How to Travel from Manali to Leh
Situated amidst the Great Himalayas and Karakoram Range is the scenic union territory named Ladakh. Divided into 4 major regions, namely, Leh, Kargil, Nubra, and Zanskar, it is simply signified as the paradise on earth. Being one of the major attractions of India, Leh-Ladakh has actively kept luring people from across the country with its sheer beauty. From magnificent rugged mountains to breathtaking lakes with cinematic backdrops, highly challenging passes, and roads to a plethora of mindblowing sights, Leh Ladakh is a complete package for people. Usually, people take a bike trip to Ladakh but in the past decade, it has also become an active hotspot for the family on trips and vacations. Owing to the number of high-passes, Leh Ladakh is also known as the “Land of high passes.”
For those who are still unaware, one of the highest motorable passes, Khardung La is also situated in the Leh region of Ladakh. Every year thousands and thousands of adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, family on vacation, and even couples on honeymoon visit here for enjoying their time. There are two major road routes followed by travelers. One is from the Leh Ladakh highway and the second one towards the Manali-Leh highway. This is a Manali Leh highway travel guide that will be helpful for those taking this route.
Though the entire complete circuit of Leh Ladakh from both directions is equally challenging and adventurous but when it comes to comparing both the exterior routes the Manali-Leh highway seems to be a bit more adventurous due to step roads, narrow lanes, slurry, and water-logging all around the route. Though BRO (Border Road Organization) always tries to keep the road in proper shape but the melting snow during summers and daytime and freezing temperature during nights make it difficult for them.
On the flip side, riders taking this route enjoy their trip because traveling from Manali to Ladakh is utmost challenging and completely amusing though you will have to be cautious too. The average at which the entire highway runs is 4,267 m. From Manali, there are two ways, one is the straight highway and the second route is from Rohtang Pass that meets the highway after a few kilometers. More or less, those who travel from Manali to Leh irrespective of their vehicle are up for a memorable and adventurous trip. Also, the Manali-Leh highway has almost everything that nature can offer an adventure seeker/ adventure rider. Even after being so challenging, people from across the globe have a dream to ride or travel through this highway once in their lifetime. So, read the complete Manali to Leh travel guide to get all the vital information that a person should have before starting the journey. It is an extensive guide helping people to keep a tab on everything important for them.
How to reach Leh from Manali (Route Map)
The complete distance from Manali to Leh was about 480 km roughly but the newly opened Atal Tunnel or Rohtang Pass Tunnel back in 2020 has reduced the complete distance by 45 km. It is not just the distance but the time to reach Keylong from Manali has also been reduced by approximately 4 or 4:30 hrs. The tunnel is 9km long and has a good road to travel on. Those who wish to travel from Manali to Leh can now complete the enjoyable journey in approximately 14 hours and way less fatigue. Here is the complete route map of Manali -Leh with all the vital information.
Manali- Rohtang La (Rohtang Pass)- Baralacha La- Suraj Tal- Gata Loops- Nakee La- LungaLacha La- Taglang La- Leh
These are the major attractions where people halt for a few clicks, to enjoy the beauty of nature and much more. While traveling from Manali to Leh the entire 480 km distance can be covered in about 2- 3 days. The altitude gain and loss in the entire trip are significant at places. It is also advised that people should night stay at Keylong or Jispa. People also try to find a place in Sarchu but it is recommended not to stay here. That’s because of the lack of civilization around that area and the altitude. Here are a few key points to be noted for each of these places throughout the routes:
Rohtang La- The first major attraction on the Manali-Leh highway is Rohtang Pass which is about 51 km from Manali and at an altitude of 3980 m.
Baralacha La- The next place perched at an altitude of 4890 which is almost a 1000 m gain in approximately 130 km distance.
Suraj Tal- Surajtal is another wonderful place where nature showcases its beauty at its best. Perched at an altitude of 4883 m in the foothills of Baralacha La, Surajtal is situated. It is also known to be the second-highest lake in India.
Gata Loops- These are the legendary and popular 21 hairpin bends that stretch for approximately 7 km and provide a challenging trail to the riders. There is a sudden gain in altitude from 4190m to 4630m.
LungaLacha La- Although your body would have adjusted to the altitude by now but it might feel a bit dizzy and breathless at this pass because LungaLacha is situated at an astonishing 5000+ m altitude that makes the oxygen level even lower. Also, this is the first time in the entire trip when a person goes to such an altitude.
Taglang La- There would be a stretch of 35 km having good roads on a flatbed between LungaLacha and Taglang. But as soon as the traveler reaches this pass things change drastically. This is the last pass on the Manali-Leh Highway and also the highest motorable road in the route. This pristine place is breathtaking and surely calls for a halt. The picturesque landscape is situated at a daunting height of 5328 m from sea level. This is why it is also recommended that one should not spend a lot of time here. Just look at the beauty around you, take a few clicks and go on with your journey. The next stop will be Leh.
