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A Road Trip to Ladakh – A Complete Guide - BackPackClan
A Road Trip to Ladakh – A Complete Guide

A Road Trip to Ladakh – A Complete Guide

Famous for its remote mountain beauty and culture, Ladakh has been attracting lakhs of tourists every year. Ladakh's road adventures are one thing to watch out for if you ever think of visiting this place. You get to experience one of the highest motorable roads in the whole wide world. The untouched places of Ladakh will be a lifetime experience for any traveler because of the small nomadic settlements along the way which will get you to know how people can live without the modern amenities and have that containment with the lives they have. The barren mountains of the Zanskar range are unique in itself because of the panoramic view and range of its valleys. Because of its Tibetan Influence, people there mostly follow Buddhism and are very protective of their culture and traditions. The view of colorful prayer flags, Beautiful Buddhist architectures, and the Buddhism Monasteries especially will let you know how these people have preserved their culture and come so far in the process. A road trip to Ladakh can be made through two routes which are used by most of the drivers, one is the Srinagar-Leh highway and another one which is more popular is the Manali-Leh route.

Manali – Leh Highway

manali leh highway

This Route is the most popular among the drivers because it is the one route which holds the thrill of high elevating mountain passes and the stunning scenic beauty you get to see around this high way. The highway is 464km long where the first 350 km is very backward pertaining to its development and advancements. Traveling on this route is not easy and you need to have complete planning because you won’t even find a fuel pump for the first 350kms anywhere. So, you got to be cautious about it.

But most of the travelers prefer the other way around and they take Leh - Manali route since it will be easier for you because you are already adapted to the weather. If you go this way you can halt at Sarchu which is a beautiful place and it’s in the middle of this route where you get facilities for accommodation food and fuel too. So, just be cautious and travel safely in this route.

Best Seasons to travel on this Highway

This route is covered by snow for most of the time throughout the year. So, the best time to ride on this route depends on the opening of the passes. The two important passes Rohtang la and Baralacha la open by the second half of may or by the beginning of June. So, the best time to travel on this route is from June- September. There may be blockages during the beginning of June because the ice would not have melted yet and June is also a rainy season so be cautious about the frequent landslides.

Means of Travel on this Highway

You cannot travel without a permit on this route if you don’t have a number plate of Himachal Pradesh on your vehicles. This rule has been passed on by the Himachal Pradesh Government since 27th June 2011 onwards. You don’t have restrictions on bikes but for the other four wheelers, you need to take a permit from the SDM office in Manali.

Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)

Taking your private vehicle and driving it yourself on this route is a thrilling thing to even think about it but it’s not so easy as you think. You can take your car or bike or you can even rent one. But if you are thinking of driving on your own in this challenging and dangerous route, you got be extremely expert and you should know what to do if you face any kind of crisis. There won’t be any mechanical facilities for your vehicle along the journey so you must be well equipped with maintenance tools and also should know how to use it. Never even think of going on this trip with a half-baked plan of yours.

Carry a set of screwdrivers, few bottles of petrol, Hammer, Iron rod and other basic tools if you need to repair your vehicle. You also need to carry some adhesive, funnel, wires, cable, towering rope, spare tube, M-seal, etc. Lastly, the servicing of your vehicle going on this journey is a must.

Rent a Private Taxi

If you are hiring a Taxi for this route, go for the Manali drivers because they are expert drivers when it comes to such high terrain routes. They know how to handle any obstacle that may come during the journey because they know about it. You can rely on them

Taxis are really expensive for this route as it costs like Rs.12000 - 17000 to rent a taxi which depends on the weather conditions. If they halt because of bad weather you may have to pay about Rs.1000 extra for the halt.

An HP number can take you through this route but once you reach Leh you would require a taxi with Leh number plate for sightseeing. You can even hire private cars with Leh number plate. Just be cautious about the interrogation by the police or other officials.

Manali – Leh Bus Service

HPTDC Bus service from Manali - Leh is best if you are traveling alone or in the couple. A semi deluxe bus tickets may cost you around Rs.1500 to Rs.2000. Confirm The timings and schedules if you travel by bus because the timings can vary as the weather is very much unpredictable so timings keep on changing. You can Buy tickets online too.

Keylong - Leh Bus Service

Buses of HRTC also frequently travel from Manali to Leh but only from Keylong. So first you got to reach Keylong by taxi then you can take the bus service from there. Manali to Keylong may cost 100 - 200 and Keylong to Leh will cost about 450 - 550.

 Take a Shared Taxi

You even can opt for shared taxis from Manali to Leh since they are much affordable. They cost around Rs.1200 - Rs.1800 per person

Fuel or Petrol Pump on the Highway

The only Petrol pump you will get in Manali - Leh highway is at Tandi and this is the only fuel pump which should last you for the next 380kms another petrol pump will be waiting for you at Karu. So, it is extremely important that you keep that extra bottles or jars of fuel with you during this journey. So before leaving Manali to make sure you go with a full tank on this journey.

