Complete travel guide for Srinagar - Leh Highway 2023

Who hasn’t heard of India’s heaven on earth – Srinagar, a place blessed with enchanting green valleys and a bounty of natural gifts which manage to fulfill not only the locals but also the tourists who visit this place time and again. Did you know this little heaven is also a secret gateway to another one? A place that is unfathomable to our small mind, a place called Leh Ladakh. Srinagar – Leh highway is a 422 Km long roadway that connects Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir with Leh City in Leh and Ladakh. It is one of the two highways that connect the distant lands of Leh and Ladakh with the rest of the world [another roadway is the Manali – Leh highway].
Srinagar – Leh highway is known for its comfortable and less challenging journey, as compared to Manali -Leh highway and has spectacular landscapes which make your journey worthwhile, also the beautiful Indus river will accompany you side by side in your travel to Leh.

Detailed route from Srinagar to Leh

Srinagar to Leh highway contains three passes namely- Zoji La Pass, Namki-La Pass, Fotu La Pass, which offer magnificent views of the entire valley. The main places you will come across during your journey will be in the following order – 

1. Srinagar- 

Srinagar will be your starting point, here you can explore the locality for a day stay a night in a houseboat, and began your journey to Leh the very next day.

2. Sonamarg –

A place worth visiting while traveling to Leh, if you are traveling in April or May, you will see the valley carpeted with blooming flowers and lush greenery amidst snow-capped mountains. It is approx 81 km away from Srinagar and will take you two hours to reach. If you want to explore the beautiful valley, planning a night’s stay here would be worthwhile. [attitude – (2,730 m)

3. Zojila Pass –

The very first pass on the Srinagar – Leh highway, situated at the height of 3,528 meters. This treacherous pass is perfect for thrill-seekers, but remember to not
spend too much time on the pass, as it increases the chances of AMS [ acute mountain sickness]. Zojila is just 23 km away from Sonmarg (altitude – 3,528 m). 

4. Drass- 

Located in the Kargil district of Leh Ladakh, this place holds the title of ‘coldest place in India’. You can visit the Dras War Memorial, built by The Indian Army in memory of martyrs in the Kargil war. Fun fact – the temperature in Dras reaches -20 degrees during winters. (altitude – 3,300 m). 

5. Kargil –

Second largest city in Ladakh, known for its political and historical significance, Kargil is a place worth visiting. It is a hub of adventures activities like trekking, camping, and river rafting. Usually, a night stay is planned in this city during a two-day trip from Srinagar to Leh. It is 216 Km away from Leh. (altitude – 2,676 m).


6. Namkia-La Pass –

 Also known as ‘Pillar of the sky’, this pass is the second highest pass on Srinagar – Leh highway. It is an ideal place to capture the beauty of magnanimous brown and rusty mountains with your camera. (altitude – 3,700 m). 


7. Fotu La Pass – 

This is the third and the last pass on the Srinagar – Leh highway, located at the height of 4108 m, it makes the highest pass on the road. Fotu La pass is 128 Km away from Leh. (altitude – 4,108 m). 


8. Mulbekh –

Situated at a distance of 45Km from Kargil, this place has caught the eye and admiration of people due to its famous Mulbekh Monastery consisting of two Gompas and a sculpture of Maitreya Buddha carved on the face of a rock. (altitude – 3,304 m). 

9. Khaltsi-

Is 93 kilometers away from Leh city, you will find a good market in town if you want to buy snacks or water bottles. You can plan a lunch here. (altitude- 2,987m). 

10. Leh city – 

The biggest city of the Leh Ladakh region and the heartbeat of these dessert mountains, you will explore the full-fledged colors of Ladakhi culture in this place. This is the endpoint of the Srinagar – Leh highway, here on you will begin your adventure in the lands of Leh – Ladakh. [(altitude – 3,500 m). 

Best time to visit Srinagar - Leh Highway

Srinagar – Leh highway remains close for about six months a year due to heavy snowfall. Usually, the highway is shut down in mid-November and opened up in May but this year the highway was thrown open for civilians on March 25 and set a record. The weather in mountains is cold throughout the year, but the changing seasons do bring their unique ambiance, following are the key highlights that prevail on the highway in different seasons [ from May to October]-

● May and April 

The highway opens in May and if you want to catch a glimpse of snow, this is the ideal time to visit. In these months the roads are not too maintained so you will have to be sharp on your wits while driving. The weather will be cold but, you will get to see splendid mountains covered in the blanket of snow.

