Embark on an epic journey from Leh to Srinagar by road and be prepared to witness nature at its finest. As you make your way through the winding roads and rocky terrains, the majestic landscapes of the Himalayan range will unfold before you. With every turn, you will come across a new landscape, and each one is more beautiful than the last.
Once you begin your journey to Leh, you will pass by several quaint towns and hamlets, whilst also soaking in the natural beauty of the region. The journey along the Leh highway is a visual delight, with the snow-capped mountains and verdant valleys forming a stunning backdrop. Stop by the town of Sonamarg, also known as the 'Meadow of Gold', where you can admire the stunning natural beauty of the region.
The road trip to Leh is one that you will remember your entire life, as you will encounter some of the most challenging and thrilling terrains on the way. However, with that, you will also get an adrenaline rush from driving through the steep ascents, waterfalls and streams, as well as high-altitude passes, which make this road trip an experience of a lifetime. Some of the highlights of the trip include the Zoji La pass, Khardung La, and the Drass Valley.
While driving towards Leh, you will also come across some of the most ancient and spiritual monasteries in the world. The monasteries perched atop rocky cliffs are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the region. The vibrant frescoes and thangkas inside these monasteries are a sight to behold and offer a glimpse into the ancient Buddhist culture.
The Srinagar to Leh road trip is not just about the adventure and thrill of the ride, but an experience that will leave you with memories to cherish forever.
Srinagar to Leh Distance: The distance between Srinagar and Leh by road is approximately 434 kilometres. The journey takes you through the National Highway 1D, or the Srinagar-Leh Highway. The highway passes through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Himalayas, including the Zoji La Pass, Kargil, and the Drass Valley. It typically takes around 12 hours to cover the distance.
Srinagar to Leh Route Map:
Route 1: Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zoji La – Drass – Kargil – Mulbekh – Lamayuru – Saspol – Leh
This is the most commonly used route to travel from Leh to Srinagar by road. It passes through the beautiful valley of Sonamarg (85 kilometres from Srinagar) and the challenging Zoji La pass (62 kilometres from Sonamarg).
After Drass, the route goes through Kargil (58 kilometres from Drass) and Mulbekh, famous for its ancient rock carvings, and then through the scenic Lamayuru village (110 kilometres from Kargil).
Finally, it passes through Saspol, Hangro Loops and Nimmu before reaching Leh, located 125 kilometres from Lamayuru.
Route 2: Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zoji La – Drass – Kargil - Batalik - Dah – Leh
This route is less travelled and requires an inner line permit to travel from Kargil to Leh, via Batalik and Dah.
It also passes through Sonmarg (85 kilometres from Srinagar) and Zoji La pass (62 kilometres from Sonamarg), and after Drass, it goes 58 kilometres to Kargil.
From Kargil, it goes towards Batalik (53 kilometres), which is known for its scenic beauty and historical significance.
After Batalik, the route goes through the beautiful Dah village before reaching Leh.
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Mode of Transportation:
Private Cars and Bikes: While going from Leh to Srinagar by road, you can avail a ride on your personal bike or car. It is also important to keep in mind the expenses of fuel and vehicle maintenance during the road trip.
Srinagar Leh JKSRTC Bus: You can also avail a ride on the JKSRTC buses, which operate from Srinagar to Leh starting at 08:00 a.m. and stop for the night at Kargil before reaching Leh the next day. There are options available for a Deluxe bus, which cost upwards of INR 1050 per person, while a semi-deluxe bus costs around INR 670 per person.
It is also important to note that the bus timings are subject to change based on the timing of the Zoji La Pass.
When travelling from Leh to Srinagar by road, you will come across long stretches of road without any facilities or petrol pumps on the route. Therefore, it is important to plan your journey and carry spare fuel. On the route from Srinagar to Leh, you can find petrol pumps at places like:
Therefore, it is advisable to fill up your tank before embarking on the journey and refuel at these locations.
During your Srinagar to Leh road trip, you can find options for accommodation at various places, thereby ensuring you some rest and relaxation along the way. However, it is important to note that the prices for these accommodations may vary. While budget hotels or hostels may charge you around INR 500 to INR 700 per night, accommodations with modern amenities may be on the higher end. They may charge you upwards of INR 1,500 per night. It is best to make a pit stop at either Drass or Kargil to unwind and rejuvenate before your journey ahead.
