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 trains 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.
Manali – Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road
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.
Season to travel on this Highway
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.
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.
Private Vehicles (Cars and 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.
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 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.
Manali – Leh Bus Service
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.
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 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.
ATM on the Highway
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.
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
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 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)
# All fares and fees written above are indicative