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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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790 Comments

  1. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are thinking of a trip to Leh in April May, by own jeep from Delhi or Chandigarh. Thru Srinagar – Leh and exit via Leh manali.

    would you pl advice us on:

    1. Is it doable? considering weather
    2. are the highways open by then? permit required?

    thanks,
    Roopesh

    • Roopesh, it is quite optimistic to believe that Srinagar – Leh road will be open by that time of the year. Srinagar – Leh in general open plus stabilize mid of May and Manali – Leh in June.

  2. Dear Dheeraj,

    You are very patient an dedicated to this topic.
    We all appreciate the effort you put in here and respond to people.
    Very helpful info. Thanks a lot :)
    -Reema

      • Dear Dheeraj,

        So finally after getting inspired from all the blogs, photos & stories, my Brother and I have decided to do this trip – Sep 15 to Sep 27
        We plan to ride:
        Srinagar – Leh – Sarchu – Leh – Srinagar
        Slightly odd route, for various reasons.

        Now where we need your help is to advice on Bike rental in Srinagar.
        We have found 1 so far… but would you know any1 else ?
        Can Gurmat help in any way ?

        Thanks in advance :)

  3. Hello sir
    I heard about ceasefire in poonch so is it safe to visit srinagar in September first week or we should change our plan and go ladakh via manali route. And is manali -laddakh route safe to visit in rainy season I mean in September 1st week?

      • N sir if we change plan n take the route from Manali to ladakh in September first week is it safe I mean it would be safe in the rain

        • Well, in case it rains, both route will cause issues on your travel. But, Srinagar – Leh is less taxing on body because altitude increases gradually while if you will go from Manali side then altitude will increase all of a sudden to 14000 feet and many people feel headaches and nausea mostly while going to Leh from Manali side.

  4. Hello Mr dheeraj

    Sir I want to visit srinagar and stay There for 5 days n thn take srinagar to laddakh trip via road for 5 days and then wanna visit manali also again via road and want to hire a cab for entire trip would you please tell me how much money will be required for the entire trip.
    N one question more sir we are planning for this trip in September first week should be keep some warm clothes?

    • Hi meenakshi,

      September is a good time, I will suggest to carry some light woolens and a pair of heavy woolens for sure. Srinaagar to Manali trip of Ladakh with all sightseeing of Nubra, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri cost about 65K for taxi and then consider around 20-25K taxi of 5 days within Srinagar and Kashmir. Apart from this consider a cost of about 800-1000 per day per person for food + stay

  5. Vinay Mendu on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    We are from Delhi. We are planning Road trip to leh for 4 days in Sep last week( Sep 24 to Sep 27)

    Could you please suggest how we can plan this from below options

    1. Travel to Manali by Bus – road trip from manali to Leh for 4 days – take flight Leh to Delhi
    2. Take flight to Leh from delhi – road trip from Leh to manali – Take bus from manali to delhi
    3. Take flight to Leh from delhi – Road trip from Leh to Srinager – Take flight from sri nager to delhi

    If you have better options please share and also climate details on that duration, based on ur exp.

    Thank you
    Vinay Mendu

    • Hello Vinay,

      I will suggest that you go with Option 2 in case you looking for adventure else go with option 3. You cannot travel on Manali to Leh in that direction in 4 days because the altitude increase is sudden and body is acclimatized that early in the trip

  6. Jignesh patel on

    I want to know cost of manali to leh route (personal & government )??
    we are planning to go in august around 15 to 29
    and tell me weather condition is good or ok ok ?
    oxygen bottle or something available in manali or not?

  7. Hi Dheeraj…really appreciate all the information that you have provided. We are planning a 7 day trip to Ladakh from Chandigarh. I know we are very tight on time but we are planning on flying back from Leh to Delhi. I really want to go through the Manali as there are more places to see through this route. My concern is that my husband has asthma problems, can you please suggest whether its advisable for him to travel to such a height?

    Thank you.

    • Well, people with asthama have done Ladakh trips I know BUT still I will highly recommend that you visit the doctor and get his advice over it. Also ask him about the precautions need to be taken. Manali – Leh in itself is quite taxing to go.

