Traveling to Ladakh by Road is perhaps one of the most thrilling road adventures in India or for that matter anywhere in the world. Traveling Ladakh by road involves crossing some of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world, driving through vast semi-arid planes. During the road trip, one can enjoy glimpses of the distinctive lifestyle of nomads who live in small settlements all along the way. Ladakh by road offers spectacular sights of barren mountains in Great Himalayas and Zanskar ranges, sweeping valleys and stunning panoramas. Colorful Tibetan prayer flags, prayer bells, monasteries and Tibetan Buddist populace that one meets along the way are some of the unique aspects of traveling to Ladakh region by road. There are two roads that bikers, road trip lovers and drivers take to reach Leh town. One is Srinagar-Leh Highway and the more popular one is Leh-Manali Highway.
Leh-Manali Highway is preferred among bikers as it involves crossing several breathtaking high mountain passes. The journey from Manali includes riding along scenic mountain ranges. Feel the thrill as you ride with the Himalayas on one side and the gushing rivers on the other. Above all the sheer excitement of riding some of the toughest motorable terrains is beyond description. Find complete information here on how to reach Ladakh by road through bus. Our travel guide offers complete details and important information like riding distance, basic facilities available en route, eating and accommodation along the way. The all-inclusive guide also includes necessary information on ATMs, petrol pumps and other facilities to help you plan your road trip to Ladakh via either Leh-Manali or Leh-Srinagar Highway.
Manali - Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road
Out of the two highways which lead to Leh-Ladakh, one is Manali- Leh Highway. Owing to a number of matchless experiences it offers, the highway is preferred by the adventure enthusiasts. The 490 km long Highway was designed, built and is maintained entirely by the Border Roads Organization of Indian Army.
It is anytime better that you should try Leh to Manali instead of Manali to Leh. The main reason for this is, after becoming comfortable to such high altitudes already, moving downwards will not be much of a problem.
You can halt at Sarchu, which is at an equal distance from both the destinations. It is a beautiful place and has numerous accommodation options too. If you do the other way round, day 1 will be Manali – Keylong and day 2 will be Keylong to Leh. Since Sarchu is placed on a high altitude, it is not advisable to spend an overnight here.
But in the end, it depends entirely on the traveler, whatever he feels comfortable with. This highway also offers a beautiful journey.
Season to travel on this Highway
Traveling on Manali-Leh Highway depends entirely on the opening of Rohtang Pass and Baralacha La. It is open for about four and a half months that too in summer in May or June. Thus, the best time to reach Ladakh via Manali-Leh Highway is during the months of June to September. In early June, there still are road blockages because of ice but in August-September, the condition of the roads becomes perfect. Moreover, since June is the rainy season, the chances of landslides are high.
Modes of travel on this Highway
The movement of non-HP vehicles on Manali- Rohtang Pass is banned by Himachal Pradesh Govt from 27th June 2011 onwards. To go to Leh-Ladakh or Keylong, non-HP registered vehicles will have to take permits from the SDM Office in Manali. However, there is no restriction on bikes. Make sure you get yourself registered at the various check posts and show your permits wherever necessary while traveling.
Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)
Self-drive is opted by a large number of people because driving on your own on such tough terrain is once in a lifetime experience. Either take your own car or bike or else, you can also rent a vehicle. It is extremely important that you should be an expert before you think of self-drive or on such rugged terrains. You should also know something about the maintenance of your bike, just in case, there is no mechanical help nearby. If you have any kind of doubts, you should better clear them and then only start the journey further.
You must carry some stuff so that it can help you. Carry a screwdriver set, basic toolkit, a few bottles of petrol or diesel, an iron rod, a small hammer and puncture repair kit. Also, do not forget to pack an adhesive, funnel, wires or cables, towing rope, spare tube, M-seal and so on. Get your vehicle serviced before setting on for the journey.
Hire a Private Taxi
While coming from Manali, a taxi with HP number can drop you at Leh-Ladakh. But, for sightseeing in Leh, a taxi with Ladakh number would be required. If you are hiring a taxi that is not from Leh, then opt for the one which has a private number plate. In case of any kind of interrogation, you will have to convince the other person that this vehicle is not hired.
