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Kashmir & Ladakh Self-Drive Basics
A self-drive trip to Kashmir and Ladakh is a great way to explore the stunning landscapes and culture of these regions.
Before we get started with the itinerary and places that should be in your list of must visits, here are a few tips that you should consider and ensure you prepare for.
To start with, when we talk about self-drive, please keep in mind that rental self-drive cars are still not welcome in the region and a would strongly recommend you to consider a local taxi or drive in your own car from your base location.
Do not go with the time specified by Google while planning your trip as you will be driving the treacherous routes and you need to plan for more additional time to reach from one location to another and not to forget stop en-route for appreciating the beauty the route has on offer.
Carry enough supplies, spares while you plan the trip in addition to snacks, fuel storage, electricals for the car. Avoid driving at night and ensure you have experience driving in Himalayan regions before planning to more off-beat places.
Plan to get your permits before you start off from Srinagar or ensure you have point of contacts in all the locations who can guide you to get the permits in advance.
Coming to when to plan your trip, May to September is when the weather is ideal and roads are open for you to plan your trip but do be prepared to encounter heavy tourist influx who would be planning around the same time to visit.Self-Drive Tips
Planning your trip and Itinerary to Kashmir and Ladakh
Below is an itinerary you can consider while planning a roadtrip in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, covering, Srinagar, Sonmarg, Kargil, Leh, Pangong Tso, Hunder, Tso Moriri, Manali. This is just a suggestion and you can modify it according to your preferences and availability.
Day 1: Delhi to Patnitop/Udhampur (850 km / 16 hours)
• Start early from Delhi and drive towards Patnitop, a small hill station in Jammu and Kashmir
• The drive will be long and tiring through busy towns and cities. You may consider breaking it if you don’t enjoy long drives
• Stay overnight at Patnitop
Day 2: Udhampur/Patnitop to Srinagar (185 km / 5 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Srinagar, the capital of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir
• Enjoy the scenic views of the Pir Panjal range and the Chenab river along the way
• Reach Srinagar by afternoon and check into a houseboat on Dal Lake or a hotel near the lake
• Spend the evening exploring the lake on a shikara (boat) ride or visiting the famous Mughal gardens
• Stay overnight at Srinagar
Day 3: Srinagar to Sonmarg (80 km / 2 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Sonmarg, a picturesque hill station known as the “Meadow of Gold”
• Enjoy the views of snow-capped mountains, green meadows, and alpine forests along the way
• Reach Sonmarg by noon and check into a hotel or a camp
• Spend the afternoon trekking to Thajiwas Glacier or visiting nearby attractions like Nilagrad River or Vishansar Lake
• Stay overnight at Sonmarg
Day 4: Sonmarg to Kargil (125 km / 4 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Kargil, a town on the banks of the Suru river and an important stopover on the way to Leh
• Cross the Zoji La pass (3528 m), one of the highest mountain passes in India and enjoy the views of Drass valley and Kargil war memorial along the way
• Reach Kargil by afternoon and check into a hotel or a guest house
• Spend the evening visiting local attractions like Munshi Aziz Bhat Museum or Suru Valley
• Stay overnight at Kargil
Day 5: Kargil to Leh (220 km / 6 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Leh, the capital of Ladakh and a hub for adventure seekers.
• Enjoy the views of Lamayuru monastery, Moonland hills, Sangam point (confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers), Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, and Hall of Fame along the way
• Reach Leh by evening and check into a hotel or a guest house
• Spend the evening acclimatizing to the high altitude and resting
• Stay overnight at Leh
Day 6: Leh local sightseeing
• After breakfast, explore Leh city and its surroundings
• Visit some of the famous monasteries like Shey Palace Monastery
Day 7: Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La (160 km / 5 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Nubra Valley, a high altitude cold desert known for its sand dunes, camels, and monasteries
• Cross the Khardung La pass (5359 m), the highest motorable road in the world and enjoy the views of Karakoram range and Shyok river along the way
• Reach Nubra Valley by afternoon and check into a hotel or a camp
• Spend the afternoon visiting Diskit monastery, Hunder sand dunes, and riding double-humped Bactrian camels.
• Stay overnight at Nubra Valley
Day 8: Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso via Shyok (170 km / 6 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Pangong Tso, a stunning lake that changes colors from blue to green to grey and is shared by India and China.
• Take the route via Shyok village, a scenic and adventurous drive along the Shyok river.
• Reach Pangong Tso by evening and check into a camp near the lake.
• Spend the evening admiring the beauty of the lake and watching the sunset.
• Stay overnight at Pangong Tso
Day 9: Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri via Chushul (235 km / 8 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Tso Moriri, another beautiful lake in Ladakh that is surrounded by mountains and wildlife.
• Take the route via Chushul, a remote village near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. You will need special permits to take this route.
• Enjoy the views of Rezang La memorial, Tsaga La pass, Loma bend, Kiagar Tso lake, and Puga hot springs along the way.
• Reach Tso Moriri by evening and check into a camp near the lake.
• Spend the evening relaxing and watching the stars.
