Indian Himalayas: transport and hiking
When I last visited it was tricky but not impossible to travel from Shimla via Spiti to Leh in Ladakh; carrying on to Srinagar wasn’t possible or recommended at the time. How are the Shimla-Leh and Leh-Srinagar travel connections nowadays, easy to do? Is there good (daytrip)hiking around Srinagar or is it better to do that elsewhere? (I liked doing independent hikes in Uttarakhand).
I believe Srinagar has opened up considerably recently and that there are reasonable connections from Leh; shared minibuses should take about 14 hours to make the trip (several government buses depart each day but take up to double the time). There are opportunities for hiking from Srinagar, and local agencies to help arrange trips, but Pahalgam is the main base for trekking in the region with several popular multi-day treks. Wherever you start out, it’s still recommended to at least travel with a local guide.
To get from Shimla to Leh, try going via Manali, from where there are a couple of buses daily in summer. You can also fly in directly to both Leh (from Delhi) and Srinagar (from Delhi or Leh). I’m afraid I’m unsure if it’s possible to travel via Spiti.
Hope that’s some help!
The situation is Kashmir has stabilized in the last few years. The state government and the people themselves are working hard to retrive its ‘paradise on earth’ tag. The scenic beauty of Srinagar cannot be denied and there are some beautiful walks around, but it is worth keeping in mind that this is the largest urban centre of the region. The smaller townships of Sonmarg and Pahalgam offer better trekking. The Kashmir Great Lakes trek from Sonmarg is truly beautiful.
The road connections are, on the whole, good, but you must keep in mind that these are the high Himalya, the terrain and harsh climatic conditions can mean unexpected disruption of services. When this happens, patience is the best option as it will be taken care of as soon as possible.
It is possible to go from Simla to Spiti and get on to the Manali – Leh highway just after Manali and carry on to Keylong, Leh and further to Srinagar if you want. However, while there is a good state transport bus service, it is probably best to have a tour operator organize the transport for you. It’s probably one of the best road trips you could do through absolutely spectacular, awe-inspiring landscape.