Delhi to Leh road trip is indisputably a journey of a lifetime. It is that once in a blue moon opportunity to stand in front of the lonely beauty of the mountains in the backdrop of the cosmic cerulean skies. There is little question as to why this road trip has been recently ranking as a coveted journey that you can make in the Indian subcontinent. So why is this road trip so tempting? It is not just about the destination alone. The journey to Leh allows you to witness first-hand the scenic beauty of the landscape, the tricky yet adventurous roads with some out of world halts.
As you drive through the dusty roads of Delhi to the heart of the majestic Himalayas, the landscape becomes even more hypnotic. Weaving your journey through rugged, barren topography, a scattering of chaotic hamlets, through the picture-perfect countryside, the adrenalin rush is unmissable. The journey not only stands testimony to your abilities but also rewards you with sights that only very few have experienced.
Best Time To Visit
For the better part of the year, Leh is inaccessible as a result of severe weather conditions and/or road clusters. However, the best time you can choose for your road trip is between the months of April and October. Experts, however, recommend the months of May to September as the ideal time to take a journey by road.
During the summer months, the maximum temperature reaches 15° C. But the nights are still very cold with a low of -1° C. Heavy snowfall stops by this time and the overall summer weather takes over. The lakes Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri also start to melt by late April thus flaunting its brilliant, which is a spectacular sight for any traveller to witness. Even with clear blue skies, you will require a lot of warm clothing.
There is a single route that all travellers take between Delhi and Leh. Remember that the route has heavy traffic whenever the roads are open for travel.
- It is a straightforward route that you take on the NH 9 subsequently going to NH 44 via Manali
A total of 1010 kilometres, the travel time is roughly 26 hours depending on traffic congestion and road closures. You will be using multiple national highways, namely, NH 44, NH 205A, NH 205, NH 154 and NH 3.
Delhi – Sonipat – Panipat – Karnal – Kurukshetra – Ambala – Kharar – Mandi – Kullu – Manali – Keylong – Pang – Leh
What To Eat And Stopovers
There are only a few trips that we take in our lives that leave a lasting impression and instils a feeling of wanting much more. As your drive along this beautiful yet challenging journey, make sure you have enough to stop and take in all the sights that this journey has to offer.
- Kabuli Bagh Mosque: Built by Babur to commemorate his victory over Ibrahim Lodhi, the Kabuli Bagh Mosque and its surrounding gardens in Panipat has been named after his wife Mussammat Kabuli begum. The location lies only 2 kms from the city centre and it a top sightseeing destination in the region.
- Sheikh Chilli’s Tomb: With Persian overtones and oodles of charm, the tomb of the great Sufi saint Sheikh Chilli is a must visit when you drive through the ancient town of Kurukshetra. Encircled with landscaped Mughal gardens along with a museum and a mosque, the complex has some rare artefacts that were found from archaeological sites nearby.
- Saffron: Offering amazing food and top-notch service, Saffron has a very nice ambiance where you can relax with your friends and enjoy a nice meal. Located in Pipli Road in Kurukshetra, their paneer masala is to die for.
- Great Himalayan National Park: Spanning over 754 sq. kms, the Great Himalayan National Park was established in 1984 and has been awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park boasts of 375 species of fauna, 31 species of mammals, and 181 species of birds making this a top contender for your sightseeing list.
- Tibetan Monasteries: A significant Tibetan population has settled in Manali which is why you should think of a couple of days stopover to explore the famous Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa and Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa monasteries, two of the most visited places in town.
- Sukhdev Vaishno Dhaba: Best suited for those looking for budget friendly options, the dhaba is located on GT Road in Murthal, Sonipat and serves delectable Indian, fast food and Asian dishes. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are also available. Locals frequently haunt this place which in recent times have made it popular for travellers to stop on their way to Leh from Delhi.
- Food Garage: Conveniently located Lal Tanki Market, Food Garage specialises in an Indian, fast food and Asian menu that has equally made its mark on hungry tourists. Its quirky garage theme adds to its overall popularity in the area.
- Highway on my Plate: Located on Kullu – Manali highway, the restaurant is the perfect spot to indulge in some traditional hearty Indian cuisine. The restaurant is on the banks of the Beas river where you can sit and enjoy the landscape as you taste the delicious food with its delicate spices in every bite that you take.
- The Corner House: Located in Manali, this is a multi-cuisine restaurant that serves delicious local , Italian, Chinese, Indian, and European food. The staff are welcoming and hospitable and make you feel right at home. Try their mutton shabhaley, chicken pepper steak and oreo shake.
Reaching There And Places To Visit
Initially a stop for trading caravans, Leh is now renowned for its Buddhist sites and neighbouring trekking areas. Visiting Leh can be a great experience as the place has tons of natural beauty that is virgin and pristine.
- Leh Palace: Also known as the ‘With 9 storeys, this 17th century palace was considered to be one of the tallest buildings of its time. Making the effort to climb all the way will give you Lhachen Palkhar’, this was the former address of the royal palace of the Leh Kingdom. incredible views of the Stok Kangri and the Ladakh mountain range.
- Pangong Lake: The most famous lake in Leh, it is situated 4,350 m above sea level approximately and is the world’s highest saltwater body. Classified as a natural wonder, the lake appears to be dyed in blue that stands in stark contrast to the backdrop of barren mountains. The lake extends to roughly 160 kms and is cradled between Indian and Chinese territory.
