The word “officially” would really have to be applied here because all these routes have already been completed by numerous people several years ago (myself included). But in an effort to boost tourism in Ladakh further, the officials have decided to declare these 9 new routes for tourists in Ladakh as officially open. Please note though that right now it has been reported such by the news agencies but an actual confirmation and clarity on the order is still awaited. One of the biggest question and doubt that hasn’t yet been clarified is whether the “officially open” tag applies only for Indian citizens or for foreign nationals as well.
Of the total 9 of these new routes, 5 are motorable and 9 are trek routes. Specially on the motorable, people have already been driving for last few years but I guess declaring it open officially will reduce confusion among tourists that happened a lot last year.
Agham Shyok Road
This is the road that you take to travel from Nubra valley to Pangong Tso directly or vice versa; without needing to come back to Leh. The route you will then take is as mentioned below.
Diskit – Khalsar – Agham – Shyok – Durbuk – Lukung – Spangmik (Pangong Tso)
This road has been in existence for a few years now and a lot of people have been traveling on it already. It was once known as one of the most dangerous routes in Ladakh but now is well laid tarmac all the way. Last year authorities denied any tourist movement on this stretch entirely but now it has been officially declared open for tourists.
Spangmik – Man – Merak – Chushul – Tsaga La – Loma
This is one of the two routes that you take to travel from Spangmik to either Hanle; or directly to Tso Moriri without needing to come back to Leh. It is also the more frequently traveled upon of the two. Once you reach Loma, you can either take the road towards Hanle; or continue to travel to Karzok (Tso Moriri) via Nyoma, Mahe and Sumdo.
This road has been in used for well over a decade now; I traveled on it in 2010. The permits for this road however always a topic of debate and speculation. Sometimes the authorities declared it closed for tourists entirely, like in 2018; while at other times, people got their permits stamped with no problem. But now since it is officially open, I am guessing that all the confusion will now be laid to rest.
Durbuk – Tangtse – Chilam – Erath – Chushul
This is the second road that you can take to travel from Spangmik to either Hanle or Karzok. The difference between the two is that the Man Merak road is a dirt one whereas the one via Erath is a metaled road. Traveling on both the roads, you will exit at Chushul and then continue towards either Hanle or Karzok via Loma.
Chushul – Kakasang La – Mahe
Now once you reach Chushul from Pangong, you can either take the road via Tsaga, Loma and Nyoma to reach Mahe; and then finally to reach Karzok; as I explained above. There exists however another route, a shorter one that will take you across the Kakasang La pass and then to Mahe. Though it is shorter, please note that it involves some serious and very steep climb so only attempt if you are 100% sure of your vehicle’s capability. Otherwise take the easier and more common route via Loma.
Karzok – Sumdo – Parang La – Kaza
The news agencies are reporting it as such but there is no way that this is a motorable road yet. Last I heard was that BRO was working on building a road but it is far from completion still. For now it is a trek route but once completed, you will be able to travel directly from Kaza to Tso Moriri, or vice versa; via Parang La Pass. Even trekking on this route was not allowed lately so in all probability, it is the trek route that has been reopened; and the new agencies reported it as a motorable road.
The following 4 are however indeed trek route that are now officially open for tourists.
- Phyang – Dokla – Hunderdok
- Basgo – Ney – Hunderdok – Hunder
- Temisgam – Largyao – Panchathank – Skuru
- Saspol – Saspochy – Rakurala – Skuru
These trails too have been completed by numerous people before but the permits were always a topic of discussion. These are now however officially open but the night stay on the trails will still be a problem. More clarification on this will only come after the tourist season in Ladakh begins next year.
Another big change that has been reported is of the increase in duration of the permits. Back in old days when ILP was a mandate, it was issued for 2 weeks for Indian citizens and 1 week for foreigners. Then the authorities decided to remove it entirely in 2014; but only to reintroduce in 2017 again. However, at the time of reintroduction, the validity was reduced to 1 week for indian citizens as well. This is now getting changed again and effective 2019, validity of Inner Line Permit for Indians will be set again to 15 days.
I hope the information above on new routes in Ladakh was of help. As I mentioned previously in the article, these are not new routes really; but the fact that authorities are tagging them as such will make a lot of impact. There will be less confusion among tourists; and the locals will be able to develop their infrastructure to support tourism knowing that it is officially allowed. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.