1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Manali Leh Highway Travel Guide

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Considered as the most difficult motorable terrains in India, Leh-Manali Highway is one of the two available gateways for getting access to the Leh-Ladakh region, the other being the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. Manali-Leh Highway tour offers all the thrills of an adventurous road-trip and if you plan the journey thoroughly, it can turn out to be the most memorable road trip of your life.

    While conquering Srinagar-Leh National Highway itself is a big challenge, the Manali-Leh Highway is a couple of notches above in terms of difficulty level. Compared to the well-tarmacked Srinagar-Leh route, the poor condition of the Manali-Leh road surface increases its difficulty quotient. If Srinagar-Leh drive can be compared to a 100 meters sprint race, then Manali-Leh highway journey is nothing short of a 200 meters hurdles. The reasons being -

    1. Firstly, unlike Srinagar-Leh highway, which has a number of settlements en-route, the Manali-Leh Highway runs through an endless stretch of barren landscapes without any human inhabitants.

    2. Secondly, as the Srinagar-Leh highway is predominantly used by the Indian Army for the supply of logistics and consumables to the Ladakh region, it has higher importance compared to the Manali-Leh highway, which is mostly accessed by the tourist fraternity.

    So the Srinagar-Leh highway gets the lion's share of attention as far as road repair works and maintenance activities are concerned, often leaving the Manali-Leh highway to be subjected to a step-motherly treatment.

    If you are planning for a tour to Ladakh via Manali-Leh Highway, then you need to be fully prepared to tackle all possible challenges that would come throughout this scenic yet treacherous journey. Here's a closer look at the challenges and your possible course of actions to overcome them.

    1. Dealing With Altitude Sickness

    The first challenge on your Manali-Leh road trip will be to combat against the signs of Altitude Sickness. Also known as Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS, arises due to our lack of acclimatization with the atmosphere at higher altitude. It is caused by prolonged exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen available at the elevation of 2400 meters above the sea level or higher.

    Manali is situated at an elevation of 2050 meters, and you would need to climb as high as 3979 meters at Rohtang Pass at the very beginning of the journey. This sudden rise in altitude results in symptoms of altitude sickness.

    The typical mountain sickness symptoms may include - headache, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, stomach illness, persistent rapid pulse rate and dizziness. Aggrieved symptoms may result in peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet and face) and gradual loss of consciousness. Fluid accumulation in the tissues of the body parts may even lead to serious consequences. So it's important to take precautionary measures for a safe and healthy journey on Manali-Leh Highway.

    Tips for Preventing AMS:

    1. Sleeping pills and other respiratory depressants can slow down the acclimatization process. If you are using any medicines for insomnia or relaxation of nerves, then it's better to avoid those ahead of the journey.

    2. Same rule applies to alcohol as well. Alcohol tends to cause dehydration. Strictly avoid drinking, even if you are not on the driver's seat.

    3. Pre-acclimatization can be helpful. Spending a couple of days at relatively high altitude can help in developing tolerance to low oxygen concentrations before ascending. Instead of finishing the Manali-Leh journey at-a-stretch in 1 day, a night halt at Keylong (3080 m) or Jispa (3200 m) may prove to be helpful.

    4. Last, but not the least, if you are traveling with children and do not want to take any chance with AMS, then the best alternative would be to arrive at Leh via Srinagar and depart via Manali. You can use Srinagar-Leh highway for arriving to Leh and take the Leh-Manali highway after concluding your Ladakh tour. Srinagar-Leh national highway offers gradual ascend, so the chances of altitude sickness are far lesser. Moreover, it would allow you to complete the full circle of Srinagar-Leh-Manali highway and you can explore all the important attractions in this whole stretch.

    2. Rohtang Pass Permit

    As per the rule laid out by the Himachal Pradesh Government, you are not allowed to use the Rohtang Pass route from Manali to Leh if traveling on a non Himachal Pradesh registered vehicle (both private vehicles and taxis). So unless you are using local public transport like bus or local taxi, you must obtain the necessary permit before embarking on the journey. Also, there is strict time-frame for the travel and traffic movements are allowed in between 4 AM to 11 PM. So plan your trip accordingly. Strangely, no such pass is required for the reverse trip - i.e., when you are coming from Leh towards Manali.

