The vision of this blog is to make aware of the places, itineraries by road, road conditions, distance, altitude, stay and food options for all the travellers who are planning a road trip on Manali-Leh highway, and I am sure it will benefit you.
The journey along the road normally takes at least two days if done in a rush by making an overnight stop at Kelong or Jispa or at tented camps in Sarchu. Though a minimum of three days is advised for ordinary tourist because the real fun and pleasure is about the journey itself than reaching the destination. Sometimes travel time is unpredictable due to uncertainties of weather, landslides, etc. that can turn inclement any time and play spoilsport. Even, there’s a chance to get stuck in the heavy traffic jam that occurs in Beas Nullah near Marhi and at Rohtang Pass. So it is advised to cross Rohtang pass before 8 am. And one has to get a permit to visit or cross Rohtang Pass, which can also be obtained through online. So make sure to get it in advance.
The Manali-Leh highway is closed from late October to April Every year due to heavy snowfall on the passes. The BRO (Border Road Organisation) works for clearing snows on these passes by early March, and this highway is opened in section. i.e. the Rohtang Pass is open first and then the Baralacha La. So the entire highway is opened for traffic by May end. The snow wall in the passes will get lower in height as the day passes. As you approach through the highway the greenery like on the southern side of Rohtang disappears and the mountain slopes on the northern side become brown and arid. There is no rainfall between Darcha and Leh even during the monsoon season, as the entire region lies in rain-shadow. However, the mountain peaks are covered in snow and glare brightly in the sun. Ladakh is a cold semi-arid desert. It is cold along the highway even in summer. The days are warm in bright sunshine but the nights are freezing. The water from glacial melts is ice-cold, and one should avoid getting wet in water crossings on the highway. Light woollens are required during the day and thick woollens at night.
Before beginning the journey on the highway towards Leh, it is advised to stay at the starting point i.e. Manali for one night and minimum one night at either Keylong, Jispa or Darcha to cope with high altitude areas and passes after Darcha. Due to the rarefied atmosphere or low air pressure at high altitude, less oxygen is breathed in, and many travellers experience altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS). It is strongly advised not to sleep in Sarchu or Pang without being acclimatized as it can cause acute mountain sickness, and the symptoms include a headache, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. There have been deaths from AMS as well. The safe option is to get acclimated to lower oxygen levels before camping at Leh or other high altitude places. It is also advised to carry high energy food like energy bars, chocolates, dry fruits, glucose etc. on the journey and spend only a little time at the high mountain passes and drink plenty of water as much as you can. Garlic and cloves are the famous local remedies to avoid the ills done by altitude sickness. One should also carry Acetazolamide pills with brand name Diamox to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Passes in Manali-Leh highway
Rohtang La 3978m 13051ft
Baralacha La 4890m 16043 ft
Nakee La 4739m 15547ft
Lachung La 5059 m 16598ft
Tanglang La 5328 m 17480ft
Altitude: 2050 m
Distance from Delhi: 564 km
Manali is a famous hill-station in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh surrounded by Peaks, forests and the pristine river Beas flows right through the town creating a mesmerizing and spellbinding landscape. Manali is an absolute beauty during winters when it snows heavily here. Even during summers, the charm of Manali does not fade as looking at the vast, green meadows of Manali is a treat to eyes. The mall road in Manali is a cool hangout place for some local shopping.
Manali also has a lot of temples which all tourists and devotees love to visit including Raghunath temple, Manu temple, Jagannathi Devi Temple, and Hadimba Temple.
Being the famous Honeymoon spot, Manali opens the gate to many adventure seekers and offers many adventure sports like trekking, camping, skiing, rafting, paragliding, zorbing, horse riding, etc. Rafting is done in Pirdi, near Kullu and is done on Beas river from Pirdi to Bhuntar, Bajura or Jhiri. Paragliding, skiing and zorbing are done in Solang 14 km from Manali and Skiing, and Rohtang which is 51 km from Manali offers skiing and many other adventure sports.
Naggar, a small settlement and is 20 km from Manali is another destination where many tourists visits and is famous for a famous folk art museum, temples, castle, and monastery.
Palchan (Solang Valley)
Altitude: 2560 m
11 km from Manali
An 11 km drive from Manali you’ll reach a small village named Palchan. From Palchan there’s a diversion to Solang Valley and Solang does not fall on Manali-Leh Highway, which is at a distance of 4 km from Palchan and 14 km from the main town of Manali. Solang offers a variety of adventure sports like Parachuting, paragliding, horse riding, ropeway, and skiing. During summer skiing is replaced by zorbing.
Altitude: 3360 m
24 km ascending from Palchan
24 km from Palchan, you’ll reach to Marhi, it’s a Shanty town of roadside restaurants. It is located midway between Manali an Rohtang La and travellers often stop here to eat and for some refreshments.
Altitude: 3978 m
16 km ascending from Marhi
The first pass and a snow point in Manali-Leh highway at an elevation of 3978 m in the Pirpanjal range. It connects the Kullu valley with Lahaul and Spiti valley. This pass is opened from May to November. Traffic jams are common as military vehicles, trucks, goods carriers and a large number of tourists try to navigate the tight roads and tough terrain, compounded by snow and ice at certain points. One may experience the altitude sickness in Rohtang La due to its higher altitude.
