The road trip from Leh to Srinagar can be done in one very long day's drive, but it is recommended to do it in two days with one night halfway in Kargil.
Start the road trip with the visit of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, a highly sacred place for Sikhs that was built in the memory of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. A few kilometres further, you can stop at the mysterious Magnetic Hill as well as at Sangam, the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers.
On the first day, you could also take the opportunity to visit the main monasteries of the Indus valley: Basgo monastery, Likir monastery, Alchi monastery and Lamayuru monastery. Before arriving in Kargil, stop at Mulbek to see the wonderful 8-metre-high Chamba statue carved into a rock face. On the second day, go through Zoji La pass and Sonamarg before reaching Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
There is also an option to take a small road via the Dha-Hanu valley (where Brokpa people live) and Batalik to reach Kargil.
Choose if you want to do this Leh to Srinagar road trip in one or two days and if you want to visit the monasteries of the Indus valley or the Dha-Hanu valley and Batalik on the way:
When travelling from Leh (the capital of Ladakh) to Srinagar (the capital of Kashmir), it is worth making the journey over 2 days so as to have time to visit several attractions on the way such as famous monasteries (Alchi, Likir, Lamayuru…), beautiful valleys and natural sites (Dha-Hanu, Sangam, Sonamarg…). Here are some details about the sights that you should not miss.
To the west of Ladakh lies the world-renowned Kashmir valley. Known as the ‘Heaven on Earth,’ the politically embittered yet naturally exquisite valley offers some spectacular and beautiful sight to the visitors. Srinagar, the largest city of Kashmir, is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Situated on the bank of Jhelum River, a tributary of Indus, it is known for the famed Dal Lake, Wulaar Lake and Nigeen Lake.
The striking Houseboats and colourful Shikaras (traditional rowboats) draw tourists from around the world. For ages, Shikaras have served both the locals and tourists in savouring the beauty of these pristine lakes, in particular Dal and its floating market. The Mir Bahris, a community of locals, have thrived on the lake for centuries.
Srinagar is also home to gardens of the Mughal era (16th to 18th Century). Mughal Garden, Chasme Shahi, Nishant Bagh and Shaheen Bagh are considered amongst the best floral treat in the world. Srinagar is dotted with many historical monuments; Pari Mahal and Hari Parbat fort are noteworthy of the attractions. For a nature’s admirer, Daksum, Warwan, Margan, Shintan top, Gurez are new destinations that you must explore.
Historically known as Purig, Kargil is the 2nd largest town in Ladakh after Leh. It is located midway between Leh and Srinagar and it is the gateway to Kashmir. Drass, a famous halting place between Kargil and Zojila pass, is the second coldest region in the world. Kargil is also known for the 1999 India-Pakistan war and its military memorials.
The Gurudwara was built to commemorate the visit of Guru Nanak Dev ji to Pathar sahib. Guru Nanak visited many places, and one of them is believed to be Pathar sahib on the way to Nimmu. Here, the Sikh Guru meditated and fought a demon. The locals, however, believe that the site was visited by Guru Padmasambhava of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Magnetic Hill is a small stretch of road, around 30 km from Leh. It is believed to attract stationery vehicles upward, against the gravity. In scientific terms, it is believed that the hill has a strong magnetic field. However, another theory attributes the unusual phenomenon as just an optical illusion. But whatever the reason, people sure enjoy the spot.
Sangam is the confluence of Indus and Zanskar River near Nimmu. Zanskar River is a tributary and merges into Indus at Sangam. The place provides a stark view with the contrast of blue turquoise of Indus and green-tinged waters of Zanskar. River adventures like kayaking and rafting are its main attraction.
Once a prominent cultural and political centre, Basgo is known for its monastery and historical ruins. The hill of terracotta offers a surreal beauty and a mystic charm that gets etched into the hearts of travellers. The name ‘Basgo’ is derived from the boulder it rests and resembles a bull’s head. Its two-storey golden Maitreya was erected by King Sengge Namgyal in the memory of his father Jamyang Namgyal.
Likir or Lukhyil derives its name from two serpent kings, ‘Nando and Taksoko’. ‘Lu’ in Ladakhi means serpent spirit and ‘Khyil’ means encircled. The Likir monastery was founded by the fifth King of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo and is currently under the patronage of Ngari Rinpoche. It is affiliated to Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Likir Dosmochey festival is celebrated on the 28th and 29th of the twelfth month of Tibetan lunar calendar.
Alchi Choskor is one of the oldest Buddhist sites in Ladakh. Alchi monastery is situated on the left bank of Indus amidst the village. Inspired from Kashmiri paintings and sculptures, the temple was established by Lostawa Rinchen Zangpo in the 10th century. The choskor consists of Sumstek, Lotsawa Lhakhang, Jamyang Lhakhang and Vairocana temple. You could also witness the oldest willow tree in Ladakh in the vicinity of the temple.