  8. Prateekkapoor on

    Hi Dheeraj , I’m planning my trip to leh via Manali by road , my dates are from 7th August and leave from Delhi , can you suggest how is roads and weather their and do i need to take any permit if I’m going via manali , I have my private number suv? Also pls confirm what is the current status of roads if take Srinagar route. Is it good to go or not. Pls revert with your valuable feedback .
    Thanks
    Prateek

    • It is monsoon time in general up there in North and at some parts of Manali – Leh Highway (like before Baralacha La) and Srinagar – Leh Highway (like before Kargil) you might need to face monsoon hassles but once you get closer to Ladakh, then Ladakh being rain shadow region is least affected by monsoon rains, though rains does reach Ladakh now but to minimum and mostly it might remains overcast conditions. There is no thumb rule of certainty about weather conditions but above is generally common pictures seen over last few years except ugly 2010 …

  9. sanjeev sharma on

    I found that most toilets in hotels have hygeine problems & on a recent visit found this product spray & sit seat sanitiser too good to use.. It solved all my problems of using a unhyegenic toilet on my trips…
    Their website is sprayandsit.com

  10. Gaurav Sharma on

    Dheeraj sir I have vomiting problem In hills and Iam planing to go Ladakh …so please advice me something which can make my trip this v free

    • Hi Gaurav,

      There are two things one is Motion Sickness and one is Altitude Sickness and in Ladakh one gets to suffer with both of them. While first one is not so serious but latter one can be fatal as well. I will advice that you consult your doctor for a medicine for Motion sickness or nausea and I am sure he will be able to suggest you some as my wife also takes one.

      Regarding Altitude Mountain Sickness, please read: Acute Mountain Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization

      • Prateekkapoor on

        Hi Dheeraj , I’m planning my trip to leh via Manali by road , my dates are from 7th August and leave from Delhi , can you suggest how is roads and weather their and do i need to take any permit if I’m going via manali , I have my private number suv? Also pls confirm what is the current status of roads if take Srinagar route. Is it good to go or not. Pls revert with your valuable feedback .
        Thanks
        Prateek

        • Prateek, It is monsoon time in general up there in North and at some parts of Manali – Leh Highway (like before Baralacha La) and Srinagar – Leh Highway (like before Kargil) you might need to face monsoon hassles but once you get closer to Ladakh, then Ladakh being rain shadow region is least affected by monsoon rains, though rains does reach Ladakh now but to minimum and mostly it might remains overcast conditions. There is no thumb rule of certainty about weather conditions but above is generally common pictures seen over last few years except ugly 2010 …

          Yes, you need permits to travel from Manali to Rohtang Pass. Rohtang Pass Rules & Restriction of Vehicles – Demystified

  11. Hi Dheeraj! Your article is immensely knowledgeable and really nicely put. Cheers for that! I’m planning a trip by car from Delhi onwards towards Leh and back. My friends and I are confused as to what route to take. Our basic itinerary is:

    1. Arrive at New Delhi from Kolkata on the 11th of August and spend a day there.
    2. Leave onwards towards Srinagar by train the next day.
    3. Travel towards Leh via Srinagar Leh route. (Can you advise me how much time will this take? And please suggest a schedule which will take into account acclimatization to the altitude.)
    4. Reach Leh and spend around 3 days in and around there)
    5. Return via the Leh-Manali route. We leave Leh around the 17th of August. (We are taking into account around 2 days of travelling back towards Delhi)
    6. We leave Delhi towards Kolkata on the 19th of August.

    This was roughly our entire itinerary. Is this advisable? (If not, please advise the necessary changes needed to be made)

    Thanks!

    • Hello Taiyeb,

      3. It will take two days to reach Leh from Srinagar with overnight stop at Kargil as below:

      Day 1 | Srinagar – Sonamarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil
      — Enjoy the vistas enroute
      — Have late drunch meal at Drass is you are a vegetarian as sometimes it gets difficult to find veg. food at Kargil
      — Overnight at Kargil

      Day 2 | Kargil – Lamayuru – Leh
      — Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
      — On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
      — Overnight at Leh

      Day 3 | Leh Local Sightseeing + Acclimatization
      — To know the about the places to visit check the link: Travel Guide for Local Sightseeing of Leh Town in Ladakh
      — Overnight at Leh

      4. As you see one day is for rest and acclimatization, next day you can go to Khardung La day trip and third day go to Pangong Tso day trip.

      5. You can do as below for Manali – Leh Highway:

      Day 1 | Leh – Taglang La – Moore Plains – Pang – Sarchu
      — Stay overnight at Sarchu

      Day 2 | 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

      Find my inputs above :)

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  12. Pankaj Bhartia on

    Dear Dheeraj,

    Excellent article. Thank you and God Bless you.

    My plan is to go to Valley of Flowers this August, which might not happen due to rains. Plan B is to do the Srinagar – Leh – Manali road trip. I have changed the approach as per your suggestions. Thank you. I plan to drive my diesel Dzire.
    Is there any anti-freeze required for diesel?
    The links to acute mountain sickness and others are fantastic and much required. Thank you again.
    best wishes
    Pankaj

  13. Hi dheeraj

    I have read ur article and all are very nice,I was planning to visit ladakh in July 23 and for some reason it got postponed but now planning again ,but the flight rate has gone to high now.
    Can you suggest road trip via Srinagar or manali which will be best and with itinerary for 6-7 days and also the cost it will be.Also I have not done any hotel booking yet so what would be best on this, awaiting reply

  14. Hello

    I have planned a leh bike trip from 23rd Aug 2015 – 6th sept 2015

    Srinagar – kargil – leh – sarchu – manali…

    But today i hear something bad…

    Is the ban for bikes real?

