4 mins read

Exploring the iconic route from Manali to Leh

Exploring the iconic route from Manali to Leh

By Aquib Nawab

12 Jun, 2024

The journey from Manali to Leh is one of the most iconic and beautiful road trips in India. Traveling on this route takes you over high mountain passes, through stunning valleys, across rivers and lakes, and past Buddhist monasteries on your way to the magical destination of Leh.

Planning for your trip from Manali to Leh

Manali-Leh Highway is a 427-kilometer-long stretch that takes around 12 hours to drive through. It goes through Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The best time for such a trip is between June and September, when the weather is good and the mountain passes are open. Permits should be arranged beforehand, as should accommodation and supplies.

Credits: Canva

It’s advisable to have a reliable SUV with good ground clearance, given the challenging terrain. Only seasoned riders can manage biking on it, though it could be done this way too. Get prepared for no phone network or fuel stations after Keylong; thus, take emergency supplies of fuel, medication, foodstuffs, etc.

The amazing Manali-Leh road

Rohtang pass crossing

The first segment from Manali up to Rohtang Pass (3,978 m) involves driving up winding mountain roads with breathtaking views. The idyllic sights include fresh snowmelt streams, meadows carpeted with wildflowers, and grazing yaks. Take some photos at Rahalla Falls, which are quite famous.

Credits: Canva

Entering the Lahaul valley

Beyond Rohtang Pass comes an abrupt transition from green Kullu Valley forests into the rocky Lahaul region. Keylong makes a nice place to halt for lunch.Drive along sections of barrenness alternating with fertility under brown, imposing mountains’ backdrops.

Credits: Canva

Baralacha La crossing

The second major pass on the Manali-Leh highway is Baralacha La at 4,892 m. You see steep hairpin bends curving through stunning snow-covered mountains. Feeling the rush of adrenaline, you cross the pass and enter Ladakh!

Credits: Canva

Driving along the Indus

From Baralacha La, the road descends along the Bhaga River, which then joins the Indus River, where it starts to follow. You could spend a night in Sarchu, which is a good midway point. The sight of winding roads set against tan and craggy mountains lining the India River is enchanting.

Credits: Canva

Nakee La & Lachulung La

On leaving Pang, Nakee La, the third pass at 4,747 m brings you into an inhospitable, cold desert landscape. Whisky Nallah is famous for its frozen waterfalls during the winter. After Whisky Nallah, there comes the next and last pass on Manali-Leh Road—Lachulung La at 5,059 m. Watch out for that final, exhilarating descent into Leh!

Credits: Canva

Arriving at Leh

After crossing Lachulung La, civilization returns to Khoksar village. Soon after, barrenness turns into green fields, with villages having whitewashed stupas. Finally, there is the oasis town of Leh in the Indus Valley, surrounded by lofty peaks. Congratulations on finishing your epic trip from Manali to Leh!

Credits: Canva

What else you can see along the way

Along this route, one can visit ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries such as Tandi and Key, meet unusual Himalayan fauna in Sarchu, among other activities, and not forget to experience its unique landscape. Take your time and turn off at Deepak Tal Lake. This picturesque Gurudwara Shri Nanak Ji Patthar Sahib landmark stands beside Sangam Point, where Zanskar merges with the Indus River.

Credits: Canva

Accommodation options for Manali and Leh

Manali encompasses a variety of accommodation alternatives, ranging from the thriftiest to the most extravagant. The Hosteller Manali hostel is recommended for those looking for a lively and social environment.

The Hosteller, Old Manali

A view of gorgeous The Hosteller Old Manali nestled amidst nature

The Hosteller Old Manali nestled amidst nature

This establishment, situated on Club House Road in Manali, is perfect for beginning your trip to Leh via Manali. Spend time with fellow travelers in the common areas or dine together at the restaurant located inside.

It has dormitories and private rooms that appeal to every type of traveler and pocket. Members of our friendly staff will always be there to help you out when it comes to planning your journey or giving some useful advice. Besides, there are two pets, Tom and Jerry, living with us here!

Once you complete the famous drive called the Manali Leh Highway, head straight to The Hosteller Leh, where you can relax and rejuvenate. It also offers similar amenities and atmosphere as in Leh. Soak up Ladakh sunsets while savoring tea at an open rooftop cafe with new buddies acquired here.

There is something comfortable for everyone, whether you choose budget dorms or stay in hotels. Reservations should be made well in advance.

Tips for a smooth road trip

  • Plan your accommodation booking, along with permits and spare fuel, much earlier.
  • Carry motion sickness tablets or emergency medicines.
  • Use a good SUV rather than riding or driving alone, especially if going forward.
  • Beware of altitude sickness symptoms beyond Keylong.
  • Drive cautiously at night on Manali-Leh Road to avoid accidents.
  • On long trips, carry chocolates, snacks, and music for energy supply reasons.
  • Take it slow; remember not to overstrain the vehicle when going uphill.
  • Budget for at least 2 days with an overnight stopover in between.
  • Respect this ecologically fragile region’s environment and local culture.

Credits: Canva


What to do now?

The Hosteller Blog
The Hosteller Blog

Want to explore? Book your stay here

Join our community of 500K+ travel lovers here

Do your travel adventure for free! Become a member today, sign up here