A road trip to Leh is on everybody’s bucket list. Riding the bike or car on those beautiful roads surrounded by nature is an experience not to be missed. It is a destination that every person who loves to drive or ride should explore. It is an adventurer’s delight and has some of the most jaw-dropping views. In this guide, we will try and cover some of the important points which you should consider before your next road trip to Leh.
The best time to travel on this road trip is from June to September. It usually opens on June 1 and officially closes on September 15. Although the route is open in June, the roads are in poor condition because of melting snow in the month of June. By September, the roads are in a relatively better condition.
The place itself is so mesmerizing that food becomes secondary for the adventure seeker. Nevertheless, Leh has some of the best eating joints we have encountered which will not only fill your stomach but also your hearts. Here is an effective list.
Tibetan Kitchen: If you want to eat what the locals eat, head to this place for a good experience. Be it Chinese, tandoori or Tibetan cuisine. You will not leave unsatisfied.
Namza Restaurant: This restaurant has a romantic feel to it. Just behind a fashion boutique, this place serves some nice Ladakhi dishes such as Yarkandi pulao. The cakes are well known too.
G-Kitchen: This place will give you a feel of style. The decor, the terrace and the menu as well. Try the lamb dishes at this kitchen.
The best route according to us is to reach Leh on a 2-day road trip and split the trip as follows.
Day 1: Manali to Keylong / Jispa
It is important to be well aware of acute mountain sickness (AMS) and hence, this split is most preferred.
Day 2: Keylong / Jispa to Leh
Day 2 has to start early for you to reach Leh on time. Also, always keep some buffer since the conditions of roads keep changing. It is highly recommended that you start day 2 of your journey at around 6 a.m.
It is extremely important to plan the trip well since there are big changes in the altitudes. In addition, getting acclimated is also very important for a smooth ride.
The average elevation of the Manali - Leh Highway is above 13,000 feet. The total length of this road trip is about 480 kilometres.
Carrying light food is recommended. If you are eating at dhabas or restaurants on the way, stick to basic food and avoid experiments. This particular road trip is a little risky and you have to be in the best of your health to enjoy it fully.
Stopover points are also limited. Although you will find multiple options, reliable ones are far and few.
Manali: Manali offers multiple food options with good guest houses and hotels as well. You can find them in Gulaba and Marhi. These places come before the famous Rohtang pass.
Bharatpur: It has communal sleeping places. You can also find parachute cafes here.
If you prefer homestays and local family made food, you can find that in Rumtse village.
Reaching to Leh includes crossing multiple passes. These include
Rohtang Pass: This is about 50 kilometres from Manali.
Baralacha La: This is the second high altitude pass.
Tanglang La: The highest point on the highway.
Once you reach Leh, it is one of the most satisfying experiences. You are in the lap of nature and no matter where your head turns, there are beautiful landscapes. Here are some of our top picks.
Magnetic Hill: If you ever want to see vehicles defy gravity, this is the place to be. This hill resides at a distance of about 30 kilometres from the city of Leh and is situated at an elevation of about 14,000 feet. The mysterious properties of this hill attract tourists from all over the world.
Chadar Trek (Frozen river trek): As the name suggests, you are literally walking on frozen water. This makes it one of the most unique as well as challenging treks in India.
Thiksey Monastery: This Monastery is situated at about 19 kilometres from Leh but is totally worth a visit. Be prepared to be amazed by this site.
Shanti Stupa: This beautiful stupa is situated to give you a perfect view of the city. It is a monument of peace.
Nubra Valley: This valley, also known as “the valley of flowers” is situated near the banks of the river Nubra. It has multiple camps for you to enjoy the beauty in.
Diskit Gompa: If you are someone who is interested in history, you will love this place. This is not only the largest but also the oldest monastery in the Nubra valley. Founded in the 14th century, it has a statue of Cho Rinpoche which roughly translates to “Crowded Buddha”.
