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 and glimpses of pristine lifestyle of nomads who live in small settlements all along the way. Ladakh by road offers spectacular sights of barren mountains in Greater Himalaya and Zanskar range, sweeping valleys and stunning panoramas. Colorful Tibetan prayer flags, prayer bells, monasteries and Tibetan Buddist populace that one meets along the way are some unique aspect of traveling to Ladakh region by road. There are two roads that bikers, road trippers 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 elevation mountain passes, riding along scenic mountain terrains with Himalaya on one side and rivers following the course on the other and above all the sheer thrill of riding some of the toughest motorable terrain. Find complete information here on how to reach Ladakh by road through bus. Our travel guide offers details and important information like riding distance, basic facilities available en route, eating and accommodation along the way as well as necessary information on ATMs, petrol pumps and other facilities to help you plan and research your road trip to Ladakh via either Leh-Manali or Leh-Srinagar Highway.
Out of the two highways which lead to Leh- Ladakh, one is Manali- Leh Highway, the perfect road for adventure enthusiasts, the other one being Srinagar - Leh Highway. This highway is 464 km long, out of which 350 km, does not have any civilization. For 365 km on this highway, there is no fuel pump as well. Thus, traveling on this highway needs proper amount of planning.
It is anytime better that that you should try Leh to Manali instead of Manali to Leh. The main reason for this is, you are already comfortable to such high altitudes, 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 high altitude, it is not advisable to have a nigh halt here.
But at the end, it depends on the traveler, whatever he feels comfortable with. This highway also offers a beautiful journey.
Travel on this highway depends on the opening of Rohtang Pass and Baralacha La, which is generally the second half of May. The best time to travel on Manali- Leh highway is during the months of June to September. In beginning of the month of June, there still are road blockages because of ice but in August-September, the condition of the roads becomes perfect. Moreover, since June is rainy season, there are chances of landslides.
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.
Self ride or self drive is opted by a large number of people because driving on your own on such tough terrains is once in a lifetime experience. Take either your own car or bike, otherwise, you can also rent a vehicle. It is extremely important that you should be an expert before you think of self drive or self ride on such difficult rugged terrains. You should also know little about the maintenance of your journey, 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 help is handy. Carry a screw driver set, Basic toolkit, a few bottles of petrol or diesel, iron rod, 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. Do not forget to check the service of your vehicle done before setting on for the journey.
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 an interrogation, you will have to convince the other person that this vehicle is not hired.
It is advisable that hire a taxi from Manali, as the drivers will be experts in driving through such difficult roads. They will also be accustomed to any kind of a problem. They will know how to handle any kind of a hurdle.
Hire a taxi from Manali taxi stand. Do not forget to bargain. Generally Rs 1000 extra is charged, if there is night halt while going towards Leh. From Manali, to go to Leh, you will have to shell somewhere between Rs 12000 to Rs 17000.
If you are travelling solo or in couple, then you can also opt for Manali - Leh bus service of HPTDC. The ticket of a semi-deluxe bus may cost up to Rs 1500 to Rs 2000. Before you think about planning your journey keeping in mind, a bus ride then you should better confirm the timings and the schedule, as they vary. Tickets can also be booked online.
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.
After the hill town of Manali, you will get a petrol pump at Tandi on the whole of Manali - Leh Highway. This one is the only petrol pump that you'll find before reaching next petrol pump at Karu which is roughly 380 kms from Tandi, so make sure that you have your tank full and also keep extra jars and cans of petrol just in case. The next one is at Upshi / Karu which is just about near Leh. Make sure of filling your tank completely at Manali. Also fill in a few extra bottles of petrol as well.
Make it a point that you carry enough cash in your pocket as ATM is only available 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 kms from Manali), Karu (36 kms 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. Airtelworks 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 upt 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, also known as National Highway – 1D (NH – 1D), is 434 kms long. It is a lifeline in terms of road connectivity between Leh – Ladakh and other parts of India, en-route Kashmir Valley. This, one of the two ways to reach Ladakh, is a more reliable one than other: Leh- Manali. Along the highway flows the river Indus. On your way to Leh, you come across a number of passes, in which three of the important ones are Zozi La (3528 m), Namki La (3815 m) and Fotu La (4108 m).
The Srinagar Highway remains closed for around 6 months in a year, mostly from November to May because of heavy snowfall in the mountains. The opening usually starts in the months of mid-May or in the first week of July. The best time to travel in 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 round the year. This highway is filled with army trucks carrying the necessary material.
Most of the travelers to Leh-Ladakh opt for self drive in their cars or bikes. This can actually be an exhilarating experience for an adventure enthusiast, driving through the toughest terrain. 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 starting 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 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, screw driver set, puncture repair kit and extra petrol in bottles as well. Other things that you should carry are towing rope, funnel, adhesive, spare tubes, wires, M-seal etc. before starting the trip, get a service of your bike or car done.
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 additional 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.
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 cost somewhere between Rs 500 - Rs 600 and semi-deluxe types will cost 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 between Srinagar, which start 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. There are around 6-7 people in this taxi along with the driver.
To reach Leh, there is an alternate route to, from Kargil that goes like: Kargil - Mulbekh - Lamayuru - Leh and the other one is 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.
Srinagar-Leh Highway has a number of sightseeing options (some on the way, while others with slight diversions)-
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.
Srinagar - Leh Highway has a number of accommodation options, which you can find after crossing around every 125 kms. At Drass, Mulbekh, Sonamarg, you will basically find guest houses and home stay types. In Lamayuru or Kargil, accommodation options are still better. In Alchi and Likir also there are hotels and home stays 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 home stays 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
You can easily find petrol pumps on this highway at: (Starting from Leh)
There are ATMS at Srinagar, Ganderbal, Drass, Kargil, Sasapol and Leh. It is advisable to carry cash.
Destinations on the Highway (with distance) Following are the places on Srinagar-Leh Highway:
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|
Upto Sonamarg both BSNL and Airtel post paid 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 works 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
# All fares and fees written above are indicative