    Any idea about this?

  15. Hi dheeraj. . I have my bookings of bus on 8th July, from delhi to manali and taxi from manali to leh with a stay in sarchu!
    I saw in news the heavy rain in kullu-manali so will it be safe travelling via this route? Or i should cancel them all and change my route from delhi to Srinagar to leh!? Hope to get a reply soon :)

    • Prattek, yeah currently rains are running but is expected to clear up in couple of days. You will face any hassles if at all in lower hills only up to Sarchu as beyond Sarchu it is all rain shadow.

      • So I should not worry about landslides or anything and be relaxed for the trip? Thanks though

        • Prateek, you can go ahead brother because as per reports there aren’t any major blockades. So, it should be fine. Though no one can give you 100% assurance for landslides

  16. hello guys.!!

    We are planning to come next week to Srinagar from Delhi by bike. our own vehicle. So do we need to take any police permission to travel or else all we need is to cary our original Vehicle Papers..??

    Between how is the route from Delhi to Srinagar. Is road good.? Can any one help me out on this.?

  17. Hi Dheeraj,
    Im coming over from singapore on 2nd august and would like to visit shimla manali and leh and agra as well.
    As I will arrive at delhi, which route should i get to first and so on.
    And what transportation is the best recommendation.
    And btw, I only have 9days to travel to these places, will that be enough?

    Thanks.

  18. Hi Dheeraj ,

    First of all thanks a ton for your articles , I have just started planning my trip to Leh ladakh and everywhere I go for information on the web, I finally end up on your page, and I love how detailed and clear you are .So two of us are planning a bike trip for 16 days from Delhi and back during the last week of September and 1st week of October . I really like your general itinerary http://devilonwheels.com/most-common-itinerary-for-leh-ladakh/ and we are planning on using this as our base and tweaking it a little here and there .

    The main issue for us being, we would like to keep the ride time per day to a maximum of 9 hours , so as a first step towards that we decided to do Delhi to Manali by bus and start our road trip on bikes from Manali . However I would like to do a circuit as suggested by you which covers both the legs: Srinagar-leh highway and the leh-manali highway and we want to enter Leh through Srinagar and exit through Manali for all the above advantages you have mentioned in this article.

    My question is what are your thoughts on this in which the first two days maybe would be from Manali to Srinagar and from then on we are on day 3 of your itinerary . I can’t find anything on the web regarding anyone experience having gone this way . The highway as I can see through Google maps is NH 1B . I am guessing two days should be enough for the leg . Would love your feedback on the feasibility of such a route and also if the route is feasible could you suggest any cities or villages on the this route where we could spend the night .

    Thanks again for all the information

    • Hi Arun,

      It might take you 3 days to reach Srinagar from Manali. Many people do it like Manali to Dharamshala/Pathankot, then Dharamshala/Pathankot to Patnitop and finally to Srinagar from Patnitop

  19. Shishir singh on

    Hi Deeraj,

    I am planning for trip to ladakh which i starts from Agra-chandigarh-srinagar-leh-manali-chandigarh-Agra in my personal car renault duster (1456cc, 2WD-front, already completed 50,000 kms) along with my wife and 2 younger brothers on 9th july 2015.
    kindly suggest me that, my duster car is good enough or its better to opt 4WD car then my duster car to travel on this high altitudes & rough terrains of ladakh.
    eagerly waiting for your reply.

    thanks
    shishir singh
    +91-9837991888

      • Shishir singh on

        thanks for your valuable suggestion sir.
        there are some more doubts in my mind…..
        1. what will be expected climate in july.
        2. is it monsoon/rainy climate.
        3. what are the negative part if there is rainy climate.
        4. is the landslides are common in rainy climate.
        5. what can happen if we stuck in worse climate, what we should do.
        6. most of the time we saw news of worse climate in hills like in amarnath yatra, badrinath and many. Is the monsoon climate in ladakh trip is also get this kind of worse.

        thanks
        regards
        shishir singh

        • Shishir,

          1. It will be pleasant time to be there in Ladakh
          2. Ladakh is rain shadow region, so rains do not affect it. Lower hills may have some monsoon hassles post mid july
          3. Lower hills
          4. Only limited to lower hills post mid July
          5. Don’t panic and relax, authorities will do something to get you out
          6. Like i said, Ladakh is rain shadow region and cold desert, rains does not reach up there in plenty.

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