The Journey so far…

Day 1 | Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zojila Pass – Drass – Kargil

Finally the day had arrived for DoW Ladakh Mega Meet 2013 to happen and plan was to reach Kargil at the end of the day. It all started at 3 AM in the morning as I had a flight to catch at 5.30 AM for Srinagar from New Delhi Last night one of the member Pradip had already called up from Srinagar and told me about some bandh in Srinagar today. They were tense and so were the other members who had reached Srinagar for this mega meet few days before our meet begins. One day loss will mean a lot of changes in the plan for exploring so many lakes and passes… So, tension was all around night and I could barely sleep of anxiety. Woke up early, got ready and called up Sahil who was waiting for me at his friend’s house at Mahipalpur for a pick up to Airport… Few more anxious moments passed as I waiting sipping a cup of tea for the clock to tick 3.00 AM and it did!!

Hurried to car with my dad after taking blessings from everyone in family who were awake at that odd hour and see-offs to wifey and junior. Even while driving there were so many things going around in mind about the different permutations in case we got stuck later in the day. Nobody around me had a clue and biggest challenge was to get going by 8.00 AM as flight will arrive by 7.00 AM only. There were 25 odd people whom we have to assemble at Ghaat No. 1 of Dal Lake and then get going from there. But, anyways I reached Mahipalpur, picked up Sahil who had come from Kerala for this Mega Meet of Ladakh and few minutes after we reached Airport. Waved goodbye to my father, we entered the premises of Airport. Anees and his 4 friends who had travelled from Dubai and Bangalore were present there, so kind of relief for me as they had booked a separate taxi for themselves and I was not able to get in touch with them for past couple of days. Jiwesh and Shakti also met me there at the airport and finally my two cousins (Saurabh & Paritosh) also joined as last comers. So, in all 11 devils were all set with boarding passes to get lost high up in remote corners of trans-Himalayan desert called Ladakh…

First Aerial Views Himalayas
First Aerial Views Himalayas towards Srinagar

First Aerial Views Himalayas towards Srinagar

Flight landed exactly at 7.00 AM and immediately I started calling rest of the 14 members to get going out of hotels at the assemble point. Apart from 11 of us, there were Pradip & his friend Mainak form Kolkata, Sourabh from Mumbai, Nabeel who was the biker from Kerala, then Benjamin another biker from Australia, a couple in Ertiga as Gagan and Neha from Delhi, Tapan ji and his two friends from Delhi in their XUV, Lokesh, Shekhar and Bhupinder in Ford Fiesta again from Delhi & Batinda and finally Javed and his friend in a Scorpio from Noida. So, many parallel activities were going on, we were running here and there to pick baggage ASAP and get out, I was booking taxi from Airport to Dal Lake, calling everyone there to get up and ready, calling our Ladakh taxi guys to be there and Anees with his freinds being unreachable again, etc.. etc.. The time to 8.00 AM was ticking like anything… Every passing second was a kind of tension creeping more and more. Finally, in 2 local taxis we got going somehow and reached Ghaat No. 1 of Dal Lake where some were waiting and some got confused of pickup but Rigzin, dear friend and one of the best taxi guy in Ladakh I have ever know was around to sort out things too.

Ghaat No. 1 Dal Lake… The Assembling Point
Ghaat No. 1 Dal Lake... The Assembling Point

Everyone got assembled, I met all lovely personalities, thanked them for coming over be a part of this historic DoW First Mega Meet up in Ladakh and taking up the step for DoW Causes. Meanwhile Rigzin and his two friends did put up luggage and arranged sitting for each one of us in the taxis. In quick time we were ready. Benjamin had also came walking there to spot us but somehow did not check-out from hotel. He hurried back in no time to come over with bike and join us. We waited for good 30 minutes past 8.00 when a police van came directed us to move quickly else soon the influence of bandh/strike will start coming over the roads and we might get stuck. With a bit of heavy heart and tense faces we moved ahead but only after requesting everyone (locals around) sitting there to tell Benjamin that we will wait for him at Sonamarg or on Zojila Pass at Srinagar – Leh Highway.

The trip officially started with 25 souls on the move having anxieties of getting out of Srinagar. Some took the main route/exit out of Srinagar and some of us followed the Dal Lake inner route to exit the town. We could feel the tension for sometime seeing presence of so much police/military around but finally we were rolling well and suddenly we could realize we are in Himalayas 🙂 🙂 … Well, the weather was lovely and just pleasantly cold as we continued towards Sonamarg which was our stop for the breakfast. I chatted after a long long time with Rigzin as he kept praising DoW and the help in business this initiative is bringing directly to so many other drivers he knows. I was overwhelmed hearing those kind words and would like to thank every other reader who has gone directly to these drivers and helped them in their businesses. Rigzin is fabulous company and very dear friend who always keep me bound to his never ending interesting stories and know-how about Ladakh region. Love, respect and loads of wishes for him that he grows good in time to come.

