Ladakh by Road -
Ladakh by Road
Posted 04 Jan 2017 03:05 PM

Traveling to Ladakh by Road is perhaps one of the most thrilling road adventures in India or for that matter anywhere in the world. Traveling Ladakh by road involves crossing some of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world, driving through vast semi-arid planes and glimpses of pristine lifestyle of nomads who live in small settlements all along the way. Ladakh by road offers spectacular sights of barren mountains in Greater Himalaya and Zanskar range, sweeping valleys and stunning panoramas. Colorful Tibetan prayer flags, prayer bells, monasteries and Tibetan Buddist populace that one meets along the way are some unique aspect of traveling to Ladakh region by road. There are two roads that bikers, road trippers and drivers take to reach Leh town. One is Srinagar-Leh Highway and the more popular one is Leh-Manali Highway.
Leh-Manali Highway is preferred among bikers as it involves crossing several breathtaking high elevation mountain passes, riding along scenic mountain trains with Himalaya on one side and rivers following the course on the other and above all the sheer thrill of riding some of the toughest motorable terrain.

1. Manali – Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road
Manali – Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road

Out of the two highways which lead to Leh- Ladakh, one is Manali- Leh Highway, the perfect road for adventure enthusiasts, the other one being Srinagar – Leh Highway. This highway is 464 km long, out of which 350 km, does not have any civilization. For 365 km on this highway, there is no fuel pump as well. Thus, traveling on this highway needs proper amount of planning.
It is anytime better that that you should try Leh to Manali instead of Manali to Leh. The main reason for this is, you are already comfortable to such high altitudes, moving downwards will not be much of a problem.
You can halt at Sarchu, which is at an equal distance from both the destinations. It is a beautiful place and has numerous accommodation options too. If you do the other way round, day 1 will be Manali – Keylong and day 2 will be Keylong to Leh. Since Sarchu is placed on high altitude, it is not advisable to have a nigh halt here.
But at the end, it depends on the traveler, whatever he feels comfortable with. This highway also offers a beautiful journey.
Season to travel on this Highway

Travel on this highway depends on the opening of Rohtang Pass and Baralacha La, which is generally the second half of May. The best time to travel on Manali- Leh highway is during the months of June to September. In beginning of the month of June, there still are road blockages because of ice but in August-September, the condition of the roads becomes perfect. Moreover, since June is rainy season, there are chances of landslides.

Modes of travel on this Highway

The movement of non-HP vehicles on Manali- Rohtang Pass is banned by Himachal Pradesh Govt from 27th June 2011 onwards. To go to Leh-Ladakh or Keylong, non-HP registered vehicles will have to take permits from the SDM Office in Manali. However, there is no restriction on bikes.

Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)

Self ride or self drive is opted by a large number of people because driving on your own on such tough terrains is once in a lifetime experience. Take either your own car or bike, otherwise, you can also rent a vehicle. It is extremely important that you should be an expert before you think of self drive or self ride on such difficult rugged terrains. You should also know little about the maintenance of your journey, just in case, there is no mechanical help nearby. If you have any kind of doubts, you should better clear them and then only start the journey further.
You must carry some stuff so that help is handy. Carry a screw driver set, Basic toolkit, a few bottles of petrol or diesel, iron rod, small hammer and puncture repair kit. Also do not forget to pack an adhesive, funnel, wires or cables, towing rope, spare tube, M-seal and so on. Do not forget to check the service of your vehicle done before setting on for the journey.

Hire a Private Taxi

While coming from Manali, a taxi with HP number can drop you at Leh-Ladakh, but for sightseeing in Leh, a taxi with Ladakh number would be required. If you are hiring a taxi that is not from Leh, then opt for the one which has a private number plate. In case of any kind of an interrogation, you will have to convince the other person that this vehicle is not hired.
It is advisable that hire a taxi from Manali, as the drivers will be experts in driving through such difficult roads. They will also be accustomed to any kind of a problem. They will know how to handle any kind of a hurdle.
Hire a taxi from Manali taxi stand. Do not forget to bargain. Generally Rs 1000 extra is charged, if there is night halt while going towards Leh. From Manali, to go to Leh, you will have to shell somewhere between Rs 12000 to Rs 17000.

Manali – Leh Bus Service

If you are travelling solo or in couple, then you can also opt for Manali – Leh bus service of HPTDC. The ticket of a semi-deluxe bus may cost up to Rs 1500 to Rs 2000. Before you think about planning your journey keeping in mind, a bus ride then you should better confirm the timings and the schedule, as they vary. Tickets can also be booked online.

