Can you travel from Srinagar to Leh in one day? The answer to this question is that you can try and will probably complete the journey as well. But should you do it? That is a definite no. Your Srinagar to Leh travel time depends not only on distance but also on several other factors that I will discuss in this article.
2 Days is the minimum and also the recommended duration of time for a journey on Srinagar Leh Highway. This will ensure that you do not just rush all the way and actually enjoy the journey and the beauty of Kashmir Valley. If you are able to spare a day more, you will be able to cover several major tourist attractions along the route.
Another thing that you must consider is that the Srinagar to Leh highway is not ‘easy’ in any manner. It is one of the most challenging roads in our country and can make your heart jump to your mouth in several places. This is not your usual highway where you can cruise at 100 kmph so you must plan your travel accordingly.
Srinagar to Leh Travel Time and Itinerary Planning
The journey from Srinagar to Leh is a beautiful one in every manner. You travel through from the lush green valleys of Kashmir to the barren brown lands of Ladakh. There are three high-altitude passes on the way and you also cross towns of Sonamarg, Dras, and Kargil.
This is not one of your regular highways like others in the country where you just sit inside the vehicle, eager to reach the destination as soon as possible. Out here, every turn of the road holds a surprise and will invite you to take a break and step out. The actual fun on this route is actually in the journey itself and not the destination.
In this post, I will talk about an ideal Srinagar to Leh travel time and how the itinerary can be planned to make the most out of your time. For other details like the best time to visit, sightseeing, and where to stay, please take a look at How to Plan a Journey on Srinagar Leh Highway.
Srinagar to Leh Distance
The total distance between Srinagar to Leh is approximately 420 kilometers. The highest altitudes are at Namika La at 3,700 meters, Zoji La at 3,528 meters, and Fotu La at 4,108 meters.
Srinagar to Leh route
The route of the journey will be as mentioned below.
Srinagar – Ganderbal – Kangan – Sonamarg – Zoji La – Drass – Kargil – Mulbekh – Namika La – Fotu La – Lamayuru – Khaltse – Nimmu – Leh
Srinagar to Leh in One Day
Traveling from Srinagar to Leh in a single day is called a ‘Canon ball run’. A lot of people consider this in a hurry to either reach Leh or to reach back home after traveling to Ladakh.
This option is quite common among the locals and in my opinion, is best left for them only. The only way it can be completed is by getting aboard a shared taxi. It is neither possible nor recommended for a tourist to drive straight from Srinagar to Leh in one day on their own. However, the local taxi drivers here do that on a regular basis.
This journey starts sometime at midnight from Srinagar. You will be continuously traveling for the next 16-18 hours, reaching Leh by the next day evening. It will cost you anywhere between Rs. 2000 to Rs. 2500 per person.
If it was me, I would simply call it a ‘bone-breaking run’. You will be stuffed in a shared taxi with 7-8 other people (depending on which car it is) and will be traveling straight to Leh. Breaks will be limited to only a few to get something to eat or to answer nature calls.
You can, however, inquire at TRC Srinagar. I believe some taxi drivers do start this journey around mid-day as well. After 16-18 hours, they make it to Leh the next day morning.
Why you should Avoid It
The only upside to this is that you will reach Leh in a single day but there are several severe downsides. The first and foremost is that you practically miss everything that you came to Srinagar Leh highway for.
There is no time to enjoy the vistas and gaze upon the natural beauty of the region. You will only just be sitting inside a moving car and looking out of the window which I do not think is a fun idea if it is going to last 16-18 hours.
The second and more serious issue will be acute mountain sickness. You are bound to feel its symptoms if you take your body to such extreme heights in a matter of hours. Please read Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh to know what acute mountain sickness is, what it can do to you, what the symptoms are and how to handle it.
If you are traveling by your own car or motorcycle, please do not attempt this. It will take a toll on your body as well as the vehicle as well. You will be driving through some of the most challenging roads and you do not want to be behind the wheel here if badly tired.
