Leh Trip N ALTO …. Yup!! —- Part I

“Going Nuts”, response I got when I shared our idea of going Leh in Lill ALTO from everybody in the office. Anyway we were determined to take up the challenge (Plan B was also ready with us just incase). So here comes our Travel Masti……

3 Idiots in Leh
3 Idiots in Leh

Day 1 : Gurgaon to Kud

A long time in the planning stage, a long time in coming… A long dreamed of trip to the Roof of the India…… Ladakh, started on 23th June 2010 in ALTO, covering more than 650 KM on our first day via Ambala & Hoshiarpur (Took shorter route via NH 91 & NH 21 to avoid Ludhiana & Jallandhar) , We drove up past Udhampur bypass, and having decided to avoid Jammu, stopped finally at Kud at J&K Tourist Bungalow. Just before reaching, we rolled down our windows and let the clouds drift through the car (Not unusual for people coming from Delhi in Hot Summer).

Thanda Thanda.... Cool Cool
Thanda Thanda…. Cool Cool

Day 2 : Sonmarg………Meadow of Gold (including short trip to Aru….by mistake though)

We set off early from Kud-Patnitop towards Srinagar via the famous Jawahar Tunnel, a 2.6 km long tunnel where photography isn’t allowed for security reasons, this tunnel being a lifeline into Srinagar, both for the city and for the army. Yes, we also bought some famous “Patisa” from Prem Sweets, Kud. Enroute alarmed at the sight of the army patrols with mine detectors as also pickets with light machine guns at Regular Intervals.

As suggested by Google Maps took a shorter route to Sonamarg via Pahalgam (in any case we wanted to avoid Srinagar), and reached Aru Valley. Scenically most rewarding, through forests of virgin pine, fording crystal clear mountains streams and through meadows of wild flowers, in this fascinating meadow clicked some excellent photographs (around 15 km from Pahalgam) only to know from Locals that no such shorter route exists.

River alongside

River alongside

Ye Vadiyaan

Ye Vadiyaan

Finally decided to come back to main route but crossing Srinagar was a real pain, CRPF/Police presence and check posts have been steadily increasing. We really got scared when in one of the Chowk, Crowd started throwing stones, we turned back and asked a policeman for alternate route to Sonamarg from Srinanagar.

Road Rash @ Srinagar

Road Rash @ Srinagar

The drive after crossing Srinagar was the most spectacular so far , with some fabulous terrain and drove along the frisky Sindh River. It was difficult to decide when to shoot and when to wait for the next bend in the road – it just kept getting better and better. Late evening snowy heights into the dense woodlands of firs and silver birches welcomed us in Sonmarg. At Sonmarg where we stayed at J&K Bungalow (recommended for excellent views). For people travelling to Leh from this Route, A Petrol Pump is there in Gagangir just 10 KM short of Sonamarg.

Sonmarg I

Sonmarg I

View from J & K Bangalow

View from J & K Bangalow

Day 3 Zozila Pass ——– The Gateway to Ladakh

The serious climbing began today, and we kept marveling at how truckers seemed so casual about negotiating those hairpin bends with just a sheer drop on one side. We came to our first pass – Zojila, where we got some photos.

Zozi La II

Zozi La II

Zozi La I

Zozi La I

Lill Alto relaxed after crossing Godzilla

Lill Alto relaxed after crossing Godzilla

Zozi La III

Zozi La III

Zozi La IV

Zozi La IV

Zoji La Pass has an impressive location, enclosed by Kashmir Valley on one side and Drass Valley on the other side, over looking snow capped peaks and thick belt of forests. It is closed half the year due to heavy snowfall and opened in late spring.
The climb continued and the terrain got increasingly beautiful as we progressed. We passed through Drass, a picturesque little town where we stoped to click famous Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill

Beautiful Drass...... The Second Coldest Inhabitat in the World

Beautiful Drass...... The Second Coldest Inhabitat in the World

Once clear of Kargil we drove closer to the snow-covered mountain and I could see how really large they were. We rode for several hours without talking much. Then we had to make a decision and stopped the Engine in Mulbekh (J&K Guest House). Mulbekh is first pre-dominantly Buddist village in Srinagar to Leh Route.