With all this information, it would help in making the trip a bit better and you can plan it wisely covering grounds. Taking halts and creating a map will also be easy for you now.
Bus services from Manali to Leh
People can also opt for a bus trip to Leh from Manali, hire a private cab and also get a ticket to the tour bus of Himachal Pradesh. All these options are available for the people and the route followed would be the same. So, if the challenging road makes you feel doubtful, use the public conveyance that plies every day from the Manali bus stand. But it is very important for every traveler to make a complete itinerary for the entire trip so that they have an idea of the places. The bus also stops at major attractions so that travelers could enjoy the complete route.
The bus route from Manali to Leh is as followed:
Manali- Rohtang Pass- Gramphu- Tandi- Keylong- Jispa- Darcha- Patseo- Zingzing Bar- Baralacha La- Sarchu- Nakee La- Lachulung La- Pang- Tanglang La- Upshi- Karu- Leh
Travelers can get down at the bus stoppage areas and click pictures of the surrounding valley and mountains. Everything throughout the route is breathtakingly beautiful, serene, and enchanting.
Road condition of Leh-Manali highway
Manali to Leh Ladakh Highway Road is a bit patchy with metalled roads in some areas and decent roads in a few parts. Rest is covered with slurry, granules, and puddles. With the opening of the Atal Tunnel, travelers now don't have to worry about natural phenomena like landslides, snow blocking the roads, and much more. Traveling from Manali to Ladakh has now become easier, quicker, and even more enjoyable due to lesser fatigue. Let's quickly check the road condition phase-wise:
- The first phase of the Manali Leh Highway journey which is between Manali and Rohtang Pass is quite enthralling with the road conditions average. Some parts are in decent condition whereas others are pathetic. But all in all, it is an average stretch.
- Next from Rohtang to Khoksar, the entire road is going to be highly challenging and full of slushy areas. Travelers need to be cautious and have to ride the way through with caution.
- Khoksar to Sissu is a bit of a relaxing road as it is decent and people would face no problem here on this stretch.
- Manali to Leh Ladakh Biking Trip is all about adventurous riding, right? But the next stretch which is from Sissu to Keylong is a smooth one. It Will help in covering the distance between these two places quickly. It is one of those stretches along the highway where the road is in very good shape.
- Keylong to Jispa is the next stretch and it also has an average to well-maintained roads with a few patchy areas.
- From Jispa to Baralacha Pass this entire stretch also consists of good roads that make the entire journey till this point quite smooth.
- Adventure-loving riders who prefer doing the Leh Ladakh bike tour from Manali get their part of the bargain of adventure from this point. From Baralacha Pass to a point called Moore Plains, the entire stretch of road is adventurous and challengings. It is quite a long stretch with uneven roads, dirt tracks, bumpy, and slushy areas where the snow-melted water could be found everywhere. As adventurous as it sounds, one has to be utmost careful and cautious on this stretch. Do enjoy the ride, halt at spots for picture clicking sessions as this is the best stretch of the entire Manali-Leh Highway. From Moore Plains to Leh BRO (Border Road Organisation) has done a great job to keep the road in the best shape possible. There won’t be any problem throughout this stretch as the road is maintained quite well.
So this is the entire route map and the road conditions one has to go through while opting for a bike trip to Leh from Manali.
Attractions en-route Leh from Manali
Manali to Leh highway stretches for roughly 480 km and it is one of the best trails in the world. It is one of the toughest and adventurous journeys that showcases natural beauty at its best. From riding through the high passes to going along the majestic Himalayan range, the route offers a plethora of jaw-dropping sights to travelers. From scenic spots, serenity, hairpin bends, and picturesque valleys, there are a lot of places where people stop by to gaze upon the beauty of nature while they travel to Leh Ladakh via Manali. Some of the top attractions of this route are:
- Manali City
- Rohtang Pass
- Rani Nallah
- Deepak Tal
- Suraj Tal
- Zingzing Bar
- Gata Loops
- Baralacha Pass
- Lachung La Pass
- Tso Kar
- Taglang La
- Shaheed Sainik Bhawan
- Moore Plains
- Hairpin Bends
Best time to travel Leh from Manali
Manali to Leh highways opens for a few months only. Due to the altitude and location, the entire road experiences heavy rainfall and snowfall that makes it a dangerous road to ride or drive on. Therefore, the best time to visit Leh from Manali is during the summers or between June and August. Though BRO keeps the roads clear and works hard for the adventure enthusiasts to satiate their hunger for more, but it is unlikely that people can travel through this highway either during the rainy season or winters. Both the seasons can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. So, to make a comfortable and enjoyable journey, it is advised to ride during summers.
Places to eat en-route Leh from Manali
These are the places to eat on the Manali-Leh highway.