Srinagar to Leh in 2 Days
This is the most preferred way of traveling from Srinagar to Leh. The majority of the people plan their journey according to two days, irrespective of which way they are traveling from. I too will recommend this because of the following reasons.
Less Tiring & Better planning
This is the first and the foremost reason. A 2-day journey will ensure that you do not travel for long hours, do not rush and in the process do not tire yourself.
You will also be able to plan better for unseen events. Since there is no rush; in case you run into trouble, you will have some time in hand to handle the situation.
Not Too Many Days
Let us put it this way. 2 days is just an adequate amount of time that does not require that you plan a long trip unless you are willing to. You do not rush through but also do not spend too many days here, in case you are short on time.
Breaks, Sightseeing & Photography
The road you will be traveling on is filled with such mesmerizing beauty that you would want to stop at every turn. A 2 days journey will give you ample time to do that.
You can click all that you want because you have time in hand to do that. It doesn’t matter if you are a photography enthusiast or just a cell phone photographer, you will have fun capturing memories of the trip that will last a lifetime.
Fewer Chances of AMS
This will be the most important reason. The increase in height will be a little gradual and chances of suffering from AMS will reduce significantly.
You would already have traveled from your hometown to Jammu to Srinagar in 2 or more days. Your body would already have acclimatized a little. Adding 2 more days on Srinagar Leh road will better prepare you for the higher altitude areas of Ladakh that you will later visit.
Where to Stay between Srinagar to Leh
The next question here is where to stop for the night on Day 1. There are several major towns on the Srinagar Leh highway. As per your convenience, you can choose to stay at either of them.
But you need to balance it in a way that your travel time gets divided in Day 1 and 2 equally. Listed below are the major stop points on the route. For names of some recommended hotels in these places, please take a look at Hotels and Guest Houses on Srinagar Leh Highway.
This is the first major town you will come across after you start from Srinagar. The road distance between Srinagar and Sonamarg is about 80 kilometers which you can easily cover in 2 to 3 hours.
You should not stop here because if you do so then your journey for Day 2 will be way too long. You will have to start by the first light of the day from Sonamarg on Day 2, rush through the journey and then you can hope to reach Leh before dark.
Stopping at Sonamarg is ideal only if you are dedicating 3 days or more to Srinagar to Leh highway.
The distance between Srinagar to Dras is about 142 kilometers. You can reach here from Srinagar in about 5 – 6 hours. But if you halt here for the night, your travel time on Day 2 will exactly be the double of Day 1 because Leh is another 282 kilometers from Dras.
However, if you are on a budget trip and looking for cheap accommodation, then you should halt at Drass for the night. Hotels in Kargil are quite expensive. But in Dras, you will easily find a room for as little as Rs. 500 – Rs. 800.
Also read: Is Srinagar Leh Highway Safe for Tourists?
The majority of the people chose to break their journey here on Day 1. It is more or less the midpoint of the highway. Srinagar from here is 209 kilometers and Leh at a distance of 213 kilometers. I too will recommend halting here for the night.
A lot of people consider staying at Lamayuru as well but I will advise against it. The problem will be the same as with Drass. If staying at Lamayuru, on Day 1 you will cover 308 kilometers in 10-11 hours of travel while on Day 2 you will only travel 115 kilometers in 3 hours.
Based on my inputs above, it would be wise to travel from Srinagar to Kargil on Day 1 and Kargil to Leh on Day 2. This will give you ample amount to enjoy your journey without tiring yourself.
If you are traveling by your own vehicle, you can travel at your own convenience. Bus service from Srinagar to Leh takes two days as well, halting at Kargil for the night.
Srinagar to Leh in 3 Days
A 3 days journey on the Srinagar Leh highway is an extended and more relaxed version of 2 days journey. It is not really required but if you can spend a day more, then, by all means, do it.
It will give you plenty of time to experience the real beauty of Kashmir. In the case of 3 days, you can plan the journey in the following manner.