The snow-covered mountains in Rohtang provide the perfect opportunity for skiing and quad biking during the season.
Altitude: 3200 m
15 km descending from Rohtang La
After a steep descending from Rohtang, you will reach Gramphu. The road from Rohtang to Gramphu is horrible and rugged. For Spiti Valley or Chandratal, one needs to take a diversion from Gramphu. Only a couple of Dhabha is available here.
Altitude: 3140 m
5 km valley road from Gramphu
A 5km descend from Gramphu, You’ll reach Khoksar which is located in the bank of Chenab river. You’ll find few shops, police station and some dhabha’s here.
Altitude: 3120 m
14 km from Khoksar
Around 14 km from Khoksar You will reach Sissu or Khagling. It’s a small town located on the right bank of Chandra River. One can find few shops, dhabas, guest house and a local primary health care centre here.
There is a waterfall surrounded by greenery on the opposite side of the village and is 15-20 min away from the highway.
Altitude: 2573 m
25km from Sissu
You will find the last petrol pump in Manali-Leh highway, and that is in Tandi, as the next is located in Karu which is 365 km away. Tandi is situated at the confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers. The Chandra river originates from Chandratal in Spiti Valley, and the Bhaga river originates from the Suraj Tal in Lahaul Valley. There are few shops in Tandi. And you can find a diversion to Kishtwar in Tandi.
Altitude: 3080 m
8 km from Tandi
Keylong is the administrative centre of the Lahaul-Spiti district and the biggest town on the Manali-Leh highway. Sights near Keylong include the Kardang, Shasur and Tayul monasteries, all within a few km. The annual festival is held here each July with a big busy market and many cultural activities. And at the end of August, it became very busy. You can find many stay option, market, shops, restaurants, medical facilities and ATM in Keylong.
Altitude 3200 m
18 km from Keylong
On the way to Jispa, one can find Gemur Monastery 18 km from Keylong. It’s a Buddhist monastery, 600-700 yards above the village Gemur. And the monastery is around 700 years old.
Altitude 3200 m
20 km from Keylong
Jispa is a small village 20 km from Keylong located on the bank of Bhaga river. There are many options for a stay in Jispa like tent house, river side campings, hotels and guest house.
Altitude: 3360 m
7 km from Jispa
This small village is situated on the bank of Bhaga river. Roadside stalls offer basic food. This place also offers some tented accommodation. This village is the end-point of a popular trek begins in Padum, Zanskar. All passing vehicles must stop at Darcha’s police checkpoint to register their name with vehicle registration number.
It is advised to keep your first-day journey only up to Jispa or Keylong due to two reasons. Firstly, On the way towards Darcha, you have to pass through a water pass. It is advised that one has to cross this water pass in the day time and that even in the morning time. Because as the day passes the flow of water increases, making it difficult to cross the stream. And secondly, beyond Darcha the vegetation will start to reduce, and the mountain colour will start changing, and the increase in altitude will lead to a decrease in oxygen. So Your body needs to be acclimatized properly.
Altitude: 3810 m
13 km ascending from Darcha
Deepak Tal or Patseo Lake is a small man-made lake. It is the first lake you will witness on this highway and one of the most beautiful picturesque lake with crystal clear water that one could not resist himself to take a picture of this beautiful landscape.
You can enjoy your breakfast and a cup of tea just aside this lake. Camping on the lake side is available here.
Altitude: 3811 m
2 km from Deepak Tal
Patsio is a small resting area at the foot of the Baralachala in the south side. One can find few army camps in Patseo.
11km ascending from Patseo
You can find only a few tented dhabas here in Zingzingbar. These dhabas also offer a stay. From here the ascend starts till Baralacha La. Earlier there was a water crossing when you cross Zingzingbar, but now the road has been constructed over this crossing. The road to Baralacha La is smooth and fine which was newly constructed.
10 km ascending from Zingzingbar
10 km from Zinzingbar you will find another beautiful lake in your journey named Suraj Tal also called Surya tal. Suraj Tal is a sacred body of water, literally means the Lake of the Sun God, and lies just below the Baralacha-La pass and is the third highest lake in India. Suraj Tal Lake is the source of Bhaga River which joins the Chandra River downstream at Tandi to form the Chandrabhaga River (or Chenab river).
8 km ascending from Suraj Tal
This is the second pass in Manali-Leh highway that falls in Zanskar range. It connects Lahaul district to Ladakh. The road to Baralacha La is well constructed.
5.5 km descend from Baralacha la
Situated at the foot of Baralacha La this place is a resting area and offers few tents and dhabhas.
16 km descending from Baralacha La
Descending from Baralacha la is a major hurdle as the road here is rugged, horrible and totally washed out. One can witness many vehicles which were fallen in those valleys, and after a steady descent, one reaches to Killing Sarai or Keylong Sarai and offers few tents and dhabhas.
