Perched at a towering height of more than 3,000m (9,800ft), Ladakh flaunts its mesmerising beauty and entices visitors from across all the corners of the globe. Cossetted by the Indian Himalayan Ranges, fringed with numerous ancient architectures, ornate with scenic valleys, and poised with gurgling rivers, this part of the country is a true treasure trove for tourists from all the walks of life.
While the magical beauty of this valley attracts leisure seekers, honeymooners, and other similar vacationers, the thrill and adventure that prevails in Ladakh, tempts the adrenaline junkies. And with these, begins the quest for the most amazing ways to reach Ladakh!
Well, for those who has already visited this paradise, they must know the most enchanting ways to reach Ladakh. And for those, who are yet to plan a Leh Ladakh tour, they must know that road journeys are touted as the most fascinating, amazing, enthralling, and memorable ways to reach Ladakh.
Tricky, rugged, challenging, and dotted by captivating snow-clad mountains, roadway journeys to Ladakh are the best ways to unravel the heavenly beauty of this valley. Also, the turns and twists throughout them, the enthralling mountain passes and the bewilderment to travel through them, makes them yet more desirable among the tourists.
Here are the details about how to plan a Leh Ladakh tour if you are yearning to reach this celestial tourist destination by road:
The most befitting road for the adrenaline seekers, the Manali-Leh Highway is more than 450km, and passes through mostly inhabited locales. Owing to this, Manali-Leh Highway attracts mostly the adventure junkies who yearn to pump up their adrenalines!
Challenges on this route gets further as it has only a few fuel station, and passes through some of the most barren, rugged and high passes. Whether you start from Manali or Leh, the journey will keep you enthralled all the way till you reach your destination!
Starting from Manali, it takes almost two days to reach Leh, the capital of Ladakh with an overnight stay in Keylong (first day). However, starting from Leh, the journey to Manali gets a bit comprehensive.
When to Travel Through Manali-Leh Highway?
This amazing route passes through the riveting Rohtang Pass and Bara Lacha La Pass. Communication through these two high mountain passes begins from May and lasts till the end of September.
As soon as these passes open, commuters have to face heavy road blockages due to the heavy snowfalls overs the past few months. However, they start getting clear by the first week of June, and continues as such before getting shut down again with the advent of the winter; by the end of September.
What Are the Ideal Vehicles to Travel Through Manali-Leh Highway?
A Leh Ladakh tour is best enjoyed on bikes and jeeps; and there is no second thought required! However, while planning for this amazing overland journey, visitors should take care of certain things.
Starting from June 2011, the Himachal Pradesh Government has banned the movements of vehicles that are not registered in Himachal Pradesh. However, for the personal vehicle owners, they can get their cars along the Manali-Leh Highway, but after acquiring special permit from the SDM Office, Manali.
On the other hand, there are no such restrictions on bikes or 2-wheelers. Bikers can get their bikes, irrespective of their origin of registration; however, carrying legal and valid vehicle documents is mandatory in both the cases.
Other Modes of Travelling Through the Manali-Leh Highway:
a. Bus Service from Manali to Leh:
If you are looking for an enthralling Leh Ladakh tour through the Manali-Leh Highway, you can also opt for bus service operated by HPTDC. Compared to taking own vehicles, this bus service proves to be extremely budget-friendly and comfortable up to a certain point. However, before booking bus tickets, you should double check the bus timings as they might vary due to extreme weather, road blockage and other parameters.
b. Bus Service fromKeylong to Leh:
HRTC also has bus services between Keylong and Leh. You can book these buses within a budget of INR 450-500; however, availability is a concern as many tourists opt for this route due to its lesser duration.
c. Shared Taxi Service from Manali to Leh:
Shared taxis are also among the most sought after means to indulge in an amazing Leh Ladakh tour. Starting from the heart of Manali, this communication medium can cost you around INR 1500-2000.
Points to Note While on the Manali-Leh Highway:
- Number of ATMs are very less in the Manali-Leh Highway. The next ATM after Manali is in Keylong followed by Leh. Before taking the steering or charging up your bike, make sure you stuff your wallet with enough cash to avoid any uninvited situations during your Leh Ladakh tour.
- Always carry extra fuel if travelling by own vehicles as the next petrol pump after Manali is in Tandi. After crossing Tandi, you will find petrol pump in Karu; around 380km from Tandi.
- The number of mechanic shops or vehicle servicing centres are very few in the Manali-Leh Highways. Before starting your journey, make sure, you have spare tyres with you.
- Carrying a fully-equipped tool kit will prove handy while hitting the Manali-Leh Highway.
- If travelling by own vehicles, it is advisable to have a partner who can ride or drive, or at least manoeuvre the vehicle. It is always better to travel in a group rather than going solo.
- Carry enough of drinking water, packaged food, energy bars, chocolates, glucose, and similar food items while travelling. Number of hotels or eateries are very insignificant on the highway.
- Try to avoid riding or driving after it gets dark. The turns and twists on Manali-Leh can get trickier at times. Prior experience in rugged and ascending terrains, mountain passes, and sharp turns is highly advisable.
- Carry basic medication while driving, riding, or even travelling by regular buses to Leh to avoid altitude sickness and other such symptoms.
- Mobile communication is pretty abrupt throughout the Manali-Leh Highway. Check with your service provider before embarking on your Leh Ladakh tour through this highway.
- Though lodging options are available in places like Khoksar, Sissu, Gondla, Tndi, Keylong, Jispa, Upshi, Marhi, Rohtang Pass, Bharatpur, Sarchu, and Pang, you might not get all the luxuries and amenities in them.