    SDM Office in Manali is the place from which permits are issued. On a working day, SDM office is open between 10 AM to 5 PM. The office remains closed on all National / Local Holidays, Sundays and second Saturdays. Alternatively, you can collect the permit from the Tourist Information Center and HPTDC office in Manali. Permits can also be obtained from Green Tax Barrier when you enter the Manali town. You need to produce your driving license and vehicle registration papers, alongwith a non-refundable payment of INR 50 per vehicle to obtain the pass.

    3. Inner Line Permit (ILP) & Protected Area Permit (PAP)

    Even a couple of years ago, for all tourists visiting Ladakh, obtaining Inner Line Permit was mandatory. Although ILP is currently not needed for Indian citizens visiting regular tourist circuits in Leh Ladakh region, there are still quite a few restricted places which requires ILP. Some of the tourist attractions that would need you to produce ILP are Hanle, Tsaga, Chusul, beyond Loma bend, Marsimik La, Chumur and Batalik sectors. You are required to mention all the places that you are planning to cover on your Leh-Ladakh trip in the ILP form. You will not be allowed to visit a restricted place which is not included in your ILP.

    Indian nationals can download the Inner Line Permit application form from the internet and apply for ILP at the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Leh town. The official DC office timings are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on all working days but applications for the same day permits are not accepted after 3:00 PM. Alongside the application form, you need to attach a copy of your Government issued ID proof to get the permits approved. Please note that ILP is valid for a period of 21 days from the date of issuance. Make sure to carry a few photocopies of the approved permit, application form, and ID proof. You will need to submit a copy at every check post that you’ll come across during your tour.

    For foreign nationals, the process is a bit different. Instead of ILP, foreigners would need to obtain Protect Area Permits (PAP). Protect Area Permits (PAP) can be applied in a group of two or more through a Government of India registered travel agent in Leh district. Xerox copies of your Passport and Visa are mandatory for getting PAP approval. Validity of PAP is 7 days only. If your tour plan is for more than a week, then you would need to re-issue the permit on or before the 7th day. PAP does not cover all the restricted regions. Permits for travelling to a few remote places (for example Changthang region) are exclusively available only to the citizens of India.

    Best Time to Travel on Manali-Leh Highway

    Manali-Leh Highway is functional only for four and half months in a year.The travel season is dictated by 2 factors - firstly, the opening of Rohtang Pass, and secondly, the clearence of snow at Baralacha La pass. Generally, Rohtang Pass is cleared for vehicle movements around the middle of May, while the snow-clad road surface at Baralacha La takes another week or two for getting fully functional. The travel season starts from the beginning of June and lasts till the end of September. October is the month when snowfalls are expected to start and the high mountain passes gets blocked by the end of October.

    The highway remains in poor shape in the beginning of the season. During the early season in May, the BRO workers start clearing the snow and rebuilding the collapsed bridges. After the initial period of repair works, the condition of the road remains at its very best till the end of June. This is the period when Manali-Leh highway remains busiest. Monsoon arrives in the month of July and the heavy downpours result in washing out parts of the road. So the road condition starts to deteriorate from the mid of July.

    Naturally, the Manali-Leh highway attracts majority of the crowds from the beginning of June till middle of July. By the start of August, the rush subdues a bit. So if you prefer to avoid heavy crowd, then late August is the ideal time to plan your trip to Leh. But do keep it in mind that the road will not be in complete mess after the rainy days.

    Manali-Leh Highway Route Details

    The scenic highway originates from the famous hill station of Manali and goes through Keylong, Jispa, Sarchu and Upshi to conclude at Leh after covering a total distance of 478 kilometers.

    Manali-Leh Highway (478 KM) Route: Manali -> Rohtang Pass -> Kokhsar -> Tandi - Keylong -> Jispa -> Darcha -> Baralacha La -> Bharatpur -> Sarchu -> Gata Loops -> Nakee La -> Lachalung La -> Pang - > Tanglang La -> Upshi -> Karu -> Leh.