It is advisable to hire a taxi from Manali, as the local drivers are experts in driving through such difficult roads. They are also accustomed to any kind of problems. They know how to handle any kind of hurdles.
Hire a taxi from Manali taxi stand. Do not forget to bargain. Generally, extra Rs 1000 is charged, if there is night stay while going towards Leh. To go to Leh from Manali, you will have to shell somewhere between Rs 12000 to Rs 17000.
Manali - Leh Bus Service
If you are traveling solo or duo, then you can also opt for Manali - Leh bus service by HPTDC. The ticket of a semi-deluxe bus may cost up to Rs 1500 to Rs 2000. Before you think about planning your journey considering a bus ride, you should better confirm the timings and the schedule, as they vary. Tickets can also be booked online.
Keylong - Leh Bus Service
Buses of HRTC also ply between Manali and Leh, but only from Keylong. To reach Keylong, you can also opt for shared taxis. You must confirm the schedule of these buses, before planning a journey. Manali - Keylong costs between Rs 100 - 125 and Keylong - Leh costs between Rs 450 - 550.
Shared taxis also ply between Manali to Leh. They generally cover the journey at night that may cost somewhere between Rs 1200 to Rs 1800 per person.
Fuel or Petrol Pump on the Highway
After the hill town of Manali, you will get a petrol pump only at Tandi. Therefore, you'll find the next petrol pump at Karu which is roughly 380 km from Tandi. So make sure that you have your tank full and also keep extra jars and cans of petrol. The next one is at Upshi / Karu which is nearby Leh. Make sure to fill your tank completely at Manali. Also, fill in a few extra bottles of petrol as well.
ATM on the Highway
Make it a point that you carry enough cash in your pocket as ATM is available only in Manali and Keylong. After Keylong, the next ATM is in the town of Leh.
Places on Manali - Leh Highway with their Altitudes
Following are the places on Manali-Leh highway:
|Manali: 1950 Mtrs||Solang Valley: 2590 Mtrs||Marhi : 3300 Mtrs|
|Rani Nala||Rohtang Pass: 3980 Mtrs||Gramphu: 3200 Mtrs|
|Khokhsar: 3140 Mtrs||Sissu : 3170 Mtrs||Tandi: 2573 Mtrs|
|Keylong : 3080 Mtrs||Jispa: 3320 Mtrs||Darcha: 3360 Mtrs|
|Deepak Tal : 3810 Mtrs||Patseo: 3811 Mtrs||Suraj Tal: 4950 Mtrs|
|Baralacha La: 4890 Mtrs||Sarchu: 4290 Mtrs||Gata Loops: 4190 Mtrs|
|Nakee La: 4740 Mtrs||Lachulung La: 5079 Mtrs||Pang : 4600 Mtrs|
|Moore Plains: 4730 Mtrs||Debring : 4835 Mtrs||Taglang La: 5328 Mtrs|
|Rumste: 4260 Mtrs||Upshi: 3480 Mtrs||Leh: 3500 Mtrs|
Facilities or Amenities on Manali - Leh Highway
|Hotel / Guest Houses||Khoksar, Sissu, Gondla, Patseo, Tandi, Keylong (Many options), Jispa, Upshi|
|Tents / Camps (Dhaba / Swiss / Normal)||Marhi, Jispa, Darcha, Zingzing Bar, Bharatpur, Sarchu (Many options), Pang|
|Food / Beverages||Marhi, Rohtang Pass, Khoksar, Sissu, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Deepak Tal, Zingzing Bar, Bharatpur, Sarchu, Pang, Rumste, Upshi|
|Diesel / Petrol Pumps||Tandi (107 km from Manali, at the confluence of River Chandra and Bhaga River), Karu (36 km from Leh)|
Mobile signal of Airtel worked till Keylong only and then faded rapidly. The signals were restored after crossing Upshi for Airtel.
BSNL has more coverage and better connectivity within this range than any other operator. Airtel works in Ladakh but with poor connectivity.
