Kashmir to Ladakh: On The Old Central Asia Trade Route

I knew I couldn’t hack a 14-hour road trip and considering past experience with higher altitudes, it made sense to break the journey with a recommended night stopover in Kargil. However I realized the next day was Eid and it was possible that the dominantly Muslim town would be closed down and I wouldn’t get a jeep driving to Leh and might get stuck there for a couple of days. So I asked around the bus stand in the morning if there was a vehicle leaving for Leh, capital of Ladakh with an empty space. Luckily there was.

Butcher shop in time for Eid at Sonamarg
Butcher shop in time for Eid at Sonamarg
Indian Army Convoys on National Highway 1D
Past the famous Amarnath pilgrimage

I think ‘dramatic’ would be the proper adjective to describe this road trip. It’s one of the two only roads to Ladakh by road. The other one is via Manali. National Highway 1D used to be part of the old Central Asia trade route. Out of the 10 passengers were a family of four, a couple, 4 solo travellers of which 2 of us were foreigners which meant we had to stop about 4 times and get out to register at the military check points throughout the trip. Theoretically, I think it’s a great system for them to track tourists in case of…something and it would help narrow it down to which region the person is in. However the slips of paper and ledger-like books, which they fill…I’m not sure if they would be able to locate it in time if needed!

National Highway 1D cut through mountains of Jammu
Road block
Sometimes all you can do in life is…just wait!

With a road-block, kids getting sick, looking for baggage that fell off from the top of the jeep, we reached Leh at around 10.00pm. Here are the photos from the trip; it’s amazing how the scenery changes from Kashmir to Ladakh. There are several remarkable sites along the way including the Kargil War Memorial sites, the famous Hindu pilgrimage, Amarnath and many monasteries nearing Ladakh. Not to mention, the army camps, conveys and the Indian Javans. Very LOC and Border!

Kargil War Memorial Site
Kargil War Memorial Site
Into Ladakh region by road.
Into Ladakh region by road.
Monasteries and a chicken truck!

Travel Tip

  • To get from Kashmir to Ladakh region, the only option you have is via road. And a long back-breaking 14-hour journey at that. There is a once a week flight as well if you want to work around that but it is usually quiet expensive. You have several options; bus, private hired vehicles and shared jeeps. Shared jeeps are slightly more expensive than buses but more comfortable and faster. The tariffs are government controlled and will cost you RS1850 one way. They depart from the Tourist Taxi Stand in Srinagar.
  • There are no proper tourist-type stops so don’t expect a western toilet along the way. Just…don’t eat! 

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