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 travelers 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, or more days depending on the condition of the road and vehicle, though minimum three days are 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. Tourists and travelers make overnight stops at Keylong or Jispa and tented camps such as Sarchu. One has to take permit to visit or cross Rohtang Pass which can also be done online (Click here for the link). The traffic jam that occurs at Beas Nullah near Marhi and then at Rohtang pass. It is advisable to cross Rohtang pass before 8 am. However, this 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. 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. 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 (June onwards); 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 woolens are required during the day and thick woolens at night. There is no rainfall between Rohtang pass and Leh even during the monsoon season in July–September as the entire region lies in rain-shadow.
Before beginning the journey on the highway towards Leh, it is advisable to stay at the starting point Manali (altitude 2,050 m) one night and minimum one night at either Keylong, Jispa or Darcha to cope with the high passes and plains after Darcha. Due to the rarefied atmosphere (low air pressure) at high altitude, less oxygen is breathed in, and many travelers experience altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS). It is strongly advised not to sleep in Sarchu or Pang on the upward journey (towards Leh) without being acclimatized as it can cause acute mountain sickness: a headache, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. There have been deaths from AMS as well. The safe option is to camp at Leh or higher altitude after getting acclimated to lower oxygen levels. It is also advisable to carry chocolates, energy bars, glucose or other high energy food on the journey and spend only a little time at the high mountain passes and drink plenty of water as much as you can.
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 Himachal Pradesh. Peaks and wooded forest surround this place. The pristine river Beas flows right through the town creating a mesmerizing and spellbinding landscape.
Manali also has a lot of temples which all tourists and devotees love to visit including Raghunath temple, Jagannathi Devi Temple, and Hadimba Temple.
Being the famous Honeymoon spot, it also offers many adventure sports like trekking, camping, skiing, rafting, paragliding, zorbing, horse riding, etc. in and around Manali.
Rafting is done in Pirdi, near Kullu and is done on Beas river from Pirdi down to Jhiri approx 14 km. Paragliding is done in Solang 14 km from Manali and Skiing, and zorbing was done in Rohtang 51 km from Manali.
Naggar, a small settlement and is 20 km from Manali is another destination where many tourists visits and is famous for its stunning beauty also has a famous folk art museum, temples, castle, and monastery. One can also do some shopping at mall road in Manali.
Palchan (Solang Valley)
Altitude: 2560 m
11 km from Manali
After 11 km you’ll reach a small village named Palchan. And Solang Valley is not on Manali-Leh Highway but a small route from Palchan. Solang is 14 km from the main town of Manali and offers a variety of adventure sports like Parachuting, paragliding, horse riding, ropeway, and skiing is replaced by zorbing during summer.
Altitude: 3360 m
24 km ascending from Palchan
24 km from Palchan, you’ll reach to Marhi, this is a Shanty town of roadside restaurants and is 3360 m high above sea level.
Altitude: 3978 m
16 km ascending from Marhi
The first pass and a snow point in Manali-Leh highway of an elevation of 3978 m in Pirpanjal range. It connects Kullu valley with Lahaul and Spiti valley. This pass is opened from May to November. Nh21, the road through the Kullu valley, past Manali and over the Rohtang Pass to Keylong, and Lahaul and on the Leh in Ladakh, has become very busy during the summer months. 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 can feel the AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) in Rohtang due to its higher altitude.
The snow covered mountains in Rohtang provide the perfect opportunity for skiing and snow scooter riding.
Altitude: 3200 m
15 km descending from Rohtang La
After a steep descending you will reach Gramphu. The road from Rohtang to Gramphu is horrible and rugged. Grampa is a small village located on the bank of Chenab River, and you’ll find few shops, police station and a data here. You will get a diversion to Spiti valley. If you want to visit Chandratal then you need to take the diversion.
Altitude: 3140 m
5 km valley road from Gramphu
Of about 5km from Gramphu on a smooth valley road, You’ll reach Khoksar. One can find few restaurants and hotel in Khoksar.