Here are some of the places where you can stay at Kargil:
Hotel Greenland Kargil: Greenland Kargil is a highly recommended hotel for those embarking on a road trip from Srinagar to Leh. With its prime location, guests can easily access the major tourist attractions in the Ladakh region. The hotel offers a wide range of facilities and activities for the comfort and entertainment of guests, such as a restaurant, mini-bar, and stunning balcony views. Additionally, the hotel provides essential services like doctor-on-call, internet, and telephone facilities.
Hotel PC Palace Kargil: If you're planning a road trip from Srinagar to Leh, PC Palace in Kargil is a great place to stay. With its unique blend of traditional and modern design, this hotel is a treat for the eyes. The warm and hospitable staff will make you feel right at home with their excellent service. You can enjoy delicious breakfasts while taking in the stunning views from outside.
Hotel D’Zojila: This hotel located in the heart of Kargil offers comfortable accommodations with all the necessary amenities for a relaxed stay. The property consists of two blocks, with a total of 6 single bedrooms and 22 double bedrooms, making it an ideal choice for families and large groups. Additionally, the hotel offers facilities such as WiFi connection, transport facility, tour assistance, and luggage storage, making it a convenient and reasonably priced option for tourists visiting Kargil.
Panorama Guest House: This guest house, located on Circular Road, offers 15 well-maintained rooms with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The guest house also provides guests with essential facilities like room service, laundry, etc. Additionally, guests can also enjoy complimentary internet and restaurant facilities here.
A road trip from Srinagar to Leh can be challenging due to the remote and rugged terrain, high altitude, and unpredictable weather conditions. To ensure a safe and comfortable journey, it is essential to pack the right gear and supplies. Here are some things to carry while traversing from Leh to Srinagar by road:
Dal Lake is a must-visit destination to stop at when going from Leh to Srinagar by road. It is a picturesque lake located in Srinagar, which is surrounded by majestic mountains and lush greenery. Stretching across an expanse of 18 square kilometres, Dal Lake is a popular destination for boating, and visitors can enjoy a relaxing Shikara ride amidst the calm waters. The lake is also home to several houseboats, which are a unique accommodation option for travellers. It is surrounded by several Mughal-era gardens, such as the Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh, which are a testament to the region's rich history and heritage.
During your road trip from Srinagar to Leh, Sonamarg is one of the most popular pitstops that you will come across. Located in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir, it is a picturesque town surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas and lush green meadows. Visitors to Sonamarg can enjoy a range of activities, including trekking, camping, and fishing. The town is located at an elevation of around 2800 metres above sea level, and serves as a starting point for several popular treks, such as the trek to the Thajiwas Glacier and the trek to the Zojila Pass. In addition to exploring the famous Thajiwas Glacier, you can also indulge in other activities here, including visiting the Zoji La Pass, trekking, enjoying pony rides, and more.
As you set out from Leh to Srinagar by road, you are sure to pass by the iconic Drass Valley, located in the Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is known for its scenic beauty and cultural significance. Drass Valley is also known as the 'Gateway to Ladakh' and is home to several historic landmarks. Drass Valley is also known for its stunning natural beauty and offers visitors a chance to indulge in adventure activities like trekking, camping, and mountain biking.
Kargil is amongst the most historically significant attractions that you must stop to explore during your road trip from Srinagar to Leh. Located on the banks of the Suru River, Kargil is also surrounded by the Himalayas. One of the main attractions in Kargil is the Kargil War Memorial, which pays tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the Kargil War of 1999. Kargil is also known for its unique culture and tradition. The town is home to several mosques, temples, and monasteries, which are a reflection of the region’s rich legacy and traditions.
As you explore the Kargil district as part of your trip from Leh to Srinagar by road, go offbeat and visit the small village of Mulbekh, located nearby. With the Wakha river gushing by, this tranquil village boasts of immense natural beauty and cultural heritage. It is here where you can change upon the famous Mulbekh Monastery, also known as the Mulbekh Gompa, known for its ancient architecture and stunning location. You can also witness unique geological formations here, such as the Mulbekh Chamba, which is a unique rock carving of Maitreya Buddha. The carving is believed to date back to the 8th century and is a significant cultural landmark in the region.
