Complete Travel Guide on Planning Travel to Leh Ladakh

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain. – Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Preface

This is a labor of love and the connection that I share with the most special place that I have ever been to in my life. It is the surreal Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It is romance that I will make sure will last for a lifetime. There are plethora of information available on internet on how to plan Ladakh trip but the fact of the matter is that they are not available on a single page. This endeavor of mine is to bring to you all the information that you require to plan your trip to Leh Ladakh on a single page. This is a monumental and tedious task, hence I have divided this guide into several headings and sub headings. You only need to click on the heading link in the list about which you seek the info and then again return to this list by clicking on the back to the top button.

[Here’s why you should visit Ladakh once in a lifetime]

Highway to Heaven: Planning Travel to Leh Ladakh

Planning Travel to Leh Ladakh

At Chang La – A Captivating View

Planning Ladakh Trip? Well let me try to illumine the ways to plan your trip to Ladakh. I’ll throw light on both routes i.e. the Leh – Manali highway as well as Leh – Srinagar Highway. These are the only two routes through which you could reach Ladakh by road. These routes are not operational throughout the year as the Zoji La (Pass) on Srinagar – Leh Highway and the Rohtang La (Pass) on Manali – Leh Highway remain closed from late November till early May on account of heavy snowfall.

Once these high mountain passes open up, the main tourist season in Ladakh begins.

The List for Planning Travel to Leh Ladakh

Coming Soon

Let’s begin with facts now on how to plan your trip to Ladakh. I won’t give you much asides on how terrific the journey is as I have covered them in various travelogues on this blog of mine. You could search and read them if you want to. I’ll provide the links to them wherever relevant or at the bottom of this post. In here, I will only deal with facts and information that you’ll need for planning travel to Ladakh:

Ladakh Trip (By Bike/Car) on Manali – Leh Highway (490 kms)

On this highway (Which I would suggest you avoid if you are planning a round trip, i.e. Manali – Leh – Srinagar) there are many challenges but the rewards are great. However this is a route you’ll enjoy more if you are doing it from Leh to Manali.

There are permits to be obtained in Manali if you are traveling from this route to Ladakh. If you are taking this route, you need two days to reach Ladakh. Whereas the popular stopover and most known stopover for the night (recommended by travel agencies) is Sarchu; it is definitely recommended. You are sure to have reckoning with acute mountain sickness (AMS). Recommended places where I’d suggest you to make a night halt are Darcha or Jispa or even Zingzingbar.

The details of the journey on Manali – Leh Highway by road are as follows:

The Journey to Leh

Travel to Leh via Manali Route
Manali – Rohtang Pass

Distance Traveled: 52kms

Road Condition: Mostly good till Rohtang Pass

Highest Elevation: 3,980 m (13,060 feet)

Road Highlights: You can halt at Marhi at 10,800 feet (33 kms from Manali) for breakfast.

Accommodation Availability: No

Rohtang La – Gramphu

Distance Traveled: 19kms

Road Condition: In bad shape

Highest Elevation: 3,200 m (10,500 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Gramphu – Kokhsar

Distance Traveled: 6 kms

Road Condition: Average to bad

Road Highlights: Nothing except for a check post at Khoksar where foreign nationals should get themselves registered.

Kokhsar – Sissu

Distance Traveled: 25 kms

Road Condition: Average

Highest Elevation: 3,130 m (10,270 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Sissu – Tandi

Distance Covered: 8kms

Road Condition: In bad shape

Highest Elevation: 2,570 m (8,430 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Note: Tandi has the last petrol pump on this route. The next one is at Karu 380 kms away so get your tank up!

Tandi – Keylong

Distance Covered: 9 kms

Road Condition: From bad intially to good.

Highest Elevation: 3,080 m (10,100 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Keylong – Jispa

Distance Covered: 22 kms

Road Condition: Good

Highest Elevation: 3,310 m (10,860 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Jispa – Darcha

Distance Covered: 6 kms

Road Condition: Good

Highest Elevation: 3,360 m (11,020 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Note: Travelers need to get themselves registered here.