Day 1: Srinagar to Sonamarg
Start early from Srinagar and you will reach Sonamarg within 3 hours. This will give you an entire day for local sightseeing. Check into a hotel and visit Thajiwas glacier.
Day 2: Sonamarg to Lamayuru
You will have to stretch this day a little. Start early from Sonamarg and reach all the way to Lamayuru. You will cross all three high-altitude passes on this route between Sonamarg and Lamayuru. Of all of them, Zoji La Pass will be the most fun and Fotu La will be the highest one.
Day 3: Lamayuru to Leh
It will take you only about 3-4 hours to reach Leh from here so you have the entire day in hand. Spend this time visiting Lamayuru monastery, Lunar landscapes, Indus Zanskar River confluence, Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, and Magnetic hill while on your way to Leh.
Leh to Srinagar
So far I have explained this from the point of view of someone traveling from Srinagar to Leh. The same actually also applies the other way around as well if you reached Ladakh via Manali and are now returning from the Srinagar side.
There also exists an alternate route that you can consider. If you went to Leh from Srinagar via the Kargil route and returning back to Srinagar again, then you can do your return journey via Batalik. The route in this case will be as below.
Leh – Nimmu – Khaltse – Skurbuchan – Dha – Batalik – Kargil – Drass – Zoji La – Sonamarg – Kangan – Ganderbal – Srinagar
So for your return journey, the Itinerary can be as mentioned below.
- Leh to Batalik – Day 1
- Batalik to Drass / Sonamarg – Day 2
- Drass / Sonamarg to Srinagar – Day 3
On Day 1, reach Batalik from Leh and stay there for the night. Since you would already have stayed at Kargil while going to Leh, you should consider spending the night at either Drass or Sonamarg on Day 2. On Day 3, you will return to Srinagar.
Permits for Batalik Route
Please note that for visiting Batalik, you need to obtain an Inner line permit from the DM office Leh, the same permit that you need to Nubra Valley and Pangong as well. So you cannot really go to Leh via Batalik but can return to Srinagar this way.
If you want to cover the Batalik route while going to Leh, you will have to spend time in Kargil and arrange permits from there.
The only road that currently connects Zanskar Valley to the rest of the country is from Kargil. Two more roads are currently under construction but it will be still a few years before they are completed.
The road from Padum to Darcha via Shinku La Pass has been carved out but for now, it can only be traveled upon by bikes or 4×4 vehicles. The other road connecting Padum to Nimmu via Zangla is far from completion.
So if you also want to add Zanskar Valley to your itinerary, you will have to travel from Kargil to Padum and take the same road back.
Another way to do it is to take the Umba La road from Dras and exit at Kargil.
Either way, to visit Zanskar, you will have to add at least 2 more days. Your Srinagar to Leh travel time will then be 4 days or more. The itinerary can be planned in the following manner.
- Srinagar to Kargil – Day 1
- Kargil to Padum – Day 2
- Sightseeing in Padum & Around – Day 3
- Padum to Kargil – Day 4
- Kargil to Leh – Day 5
Another way to do the journey is as mentioned below.
- Srinagar to Dras – Day 1
- Dras to Rangdum via Umba La and Sankoo – Day 2
- Rangdum to Padum – Day 3
- Padum to Kargil – Day 4
- Kargil to Leh – Day 5
If you cannot spend more than 4 days on the road, I will recommend following the first itinerary and skipping Day 3 in Padum.
If you want to travel via Umba La in 4 days, you can still do so but the journey between Dras to Padum can be a little long so start early.
Srinagar to Leh Travel Time – Conclusion
In the end, I would like to summarize this by saying that a one-day journey on Srinagar to Leh road is not at all recommended. You should give it a minimum of 2 days. If you have more time, you can spend 3 days as well allowing yourself more time to explore the beautiful Kashmir valley.
I hope this information on Srinagar to Leh travel time was of help. 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 happy to answer.