    Important Places on Manali-Leh Highway with Their Altitudes:

    • Manali: 1950 Meters
    • Marhi : 3300 Meters
    • Rohtang La: 3980 Meters
    • Khokhsar: 3140 Meters
    • Sissu : 3170 Meters
    • Tandi: 2573 Meters
    • Keylong : 3080 Meters
    • Jispa: 3320 Meters
    • Darcha: 3360 Meters
    • Baralacha La: 4890 Meters
    • Sarchu: 4290 Meters
    • Gata Loops: 4190 Meters
    • Nakee La: 4740 Meters
    • Lachalung La: 5079 Meters
    • Pang : 4600 Meters
    • Moore Plains: 4730 Meters
    • Tanglang La: 5328 Meters
    • Rumste: 4260 Meters
    • Upshi: 3480 Meters
    • Leh: 3500 Meters

    Transportation Options

    Bus Service:
    Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) operates daily bus service between Manali and Leh throughout the travel season. The journey is covered in 2 days with a night halt at Keylong. The bus departs from Manali bus stand at 9 in the morning and reaches Keylong at around 9 PM. After a night's halt, it again starts from Keylong at 5 AM and completes the journey to Leh in another 12-14 hours.

    The buses are semi-deluxe in nature and the fare is around INR 2700 per person. You can book the tickets online from HPTDC website in advance at HPTDC: Availability.

    An even cheaper bargain would be the HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) buses. But there is no direct HRTC bus from Manali to Leh. To travel by HRTC buses, you need to break the journey in to 2 parts - from Manali to Keylong and Keylong to Leh in two seperate buses. Manali-Keylong in HRTC bus would cost you around 100-150 bucks, while another 400-500 bucks can take you to Leh from Keylong. So you can make a saving of around INR 1000 by doing this break journey on HRTC buses. It may not be a super comfortable journey, but when budget is a concern, then there's no other alternative.

    Shared Taxi Service:
    Shared taxi is the other cheap option to travel between Manali and Leh. A number of shared taxis, mostly Tata Sumos and Toyota Innovas, depart from Manali taxi stand between 9 PM to 12 PM and arrive at Leh on the next evening without any overnight halt. There will however be 3-4 stops in between for you to have foods and relieve yourself.

    From the pricing perspective, a ride in a shared taxi will cost you INR 1200 - INR 1800 depending on the travel season. Prices are highest during the peak season of June-July and starts to drop steadily from the month of August.

    Taxi/Cab Hire:
    If you are looking for a comfortable journey, then hiring a private taxi is the best option. Lots of taxi operators are there at Manali and their fleets include vehicles of various makes and models.The most economical option is Tata Indica, while Indigo, Logan and Maruti Swift are there in mid-range budget. For more space and comfort, you have the option to hire Toyota Innova or Mahindra Xylo.

    There are no fixed taxi charges. Fare fluctuates depending on the season and the tourist rush. The more you can bargain, the lower is the fare that you get to avail. Typically the one-way fare of a Tata Indica would be around INR 12,000, while Swift or Logan can cost you near about INR 15,000. Innovas and Xylos are a bit costly at around INR 18,000 to INR 20,000. Bargain harder with more than one driver and you could possibly get a better deal.

    It's important to remember that a Himachal Pradesh registered taxi is not allowed to be used for local sightseeing at Leh-Ladakh. You can only get a drop to Leh town in a HP registered taxi. That's because of a diktat issued by the Ladakh Taxi Union which makes it mandatory to use a taxi bearing Ladakh registration number for the purpose of visiting the tourism circuits. So if your plan is to hire one taxi for the entire Leh trip, then make sure to find a taxi registered at Ladakh in order to prevent any unwanted confrontation with the local taxi drivers.

    Own Vehicle and Self-Drive Car/Bike Rentals:
    To experience the joy of driving along the Manali-Leh highway, many travelers prefer to take their own vehicles for the Leh trip. It holds true for the motorbike enthusiasts as well. Self drive car/bike rental services are also very popular with many tourists visiting Ladakh. However, do keep it in mind that driving on Manali-Leh highway through the rugged terrains, muddy roads, snow and water crossings require experience and confidence. So unless you are an expert driver/rider, don't even think of undertaking the huge risk.

    Lots of tourists undertake Manali-Leh trip on their Hatchbacks and Sedans, so you do not necessarily need a 4WD-SUV. Any vehicle with high ground clearance will be suitable for a comfortable journey on Manali-Leh highway. However, if you own a car with low ground clearance, then do expect it to suffer a few scratches and dents on the underside parts. Similarly, for the bikers, although a heavy-duty motorbike like 500 CC Bullet can offer you the most reliable ride, even a 150 CC Bajaj Pulsar can be used for the journey.

    Odds of suffering puncture is reasonably higher, and chances of complete breakdown cannot be ruled out either. So it's important to know the basic troubleshooting of your vehicle. Always carry the essential spare parts to deal with any unforeseen events. It's also important to carry extra fuel at all the time during your Manali-Leh trip as only a handful of fuel stations are there on the highway.