Mulbekh... Welcome Ladakh

Mulbekh... Welcome Ladakh

Welcome to Tibbet

Welcome to Tibbet



  • shobhit says:

    Amazing is the word…
    Well cant stop myself from writing….Bro i am desperate to make a trip to Leh in Aug and dropping in from UK…but i have a i10….please give a serious piece of advice regarding it….is it a good idea to take i10…car is in perfect condition…BTW hows the roads and all…is it ok if i can make it through Manali- Leh -Srinagar.
    i would love to talk to you once….in case its fine with u….
    Amazing….hats off to you..

  • Nandan jha says:

    Shalini – tell me more about the time it took to reach kurd, sonmarg etc. Does one need 3 breaks and can we do it over two breaks. What would you advise.

    Brilliant pics and really commendable to do this in ALTO. One of my quotes, horse power is of driver and not of the automobile. Very inspiring.

    Link this with your ‘coming soon’ story.

    • SKoli says:

      Hi Nandan, thanks for reading, We started at 4:00 pm from Gurgaon (jus wanted to avoid 5:30 traffic at Toll) and reached Kud around 7:30 in the morning (it is nice and calm town 15 kms short of Patnitop).

      For Sonmarg as I mentioned we got to different route (thanks to Google Map) and took more that 10 hrs.

      I tried to link but got some error (we will take it off line)

  • Saurabh says:

    Wow…wat a fun…all the pics have been shot very nicely!!!

  • Bindaas Traveler says:

    Amazing! and most importantly INSPIRING!!!

    your statement “It was difficult to decide when to shoot and when to wait for the next bend in the road it just kept getting better and better” is absolutely true.

    I was in leh last yr, it didnt seem like something that can be done with a small segment car. Kudos to you! Must have been an adventure.


  • Dear Shalini,


    Nice to see that you kept your words ” Coming Soon”.

    Leh – Ladakh on Alto , its amazing. I like what Nandan use to say “Horse power is of driver and not of the automobile”.

    All the Pictures are beautiful, specially View from J&K Bungalow & Mulbekh are awesome.

    • SKoli says:

      Hey its not only Horse Power of Driver (Navigator does matter, who was me of course) and I will again say ” wait for more”……. Thanks for reading

    • SKoli says:

      Hey its not only Horse Power of Driver (Navigator does matter, who was me of course) and I will again say ” wait for more”……. Thanks for reading : )

  • Sahil says:

    Dear Shalini ,

    A great journey in an Alto. You proved it right ” Lets Go in an Alto “. Its been a dream destination Leh by road. Also the pics are amazing specially in Picasa album . The Pangong Lake is simply wonderful.


    • SKoli says:

      Hi Sahil, Thanks for reading ” I agree with Nandan’s comment that Horse Power should be at Traveller’s Heart”

  • shobhit says:

    Hey Shalini,
    What dates you left….i heard the Manali- Leh route opened very recently…how many days trip….did car gave any probs anytime….is Auto’s Belly scrapped….i took swift last time to gangotri and suffered…check “nplanned trip to Gangotri”….please update me with more details….i am more concern with car details and road details…. and route….since my i10 is my issue…you people were three….what about luggage….fuel…actually….i have too many queries….sorry for bombarding you with questions….
    thanks in advance

    • SKoli says:

      Hi, We left on 23 Jun 10 ….. We haven’t recd any problem with Car. The car was inspected and serviced properly with all new brand MRF tyres. We kept extra wheel also which was not required as not even a single puncture during 3400 kms round trip.

      There are certain techniques which needs to be followed for driving in this terrain which I have learnt and any car make it. (PM me at girish.koli@gmail.com for those tips and tricks).

      We had 4 large bags and easily adjusted in boot. Fuel is not an issue in Srinagar – Leh route. Our total expenses over fuel is around 10 K and our total expenses including fuel / car service is around 25 K.

  • Patrick says:

    I hope there is apart Two? This trip has been in the making for a long time for me. Let me see when i will be able to make it. If an alto can then my Palio probably can too. Good photos indeed. What route was the return? Manali? or back the same way?

    • Patrick says:

      oops shalini i just saw the part I bit on the title – sorry!!!