Altitude: 3120 m
14 km from Khoksar
About 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, and a local primary health care center here.
There is a waterfall on the opposite side of the village 15-20 min away from the highway and is famous for its greenery surrounded all over the waterfall.
Altitude: 2573 m
25km from Sissu
You will find the last petrol pump in Manali-Leh highway, and that is in Tandi, and 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, Spiti Valley, and the Bhaga river originates from the Suraj Tal, 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 center 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. 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 like tent house, hotels and guest house for a stay in Jispa.
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 beginning in Padum, Zanskar.
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. So make your first-day journey up to Jispa only or Keylong. And the other reason is beyond Darcha the altitude gets higher and prone to AMS. The road condition is good up to Darcha.
All passing vehicles must stop at Darcha’s police checkpoint, and one has to register their name with vehicle registration number and passport checks (for foreigners).
Beyond Darcha the vegetation will start to reduce, and the mountain color will start changing, and the increase in altitude will lead to a decrease in oxygen. Your body need to be acclimatized better and always hydrated on this tough journey.
Altitude: 3810 m
13 km ascending from Darcha
Deepak Tal is a small man-made lake. It’s the first lake you will witness and one of the most beautiful picturesque lake with crystal clear water. And 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
You can find few army camps in Patseo. There is no accommodation or eateries in Patseo for civilians.
11km ascending from Patseo
You can find only a few tented dhabas here in Zingzingbar. These dhabas also offer for a stay. From here the ascent starts till Baralacha La. Earlier there was a water pass when you cross Zingzingbar, now the road has been constructed, and you won’t find any water crossing over the road also the road till Baralacha La is smooth and fine which was newly constructed.
10 km ascending from Zingzingbar
10 km from Zinzingbar you will find a beautiful crystal clear lake, Suraj Tal also called Surya taal, 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, and the 21st-highest in the world.Suraj Tal Lake is the source of Bhaga River which joins the Chandra River downstream at Tandi to form the Chandrabhaga River. In the early season, i.e., July you may find this lake to be frozen.
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 till Baralacha La is well constructed.
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 Bharatpur where one can find few dhabas and tented accommodation.
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. 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 is a second checkpoint and you may find a free medical checkup by the 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 one of them. Sarchu is an open valley situated on the bank of Tsarap Chu river, and the road here is straight. You will find one more water pass in Sarchu.
24 km from Sarchu. (Straight and last 7 km ascending)
After 24 KMs from Sarchu, a there is a series of 21 hair pin bends or loops about 7 KMs long, just before Nakee La Pass, will elevate you from an altitude of 4190 Mtrs to 4739 Mtrs. They are called Gata Loops. 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 have not undergone acclimatization 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
This place is also a useful halt in Manali- Leh highway, you can find few guest houses in Pang. Health check camps organized by the army is available here. The road to Pang is most worse one. You can spend your second night of your journey here as you can save 81 km for your next day journey instead of staying at Sarchu.
4 km ascending from Pang, straight stretch of 40 km
Moore Plains are surprising, flat bedded plains amidst 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 then to Tso Moriri. However, the condition of the road is really very bad. Rather I would say it’s an off road or dirt track.
Altitude: 5328 m
19 km ascending from Debring
Ascending of about 19 km from Debring one will reach to 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, so one could feel the dizziness.
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 be completely lost on those mesmerizing valley roads adjacent to the river and the beautiful picturesque view, you will notice the different pattern and colors in the mountains. You can find food stalls and other 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 and the gorge. 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 when you reach Upshi. Turn left at Upshi for Karu. Do not take the right turn that 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 to Karu. You can find an Army base camp area in Karu. Also, You can get a petrol pump here. There is a diversion here to Pangong Tso.
35 km from Karu
35 km fro Karu you reach your final destination, you will cross the famous Thiksey and Shey monastery on your way. The sightseeing is stunning and on the top 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 as possible. You can get many options for a stay in Changspa road.
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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