5 Reasons to choose Srinagar – Leh Road over Manali – Leh Road

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Soon the roads to heaven on earth, named Leh – Ladakh will open its door and lots n lots of travel, adventure freaks hit the highways from various parts of India to live their moments of the year and ride/drive this adventure filled journey to Leh – Ladakh. The biggest question I keep getting is, “While doing the complete circuit of Delhi – Srinagar – Leh – Manali – Delhi, which direction is best to start the journey?”. Most of the time I reply, go via Srinagar – Leh Highway and come back via Manali – Leh Highway. I will try to enlist 5 reasons below why I suggest Srinagar – Leh direction while going to Leh – Ladakh over Manali – Leh direction

1. Better Acclimatization, Less Health Trouble

When you travel to Ladakh via Srinagar – Leh Highway, you ascent in altitude in a gradual manner This means body gets more time to get acclimatized for the high altitude of Leh and you feel much better plus relaxed. The more acclimatized your body is, the less health (acute mountain sickness) issues you will face while you travel to Ladakh from Srinagar – Leh Highway.

If you start via Manali – Leh Highway then most of the terrain runs over 4000 Mtrs of altitude (you hit above 5000 Mtrs on second day itself) and by the time you reach such high altitude your body is not properly acclimatized, so high chances of falling sick and ruining the trip. When you are traveling with family including children or old age people, going via Srinagar – Leh Highway makes even much more sense.

Read more about Acute Mountains Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization including some tips at the article linked here.

2. Better Enjoyment of Views on Manali – Leh Highway

When you travel to Ladakh via Srinagar – Leh Highway and then do whole Ladakh sightseeing, your body gets very much acclimatized to the high altitude of Manali – Leh Highway. Hence, rather than worrying about your health, you definitely enjoy the beauty and explore Manali – Leh Highway in a much better way as compared to when you travel the other way round.

If you are traveling via Manali – Leh Highway in tweaked manner and get stuck at some high altitude pass (5 passes are on the way) due to some mechanical failure or landslide or road blockage, it will mean some serious trouble for you. Without proper acclimatization there are high chances of worsening the symptoms if you prolong your stay at high altitude. This may cause some serious health issues at one of the remotest places where even help would be hard to find for a long time.

3. Evenly Balanced Travel Distance and Time on Manali – Leh Highway

In order to combat acute mountain sickness issues, many traveler going via Manali – Leh Highway tweak the itinerary and tend to sleep at Keylong or Jispa (about 120 KMs from Manali) at first night. Then they start very early in the next morning from Keylong or Jispa to reach Leh (about 350 KMs from Keylong) by nightfall. Sarchu about 222 KMs from Manali, almost a mid point, is almost at a height of 4200 Mtrs and causes some serious acute mountain sickness issues many a times to many travelers. Hence, the travelers prefer/suggest breaking the journey into 25:75 ratio when you travel to Ladakh via Manali – Leh Highway and still you feel heavy head/nausea in many cases.

All this tweaking means, you will have less time of second day to thoroughly enjoy the views. Now, if you are traveling via Srinagar – Leh Highway and coming back via Manali – Leh Highway, you are acclimatized in much better way to sleep at high altitude Sarchu where you find good accommodation. Halting your journey at Sarchu means, you divide the over all 474 KM long journey very much evenly between two days and hence, more time for explorations the beauty at either day.

4. Better Placement of Tso Moriri Lake in the Itinerary

As you can see in the most common itinerary for Leh – Ladakh followed by many travelers including me at the link here, if you travel towards Manali from Leh then you can better place Tso Moriri lake in your itinerary and save a day for you. You cannot visit Tso Moriri while coming from Manali – Leh Highway because first, you will not have any permits and secondly, even if you get the permits somehow your body will not be acclimatized to sleep at very high altitude of Tso Moriri lake. So, you have to go to Leh first, do all your sightseeing and then visit Tso Moriri and then again go back to Leh to exit via Srinagar – Leh Highway. All this means, you should have one more day in your itinerary.

Since, you can always exit from Tso Moriri lake towards Manali via Tso Kar or Taglang La over Manali – Leh Highway, it gives more flexibility to place it in the itinerary when you travel from Leh towards Manali. For more details on Tso Moriri Lake, check the comprehensive Travel Guide for it at the link here

5. No worries of Manali – Rohtang Pass Permits for Non-HP Vehicles

In 2011, Himachal GOVT. floated a strange rule which disallowed any non-HP vehicle excluding two wheelers (bike/scooters) to ply on Manali – Rohtang Pass road. The GOVT. stated that this rule was brought into affect to regulate un-necessary traffic plying on Manali – Rohtang Pass road and make the traffic situation a bit better (in reality nothing changed rather got worse, I feel as per the reports last year).