Soon came Sonamarg and then we had actually a lovely time meeting everyone there without any tense moments. Tapan ji and his friends already had their breakfast and we were looking for it. Some were pure veg so they went in there and some of us opted to have together at any place of choice. It was good 1 Hr stop and the next stop was Zojila Pass We started the ride up towards Zojila Pass and found the roads though were fine in shape but quite dusty which is usual towards the end of season. Zojila is one hell of a pass when it snows, slush or there is a convoy in which you gets stuck but in September nothing like it. In between, we spotted Benjamin and he was thrilled to see us and so did we. We felt happy that we got hold of him as I had left messages over community and mail too for him to get connected. We got him introduced to everyone and especially Nabeel who was riding with us too. So, now two bikers had company. As we moved, we ended up at a point where a landslide was being cleared which took sometime. So, we chatted together and had pictures with the Jawans serving us up there and thanked them for whatever they are doing for us. Finally, reached the first High Mountain Pass of our Meet: Zojila Pass Everyone was excited and I knew it was just a beginning.

Sonamarg where we had Breakfast
Sonamarg where we had Breakfast
Views towards Baltal Valley while ascending Zojila Pass
Views towards Baltal Valley while ascending Zojila Pass
The First Mountain Pass of the Meet… Zojila Pass
The First Mountain Pass of the Meet... Zojila Pass
Ready for the Ride to Kargil
Ready for the Ride to Kargil

We finally descended to the lovely meadows of Minamarg where we stopped and entered our vehicle number in Police Register. The roads were quite decent on the other side of Zojila pass anyways. The surroundings were still green in that region and autumn colors haven’t really come out by that time. The next stop was Drass for lunch and to have Rajma rice there… We all stopped at Drass and this time we dissected the groups to different dhabhas so as to utilize time efficiently. As usually, the Rajma Rice was seriously good along with Roomali Roti being served there. Meanwhile call from Bhupinder came who told us that they are moving at good pace so they opted to move to Lamayuru that very day instead of staying at Kargil and will meet us in Leh next day. I had no choice than to say “OK” 🙂 …

The Two Bikers of our group on Srinagar – Leh Highway
The Two Bikers of our group on Srinagar - Leh Highway
Views at Minamarg
Views at Minamarg before Drass
Cannot agree more than that…
Cannot agree more than that... A slogan on Srinagar - Leh Highway
Beautiful Colors around Drass – Kargil Route
Beautiful Colors around Drass - Kargil Route

Beautiful Colors around Drass - Kargil Route
The View of Tiger Hill near Drass
The View of Tiger Hill near Drass
Another View of Tiger Hill near Drass
The View of Tiger Hill near Drass
Anees and his group at Drass
Anees and his group at Drass

We left quickly this time and soon reached at Kargil War Memorial after a small stop to get views of Tiger Hill. At Kargil War Memorial, everyone spent good amount of time. We paid respect and prayed for every martyred soldier who helped our country stay high headed. A Big Salute and Bow Down for everyone serving up there and who sacrificed their lives for our safety. I can bet that as you walk in to Kargil War Memorial normally, you walk out with abundance of emotions, respect and feeling of patriotism knowing/seeing what happened on grounds. I always request all to DO VISIT and PAY RESPECT when you travel there

Anyhow we got going after couple of cups of Tea in the canteen but only to find that just before Kargil there is a landslide which resulted in a wait time of good 1 Hr or so but thankfully got cleared up. Reached Kargil and moved here and there in search of hotels as PWD Rest House was all booked. It was dark by then and then we decided that only couple of us move around to see PC Palace. Rigzin’s friend Aunduk had fixed a deal with him at Rs 1000 per room for any number of people + food extra. We saw the rooms which were quite good and took the awesome deal. In some rooms we stayed 4 and in some 3, so effective cost was reduced to quite extent. Tapan ji and Javed had already booked their own hotels so they were staying in them but rest of us were in PC Palace, just near taxi stand.

Kargil War Memorial
Kargil War Memorial

Kargil War Memorial

Kargil War Memorial
Our National Flag at Kargil War Memorial
Our National Flag at Kargil War Memorial
Jawan at Kargil War Memorial
Jawan at Kargil War Memorial
How well do you know your National Flag?
How well do you know your National Flag?

We all were hungry and ordered food in the common restaurant/dining hall down there in the hotel. Well, the food was decent and we had Dal, mix veg. and rice along with tawa rotis. Some opted to go out and try some fiery spicy non-veg food outside the hotel including Shakti, Saurabh, Benjamin, Sahil and Sourabh where latter two suffered quite a stomach upset next day after having that spicy cuisine 😀 😀 … Well, it was time to end this super long day and crash onto bed dreaming about magical vistas through Lamayuru, Moonland and Sham Valley over next day as we travel from Kargil to Leh 🙂 …

The Journey ahead…


I am Dheeraj Sharma - a traveler, techie, and Himalayan lover. Since 2009, I have been helping thousands of travelers every year plan memorable & budget-friendly trips to the Himalayas - Smartly, Safely, and responsibly.


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  2. Farogh mahmood on

    Dear dheeraj. We are planning to do srinagar to kargil on 16 sep14. By SUV500. have read that traffic at zojila is open from 2 pm onwards. Is that true ??!

