A google search on ‘top places to see in India’ returning Leh Ladakh in the top position reaffirms the fact that this trans-Himalayan region of Jammu & Kashmir, in North India is a popular spot amongst nature and adventure enthusiasts. Leh and its surrounding regions remain thronged by the travelers from all across the world to explore its mesmerizing nature. And not just that, road trip to Leh is one of the highly rated road trips on earth and definitely one of the most gorgeous roads to ride in India. Road trips to Leh are filled with colorful monasteries, narrow roads with steep curves, the most scenic snow capped Himalayan range and Karakoram mountain ranges, and many other surreal spots. In this article, you will find in details about how to reach Leh by road from two different routes – Srinagar to Leh and Manali to Leh (the one that I took). This is the first part of a series of 3 articles:
- How to get Leh’d 😉 (how to reach Leh by road)
- Where to get Leh’d 🙂 (places to visit in Leh)
- How I got Leh’d 😛 (about my trek to Stok Kangri – the highest trekkable peak in India – 6,153 m / 20,500 ft.)
Ways to get Leh’d
Tourists see what they have come to see.
Travelers just see what they see.
A tourist’s way to get Leh’d would be landing on the runways of India’s highest commercial airport (3,256m/10,632ft) and then just acclimatize for the rest of the day. A traveler’s way would be spending two days on the road to Leh and getting acclimatized on the way. However, that also depends on time and money. If you have ample money and insufficient time then save time and take a flight; if you have ample time then save money and take the road. If you have sufficient amounts of both then take the road while ongoing and take a flight while returning. If right now both are insufficient then just wait for it, plan it out and follow this blog.
Economy flight fares for New Delhi-Leh-New Delhi (DEL-IXL-DEL) range from Rs.6500 to Rs10000 depending on the time of booking and the airlines you choose.
The road fares depend a lot on the mode of transport you choose but the stunning visuals and the literally breathtaking feel is a huge return on investment.
Before we start describing the two ways to reach Leh by road, (one is from Srinagar to Leh and the other is from Manali to Leh; both Srinagar and Manali being accessible from New Delhi), here are a few tips travel tips to help you plan better:
Some important Travel tips:
One of the most important tips for travelling to Leh-Ladakh is to stay fit. And, many of us will be surprised that travelling in itself can actually help us stay fit.
- If traveling from Srinagar to Leh, Kargil or Drass can be a decent place to spend the night for resting.
- If traveling from Manali to Leh, Keylong can be a virtuous resting place with insane visuals all around.
- In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pre-Paid services do not work for any mobile network and Post-Paid services only work for BSNL, AirTel and sometimes even for Aircel.
- These roadways whiteout by snowstorms and habitually stay closed during the peak months of winter (usually November-February) as there is tons of snow all over the lands. Maintenance and recognizing where the roads actually are, becomes a difficult chore.
- Suitable acclimatization is essential to avoid AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). To know more about AMS and how to tackle it, follow our post – How I got Leh’d.
- To identify the restrooms and Petrol pumps on these ways for planning a road trip to Leh, where to stay the night and what all to see in Leh follow our post – Where to get Leh’d.
Modes of Transportation:
- By Motorcycle – The wild and free way.
- By Jeep – The fast and reliable way.
- By Bus – The slow and economical way.
- By Truck – The unplanned and dependent way.
- By Cycle – The draining and robust way.
Srinagar – Leh
Your Road trip will commence from Srinagar, on National Highway – 1D (NH – 1D), one of the most dependable ways to reach Ladakh. On the route from Srinagar to Leh, you will cover approximately 434kms.
Srinagar to Leh Road Map:
1. Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil – Mulbekh – Lamayaru – Saspul – Leh
2. Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil – Batalik – Dah – Leh
What visuals to expect:
Acknowledged for its lakes (Dal Lake, Nagin Lake and Anchar Lake), this city at an altitude of 1730m serves as a unique place for travelers where one can just stare at the Mughal Gardens, be blissed by the houseboat rides and just chill by the banks of river Jhelum. While Dal lake offers a variety of local colors and tourists, Nagin is a comparatively quieter lake to be at. One can witness the true nature of life on lakes at this pristine destination.