- Deepak Tal
- Zingzing Bar
Feel free to stop by any of these places and enjoy a scrumptious meal and tea or refreshing drinks.
Places to stay en-route
While you plan a trip to Leh Ladakh from Manali, there are fewer places to stay but sufficient for a 2-3 day trip to be done. Accommodations en-route Leh-Ladakh from Manali include hotels, guest houses, tents, and camps. Here are the places where one can spend a night relaxing after an adventurous day:
- Zingzing Bar
Availability of petrol pumps en-route
Availability of petrol pumps in route Leh from Manali is also another issue that needs to be tackled by the travelers. There are just two places where petrol pumps can be found in the entire stretch of 480 km, one is near Khoksar and the other one in Karu. It is highly advised to get the tanks of the vehicle full and keep filled jerry cans for emergencies. Also, in adverse times, people can request from the Dhabas at Sarchu and in the army camp of Pang to give the fuel.
In case of mechanical breakdown, people can find mechanics at Khoksar, Keylong, Tandi, Darcha, Pang, Sarchu, and Upshi. Get the mechanical problems fixed at any of these places before heading out on the Manali to Leh journey ahead.
Availability of ATMs
The Leh Ladakh bike tour from Manali is always intriguing but lacks a few important and basic facilities. One of such is the availability of ATMs. They are found in just a few places throughout the route. Therefore, it is always recommended or either carry cash from the start or withdraw it during the halt in Manali. Apart from Manali city, the availability of ATMs is in Keylong, and then in Leh. Travelers won’t find any ATMs in between and the petrol pumps on this pass, fail to accept cards. This is why one should keep extra cash in the backpack. Doing so makes the Manali to Ladakh road trip quite amazing and memorable with no worries.
Availability of mobile networks
Another problem that travelers have to face while traveling to this wonderful place is the Mobile connectivity in Leh. The connection of airtel networks will be there near Keylong, Upshi -Leh. Whereas BSNL networks are the best throughout. People will get decent coverage throughout the route and even in Leh-Ladakh. Jio is in progress and would be there any time.
Note: Do keep in mind that no prepaid connections will work anywhere in the Leh-Ladakh region.
Emergency medical help (if needed)
As we have already discussed, the entire Manali-Leh highway has less civilization so be it mechanical help or medical help; it can be found in a few places only. Medical facilities are available in Sissu, Keylong, and Sarchu. In an emergency, people can also stop by at the Pang medical facility where an army camp is also present.
Therefore, while drafting an itinerary from Manali to Leh, it is always essential to keep important things in mind and the availability of medical support is one of them. If one feels a bit uncomfortable, do halt at any of these places to get a regular checkup or medicines for the problem.
Tips to keep in mind while traveling from Manali to Leh
There are a few general tips that every traveler using the Manali Leh highway should keep in mind. Some of the important ones are listed below:
- Ensure that your bike is in optimum condition and is serviced before starting this journey. It is going to be a challenging road throughout and the bike would definitely take a beating. Make sure that the brake pads, chain, engine oil, oil filter, and other essential parts are changed if required or else you might be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
- Finding help on this highway can be a really difficult task so keep an extra brake wire, clutch wire, chain clean and lube. Make sure to keep lubricating the chain and leavers every 200 km.
- Keep a puncture kit and a foot pump for emergencies because the highway lacks settlement and civilization in major portions of the route.
- Keep all the AMS preventive medicines and also those that can come in handy while you go on this trip. If possible, consult your doctor before keeping any medicine in the backpack. It is the best way.
- Keep all the important documents in the backpack and get their multiple copies as well. If you wish to visit the Rohtang Pass, make sure to get the permit from the Manali DC office.
- Refrain from taking any alcohol and antidepressant drug throughout the trip as it can make things worse during the trip.
- All the places that you are going to cross throughout the journey are situated at a high altitude which is why it is recommended that one should not exert more. Over-exertion can lead to breathlessness and more problems thereafter.
- As already mentioned above, it is never recommended that travelers should spend a night at a high altitude. The best places for an overnight stay in the entire journey are Keylong and Jispa. Most of the basic amenities and facilities are available here and they are not at a high altitude as compared to others on the route.
- Keep eating every now and then, make sure your body has the energy required. Don’t consider riding as an easy task on this highway. One needs to be cautious and concentrated. So keep your belly full. Another very important thing is keeping your body hydrated. At such a height and cool temperature, people usually don’t prefer drinking much water because they simply don’t feel thirsty. Don’t do this. Keep drinking a small portion of water in gulps to keep yourself hydrated.
- One of the biggest problems on the Leh-Manali highway is finding a petrol pump. It is advised to keep jerry cans in your bag (filled) so that you don't have to worry about petrol.
- Apart from Manali, you will have ATMs at Keylong and then straight to Leh. There are no machines throughout the way except these. So it is better to keep cash in hand for spending on food wherever you stop.
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