Perched on a hill, overlooking the village and a limestone gorge, Lamayuru monastery is surrounded by stupas and mani walls. The monastery is believed to be among the 108 monasteries built by Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo during the 10th century. In the 11th century, the great Tantric master Naropa visited the place and meditated inside a cave. You can stay in Lamayuru to savour its beauty and starry night sky.
Mulbek is the oldest village in Kargil district. Its beautiful rock carving of Gyalwa Chamba was carved during the Kushan dynasty, in 1 AD. The eight-meter statue of the future bodhisattva is a must stop destination on the way to Kargil from Leh. The small temple underneath the statue is abode to some sacred relics and wall paintings.
Zoji La means the ‘mountain pass of blizzards’. It is an important pass that connects Ladakh to Kashmir and the rest of the world. It is 15 km from Sonamarg and is the second highest pass after Fotu La on Leh-Srinagar highway (NH1). The Zoji La pass often remains closed during winter due to heavy snowfall. The pass was seized by Pakistani raiders during the Indo- Pakistan war of 1947-48.
Sonamarg is a hill station in Ganderbal district of Kashmir. Surrounded by different peaks and glaciers of the Kashmir valley, it is a popular destination with stunning landscape. The place has a historical significance, as it was a gateway to famed Silk Road connecting Gilgit, Kashmir and Tibet.
With unique facial features and a distinct culture and customs, the Brokpas of the Dha-Hanu valley consider themselves Aryans, the descendants of Alexander the great. They have distinct identity with different language and tradition from that of the rest of Ladakh. Over the period of time, the Brokpas have adapted Buddhism and its ways. Both Buddhist and Muslim households co-exist in the region settled along the border with Pakistan. Batalik is a small village on the banks of the Indus river, it is located only 8 km from the border.
The road between Ladakh and Srinagar is closed in winter due to heavy snowfall on the mountain passes (especially at Zoji La pass). Therefore, the Leh to Srinagar road trip is usually possible only between April and end of November. If you travel in Ladakh during winter, you can still drive from Leh up to Kargil (and visit the Sham region) but then you will need to go back to Leh and take a flight from Leh to Delhi at the end of your trip.
During the road trip from Leh to Srinagar, the altitude is always below 3,500m above sea level. Therefore, there is no risk of altitude sickness on this trip.
You do not need any pemit to travel from Leh to Srinagar. However, if you choose the option via Dha-Hanu and Batalik, you will need to get an Inner Line Permit from the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Leh prior to the trip. Any travel agency in Leh can assist you to apply for the permit.
During the first part of the trip from Leh to Kargil, there is a good mobile phone network coverage and the internet service is also available in most places. The most reliable service providers in this area are BSNL and Airtel. During the second part of the trip from Kargil to Srinagar, there are many areas without any phone connectivity but you will still be able to catch the phone network in a few places such as Sonamarg and Drass.
During the 2-day road trip from Leh to Srinagar, the most usual option is to spend the night in Kargil because the town is located exactly halfway between Leh and Srinagar. There are many accommodation options in Kargil; the most popular ones are Hotel Kargil Heights, Hotel International Residency, Royal Gasho Hotel and Hotel Zojila Residency.
Start driving from Leh very early morning (ideally at 6am or 7am). Make a short visit of Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, the Magnetic Hill and Sangam. Stop for lunch at Kargil. In the afternoon, drive to Srinagar via Zoji La pass and Sonamarg.
Note: It is a very long day’s drive from Leh to Srinagar. We recommend to do this trip in 2 days.
From Leh, follow the Indus valley towards the west and stop at Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, the Magnetic Hill and Sangam. In the afternoon, visit Lamayuru monastery and Mulbek rock carving before reaching Kargil where you can take a stroll in the town. Night in Kargil.
From Kargil, cross the Zoji La pass to reach Kashmir. Pass by Sonamarg and reach Srinagar.
In the morning, visit Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, the Magnetic Hill, Sangam, Basgo monastery and Likir monastery. Then, head to Alchi village where you can take your lunch in one of the restaurants. After visiting the Alchi monastery, drive towards Kargil and stop at Lamayuru monastery and Mulbek. Night in Kargil.
In the morning, visit the town of Kargil. Next, drive across the Zoji La pass, the gateway to the Kashmir valley and stop at Sonamarg. Drive to Srinagar.
Drive from Leh to the Dha-Hanu valley and stop at Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, the Magnetic Hill and Sangam on the way. Explore the Dha-Hanu valley and its villages inhabited by the Brokpa community. Head to Kargil via Batalik. Night in Kargil.
After breakfast, take a stroll in Kargil city centre. Then, head toward Kashmir via Zoji La pass. Stop at Sonamarg before reaching Srinagar.