Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Leh Road Trip - Kargil, Lamayuru, Leh

From Srinagar, we hired a cab till Leh. Can't really recall how much did he charge, but it was a nominal amount. The distance to be covered was more than 400 kms, and considering the terrain, taking it nice and slow was the sensible thing to do.

The scenery changes dramatically as you move from Srinagar towards Leh. The rich shades of green on the mountains speckled with ice get replaced with rocks and sand. Till you reach Kargil, the greenery follows you. I managed to lose all pics of the drive till Kargil because of a virus mishap, but the view is definitely eye-catching! Right after crossing Drass, we reached the Kargil war memorial. The place has a backdrop of jagged rocky snow covered peaks. The view is beautiful, till you get reminded that those were the peaks that our soldiers climbed. In the dead of night at sub-zero temperatures. With hostile fire from top. And nowhere to run for cover. It was a very sunny day and still, there were goose-bumps on my skin. The music of 'Ae mere watan ke logo' drifted in. And in that one moment, I think we stood taller with patriotism and bowed down with humility. There is a massive tricolour hosted right in the middle of the memorial. None of us talked. Stood in silence, looked up, looked around. Respect. Period.

A plate of maggi later, we moved on to Kargil. It was early evening by the time we reached and after a fair bit of contemplation about whether we should move forward to Lamayuru for the night stay, we settled for Kargil. Its a very small town with absolutely nothing to do. We stayed at D'zojila; perfect for a night halt. Rooms were basic and comfortable. No need to prebook. We walked in and got a place. Moderately priced; not a lot of scope for haggling. They have a restaurant where the food is pretty decent. They serve set meals; served hot for 300 bucks as far as I remember. Not much to write about here.

Early morning next day, we started the second leg of the journey for Leh. Just in case you intend to travel to Leh, be prepared for a lot of gut-wrenching road travel. Motion sickness and altitude sickness are very common. Come with loads of medicines, in case spinning in circles in a car makes you woozy. :) After Kargil, the rocky mountains start making an appearance in a very grand fashion. Every time you look back, you'll see snake like roads mapped on brown mountains. The drivers in that part of the country drive with a nonchalance that can make you really uneasy. But you get used to it eventually. 
Landscape as you enter Ladakh
If you like clicking even half as much as I do, you'll go in a frenzy by the time you start entering Ladakh. I just wanted to stop everywhere! Knowing very well, that many of the shots might look just the same. But with a view like that, obsession is inevitable. We stopped at Fotula top; the highest point on the Leh Srinagar highway. Breathed in fresh unadulterated air, stretched and sat here and there pointlessly. We met this Bengali couple who had driven down in their own car (no mean feat) with a dog (named Coco) and a couple of rabbits! I'll give my clan some credit for this! Wanderlust is an extra gene they are born with! :) 

Fotula Top

This lady was actually posing
for the Shutterbugs!

Coco :)
Next stop was Lamayuru Gompa (monastery); one of the oldest and largest monasteries in Ladakh, around 85 kms from Kargil. Its a magnificent view even from a distance. If you have a few days to spare, I'd suggest stay here. There is a guest house right next to the monastery called Niranjana I think. Cheap rooms with a view! Just walk in to get a room. There is a sense of peace in this place. We stayed for a little over an hour there. Went around the monastery in a clockwise direction (Parikrama) spinning the prayer wheels. 
A tilt-shift pic of Lamayuru from a distance
Inside Lamayuru

The new generation of monks :)
Lamayuru to Leh was another 75 kms. Just when you start getting used to the mountains and topsy-turvy drive, you hit this amazingly flat stretch of road right after Alchi, flanked by mountains at the far end. We just had to stop! The guys raced. Some of us danced. Some posed. I clicked. Almost looked like someone had photoshop-ed it  in here! Leh is full of such unexpected scenery. A desert where you least expect it. An azure blue lake when you're driving through a green slope. This place can really leave you in awe. 
The road after Alchi
The dancing

And the posing

And the running!
A couple of more hours and we reached Leh. We were picked up by the very dependable Panchok bhaiya - an ex-army guy; our guide and lifeline in Leh. Checked in to this small guest house and headed out for some much needed food. We hit Gesmo German Bakery like it was the last place on the planet which could serve food! Whatever was in sight was ordered and ravished. Yeah, we can be a little scary when hungry. :) Went to the Old Palace in the evening and saw the last rays of the sun move away from the small town.
Old Palace, Leh

View of Leh from the Old Palace
Three days were almost over and every time when we thought it couldn't get prettier than this, it did! Next day, Khardung La and Nubra Valley were on the cards.