Altitude: 4290 m
18 km from Killing Sarai (Descending and straight)
Sarchu is a major halt point in Manali-Leh Highway with many good tented accommodations. It is the state border point, and one reaches in J&K as the Himachal Pradesh state ends here, and Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state starts here.
Sarchu is a military base and has a police check post. Here you’ll find the second checkpoint and you may find a free medical checkup organised by the Indian army. One has to register his name and vehicle number here. The entry acts as a record of your arrival up to Sarchu. Sarchu is at high altitude and many people staying overnight here suffer from mountain sickness including sleepless night, severe headaches, vomiting or fever. If you are not properly acclimatized, you will surely be a victim. Sarchu is an open valley situated on the bank of Tsarap Chu river, and the road here is straight. While leaving Sarchu one can find one more water pass on their way to Leh.
24 km from Sarchu. (Straight and last 7 km ascending)
After 24 KMs from Sarchu, there is a series of 21 hair pin bends or loops of about 7 Km long called as Gata loops. This loops will elevate you from an altitude of 4190 Mtrs to 4739 Mtrs to reach Nakee La. No food, no fuel, and no accommodation are available here.
Altitude: 4739 m
2 km where Gata loop ends
The third pass that comes on the Manali-Leh highway. The road from Gata loops to Nakee La and to further Lachung La is good. You won’t get any option for food, water or accommodation here.
Altitude: 5059 m
28 km from Nakee La
The fourth pass and the second highest in Manali-Leh highway. Those who haven’t acclimatized well may face severe symptoms of altitude sickness here and there is no vegetation here. You won’t get any option for food, water or accommodation here.
Altitude: 4600 m
27 km descending from Lachung La
In Pang, the unique soil formation in mountains attracts many tourists. This place can also be considered as a useful halt in Manali- Leh highway as you can find few guest houses in Pang. One can find an army transit camps in Pang and health check camps organized by the army is also available here. The road to Pang is the most worse one in the entire Manali-Leh highway which I have experienced. You can spend the second night of your journey here instead of staying at Sarchu thereby saving 81 km on your next day journey. But do consider the altitude as Pang is at a higher altitude than Sarchu which will account for headaches and mountain sickness.
4 km ascending from Pang, straight stretch of 40 km
Moore Plains are surprising, flat bedded plains amid the highest of hills having an average elevation of 4700m and is flanked by mountains on both sides. The plain area starts after covering a rough path of around 4 km uphill road from Pang. The road is mostly on the plain for around 30–35 km, before it again starts to rise to Tanglang La. Flanked by beautiful mountains on both sides, this area is a major attraction to the bikers heading towards Leh from Manali. The area has no construction at all, and also no population. This 35 km stretch is the most buttery smooth road in the entire Manali-Leh highway.
Altitude: 4835 m
41 km straight road from Pang
You can find few shelter and food stall here. There is a route available just before you reach Debring to Tso Kar and then to Tso Moriri. However, the condition of the road is very bad and rather I would say it as an off-road or dirt track.
Altitude: 5328 m
19 km ascending from Debring
Ascending for about 19 km from Debring one will reach Tanglang La. This fifth pass is the highest pass in Manali-Leh Highway. And this pass is also the second highest motorable road in the world after Khardung La (5602 m). Road condition is good as it is newly constructed. You will face a high chilling and force wind at this height, and the oxygen level is very low, and one could feel the dizziness here.
Altitude: 4260 m
29 km descending from Tanglang La
The first settlement in the Leh valley. After descending from Tanglang La you will feel better and overcome that dizziness as you will get completely lost on those mesmerizing valley roads adjacent to the river and the beautiful picturesque view. One will also notice the different pattern and colours in the mountains here. You can find food stalls and some shops in Rumste. The road condition is good.
Altitude: 3480 m
31 km descending from Rumste
From Rumste you will cross Gya, Lato and Miru village to reach Upshi. Gya village is located in the gorge created by the River Gya. A Buddhist Gompa with accompanying chortens or stupas is situated above the village. One can find some shops here.
You will find one of the tributaries of Indus River along the roadside on your way to Upshi. And You find the confluence of Indus river and a bridge crossing the Indus river just before you reach Upshi. Turn left at Upshi for Karu. Do not take the right turn as it leads to the east towards Tibet. Here you have to stop for the last police checkpoint and one has to register his name along with vehicle number. One can find some basic hotel/Guest house and restaurant here, but since Leh is not far away you can ignore halting here except if you want some refreshments.
Altitude: 3500 m
16 km from Upshi
16 km Ahead of Upshi you will reach Karu, where you can find a petrol pump. You can find an Army base camp area in Karu and there is a diversion to Pangong Tso when you reach Karu.
35 km from Karu
35 km from Karu you’ll reach your final destination, you will cross the famous Thiksey and Shey monastery on your way located on a hilltop. The sightseeing is stunning and from the top of the monastery, you will see a beautiful scene of the settlement. Leh is known for its Buddhist sites and nearby trekking areas. Main market and Changspa road are awesome, so if you like lively environment then try to get a hotel as close to them. You can get many options for a stay in Leh.
All the above information is known to my knowledge only. If you found any information provided above needs an update, please feel free to contact me and comment.
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