Darcha – Zingzingbar

Distance Covered: 26 kms

Road Condition: Good

Highest Elevation: 4,270 m (14,010 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Zingzingbar – Baralacha La (Pass)

Distance Covered: 18kms

Road Condition: Average to bad

Highest Elevation: 5,030 m (16,500 feet)

Accommodation Availability: No

Baralacha La to Bharatpur

Distance Covered: 2 kms

Road Condition: bad

Highest Elevation: 4,600 m (15091 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Note: I stayed here once at a Dhaba Tent and it is definitely not recommended. You’ll surely have bouts of AMS as did I. Only in extreme emergency as was our case.

Bharatpur to Sarchu

Distance Covered: 38 kms

Road Condition: Average

Highest Elevation: 4,300 m (14,100 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Sarchu – Pang

Distance Covered: 80 kms

Road Condition: Good to average

Highest Elevation: 4,600 m (15,100 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Road Highlights: Ride on the Gata Loops at an elevation of 4,190 m (13,750 feet), Nakee La at an elevation of 4,739 m (15,547 feet) and Lachulung La at an elevation of 5,065 m (16,616 ft).

Note: Travelers need to register themselves here at the check post.

Pang – Tanglang La

Distance Covered: 69 kms

Road Condition: Good to average to bad

Highest Elevation: 5,328 metres (17,480 feet)

Accommodation Availability: No

Road Highlights: Ride across Morey Plains a flat high altitude plateau at an elevation of 4,700 m (15,400 ft) is absolutely breathtaking and out of this world experience

Tanglang La – Rumtse – Upshi

Distance Covered: 60 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,480 meters (11,417 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Upshi – Leh

Distance Covered: 51 kms

Road Condition: Good

Highest Elevation: 3,500 metres (11,483 ft)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Along the Way in a Nutshell

Vehicle Repair (Puncture & Mechanic): Marhi, Khoksar, Tandi, Keylong, Darcha, Sarchu, Upshi

Fuel Pump: Tandi and Karu (36 kms before Leh)

Fixed Phones: Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Upshi

Liquor Shops: Marhi, Keylong, Darcha, Upshi

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Ladakh Trip (By Bike or 4/2WD) on Srinagar – Leh Highway

The details of the journey on Srinagar – Leh Highway by road are as follows:

Travel to Leh via SrinagarRoute
Srinagar – Sonamarg

Distance Covered: 85 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,480 meters (11,417 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Sonamarg – Zoji La Pass

Distance Covered: 24 kms

Road Condition: Average to very challenging

Highest Elevation: 3,528 metres (11,575 ft)

Accommodation Availability: No

Zoji La – Drass

Distance Covered: 38 kms

Road Condition: From challenging on early stretch to good once you descend the pass

Highest Elevation: 3,480 meters (11,417 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Drass – Kargil

Distance Covered: 58 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,480 meters (11,417 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Road Highlights: Drass War Memorial built to commemorate Kargil war martyrs

Kargil – Mulbekh

Distance Covered: 40 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3100 meters (10170 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Mulbekh – Lamayuru

Distance Covered: 70 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,700 meters (12,139 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Road Highlights: Namika La at an altitude of 3,700 meters (12,139 feet)and Fotu La at an altitude of  4108m (13478feet)

Lamayuru – Alchi

Distance Covered: 57 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,100 meters (10,200 feet)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Road Highlights: Namika La at an altitude of 3,700 meters (12,139 feet)and Fotu La at an altitude of  4108m (13478feet)

Alchi – Likir

Distance Covered: 20 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3,651 m (11,978 ft)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Likir – Leh

Distance Covered: 50 kms

Road Condition: Mostly good

Highest Elevation: 3524 metres (11,562 ft)

Accommodation Availability: Yes

Along the Way in a Nutshell

Vehicle Repair (Mechanic & Puncture): Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Kargil, Mulbekh, Lamayuru , Nimmu (last three puncture shops only)

Fuel Pump: Mangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Mulbekh, Wakha, Khaltsi

Fixed Phone: Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil, Mulbekh, Lamayuru, Alchi, Nimmu and in between these places as well

Liquor Shops: Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil

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Self-Drive or Ride to Ladakh

A ride on the Manali Leh Highway is the kind of stuff dreams are made of. Equally challenging and spectacular, this highway is a rider’s/driver’s delight. Dramatic change in the landscapes, crossing water streams and riding across some of the highest motorable roads in the world makes this one of the best highways for road trips in India. But only the daring souls take this route and the rewards are overwhelming once you reach Leh and the reality sinks in and later in your life when you look back and reflect on the adventure of having made it.

