The mother of all trips! Yes, a road trip to Leh-Ladakh is considered one of the best, one of the most adventurous road trips you will ever undertake. Ladakh is a little slice of heaven; nestled in rugged mountains, breathtaking scenery, pristine rivers, charming monasteries, and endearing Tibetan culture. Owing to the rapturous terrain it lays on, Ladakh should be best enjoyed through a road trip.
Why road trips to Ladakh are popular
There are two reasons why one must take a road trip to Ladakh. First of all, it will be filled with natural wonders unlike any other you’ve seen before, majestic mountain passes, exotic mountain ranges, stunning landscapes; every sight will be picture-perfect.
Another reason is that it is an adventure-filled journey. It’s a high altitude heaven, where you can camp, hike, trek, rock-climb. The trip will test your endurance and give you plenty of adrenaline rushes.
Road routes to take to reach Leh-Ladakh
It’s best that you start your journey from Delhi or Chandigarh. There are two scenic routes you can take. The Manali-Leh Highway and the Srinagar-Leh Highway. The distance between Manali to Leh is around 473 kilometers while the distance between Srinagar to Leh is approximately 420 kilometers. Manali to Leh route passes through Sissu and Keylong while Srinagar to Leh route passes through Sonamarg, Dras, and Kargil.
Best time to take a road trip to Leh-Ladakh
The routes are closed for around 6 months during the year due to heavy snowfall and landslides. Manali to Leh highway usually opens mid-May and takes time to clear off initially. It generally closes by end of September.
Anytime between June to September would be a good time for this route. The Srinagar route also opens anytime between mid-May to June and closes in November. July to November is an ideal time for this route. Check online to find out the exact time the routes open and wait for a good two weeks for the roads to clear.
Your options for a road trip
Below are a few options you can consider before embarking on your road trip.
Driving in your own car would be the best experience of the journey if you plan to take off from Delhi, Chandigarh or Manali. The terrain is rough yet exhilarating to drive on. If you own a hatchback, make sure it is in the best shape to handle the road.
If your car is not up to the mark, you can also opt for a self drive car (rented car). An SUV or MUV would be ideal. This is also a preferred option for travellers who are not travelling from nearby northern states or cities, and instead are travelling from other parts of the country.
Hired Taxi With Driver
If you are not an experienced driver on rough terrains, it is safer to hire a taxi with a driver from Srinagar or Manali. Sightseeing in Leh requires a Leh number plate, so pick a cab with a private number plate and convince the authority it is not a hired taxi, if questioned.
By Bike (your own)
A bike trip to Ladakh is on top of every biker’s list. It is known to be a highly transformative journey. If you want to take a bike trip, decide which route you want to take (Manali or Srinagar) get your bike shipped to Delhi or Srinagar and from thereon, start your journey. No shipping worries if you already are a resident of Delhi of course. You can start on the Manali route.
By Bike (rented)
Another popular option is to rent bikes. Plenty of bike rental companies are available in Manali, with a wide range of bikes to choose from. Finding a rental bike of your choice in Srinagar may not be that easy, but you can book them in advance. (Check out the bike rentals we’ve listed below).
For the Manali-Leh route, you can travel by HRTC buses which stop at Keylong to change buses. Or take a direct HPTDC bus to Leh. For the Srinagar route, you can pick JKSRTC bus or a private bus to reach Leh.
Popular Road Tours To Leh-Ladakh
Another way to partake in amazing road adventures to Leh-Ladakh is booking a curated road tour. These are highly engaging, multi-activity road packages. Unwind Outdoor, Adventure Nation and Aahvan Adventures are popular road trip organizers/facilitators. These road trips take off from Manali, Delhi, Chandigarh and Srinagar.
How To Plan A Road Trip To Leh
Either a road or a bike trip to Leh will require extensive planning. Check out the steps we’ve listed below and use them as a guide.
- Pick a route.
- Get your vehicles properly serviced.
- Plan your overnight stays.
For Manali-Leh route, you can stopover at Keylong for an overnight stay. Plenty of accommodation options are available. For the Srinagar-Leh route, you can stay at Kargil or Drass.
- Check the Leh administration website and get your required inner line permits and Rohtang pass or other permits online. You can get the Rohtang pass permit at SDM office in Manali also.
- If you haven’t exercised in a while, start doing regular exercises at least a month in advance to be able to navigate the terrain with enough stamina.
Things To Carry On Your Leh-Ladakh Road Trip
- Carry spare tires, a basic tool kit, a little hammer, puncture repair kit, rope, funnel, m-seal, swiss knife, etc.
- Fill up regularly at fuel stations as past Tandi, you will not find any fuel stations.
- Carry your driver’s license and registration, PUC and other vehicle paperwork along with legitimate photo-id proofs.
- Carry a physical route map.
- Pack a basic first aid kit along with prescribed AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) medicine. These will include meds for vomiting, dizziness, headaches, pain relieving sprays, etc.
- Carry sunscreens and moisturizers, jackets, woolens, shawls, socks, inner thermals, riding gloves, trekking, hiking boots, etc.
- Chargers for all your devices, spare battery for your camera, power bank, rechargeable torches, nylon rope, and other devices that you think you may need.
- Always stay hydrated and carry water, energy drinks, and healthy snacks.
Travel Tips for Leh Road Trip
- Check road conditions online before starting your journey.
- Never overspend, especially on winding or narrow roads, or bad stretches.
- Wear brightly coloured clothes, so you are visible to oncoming vehicles.
- Carry extra cash with you.
- Start your trip early in the morning to avoid any possible jams or delays.
- It’s best not to drive at night.
- Hired taxi from Manali to Leh will cost around Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 15,000.
- Hired taxi from Srinagar to Leh will cost around Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000.
- Fuel (return trip) should cost around Rs. 6000 to Rs. 10,000 (approximately) depending on the number of places you will travel.
- Accommodation + meal per person per day will be anywhere around Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000.
Please note that these costs are approximate and indicative, may vary according to your itinerary and expenses. These do not include travelling expenses of travelling from Delhi, Chandigarh or any other city as these are route specific charges.
Online Car rentals
That was our complete guide on a fantastic road voyage to Leh-Ladakh, one that will surprise you at every turn. So start planning now. If you have any inputs or questions, please use the comment box below.