Road Trip to Leh Ladakh in a Maruti Swift

This was the road trip to Ladakh I was thinking to do for a long time. After reading a lot of travelogues and as per my earlier visit to Ladakh in 2017, It was decided to do this trip in September.

Why September? Because this month is the best in terms of weather conditions, fewer tourists and good roads. What else can a traveler want?

We 3 colleagues Gaurav, Subbu, and I took 10 days of leave from work. This was not an issue since we planned it well in advance. We had a maximum window of 16 days for this trip including 3 weekends. So we prepared an itinerary for 14 days so that we could travel at ease.

My Vaayu (Swift) was prepared to take us on this dream drive. Throughout the journey, we did not face any problem at all traveling in a swift. So if you were thinking whether or not a hatchback can handle Ladakh, my answer is that yes it can.
 

Day 1 & 2 - Delhi to Srinagar


We started around 8 pm after the office on a Friday and ended on Saturday. Delhi to Srinagar was done via Mughal Road covering a total of 1023 km in 22 hours.

Route Taken: Delhi - Pathankot - Jammu - Akhnoor - Rajouri - Bufliaz - Shadra Sharif - DKG - Peer Ki Gali - Shopian - Srinagar.

Mughal Road was not in our original itinerary but it was on my To-do list for a long time. Thanks to Ajay Jagga and Puneet Verma whom we joined in Jammu and re-routed our plan within 2 mins.

I will let the pictures talk about the drive of these days.


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Day 3 - Srinagar to Kargil



Srinagar to Kargil via Sonamarg, Zoji La & Drass was done on Sunday, covering 215 km in approx 10 hours.

So after a long drive day, the plan was to do further drives in daytime only. We started at around 9 am from Srinagar towards our next destination, Sonamarg.

After a few photos break en route, It took us around 2.5 hours to reach Sonamarg. There we spent 1 hour and moved towards Zoji La.

Roads conditions deteriorated while approaching Zoji La. We did not struggle much in a small car anywhere to cross Zoji La though. One hour Maggie break taken at Zoji La before moving towards Kargil. At a point, we realized low air pressure in one of the tires but it was not problematic. After an hour's drive, I spotted a beautiful gorge on the right downside of the road. A couple of kilometers later, I wanted to go back and see what that place is. It was a beautiful gorge with nobody around and water was gushing amazingly there.

It was just 6 km before Dras. A 30 mins photo break was taken there before reaching Drass War Memorial. It's a must-visit place to witness the bravery of our Armed Forces. They gave up their lives for our Future.

After Drass, our next stop was Kargil where we ended our day. We took 1.5 hours to reach Kargil from Drass War Memorial as one of our tires got punctured. We were looking for a repair shop but all we could do was to fill Air and move on with a thought of getting it repaired in Kargil the next day.



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Day 4 - Kargil to Lamayuru via Batalik


The plan for today was to travel from Kargil to Lamayuru via Batalik. Initially, we thought to go straight to Leh but then decided to break the journey into two days for the sake of sightseeing.

We started from Kargil around 08:30 towards a village at LOC called 'Hunderman'. It is about 12 km from Kargil and was another item on my wish list for some time.

It took us approximately 30 mins to reach Hunderman. At that time, we 3 were the only tourists there. We could see a village across the border on the way as well.

The village is beautiful, small, not developed and the population was 21 only. The road was very narrow but in good condition. We met a few locals in Hunderman village. They offered us tea in their house. It was indeed a very warm welcome.


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After spending some time in Hunderman, we returned to Kargil and started towards the Batalik sector rather than taking the regular NH1 route via Mulbekh.

After an hour's drive covering 30 km from Kargil, we reached Hamboting La. It is a high altitude pass at 4024 meters and is the only pass on this route.

It was a beautiful route with no traffic at all. We spent a few mins at the Pass and moved towards our next destination Batalik which was about 25 km ahead of the Hamboting La.

We were not allowed to take pictures at Batalik. We stopped there for some time and had a word with Army jawans who gave us some insights into that region.

The road after Batalik towards Khaltse runs along with the Indus river. It was another wonderful route to drive on.

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Our next stop was Garkon Village which is about 30 km ahead of Batalik.

Garkon is an Aryan village and one of the four main villages in this region. The other three are Dah, Hanu, and Darchik. All these four villages are situated at the banks of the Indus River.

Darchik and Garkon villages are in Kargil district. The inhabitants of these villages are known as ‘Dards’. Locals also call them ‘Brokpas’ which in the Tibetan language means the highlanders.

People there wear a different traditional costume occasionally and their headgear is very attractive.

Nobody asked for a permit but from what I read, a permit has to be issued to visit these villages especially if you are coming from the other side i.e. Leh side.

This was another place I wanted to visit for a long time. So I was quite excited to see what I had read on the internet only. We were very lucky to attend a local function where District Magistrate was the chief guest. The locals were performing fully dressed up in their traditional attire. We had a great experience visiting this village.

After Garkon, we started for Lamayuru via Khaltse as another route via Sanjak was not in good shape as told by locals.

Kargil to Leh via Batalik

We planned to stay at Lamayuru (detour of approx 20 km) rather than moving to Leh directly. This was done so that the next day we can visit the oldest Monastery of Ladakh in Lamayuru and the Moonland before moving towards Leh.

But if you want to, you can easily travel from Kargil to Leh via Batalik in a day. It is just that the drive will be a very long one and you must take an early start from Kargil.

We stayed in Greenland Guesthouse in Lamayuru. It is a good place to stay with good facilities, including Airtel 4G network.

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