Continuing from the previous article explaining how traveling to Ladakh from Srinagar can be better rather than starting your journey from Manali, this article covers a sample Srinagar to Ladakh Itinerary that you can follow. For places like Ladakh, I believe it is very important that you have your travel plan prepared well in advance. You must know where you are traveling to on which day, what your choices of accommodation are and what all places should you be visiting. This will avoid any last minute hassles and you will be able to enjoy your journey in a much better way. Drafted below is an example of a Srinagar to Ladakh itinerary for anyone who is planning their first visit to Ladakh, starting from Srinagar and returning via Manali (or Srinagar too for that matter).
There are a few things however that I should mention before going any further in the article.
- This itinerary is more of a common itinerary that gets followed.
- The way I have planned this itinerary is to ensure that you do not either travel too much or too less on any particular day.
- Another factor that I have considered in here is that the itinerary covers all major tourist places that are worth visiting.
- This is a travel plan that you can follow irrespective of whether you are travelling with family, friends or solo.
You cannot of course follow this itinerary to the point because your final travel plan will depend on a lot of factors like how you are traveling, for how many days, what your budget is etc but it should give you a fair idea of how you can plan your journey, where can you stay for the night and what all places you should cover. This itinerary assumes that you are traveling in either your own vehicle or a private cab that you have hired. If you are however planning to travel via public transport, then several other things will also have to be considered in as well. If such is the case, then drop me a note in the comments section below and I can suggest changes or help draft an itinerary as per your need.
Another important factor that I must mention beforehand is regarding cabs, either self-drive or with driver. If the taxi is non-local meaning that it was hired outside of Leh (including Srinagar and Manali as well) then it is only good enough to bring you to Leh but not for visiting some of the tourist places like Nubra valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. You must reach Leh in your non-local cab, leave it parked at the hotel and hire another cab from Leh for local sightseeing. If you are driving a private vehicle not registered in your name, then you must carry a document that proves your relation with vehicle owner. To be on safer side, only bring a vehicle that is either in your name, or your parents, or one of your siblings. For more details on this, please read the article at the link below.
Following Srinagar to Ladakh itinerary is a 2 weeks plan which in my opinion is recommended time frame to cover all of Ladakh. Depending on how many days you have available, you can add or remove days from this travel plan. I will start the itinerary from Srinagar and end at Srinagar/Manali so any time spent in getting there from your home will be in addition to it.
Srinagar to Ladakh itinerary
Day 1: Srinagar to Kargil
Total distance between Srinagar and Kargil is approximately 210 kms. This will be about 8-10 hours journey depending on your speed and breaks you take. Travel on this road and you will know why Kashmir is calls paradise on earth. Enjoy lush green, awe-inspiring vistas all days long and travel through some of the famous places like Sonamarg and Drass. Take a lunch break at either of these places and enjoy the delicious Kashmiri food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. If you are a non-vegetarian, you are in for a treat. Reach Kargil by evening and check into a hotel for the night.
Day 2: Kargil to Leh
Kargil to Leh distance is approximately 140 kms. Vistas from here will change. Greenery will start to vanish and landscapes will turn into a cold desert. A beautiful barren wasteland that Ladakh is famous as. Start as early as you can, probably by 7 AM because there are several places on this stretch that are worth a visit. If you started early, then it will also give you some time to reach Leh before dark and find a suitable hotel if you haven’t booked in advance.
Also read: Good Budget Hotels in Leh with Tariff
This can easily be a 8-10 hours journey. See magnetic hill, Zanskar river confluence, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, monasteries at Mulbekh and Lamayuru, the tall Buddha statue and Lunar Landscapes on the way.
Day 3: Leh
Stay for the day in Leh. Rest and give your body some time to adjust to high altitude. If you are planning to visit some restricted areas like Changthang Valley or Batalik, then you can use this day to arrange permits. If you are short on time, you can skip this day altogether. You can also use this day to visit some local places within the town like Shanti Stoopa, Leh palace or Leh market.
Day 4: Leh – Khardung La – Diskit / Hunder
Today you will be traveling to the famous Nubra valley. An early start from Leh is advised. Reach Khardung La which is at a distance of about 35 kms from Leh, spend some time at the top and descend towards Nubra valley. You can stay at either Diskit or Hunder for the night. It is a 6-8 hours journey depending on your speed. If time allows, you can drive all the way till Turtuk and then either return to Hunder/Diskit or even chose to stay at Turtuk. The tall Buddha statue, sand dunes and Bactrian camels are the most famous tourist attractions that you should see.
Also read: Tourist Attractions in Nubra Valley – Ladakh
Day 5: Diskit / Hunder – Panamik – Khardung La – Leh
Start early from Diskit or Hunder, drive back towards Leh and then take the second road into the valley heading towards Sumur and Panamik. See the hot water springs in Panamik and start your return journey to Leh via the same route that you took to reach Nubra Valley. If time allows, you can even go all the way to the small village of Warshi which is as far as civilians are allowed. Interesting fact about this road is that it is the same one that goes to Siachen Glacier, world’s highest battlefield.
An alternate way to do the journey here can be to take the Wari La route to reach back Leh or take the Agham Shyok road to head straight to Pangong from Nubra Valley.