Further east on your journey from Srinagar to Leh, you will come across the small village of Lamayuru, which is another one of the little-known wonders of the region. Particularly famous for its exceptional natural beauty, Lamayuru is also home to the Lamayuru Monastery. It is one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the Ladakh region, known for its ancient architecture and stunning location. This village is also known for its unique geological formations, which give it a unique landscape of eroded mountains that resemble the surface of the moon, and is a popular spot for photography and sightseeing.
The final stop of your road trip from Srinagar is the city of Leh, which is home to a world of captivating landscapes, rich cultural heritage and adventures. When in Leh, some of the places that you can head to include the Leh Palace, which is a former royal palace that has now been converted into a museum. In addition, Leh is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, and crystal-clear lakes. Visitors can enjoy a range of adventure activities, such as trekking, mountain biking, and river rafting.
One of the best places that you can explore during your road trip to Leh is Magnetic Hill, a fascinating natural wonder that is sure to leave you in awe. It is a unique natural phenomenon that attracts tourists from all over the world. The hill appears to defy gravity, as vehicles on the road seem to roll uphill with their engines off. In addition to marvelling at the incredible optical illusion here, you can also enjoy the picturesque views of the surrounding landscapes.
Visit the Royal Palace, also known as Leh Palace, to immerse yourself in the rich cultural history of the region and witness a breathtaking architectural marvel. Admire the palace's impressive design, which showcases a fusion of Tibetan, Indian, and European styles, and take in the spectacular panoramic views of the town of Leh and the surrounding Himalayan mountains. While here, don't forget to explore the various rooms and galleries within the palace, which are adorned with beautiful artwork and artefacts, and learn about the fascinating history of the region.
Pangong Lake is a natural wonder that you simply can't miss when visiting Leh. With its pristine waters spanning over 134 kilometres and extending into China, this breathtaking lake offers a surreal landscape of rugged mountains and crystal-clear reflections. Spend an unforgettable day by the lake, camping by its serene shores and taking a refreshing dip in its cool waters. You can also explore the nearby villages and learn about the unique cultures and traditions of the local people.
Alchi Monastery is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Leh, offering a glimpse into the region's rich cultural and religious history. Nestled along the picturesque banks of the Indus River, this ancient Buddhist monastery dates back to the 11th century and is one of the oldest and most significant monasteries in Ladakh. Admire the intricate murals and statues, which showcase the life and teachings of the Buddha, and soak in the tranquil atmosphere of the surroundings. While here, you can also explore the nearby village, interact with the friendly locals, and learn about the unique way of life and customs of the region.
Khardung La is a destination that should be on every adventure seeker's bucket list when visiting Leh. As one of the highest motorable passes in the world, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys that are sure to leave you spellbound. But that's not all, as Khardung La is also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and more. Take in the fresh mountain air as you explore the rugged terrain and enjoy the thrill of scaling new heights.
Nubra Valley is a destination that should be on every traveller's itinerary when visiting Leh. As one of the most stunning high-altitude deserts in the world, it boasts breathtaking views of the towering Himalayan mountains, picturesque villages, and ancient ruins. Nubra Valley is also a hub of ethnic diversity, with unique cultural heritage waiting to be explored. Experience the local way of life and indulge in the flavours of the region's cuisine. Take a camel ride through the sand dunes and enjoy the serene beauty of the valley.
When travelling from Leh to Srinagar by road, don’t forget to stop to visit the Pathar Sahib Gurudwara. Located on the Leh-Srinagar highway, the gurdwara is a great place for those seeking spiritual solace during their road trip. Built on the spot where the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev, is said to have meditated, the Gurudwara is a serene and peaceful destination. Visitors can attend daily prayer ceremonies, partake in Langar (community meal), and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains.
Make sure to include a visit to the Diskit Monastery during your road trip to Leh from Srinagar. Located in the picturesque Nubra Valley, this impressive structure is the largest and oldest monastery in the region. Admire the beautiful architecture, stunning murals, and sculptures, and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Don't miss the chance to witness the 106-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha, and explore the serene and peaceful environment of the monastery.