    • Farog, it happens like that and they have restrictions mostly in place in early part of the season when the road is narrow and only one vehicle can pass through passage. However, that late in the season I have been there twice and never noticed such timing during late leg of season.

  3. Hi..was wondering if delhi-Srinagar-Leh-manali-delhi circuit is ok to take starting last week of july or 1st week of august? I am a little skeptical about being in kashmir around independence day.. I am being ridiculous? Please suggest…also we are going by i20 are there any added precautions?

    • Kanika, well, as long as you can continue to follow the main highway and do not divert into interior parts, it should be fine even to trvel very close to Independence day too. And I see you are traveling well before that. So, there should not be much issues. For hatchback/sedan taking on Manali – Leh Highway Or Spiti Valley via Manali Or Ladakh, please refer the link: FAQ | Can I do Leh – Ladakh / Spiti / Manali – Leh trip in Hatchback or Sedan? for more details.

    • Hi Dheeraj, thank you for the quick response..that is indeed a relief.. also wondering what is time slot we should give to ourselves to complete the whole circuit? Like is it 10-12 days or 12-15 days???

  4. Hello Dheeraj,

    I have read your blog intensively. It’s nicely written and very informative. Thank you for the effort you put in this passion of yours.

    I am a first time traveler to Leh-Ladakh. I would like to know about budget accommodation in Srinagar and how to go to Leh from Srinagar ? If by taxi, then where to find them and if pre-booking is required.
    And where to stay in Kargil/Drass on our way to Leh ?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Palash, thank you for the kind words. You can stay with JH Bazaz at Srinagar which is quite economic and there are many options to travel from Srinagar to Leh including shared taxis, buses and private taxis. Shared taxis cost about Rs 2000 per seat and buses cost about 800-900 with overnight stops at Kargil. Private taxi will cost about 15K. Kargil should be better place to stay overnight a day before you reach Leh.

      • Which would be the best way to cover Srinagar-Leh, without missing out on any sightseeing that befalls on the way ? Will we miss out a lot if we choose Bus/shared taxis ?
        Should we make it in 3 days or 2 days ?

        Also, kindly suggest a budget hotel for stay in Kargil and Leh. Thanks in advance.

        • Palash, hire a private taxi in that case. You can stay at hotel Greenland or PC Palace in Kargil and You can check the nice, preferred list of accommodation options in entire Leh – Ladakh (Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri) including moderate (cheap budget hotels as well) in the series of articles starting on the link here

          Day 1 | Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil
          — Enjoy the vistas enroute
          — Have late drunch meal at Drass is you are a vegetarian as sometimes it gets difficult to find veg. food at Kargil
          — Overnight at Kargil

          Day 2 | Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh
          — Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
          — On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
          — Overnight at Leh

  5. Ashwani Rajput on

    Thanks Deeraj ji, I want to stay in Zanskar appox 6 nights, is that really enough to see all around ( area between Kargil to Padum)? and with family should I prefer to stay in Home Stay? Is that possible to book them before? I am going with Taxi from leh to Zanskar to Srinagar. Kindly advise. Regards Ashwani Rajput

  6. Ashwani Rajput on

    Hello Mr Deeraj, this is the great job you are doing, so help full for the people. Now i am coming to my question. In the end of July for 12 nights with my daughter I am going to Leh by air and wanted to go to Zanskar and then to Srinagar. After spending 2-3 nights in Leh as I have seen most of it already, want to move further to Zanskar to Padum by road. Do you think this is enough time to see around? Or is it safe to travel in Zanskar alone?? Should I take a taxi for the whole trip( leh- Zanskar – Srinagar) or separately?? Can I take my own tent to stay wherever I like or do you think to stay at home stay would be better?? Would be great if you could help me in this. Regards Ashwani Rajput ( Faridabad)

    • Ashwani, it is safe to travel to Zanskar Valley BUT how many days are you planning to spend in Zanskar Valley after 2-3 nights in Leh. Also, are you OK with staying in Tents with family. You can pitch your own tents anywhere but I will suggest you pitch them at a place where there are some dhabha tents put up by locals or where other camping guy pitch theirs or somewhere near some house in village or in their garden/lawn. All you will need is to gently ask them (villagers/dhabha guys/camping guys) for permissions. Most likely they will allow, other wise negotiate for small little tip or move on to some other such place nearby. This will give you sense of security too.

  7. neeraj sahu on

    i am going to delhi to leh via trip platform but m planning to come back by road via srinagar.since i am alone because my friends are taking flight from leh.if somebody is planning to back via kargil n srinagar and want a trip partner so he can contact me

    • DoW started an initiative last year under DoW – Himalayan Travel Community for finding Travel Partners or Companions, leave your message in Travel Partners section at the link: Ladakh & Zanskar – Travel Partners Section. There is also a DoW Travel Calendar linked here which can be used to easily and quickly spot a travel partner with similar dates of all the people looking for Travel Partners for their trips. May be you meet someone online going over the same dates.

  8. sahil salim on

    redoing the trip through your writing…thank u and waiting for the whole story with some more group photos

    • Thank you Sahil !! I am trying my best to make all of you relive this epic adventure trip 🙂 … Please share some group photos because I have very less of them, only few 😀