If I had to pick one road in India that I would travel again to treat my eyes and senses , it would undoubtedly with the National Highway 1D or popularly known as the Srinagar-Leh highway. Well almost because I decided to take a detour at Kargil towards Zanskar and what I saw made feel I was in paradise though with un-metalled roads.
The road from Srinagar to Zanskar takes you from the picturesque Dal Lake to the grass meadows of Sonemarg to the treacherous Zozila Pass to the infamous Kargil town to forlorn Rungdum-almost like a forgotten ancient township of yore. From there the road takes you through breathtaking Pensila Pass to the unbelievable Darang drung glacier and finally after passing by never ending grasslands, frozen peaks, barren mountains, glistening rivers, numerous dirt tracks, a myriad hues and contours of landscape, you have entered Zanskar-a land forgotten and lost in a time warp. If you can survive dirt tracks, landslides, and treacherous terrain, well pat yourself on making your way through heaven-though it is not exactly a glide.
The lifeline of Srinagar-the picturesque never ending Dal Lake which stretches on and on. Dotted with innumerable houseboats and floating shops, the Dal is like balm to a roving traveler spirit. Highly recommended is staying in one of the houseboats, and savoring Kashmiri hospitality.
Sonemarg valley is one of the most beautiful places on this highway. The drive from Srinagar to Sonemarg is itself a scenic one meandering through golden fields and towering hills. The meadows of Sonemarg are ever inviting for a trek or a pony ride through the gentle terrain.
Rangdum is a town lost in time warp. A town of merely a dozen houses or so with the Rangum Gompa dotting the landscape and being the focal point, this is one enigmatic place on the way to Padum. Surrounded by lofty mountains and sprawling grasslands, Rangdum is a place to feel one with nature and yourself. Everywhere you look, you will fall be enamored by its vastness, quietude, and solace.
Padum is the district capital of Zanskar-a sleepy hamlet which comes to life only for six months of the year when the snow has melted. It is base camp for trekking further in Zanskar region and sightseeing the numerous monasteries dotting it.
Karsha monastery is the largest Gompa in Zanskar region.Perched high atop a mountain, the climb to the monastery is one which will leave you breathless. But once you have made it, equally breathtaking are the views from the monastery of the sprawling plains of Zanskar. If that's not enough, break humble bread with the monks and enlightenment wont be far long.