Keylong – Leh Bus Service

Buses of HRTC also ply between Manali and Leh, but only from Keylong. To reach Keylong, you can also opt for shared taxis. You must confirm the schedule of these buses, before planning a journey. Manali – Keylong costs between Rs 100 – 125 and Keylong – Leh costs between Rs 450 – 550.

Shared Taxi

Shared taxis also ply between Manali to Leh. They generally cover the journey at night that may cost somewhere between Rs 1200 to Rs 1800 per person.

Fuel or Petrol Pump on the Highway
After the hill town of Manali, you will get a petrol pump at Tandi on the whole of Manali – Leh Highway. This one is the only petrol pump that you'll find before reaching next petrol pump at Karu which is roughly 380 kms from Tandi, so make sure that you have your tank full and also keep extra jars and cans of petrol just in case. The next one is at Upshi / Karu which is just about near Leh. Make sure of filling your tank completely at Manali. Also fill in a few extra bottles of petrol as well.

ATM on the Highway
Make it a point that you carry enough cash in your pocket as ATM is only available Manali and Keylong. After Keylong, the next ATM is in the town of Leh.

2. Srinagar Leh Highway: Ladakh by Road
Srinagar-Leh Highway, also known as National Highway – 1D (NH – 1D), is 434 kms long. It is a lifeline in terms of road connectivity between Leh – Ladakh and other parts of India, en-route Kashmir Valley. This, one of the two ways to reach Ladakh, is a more reliable one than other: Leh- Manali. Along the highway flows the river Indus. On your way to Leh, you come across a number of passes, in which three of the important ones are Zozi La (3528 m),Namki La (3815 m) and Fotu La (4108 m).

Season to Travel on the Highway
The Srinagar Highway remains closed for around 6 months in a year, mostly from November to May because of heavy snowfall in the mountains. The opening usually starts in the months of mid-May or in the first week of July. The best time to travel in this highway is between the months of June to October. The month of July is of monsoon and thus, landslides creating road blockings are unavoidable. One can clearly see army convoys stationed, all round the year. This highway is filled with army trucks carrying the necessary material.

Means of travelling on the Highway

Private Vehicles (Cars and Bikes)

Most of the travelers to Leh-Ladakh opt for self drive in their cars or bikes. This can actually be an exhilarating experience for an adventure enthusiast, driving through the toughest terrain. You can also opt for rented cars or bikes that are easily available. It is advisable that you should know about the maintenance of the vehicle which you are driving, before starting the journey. SUV/MUV is a great option but sometimes hatchbacks also prove to be a good option. The difficulties on this highway are less than Manali-Leh highway. Since this journey is a difficult one, you need to be careful all the time.
Your vehicle must be well-equipped with a small hammer, a basic tool kit, iron rod, screw driver set, puncture repair kit and extra petrol in bottles as well. Other things that you should carry are towing rope, funnel, adhesive, spare tubes, wires, M-seal etc. before starting the trip, get a service of your bike or car done.

Hire a Private Taxi
According to the rules of the taxi union, taxis only with Ladakh number can roam around the region. If you are hiring a taxi that does not have a Ladakh number, rent a taxi that has a private number. You will have to convince any person interrogating you that it is not a hired taxi. Booking a taxi in Kargil or Srinagar is also easy and you can plan sightseeing accordingly. The local drivers may charge somewhere Rs 1200-1500 additional for a night halt on the journey towards Leh. The journey from Srinagar to Leh (including a night halt) will cost somewhere between Rs 10,000 to 12000.

Srinagar – Leh Bus Service

You can board JK SRTC buses for the Srinagar – Leh Highway, from Srinagar Bus Stand (near Lal Chowk) and near, Polo Ground in Leh. Standard buses cost somewhere between Rs 500 – Rs 600 and semi-deluxe types will cost between Rs 600 – Rs 700. There are few private bus operators too who charge somewhere between Rs 800 – Rs 900. There are stoppages for refreshments, in Kargil and Sonmarg. The buses leave early morning.

Shared Taxis

Shared taxis also ply between Srinagar, which start the journey in the midnight and reach Leh, next evening (no night halt). You can book a seat in it. You may need to pay around Rs 1200 to 1500, per person. There are around 6-7 people in this taxi along with the driver.

3. Alternate Route to Leh from Kargil (en-route Batalik and Dah)

To reach Leh, there is an alternate route to, from Kargil that goes like: Kargil – Mulbekh –Lamayuru – Leh and the other one is Kargil – Batalik – Dah – Skurbuchan – Leh. If you take the route through Batalik then an Inner Line Permit from DEC office of Kargil or Leh will be needed.

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