For people going past Rohtang Pass towards Lahaul or Spiti Valley or further to Leh – Ladakh required to get a permit from Manali SDM Office. This meant wasting a day for sure in Manali. The FUNNY thing about this regulation is that only vehicles going from Manali towards Rohtang Pass need that permit but any vehicle coming from Rohtang Pass (i.e Leh – Ladakh or Lahaul Spiti) to Manali do not require any permit Hence, if you are coming from Leh – Ladakh towards Manali, you do not need any permit 🙂

For more details on this rule that do not allow non-HP vehicles to ply on Manali – Rohtang Pass road including how to get permit, what documents are required etc, you can read more here.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed the article and now understand why we shall choose Srinagar – Leh Highway while traveling to Leh – Ladakh and choose Manali – Leh Highway while you return from Leh – Ladakh towards home 🙂 … If you have been there before, I would love to know your thoughts to on choosing Srinagar – Leh over Manali – Leh. Please share your valuable thoughts and inputs for the same. And, if you happen to be the first timer I hope the above article will help you decide the right way to Travel to Leh Ladakh by road and plan your itinerary in much better way.

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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

936 Comments

  1. Hi All,

    My friend is currently in Leh. He went on his newly purchased bullet but now it creating issues.
    And keeps on shutting down. Hence he is not able to continue with his bike.
    Could someone please help in case knows any tow service that could tow his bike to nearest railway station so that he could bring bike back to delhi.

    Its urgent. Kindly help. Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi we are 10 people can you please guide us for a trip to leh Ladakh and manali we want to cover all this in 5 days. Is it possible please help us.

  3. Dear Dheeraj we planned trip to Laddakh from Delhi by road.we r 6 guys.we Start from Delhi on 8/10/16 and end at chandigarh on 15/10/16 by road.so I just want to know that whether 7 days r suitable for this trip and which places we have to cover in this trip.
    Thnx

    • It will take 3 days to reach Leh from Delhi via Manali side with stopovers at Jispa, Manali and 4 days to come back to Delhi from Leh via Srinagar side with stop overs at Jammu, Srinagar, Kargil . This makes it 7 days. Even if you go from Manali side, you will just rest for a day in Leh

      • Sir,
        I would love if you could help me in this,

        1) how can i get a bike in srinagar for srinagar to leh and that too on learning licenece?

        2) ill be leaving for leh from srinagar on 30 sep2016 can i come back by 3oct evening as i have a flight on 4th oct

        3) what all should i carry of i am travelling alone and that too first time

        Please let me know as this must awaited and i want to go desparatrly.

        Thanks 🙂

      • Sir,
        I would love if you could help me in this,

        1) how can i get a bike in srinagar for srinagar to leh and that too on learning licenece?

        2) ill be leaving for leh from srinagar on 30 sep2016 can i come back by 3oct evening as i have a flight on 4th oct

        3) what all should i carry of i am travelling alone and that too first time

        Please let me know as this must awaited and i want to go desparatrly.

        Thanks 🙂

        • 1. It will be difficult to get a bike in Srinagar and also not advisable to go on that route with all the unrest in the Kashmir valley.
          2. Well, it takes two days to reach Leh and two days to come back, are you sure you want to make this trip?

  4. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are planning to travel from Chandigarh to Leh via Srinagar by road, starting our journey on 3rd September.
    I wanted to know how safe would this route be, considering the current situation in J&K.

    Thanks in advance.
    Nikhil

    • Nikhil, well, there are news that curfew has been lifted but I still feel one should wait about couple of weeks to see the situation comes back to normalcy or not. If yes, then only one should drive through that route else follow the route from Manali – Leh Highway

  5. hi buddy

    i have 11 days in my hand from 03 September for my leh ladakh trip with wife (both 27 years)…..i have no vehicle of my own, so would be travelling by air from delhi…. would you please mind giving me tips on following :-
    1. should i take flight to srinagar or to leh (considering the current tension in Kashmir valley)
    2. hiring of bike in leh for nubra, pangong tso and other sightseeing
    3. what all places to cover and what to do for my period of trip
    4. any other valuable advice

    regards,

    • Prem, I will suggest you the following plan:

