Srinagar – Leh Road Trip
Srinagar or the city of Sri (God/Goddess) is the capital of India’s northern most state of Jammu & Kashmir, while Ladakh lies on the eastern side of this state. The word, Ladakh, in Tibetan means the Land of High Passes, where ‘La’ refers to any mountain pass. Its history dates back before the times of Herodotus, Alexander, Megasthenes and Pliny the Elder, each having mentioned the land in their writings. The city of Leh, which is also the largest settlement in Ladakh, lies is the erstwhile Silk Route of Asia. However, present day Leh depends largely on tourism.
Srinagar to Leh by Road
Srinagar is the capital city of the whole of Jammu & Kashmir state. It is connected by road and by air from New Delhi. Taking the air route would be most convenient if you are planning to go straight to Srinagar without touching the southern city of Jammu. Srinagar is a beautiful city surrounded by high mountains, and spotted with lakes. The famous Dal Lake is the heart of the city with many houseboats to spend the nights in.
If you are staying near the Boulevard Road, you are close to most tourist agencies, offering car rental services to Leh or any other surrounding places. In fact, most hotels both on land and lake will help you out in arranging an SUV with a driver to take you to Leh, which is approximately 425km north-east of Srinagar.
The pricing depends on the flow of tourists during that time of the year. Off-seasonal price will obviously be less. Ideally, booking a one way journey should cost you about 10,000 – 12,000 Indian Rupees.
You can also take the Government run bus, which is much cheaper. But these buses take 2 days to reach Leh with an overnight stopover at the Kargil Town. Most tourists prefer this way of enjoying the trip as it is much cheaper and relaxing. A Government run bus will charge you Rs. 800, while a privately run bus should charge anything between Rs. 1000 – Rs.1500
The Single Day Road Trip
To reach Leh within a single day by road, the only possible option available is by private Taxis. The entire trip is so sublime and breathtakingly beautiful that at the end of the trip you will fall in love with this harsh land. It is an amazing feeling seeing the landscape around you changing with every passing mile. From lush green and teeming with life, the landscape gradually changes to less green and rocky until it reaches a point when the surrounding is completely barren yellow with not a single life visible for miles! The high edgy mountains give way to older rounded hills of rock and sand, the streams almost vanishes to complete barrenness and the coniferous trees disappear to expose the underlying geology of the hills. The chill of the wind, the blue sky, and sometimes the meandering Indus are your constant companion throughout the trip. This trip is surely a trip to paradise.
MUST: Before visiting Ladakh, my advice to anyone young or old would be to get a medical check-up done from a trusted physician.
Attention: The single day road journey from Srinagar to Leh is way too adventurous and highly tiring at the same time. If you are not an experienced traveller, under 10 and above 50 years of age, suffer from mountain sickness then may be the single day trip isn’t for you.
When planning a heavenly journey like this, laziness has to be sacrificed. Whether you are going by your private taxi or by government bus, the drivers in both cases will make sure to pull you out of the bed before 4 am. The journey should ideally start by 4:30 am when it is still pitch dark outside. If you are staying at a houseboat, your journey will start by a short ride in a ‘Shikara’ (a locally made wooden boat). The ‘Shikara’ will take you to the nearest shore where your travel agency will probably keep the car waiting for you. The sound of water against the boat paddle, the sleeping city and the chilling wind gives you a sense of tranquillity so pure that the soul make merry and your heart stop beating. Once inside your car, there’s no stopping for the next 3 hours. As you leave Srinagar city look for the Hazratbal Shrine illuminated in green, on your left.
A Small Advice
It will be wise for you to note down the car registration number and send an SMS to a close friend or relative because peril knows no time.
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