- Keep your mobile devices and other charged as electricity is not continuous in most of the destinations while on the Manali-Leh Highway.
- There are police checkpoints at several places. Make sure you carry valid photo ID proofs and legal documents while travelling.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or consumption of any intoxicating products while driving or riding.
Some of the Major Destinations and Mountain Passes On the Manali-Leh Highway:
||Solang Valley: 2,590m
||Rohtang Pass: 3,980m
|Deepak Tal: 3,810m
||Suraj Tal: 4,950m
|Baralacha La: 4,890m
||Gata Loops: 4,190m
|Nakee La: 4,740m
||Lachulung La: 5,079m
|Moore Plains: 4,730m
||Taglang La: 5,328m
A 440km long route that will take you through some of the most enchanting valleys, fascinating meadows, towering passes, and trickier terrains, the Srinagar-Leh Highway or the National Highway 1D, is the second route to reach Ladakh. Making its way alongside the alluring Indus River, a drive or ride through this highway is a unique and one of its own kind experience! This route also passes through three of the highest mountain passes in the region – Zoji La Pass (3,528m), Namki La Pass (3,815) and Fotu La Pass (4,108m).
When to Travel Through Srinagar-Leh Highway?
The Srinagar-Leh Highway remains closed in the winter; starting from November to May, and reopens by with the advent of summer. In addition to the thrill and excitement of this journey, you can also feast on the enchanting beauty of the locales while on driving through the Srinagar-Leh Highway.
What Are the Ideal Vehicles to Travel Through Srinagar-Leh Highway?
a. Private Vehicles:
The journey through Srinagar-Leh Highways is revered as one of the most exciting and fascinating road journeys in India. Visitors usually prefer their own vehicles – 4 and 2 wheelers, to complete this enthralling journey.
Private taxis; mostly SUVs and MUVs, are also available on this route, and are extremely popular among the visitors on the spree to Leh Ladakh tour. However, there are certain areas where visitors are allowed only if they are travelling with their personal vehicles or using a locally rented vehicle. Rented vehicles from outside of Ladakh are restricted to these areas.
Other Modes of Travelling Through the Srinagar-Leh Highway:
b. Bus Service from Srinagar to Leh:
There are regular bus services under JKSRTC; you can plan your Leh Ladakh tour and avail these buses to reach your dream destination. The charges for them are minimal and ranges from INR 500-900. Private buses are also available; however, they might charge a bit more than that of the government run buses. Though most of these buses start early morning from Srinagar, you should confirm the timing before booking your Leh Ladakh tours packages.
c. Shared Taxi Service from Srinagar to Leh:
While on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, you can also embark on a delightful journey to Ladakh by availing shared taxis. With charges starting from INR 1200 to 1500, these taxis are also among the most preferred ways to reach Ladakh.
Is There Any Alternate Route to Reach Leh?
Yes! While travelling through the Srinagar-Leh Highway, you can also go for an alternate route that originates in Kargil and passes through destinations like Batalik, Dah and Skurbuchan. However, to travel through this route, one needs to get an Inner Line Permit (ILP) from the local authority.
Points to Note While on the Srinagar-Leh Highway:
- While on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, you can find ample of hotels, lodges, guesthouses, and other stay options. Most of these places to stay are located around Drass, Mulbekh, Sonamarg, Lamayuru, Kargil, Alchi, and Likir. Homestays are also available in certain places; check their availability even before traditional hotels and lodges if you want to discover the rustic phase of your Leh Ladakh tour.
- There are an ample of petrol pumps along the highway; no need to worry about refuelling your vehicles. You can find fuel stations around Srinagar, Mangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Mulbekh, Wakha, Khaltsi, and Leh.
- The Srinagar-Leh Highway is devoid of enough ATM booths. Destination like Srinagar, Ganderbal, Drass, Kargil, Sasapol, and Leh have ATM; you can expect long queues in each of them.
- Prepaid mobile connections from other states do not work in Jammu and Kashmir. On your Leh Ladakh tour through the Srinagar-Leh Highway, you might find most of the private networks inefficient. However, BSNL network is available across most of the places; network might not be very good.
- Though all the towns in Ladakh have electricity, availability is the main concern. It is advisable to keep your mobile phones or other electronic devices properly charged while on your Leh Ladakh tour.
- Mechanic shops can be found across places like Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru, Mulbekh, and Nimu. Since most of these shops only fix punctures, company of a mechanic can save you from several uninvited problems on the highway.
- Also, carry a tool-kit while driving or riding to Ladakh through the Srinagar-Leh Highway.
- The locals of Ladakh are extremely friendly and very respectful towards their cultural values. Do not interfere between their cultural beliefs and values.
- While on your Leh Ladakh tour, you can avail homestays just in exchange of your sweet gesture or by offering a small gift to the local families. Try these homestays for the most authentic experience of Ladakh.
- Avoid driving or riding after it gets dark. The steep ascend, narrow and high passes, rugged terrains, and exhilarating turnings can get riskier after it gets dark.
- Prior driving or riding experience on hilly terrains is a must before embarking on a self-driving or self-riding tour to Leh Ladakh. Also, try to travel in a group rather than going alone.
- Carry a spar tyre while driving through the Srinagar-Leh Highway.
Breakage of the Srinagar-Leh Highway:
- Srinagar to Sonamarg: 85km
- Sonamarg to Drass: 62km
- Drass to Kargil: 58km
- Kargil to Mulbekh: 40km
- Mulbekh to Lamayuru: 70km
- Lamayuru to Leh: 125km