To be quite honest, it is hard to name a few places as tourist attractions on Srinagar Leh highway as the entire route is an attraction in itself. Thousands of tourists travel on this road each year and I doubt that any of them have one particular place in mind that they want to see. While the route from Manali is considered to be more of an adventure, things are a little different when you travel from Srinagar. There is plenty on this road for everyone.
If adventure is what you seek, you will get it in loads. If lush green valleys are what attracted you here, you will not be disappointed even for a second. You can keep clicking your camera all day long if you have even slightest of interest in photography. This is a road that will keep you glued to the window and at the edge of your seat at the same time. Bring your family along and they will talk about it for months to come. Journey on this road from one heaven to another (Kashmir to Ladakh) and you will not regret it.
With all that being said, the question still remains that what do you exactly see on the route from Srinagar to Leh? What does it offer that makes it so famous? Well there are things that will remain available to you throughout the journey but then there are a few places that become highlight of the journey. I will provide in this article a list of such tourist attractions on Srinagar Leh highway along with a list of all the towns & villages en route.
Tourist Attractions on Srinagar Leh Highway
In this article, I will focus on the journey between Srinagar and Leh. For tourist attractions in Srinagar City and Leh Town, I have complied the list at different posts which you can read at Tourist attractions in Srinagar City And Tourist Attractions in Leh City.
High Altitude Passes
These are by far the biggest attraction of a trip to Ladakh. Everyone is excited to be traveling on challenging roads and cross several high altitude passes on the way. When it comes to the road from Srinagar to Leh, there are three passes that you will be tackling. Mentioned below are the details.
Zoji La: This will be the first high altitude pass that you will cross while moving from Srinagar towards Leh. Considered one of the most challenging passes in Ladakh,
it is located about 9 kilometers from Sonamarg at an elevation of approximately 3,528 meters (11,575 ft). This pass is the second highest point on Srinagar Leh highway.
Namika La: This will be the second high altitude pass shortly after Kargil towards Leh. The literal meaning of the name is “Pillar of the Sky Pass” where “Namika” means Pillar of the sky and “La” means pass. It is an a height of 3,700 m or 12,139 ft.
Fotu La: At the top of Fotu La is the highest elevation point of Srinagar Leh highway at a height of 4,108 meters (13,478 ft). There is also a Prasar Bharati television relay station located on the pass. Though higher, it is actually considered less challenging that Zoji La.
Goes without saying, the natural beauty that you will witness throughout your journey is like no other. As I mentioned previously in the article; this journey is from one heaven called Kashmir to another called Ladakh. The transformation of vistas from lush green to that of barren desert is awe inspiring. People are warm and welcoming and so is the nature here. There is something to see at every turn you take. Apart from experiencing the scenic beauty, mentioned below are a few noted places that you should keep an eye out for.
Lunar Landscape: Also known as Moon landscape; it is a landscape and rock formation at Lamayuru that resembles the surface of moon.
Indus Zanskar River Confluence: At Nimmu, watch the magnificent sight of Indus and Zanskar Rivers merging in to each other to form one.
Magnetic Hills: Almost everyone coming to Ladakh know this place. This is a stretch on the road that is believed to have magnetic powers; such that it can get your vehicle in to motion on an uphill slope even with engine turned off. Read to know more details.
Tiger Hill: This is the hilltop that Pakistan captures in the way of Kargil. It is visible from the road itself as you drive through Drass.
Man Made Wonders
Hangro Loops: It is a series of 18 hairpin bends/loops; driving on which is quite an experience. The view below once you climb up the last loop is quite good too.
Kargil War Memorial: Also known as Drass War Memorial, it is a must visit place for every Indian traversing from Srinagar to Leh. Take a stop here and pay respect to our soldiers fallen in the war of Kargil.
Good Food: I am putting this in the category of man made wonders because the food out here in Kashmir and Ladakh is so delicious that it can only be termed as wonder.
Below is a list of a few religious places that you can visit on Srinagar Leh highway. While you are on the Kashmir side, the majority of the culture is Muslim influenced however as you move towards Ladakh, the culture is a mix of Muslim and Buddhism with Buddhism taking the majority.
Lamayuru Monastery: It is one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh, with a population of around 150 permanent monks resident. In the past, this monastery has housed up to 400 monks; many of which are now based in gompas in surrounding villages.Primary attraction of this monastery are the two annual masked dance festivals in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar, when all the monks from these surrounding gompas gather together to pray.