    Important Note: In the recent past, there have been isolated incidents of blocking and damaging both the private and rented self-drive cars and bikes in Ladakh due to a resolution passed by the Ladakh Taxi Union. Members of the taxi union are trying all they could do to ban the usage of non-local vehicles for visiting the tourist attractions at Leh, with the complaints that those vehicles are affecting the business and livelihood of local taxi drivers and owners.

    You are still allowed to use your personal or rented vehicle on the Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highway, but you would need to hire a local taxi from Leh town for the purpose of sightseeing. Popular Self-Drive Car Rental service ZoomCar has issued an advisory in this regard to refrain from using their service to Ladakh till the matter gets sorted.

    Bike Rental Shops at Manali:

    1. Bike Rentals Manali - Contact No 9816044140. Website - bikerentalsmanali.com

    2. Bike Hire Manali - Contact No 9418778899. Website - bikehiremanali.com (They also offer Self Drive Jeep)

    3. Manali Bike Rental - Contact No 9816622344. Website - manalibikerental.com

    4. Hardev Motors - Contact No 8262800005. Website - hardevmotors.com

    5. Manali Enfield Center - Contact No 9816003010. Website - manalienfieldcenter.com

    All the above motor bike rental companies have good user reviews, and they all have Royal Enfield motor cycles that you can rent.

    Travel Diary on Manali-Leh Highway

    A journey of 478 KM meandering through the lush green valleys, snow-clad surroundings, rugged terrains, picturesque mountains and barren landscapes - the Manali-Leh Highway has all the ingredients for astounding everyone with its charming beauty! Making your way through the winding roads and mountain passes touching the skies, you will be amazed by the fantastic scenery and breathtaking views that Manali-Leh Highway is famous for. Let's find out a detailed account of what to expect on your journey along this less-traversed territory.

    Manali - Rohtang Pass: 52 KM

    The real fun starts within an hour of embarking on your journey from Manali as you approach Marhi - the gateway to Rohtang La from where the ascend to this 3980 meters high altitude pass begins. Rohtang Pass is one of the major attractions along this route. The word 'Rohtang' literally means 'a heap of dead bodies', which may not be an apt description of its eternal appeal to tourists of all ages.

    You might come across couple of water crossings or landslides on the road to Rohtang La, especially during the post monsoon season. While crossing a tricky section of road, landslides, water crossings or slushy areas, never rush through and avoid any half-clutch measures. Cross the section in lower gear and maintain a consistent pace to avoid stalling the engine. If needed, get out of your car, inspect the road and plan your actions accordingly.

    Rohtang Pass - Tandi: 57 KM

    After crossing Rohtang La check post, the downhill drive all the way to the small town of Kokhsar begins. Condition of the road in this 19 KM stretch is rather poor and you will have to pass through a few water crossings on the road. Kokhsar has a couple of eateries and a guest house. You can take a break here and sip on a cup of hot 'chai' in Kokhsar's bone chilling cold before proceeding towards Tandi - which is another 38 KM away. Never use heaters while driving on Manali-Leh highway. Hot air released by the heater decreases the level of Oxygen inside the vehicle, which can aggravate symptoms of AMS and may result in breathing difficulty.

    Kokhsar to Tandi is also a downhill travel and the road condition is more or less the same. Tandi is an important place for your trip because it has the last fuel station on Manali-Leh highway before Upshi. From Tandi to Upshi, you may only find a few shops selling fuel, mostly diesel, but there will be not a single petrol bunk for the next 350 odd kilometers. So make sure that you fill up the fuel tank at the Indian Oil fuel station at Tandi.

    Tandi - Keylong: 10 KM

    An uphill drive of 10 KM from Tandi will take you to Keylong - which is the administrative headquarter of Lahaul and Spiti Valley districts. The road to Keylong from Tandi is mostly in decent shape with occasional broken stretches. Keylong is the largest town along the Manali-Leh highway which is located at an altitude of 3080 meters above the sea level. During the winter season, Keylong gets fully isolated from the rest of the Kashmir valley due to heavy snow falls.

    Keylong has a few motor mechanics shops and service centers. If your vehicle requires any sort of servicing, then you can get it sorted out at Keylong. Keylong is also the last place on Manali-Leh highway where you will get cell phone connectivity on both Airtel and BSNL mobiles. If you are in need of some hard cash, then the SBI ATM at Keylong can come to your rescue. Keylong also has medical facilities available at the local Government hospital.

