Leh Ladakh Road Trip — Adventure of the lifetime.

Planning

3 of us were planning this road trip for a quite some time by now and the biggest motivation to go for it over other destinations was that this region of Leh Ladakh is getting modified/destroyed/ urbanized and losing its natural beauty so we didn’t want to miss it.

There are 2 famous routes for this road trip: (Travel time is ref from google maps however in actual it can exceed 20 to 30% sometimes up to 50% additional time)

  1. Manali-Leh (473 km, 13 hours 17 mins)
  2. Srinagar-Leh ( 421 km, 10 hours 38 mins)

We decided to go with the option 2 simply because its easier than Manali-Leh route, Manali-Leh route has more streams and highway faces uncertain landslides thereby causing closure. whereas the other option is less risky and more scenic due to Jammu and Kashmir beauty. We planned the whole trip to be for 8 days.

Option 2: We choose this option because of being less risky over other option and more scenic

Flight: Pune-Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar (8.5 hours)

Time: August 20- August 28, 2018

Packing

This is an extremely important thing as the RoadTrip is going to test to your fullest potential. we packed the following things, each serving a purpose.

3–4 Trousers with 7–8 t-shirts, A sweet-shirt and a sweater, Jacket for driving, gloves, transparent and polarised goggles, ankle long shoes, raincoat, dental kit, medicine for high altitude sickness (Advised to consult your doctor, Do not underestimate this problem as we faced a lot of problem on the way to Pangong and at Pangong Lake), Volini spray (extremely necessary as your body will face cramps and pain. we used them every night. :D)

Things you will get there: Helmet, Fuel cans, bungee etc.

Day 1 (Srinagar Local)

Landed in Srinagar City at 9:30 AM took a cab from the airport to the hotel ( You might find the cab rates more but those are standardized by the taxi union and don’t be rude while bargaining they might not like it, remember this throughout the trip) The hotel we stayed in was in a well-connected area called Rajbaug and had good food too. link: Comrade Inn Srinagar

A view from the room at Comrade Inn, Srinagar.

First half was spent in Jetlag and then we went looking for the bikes on rent. We got two options which were very good and friendly people. (You’ll find the contacts on the webpage)

  1. Kashmir Travelogue - http://kashmirtravelogue.com/
  2. Kashmir Bikers - http://www.kashmirbikers.com/

After getting the bikes sorted we visited a place called Winterfell cafe near Dal Lake to chill. Quite surprised to see so much GOT Love.

Winterfell Cafe near Dal Lake (GOT love in each corner of the world)

Dinner was at a Restaurant called Stream Restaurant near dal lake which serves authentic Kashmiri cuisine.

Day 2 (Pahalgam to and fro)

We decided to go to Pahalgam (Earlier we had decided Gulmarg but it is more beautiful in snowfall which is typically from Nov-Feb) which is 86 Kms by google but took us 110 km (Via Anantnag) as few roads were closed due to military activities, this happens quite regularly so don’t panic and keep your bike tanks full.

Rider Quinston with bikes at Pahalgam Valley and Rivers

We started our journey at 11 AM and got back at the hotel by 8:30 PM so it was a full day for us. Recommend to do one spot/destination a day as you may require additional time than google maps and in case if bike faces any problems.

Pahalgam Valley and Beautiful River streams.

Day 3 (Srinagar to Kargil)

Always recommended to leave early every day so that you can make it early thereby get extra time to bargain a good hotel and get enough time to enjoy the views.

Views while leaving Srinagar
Be gentle! Always.

In between the Zoji la pass will give you a tough time, which takes around 1–1.5 hours and you will have to maintain a speed of 20–25 there.

Happiness after crossing Zojila pass.

On the way, you’ll find a beautiful place called Sonmerg where we stopped for lunch. Its also known as mini Switzerland.

Beautiful Views of Sonmerg
We Stopped for lunch here

Do take pitstops every 40–50 km as it gives bikes a necessary time to cool down to avoid breakdown. Recommended eating more of veg food than non-veg as it becomes heavy on digestion. Carry protein powder to maintain your daily macros.

Kargil war memorial is a must.

if someone suggests visiting LOC which is nearby, highly recommended “NOT to do it” as the path is small and dangerous and LOC has a high danger/risk overall. Kargil city on other hand is very safe.