Redzong / Rizong Monastery: Established in 1831, this monastery is located at the top of a rocky slide, west of Alchi on the way to Lamayuru. The monastery is noted for its extremely strict rules and standard and has been termed as “paradise for meditation”
Alchi Monastery: This monastery is home to some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh. Another noted attraction are a huge statue of Buddha and wood carvings and art work. Artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and Hindu Kings of Kashmir reflect in the wall paintings of the monastery.
Likir Monastery: Established in 1065, this beautifully located monastery is home to about 120 Buddhist monks and runs a small local school for village children.
Phyang Monastery: Established in 1515, this monastery is located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Leh in Fiang/Phyang Village. It is noted for several sacred shrines and frescoes dating from the royal period. The monastery is also home to a 900-year-old museum which has an extensive collection of idols including a number of fine Kashmiri bronzes probably dating to the 14th century, thangkas, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons.
Spituk Monastery: Also known as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa, Spituk Monastery is located 8 kilometres from the town of Leh. It is noted for a giant statue of Kali that only gets unveiled during the annual Spitok festival.
Gurudwara Patthar Sahib: It is a beautiful Gurudwara, built in the memory of Guru Nanak Dev and is located at a distance of about 25 kilometers from Leh. Built at a height of 3,600 meters; this Gurudwara is famous for a huge boulder that is believed to have an imprint of Guru Nanak Dev on it.
Mulbekh Monastery / Maitreya: This monastery is famous for a grand 9 meter high statue of Buddha, known as Mulbekh Maitreya, and is a must see place to visit. The sculpture dates back to 7th and 8th century when Buddhist missionaries from east Himalayas came to this region. Please note that taking pictures of the statue is not really allowed.
Basgo Monastery / Basgo Palace: Located around 40 kms from Leh is the small village of Basgo which in ancient times was considered a political and cultural center of Ladakh. The ancient Basgo Palace which also houses the Basgo Monastery is located here. The ancient palace was built in 15th century but the Monastery is believed to be even older than that.
These are just some of the noted monasteries that I mentioned here. There are however several others; maybe smaller but equally beautiful.
There are no glaciers located along the highway though you will get to see plenty of snow if you are traveling early in the season. If however you can break the journey at Sonamarg then you can visit the Thajiwas Glacier. If you are planning to take a detour from Sonamarg towards Zanskar valley; then you will get to see Drang Drung glacier from the top of Penzi La pass. There are a few other glaciers as well on the road from Kargil to Padum but the most prominent and famed one is Drang Drung Glacier. Read for a list of tourist attractions in Zanskar valley.
Towns on Srinagar Leh Highway
Mentioned below is a list of all the major towns/villages you will travel through before finally reaching Leh. Negotiating high passes and fragile mountainsides, the journey from Srinagar to Leh is quite fascinating in itself. The first stop of course is Srinagar.
Srinagar: One of the most beautiful hill stations of our country. The whole city is filled with tourist attractions and you can spend an entire week here visiting them. Read Tourist attractions in Srinagar City.
Sonamarg: The next major town after Srinagar is the beautiful Sonamarg. Literal meaning of the name is ‘the meadow of gold’. It is a prime tourist attraction of Kashmir valley and offers great views of two Himalayan glaciers – Kolhoi Glacier and Machoi Glacier. Thajiwas glacier too is barely a 15 minute drive away. Snow clad Sirbal Peak, Kolhoi Peak, Amarnath Peak and Machoi Peak are also visible from here. Treks to Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gangabal Lake and Gadsar Lake start from Sonamarg.
Drass: After Kargil comes Drass, famous as the second coldest inhabitated place on earth (not sure if this claim is valid though). Primary attraction here is the Kargil War Memorial and Mushko Valley.
Kargil: It is more or less the mid point of Srinagar Leh highway; both Srinagar and Leh being at equal distances from here. To be honest, I do not really find Kargil that scenic; but it is a good and preferred spot to break your journey on first day from Srinagar.
Mulbekh: Another small village en route, famous for the monastery and Mulbekh Maitreya.
Lamayuru: Another favored pit stop by many while traveling from Srinagar to Leh or vice versa. This small village is famous for Lamayuru Monastery and Lunar Landscapes.
Nimmu: A small village famous for Indus and Zanskar river confluence. The Chadar trek to Zanskar too starts from here in winters.
I hope the information above on tourist attractions on Srinagar Leh highway was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our community forum; and I will be glad to answer.