    Keylong - Jispa: 22 KM

    Up next, you will come across Jispa - a small village located on the bank of Bhaga River. It should not take more than 30 minutes to settle the 22 KM distance between Keylong and Jispa as the road condition dramatically improves on this stretch. Jispa has decent accommodation facilities including the luxurious Hotel Ibex, a guest house and a few camping tent houses. You can also find eateries with clean toilet facility. You can also make use of public telephone booths if your mobile signal dries up.

    Jispa - Darcha: 17 KM

    Your next target is Darcha - a hamlet located on the other bank of the Bhaga River. The condition of the road remains in good shape throughout and the incline is not very steep. This is the last village in Himachal Pradesh inhibited by human beings. There's a police checkpost at Darcha where you need to enter the details of the travellers and the vehicle. Foreign nationals need to get their passports verified at Darcha police checkpoint. The information recorded here will be helpful for the rescue operators to trace the travellers in the event of any natural calamity. Dracha has a few road-side dhabas for satisfying your thirst as well as appetite. There is also a public telebhone booth which you might want to use.

    You may experience symptoms of AMS here because of the high altitude level. It's important to keep your body hydrated, so keep on sipping from the water bottle / ORS solution to increase your water intake significantly.

    Dracha - Zingzing Bar: 31 KM

    A 31 KM uphill drive from Dracha will lead you to Zingzing Bar. It is a roadside bar located at an altitude of 4270 meters above the sea level - making it one of the most elevated bars in the world. For the tourists to Leh, it is much more than a mere bar. The amazing location makes it a peaceful resting ground for the exhausted travelers. Don't be misled by the name even if you are a teetotaller. You can simply take a seat at the bar and sip on your cup of tea or cofee.

    Zingzing Bar - Baralacha La: 22KM

    Baralacha La is a is a high mountain pass located at a distance of just 22 kilometers from the Zingzing Bar. After the Rohtang Pass, it is the second of the five mountain passes that you will be encountering during your journey to Leh from Manali. Baralacha La, situated at an altitude of 4890 meters, is the confluence point that connects Himachal's Lahaul district with Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The condition of the road is anything but good here. The continuous melting of snow results in deep water crossings. Roads are often washed away and you will have to be extra careful to negotiate the invisible holes on the road surface created by the flowing water - especially during the early season time. It's not uncommon to see a vehicle getting stuck on the middle of the road creating long trails of traffic on both the sides.

    Baralacha La - Sarchu: 32 KM

    While proceeding towards Sarchu, you will first come across a place called Bharatpur. It has a few dhabas as well as a series of tented accommodations right off the Manali-Leh highway. There's a dhaba named "Khate Raho Maamu", which is known to offer delicious food for a bargain price. Bharatpur tent houses are more friendly to your pocket compared to those at Sarchu. So if you are on a tight budget, then it make sense to rest for the night here.

    Soon you will be crossing the Himachal Pradesh state borders and make your way to Jammu and Kashmir. Sarchu is the first Kashmiri village you will come across on Manali-Leh highway. As you are entering a different state, you will need to make another entry at a police checkpost here. Sarchu is famous for its wide range of tented accommodations. Right from a basic tripal to the state-of-the-art Swiss tent with attached toilet, you will be spoilt for choices here. Food and beverages are also available at one of the many road-side eateries.

    Sarchu - Pang: 80 KM

    The next major point in your trip, Pang, is another 80 KM drive from Sarchu. You will first encounter a collection of 21 stunning loops (hairpin bends) that would last for a distance of 7 KM and take you to the altitude of 4630 meters from 4190 meters. Known as the Gata Loops, it would surely give you a bout of adrenaline rush.

    Up next is the third mountain pass on your journey - the deserted Namkee La situated at the height of 4740 meters above the sea level. You can witness only the barren landscapes here with no sign of any vegetation. But that's just the beginning. Be prepared to fly even higher as you will soon rise above 5000 meters in elevation at the Lachalung La pass. With an altitude of 5079 meters, it is the second highest mountain pass on the Manali-Leh highway. You can catch a glimpse of the entire Ladakh plateau from the top of the Lachalung La pass.

    As you continue to inch ahead towards Leh, another 21 KM downhill drive from the Lachalung La would take you to Pang. Those unique looking pale-brown soil formations, which are the inherent beauty of Ladakh's barren stretches, will become more apparent from Pang. If not anything else, Pang offers some fantastic views of the vistas worthy of being captured on your camera.