● June and July 

The weather fluctuates somewhere between a pleasant sunny day and thunderous rain. The valley welcomes monsoons, during this time of the year, so be ready with your waterproof jackets. The chances of minor landslides increase during this time, so if there are any changes in the plan last minute, don’t panic. Other than that, you will have to admit that mountains look cinematic and breathtaking during this time around.

● August and September 

The rush of the Amarnath yatra begins in June and August, so you might get stuck in tourist rush hours in Jammu and Kashmir. There are chances of rain in August, but in September you will find yourself in the sweet blossom of spring. If you are planning a trip during this time, be ready for spectacular greenery in Srinagar valley, but at the same time be cautious of small waterfalls or ‘nalas’ that become hasty on rainy days.

● October 

October is officially the month of winter, during this time you will experience the actual cold weather of the area, so be packed with warm clothes and cozy boots. The rain is out of site in October but instead, you will be greeted with snow if the sky turns grey. To experience authentic weather in the mountains, October is best, because after that heavy snowfall shuts down the highway for another six months.

How to reach Leh from Srinagar? [ modes of transportation]

This question is rather a necessity than a luxury because the nature and budget of the trip are highly dependent upon the mode of transportation you use. There are four types of transportation –

1. Self-drive 

If you want to drive a car yourself, you can either rent it or take your private vehicle for the journey, the details are as follows-

● Rented Car – You can rent a car from your hometown or cities like Delhi and Chandigarh and drive it only till Leh City arrives because the Leh taxi union does not allow the outside-based taxi to operate in Leh. So you will have to hire a local taxi to do sightseeing.

● Owned car – If you want to take your private car for the trip, be sure that it is well suited for rough terrain roads or mountains. The plus point of traveling in your car is that it is budget-friendly and you don’t have to worry about restrictions that bind the other non-native taxis in the Leh Ladakh region. On average it takes
Rs.16000 to cover the Delhi-Leh circuit.

2. Rented cars

Renting a taxi from Srinagar to Leh is another convenient way to reach Leh if you are in no mood to drive. A Srinagar based taxi will only serve you till Leh, for Leh Ladakh sightseeing you will have to hire a local taxi. The cost of a rented taxi is a bit expensive, so consider hiring one only if you are with a group otherwise go for a shared taxi or tempo. Check taxi Leh Ladakh taxi rates 2022

3. Bike tour

Srinagar-Leh highway is an ideal road for a bike tour, imagen riding your bike amidst magnificent mountains, whose scenery turns rustic brown from striking greenery as you travel further ahead. You can either rent a bike from Srinagar or Delhi and drive it to Leh city, or you can take your private bike for the journey. But remember the same rules apply to outside-based rented bikes too, you cannot drive them for local sightseeing, so you will have to rent a Leh-based bike to explore the lands of Leh and Ladakh.

4. Bus 

The JK SRTC runs buses from Srinagar to Leh, which stop at a night stay in Kargil and reach Leh the next day. This is the most economical mode of transportation. If you are looking for a bit more luxury then, go for private bus operators who run semi-Delux tempo travelers as a substitute for bus and has very similar timings.



How much time does it take to reach Leh from Srinagar?

The route to reach Leh from Srinagar is 422 Km long, and you can cover it in one, two, or three days, the details are as follows-

1. One day trip 

One day trip is best suited for locals and people who are habitual traveling in higher altitudes, but for tourists, this plan is highly discouraged due to the high
chances of AMS and the heavy toll it takes on one’s body and mind. Also, you won’t be able to enjoy the beauty that Srinagar – Leh highway has to offer.

2. Two-day trip [Nightstay at Kargil] 

This is the most common time to cover Srinagar – Leh highway. You can begin your journey from Srinagar and reach Kargil which is 201 km away, have a night’s stay there, and resume your journey to Leh the very next day. This route is also followed by local buses which run from Srinagar to Leh. This trip is recommended time and again because it allows you to enjoy the road and explore the places likewise.

