A Journey from Delhi – Patnitop – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Lake – Leh – Jispa – Manali – Delhi (3200 Kms)
Certain trips make a lasting impression on our lives and leave one wanting for more; for me, it’s my road trip from Delhi to Ladakh via Srinagar and Kargil. Recently, I went on a 3200 km journey from Delhi to Ladakh and then back to Delhi in 11 days. Through this blog, I would like to share some pictures and videos to give you a clear idea about the condition of roads and all important places you can see during the journey. Also, I will be sharing some travel trips, which could help you to brave this challenging and one of the most beautiful driving tour in India (may be in the world also). Check out the blog and plan your trip today.
Best Time to Travel Ladakh: Usually, the roads to Ladakh remains operational between Mid-June and September or Mid October; but this year the highway has been thrown open from Mid-May. It would be best to avoid rainy season and go for a trip in initial days.
The Best Way to Do It: On this tour, you need to cross several high altitude passes (including highest motorable passes in the world), and it would be dangerous to go on these passes without proper acclimatization. So it is always advisable to do it from Srinagar to Leh and then Leh to Manali. It gives your body a gradual ascend and better acclimatization for the later part of the trip.
Vehicle Preferred: To face the narrow roads, sharp turns, low hanging cliffs of Ladakh; it will be advisable to take SUV with good ground clearance (4×4 vehicle is best), although you could see locals using Maruti 800 but you should avoid them.
Road Conditions: Road conditions are good except on few stretches. It will be advisable to start your journey early in the morning and go easy with stops at the important place and sights. In Ladakh, the sun rises a bit early at around 0430 Hrs in the morning and sets at around 2000 hrs in the evening, which means you would have sufficient time at your disposal. You should avoid driving at the night, until and unless it’s an emergency situation.
Quality of the road is good. For last 100 km, you might face heavy jam because of continuous movement of Army supply trucks. Also, the roads are not that broad. When in Patnitop, make a point to visit the Nag temple.
Lakhanpur Toll Plaza (Jammu Border)
View From Hotel (Patnitop)
The stretch is good for comfortable driving, but it’s pretty congested as it is open to both army and tourists. The ride would be tedious, but the stretch after Titanic point would be smooth and is worth all the effort.
View of Chenab River
Tunnel on the way to Srinagar
View From Titanic Point
Roads from Srinagar, Ganderbal going to Baltal via Sonmarg is smooth. From Baltal till Gumri post, the roads are bumpy, and you may face traffic jams as the narrow roads can accommodate just one vehicle. After Drass (one of the coldest place in India) roads are wide and good and a treat to drive.
Sonmarg, Zojila Pass, Gumri War Memorial, Kargil War Memorial (Please note that there is a dress code for visiting this place, see detailed report below):
Way to Zojila Pass
Dhaba near Zojila Pass (Sirnagar Leh Jeep Safari Tour)
Kargil War Memorial
Instructions For visitors – Kargil War Memorial
Beautiful view of Kargil Town
Roads to Leh are pretty good; there would be several important places you will visit during this drive. And during the journey, you will also start getting a feel that you are driving in a mountain desert. Highlight of the drive is that the dazzling colours of mountains keep on changing after every 5 kilometers.
Must visit places in on your journey from Kargil to Leh:
The drive from Kargil to Leh enables your body to get acclimatize to the thin air. Also during this journey, you can cover most important sightseeing places of Leh Region.
Leh to Khardung La Pass (40 KMs) – Khardung Village (34 KMs) – Khalsar (23 KMs) – Diskit (19 KMs) Nubra Valley. Start early in the morning to avoid traffic jam on Khardung La Pass, Roads beyond check post are bumpy till Khardung la pass (highest motorable pass in this world, 18380 ft) and after that drive is smooth with majestic views of Khalsar, Diskit and Hundar.
Must visit places and things to do on your journey from Leh to Nubra Valley:
On the Way to Khardung La Pass
Entry of Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary
Beautiful view of Diskit Town
To begin the safari, you will have to purchase tickets from the counter. Following are the rates of camel safari:
It is a narrow road until you get connected to Durbuk Pangong lake road. Initial drive till Agam is good. After Agam, take a left turn; from this point until Shyok village, the stretch is quite rough as the streams are flowing, which allows water to flow under a road. From Shyok till Durbuk, the condition of the road is good, and you will see nature at its best during this 17 km stretch. From Durbuk, the drive is smooth till Pangong lake.
Caution: I would not advise you to take Nubra Valley – Pangong Lake route in Rainy season. Instead, go back to Leh and take Leh-Pangong Lake Route.
Reason: Firstly, the condition of the road is not good. Secondly, lots of streams keep on flowing over roads which can be dangerous during the rainy season. And lastly, some patches of the road are going along with Shyok river at the almost same level, which can prove too dangerous in monsoons. I have seen water level marks on another side of the road on hills, so it’s better to avoid driving during monsoon season.
This drive is quite good except small patches around Changla Pass, which happens due to snow melting and water on the roads.
Better start this day early in the morning. This stretch is a treat to drive; roads are quite good, and surprisingly you will get lots of plain stretches, but some stretches are bumpy. From Sarchu to Jispa, the condition of the road is pathetic, but it is worth all the effort.
Must visit places in on your journey from Leh to Jispa:
At some places, the roads would be smooth while at others there would be a traffic jam.
Must visit places in on your journey from Jispa to Manali:
How Difficult is the drive?
Answer: If you have experience of driving on hills then only concern is altitude otherwise it is not a tough road to drive except at one or two points. But never try to do unnecessary overtakes. Look for all the traffic signs.
What type of vehicle should I get?
Answer: It is advisable to take SUV’s or Vehicle with good ground clearance. (4×4 vehicle is highly recommended). Don’t take vehicles with a flat tire.
Is it safe for kids?
Answer: Although children can better acclimatize altitude sickness. But I won’t recommend you to take infants on the tour. Even in our group, the smallest member is 6-year-old. (better consult to your doctor)
Do I need to carry extra fuel?
Answer: Plan your journey according to your fuel tank. As the longest stretch without any fuel station is Karu to Tandi near Keylong, around 334 Kms. Otherwise, you will get fuel at regular intervals. It is advisable to top up your fuel on every location once you leave Srinagar until you reach Manali.
Places where you can find fuel pumps: Kargil – Leh – Nubra Valley – Karu and Tand
Do we get places to eat en route?
Answer: At the major places like Sonmarg, Kargil, Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake and Jispa, you will be easily able to find some good restaurant. Otherwise, Maggie would be the only option, to eat but its availability is a constraint to limited areas. It would be better to carry dry fruits and ready to eat with you always. Keep few extra water bottles. If Kids are traveling, please carry readymade food of their liking also.
Do we need to take some medicines?
Answer: Please take all the necessary medicines and consult your doctor for any additional medications. Tourists do carry Diamox for altitude sickness, but if you’re following Srinagar to Leh and Manali route, then I don’t think you need any medicines as it gives you a gradual ascend and makes your body acclimatize for the later part of the trip. Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated and in the case of feeling any acute sickness come down to lower altitude immediately without delaying.
What other things we should carry?
Answer: You should carry air Pump for tires; Toe Rope; Good condition Stepney, Torch and a puncture kit for emergency.
What about connectivity?
Answer: Please note that in Jammu and Kashmir only post-paid connections work. And BSNL is the best amongst all. Airtel, Vodafone, and Aircel also have networks but only in major cities like Kargil, Leh. In Nubra Valley only BSNL work. During Leh – Manali, driving from Leh after Karu and until Keylong, there is no network. Only BSNL works in places like Jispa and Sarchu).