    Pang - Tanglang La: 66 KM

    The last of the five high mountain passes on the Manali-Leh route, the Tanglang La, is the highest of the lot with an altitude of 5328 meters above the sea level. But before encountering this fortress, you will need to come across a 35 KM stretch of flat-bedded area named Moore Plains. It's highly surprising, as well as refreshing, to find such a large flat surface of land while on an upward cruise to one of the highest motorable mountain ranges in the world. If you are lucky, then a Kiyang (Himalayan Wild Ass) might decide to pay you a sudden visit - so be prepared with your camera to capture this endangered species. Moore Plains is also known to be the natural habitat of a wide variety of wild animals including the rare blue sheeps.

    As you approach Tanglang La, you will be perplexed by the quality of the roads - or rather the complete lack of it. It is as good as a dirt track from Debring onwards, so your progress will obviously be much slower. Tanglang La (5328 meters) is considered as the 2nd highest motorable road in the world - the first being the Khardung La pass (5601 meters) at Ladakh. The freezing winds add to the bone-chilling cold and you might feel overwhelmed by its sheer momentum. There's a huge sign board declaring it to be the second highest motorable road in a world - which is a favorite among the tourists for a selfie or a photoshoot.

    Tanglag La - Upshi: 61 KM

    As you descend from the overwhelming stature of Tanglang La, you would first come across a small village with only a handful of houses. Rumste, as it is known as, is the first settlement in the Indus Valley when you are arriving from Manali. You will be driving right along the Indus River and you will be surprised to see the dramatically improved road condition.

    As you continue to make steady progress, Upshi will be the first town to greet you. Upshi has the last police check point where you need to register the vehicle as well as the travelers details. It has a few basic guest house accommodation options and you can also buy some edibles. A few minutes down the road, you can also find a fuel station after traveling for more than 350 kilometers from Tandi. You may refuel here if you badly need to, otherwise, Leh does have a few good options as well.

    Upshi - Leh: 47 KM

    Once you cross Upshi, you are just 47 KM adrift of the magical aura of Leh. Your excitement would prompt you to reach there as fast as you can. But don't let the temptation ruin your senses. Continue to drive in a safe and composed manner and you will finally realize your dream of reaching Ladakh within a spell of just one hour.

    Tourist Attractions En-route Manali-Leh Highway

    Tourist Attractions at Rohtang Pass:

    After a 20 KM drive from Manali, you will be arriving at a hamlet named Gulaba. When the road to Rohtang Pass gets closed in the month November, Gulaba's importance to the tourists increases as a snow point. Marhi is famous for its snow walls which are over 20 feet in height. Driving through these huge walls of snow along the narrow road is an experience you will surely enjoy.

    Rohtang La offers breathtaking views of the Beas River Valley and glaciers on the backdrop of snowy mountain peaks. Rohtang Snow Park is an excellent place for your kids to play with the snow. Not just the kids though, it can even make the grown-ups to turn the clock back and revisit those eventful childhood days. You can also indulge in fun activities like sledge riding and skiing at this beautiful point. You can cherish these little moments forever, so don't forget to capture the amazing experience on your camera.

    Tourist Attractions at Kokhsar & Tandi:

    Kokhsar is the first settlement you will come across in the Lahaul Valley. Chandra river flows through this tiny hamlet. Kokhsar village offers tourists lovely views of the surrounding areas and you will not be able to resist the temptation of shooting a few pictures at this place. Kokhsar is also the gateway to Spiti Valley via Kunzam Pass.

    Besides the natural landscapes, there is not much to do at Tandi. The only attraction at this quiet settlement worth visiting is the confluence of the Chandra River and the Bhaga River which then flows through the Kashmir Valley with the name of Chandrabhaga River (Chenab river).

    Tourist Attractions at Keylong:

    Keylong is a favorite destination for nature lovers as an oasis of greenery. Bhaga Valley offers a great opportunity for trekkers and hikers to explore its untouched natural splendor. Kardang Monastery at Keylong is the largest Buddhist monastery in the entire Lahaul district. Maintained by the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Kardang Monastery attracts a large number of tourists every year. Shasur and Gemur are two other notable Tibetan Buddhist monasteries nearby. Besides, Keylong is a perfect stop over for exploring Udaipur and the famous Triloknath Temple.