A “Meadow of Gold” situated at an altitude of 2740m and 81km from Srinagar. This place serves as the last scenic representation of greenery before the landscapes turn barren just as one passes through Zoji La.
Zoji La is 9km from Sonamarg and provides a vital link between Ladakh and Kashmir Valley. It runs at an elevation of approximately 3528m.
Not so Fun-fact – During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, Zoji La was seized by Pakistani supported invaders in 1948 in their campaign to capture Ladakh. The pass was re-captured by Indian forces on 1st November in an assault which achieved success primarily due to the surprise use of tanks, then the highest altitude at which tanks had operated in combat in the world.
Situated at an altitude of 3300m above sea level and 60km west of Kargil, this is known to be the second coldest inhabited town in the world as temperatures shoot down to around -40 degrees Celsius in the winters. This area gets so cold that even the local dialect is known as ‘Hambabs’ – meaning snowfall. The summers are much better than the savage winters and the valley is used by the locals to cultivate cereals and cash crops. The nearby Puga Valley is famous for its Hot Water Springs which have been known to help people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases.
Positioned at an altitude of 2704m, this beautiful town which earlier used to be the center on Pan-Asian Trade is now an epicenter of adventure activities in the Laddakh regon. It is about 204km from Srinagar in the west and 234km from Leh in the east and serves as a virtuous resting place for travelers venturing through these roadways. While enjoying the scenic beauty of this valley one can have mesmerizing views of the snowcapped mountains through this valley which is fringed with apricot trees.
Around 45km east of Kargil town heading towards Leh, is the famous Chamba Statue in Mulbekh village(altitude-3304m), a striking enormous figure carved into the rock face on the right-hand side of the road with many meaningful inscriptions along these rocks.
Built at an altitude of 3510m, the Lamayuru (meaning ‘Eternal’) monastery/gompa is one of the oldest and largest existing monasteries of the Ladakh region. It is about 100km from Kargil.
Placed at an altitude of 4945m, this is a small village about 154km from Kargil. It can also accessed via the Batalik-Dah route however it is an approximately 1 hour and 20km longer journey.
As barren as it looks, it is at a distance of around 60km from Saspul. The city is warm and culturally active which takes away the barrenness of this region. It has a lot more to offer than just astonishing visuals.
Altitude – 3524m.
The city is pretty much sandwiched between the Zanskar and the Stok Ranges. Hence the Panoramic view from the Leh Palace is worth the climb.
The approximate distance from Manali to Leh is 478 km. June to September is the best time to travel down this route. Venturing down this route will take at least 2 days with adequate stops for rest.
Manali to Leh Road Map:
Manali – Rohtang – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – Tanglang La – Gya – Upshi – Karu – Leh
What visuals to expect:
At a distance of about 544km from Delhi, this popular tourist destination is known for being the epicenter for a range of activities. It’s located at an altitude of 2050m.
At an elevation of 3978m, this high-altitude pass is at a distance of 51km from Manali and acts as a gateway between the Hinduism driven Kullu Valley and the Buddhism driven Lahaul and Spiti Valleys.
The meaning of Rohtang, ‘Ground of Corpses’ itself suggests the dangers associated with it. The pass encounters huge inevitable traffic jams (when Kashmir is not a safe option to take) and is usually open from May to November. The path could be closed for infinite time due to heavy snowfall so before venturing out from Manali it is advisable to ask locals about the conditions upstairs because sometimes with constant sliding of hills and rain, the road gets covered with slush.
This route from Manali to Rohtang Pass has a total of 72 hairpin bends stretched over the distance.
The path starts along the Beas river and after the descent on the other side of the pass the path continues along the Chenab river with humongous snow-capped mountains on either side. This makes the scenes more amazingly breathtaking.