  1. Lovely write-up and keep a note of all details or ur memory is that sharp..

    1. I keep notes most trips. But this trip, I couldn't. The details are due to the number of photos I had clicked! :P

  2. Excellent narration of your experience.

  3. Dear Suravi,

    You have such an amazing, memorable trip and lovely pictures too. Why don't you enlarge the pictures so that every reader can see those pictures much clearer and let them enjoy your blog to the max. Seriously, I love your Srinagr-Leh posts.

    Elanie (Malaysia)

    1. Hey Elanie!

      Thank you for reading my posts :) When you click on the pics, they do open in a larger format. Lemme know if that doesn't work. Leh is a beautiful place. You must go there sometime. :)

      Take care :)

  4. Hi Suravi,

    Below is our Ladakh itenary from Aug 9-19, 2013 for us 7 male friends. Please check it out and tell me if its feasible & does not cause AMS.

    9th Aug- Chennai/Kolkata-Srinagar
    10th Aug- Srinagar. Places to visit(if any) from Srinagar can be decided later on.

    11th Aug- Srinagar – Kargil
    12th Aug- Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh

    13th Aug- Leh Local Sightseeing(Around the city) + Inner Line Permits
    14th Aug- Leh – Khardung La – Diskit (Nubra Valley) – Hunder – Diskit

    15th Aug- Nubra valley return along with few sightseeing spots like Magnetic Hill & if possible remaining LEH travel Spots etc. Also, CAMEL RIDES for sure.

    16th Aug- Leh to Tso-Moriri ( 7 hours max), stay at Tso-moriri, explore.
    17th Aug- Tso-moriri – Pangong Lake. Stay at pangong.

    18th Aug- Pangong Tso – Thicksey – Shey Palace – Leh.
    19th Aug- Leh-Jammu-Kolkata/Chennai/Bangalore.

    1. 10th Aug - Stay in Sonmarg. Prettier than Srinagar and on the way to Leh.

      Tsomoriri pangong would be a long haul. Check with your driver how long will that take.

      Rest sounds good! :)

  5. You've earned yourself a fan in the way you write :) Exactly what I've been looking for all over the internet - a detailed account of Kargil - Leh via Lamayuru! Glad you had an amazing time, hope to have one myself ;)

    1. Thanks Saurabh! Glad it helped! :) Hope you have a super trip :)

    2. Thanks! By the way, what time exactly did you start from Kargil to be able to do further sightseeing in Leh on the same day? :O Also, are Zanskar Confluence and the magnetic hill on the way to Leh?

      Thank youu xx

    3. From Kargil, we left really early in the morning (6ish) for Leh. Stopped at Lamayuru for an hour or so. Actually, we stopped at quite a few places. :) Reached Leh by evening, in time to go to Old Palace for sunset. Yeah both will be on the way.

  6. hi!! ur blog is fabulous, and so helpful esp as iam planning on going to leh this june. Everything sounds wonderful , i have a fixed itenary, with arrival at leh o/n then to alch overnite back to leh then nubra overnite back to leh then panagong overnite...i got to kno of tso moriri now and i really want to add in this itenary, days of travel are fixed as we are flying in and out, can u suggest if its geographically close to any of the above mentioned sites we are alredy visiting??
    also both my daughters and i are car sick so how tough is going to be for us.
    awaiting ur reply!!!

    1. Hi Nalini, thanks a ton :) You would need atleast one overnight to cover Tsomoriri.It is kind of far. Very very difficult to go there and be back in the same day. Also, not on the route for any of the places you mentioned. I would skip Alchi overnight and do Tsomoriri. Totally worth it. :)

  7. Ladakh is a blessed with unique natural beauty. Its worth to visit the Ladakh at least once.

  8. Wow..It seems like you had a wonderful time on your trip from Srinagar to Leh. Known as the Venice of East, Srinagar is a perfect place for vacations. Check out these cheap hotels in Srinagar for budget accommodation in the city.

  9. I have been to srinagar and ladakh in august 2014. Want to go again to Ladakh in january 2016. Will the road from leh to kargil and inside ladakh region be open?

  10. Hey, nice write up.. enjoyed seeing the pic though could not read the blog fully...
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  11. Good Post. Thank you for sharing valuable information with nice images. I would also like to share something about hotels. Find out list of best Hotel in Kargil with world class amenities.

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  13. This is just amazing dude! very inspiring!!! Good job Leh Ladakh Tour Packages

  14. India is beautiful country and there are lots of amazing places are available one of the famous Place is Amazing Ladakh . It is so beautiful and attractive place of India.