    Tourist Attractions at Jispa:

    Jispa is known for the panoramic views of the adjoining picturesque valleys decorated by numerous streams, mountain peaks and lush greeneries all around. If you are fascinated by the thought of camping, then a night's stay in one of the Swiss tents under the hood of a starry sky with a campfire as your companion can be a remarkable experience at Jispa.

    Tourist Attractions at Dracha:

    Darcha-Padum trek is one of the most popular trekking trails among the adventurists. There is a huge ground at Darcha which has temporary camps put up by the locals. If you are looking for an affordable tent accommodation for the night, then Dracha is your cheapest bet.

    Tourist Attractions at Baralacha La:

    Towering at over 4890 meters, the pass itself is a big tourist attraction which offers hawk-eye views of not one, but three beautiful river valleys - Bhaga Valley, Chandra Valley and Yunam Valley. Many tourists take the famous trekking route to Suraj Tal lake from where the Bhaga River originates. More adventurous trekkers also include the route from Baralacha La to Chandra Tal lake to their trekking itinerary.

    Tourist Attractions at Sarchu:

    Trekking along the direction of the river Tsarap Chu is a tourist attraction at Sarchu. It also acts as the origin point of trekking to the Zanskar Valley region of Ladakh.

    Tourist Attractions at Pang:

    The refreshing Gata Loops with a set of 21 sharp hairpin bends is an experience to behold. You can enjoy the vistas of naturalistic delight at Pang. Unique soil formation comparable to the lunar surface is another popular point for photography enthusiasts. at Pang.

    Tourist Attractions at Tanglang La:

    "You are passing through the second highest motorable pass in the world" - this signboard planted on top of Tanglang La generates crazy interest from the tourists. Moore Plains is a vast stretch of flat-bedded surface which is rich in Himalayan wildlife. A view of the Tso Kar Lake on the backdrop of snow-clad mountain ranges is sure to mesmerize you.

    Tourist Attractions at Upshi:

    Upshi is the origin point for trekking to Tso Moriri and Tso Kar lakes via Chumathang trail. It is considered to be a pure bliss for the nature lovers.

    Accommodation Options En-route Manali-Leh Highway

    Kokhsur - One guest house and a few tents available.

    - Few basic accommodation options are there at Tandi.

    Keylong - HPDTC operated Hotel Chandrabhaga is a deluxe hotel at Keylong which offers rooms, luxury tents and dorms. Besides, there are number of staying options in budget hotels and guest houses.

    - Jispa has decent accommodation facilities including the luxurious Hotel Ibex. A Himachal Pradesh Government run guest house and a few camping tent houses are also available here.

    Darcha - Tents with very basic accommodation. Ideal for budget travelers. Tents available for as low as INR 30 per person.

    Zingzing Bar - In case the weather condition prevents you from crossing Baralacha La, you can find tented accommodation at Zingzing Bar dhaba.

    Sarchu - A number of tent houses are available for all budgets. Swiss tents with attached toilet facilities are available as well.

    Bharatpur - Few temporary shacks are there. Backpackers on a modest budget can find these useful.

    Pang - Tent houses are your only staying option. Prices are a bit higher compared to Darcha and Bharatpur.

    Upshi - Upshi has a couple of guest houses, 2/3 private hotels and home-stay options. Accommodations in tents are also available.

    Important Facilities Available En-route

    Mechanical Help: Don't expect service centers for any major work on your vehicle, but there are mechanics available at some places to fix minor glitches and punctures. It is important to know basic maintenance activities in case of any mechanical issues with your vehicle. Some of the places where you can find mechanical help are - Khoksar, Tandi, Keylong, Darcha, Sarchu and Upshi. Yolax Motors at Keylong is a registered service center for Maruti vehicles.

    Always ensure to repair your vehicle and inspect all the elements minutely before you set out on a Manali-Leh trip. It is better to get your vehicle double checked by another service center for any glitches that might go unnoticed at the first service. Alongside, keep the user manual of your vehicle with you. It can guide you in emergency situations.

    Also, it is important to carry essential vehicle repairing equipment like jack, spanner, jump-start cable, spare tire, air compressor, foot pump and towing rope. Afterall, you never know what's in store for you as far as the unpredictable weather condition is concerned.

    Medical Facility: Only Keylong has a proper hospital with critical care center. There are basic medical facilities available at Sissu, Sarchu, and Upshi.

