the ride of your life. Crossing the Zozi La will give you a sense of achievement and will boost your confidence for the rest of the trip.
After making your entries at Gumri post, which is in middle of nowhere, the road condition improves. The barley fields of Drass are visible from quite a distance 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 3100m, Drass is at the crossroads of cultures of a majorly Muslim Kashmir and Buddhist Ladakh. Drass has the distinction of being the second coldest inhabited place on earth.
Moving a few kms ahead you will reach the Kargil War Memorial built in the memory of martyred soldiers in the 1999 Kargil War. Do pay your homage to the valour of Indian Army.
Leaving behind Drass, you will encounter a terraced cultivation on both sides of the road and river Drass, adding beauty to the scenic nature. The drive from Drass to Kargil roughly takes an hour. Kargil is the biggest town in Ladakh after Leh. Halting at Kargil for the night which is at the altitude of 2700mts will allow your body to acclimatize in a natural way.
[Kargil War Museum]
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 civilization is accessible from Kargil with a road to Batalik. The road to Zanskar begins at Kargil too. Signboards like ‘Beware, you are under enemy observation’ reminds you that you very close to Line of control (LOC). Try out some of the best apricots in the world, while you are in Kargil.
On day 2, the first town where you’ll reach is Mulbekh, famous for its tenth century stone statue of Maitreya Buddha. You will witness White coloured mud houses, prayer wheels, Prayer flags in Mulbekh which marks the change in culture as we are now officially in Land of Buddhism.
The view is completely hypnotizing. As you move on, you will come across the 2nd high altitude pass on this route, Namika La, located at a height of 12,198 ft. Another 40 odd kms from Namika La is the 3rd high altitude pass, Fotu La, located at 13,479 ft. It is also the highest point of Srinagar Leh highway.
[A view from Namika La Pass]
[Fotu La Pass-The Highest Point]
Descent from Fotu La will take you to the village of Lamayuru, which is famous for its one of the oldest monasteries. Explore the monastery and relax. The place in and around Lamayuru is photographers paradise with varying landscapes that you will witness here. Special mention to the “Moonland” which is an amazing landscape here.
Leaving behind Lamayuru you will reach to the ascent of Hangro Loops. Warning for all you riders; You will come across 18 loops which are very steep and sharp. There are diversions to important monasteries of Rizong, Alchi and Likir around the town of Basgo.
As the road nears Nimmu (Nimoo) Village, we witness the grand confluence of turquoise colour Indus with the muddy waters of Zanskar.
[Confluence of Indus and Zanskar]
Further, drive a straight run to Leh with Magnetic Hill which is known for its gravity-defying properties (judge it for yourself).
A few kms later you can seek blessings at Pathar Sahib Gurudwara. After a ride of a few more miles, you will reach Leh. Hurray! Give yourself a pat on the back for completing one of the most beautiful and dangerous road trips in India.
Distances on Srinagar-Leh Highway
- Srinagar-Sonmarg (80 KMs)
- Sonmarg-Drass (65KMs)
- Drass-Kargil (55 KMs)
- Kargil-Mulbekh (40Kms)
- Mulbekh-Lamayuru(70 KMs)
- Lamayuru – Alchi / Likir (55 – 65 KMs / 65 – 75 KMs)
- Lamayuru – Leh (125 KMs)
- Alchi / Likir – Leh ( 65 KM / 55 KMs)
Must Visit Places on Srinagar-Leh Highway
- Meadows of Sonmarg
- Zozi La, Namik La, Fotu La
- Kargil War Memorial
- Mulbekh Matreya Buddha
- Lamayuru Monastery
- Lunar Landscape (Moonland)
- Alchi & Likir Monasteries
- Basgo Palace
- The confluence of Indus & Zanskar
- Magnetic Hill
- Pathar Sahib Gurudwara
- Spituk Monastery
Some Important Information
- Accommodation: All towns on this route have guest houses, hotels, dhabas so finding accommodation will not be an issue on this route. You can choose any option depending on your budget.
- Mobile Connectivity: Prepaid connections do not work in this region. A post-paid connection that too BSNL and Airtel will be your best bet on this route.
- Fuel or Petrol Pump: Fuel or petrol pumps are available at Srinagar, Kangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Mulbekh, Wakha, Khaltsi, Leh.
- Srinagar Leh Highway Status: The 434 KM long Srinagar Highway generally remains closed for about 6 months in a year starting from November to May due to heavy snowfall on the mountain passes mainly Zozi La pass. But the best season to travel on Srinagar-Leh highway is between June to October.