Hey guys, today I’ll be sharing about our road trip to Ladakh which was nothing less than the stuff of dreams! We covered some iconic landmarks, scenic drives, saw hidden gems, drove at the world’s highest motorable pass! It was absolutely exhilarating and a road trip like no other! It was a total of 15 days Road trip which got over in a blink of an eye!
Pro Tip- For a road trip to Ladakh, the preferable months are June to September being summer season and you’re less likely to find snow on the highways.
Our route till Leh.
I’m sharing the complete 3 days itinerary, must do things on the way with a few tips & tricks.
So, there’re two routes to go to Leh, via Rohtang pass that is Manali and via Zojila pass in Srinagar. We opted for the latter as the ascent is gradual which makes acclimatisation easier.
We started from Jammu my hometown early morning. My mom dad had packed us yummy lunch and other snacks for the trip which made our journey even more interesting!
We reached Udhampur well in time, crossed Nandini tunnel (it’s a set of four tunnels), near Nandini wildlife sanctuary. After that we crossed Chenani tunnel which is 9.2 km, reduces the distance by 31 km between Jammu and Srinagar, and is India’s longest tunnel.
Driving through tunnels brought back childhood memories when we used to go for picnics and scream our lungs out while passing though the dark, narrow tubes!
We got stuck in a two hour long traffic jam before Chenani tunnel because of the land slides and other mountain region issues and that’s when my snacks came out of the bag for our rescue and entertainment. We munched on them with our favourite music on and usual shenanigans.
So, one needs to cross two passes to reach Srinagar. Patnitop via Chenani tunnel and Banihal via Qazighund tunnel (8.5 km, reduces the distance by 90 minutes, 16 km)
We reached Srinagar around 2pm, made a quick stopover at my favourite super market, Seven eleven. Being on the highway itself, one doesn’t have to get inside the market. So, without wasting any time I grabbed blue lays, chocolates, kulfi and cold coffee. Come on, this is what makes road trip even more fun. After sometime we pulled over our car in the shade, spread the lunch over car’s bonnet, somehow eating by the road side while travelling makes every dish taste hundred times better. Our paranthas, achaar, boiled eggs which were just heavenly.
Get your car topped up in Srinagar because as you move ahead the petrol pumps become next to negligible so plan ahead and be safe.
We took a night halt here and this place isn’t called Switzerland of India for nothing! It’s immensely beautiful, I remember how we were greeted with running horses on the road, gushing rivers, chilly breeze, green meadows, golden flowers and mighty hills covered with pine trees. We reached our location, were welcomed with a cup of delicious chai and enjoyed it while savouring the heavenly views around!
We started for our next leg of journey around 8 am from Sonamarg. We intended for 7 but got delayed a little, make sure you start on time.
2. Zojila Pass
It’s one of the most treacherous and dangerous passes in the world. It’s quite picturesque, dreadful, quiet with winding roads. I’d recommend you to start early around 7 am so that you cross it well in time because if you get stuck with trucks then it gets really difficult. Moreover, you’d keep meeting military convoy so it’s better to keep time in hand to avoid any sort of inconvenience. It’s at the towering height of 11,649 ft and is 26km long!
You can make a stopover either while going or coming back. You may go to Kargil war memorial, also known as Drass war memorial built by the Indian Army commemorating the 1999 Kargil war between India and Pakistan.
Guys, 60km short of Kargil, there’s a beautiful spot where you can park your car and sit by the stream. The vehicle goes right at the bank of the river and is a perfect place to soak in some beauty. (Don’t miss out on this hidden gem, you’re going to thank me later).
We took a night halt at Kargil while coming from Sonamarg. Ok, first things first, so by the time we reached we were already famished, I don’t know what to be blamed, high altitude or our appetite! We were greeted with sumptuous lunch consisting Chole, Kulche, rice, raita, salad, pudding and right after that we fell into a deep slumber. Well, who wouldn’t after that spread? In the evening we went to the market and the town is much bigger than I had imagined, situated on the banks of Drass river it truly is gorgeous!
We woke up the next morning, had a good breakfast, aloo parantha, chai and left around 7 am to check out other exciting places ahead.
5. Namik La
I remember how windy it was when we got there, at the altitude of 12,198 ft, everything was fluttering especially the prayer flags and one could hear the sound of wind echoing from the mighty mountains. We were awestruck by the landscape and terrain, clicked some amazing pictures and left for the next place.
6. Fotu La
This pass is at an elevation of 13,479 ft and offers one majestic views. Just like Namik La this pass also helps connecting Kargil and Leh. I remember clicking tons of pictures here though it was super windy but spectacularly beautiful, also it’s the highest point on Srinagar- Leh highway.
7. Lamayuru Monastery/ Moonland
This is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, perched atop a hill. Not to mention, we were completely awestruck by its beauty and the panoramic views. While touring the monastery, we met some cute kids and had such a lovely time interacting with them.
This’s something you shouldn’t miss while going to Leh. And, as you drive further, just after 5-10 minutes from the monastery, you’d come across a unique landscape, that resembles the surface of moon!
I hadn’t seen something like this before and it felt absolutely surreal. Since it’s about 100 km from Leh so you can cover in a day trip from the city or if you’re driving like we did, then make a stopover and get lost in this enchanting land never seen before!
This’s a point near Nimmu valley where the two rivers Zanskar and Indus meet, a confluence popularly called Sangam. It’s a spectacular sight to witness! Also, there’s a river rafting point where adventure enthusiasts can experience the thrill of river rafting.
9. Magnetic Hill
We were so looking forward to this place because it’s strangely unique in many ways. Magnetic hill is situated at the height of 14,000 ft, a small stretch of road 30 km short of Leh that defies gravity! Can you beat that? So, this road apparently pulls stationary vehicles upwards when the engine is off. It was really amazing to see something like this happening, a rare phenomenon. There’re many scientific theories like optical illusion and magnetic theory, also a few superstitions. Whatever the truth is, it’s really interesting so don’t miss to stop here.
10. Pathar Sahib Gurudwara
As you drive ahead, just 5 km from the Magnetic hill is this beautiful Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, about 25 km from Leh. We parked our car and went inside the holy shrine. Its a historical Gurudwara maintained by the Indian Army which dates back to the 15th century when Guru Nanak Dev Ji took a halt here while visiting Ladkah. As per the locals, the demon threw a boulder at him while Babaji was meditating but to his shock, it turned soft upon touching his back.
He soon realised his mistake and apologised. The rock is still placed inside the Gurudwara. We had tea and biscuits langar and started our journey for Leh. It was such a blissful experience.
I’ll be back with another article from my Ladakh series, from Leh to Nubra valley via Khardung La, Turtuk village, Pangong Tso and much more. Meanwhile, you may check videos from Leh and around on my YouTube channel.
Hope you enjoyed reading the recommendations. Have a happy and safe trip, keep exploring and making memories.