3. Three-day trip [Nightstay at -1. Sonamarg/Kargil, 2. Lamayuru/Alchi] 

● First night stayIf you want to do proper sightseeing on Srinagar-Leh Highway, plan a three days trip from Srinagar to Leh. Began your journey from Leh and plan a stay either at Sonamarg which is only 80 Km away from Srinagar and offers a splendid stay in nature’s lap, otherwise, you can stay at Kargil which is likely at a half distance from both Srinagar and Leh.

● Second-night stayAfter a night’s stay in Sonamarg/Kargil, resume your journey towards your next stop – Lamayuru, just like its name the place too is very unique. Lamayuru is 22km away towards the East of Fotu La Pass and has beautiful ‘moon-landscapes’, or you can halt at Alchi which is just 70 km away from Leh. Either way, you will get to explore the hidden gem places of Leh – Srinagar highway.

● Reaching Leh on the third dayAfter taking a rest in Lamayuru/Alchi, you can begin your journey towards the final destination, the very famous Leh city. After reaching Leh you can check in your hotel take some rest and get ready to explore the Leh Ladakh region.


Tourist attraction on Srinagar - Leh Highway

Srinagar – Leh Highway is packed with peculiar and panoramic places which are worth visiting. You must be thinking of why these places are termed ‘peculiar’? Well after knowing the history, story, and significance of these places, you won’t be able to resist them on your own. The list is as follows-

Sonamarg – Located just 80 Km away from Srinagar, this town is no less than heaven. In winters, the valley is covered in snow and offers splendid views, thus living up to its name. Sonamarg was a gateway to Silk Road and connected Kashmir with China in ancient times. You can plan to stay here, as in summers you will find the valley turning into a bed of flowers.

Zojila Pass – Zojila Pass is the first pass on the Srinagar – Leh highway, situated at the height of 3,528m. You will cross this pass on your way, so stop by and capture the panoramic view of the valley from one of the highest points on the highway.

Kargil War memorial – Also known as Dras War Memorial was built by the Indian Army, in memory of soldiers who lost their lives in the 1999 Kargil War. The place is a must-visit, as you will find sections of weaponry, tributes, and other information related to war, safely preserved in the place.

Mulbekh – Just 45 km away from Kargil, you will reach a place named Mulbekh which is famous for its monastery. The Mulbekh monastery consists of two Gompas namely – Drukpa and Gelugpa and also has thirty feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha carved on a stone. The monastery is said to be built 800 years back.

Lamayuru – Lamayuru is a small village which is located just 15km away from Fotu-La Pass. The place is famous for its ‘moonscapes’, meaning the landscape resembles the surface of the moon. Other than that Lamayuru Monastery is also a good tourist attraction due to its unique design and structure, a cherry on top the monastery also offers nigh stay option for tourists.

Uleytokpo – Uleytokpo is a small village located just 70 km away from Leh City, this offbeat town is famous for being the hub of adventurous activities such as camping and trekking. The place has the most tranquil and beautiful views which will put your exhausted mind at peace just in a blink of an eye.

Rizong Monastery – Also known as the yellow hat Buddhist monastery is located to the west of Alchi and situated right next to the Indus river, sitting on the top of a rocky side valley. The monastery is home to 40 monks and is known for practicing extremely strict practices and rules.

Alchi Monastery – Alchi is a small village in the Leh Ladakh region situated right next to the sparkling blue waters of the river Indus. What makes this place special is that unlike other villages it is located in a low-lying area. The tourist attraction in this village is Alchi Monastery, which preserves rare and unique Tibetan sculptures and paintings.

Likir Monastery – Likir Monastery is an exuberating architecture that sits at the height of 3700 m and offers panoramic views. The monastery was built in the 11th century and belongs to the Gelugpa sect. The place is just 56 Km away from Leh.

Basgo – Situated at the banks of the Indus River, this village is famous for its historical ruins and Basgo monastery. The place used to be an important center of political and cultural activities.

Sangam – This place is a confluence point of river Zanskar and river Indus. Located just 35km away from Leh City, it is located just on the Srinagar – Leh highway. The picturesque scenery of the place has made it famous among tourists. ● Magnetic hill – The place is known for its optical illusion, i.e. a car is viewed to be moving up-road in defiance to when in reality it is moving down-road. This natural illusion is worth witnessing.