      Day 1 | Delhi – Leh (By Flight)
      — Checkin at Hotel. Many hotels provide free pick and drop from Airport. Ask while you book them.
      — Take ample of rest as well as water or anything that keep your body hydrated enough. DO NOT OVER HYDRATE. Take ORS Soluted water or ORS – L tetra packs from home.
      — Do not over exert your body at any cost. Avoid too much up-down on stairs or avoid it in entirety, if possible.
      — After 5-6 Hrs of rest you can visit Leh Palace, Local Leh market, Shankar Gompa .
      — If you feel exerted go back to Hotel, have dinner at Hotel and take rest. Avoid any exertion. Else continue and,
      — Follow the sunset by stroll at Changspa road and have a nice dinner on varied cuisines offered in-around Changspa road.
      — Go back to hotel for overnight stay at Leh.
       
      Day 2 | Leh Local Sighseeing + Acclimatization
      — Hire a taxi from Leh taxi stand or Hotel whichever suits you.
      — Bargain hard with taxi driver. Book that single taxi for entire trip after explaining the complete plan.
      — Take his inputs if you feel reasonable and if required modify the plan accordingly but should suits you best.
      — Ask him to be with you guys starting first day itself, if required and charged reasonable else do it at your own.
      — Again DO NOT over exert and take little steps and slow walks only.
      — If feeling OK then do Local sightseeing. To know the about the places to visit check the link: Travel Guide for Local Sightseeing of Leh Town in Ladakh
      — Do not use stairs at any of these places just to see them as it will exert your body much more.
      — Overnight at Leh
       
      Day 3 | Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder
      — Head for Nubra Valley and stay overnight at Hunder / Diskit
      — On the way enjoy a cup of soup at Highest Motorable Pass (as claimed) Khardung La
      — Diskit has monasteries with tallest lord Buddha statue and Hunder has sand dunes and bacterian camel safari
       
      Day 4 | Hunder / Diskit – Sumur – Panamik – Sumur – Khardung La – Leh
      — Sumur has a famous monastery to check out and Panamik has hot water springs
      — Overnight at Leh
       
      Day 5 | Leh – Hemis Monastery – Pangong Tso Lake
      — Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on the go towards Pangong Tso
      — Overnight at Pangong Tso (Spangmik or Lukung)
       
      Day 6 | Pangong Tso Lake – Thicksey Monastery – Shey Palace – Leh
      — Cover either of Hemis, Thicksey and Shey on return to Leh
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 7 | Rest day at Leh to enjoy local culture and some shopping OR Monastery tour OR You can do tour to Sham Valley
      — Monastery tour may include Hemis, Thicksey, Stakna and Shey monasteries.
      — Sham Valley include Alchi, Likir, Basgo Palace, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu, Gurudwara Pather Sahib
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 8 | Leh – Tso Moriri via Chumathang
      — Cover Karzok Monastery
      — Overnight at Karzok or Tso Moriri
       
      Day 9 | Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Debring (Manali – Leh Highway starts) – Moore Plains – Pang / Sarchu
      — Try to start early in the day so that you reach Sarchu where the accommodation options are better than Pang
      — Overnight at Sarchu or Pang
       
      Day 10 | Pang / Sarchu – Baralacha La – Keylong – Rohtang Pass – Manali
      — On the way cover Suraj Tal, Deepak Tal which are on the road sides only
      — Overnight at Manali
       
      Day 11 | Manali – Chandigarh
      — Return
       
      Day 12 – Buffer day to be kept incase of road closure due to landslides or snowfall or perhaps you want to enjoy more.

      You can check the nice, preferred list of accommodation options in entire Leh – Ladakh (Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri) including moderate (cheap budget hotels as well) in the series of articles starting on the link here

      You are alone/couple and private taxis are very costly in Leh but you will be able to find the shared taxi without much fuss at all. There are lots of flyers which people put at cafes, dine-ins, restaurants, travel agent desks/shops/whiteboards wanting to share the taxis for different trips within Ladakh. Even travel agent organize such shared taxis trip as well but charge a little higher about Rs 200-300 more than it would ideally cost. So, in worst case you can always go back to them and book a seat for yourself. Gelling up with people in Ladakh is more or less easy because many people travel solo and look forward to meet new people and share cultural thoughts and values over the trip. No where else in the world you will find more smiling and helpful people as Ladakhis are 🙂

  6. Payel Sarkar on

    Hello Mr Dheeraj,
    we are a group of 3 people travelling to Leh in the 1st week of October, 2016. This is our 1st time in Leh and we want to do a road safari. Can you please tell me if the Manali-Leh Highway is open at that of the year?