SMS does work fine for both BSNL and Airtel.
Vodafone did not work at all after crossing Marhi and not even in Leh -Ladakh.
Packet data also works upto Keylong and in Leh packet data is available only with BSNL edge.
|Fixed Phones||Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Upshi|
|Electricity||Sissu, Gondla, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Upshi|
|Medical Facilities||Sissu, Keylong|
|Police Checkpoints||Darcha, Sarchu, Upshi, Khoksar (For foreigners only)|
|Mechanic / Puncture Shops||Marhi, Khoksar, Tandi (not sure), Keylong, Darcha, Sarchu, Upshi|
|Liquor Shops||Marhi, Keylong, Darcha, Upshi|
|Natural Highlights||Rohtang Pass, Tandi Confluence, Sissu Waterfall, Deepak Tal, Suraj Tal, Baralacha La, Strange Soil formations, Moore Plains (Wildlife too), Taglang La or Tanglang La, Gata Loops|
# All fares and fees written above are indicative
Srinagar Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road
Srinagar-Leh Highway, also known as National Highway – 1D (NH – 1D), is 434 km long. It is a lifeline in terms of road connectivity between Leh – Ladakh and other parts of India, en-route Kashmir Valley. Although out of the 464 long highway, 350 km doesn't have civilization but it is more reliable than the Leh-Manali Highway. On this route, you will be accompanied by the river Indus which flows along the highway. On your way to Leh, you come across a number of passes. Out of them, three of the important ones are Zozi La (3528 m), Namki La (3815 m) and Fotu La (4108 m).
Season to Travel on the Highway
The Srinagar Highway remains closed for around 6 months in a year, mostly from November to May. The inaccessibility is because of the heavy snowfall in the mountains. It usually starts from mid-May or in the first week of July. The best time to travel on this highway is between the months of June to October. The month of July is of monsoon and thus, landslides creating road blockings are unavoidable. One can clearly see army convoys stationed, all around the year. This highway is filled with army trucks carrying the necessary material.
Means of traveling on the Highway Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)
Most of the travelers to Leh-Ladakh opt for self-drive in their cars or bikes. Driving through the toughest terrain can actually be an exhilarating experience for an adventure enthusiast. You can also opt for rented cars or bikes that are easily available. It is advisable that you should know about the maintenance of the vehicle which you are driving, before embarking on the journey. SUV/MUV is a great option but sometimes hatchbacks also prove to be a good option. The difficulties on this highway are less than the Manali-Leh highway. Since this journey is a difficult one, you need to be careful all the time.
Your vehicle must be well-equipped with a small hammer, a basic tool kit, iron rod, screwdriver set, puncture repair kit and extra petrol in bottles. Other things that you should carry are towing rope, funnel, adhesive, spare tubes, wires, M-seal etc. Also, before starting the trip, get service of your bike or car done.
Hire a Private Taxi
According to the rules of the taxi union, taxis only with Ladakh number can roam around the region. If you are hiring a taxi that does not have a Ladakh number, rent a taxi that has a private number. You will have to convince any person interrogating you that it is not a hired taxi. Booking a taxi in Kargil or Srinagar is also easy and you can plan sightseeing accordingly. The local drivers may charge somewhere Rs 1200-1500 extra for a night halt on the journey towards Leh. The journey from Srinagar to Leh (including a night halt) will cost somewhere between Rs 10,000 to 12000.
Srinagar - Leh Bus Service
You can board JK SRTC buses for the Srinagar - Leh Highway from Srinagar Bus Stand (near Lal Chowk) and near Polo Ground in Leh. Standard buses charge somewhere between Rs 500 - Rs 600 and semi-deluxe types charge between Rs 600 - Rs 700. There are few private bus operators too who charge somewhere between Rs 800 - Rs 900. There are stoppages for refreshments in Kargil and Sonmarg. The buses leave early morning.
Shared taxis also ply from Srinagar, which is the starting point of the journey in the midnight and reach Leh, next evening (no night halt). You can book a seat in it. You may need to pay around Rs 1200 to 1500, per person. Apart from you, there will be around 6-7 people in this taxi along with the driver.