    • SKoli says:

      Hi Patrick, I am working on rest of the Story… will be posted soon… We came back via same route since Manali route was opened recently and guys (some of the bikers) told us about the unfavourable Road Conditions… so so so… We dropped our plan to come back via Manali.

  • travellers says:

    Hi Shalini,


    Sharmi, debosh and self offer standing ovation to this venture. I may not be much off the mark in claiming that this series is one of the most significant posts on this site, upholding the real spirit of ‘Ghumakkar’.

    A self driven alto from Gurgaon to Leh – it is a collective dream of every 800/alto/santro/indica driver (which would have remained just that, but for this post), which has been realised by you in flesh and blood.

    Please go slow – we are savouring every bit of it in following this landmark journey. I have abandoned my plan of covering Leh/Ladhakh by flight this October. If at all, it will be in our car now.

    And do tell us more about – road condition, distance covered each day, staying arrangements, alternative routes/points, petrol/mechanic/pit-stop points and whatever you feel may be needed to cover this journey.

    And BTW, what was Plan B, mentioned in first Para.

    Once again, a real masterpiece. Keep going.

  • travellers says:

    Once again,

    My impression is also that the route via Manali is through a rougher terrain and less suitable for small cars. Do give your account.

    Thanks, Auro.

  • Ram Dhall says:


    “Kahiye to aasmaan ko jameen par uttar layen,
    Mushkil nahin hai kuchh bhi agar, thaan lijiye”

    You have proved it.

    Having traveled in the difficult hilly terrains, I think your decision of going by an Alto was really brave one.

    Hats off to you and the co-travellers.

    This post will give impetus to some of the ghumakkars to plan such trips.

    Thanks for sharing this hair raising experience.

    • SKoli says:

      Thank you Jeeee… we were also unsure about the trip when we started … N every time when we passed through a deep Water Stream on a rough strecth we jus prayed ALTO to come out without hampering the lower part of our lill vehicle…. But it was really exciting as well… Trust Me….

  • sskagra says:

    God’s love those who love themself so you are a good travolers
    thanking you

  • RT says:

    Wow, what a trip! I have just finsihed this part and my pride of 9yr old ownership of a little useful car has multiplied, while fully supporting Nandan’s quote.

    I have noticed Alto to be a regular taxi vehicle on lower hills of Almora. Probably, the lowest turning radius, good torque in first gear and low height works in favour. Pl tell me what was covered in 15k for servicing?

    Iit is indeed courageous to set out for such a historic journey on a nimble footed vehicle. (Tyre size of the car being a major shortcoming for such trips, and as soon you increase the foot size, the heart must be bigger too!)

    What beautiful pics to make the log so vivid!

  • Azizul Hassan says:

    An incredible journey possible through your pics. Thanks for uploading such nice pics.
    Best regards from Bangladesh.

  • Indeed Shalini its a beautiful trip all along and I am looking forward to trave till Leh. Keep driving.

    Do I need to comment about photographs that are ek se badhkar ek :-)

  • bikerdude says:

    Oh Boy… I used to think I am crazy… but there are nuttier travellers than me… :-)

    Now I am ROTFLMAO! Gues why?

    I see all those Macho Guys who prefer to do this sector on a 4×4… imagine them reading this and bashing their heads on the wall when they read about a puny lil Alto doing this :-)

    BTW awesome pics!

  • Saurav says:

    very inspiring………………

  • Manish Jain says:

    Wow… Really in ALTO

  • Rakesh Bansal says:

    I am planning to go to Ladakh. Please let me know if prior booking is required in the J & K Bungalow?

  • Pallav says:

    anyone joining me for leh in summer of 2012, mail me at pallav.gargin@gmail.com or call me at 9818007122

  • DJ MADDY says:

    unbelievable is the word thats it…..

  • ajay15111968 says:

    Dear Friends,
    We (Me and my wife 40/34) going to Leh from Delhi by car, We are searching another Couple for the same. We are going to start on 08/08/2012 night to Kashmir Kargil Leh Keylong Manali _ Delhi 17th morning we can come back.
    If interested do massage us.” ajay15111968@rediffmail.com

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