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   Reach Ladakh > Travel from Srinagar to Leh
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Travel from Srinagar to Leh by Road

Travelling into Ladakh by road is exciting and of adventures nature. It takes two days from Srinagar to Leh (434 km) with a mid way halt at Kargil, which gives the visitor a marvelous introduction to this spectacular destination, while easing the acclimatization process to the high altitude low-oxygen atmosphere of Ladakh. The road from Srinagar passes through picturesque villages on the banks of the Sindh river. Leaving the green Sindh Valley at Sonmarg, the first pass to be crossed is Zoji La – at a height of 11,578 feet. Zoji-la pass in the Great Himalayan wall is the gateway into Ladakh. On the other side of Sindh Valley is Dras Valley which is arid.

Shrinagar - Leh Highway

Shrinagar - Leh Highway

Drass is the first village after having crossed the pass. Drass is said to be the second coldest habitation in the world after Siberia. Local people are of Dard origin and believed to be an Aryan people who migrated from the Central Asian steppes. Below Tashgram starts the granite country. Mountains rise on both sides to serrated ridges of 17,000 to 18,0000 feet. After Drass, the valley narrows, becoming almost a gorge. Yet even here it occasionally allows space for small patches of terraced cultivation, where a tiny village population feels a precarious existence. This is indeed a mountain desert, greened only by such scattered oases. Further the road brings us to the little trading town of Kargil. The population is less than 3,000 people. Kargil is situated in Suru Valley where the Suru river flows and meets the Indus at a place called Marul. There are a few villages in this valley at a height of 9000 feet. That explains why it has an abundance of fruit trees, mainly mulberry and apricot. Willows and poplars grow along the water courses. Kargil is midway point of the road journey to Leh. Kargil is the base to visit the spectacular Suru and Zanskar valleys and for a variety of adventure activities in the region.

After crossing the Suru, the road goes through a sandy plateau followed by another narrow valley. The road also plunges into the ridges and valley of the Zanskar range over a huge mound of alluvium, now made fertile by a huge irrigation scheme. You then reach Mulbekh village, around 40 km ahead of Kargil. The famous monastery of Mulbekh is famous for its immense figure of Maitreya (the future Buddha). The road further climbs its adventures and breathless

Drass Valley, Ladakh

way to Namika-la pass (12,200 feet or 3719 m) and Fotu-la pass (13,479 feet or 4094 m), giving you a real feeling, being really at the top of the world.  It sweeps past the amazing Lamayuru monastery situated spectacularly over a mountainside down the incredible Langroo Loops to meet the River Indus at Khalatse-a descent of 4000 feet or 1219 m in about 32 km. Lamayuru is the Ladakh’s oldest monastery – looming like a Hollywood movie backdrop of Shangri-La. Lamayuru is venerated. It is believed that one of the great Tibetan teachers, Norapa, meditated here for several years. Like all Ladakh monasteries, it is also a complex of buildings with shrines dedicated to different gods and incarnations of Lord Buddha. The Indus valley from Khalatse up to Upshi, where the road from Manali comes in, is Ladakh's historical heartland. From Khalse, the road follows the Indus and is more or less level. A panoramic view of the amazing russets, yellows and grey of the Ladakh range unfold as the road follows the river, passing villages with their terraced fields and neat whitewashed houses, the roofs piled high with fodder laid in against the coming winter. On the way you will also come across the village Rizdong which is around 55 kms away. Rizdong has a monastery and as well as a nunnery. The male lamas are residing in the Monastery and females are residing in the nunnery.


After passing the caves at Saspol one reaches at Alchi which has a large temple complex and is considered as one of the most important Buddhist centres in Ladakh and is an excellent example of perfect monastic skill. There are five shrines in the Choskor complex which was constructed in the 11th century. Alchi has splendid wall paintings. The plains of Alchi village and near by area are very fertile and provides good and relatively extensive agricultural land.

Kargil Town, Ladakh

The next monastery is located at Likir (12 km) and then you reach at the fortress of Basgo (10 km) which contains the ruins of a Buddhist citadel impressively sited on a spur overlooking the Indus Valley. It served as a royal residence for several periods between the 15th and 17th century. There are two Buddhist temples, numerous Chortens and Mani walls beyond the village. The Maitreya temple of 16th century was constructed by the Namgyal rulers. There is a large sculptures of Maitreya at the rear of the hall. The Serzang Temple (God and Copper) of 17th century is the other temple that contains murals depicting the Buddha though these have suffered much from water damage.


From here the road rises to another bare plateau that gives you the first glimpse of Leh, still 30 km away. You then pass Phyang with its 16th century Gompa that houses hundreds of statues on wooden shelves, and finally to Spituk (29 km). The Buddhist monastery here was founded in the 11th century but the buildings here are later. It is constructed in a series of tiers with courtyards and steps. The long Dukhang hall (16th – 17th century) is the largest building and has two rows of seats running the length of the walls to a throne at the far end. Sculptures and miniature chortens are displayed on the altar. The Mahakal Temple of 16th to 17th century contains a shrine of Vajrabhairva which is often mistaken for the Hindu goddess Kali. Her terrifying face is only unveiled once a year in the month of January. A collection of ancient masks can also be observed in this chamber. On the further drive, the Gompas and forts can be glimpsed in the distance. And at the Spituk Monastery the visitor gets a first dramatic glimpse of Leh.

The final approach to Leh can be disappointing after such a spectacular ride. Amidst stark mountains, the Indus valley widens and before entering the city you go through a vast expanse of army huts. Then you see Leh, all the buildings piled up on one another and dominated by the bulk of its imposing 17th century palace.


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