A visit to the Shanti Stupa is a must-do during any trip to Leh. Located just 5 kilometres from the town, this beautiful Buddhist stupa is a symbol of peace and harmony. Built in the 1990s by a Japanese Buddhist organisation, the stupa features stunning architecture, colourful murals, and statues. From the top of the stupa, visitors can take in panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the town of Leh and the majestic Himalayan mountains. The Shanti Stupa is also an excellent spot for meditation and prayer ceremonies, and visitors can soak in the peaceful and serene environment.
If you're a lover of history and culture, Hemis Monastery is a must-visit attraction on your trip to Leh. This ancient Himalayan Buddhist monastery, located along the River Indus, is known for its rich cultural heritage and impressive architecture. It is one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh and boasts beautiful paintings, murals, and sculptures that depict the life and teachings of Buddha. Visitors can also explore the vast library of Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, which date back to the early Buddhist period. Don't forget to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys while you're here.
If you're seeking an unforgettable natural experience on your road trip to Leh, be sure to visit Tso Moriri, a stunning high-altitude lake located in the heart of the Ladakh region. The serene lake, surrounded by snow-capped Himalayan peaks, offers a mesmerising landscape that is sure to leave you awestruck. The lake is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including rare migratory birds and wildlife. You can take a stroll around the lake and soak in the tranquillity or go for a scenic drive to explore the surrounding landscapes.
ATMs are crucial when travelling from Leh to Srinagar by road as there are limited facilities along the route. It is important to carry enough cash for the journey and be prepared for emergencies. However, if you are in need of urgent cash, you can find ATMs at the following locations:
Mechanics are crucial during a road trip from Srinagar to Leh because the journey covers challenging terrain with high altitude, steep climbs, and unpredictable weather. Properly maintaining the vehicle is essential to ensure a safe and comfortable journey.
On the Srinagar-Leh Highway, mechanics can be found in towns and villages along the way, such as:
It is advisable to get the vehicle thoroughly checked by a trusted mechanic before embarking on the journey. Additionally, carrying a basic toolkit and spare parts can be helpful in case of any breakdowns or emergencies on the road.
The mobile connectivity during the trip from Leh to Srinagar by road can be spotty due to the remote and mountainous terrain. BSNL has the widest coverage in the region, followed closely by Airtel and Jio, networks like Vodafone and Idea provide connectivity at very limited places.
In some areas, the network may be weak or intermittent, and there may be no network coverage in certain stretches. It is advisable to check with your service provider about their network coverage in the region and plan accordingly. It is also important to note that mobile phones with only postpaid connections work in Ladakh.
Acclimatise yourself before you begin the journey: The change in the weather of this region can take a toll on your health, so it's wise to stay at least a day before you start the journey.
Respect local customs and traditions: When visiting local villages or religious centres, it's important to maintain a cordial atmosphere and respect the local customs and traditions.
Follow rules and regulations: Rules and regulations are put in place for your safety, so it's crucial to adhere to them.
Befriend the locals: The locals are an essential part of the culture of the place. Treat them with harmony and respect, and you can gain valuable knowledge and insights about the place.
Seek guidance from experienced people: Exploring a new place becomes much easier with proper guidance from experienced people.
Opt for healthy food: Eating oily and heavy food can cause health problems, especially when you're on a long road trip. It is best to eat light and healthy food during the road trip.
If you are going on a road trip from Srinagar to Leh, it is essential to get your Inner Line Permits, especially if you are planning to visit far-off areas in Ladakh.
Inner Line Permit application: The Inner Line Permit application form is available at the stationary shop behind the Leh DC office. The office is open from 09:00 a.m. to 03:00 p.m. and is closed on Sundays and National Holidays.
Cost of Inner Line Permit: To acquire the permit, you need to pay INR 200, which includes environmental tax and Red Cross Donation.
Carrying Inner Line Permit: Upon approval, it is advisable to carry copies of your Inner Line Permit, since you may need to submit them at certain check posts of the military personnel.