Alternate Route to Leh from Kargil (en-route Batalik and Dah)
To reach Leh, there is an alternate route too. This route is from Kargil and goes like Kargil - Mulbekh - Lamayuru - Leh. The other one is also from Kargil but goes like Kargil - Batalik - Dah - Skurbuchan - Leh. If you take the route through Batalik then an Inner Line Permit from DEC office of Kargil or Leh will be needed.
Sightseeing on the Highway
Srinagar-Leh Highway has a number of sightseeing options (some on the way, while others with slight diversions). These attractions are mentioned below:
Maitrey at Mulbek, Spituk Monastery, Lunar Landscape, Redzong Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Likir Monastery, Basgo Palace, Confluence at Nimmu, Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Phyang Monastery, Lamayuru Monastery, Magnetic Hills.
If you consider sightseeing, then you might cover the highway in three days.
Accommodation Options on Srinagar - Leh Highway
Srinagar - Leh Highway has a number of accommodation options, which you can find after crossing around every 125 km. At Drass, Mulbekh, Sonamarg, you will basically find guest houses and homestay types. In Lamayuru or Kargil, accommodation options are still better. In Alchi and Likir also, there are hotels and homestays too.
Accommodation options on Srinagar – Leh Highway with distances - Srinagar - Sonamarg (80 km): Comfortable accommodation options in Sonamarg
Sonamarg - Drass (65 km): Comfortable accommodation options in Drass
Drass - Kargil (55 km): Accommodation options in good number at Kargil
Kargil - Mulbekh (40 km): Few homestays at Mulbekh
Mulbekh - Lamayuru (70 km): Comfortable accommodation options in Lamayuru
Lamayuru - Alchi / Likir (55 - 65 km / 65 - 75 km): Few home stays at Alchi / Likir
Lamayuru - Leh (125 km): Accommodation options in good number at Leh
Alchi / Likir - Leh (65 km / 55 km): Accommodation options in good number at Leh
Fuel or Petrol Pumps on the Highway
You can easily find petrol pumps on this highway at (Starting from Leh)
ATMs on the Highway
There are ATMs at Srinagar, Ganderbal, Drass, Kargil, Sasapol and Leh. It is still advisable to carry cash.
Destinations on the Highway (with distance)
Following are the places on Srinagar-Leh Highway:
- Srinagar - Sonamarg (80 km)
- Sonamarg - Drass (65 km)
- Drass - Kargil (55 km)
- Kargil - Mulbekh (40 km)
- Mulbekh - Lamayuru (70 km)
- Lamayuru - Leh (125 km)
Facilities or Amenities on Srinagar - Leh Highway
|Accommodations / Other Stay Options||Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil (Many options), Mulbekh, Lamayuru, Alchi|
|Food / Beverages||
Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil (Many options), Mulbekh, Lamayuru, Alchi
Diesel / Petrol Pumps
|Mangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Mulbekh, Wakha, Khaltsi|
Up to Sonamarg both BSNL and Airtel postpaid connections work, then in Drass only BSNL. Once you reach Kargil, you will get the Airtel signal, but then in Mulbekh and Lamayuru only BSNL works, in Nimmu Airtel is restored along with BSNL and once you reach Leh, both Airtel and BSNL work.
BSNL, Of course, has more coverage and better connectivity within this range than any other operator. Airtel works in Ladakh but with poor connectivity.
SMS does work fine for both BSNL and Airtel users.
Vodafone does not work after Srinagar and not even in Leh Ladakh.
Packet data works but only with BSNL that too with EDGE only.
Prepaid connections from outside Jammu and Kashmir do not work in Leh - Ladakh.
Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil, Mulbekh, Lamayuru, Alchi, Nimmu and in between these places as well
Almost all the towns on the way have electricity
Sonamarg, Drass (limited), Kargil, Lamayuru (limited)
Ganderbal, Drass, Kargil, Sasapol
Mechanic / Puncture Shops
Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru (Puncture), Mulbekh (Puncture), Nimmu (Puncture)
Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil