Ten facts about Srinagar to Leh Road
- 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 provides a gradual ascent, thereby limiting the chances of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) caused due to high altitude.
- Snowbound for over five months, the highway is usually operational from mid-May to mid-November, although the official date of closure might differ.
- 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.
- There are canals flowing past the road and it is a sheer delight to see life in Kashmir—kids playing on the street, entire families out for shopping, kebab sellers standing by the road, famed bakeries making fresh bread. There is a heavy military presence in Srinagar and all along the way as this is primarily a military highway. The towns of Gund and Kullan pass enroute.
- There are military convoys and soldiers every few hundred meters, but this heightened security is only to help travellers. Glimpses of the incredible vistas on offer are a treat for the eyes like 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 as well.
- 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 because of the shifting nature of the 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.
- 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 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 transit town, where most people travelling from Srinagar to Leh halt for the night.
- Mobile phone networks – Only postpaid connections work in Jammu & Kashmir. BSNL and Airtel are your best bets. These have decent network coverage in Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru and all the other major towns enroute.
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