Ladakh Travel Guide
A travel handbook claims, The
journey from Srinagar to Leh must be one of the most fascinating road
journeys in the world... The author is certainly not far off the
track, and those who have experienced this trek, can attest to the
fact that there is no substitute to this spectacular travel journey on
the high roads.
If you ignore the threats of militant attacks, you can drive safely
from Srinagar to Sonmarg, en route to Leh. The 80kms stretch of
land-3000mts above sea-level-is blessed with exquisite beauty and
gracious people, allowing everyone to perceive its irresistible
attraction.It is no wonder, natures extravagance can be seen
touching the skies.
¤ Starting Point of The Journey
The take-off point is Srinagar-a name that sets most peoples
imaginations racing - and one progresses by criss-crossing the Pari
Mahal, Dal Lake, Chashma Shahi and the deep green rice fields amidst
the fragrance of a million flowers.
¤ Ladhak Enjoys Its Pristine Beauty Since The Rule OF Mughal
Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, considered this area to be his private
garden where the roses alone brought in an annual revenue of Rs.
Emperor Jehangir travelled miles to enjoy the beauty spots
recommended to him. He was always accompanied by Ustad Mansur, the
artist. A hard time for poor Mansur but he is said to have prepared
sketches of no less than a hundred different flowers. The wise Mughal
counseled visitors not to cling to the town of Srinagar and its
environs. He wrote, One should stay some days in these regions
and go around them so as to enjoy one self thoroughly.
¤ Main Attractions
Sonmarg - The Path of Gold
Some 80 km of driving from Srinagar, all tourists en route to Leh
stop to brace themselves in the fresh mountain air of the undulating
grassy plain of Sonmarg (the path of gold), a landscape of epic
proportions, and one too elemental to be spoiled even by the bus-loads
of people trudging single file over the greens.
In the pleasing cool climate one can enjoy the massive patchwork of
colours from that of the searing saffron to willow tendrils of pale
green, fir and birch.
Sonmarg is the last major town in Kashmir, an ideal place to travel
and set up a base camp to explore the numerous high altitude lakes
like Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Rehmansar, and others. Even
in the meadows of Sonmarg, one can enjoy the small springs and
A Drive From Sonmarg To Drass
Driving from Sonmarg to Drass (the next point of interest) tests the
mettle of the driver as well as the vehicle as the dizzy heights can
often induce a mysterious thrill as the vehicle meanders through the
25km Zogilla pass (3539 meters). It is the first among three passes,
marking the boundary between colourful Kashmir and the mountains of
Zogilla is historically of great interest too. A tank was used
for the first time at such a great height here, during a major battle
in 1948. From Zogilla, the road glides to Minamarg meadow, resplendent
with Alpine flora and from there on to the first village - Drass. It
is possibly the coldest place after Siberia, where the temperature
plunges as low as -50 degrees centigrade and snow can accumulate up to
10 feet high.
However, there is no need to be concerned about the vagaries of
nature here; the sun is there to shine in all its glory, and the
blazing sunlight does make things quite pleasant if not glorious.
Drass is inhabited by Muslims, belonging to the Dard community. The
village remains sleepy, cold and immobilized for a quarter of the year
during winter. But once barely cultivation starts things change
The tourist potential of the place is gradually being tapped and
people are setting up small shops and hotels during the tourist
season.Surprisingly, houses here are flat-roofed and not sloped as is
the case with other hilly regions experiencing snowfall.
The Drass mosque is an unusual one, crafted with metallic domes that
glitter in the sun. Four ancient idols on the high way, close to RDAs,
have puzzled inhabitants and tourists alike. These life-sized statues
can hardly be identified, as they have weathered with time, standing
as silent sentinels to witness the passage and progress of mankind
Travel along the Drass River, one passes Kharbu and finally reaches
Khargil on the banks of river, Suru. The road bears silent testimony
to human efforts to cut deep-water channels into the granite slopes,
creating terraces of nurtured soil and planning fields for plantation
Khargil -- A Significent Terminal of Srinagar-Leh Highway
Tourists prefer this place for night halts as there are
numerous hotels and for those interested in mountaineering,
expeditions to Nun and Kun can be arranged. This serves as an
ideal base camp. Khargil is pre dominantly a Muslim settlement
with cobbled streets and narrow lanes. There are two interesting
mosques exhibiting Turkish influences. Khargil gives way to Wakha Rong
Valley after crossing the Suru and the adjacent tableland.
Mulbek - Attractions of Lime Stone Masses
An hours drive through Wakha brings us to a landscape
characterized by lime stone masses - Mulbek. This is the first
Buddhist area. On the roadside, one encounters the imposing
rock-cut statue of the meditative Buddha with four arms, or the
Maitreya (the future Buddha), belonging to the 8th century.
Not far from this spot is the Mulbek Gumpha which presents a
spectacular view on the very pinnacle of a crag, 200 meters above the
From Mulbek, the road leaves the Wakha valley and crosses the Namika
La (a pass of 3,700 meters).
Fotu La Pass
After tracing a brief zigzag path down the mountain, one encounters
another pass among the landscape. This is Fotu La, the highest among
the three passes at a height of 4093 meters. From this pass the
road meanders down to Lamayaru, the oldest site of Ladakh, offering a
majestic view of its rock formations and high mountains.
Khalsi - The Heart of Ladakh
The road once again contours steeply, encountering numerous bends
and curves. One finally reaches Khalsi, the heart of Ladakh where
huge prayer flags flutter in the air. Not far from Khalsi is
Alchi, noted for its splendid wall paintings and iconography that
reflects the Tantric tenets that crept into Buddhism later. Alchi
leads the way to Likhir and finally to the village of Nimu, where one
can monitor the river Indus and its tributary - the Zanskar river.
After climbing another plateau, one gets the first view of Leh,
still 30km off. The last stopover may be Spituk on the banks of
Indus. Spituk offers a monastery constructed in a series of tiers with
courtyards and steps. The Spituk complex includes the Mahakel temple,
containing the images of Vajrabhairava, resembling the Goddess
Kali that is unveiled once a year.
More and more military vehicles and depots are to be seen here these
days. Since the inflow of tourists is minimal, Ladakhis are seen
more often in their capital, Leh, the crucible of Ladakh.
However, it will not be long before the business of tourism takes
over this tiny community. Until then, heres nothing to prevent
you from travelling and enjoying the unspoilt beauty of Ladakh region.