    Thanks and regards.

    • Payel, Manali – Leh remains open during that time of the year but stay options are limited. It becomes almost sub zero on 3/4th of the Manali – Leh Highway and in case of getting stuck, you may get very little help. Sill, people do make trips now on Manali – Leh highway as late as second week of October. Personally speaking, to me it is a bit risky but first week of October I will still pass it by considering delayed snowfall for last few years.

  7. Dear Mr. Dheeraj.

    Thanks for your prompt response, now You have told me that Condition is Srinagar is not good for tourists. Then can you tell me if on Delhi – Manali – Leh route, is there any situation that might create hazard to smooth travelling, eg. Flooding due to rains or land slides etc due to rain, which might make it difficult to stick to the itinerary. I mean to travel on 23rd August onwards from
    Delhi.

    Thanks in advance once again
    Pravin

    • Pravin, no one can predict floods but you can check the weather reports in case it rpedicts too much heavy rains better to avoid traveling in hills else once you reach around Keylong, you enter rain shadow region where it does not rain. So, keep a tab on rain predictions during that time and make decision to go or postpone it by a week.

  8. Hi Dheeraj,

    It was very interesting to read your write up. I am booked on 22nd Aug., 2016 By Train up to JAT I think it means Jammu Tavi. Then I will travel by road shared taxis from Jammu -Srinagar – Kargill – Leh. And on return I am planning to travel via Manali.

    I am travelling alone, so your guidance will help me a lot. My main worry is Jammu to Srinagar In particular about safety seeing latest commotions and then from Sringar to Kargill. I would like to know if it is safe to travel on these route these days.

    I have travelled in 2013 from Mumbai – Srinagar (By flight), Then Srinagar – Kargill and then Leh, As I had to leave half way through from Leh due to some urgency, I could not see much except enjoyed road travel from Srinagar to Leh.

    Besides, I have not done any hotel booking, I am thinking of doing it as I reach the place. Do you think it will be okay to do it?

    I hope you will respond soonest.

    Thanks in advance
    Pravin
    9004160161

    • Pravin, hotel bookings on the spot shall be OK unless you wish to stay at some particular hotel or have too much choices. However, things are no so good around Srinagar and traffic only moves at night. Last heard that too was stopped for three days. So, you may get stuck in curfew situation. I will not advise you going from Srinagar side. Rather take a direct flight to Leh or go from Manali route.

  9. Devanshu Malhotra on

    Hey Dheeraj,

    My wife and I have planned to travel between 13th August 2016 to 20th August (we need to join work on Monday). Thanks for the information, it has mostly cleared my doubts. A few which are still hovering my head, I am hopeful you will target shoot them too :). Here they go:-

    1) Is it safe to drive across and take stoppages at Jammu, Kargil and Srinagar? I really am not keen on getting stuck there by any chance (anxious)

    2) Can we take alcohol along? Also, can we consume it while travelling or you wouldn’t recommend? (Asking coz we want to add all the flavors of fun in this trip- this was long dreamed of)

    3) We want to make it a budget trip – Would you recommend budget hotels or give us other ideas to make it simple ?

    4) We have a diesel Figo (45 ltr tank capacity). Would 10 Ltrs of extra diesel do or should we carry more? (More the weight, lesser the mileage 😉 )

    5) Would you have an idea of how much cash we would be spending on a budget trip (excluding diesel)?

    Would have a few more questions before we start on 13th.

    Cheers,

    Devanshu

  10. Vivek Mazumdar on

    Hi Dheeraj Sharma,

    One thing I would like to ask is that I have a diesel car which is more than 10 yrs old. Will I face any problem if I head to Ladakh via Srinagar with the same car and come down via Manali ? From where exactly I need to take any permits if any ? And I will be taking my mother who is almost 60 yrs of age with me to visit the place. So can you please suggest any precautions that I shall take in order to avoid any unnrcessary circumstances while on the trip.
    Thanks you in advance.

  11. Hi dheeraj,

    Thanks for the article. Me and my frnds are planning a trip to leh frm delhi via srinagar .. by flight and then hire a taxi from srinagr to leh ..

    Could u please guide us if thats the rigjt way to go .. or any other suggestion woulf be welcomed. Also, m asthematic.. is it really safe for me to go on such high altitude in august weather.?