- Tsemo Fort: Otherwise referred to as the Victory fort, this 16th century fort is a structure that is visible from every corner of Leh. It takes about 15 minutes to climb up. Opposite to it lies the Chenrezi Lakhang with its ruins.
- Shanti Stupa: Located in Chandspa, this white coloured, domed shaped structure was inaugurated by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in 1985 and stands as peace pillar. The stupa looks beautiful as the lights illuminate it during the night.
- Old Town: Home of 200 odd old mud brick houses, Buddhist temples and mosques, the Old Town showcases some of the best amalgamations of Tibetan and Asian architecture in this region. An interesting fact that makes this a must visit is that the houses and stupas are said to winding alleys and stairways beneath them.
- Hemis National Park: Not just lakes and history, Leh is equally overflowing in abundance of its fascinating wildlife that many are not aware of. The Hemis National Park adds this extra dimension to the Snow-capped mountains with their barren slopes and monasteries with their fluttering flags.
- Wanla Gompla: Set in the Wanla village, this historic Buddhist Monastery is believed to have been constructed approximately around 1000 A. D. The reason why so many tourists flock to the monastery, it is considered to be the holiest sight to see in the state.
Overnight Halts If Any
This is a 1000kms+ journey that takes around 26 hours. Halts and overnight stops are a given. Therefore, take your time to plan a road trip with some time in hand. You will be passing through a number of locations that has a number of historical, environmental, and man-made wonders. Without adequate rest, you may be at risk to yourself and your fellow passengers.
- Days Hotel by Wyndham Panipat: Located conveniently on Bypass road, it is your one-stop destination for all your stopover requirements. The hotel stands close distance to multinational corporations, shopping and entertainment areas.
- Hotel My India: Situated on Grand Trunk Road in Panipat, this is one of the top choices for budget and mid-range travellers seeking to stay for a night. The hotel offers clean rooms that are spacious along with all the expected facilities and amenities.
- Trishla Resort: If you intend to halt in Kullu, then Trishla Resort is an initiative taken by the local residents of Tirthan Valley. This is also a great location from where you can conveniently explore the Great Himalayan National Park.
- WelcomHeritage Lha-Ri-Sa Resort: Symbolizing the balance between traditional appeal and modern conceptualization, the Lha-Ri-Sa’s intimate setting in combination with their flawless service makes it a number one choice for high end travellers. The property’s overall simplicity in design echoes the warmth of the people of Leh through it. A heritage property, the resort is one of the few hotels in Leh that offers a great place to stay, homely food and a great environment that brings your Leh experience a notch higher.
- Ladakh Sarai Resort: The intention at Ladakh Sarai is to generate vivid guest experiences that are able to garner a true sense of the Leh culture and their traditions. Also, a heritage property transformed into a hotel, most guest rooms overlook the Stok Range of the Himalayas and has unparalleled views of the charming and dreamlike village of Saboo. A hidden gem of the property is Siya, the restaurant. Using locally sourced ingredients adds that depth of flavour that literally explodes in your mouth. Ladakh Sarai offers a profound sense of peace and solitude seldom found elsewhere.
Points To Note While Planning A Road Trip (Car /Bike)
Driving through mountain roads can be a challenge. Hence, it is recommended that you get a 4x4 wheel, which makes the challenge slightly bearable. Check the wear and tear on your tyres. Also, if you’ve never driven on hilly terrain then get an experienced driver to guide you before you start your journey.
It is absolutely imperative that your car is thoroughly checked, serviced for any possible breakdowns. Rather than going to local mechanics, opt to go to the vehicle company service station. In fact, it is a good idea to do some DIY training for minor repairs.
While warm clothes are a given, remember to carry all your daily and emergency medications as you may find it hard to find medicines en route or even in Leh. Lip balm, moisturizers, sunscreen, torch and batteries should all figure on your checklist.
Diesel and Petrol Pumps
Even though traffic is heavy, petrol stations may not be as closely located as you would find on your previous road trips. Keep a jerry can in your boot in case you need it for emergency purposes.
Mobile connectivity may be intermittent while you are climbing through the hilly terrain. To be on the safe side, keep your phone/mobile set on automatic subscriber updates so that it can auto switch in case of a network drop.
You will find ATMs along the way. However, it is best to carry adequate cash just in case you wish to eat at local roadside outlets or do some impromptu shopping on the road.
You will find mechanics on the highway. Ensure that your car/ bike is insured with appropriate car insurance policy or two-wheeler insurance policy.
Medical centres may not be as frequently situated on this route. Regardless of that, you must carry your daily and emergency medications along with your Mediclaim card. Buy accident insurance since you will be travelling on dangerous roads.
Power situation may not be absolutely smooth. It is only recently that Leh became attached to the national grid. Carry flashlights or torches with extra batteries.
For any road trip, you must always carry your tool-kit. It should ideally include tools like screwdrivers, a swiss knife, crescent screwdrivers, a swiss knife, a crescent wrench, a first aid kit, pliers – two sets, duct tape, scissors, and air pressure gauge for tyres. This will ensure that if any problem arises, you may be able to fix it yourself.
Author: Meenakshi Sircar
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