A road trip to Leh Ladakh is perhaps a dream for many adventure enthusiasts. This road trip comprises of some of the highest motorable mountain passes of the world. In spite of the risks it contains, the fervour to embark on this trip does not reduce among the adventurers. Dotted with colourful monasteries, rustic villages, freshwater streams and of course, snow-capped mountains, the otherwise risky road motivates you to keep moving ahead. So, if you are planning a Leh Ladakh road trip anytime soon, here’s an ultimate travel guide you should not miss.
How to reach Leh Ladakh by road?
There are two routes to reach Leh Ladakh. It takes two days to reach Leh Ladakh via these routes:
- Manali to Leh (NH3) – 475km
- Srinagar to Leh (NH1D) – 422km
- Srinagar–Leh route is expected to open in April 2019.
- Manali–Leh route is expected to open in May 2019.
- Sindhu Darshan Festival will be celebrated from June 12 to June 14, 2019, at Sindhu Ghat near Leh. Symbolizing communal harmony and peace in India, this festival is a must-do if you visit Leh.
(Note: If you plan to take the Manali–Leh Highway, start your trip early in the morning to avoid the heavy traffic jam at the Rohtang Pass. On your way, you will come across Rani Nallah, which is a wet area and needs to be paced carefully).
Modes of transport for Leh Ladakh Road Trip
- Own vehicle
You can drive in your own vehicle to Leh Ladakh. If you are planning to travel via car, SUV or MUV will be better options instead of a hatchback or sedan.
Himachal Pradesh Tourism and J&K Tourism operate daily deluxe and ordinary buses between Manali and Leh for a two-day journey with a stopover, which is usually at Keylong. Groups can take ordinary, deluxe or an A-class bus to Leh, Kargil or Padum (Zanskar) from the J&K SRTC at Srinagar.
Taxis (cars and jeeps) are also available at Srinagar and Manali for the journey to Leh Ladakh.
Stops on Leh Ladakh route
- Keylong (118km)
- Jispa (140km)
- Sarchu (225km)
- Kargil (202km)
Passes on Leh Ladakh route
Manali to Leh
- Rohtang Pass (3978m) – This pass lies on the eastern Pir Panjal Range and is 51km from Manali. The route generally opens in early June (opening time may vary according to the weather conditions). You must leave early in the morning to avoid traffic jam. The route remains closed on Tuesdays for maintenance purpose.
- Baralacha La (4890m) – This is a high mountain pass in the Zanskar Range. The route is accessible by the end of April.
- Tanglang La (5328m) – The signs put on the road claim it to be the world’s second largest motorable road. It is advisable not to spend more than 15 minutes here, as you may face breathing issues.
Srinagar to Leh
- Zoji La (3528m) – This route connects Ladakh to Kashmir. This becomes accessible by late May or early June.
- Fotu La (4108m) – This is the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh route.
Best time to visit Leh Ladakh
June till August is the peak season that attracts a large number of tourists to visit Leh Ladakh. The roads are also open in September and October. However, it gets extremely cold to ride or find places to stay.
- Summer (June to September) – Minimum: 5 °C, Maximum: 30 °C
- Winter (October to May) – Minimum: -25 °C, Maximum: -1 °C
Things to carry
- Carry waterproof backpacks and handbags for day hikes.
- Avoid strollers and heavy suitcases.
Toiletry and medical supplies
- Since you will be travelling under the scorching heat of the bright sun, you must carry high SPF sunscreen (UV40+) to avoid getting sunburned.
- Lip balm
- Pain relievers
- Camphor (helps in breathing at high altitudes)
- Advil or Tylenol, for headaches etc. (NOT Codeine based painkillers)
- Insect repellent
- Antiseptic cream
- Rehydration salts (oral): 6 to 8 sachets
- Iodine-based water purification tablets
Clothing and footwear
- Trekking shoes
- Extra pair of socks
- Carry proper woollen clothes like jackets, sweaters, comforters, shawls etc.
- Rain jackets/raincoats and umbrellas.
- Memory cards
- Extra batteries
- Wide brim hat/scarf
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Lightweight gloves/mittens
- Small towel
- Multi-tool knife
- Large plastic bags (for waterproofing purpose)
- Make sure your vehicle has a high ground clearance. A vehicle which is 4×4, SUV or MUV is more suitable than a sedan or a hatchback.
- Get your vehicle serviced adequately before the trip.
- Carry a spare tire and a mechanical tool-kit
- A large container for fuel. (Note: Even if your fuel tank is full, pick fuel from Tandi as the next petrol pump is available only at Upshi, which is 365km away from Tandi).
- Start early in the morning for all journeys as this will help you reach your destination on time by avoiding the heavy traffic jam. You will also not miss the beautiful views en route.
- Out of state vehicles (only four wheelers) need a permit to travel from Manali to Rohtang Pass, which is issued by the Office of Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Manali.
- Permit office timings are 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Saturday.
- The starting point of this trip is Manali.
- After reaching Rohtang Pass, leave for Keylong which is 66km away.
- Crossing Jispa and the Baralacha pass en route, reach Sarchu after covering a distance of 112km.
- Travel 205km ahead and you’ll arrive at Upshi village.
- 55km ahead is your final destination, Leh.
- The starting point of this route is Srinagar.