Pathar – Sahib Gurudwara – A place with interesting history and cultural significance, this gurudwara is located in the middle of barren mountains and is the epitome of diversity in India. Pathar Sahib Gurudwara is only 22 Km away from Leh city. 



What is acclimatization?

This question is asked time and again, and undoubtedly is worth asking too. Mountains indeed arebreathtaking, but what if they really take your breath away? Yes, that is a possibility, as while traveling to higher altitudes the oxygen level drops, which increases the possibility of AMS or acute mountain sickness. AMS is by large experienced by tourists hailing from lower altitudes, as their body is not habitual to operating at low oxygen levels, one experiences nausea, headaches, vomiting, and loss of breath if the AMS is minor, but if it turns serious, it can cause lungs and brain damage. That is why acclimatization is important, if you take a one or two-night stay in slightly lower altitudes, your body will get acclimatized to breathe in higher altitudes. While traveling from Srinagar to Leh, people usually stop at Kargil for acclimatization. Other than that you can follow the following precautions –

● Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
● Take your food on time don’t skip meals.
● Wear warm clothes and always sleep in your rooms and camps at night.
● Keep medications with you.
● Keep in contact with all the nearby medical institutes and camps.


Why should you choose Srinagar - Leh Highway over Manali - Leh Highway?

1. Comfort –

Srinagar – Leh highway is comparatively less challenging than Manali – Leh Highway. With better roads, lower altitudes, and many civilized places to stop by on Srinagar – Leh highway, makes it easy for people to travel. Whereas Manali – Leh highway has a very lonesome road, after Jispa/Keylong you will find a proper market only when you reach nearby Leh.


2. Acclimatization –

If you are traveling via Srinagar to Leh, the chances of AMS becomes low, as Srinagar – Leh highway has places with comparatively fewer altitudes as compared to the Manali – Leh highway which has passes touching the height of 4k to 5K meters. Hence traveling via Srinagar – Leh highway is better for your body. 

3. Better connectivity –

-Srinagar, the starting point of the Srinagar – Leh highway has betterconnectivity to other cities than Manali. Srinagar has an airport that makes it easier for
people to reach Srinagar timely and cost-effectively. Manali is closer to cities like Chandigarh, but the connecting roads are still under construction and not in a good
condition, plus there is no other mode of transportation to reach Manali other than the road.

Hence, which highway you are to travel by is completely dependent upon your preferences, Manali – Leh Highway has its beauty and adventures that’s why is famous among thrill-seekers, but if you are more of a comfort traveler Srinagar – Leh Highway is best for you.


Important Tips to remember -

Here are some important tips you should remember while traveling from Srinagar to Leh –

● Carry your, identity proofs and other important documents with you all the time.
● Carry warm clothes and shoes with a good grip.
● Carry your own Non-disposable water bottles and please don’t litter around.
● Try to always pre-book hotels to avoid problems later.
● Carry your medications
● Do not skip meals and stay hydrated


FAQ's -

1. Are there any ATMs on the Srinagar – Leh Highway? 

Yes, you will find ATMs in Ganderbal, Dras, Kargil, Srinagar, and Leh. But it is still advisable to carry more cash so that you are not dependent on ATMs much.

2. Where can you find a petrol pump on Srinagar – Leh Highway?

Unlike the Manali Leh highway, you will find plenty of stops to fill up your tank. Petrol pumps are available in – Srinagar, Kangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Wakha, Khaltsi, and Leh.

3. At what places can you find Accommodation on Srinagar – Leh Highway?

The Srinagar – Leh highway has many accommodation options, you can find your preferable stay at-
● Srinagar
● Sonamarg
● Dras
● Kargil
● Mulbekh
● Lamayuru
● Alchi
● Leh

4. Are there any passes needed on Srinagar – Leh highway?

No, there are no passes required on the Srinagar-Leh highway.

5. Are there any places to eat on the highway?

There are several places where you can stop for snacks and food during your journey, places are –

● Sonamarg
● Dras
● Khaltsi
● Kargil
● Alchi