Day 4 (Kargil to Leh)

Kargil is 2nd biggest city in Ladakh Province and looks beautiful in the morning. Make sure you fill your tanks full as fuel pumps are not available till Leh city.

Beautiful Morning view of the Kargil city.

The best food you’ll get is Maggi noodles!

The best breakfast and supper food one can get in the Himalayas.
Such variation in mountains.
Depiction of Buddhist culture as you start going toward Leh city.

On the way, Lamayuru village is the best lunch pitstop and has few good restaurants to go to. Lamayuru monastery is also a destination which can be visited.

Lamayuru is the best place for the lunch pitstop.
Roads as smooth as runway.

The roads from Kargil to Leh were the best and got us there in optimum time but as suggested earlier, do keep the tanks full and don’t trust google maps fully as it may take 20–30% up to 50% more time.

Day 5 (Leh Local)

Permit: Leh city and other places onwards(Nubra, Pangong, Hanle, Tso moriri) that need a mandatory permit which can be issued online with payment confirmation but needs sign and stamp from the local office without which you can’t proceed further from the various checkpoints. (Recommended to finish this online before the trip and mark all the district as it costs the same.) link: http://www.lahdclehpermit.in/

If you’re coming from Srinagar or Manali you might face problems in taking the same registration bikes ahead, as it might not be allowed as Leh as a city is highly dependent on the tourist income. If you arrive by evening you can bargain and get a good deal on hotels.

Leh is the largest city in Ladakh province. Leh seems quite crowded as you enter the city but gets sparsely populated as you go ahead. try to choose hotels away from the main market as it will give you enough freedom and space.

Views to wake up to.

Leh city as pretty awesome food and comfy cafes to choose from. The shopping there is a must!

Some Leh special and some regular :D
Leh has amazing comfy cafes.

Nearby (20–22 km ) is located Thiksey Monastery and is a must visit. The mesmerizing views deserve a chance.

Thiksey Monastery!
Views everywhere, like literally!
Top of Thiksey Monastery.
Magical Mountains!

Leh city is quite cozy and cold and safe but roads go empty after 9–9:30 so to avoid any problems recommended to get to the hotel.

Day 6 (Leh to Pangong Lake)

We decided to leave early to keep enough buffer time. the first 45 km patch of Leh-Manali highway is amazing to ride but then the road becomes tough for next 30–40 km. You need to keep your tanks full and carry extra cans as fuel will not be available at Pangong (total of 400-450 km)

Roads to Pangong are quite scenic.
This is how you smile in burning heat! :D

The patch of 12–15 km before and after Changla cafe point is a challenging road and can face a landslide. Drive safe and do not forget to wear helmets.

Not so Shah-Rukh Khan types.
Marmot said hi on the way.
Cozy and comfy tent at Pangong.

Pangong Lake has all the accommodation in the form of tents and might get a bit cold so take extra thermals to wear.

A night view at Pangong Lake.

Day 7 (Pangong Lake to Leh)

Again try to leave early as the buffer helps for a variety of reasons like bike failure, photos, lunch, and good bargain once get back at Leh city.

The Pangong.
And that’s how you pose :D
The play of shadows.

The streams will be less if left early and can help mini heart-attack moments :P

Day 8 (Leh Local)

After the debate, if to do just Khardungla pass we decided to stay in the city and chill before we leave.

Shanti Stupa is a perfect evening ‘chai’ destination with a view.

Shanti Stupa
Leh City view from Shanti Stupa.
Bouys at the happiest.

Leh-Ladakh road-trip is something which will not cost that much and will give you the highest amount of satisfaction come peace to you. A must go destination will create memories for the lifetime.

References:

  1. Planning - https://www.bruisedpassports.com/india/leh-ladakh-road-trip-itinerary-planning
  2. Leh-Manali highway - https://www.dangerousroads.org/asia/india/96-leh-manali-highway-india.html
  3. Zojila-Sonmerg -https://www.tripadvisor.in/Attraction_Review-g2282345-d3682486-Reviews-Zojila_Pass-Sonamarg_Ganderbal_District_Kashmir_Jammu_and_Kashmir.html

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Suraj Saste

Suraj Saste

Sr PM @Avoma || Entrepreneur, Engineer || Ex Co-founder Quark Exp | Co-founder Aker Foods | Aker Retail