Inner Line Permit for Indian Nationals: You will be required to carry documents like a Valid Photo ID such as Driver’s License, Passport, Voter’s ID Card, etc. along with attested photocopies of the same. These documents will act as proof of your nationality.
You will not require any Inner Line Permits for visiting the following areas:
It is important to note that you will be required to provide detailed information about your visit if you wish to travel from Tso Moriri to Pangong Tso, via the Chushul route, including a visit to Hanle. Additionally, you will be required to mention places like Pangong Tso, Man, Merak, Tsaga, Chushul, Loma, Mahe, Hanle, Nyoma and Tso Moriri in your permit application.
Inner Line Permit for Foreign Nationals: Foreign nationals must obtain Inner Line Permits if they plan to visit certain areas like Turtuk, Panamik, Khaltse, Pangong, Changthang, Hunder, Tso Kar, and Tso Moriri, among others. Other places that require ILP include Hanle, Chushul, Tsaga, Chumur, Marsimik La and Batalik Sector.
They also need to obtain a PAP (Protected Area Permit) to visit some places, and this permit is issued at the Leh DC Office. Only a group of four or more travellers are allowed and have a 7-day validity. (Foreign nationals from countries like Bhutan, Burma, Nepal and Pakistan are an exception).
Suru and Zanskar valleys: Places such as the Zanskar and Suru valleys do not require Inner Line Permits from tourists. However, it is important to note that if you do have an ILP, it will not allow you to explore beyond the Merak Village or Pangong Village.
AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness, is a common condition that can affect people who travel to high altitudes, such as on a road trip from Srinagar to Leh. It can occur when the body does not have enough time to adjust to the change in altitude and atmospheric pressure. The symptoms of AMS include:
If you experience any of these symptoms during your road trip, it is important to take it seriously and take steps to prevent the condition from getting worse. The following are some ways to treat AMS during a road trip:
The Srinagar Leh highway generally opens for vehicular traffic in late April or early May before closing due to heavy snowfall in winters. However, the exact opening and closing dates depend on several factors, such as snow accumulation, road conditions and weather forecasts.
The Zoji La Pass, which is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 11,575 feet is a popular link between Srinagar and Leh. It is considered as one of the most dangerous passes in the world due to its steep gradients, narrow winding roads and unpredictable weather conditions.
The distance of around 418 kilometres can be covered by road within an estimated time of approximately 10 hours by car. Most travellers prefer to split the journey into a two-day trip with an overnight halt in Kargil.
The best time to take the Srinagar to Leh road trip is during the summer months from mid-May to October when the weather is relatively stable. The weather is usually pleasant as the mountain peaks start to melt and the valleys are lush green making it an ideal time for photography enthusiasts.
The most common route from Srinagar to Leh is via Zoji La Pass and the distance is approximately 418 kms. It takes approximately 10 hours to cover the distance by car. However, the Srinagar to Leh route via Kargil is slightly longer than the Zoji La route. With a distance of around 434 km and takes usually 2 days to cover the distance with car for an overnight stay in Kargil.
When travelling from Srinagar to Leh, consider packing essential items such as warm clothes, first aid kit, insurance, water bottles, power bank, chargers, energy bars, snacks and a portable oxygen cylinder.
You can visit some of the popular tourist attractions along the way such as Dal Lake, Sonamarg, Zoji La Pass, Drass War Memorial, Magnetic Hill, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso Lake, Leh Palace and Hemis National Park.
Yes, there are several permits required for the Srinagar to Leh road trip, some them are:
The Inner Line Permit (ILP): It is required for non-residents of Ladakh to enter certain restricted areas and can be obtained online through the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) website.
The Protected Area Permit (PAP): It is required for foreign nationals and can be obtained through the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs website or in-person from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Leh.
Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Permit: It is required for Indian nationals and can be obtained in-person from the LAHDC offices in Leh, Kargil, and Jammu.
The road from Srinagar to Leh is challenging with steep inclines, sharp turns and narrow stretches in some areas. The road passes through several high-altitude routes, including Zoji La, Namika La and Fotu La.
The road from Srinagar to Leh, via both the Zoji La Pass and the Kargil route, is generally considered safe for travel. However, it is important to note that the road passes through some remote and mountainous terrain, which can be challenging for inexperienced drivers.