Altitude – 3123m
Distance from Rohtang Pass – 20km
Somewhat on the banks of Chenab, this is a good place to stop and fill your stomachs (or empty your tanks; if you know what I mean) after the hard terrain descent from Rohtang Pass which includes around 20 hairpin bends and rugged road conditions that augment the adrenaline rush.
Altitude – 3080m
Distance from Rohtang Pass – 64km
Distance from Manali – 116km
This administrative center for Lahaul and Spiti Valleys in Himachal offers a variety of shelters to any passersby. Travelers can rest and enjoy the insane visuals surrounding this place and also shop some good quality pirated winterwear if they don’t feel prepared enough for the frostbiting temperatures.
Altitude – 3279m
Distance from Keylong – 20km
Distance from Darcha – 7km
Altitude – 3360m
Distance from Keylong – 33km
It is the northernmost permanent settlement in Himachal Pradesh along the Manali-Leh Highway.
Altitude – 4270m
Distance from Keylong – 54km
Zingzingbar is a road building camp and tea house (not really a Bar :P) situated 20 km from the fierce Bara-lacha La. Around 18km from this shack lies a pristine lake called Suraj Tal (source of river Bhaga) just at the foot of Bara-lacha Pass. In about 5km from this tea house one can even find a Puncture repair stop.
Altitude – 4890m
Distance from Keylong – 73km
This elevated mountain pass acts as a gateway between the Lahaul and Spiti district and the Ladakh district. Sometimes during the onset of winter, due to clearing of roads after heavy snowfall, this pathway acts as a spectacular snow corridor.
Local legend claims these roads to be haunted or under the influence of cannibalism which has been understood to be a myth lately.
Altitude – 4696m
Distance from Keylong – 81km
After descending from Bara-lacha La, one can find some meek accommodation at the Bharatpur Tent Colony.
Altitude – 4300m
Distance from Keylong – 108km
This area is famous as a huge camping ground and the originating point for a number of audacious activities. It marks the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir (Ladakh region). There are a lot of tent colonies at this site which act as decent lodging between the astounding mountains.
Altitude – 4190m to 4667m
Distance from Keylong – 132km
This 500m elevation in the form of 21 hairpin bends is a quite unsung and obscure piece of road on this route. This is about 20km ahead of Sarchu tents while on course to Leh. The bone jarring yet stunningly beautiful ride along the steep curvy bends is an exhilarating experience. After ascending this elevation, the route traverses through two high altitude passes – Nakee La (4739m) and Lachulung La (5065m). At the foot of the Gata Loops is the pristine Tsarap River.
Locals believe that a supernatural entity has been haunting these loops so they have built a tomb and temple for making peace with it there. One way to spot this is to keep an eye out for a lot of water bottles.
Altitude – 4600m
Distance from Keylong – 184km
When it comes to altitudes, almost everything in Ladakh is the world’s highest of its kind. In context to that, the world’s highest Army transit camp is located in Pang and it is a good place to halt for food and temporary shelter. However due to the extreme high-altitude journey, stopping here for a long time can bring out symptoms of AMS out of you specially if you are not hydrating yourself regularly. Many people suffer from mountain sickness and this place being under the influence of Army, offers a tent with a Doctor.
Altitude – 4800m
Distance from Pang – 4km
This stretch of 35-40km is a plain straight road sandwiched between stunning views of snow and mountains which would make it hard for you to keep your jaws in place.
Altitude – 5328m
Distance from Pang – 66km
It is said to be the world’s second highest motorable road and is the gateway to Gya which marks the beginning of the Hemis National Park – Home of the Exoctic Snow Leopards. When traversing through this pass you would be at the highest elevation this route can provide.
Altitude – 3384m
Distance from Pang – 127km
A small village, having a few customs check posts and the Indus River kissing its boundaries.
Altitude – 3963m
Distance from Pang – 140km
Good place to be on mountain bikes as this could be an adventurous ride from Leh being about 30km from the destination of this route.
Altitude – 3524m
Distance from Pang – 174km
(Ref: some of the photos have been taken from flickr)