ATM on the highway

You must carry that extra cash with you on the Manali – Leh highway because the only ATM you will find is at Manali and Keylong before starting the journey. After that, you will find the next ATM only at Leh.

manali leh

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














Places on Manali – Leh highway with their Altitudes

road trip to ladakh

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 km from Manali), Karu (36 km from Leh)

Mobile Connectivity

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. Airtel works 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 up to Keylong and in Leh packet data is available only with BSNL edge.

Fixed Phones

Keylong, Jispa, Darcha, Upshi


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


Srinagar – Leh highway - A road trip to Ladakh

srinagar leh highway

This route is more of a formal one and is a reliable route compared to the former. This a National Highway – 1D which is 434kms long. This is one of the most important routes because it connects Leh- Ladakh and other parts of India which goes through the Kashmir valleys. On this route, you will come across many passes from which the three most important one is the Zozi la (3528m), Namki La (3815) and Fotu La (4108).

Best Seasons to Travel on this Highway

Due to heavy snowfall, this route remains closed for about 6 months in a year which is mostly between November to May. The roads usually open by the second half of May or the beginning of June and the best time to travel on this route is from June to October. This route faces a lot of landslides which creates roadblocks during the month of July because of the monsoon season. So, army vehicles are always stationed on this route as they also carry their miscellaneous through this route.

Means of Travelling on this route

Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)

This route is the best if you are thinking of driving on your own and most of the drivers love to drive by themselves on this route. This route has a lot to offer with mesmerizing scenic beauty all around it and also challenging roads which can be a thrilling experience for you. You can also rent a vehicle if you don’t have one. But this route is also somewhat similar to the Manali - Leh route because you have to be very cautious and also be well prepared for the obstacles you might face. You must have a thorough knowledge of your vehicle maintenance and also should have required tools if anything happens during the journey.

This route may be somewhat a milder version of Manali – Leh route but do not underestimate its challenges because it also is one tough road. So, you need to carry all those stuff in this route too which were mentioned above.

Hire a Private taxi

If you want to rent a private taxi you must know that according to taxi unions, taxis only with Ladakh number can roam around the region. So, it’s better if you hire a Ladakh number. But if you could not then hire a taxi with private number, you just have to be able to convince any person interrogating that this is not a hired taxi. Taxis from Srinagar to Leh charge around Rs. 10000 - Rs.12000 including the night halt for which they take extra charges. You can even hire taxis easily if you want to do sightseeing around Srinagar.

Srinagar – Leh Bus Service

You can even take a bus ride through this route with the JK SRTC bus service from the Srinagar bus stand. The rates for standard bus service may cost you around Rs.500 – Rs.600 and a semi deluxe may cost you about 600 – 700. You can also find some private bus services which may cost around Rs.800 – Rs.900. The buses leave early morning and they also make stops for your timely refreshments.

There is one alternate route too to reach Leh which goes from Kargil and it has two routes in itself which go through Mulbekh to Lamayuru and another one which takes you through Batalik and Dah. If you are going through the Batalik route you may need a permit from the DEC office at Kargil.

Sightseeing on the Highway

One advantage of this route is that you get to see astonishing sights during the journey. Some of them are listed below:

Phyang Monastery, Basgo Palace, Magnetic Hills, Alchi Monastery, Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Confluence at Nimmu, Maitreya at Mulbek, Likir Monastery, Lunar Landscape, Lamayuru Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Redzong Monastery, Basgo Palace.

Road Trip to Ladakh

Accommodations Option on Srinagar – Highway

You will find very good accommodation option once you cross about 125kms on this route. Hotels, Guesthouses, Resorts. You will find everything. So, this route is not so harsh upon you as you have lots of places to halt and continue the journey. Here are some details for accommodations in this route:

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 homes stay 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 Pump along the route

You don’t have to worry about the fuel on this route. You will find Fuel Pump all over. Here is the complete list:

  • Leh
  • Khaltsi
  • Wakha
  • Mulbekh
  • Kargil
  • Sonamarg
  • Mangan
  • Srinagar

ATMS on the Highway

ATMs in this route is not a thing you should be worried because there are ATMs at Srinagar, Kargil, Drass, Leh, and Sasapol.

Facilities and Amenities around the 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

Mobile Connectivity

Up to Sonamarg both BSNL and Airtel postpaid 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 work 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.

Fixed Phones

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


Almost all the towns on the way have electricity

Medical Facilities

Sonamarg, Drass (limited), Kargil, Lamayuru (limited)


Ganderbal, Drass, Kargil, Sasapol

Mechanic / Puncture Shops

Ganderbal, Sonamarg, Kargil, Lamayuru (Puncture), Mulbekh (Puncture), Nimmu (Puncture)

Liquor Shops

Sonamarg, Drass, Kargil