When it comes to Ladakh and in particular road trips, Manali – Leh Highway generally becomes priority for most travelers, with Srinagar – Leh Highway simply being a way to avoid covering the same route twice or a means to acclimatize gradually to high altitude of Ladakh.
While it is true that Manali – Leh Highway is quite scenic and thanks to high altitude and bad roads, challenging as well. Srinagar – Leh Highway has its own charm, which I feel, at times, surpasses that of Manali – Leh Highway.
For starters, you get to enjoy shikara ride in the beautiful Dal Lake of Srinagar, which has its own charm and serenity, especially if done in the morning.
Then the drive/ride itself from Srinagar to Sonamarg through Kashmir Valley is breathtaking to say the least, irrespective of the season you travel in.
Then as you make your way through the beautiful Kashmir Valley to Sonamarg and beyond, and start your climb to the Zoji La, landscape begins to change drastically and suddenly the smooth roads gives way to deep gorges and a dirt track, which has the potential of becoming treacherous in rain.
Beyond Zoji La, a scenic drive to Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in the world and stage for 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan, is exhilarating and a preview of what is in store for you ahead. Of course visiting a place like Drass is sure to invoke memory of 1999 Kargil War, a memorial dedicated to it is located 5km ahead of Drass, on the Srinagar – Leh Highway.
Beyond Drass, smooth wide roads and fantastic scenery keeps you company till Lamayuru Monastery, which is nestled in a beautiful and colorful valley, in stark contrast to the deep blue sky of Ladakh.
Beyond Lamayuru Monastery, such beautiful scenery is what you will find on almost every nook and corner of the magnificent highway, till you reach the outskirts of Leh.
En route to Leh, you also have the choice of detouring to the wonderful monasteries of Likir, Alchi and Basgo and pay your homage at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib (along the highway) and witness the wonder of Magnetic Hills and the beauty of Indus and Zanskar Confluence. And if that isn’t reason enough for you, then have a look at the race track at your disposal!
BRO is also working to make Srinagar – Leh Highway a proper 4 lane highway, which ought to make traveling on the beautiful road, even more fun. However, at the end of the day, it is the unparalleled beauty and sheer diversity of Srinagar – Leh Highway, which makes it oh so wonderful and well worth the effort.