Now the roads are challenging. You need good riding/driving skills but you need more mental grit. The ride at some stretches will test you mentally, especially the Rohtang Pass with its slush and Baralacha La with its vicious water crossing.

On Srinagar Leh Highway, the only challenge you’ll face is crossing Zoji La. This is the easier and recommended route to take for a road trip to Ladakh. Acclimatization is not an issue on this route as you gain altitude slowly and steadily as opposed to Manali – Leh Highway which is more of 10,000 feet plus journey all along after crossing Rohtang Pass.

You also need to plan your halts carefully on Manali – Leh route as riding/driving above 10,000 feet could lead to acclimatization issues. Sarchu is where most travel agencies prefer to call the day off. But it is above 14,000 feet. It could cause serious acclimatization issue. Cases of altitude mountain sickness (AMS) abounds in Sarchu. Darcha, Keylong and Jispa could be considered as alternative when taking this route.

Yet another recommended thing is to know your vehicle. Do acquire some basic maintenance skills like changing wires (break, clutch etc.), changing oil, replacing spark plugs. Those traveling on motorcycle need to carry spare tube in case of puncture and puncture kit too if possible because you may find a puncture repairing shop but not the tube. Similarly those traveling on car should carry jumpstart cables and towing ropes.

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Hiring Private Taxi for Leh Ladakh in Manali

The thing you should know about hiring a taxi in Manali for Leh (If they are not registered in Ladakh) is that they are only entitled to drop you in Leh. They are not allowed to offer local sightseeing or travelling to places within Ladakh.

If you are taking a taxi, hire it in Manali from the Taxi Stand. These drivers are skilled enough to negotiate the tough terrain this Manali – Leh highway is. However do make sure that you let your driver know where you want to make your night halt. Once again I reiterate, Sarchu is not recommended (acclimatization issues). Plan your night halt at either Jispa or Darcha.

Do remember to bargain hard.

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Hiring Private Taxi for Leh Ladakh in Srinagar

As in the case of Manli taxis, taxis with Srinagar or Kashmir registration number are anly allowed to drop you to Leh. However, on this route, it is better if you hire a taxi only till Kargil. You are more likely to find a Leh registered taxi in Kargil that will not only drop you in Leh but can also offer local sightseeing and can travel to places like Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. This will definitely bring down your cost.

Once again go to the taxi stand and do remember to bargain hard.

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Shared Taxi from Manali & Srinagar to Leh

Shared taxi ply for Leh from both Srinagar and Manali but the thing to consider is that they don’t make a night halt.

It’s called a cannon ball run.

It means that you’ll ride continuously for 14-16 hours in company of 8-9 unknown companions on tough terrain. It will significantly bring down your cost (1200-1500) but do ask yourself is it worth it?

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Shared Taxis from Leh to Manali and Srinagar

Same is applicable vice versa. That is taxis from Leh to Manali and Srinagar also do the canon ball run. Be very wary of shortcuts on Gata Loops on Leh Manali shared taxi ride .

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Travel to Ladakh by Bus

This is the best option for you if you are planning solo trip to Ladakh or even if you are a couple and want to do Ladakh trip on Budget.

Buses to Leh are available from Delhi, Srinagar and Manali. From Manali side, there are more option if you take the bus to Keylong from where frequency of buses to Leh are even more.

Delhi – Leh Bus Service

There is a direct bus serive from Delhi to Leh which is operated by Himachal Pradesh tourism (HPTDC).

The bus from Delhi ISBT is scheduled to depart at 03:45 PM. It reaches Chandigarh Sec 43 at around 9.30 PM (If you are starting your journey from Chandigarh). From there, it takes 9 hours to reach Kullu at around 6.30 am and arrives at Manali at 10 AM.

The bus leaves Manali after a short break for Keylong where it is scheduled to arrive at 03:30 PM where it makes a night halt. The next day, it departs for Leh at 05:00 AM and is scheduled to arrive there by 07:00 PM in the evening.

