Planning a Spectacular Manali Leh Road Trip

Sarchu Plains
Sarchu Plains @ 15000 ft are a sight to behold

So you have decided to take the Manali Leh road trip to Ladakh . I’ll list out some of the route options and some key consideration while planning from this side.

Reaching Manali

The journey to Manali is long one from Delhi and is roughly 580 kms and is done in approximately 13 hrs in a Car, if you are riding a bike, then you will take more time.

Of this, the ride from Delhi to Chandigarh or till about Kiratpur is smooth 4 lane highway and after that the hill road begins which slows down progress due to variety of reasons

There are multiple ways to reach Manali

  1. Take an overnight AC Volvo from Delhi, generally all Volvo start by evening ( say about 4 PM and reach by 8 AM in Manali)
  2. If you are planning to drive and reaching by afternoon in Delhi, then we recommend that you drive till Chandigarh and then plan to start next day early from Chandigarh to reach Manali in time
  3. If you intend to do the entire journey in one day, then you must begin by 4 AM or 5 AM from Delhi. Arrive a day before, sleep early and begin early morning
Manali Leh Road Trip
Manali Leh Route Map

Journey from Manali to Leh

There are 2 ways you can approach the journey

You can take 2 Days to reach Leh

  • Day 1 : Manali to Jispa, as it is the last village with proper stay facilities at an altitude which will not cause AMS
  • Day 2 : Jispa to Leh : This is a long journey and is suitable for SUV / Car only and not on bike

This is not ideal and you miss the fun of Manali – Leh but at the same time it is good for people who are short of time and would like a comfortable trip especially for night stay

Do Manali Leh in 2 Days if you are short of time or you want comfortable night sleep

Alternatively, you can go slow on this journey and take 4 days to reach Leh from Manali

The plan in this case will be

Day 1 : Solang to Sissu 

Day 2 : Sissu to Kunzum La / Chandratal and then drive to Jispa. If Kunzum La is not open ( It opens only in July) then drive as far as the road is open and then head back, you can even take a detour towards Udaipur in Pangi Valley just after Tandi ) 

Day 3 : Jispa to Sarchu Or Jispa to Tso Kar

Day 4 : Sarchu to Leh Or Tso Kar to Leh

An Alternate to night halt in Sarchu is the night halt in Tso Kar ( Jispa to Tso Kar will be roughly 8 to 9 hrs drive.

This is Ideal for bikes as well as it breaks down the long journey from Jispa to Leh

This plan is ideal for nature lovers, wilderness lovers and photography enthusiasts. As we slow down the journey, you have no idea how beautiful this journey will become.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT? – Plan The Trip On Your Own, Check Our Resources Below ..

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Now, the next question that you may have is what about AMS in Sarchu/Pang/Tso Kar ?

To avoid AMS on this, just follow this and you are 90 to 95% sure that you wont have any trouble

  • Plan a night in Shanag / Solang or Kothi instead of Manali. By staying at a higher altitude your body begins the process of acclimatisation and you get an additional day which is cruisal
  • We are giving sufficient time to the body to adjust to the altitude of Sarchu/Pang. The additional night in Jispa and the trip around Jispa is precisely for this reason. And we also are giving additional nights to the body to adjust

  • Apart from the plan, we also recommend that you take half a tablet of diamox, when you arrive in Jispa and take another half tablet in morning & then again in the evening when you reach Sarchu / Tso Kar

Plan a night halt in Solang/Kothi and give your body 2 additional nights ( Sissu / Keylong / Jispa ) and you will avoid AMS on Manali Leh Section

This doesn’t mean that you can head to Tso Moriri from Sarchu. Never do that. This again is due to chances of AMS are high when you stay back to back at 15,000 ft. If you are active and play sports / do regular jog and running then you can certainly go for Tso Moriri from Sarchu

Planning Multiple night halts at high altitude places like Sarchu , Tso Kar & Tso Morrii should not be done from Manali Side. If you like to cover the whole of Changthang region, plan from Srinagar side Or Go to Leh first acclimatise and then travel to this region

How experience changes with Season

To give you an insight into how the landscape may change with season, compare the pictures below … Suraj Tal near Baralacha La. Notice the difference in Snow

 

Planning a Spectacular Manali Leh Road Trip 10
Suraj Tal in early Season ( June )

So when you travel early in the season in June, you will encounter more snow at the high altitude passes for example, Rohtang and Baralacha La … Other passes on this highway for example Lachung La and Tangung La normally don’t receive that much snow fall so expect less snow on these passes anyway …

Also, with the melting of snow underway, the streams are also quite lively post 2 PM. Expect more slush during this time ..

From July onwards, snow melt accelerates and streams pose greater challenge but most of the snow from the top of the passes are gone. By August, you experience barren landscape with snow limited to the peaks of the mountains.

Travel Options from Manali to Leh

Shared Taxi / Sumo/ Innova or even Tempo Travelers is a Big No

I certainly don’t recommend taking a shared Sumo / Taxi Ride from Manali as they do this entire journey in one day. Its awful

Hire a private Taxi Or take a self Drive SUV / Car and plan as per your own needs. This is a great option and you will get maximum fun

Himachal Roadways runs buses regularly to Leh from Manali during the season time. These are mini buses and basic Non AC buses and takes 2 days to reach Leh with a night halt in Keylong. If you are traveling solo then this is the most recommended option.

If you are traveling solo, then plan to stay in Old Manali and look around for co travelers to Leh. Just visit various food joints and cafe and you may find other travelers going to Leh. This way you can book your own taxi and head to Leh and share the cost as well

 

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5 thoughts on “Planning a Spectacular Manali Leh Road Trip

  1. Greeshm Sinha says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have gone through your Manali-Leh guidance and find it extremely useful and precise. This season I am tied up upto September in other tours.
    My specific query:
    What is the time window during which this route remains open and what is the best period to take up the journey. Mode will be hired taxi. I am running 64, but healthy, fit, and without any health issues.
    Please respond through mail.
    With regards.

    • Sunil says:

      Hello Mr Sinha,

      You can easily do this trip till October or even November and it depends entirely on the weather situation .. Last year in 2018 the the roads closed in October while in 2017 the roads were open in November as well .. so it varies from year to year ..

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