Many people like adventure and many people love to just sit and watch the view of mountains and rivers. The Srinagar to Leh highway which is known as NH1 is maintained by the defense organisation called Border Road Organisation a.k.a BRO.
The highway does offer some astonishing landscape views when you come from Srinagar to Leh. The journey is about 10 to 12 hours, and usually happens over daylight. There is plenty of option to come from Srinagar to Leh. You can hire a taxi or catch a government bus which leaves by 8 am in the morning from TRC in Srinagar. You can also opt for a sharing cab if you want, the price is usually around ₹1,500 to ₹2,000 per seat depending upon the season. This mode is fast and reliable. You’ll reach Leh by the end of the day.
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A number of vehicles make a stop at Drass or Kargil. People also come from this Srinagar to Leh route because roads are much better and even the land offers a change from the greener side of Kashmir to the barren side of Ladakh. It all makes the road worth seeing when you are there.
Once you leave Srinagar in the morning, you have to take the Hazratbal road which takes you outside the city. It later meets the Ganderbal – Batapora Road which goes between the rice fields and hilly mountains. Once you cross this road, you will directly be on the Srinagar – Leh Highway at NH1. You’ll find the police check post sometimes on the road, if something critical has happened on the Srinagar side.
When you go ahead, you’ll reach a village called Wayul, 7 to 8 kms ahead of Ganderbal. You’ll find lots of beautiful valleys with the rice field glooming by the sunshine. In the morning, if you go from this route, you’ll see an amazing landscape which will make your morning worthwhile. People stop at Wayul for a tea break. People have tea over here which is really amazing with their local spices and have breakfast at Sonamarg. Many more villages will pass once you leave from Wayul. On your right side, you’ll see the river Sind following you to the mountains.
During morning time, when the sunshine falls on the river, it looks blue in colour. The best part about this river is the water comes straight from the mountains so the glacier water is drinkable. Just a piece of advice, don’t go near the river crossing in someone’s farmland, they don’t like it so it could be a problem. On both the sides, you’ll see apple orchards spread on vast lands on the mountains. The place looks like heaven when you see it.
A heavenly, small village known for its beauty and picturesque view of nature. People tend to stay at this place for a longer time because it’s like a Mini Switzerland in India. The place offers good food and staying option if you have a plan to stay. Sonamarg is 81 kms from Srinagar. You’ll reach there in 2 or 3 hours depending on road traffic.
Do check out a restaurant for breakfast called Narinder Restaurant which offers mouth-watering parathas and tasty lassi if you like to have Indian breakfast or else. The stuffing is so amazing in the parathas that you won’t stop after having one. There are a lot of other options to eat. With such great food offering, Sonamarg also has activities to do. There’s another tour for Sonamarg which needs at least three days to explore the nearby places around.
The famous Amarnath Yatra has a base camp in the nearby village of Baltal. You’ll find a little crowd here when you go in the peak season. Once you cross Sonamarg, you’ll start inclining towards Zojila pass. Lying in the western part of the Himalayan mountain ranges, Zojila pass lies on National Highway 1 between Srinagar and Leh.
Located at an altitude of 11, 649 feet above sea-level, this pass forms an important connection between Kashmir and Ladakh, and is just 9 kms from Sonamarg. After Fotu La, it is the second-highest pass on this highway. During peak winter months, most of the time, this pass is inaccessible but BRO extends traffic during most part of the year. A unit of BRO, the Beacon Force manages maintaining and clearing of the road in the winter months.
It was during the Indo-Pakistan War in 1947 that the pass was detained by the Pakistani soldiers in 1948 while trying to capture Ladakh. Then on 1st November, Zojila pass was seized back by the Indian Army under Operation Bison. The pass opens around April end, here one can admire the breathtaking views of the mighty Himalayan mountains. Due to heavy rainfall, the pass remains closed for almost 6 months in a year. Acting like the lifeline of Ladakh, this pass stretches for around 434 kms. After the Kargil War in 1999, the government started full-paced construction of the road due to its strategic significance.
After crossing Zojila pass, you go straight ahead to Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in the world. It is 63 kms from Sonamarg which offers a good and affordable place to stay. You can get a variety of light snacks which you can have here. It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach from Sonamarg because the road condition of Zojila pass is very difficult and tough for drivers. Only locals and truck drivers know how to drive on a small road where two-way traffic is on over the mountain. Drass also offers room facilities which are easily available at affordable price.
After Drass, you will encounter the famous town of Kargil, a good place to have lunch or shop, if you really want to. Kargil is a dream destination on a wonderful valley situated at an altitude of 8760 ft in the district of Ladakh. Access to Kargil is only through the mountain passes and during the journey one might come across a very sparse population as the climate here is extremely cold. It is an ideal place for trekking and mountain climbing.
Kargil derives its name from the word “Khar” and “Rkil” where the former stands for the term Castle and Rkil stands for the centre. Thus, when these two are put together it gives a meaning of a spot that is in between two castles. The name is very apt for the place as it is situated between two countries.
After Kargil, you get a historic village which is 38 kms towards the Leh side called Mulbekh. Known for its two Gompas that belong to the Drukpa and Gelugpa sects respectively, the Mulbekh monastery is one of the most important places to see near Kargil. The monastery is situated at an elevation of 10,338 feet and is indeed a remarkable piece of workmanship that maintains a carved nine metres tall statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is said to be overlooking the old trade route and the present-day highway. The statue is also called Chamba and is believed to have been built around 8th century AD.
Even though, the common belief is that this depiction is of Lord Buddha, many scholars asserted a strong resemblance to Lord Shiva as well. In addition, it also houses many prized relics, ancient inscriptions and frescoes that reflects the magnificent works of the 14th century.
Once you are done with Mulbekh, lots of small villages will pass you. Saraks, Heniskot and Lamayuru have their own monasteries which are the gateway to the Tibetan culture and their land. You can go deep in the history of these monasteries.
Wakha is a small village where every sharing cab driver stops for his lunch, sometimes they have lunch in Kargil itself or sometimes they have it here. It all depends on them. The place is basically a small village which has a restaurant by the road and you get both veg and non-veg food. After refreshing themselves, people leave for Khalsi which is 84 kms ahead of Wakha. It’s a town famous for its apricot vegetation and food which is on offer.
After getting done with Khalsi, people either stay at Ulektokpo for better weather acclimatization or they directly head to
Once you follow the road to Leh, you will find vast mountain views and milky rivers flowing by your side. The view is really amazing to see. If you are a person who likes a comfortable road trip to Leh-Ladakh, then this route from Srinagar – Kargil – Leh is a must take.
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