- After crossing Sonmarg (85km), you’ll reach Drass via the Zoji La Pass after travelling for 62km more.
- Leave early in the morning to avoid the heavy traffic jam.
- You can halt at Drass or you can travel 58km ahead to reach Kargil.
- Travel 110km more and you’ll arrive at Lamayuru.
- From Lamayuru, Leh is just 125km away.
- One needs an inner line permit to travel from Kargil to Leh.
- Chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea cures altitude sickness.
- You must pack a lot of chocolates and energy bars to relieve the fatigue.
- Garlic can be used to increase oxygen intake capacity.
- Ginger water is also helpful to dodge altitude sickness.
- Staying hydrated is the key to acclimatisation. You must intake a good amount of liquid (non-alcoholic).
- Similar to staying hydrated, eating light food regardless of not being hungry is also important for acclimatisation.
- You must avoid any kind of depressant drug.
- Carry small and portable oxygen cylinders (five to six) that last for a few minutes and provide immediate relief. (These are available in almost every leading chemist shop of a metro city).
For the women travellers
- Since there are no toilets on the way, use loo available in the camps. Do not avoid drinking water due to this reason as it’s important for acclimatization.
Places to visit
- Vashisht Hot Pools
- Hadimba Temple
- Dal Lake
- Chashme Shahi
- Pari Mahal
- Hemis Monastery
- Shanti Stupa
- Main Market
- Nubra Valley
- Khardung La
- Pangong Tso
- Tso Moriri
- Tso Kar
- Dha Hanu
- Thiksey Monastery
Details related to Inner Line Permits
- According to the Indian government guidelines, Indian tourists no longer require permits to visit protected areas like Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Dha Hanu etc. (Only photo identity proofs issued by the government of India like passport, driving license, voter ID, PAN card etc. are needed).
- Foreign tourists, however, still need to obtain protected area permits to travel in these areas.
- Permits can be obtained through registered travel agencies in Leh or from the DC office in Leh. You can ask your tour operator or hotel manager to arrange this for you.
- Remember to carry six photocopies of the permit to submit at various checking points along with your ID proof.
- You can take out a day to spend in Leh and get your permit. Remember to download the online application for the permit and fill it in advance.
- The timings for the DC (District Collectorate) office in Leh are from 10 am to 5 pm and the office remains closed on Sundays. It is advisable to visit the office early (before 12 pm).
Local Languages in regions en route Leh Ladakh
- Himachal Pradesh – Hindi, Pahadi
- Leh – Ladakhi
- Nubra – Balti
- Choglamsar – Tibetan
- Kargil – Purik, Shina
Some of the common Ladakhi phrases are listed below:
- Julley: Hello
- O-ley: Yes, please
- Nyerangi-Ming Chi in-ley: What is your name?
- Kule-kule: Slowly-Slowly
- Nge-ming…in-ley: My name is…
Hotels and guesthouses
You can find multiple hotels and guesthouses at Manali and Srinagar. Leh, too, offers a wide range of hotels and guesthouses.
Pangong, Tso Moriri, Sarchu, Jispa, Tso Kar and Hunder have well-equipped camps.
- Waterfall at Sissu (88km)
- Confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers at Tandi (113km)
- Suraj Tal near Baralacha La (190km)
- 21 Hair Pin Bends – Gata Loops (249km)
- Natural arch at Pang (301km)
- Nomads and wildlife (wild asses, marmots, etc.) at Moore Plains (313km)
- Natural rock sculptures
- Khardung La (world’s highest motorable road) (40km)
- Diskit Monastery (116km)
- Maitreya Buddha
- Sand dunes of Hunder (128km)
- Double-humped camels/Bactrian camels.
- Chang La (76km)
- Sunrise at Pangong Tso (225km)
- Migratory birds
- Gurudwara Pathar Sahib (23km)
- Nimoo (Indus – Zanskar confluence) (28km)
- Basgo (33km)
- Lamayuru (109km)
- Fotu-la (123km)
- Kargil – Srinagar Photography Points
- Drass (64km)
- Zoji La (97km)
- Sonmarg (123km)
- Fuel Points
Manali – Leh
- Tandi ( 113km)
- Upshi (365km)
Srinagar – Leh
- Kargil (203km)
- Medical Aid
- Manali, Keylong, Leh, Tangtse, Diskit, Kargil and Srinagar
- You can also find medical aid at army camps at Pang and Sarchu.
Mobile and telephone network connectivity
- Only the networks of BSNL, Aircel and Airtel work in Leh.
- Nubra Valley (phone booth in Diskit).
- BSNL works in Diskit, Hunder and Sumur.
- There’s no network connectivity in Tso Moriri. However, there are mobile networks available in Chumathang (60km before Tso Moriri).
- There’s no mobile connectivity near Pangong Tso lake. However, Tangste (15km towards Pangong) has a satellite phone booth and weak BSNL connectivity.
- Zanskar has mobile connectivity (BSNL) in some parts.
- Internet and email services are available only in Leh.
- Telephone, fax and post facilities are available in Leh, Padum, Kargil and Nubra Valley.
Last but not least, don’t forget to wear your smile. You will win many friends while on this zealous road trip. Now that you know what is required for Leh Ladakh road trip, why not mark your calendar and travel to this breathtaking place.
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