Day 6: Leh to Pangong Tso
This will be the day to see the famous Pangong Lake. Distance travelled will be approximately 150 kms so start a bit early. Easily an 8 hours journey depending on your speed and breaks you take. While on the way, you can also cover a few monasteries like Hemis, Thiksey, Shey Palace and get across mighty Chang La. You can choose to stay at either Tangste, Lukung or Spangmik. If you want to stay close to the lake, then you will have to stay at a camp site. If you want to stay at a cemented hotel, you will have to look for accommodation at either Tangste or Lukung. My advice would be that you stay close to the lake. If camp sites are not within budget, you can always stay at one of the chadar tents. Those are quite reasonably priced and you can easily get a bed for a couple hundred, depending on your negotiation skills of course.
Day 7: Pangong Tso to Leh
Take the same route back to Leh that you took to reach Pangong on day 6. If you did not visit the monasteries, Shey Palace on Day 6, you may cover it on Day 7 while returning to Leh. An alternate way to do the return journey can be that you take the Changthang route from Pangong and head directly to Tso Moriri from here via Man, Merak, Loma, Nyoma, Mahe and Sumdo. Please note that this area still requires ILP so if you have not obtained permits from Leh, you cannot travel here and will have to return to Leh.
Day 8: Leh
From here on, you will start your return journey towards Manali so if you need, take a rest day at Leh. This is just an optional addition here that you may remove if you do not want to stay or are short on time.
Day 9: Leh to Tso Moriri (Karzok)
Another day of long journey (8-10 hours) and you will be traveling on some terrible roads as well. The monasteries, Shey palace that I mentioned for Day 6 and 7 can be covered on this day as well. Start on Manali Leh highway and from Upshi take the cut towards Chumthang. Road till Sumdo will be a mix of good and bad but after Sumdo, it is just a dirt trail for last 50 odd kilometers. Reach Karzok by evening and spend some time at the banks of beautiful Tso Moriri.
Day 10: Karzok to Pang / Sarchu
Depending on what time you started from Karzok, you can chose either to stay at Pang or Sarchu. If you started by say 9-10 AM, you can comfortably make it to Pang by 4-5 PM. If you can start before 9 AM, you can make it all the way till Sarchu which will be a better option because it will reduce your travel time on the next day. Sarchu also has better and cleaner choices in terms of accommodation.
Day 11: Pang/ Sarchu to Manali
If you stayed at Pang and intend to reach Manali today before dark, you must start your journey by first light of the day. It will be cold like hell and if you are on a motorcycle, first couple hours of the journey will be tough so early in the day but it will see you in Manali before it gets dark. Do not take too many breaks as well. If you stayed at Sarchu, even then I would advise to start early after having breakfast and you will take the same route back via Rohtang Pass to reach Manali.
Return via Srinagar
In case you do not want to add Manali to your itinerary and want to return via Srinagar only, then the plan will be as follows. Change will be after your visit to Tso Moriri, before this the plan will remain the same.
Day 10: Tso Moriri to Leh
Spend some time at the lake early in the morning and head back to Leh via the same route that you took to reach Karzok. Another route that you can take for the journey is to take the diversion towards Polakongka La from Sumdo and exit on Manali Leh highway just after Pang in which case you will again be crossing Tanglang La to reach back Leh. I will advise to take this route because the road is good, won’t add much time to the journey but you will get to travel right through the amazingly beautiful More plains.
Day 11: Leh to Batalik
You will be traveling on the Srinagar Leh highway with a slight change. From Khaltse, rather than continuing towards Lamayuru and Mulbekh, head towards Dha village, reach Batalik and spend the night there. Please not that this rout requires permit so if you plan to follow this road, ensure that you have obtained permits from Leh well in advance.
Day 12. Batalik to Srinagar
Start early from Batalik. Reach Kargil and from there, follow the same highway all the way back to Srinagar. About 8-10 hours journey depending on your speed and the breaks you take. If within budget, head straight to Dal Lake upon reaching Srinagar and stay in a houseboat; highly recommended and totally worth it.
Other optional changes to the itinerary
- If you want to cover Zanskar valley as well, then you will have to modify the itinerary on Day 2 and 3. Add a couple of days here. On Day 2, reach Padum from Kargil, return to Kargil on Day 3 and continue to Leh the day after. If you just want to add on day here, then you can go till Rangdum and come back to Kargil on Day 2 itself. Please not that it is next to impossible to reach Padum and return to Kargil the same day in time so I would not advise attempting so at all.
- If you do not want to include Tso Moriri, then on Day 9 You can reach Pang from Leh, reach Jispa from from Pang on Day 10 And then return to Manali on Day 11.
- While returning via Manali, on Day 9 and 10; you will have to consider which way to chose if you want to include Tanglang La as well. If you take the cut from Upshi and exit near Pang, you will skip Tanglang La altogether. If you want to cover the pass, then either go to Tso Moriri after crossing Tanglang La (there is a cut just where Tso Kar is and it takes you straight to Tso Moriri); or reach Karzok from Upshi, return via the same route and then reach Pang crossing Tanglang La. Review the map below to understand what I am talking about here.
I hope this information was helpful. As I mentioned, this is more of a common Srinagar to Ladakh itinerary that gets followed by majority of people. If time allows, you can follow the same plan or change it as per your needs. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.