• Stay overnight at Tso Moriri
Day 10: Tso Moriri to Sarchu via Tso Kar (220 km / 7 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Sarchu, a high altitude camping site on the border of Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh
• Visit Tso Kar lake, a saltwater lake that attracts many migratory birds and wildlife along the way
• Cross the Taglang La pass (5328 m), the second highest motorable road in India and enjoy the views of More Plains, a vast stretch of flat land amid mountains
• Reach Sarchu by evening and check into a camp or a tent
• Spend the evening acclimatizing to the cold and windy conditions
• Stay overnight at Sarchu
Day 11: Sarchu to Manali via Baralacha La (230 km / 8 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Manali, a popular hill station in Himachal Pradesh known for its natural beauty and adventure activities
• Cross the Baralacha La pass (4890 m), a high mountain pass that connects Lahaul with Ladakh and enjoy the views of Suraj Tal lake and Zanskar range along the way
• Drive through the Gata Loops, a series of 21 hairpin bends that descend from Nakee La pass (4739 m) to Sarchu
• Reach Manali by evening and check into a hotel or a guest house
• Spend the evening exploring Manali town or relaxing at your hotel
• Stay overnight at Manali
Day 12: Manali local sightseeing
Leave out this day for sight-seeing in Manali and exploring various local attractions (details of which I will post in my next blogpost and link here).
Day 13: Manali to Chandigarh (310 km / 8 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Chandigarh, a modern city and the capital of Punjab and Haryana states
• Enjoy the views of Beas river, Kullu valley, Mandi town, and Bilaspur lake along the way
• Reach Chandigarh by evening and check into a hotel or a guest house
• Spend the evening visiting local attractions like Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Rose Garden, or Sector 17 market
• Stay overnight at Chandigarh
Day 14: Chandigarh to Delhi (250 km / 5 hours)
• After breakfast, drive to Delhi, the capital of India and a city of contrasts
• Reach Delhi by afternoon and check into a hotel or a guest house
• Spend the evening exploring Delhi’s historical monuments, cultural heritage, shopping malls, or street food
• Stay overnight at Delhi
Day 15: Departure from Delhi
• After breakfast, check out from your hotel or guest house and drive to the airport or railway station for your onward journey
• Your self-drive trip to Kashmir and Ladakh ends here with unforgettable memories
Resources to Plan
DevilonWheels: Dheeraj is the one man stop to get answers to all of your roadtrips to J&K and Ladakh regions and here are his detailed vlogs to share tips and information in addition to the pointers in my blogpost.
Leh District Permit: Click Here
Roadtrip from Hyderabad
Since purchasing my Renault Duster, I have always been planning to drive down to Kashmir from Hyderabad in the Dusty.
For that reason, I have prepared an itinerary / pit-stops for this road-trip which i am outlining below and think it would come handy if you are planning a similar trip from down south.
While Day 1 would be from Delhi to start, our Day-3 would be from Hyderabad, the plan I list below would be handy for people who are not comfortable driving long hours at a stretch.
Day(-3) Hyderabad – Nagpur (489 kms / 9 hours)
The national highway from Hyderabad to Nagpur is a good 4 lane passing through Nizamabad – Adilabad stretch and very easy to cruise on after you cross the outskirts of the city.
You can have a pitstop in the outskirts of Nagpur so you can avoid the local traffic inside the city.
Places to consider to book your stay: Le Meredian, Nagpur (or) The Empress Palace very close to the ring road (Mumbai-Kolkata highway)
Day(-2) Nagpur – Agra (866 kms / 16 hours)
This route takes you from Nagpur to Agra via Sagar, Jhansi and Gwalior and to reach Agra in around 16 hours. Agra being the prime tourist destination, book at a property closer to the Taj Mahal.
Day(-1) Agra to Udhampur/Patnitop, Jammu & Kashmir (848 kms / 16 hours)
Agra to Udhampur would be doable as we would be skipping the Delhi traffic and after getting down the Yamuna Expressway, we would be getting onto the Eastern Peripheral expressway.
We would get down near Badh Khalsa and get to the highway leading to Panipat and towards Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Pathankot to finally reach Udhampur.
If you would like to head to Patnitop instead of Udhampur, you can select Hotel Natraj International which has great reviews in the region.
Where to Stay:
Some recommendations on the hotels you can explore to book for your stay in Kashmir and Ladakh regions are as below:
• For Srinagar, you can check out New Bul Bul Group of Houseboats or Hotel Centre Point.
• For Sonmarg, you can check out Hotel Snow Land or Hotel Glacier Heights.
• For Kargil, you can check out Hotel The Kargil or Zojila Residency.
• For Leh, you can check out Hotel Ladakh Greens or The Grand Dragon Ladakh or The Bodhi Tree or The Chospa hotel
• For Nubra Valley, you can check out Nubra Ecolodge or Organic Retreat Camps.
• For Pangong Tso, you can check out Pangong Sarai Camps or Wonderland Camps.
• For Tso Moriri, you can check out Nomadic Life Camps or Lake View Cottages.
• For Sarchu, you can check out Goldrop Camps or Antrek Camps.
• For Manali, you can check out Johnson Lodge or The Himalayan Resort and Spa.
• For Chandigarh, you can check out Hyatt Regency Chandigarh or Lemon Tree Hotel Chandigarh.
This is an itinerary that I am looking to use during my next roadtrip to the land of lamas and high passes.
Do share your feedback on how the itinerary / road trip details look and any thoughts on improving information in the future posts.
Until my next blog post, this is Srikanth signing off and do connect on any of my social media accounts (Twitter / Instagram / YouTube).