Departure: Daily (till Sept 15) from ISBT, Counter 7

Time: 3:45 PM

Delhi ISBT Phone # 011- 23868694

Chandigarh ISBT Phone # 0172-2668943

Keylong Bus Stand Phone # 01900-222245

Manali Bus Stand Phone # 01902-252323, 01902-252116 & 01902-253147

Manali – Leh Bus Service

The journey from Manli to Leh by bus takes 2 days with a night hat in Keylong.

Himachal Tourism offers two kind of rides on this routes. One is the HRTC which does not stop for any sightseeing activities. The halts are only for necessary food and washroom breaks.

The other bus service is run by HPTDC which is a semi deluxe non AC bus. This service is available only from July 1st till 15th September and halts at several places for sightseeing.

Fare of HRTC Bus from Manali to Leh: INR 500 PP.

Fare of HPTDC Bus from Manali to Leh: INR 2500 PP (Inclusive of accommodation and food)

Srinagar Leh Bus service

The buses from Srinagar ply to Leh from late May till early November. This is a two day journey with a night halt in Kargil.

Fare of Government Operated Buses: INR 1050 PP for Deluxe, INR 650 PP for Semi Deluxe.

Fare of Private Buses: INR 1000 PP for Leh and INR 500 for Kargil.

[Here’s more on traveling to Ladakh by bus]

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Night Stay or Accommodation on along the Manali – Leh Highway

Khoksar: HP PWD Rest House

Keylong: HP PWD Circuit House, HPTDC Hotel Chandrabhaga and several guesthouses

More on Ladakh by bus here.

Night Stay or Accommodation on Manali – Leh Highway

Jispa: HP PWD Rest House, several tented accommodation as well as a lodge and a hotel named Ibex

Darcha: Basic tented accomodations

Bharatpur: A few Dhaba tents (This is where I had to stay in the first Dhaba Tent that I came across when I first traveled to Ladakh via Manali and also my only tryst with acute mountain sickness).

Sarchu: Tented accommodations only ranging from Dhaba tents to luxury tents

Pang: Again tented accommodations only but with lesser option than Sarchu. No luxury tents.

Rumtse: Guest houses/homestays

Upshi: Guest houses/homestays

Night Stay or Accommodation on along the Srinagar – Leh Highway

Sonamarg: Good options for accommodations

Drass: Good options for accommodations

Kargil: very good options at Kargil

Mulbekh: Guest house/Home stays

Lamayuru: Hotel, Guest Houses and Home Stays

Alchi: Guest house/Home stays

Likir: Guest house/Home stays

If you want me to include more information, feel free to suggest headings which I might have overlooked or missed. If you have traveled on this route this year, any update would be most welcome. Feel free to ask for assistance in case you have questions or doubts on planning travel to Leh Ladakh in the comment section below.

Cheers and happy traveling!

More coming soon…Stay tuned

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6 thoughts on “Complete Travel Guide on Planning Travel to Leh Ladakh

  1. Kartik

    This is excellent article bro! very helpful. I have taken a print out for reference. i will be travelling in last week of july and first week of August. Any idea how the weather would be?

    Plus i will stay for a day in manali , so do you have any contact for bike renting over there ?

    1. Nikhil Chandra Post author

      Thanks Kartik. Good to know you found this useful.

      Weather in early August would be fine. Nights will be gold but mostly sunny days.

      You may contact Sanjay @ +91 9810325955. Very reliable when it comes to planning trips in Ladakh, Himachal and entire Kashmir.

      Hope this helps.

      Thanks and all the best!

  2. Abhinava

    Sir, This is a very informative and useful article. As I am planning to the trip this year I am reading all of your posts again and again, and gaining knowledge and confidence.
    For the query part I want to know a very basic thing that if you are advising Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Manali route for a round trip on bike.
    Thanks

    1. Nikhil Chandra Post author

      Hi Abhinava,
      Thanks for the appreciation.

      Yes I do recommend that route as it is best for acclimatization along the way. On Manali – Leh highway, you travel mostly on 400+ meters terrain. Such is not the case with Srinagar – Leh Highway.

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