The Manali Leh road trip is a little more difficult than your average road trip, and hence, requires some important points for you to remember.
Stay warm and hydrated. Acute Mountain Sickness is very common and you do not want it to spoil your trip.
The roads on the Manali Leh highway are not smooth all the time. Hence, drive slowly and with extreme caution.
It is very important to avoid alcohol.
Rest well before the road trip. It will help you immensely.
Acclimatize yourself with the location at every step of the journey.
Sleep in an upright position, if possible.
Carry preventive medicines.
Keep acclimatization pills handy. Consult your doctor before heading on this road trip to understand when should you have these pills.
Remember to check whether your bike insurance policy or car insurance policy is due for renewal. If yes, then make sure you renew it before your trip. You can also consider Bharti AXA GI to purchase a comprehensive insurance policy for your vehicle.
The highway which you are about to embark upon is not rich in petrol pumps. Having said that, there are multiple points where you can refuel your tanks. These include
Manali: You can find multiple petrol pumps here. At least 6 of them.
Tandi: This is located around 100 kilometres from Manali and has a petrol pump.
Karu: This is a tricky one. Karu is 345 kilometres from Tandi so make sure you are well fueled when you leave Tandi.
Leh: Leh has quite a few options and you can easily find some petrol pumps.
There are some overnight stay options available with some more popular than others.
Keylong: Keylong is the capital of Lahaul and is a popular spot to rest. It offers some nice views of the mountains and just alongside is the Bhaga valley.
Jispa: This is another famous halting spot for tourists and adventurers alike. It is further away by about 20 kilometres from Keylong. You will have a refreshing time at this place and will be able to continue your journey with an amazing morning.
While on the way to Leh, there are some options to stay and eat. These include Khoksar, Darcha, Bharatpur, Pang, Upshi. All these places have decent staying facilities with good food options. As the road goes through multiple elevation points, our advice is to stick to basic food.
Apart from the above-mentioned places, there are also a few more to grab a snack while you drive.
Zingzing Bar: This bar is located between Jispa and Sarchu and is one of the highest roadside bars. It is more than just a bar. It is a resting spot for travellers. Visit the place, sip your tea and enjoy the serenity.
Sarchu: Surrounded by the Himalayas, this beautiful place is a perfect destination for campers. It is locally known as “Sir Bhum Chum”. This place offers multiple camps for you to stay, eat and continue with your journey.
Mobile connectivity is very limited and absent in certain parts of the highway. The only service providers available in Leh are Airtel. There are phone services available in Keylong. It is advisable to call your loved ones from here since once you cross Darcha there will be no network till Upshi. In Leh, if you have postpaid connections from these service providers, you should be good. In case you don’t, you can either get a prepaid connection or use the phone booths. Since Leh has a considerable number of Army personnel, the phone booths are often crowded. Getting a prepaid connection is also not easy since the government considers these areas as sensitive.
ATM’s are rare on the Manali Leh Highway and it is highly advisable to carry enough cash with you. While in Manali, you will have ample opportunities to withdraw cash but once you are on the road, there is only 1 ATM in Keylong. Even in Leh, the ATM’s are limited and belong to the following institutions.
Jammu and Kashmir Bank
Mechanics and puncture shops are available on the Manali Leh Highway. Specifically, you can find them at Marhi, Keylong, Darcha, Pang and Upshi.
Medical facilities are not very well located and you can find them at local hospitals. There are certainly medical facilities located at Sissu, Keylong. Pang has army camps.
There is a shortage of electricity when it comes to hilly areas. You will find electricity in Sissu, Gondla, Keylong and Upshi. It is advisable to carry devices that can store electricity. It will be helpful.
Make sure to carry a basic tool kit with screwdrivers, hammer, puncture repair kit, empty bottles to store some extra fuel, funnel, spare tubes, ropes, jump start cables, and other basic tools.
We hope this above guide will give you a head start for your road trip. Click here to learn more for Shimla to Manali Road Trip
Article Author: Luv Kumar
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