Manali to Leh Roadtrip – Unbelievable Landscapes

Please read part one before reading this blog.

Part 1: Packing for an epic Leh and, Ladakh trip (opens in a new tab)
Part 2: Manali to Leh Roadtrip (opens in a new tab)
Part 3: Exploring Leh, the touristy way (opens in a new tab)
Part 4: Land of Baltic People, Turtuk (opens in a new tab)
Part 5:
Nubra – The Cold Desert of India (opens in a new tab)
Part 6: Coming soon

We woke up at 4:45 AM exactly 15 minutes before the expected alarm, completed our morning activities, and did some last-minute packing. The driver bhaiya arrived and we left for the Manali bus stand. With great silence and excitement, we reached mall road, and then, driver bhaiya went out to find more passengers.

Good Morning, Manali

It was 7:30 AM, and everyone in the shared taxi started losing patience and requested bhaiya to start the journey. He was able to arrange a few travelers for the same route and we started the journey towards Leh, Yayy!

We had crossed a high altitude 9.2 Kilometers long, Atal Tunnel and drove parallel to the Sissu river reaching Sissu. We had taken our first break at Sissu.

Snow around Atal Tunnel

We had taken a stop of 5-15 minutes at the below spots. It’s better to start early so that you have sufficient time to stop at several gorgeous places. Here’s a list of places you will enjoy while traveling on the Manali-Leh highway.

  • Manali
  • Atal Tunnel
  • Sissu
  • Jispa
  • Deepak Taal
  • Zingzingbar
  • Suraj Taal
  • Baralacha Pass
  • Gata Loops
  • Nakee La Pass
  • Lachulung La Pass
  • Taglang La Pass
Scenic loops
Sit back and enjoy 50 shades of landscape

Bhaiya kept driving through stunning roads connecting Manali and Leh so that we could sit back and enjoy the long ride filled with lakes and unbelievable landscape.

Gorgeous panoramas
Frozen Suraj Taal
Driving through these roads was surreal
Off-roading with snowy patches
Baralacha Pass
Little Dhaba at high altitude serving hot food, Pang
In snow land
Barren snow-capped mountains
Crossing Baralacha Pass
Crossing high passes with my love, Ranjan
Traveling with monks from Leh to Manali!

To avoid discomfort, we had booked one front seat and the other on the middle seat. I kept the window open to avoid suffocation. On the way to Pang, we had to go off-roading for a few kilometers, the driver asked me to close the window so I closed it a couple of times but I felt suffocated so I reopened it and forgot to close it. After a few minutes, Ranjan tapped on my shoulder and asked me to close the window again. When I turned back, the middle and back seats were filled with a lot of dust! No one said anything but their facial expressions were enough to convey the discomfort due to dust. Then I looked at the monks, they seems undisturbed radiating positive energy with a slight smile on their faces. I apologized, closed the window, and went into a loop of thoughts!

Reaching Taglang La with monks
Prayer flags at Taglang La Pass
It looks like the ruins of a sand castle

How to reach Leh from Manali?

Traffic at high altitude
By Road
  • Via HRTC Bus or special tourist bus deployed during season time (~June – August). You can get details about buses from the bus stand.
  • Private Taxi – Hire a taxi from Mall Road.
  • Reserve your seat in Shared Taxi/ Tempo Traveler (Shared Taxi Stand at Mall Road)
  • Bike ride/Self-drive cars/ Personal cars – To drive on the roads Manali-Leh highway is an altogether different experience. If you have prior experience of driving in mountains(including off-roading and snowy roads) then go with this option. During May end and June, you can get snow patches and a slip can cost your life.
By Air

You can book a direct flight from Srinagar, Delhi, Chandigarh, and Mumbai. It is said to be one of the cheapest scenic flights where you get to see an aerial view of Ladakh.

By Rail
  • Leh is inaccessible via direct trains from major cities in India. For those who prefer train journeys, the nearest Railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway station.
  • Then, navigate to Leh via Srinagar-Leh Highway.

To make our trip budget-friendly, we preferred a shared taxi.

Where to stay and eat on a Manali to Leh Roadtrip?

  • You can eat hot food in Keylong, Pang, Sarchu, Upshi, Karu, etc. at small mountain dhabas.
  • HRTC/ Tourist bus takes a halt at Keylong, where you can take a rest and acclimatize to the high altitude.
  • Prefer a night’s stay at Jispa over Keylong, if you are driving by yourself. Jispa offers numerous river camping ranging from budget-friendly to luxury stays. You can also book a hotel here.
  • If required, you can take a rest at Pang, Sarchu, and Darcha. Keep in mind, it has limited homestays owned by a few local families. We have seen some bike riders taking a rest at Pang. (1-2 small homestays)
  • Reaching Leh – We reached Leh around 10:00 PM and we didn’t find good hotels around the bus stand as most of the hotels and markets were closed by then. Also, our heads were spinning due to a little uncomfortable journey in a shared taxi. So, we had to book our stay at Tomchay guest house, not recommended as the rooms were below average for INR 1000/-
  • For other days in Leh, we had booked our stay at Zostel and Smanla Guest House.

Acclimatizing to high altitude and more!

  • Take proper rest upon reaching Leh, don’t rush out to explore. Listen to your body, don’t miss that thirst, and sip water.
  • If you are reaching Leh by flight then you must spend a day taking a rest, a short walk, or an evening stroll in Leh market.
  • If you travel by road then the body has adjusted to high altitude gradually during the long journey so you can head out to explore the next day. Try to explore local touristy places on your first day. In case, you feel any discomfort then prefer taking rest.
  • On this beautiful trip, we carried 5 liters of a water bottle and refilled it wherever and whenever possible. You can also carry your own water bottles(even a small one is good) and help in reducing plastic consumption.
  • When you are shopping from small shops in Leh, or any other remote location then don’t bargain beyond a reasonable price.
  • Prefer local food, buy fruits from local shops instead of carrying packaged food.
  • Don’t throw plastics/ other garbage in rivers/mountains/roads.

Published by Shilpa Mandara

Exploring heavenly earth :)

2 thoughts on “Manali to Leh Roadtrip – Unbelievable Landscapes

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