Srinagar Leh highway also called NH-1D, is the best option to reach Leh by road. This 434 km long road is a better alternative for going to Leh as compared to the Manali-Leh road because it provides a gradual ascent, thereby limiting the chances of Altitude Mountain Sickness due to high altitude. The Srinagar Leh highway is operational from mid-March to mid-December, although the official date of closure might differ. It is snow-bound for the rest of the months. Complete this beautiful and challenging road trip and stay at our Hotels in Ladakh, Stok Heritage Palace, or Chulli Bagh whichever you prefer.
Details of Srinagar-Leh Route:
Srinagar, the beautiful summer capital of Kashmir is the fairytale start to this epic road trip. Most travelers divide this journey over two days, making Kargil a halt as it is almost halfway; at 2700 m, and lies at a comfortable altitude.
The highway crosses rows of pretty houses with small kitchen gardens before reaching Ganderbal that is just 15 km away. The road passes through a landscape of paddy fields with an envious shade of green till it reaches Kangan.
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 of Kashmir making fresh bread. Cartloads filled with fresh fruits like pears and apples which are Apple Farmsmostly grown locally. It’s beautiful just like a movie setup.
As the road bends higher to the Sonamarg Valley and takes you to the land of the nomadic shepherds and the lush green valley is a playground to flocks of goats and sheep and horses. Sonamarg is indeed very beautiful, with the beautiful Indus river flowing on the right side of the road coupled with lush green grasslands.
As the valley narrows down, the landscapes change and the road climbs higher to sight the group of tents called Baltal (base for the Amarnath Yatra). It lies at the base of the valley just before the climb to the manipulative Zoji La (3528 m) begins. It is a beautiful sight, shades of green are a treat for the eyes before the landscape becomes devoid of color. The road becomes invisible and, at places, is non-existent. The funny thing while crossing Zoji La are flocks of sheep on the road, causing traffic jams.
Zoji La is a scary pass in the mountains because of the mountains are prone to landslides. Usually, there are long queues of vehicles resulting in smoke on the entire elevation. The pass marks a natural separation between Kashmir and Ladakh. It is a narrow road and almost vertical.
After passing Zoji La, a metalled road till Leh. The barley fields in Drass are visible from afar and paint a pretty picture in the otherwise barren landscape of Ladakh. There are a few Dhabas and Hotels where you can have food and stay in Drass. At 3100 m, Drass has once recorded a freak temperature rating of -66 degrees Celsius.
After crossing Drass, you witness terraced cultivation on both sides of the road along with the Drass river flowing. This green is a sight to savor after roughing it out at Zoji La. The drive to Kargil roughly takes an hour even though it is just 58 km away. A few kilometers later you can visit the Kargil War Memorial, which was built in the memory of martyred soldiers in the 1999 Kargil War. Enjoy some of the freshest local apricots, while you are in Kargil.
Then you enter the first town in Laddakh, Mulbekh. A huge, stone statue of Maitreya Buddha welcomes you to Ladakh. You witness the prayer flags, white houses, and a prayer wheel here.
The road then climbs up to the pretty Namika La (3700 m). The little village of Bodh Kharbu passes before crossing Fotu La (4100 m), the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh road as we come across the sharp hairpin triggers at Lamayuru. It gets easier for the travelers as every village in Ladakh has staying options.
The road is broad in the middle of the apricot farms as the village of Nurla appears. There are diversions to important monasteries of Rizong, Alchi, and Likir around the town of Basgo. You witness the confluence of turquoise color Indus with the muddy waters of Zanskar at Nimoo. The Indus river accompanies you all the way to Leh.
Beautiful rock formations on the mountains and pretty monasteries clinging to hillsides will make you wish that the ride never ends. Now you are only 35 km from Leh when you realize,” The journey is more important than the destination.”
The best time to travel on the Srinagar Leh highway for a road trip is from July to September. In the peak summer months chances of finding snow on this highway are almost zero.
The Srinagar Leh highway is shut for vehicles in winter as it gets covered in snow. Snow clearing usually starts in March. Once the BRO deem the road is stable and not prone to avalanches, the Srinagar Leh highway is opened.
Naturally, the weather conditions and the amount of snowfall in a particular year decide when the Srinagar Leh highway is opened and closed for traffic. Those planning to do a road trip to Ladakh should start keeping a track of the status of this highway around March end.
If you are on a strict itinerary and want to reach in the shortest span of time 2 days should be good. It is good to spend at least one day at an altitude below the altitude of Leh, to give your body enough time to rest. Acclimatization time can make or break your trip to Ladakh.
If you do not have a fixed itinerary and want to slow travel, 7-10 days will give you a feel on the places on the Srinagar Leh highway. . After reaching Leh, you can stay at our Hotels in Ladakh, Stok HeriTage Palace.