    Mobile & Telephone Connectivity: First and foremost, keep it in mind that prepaid connections issued from other parts of the country do not work in Leh – Ladakh. Also this part of India has no connectivity with any other operators except Airtel & BSNL. If you have a post-paid SIM either from BSNL or Airtel, then you can expect it to work till Keylong. Jispa has BSNL coverage. From Keylong to Upshi, you won't get any mobile signal. After you arrive at Upshi, both BSNL & Airtel are available again, but the latter will have poor signal strength.

    You can make use of fixed line phones from public telephone booths if you do not have mobile connectivity. PCO services are available at Tandi, Keylong, Jispa, Darcha and Upshi.

    Fuel Stations: After leaving Manali and before arriving at Leh, there are just three places where you can find a proper fuel station. These are -

    Tandi - 112 KM
    Upshi - 428 KM
    Karu - 438 KM

    Besides, you can also get fuel (mostly diesel) sold by local shops at the below-mentioned places, although at a higher than the standard rates (no idea on the quality part).

    Keylong - 117 KM
    Darcha - I57 KM
    Sarchu - 224 KM

    It is advisable to fill up your fuel tank from Manali before embarking on the journey, as these places tend to have lesser fuel stocks. It is not uncommon to find the pumps out of order at all the three places - Tandi, Upshi, and Karu.

    Expect a 15% less fuel economy from your vehicle's usual mileage on city roads. If you are getting 10 KMPL fuel economy during your day to day usage, then don't expect anything more than 8.5 KMPL on Manali-Leh National Highway. So besides ensuring a full-tank load right at Manali, it is better to keep additional fuel in stock to avoid any troubles.

    Tourist Attractions and Accommodation Options at Leh:

    For getting a detailed account of all the tourist attractions at Leh, including the modes of getting around, local taxi and bus services to tourism circuits, local bike rental services and accommodation options in Leh Ladakh region, kindly refer to this thread -

    Leh Ladakh - The Ultimate Guide to Tourist Attractions, Transportation & Accommodation Options

    Wanderlust, Gabydi, Chahal and 2 others like this.

  2. Gabydi

    Gabydi Member

    My God this is an amazing guide, thank you so much. I never heard of this highway before. I still have a question though, is this a trekking route as well or can only be done in vehicle?

    I love your guide in altitude sickness. I’ve never suffered from this even though I’ve climbed at 5400 meters. But I live in a city that is at 2400 meters above sea level and climb frequently so probably this is the reason. I have some friends who suffered from this and they literally felt like dying, so it’s awesome info my friend.

    Also I wanted to ask if you happen to know about a touring company that can guide you through all these places? I loved Jispa, well I loved everything!
    Tanmaya and Chahal like this.

  3. Ashwin Mahesh

    Ashwin Mahesh Member

    Wow, this is an exhaustive compilation of all the places you can visit and also things you can do en route from Manali to Leh. I have been on this route on a motorcycle a few years back with friends and it still ranks as one of the best journeys I have taken in my entire life (not boasting but I have travelled quite a lot).

    This is challenging a trip and it doesn't matter whether you are in the comfort of an air-conditioned car or on a bicycle, but it is definitely worth taking the risk. Even during the four and a half months when the roads are open you are never too far away from mudslides and the subsequent road closures, also as recently as a couple of years back there were flash floods in Ladakh and many people lost their lives. Alas if you fly to Leh from Delhi, all these shouldn't impact your trip but flying is the last option you should consider because the journey is what makes this trip so special.
    Tanmaya and Chahal like this.
  4. Tanmaya

    Tanmaya Member

    Manali to Leh is about 500Kms by road but when I was researching a few years ago while planning a trip I found out that there is a trail that you can use to go from Manali to Leh but one has to be very determined to be able to undertake such a journey. That is how people used to travel when there were no roads. There are plenty of 10-20Kms trek routes in Ladakh that people use which are also mentioned in Deb's guide for Ladakh if you would like to have a look.
    Gabydi likes this.
  5. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    Thanks for the great, comprehensive post about this highway - I love doing road trips, so now I'm quite fascinated by this road. I'm glad you mentioned in there about altitude sickness. Right now I live at a fairly low altitude, so I would really have to be aware of that, I think.

    Also, knowing a bit more about how to service a vehicle would probably be in my best interests since so much of this highway is remote. But I have no doubt it would be one of those amazing, once in a lifetime experiences that I would always remember.