    Thanks in advance
    Anshul

    • Hello sir I m planning to go to leh from lucknow via delhi, Srinagar by bike… But some of my friends told me that if u want to go by bike to leh then the bike should be registered on your name… And 1 more thing can I go by ninja 300… How r the roads? Plz give some suggestions..
      Thanx 🙂

  12. Thnku so much for your valuable guidence sir but one question which i asked…u did not reply me…can i give him diamox for precautionary side as we all adults will be taking…thanku once again in advance

  13. Payal sarawgi on

    Hi…i am travelling to leh in aug via manali, rohtang, jispa and pang…have my 9.6yr old son with me. Is it ok to take him along with us and if yes..shall i give him diamox or children gdnerally dont ve any problem..we are 19 of us inculiding one child only

    • Hello Payal,

      In general, it is fine to take the children of such age group because AMS do not matter with respect to age or sex or any fitness level. It can happen to anyone of any age or sex or fitness I shall say :D.. The issue with children is that they tend to exert the body considering it the same kind of place they belong to and this elevates the chances of getting struck with AMS. Secondly, they are not much expressive about their uneasy feelings, so it is parents who need to watch out and take care that the child is not suffering from uneasy feelings, headache or nausea and is behaving properly. With 5+ year child, I think he/she would be able to convey the uneasiness with little efforts. If you notice any such feeling or he/she tells you about such a feeling then please do not ascend anywhere, either descend to lower altitude or stay at the same place to watch things overnight and if symptom increase then start descending immediately. Same is applicable for any adult as well. And yes, do keep the body adequately hydrated!!

      Regards
      Dheeraj

      • Thnku so much for ur valuable guidence sir but still my one question has not been answered….can i give him diamox befre we start travelng towards jispa on precautionary basis….we elders will be taking as it…thanku in advance

        • Well, I will say that Diamox is a sulpha drug and shall not be taken unless you are sure you are not allergic to sulpha drugs. It will have side effects to most people like tingling toes or fingers. It should be taken at least 36 Hrs before reaching the high altitude mark.

  14. P Goutam Kumar on

    I with my friend will travel from Jammu to Leh on a RE Thunderbird350 from 1st aug-13th aug. Route: Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-LEH-Keylong-Manali-Delhi. What r the documents and permissions needed..?

    • Goutam, you will not need any permit for this route. There is a form which is available at all photostat shops in Leh which should be filled and deposited at checkposts on route to sightseeing in Ladakh.

  15. Sir ham 13 august ko delhi se leh ka plan kar rhe h via sinagar to kya ham dream yuga 135cc se ja skte h aur usk bad waha se pangong lake..

  16. Hello,
    We are leaving in delhi and planning to go to kashmir leh ladak and manali, and our plan is of approx. 10 days and we are planning to go by bike. So which is best route so that we cover allmost all of the tourist support and enjoy it completely.? And whether bullet 350 is good for it or not?? And can you best time for it i mean which month is best so that we get access to every spot.

    • September will be the best time. It will take 4 days to reach Leh from Srinagar side starting from Delhi with stop overs at Jammu, Srinagar, Kargil and 3 days to come back from Leh from Manali side to Delhi with stopovers at Sarchu, Manali. This makes it 7 days. 1 Day is required in Leh for acclimatization. You have about 10 days. 1 Day can be used as Day trip to Pangong Tso and other day can be used as day trip to Nubra Valley or just Khardung La pass.

  17. Anshuman Priyadarshi on

    HI Dheeraj,
    First of all a big thanks for all the information you have shared here. I want to make this journey alone in mid of August. So I would like to know whether it is a good time or not. Secondly I want to know if there are any tour agency who also provide bikes on rent along with the package. And one more thing, as it will be extreme cold in those area can one consume alcohol on the way.
    Thanks a lot

    • Hi Anshuman,

      1. Well, August is monsoons and you will have to go through the monsoon hassles in lower hills while in Ladakh being rain shadow, there will not be much issues
      2. you can connect with info@offbeatescapes.com as most of the readers in the past three years have had very good feedback about them and especially their transparent policies along with being there with you all the time in need. So, we trust them the most (please note that DoW except reliable reference has nothing to do with them so please don’t copy/mail us :))…
      3. No, August is a pleasant time in Ladakh. You should not consume alcohal in high altitude as it affects body ability to acclimatize.

  18. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are planning a trip to Leh in the month of August.
    Can you please share your number, require some suggestions.

    Unable to get proper itinerary till now.

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