Sometimes words don’t type themselves out. Maybe there is a problem of plenty. Which experience should I start with? When one has traversed on a particular road many times, the memories become a veritable assortment of many crazy experiences. Even more so, when the road in question is the Srinagar – Leh highway or NH1D; one of the prettiest roads in the world.

Although 25 photographs of this epic highway would hardly suffice, yet I try to present a photo story that gives a fair reflection of the journey for the traveller. The photographs are a mixture from many journeys, some beginning in Srinagar and some culminating in Ladakh, and some other times to far off places in my dreams. There have been times that Zoji La has given me shivers and other times it just passes by without a fuss.

Check : 7 roadtrips for adventure junkies in India

Srinagar – Leh Highway : In 25 Photographs

Rice fields welcome the visitor as soon as Srinagar goes past. Quite a start to the 430 km road trip!

Read : Waltzing to Happiness on a Houseboat in Srinagar

The Sindh river makes an appearance as you cruise on the perfectly metalled road. One is almost wondering if this road trip is easy; gorgeous pine forests, lovely wooden homes… heaven can be real!
The Sonamarg meadows feel like a surreal sight. As if someone has painted a masterpiece in green.

Check : Walking around the Famed Meadows of Sonamarg & Thajiwas Glacier

Reputed to be one of the most dangerous passes in the Himalayas, Zoji La (3500m) is the gateway to Ladakh and is usually snow bound and closed from November to April. Proverbially Kashmir is passed and the landscape changes from the alpine green meadows to the stark naked colours of the desert like landscape in Ladakh.
The scrabble of tents seen on the climb to Zoji La; the makeshift town is called Baltal – which also acts as a base camp for Hindu pilgrims bound to Amarnath.

Read : Amarnath Yatra from Baltal – A Travelogue

The scenery changes to lush green meadows again after the dust and diesel fumes of the trucks are left behind. There is also an Army Canteen at Gumri.
There have known to be sudden instances of patriotic feelings among travellers upon seeing the important signboards from the 1999 Kargil war.

Read : Walking into the past along the frozen Indus in Ladakh

The Gujjars and Bakarwals like this region before Drass for its ample high altitude pastureland for their sheep and goats to graze on. The Kargil War Memorial is located close to Drass.
These scenes are a regular feature of life in Kashmir valley. Security is quite heightened on the Srinagar – Leh highway and sometimes tourist traffic is with a convoy of army vehicles. The going is pretty smooth once Kargil is crossed.

Also check: The Goodness of Strangers : Curfew in Kashmir

Kargil town with the Suru river flowing. It is very close to the border but has an interesting market with centuries of history. The road to Zanskar also bifurcates from Kargil.
The first signs of Buddhism are seen as the vehicle zooms past Kargil; you have arrived in Buddhist Ladakh. Whitewashed homes, pretty windows and swaying barley fields are the order of the day.

Thinking about a road trip to Ladakh? Also check : Romance of the Manali-Leh Road

The Eighth Century statue of Chamba Maitreya Buddha, also known as the future Buddha. This is just beside the road in Mulbekh village and is an astonishing 30 feet high.
Typical scene of a village on the Srinagar – Leh road trip during the summers of Ladakh; plentiful water means that the lifeless landscape is dotted with green oases like this. Can’t remember if this village is Bodh Kharbu or Hiniskut.

Read : A comprehensive guide to Spiti

After crossing Namika La at 3700m, the road climbs to reach Fotu La – which at 4100m is the highest point on the Srinagar – Leh highway.
The moonland town of Lamayuru also has an ancient monastery perched among the crumbling sand mountains. The landscape is quite unbelievable… and whats more – everything is visible from the car itself.

Check : Into Unknown Ladakh – Turtuk

Although its a long journey, the excellent road means that the Srinagar – Leh road trip journey can usually be covered in 12-13 hours. It is a pure delight for landscape lovers who dare not blink for fear of missing out on incredible sights like these.
Approaching Lamayuru from the other side. The colour of the rocks and the layout of the mountains gives this an impression of moonland. Summer is a riot of colours in Lamayuru.
For the first timer, this might seem like a joke .. but believe me, the scenes of the road are exactly like this.

Check : A Photo Essay from Ladakh

The famous ‘jalebi’ loops or jalebi bends on the old Lamayuru road, also called the Hangroo loops and this picture was clicked on my first time on this road with a point and shoot camera from a moving car! I’ve never seen been able to see this exact scene again, inspite of passing by this stretch almost a dozen times.
Apricots grown in the region around Kargil and the nearby valleys are of a fine quality. The Khaltse check-post affords a fine chance for the traveller to buy these from the kids during the season.
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The Indus river makes an appearance near Kargil and flows adjacent to the road at Khaltse, while continuing to Leh and beyond. This is clicked at the diversion to Alchi – one of the oldest and artistically important monasteries of Ladakh.

Also check : Khardung La in Winter : Part 1

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The skies can sure create psychedelic patterns in Ladakh. Converted to monochrome, clicked on a sunny winter’s day in December near Likir. The highway here feels like a runway!
Towering on a hillock is Basgo Palace with two temples, both of which have the Maitreya Buddha statue as the highlight. Basgo was once the capital of the kingdom of Ladakh and is only a short distance away from Likir.

Read : A Winter in Ladakh : Masked dances at Spituk Monastery

A usual landscape in Ladakh after crossing Lamayuru. The eye can see for miles and do not forget the charm of the azure blue skies! That rhymed pretty well.
The confluence (also called sangam in Hindi) of the Zanskar river and Indus river as seen from Nimmu on the Srinagar – Leh highway.

Now that you are almost in Leh, it makes sense to … Top Cafés and Restaurants in Leh

This was a fun post to make, especially with checking out so many albums from past journeys. One can try seeing sights like Hall of Fame Museum, Pathar Sahib Gurudwara and the optical illusion at Magnetic Hill close to the highway itself before reaching Leh.

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13 responses to “Srinagar – Leh Highway, in Pictures”

  1. Asha Seth Avatar

    I wish to travel to Leh some day.

    1. shubhammansingka Avatar

      Best of luck! Hope your wish comes true this year 🙂

  2. Veena Avatar

    Nice pictures and post I will soon plan to travel Leh.

    1. shubhammansingka Avatar

      Thanks and best wishes 🙂

  3. Niranjan Avatar

    Lovely frames!

    1. shubhammansingka Avatar

      Thanks brother. Apologies for the delayed reply. Just didn’t notice the comments on this post.

  4. blueskydreamers Avatar

    Gorgeous! Beautifully captured. Love the black and white one.

    1. shubhammansingka Avatar

      Thanks so much for the kind appreciation!!

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