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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614 Comments

  1. Apoorv Sharma on

    Hello Dheeraj!
    I would also like to know whether it takes equal time to reach leh from chandigarh regardless of which way we opt for ( either manali or srinagar)??

      • Sahil Mangla on

        Hi Dheeraj, Nice to read about you here..pretty cool!!! We are 5 friends (aged between 30 to35) who have planned for Leh Ladakh trip from 13th may to 21st may travelling by Innova from Delhi via Kashmir. We will stay in Leh for 3 days…It would be great help if you can recommend us regarding safety measures, any special care, do’s and dont’s …Looking forward to hear from you!! Thanks

        • Hi Sahil,

          Outside taxis are not allowed to roam in Ladakh and it takes 4 days from Srinagar side to reach Ladakh from Delhi and 4 days to come back. You have just 9 days. Are you sure you want to make this trip happen with one day in Leh where it is mandaotry to rest in Leh only for acclimatization to high altitude.

          Regards
          Dheeraj

  2. Apoorv Sharma on

    Hello dheeraj!
    Its so nice to read your blogs. I have been through to all your blogs relating to leh and himalyas. Now I have some queries regarding it.
    Me and couple of my friends (around 5 including me) are planning a trip to leh in the 1st week of july (most probably 2nd july). Our starting point will be from chandigarh. We would be hiring innova or something from chandigarh itself. I would like you to please suggest me as what way we should opt for from chandigarh to leh as we are very much time bounded. We have a return flight from chandigarh on 10th july. it shall be highly appreciable if you would suggest me with an whole itinerary including proper halt that we should take at proper places. We are planning to stay in leh for 4 nights and 3 days.
    Looking for a detailed reply from your side.
    Thank you!

  3. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are 2 person planning for bike trip in July or August by taking rental bike from Manali.. Is it really need
    To take mechanic with us? Is there any mechanic shops on the way? Does remtal bikes have the option to keep our bags? Planning to take only one bike for rental.. Other person who is coming with me doesn’t know the driving

    • Prakash, there are not many mechanic shops available on the way. In fact after Darcha you get a shop at Sarchu and then almost not before Upshi. Pang is tentative. So, you will be on your own in case anything goes wrong with bike on Manali – Leh Highway.

  4. Hey Dheeraj
    I’ve gone through almost all your articles and have been ever more excited to go to leh. We are 3 of us are travelling to delhi from bangalore and will reach there by 11th may. we are planning to go to leh. what is the best option to reach leh from delhi? will roads be open by then? we have time till 23rd may in leh . Also could you tell us how much it will cost for the delhi leh delhi trip (aprox is enough) as we are students on tight budgets. Hoping to hear from you soon.
    Regards
    Rohit

    • Rohit, you will have only Srinagar – Leh road as an option to travel by road because as per the report Srinagar – Leh is expected to be open by late April or first week of May. Manali – Leh will be closed most likely by that time and is expeted to open in first week of June

  5. Hii dheeraj,
    We are group of 8 people planning to travel ladakh via leh manali highway and then come back via manali leh highway.We are planning our trip around 20th may to 1st june From chandigarh.So will that be ideal time to travel n wll both the highways be operational by that time?

  6. jayant verma on

    Thanks for such a wonderful and informative article. I am planning to travel to leh with my family including my son who is 15 years and daughter who is 12 years but I have one apprehension that Srinagar to leh route is safe enough keeping in mind the terrorist activities in the state.

  7. Hey Dheeraj, We are a group of 8 peoples planning to From Manali to Leh bike trip.

    Starting date would be 20th Of June 2015. Please guide me the maximum days that would be required for the Manali-Leh-Manali trip.
    Would 8 days will serve the purpose

    • Prasoon, it will take 2 days to reach Leh from Manali and 2 days to come back. 1 day is MUST required for rest in Leh for acclimatization. So, you are left with 3 days where in you can make a 2 day trip to Nubra Valley and 1 day trip to Pangong Tso lake.

      • Hey Dheeraj thanks for the reply,
        We are planning to hire a tempo as a backup, can you provide me the Rent information about hiring a tempo.

        • Prasoon, tempo traveler are about 35% more the cost of a taxi. For the leh – ladakh taxi union rate list 2015 – 16 including the contacts of some reliable taxi drivers within Leh – Ladakh, check the link here. You can get about 10-12% of discount by directly getting in touch with drivers and of course, talking in person rather on phone always help in bargaining more.

  8. Hari Prakash on

    HI Dheeraj,

    Thank You for the valuable information you are providing here.

    We are planning for a Srinagar-Ladakh-Manali trip in June 3rd week (June 19th – June 30th).
    As It is hard for us to get leaves in July we planned it in June.
    Is it right time to visit in June?? Will all the roads be opened by that time??

    Please find the below itinerary we are planning to follow

    Will start from Bangalore on June 19th

    June 19 – Fly from Bangalore to Srinagar
    June 20 – explore Srinagar
    June 21 – Srinagar to Kargil (Night stay in Kargil)
    June 22 – Kargil to Leh (Night stay in Leh)
    June 23 – Explore leh and hire bikes
    June 24 – Leh to Nubra Valley (Night Stay in NUbra)
    June 25 – Nubra to Leh (Night Stay in Leh)
    June 26 – Leh to Pangong (Night Stay in Pangong)
    June 27 – Pangong to Leh (Night stay in Leh)
    June 28 – Leh to Sarchu/Keylong/Jispa (Night Stay)
    June 29 – Sarchu to Manali via Rothang (Night Stay in Manali)
    June 30 – Explore Manali (Night Bus Journey to Chandigarh/Delhi)
    July 1 – Fly from Delhi/Chandigarh to Bangalore

    Are there any other places to be included in our plan which we are missing, please suggest if any.

    Regards,
    Hari

    • HI Hari,

      June third week shall be good time to visit Ladakh and roads will be open by that time. Given the number of days you have in hand, the travel plan looks perfect :)

      Regards,
      Dheeraj

      • Hari Prakash on

        Hi Dheeraj,

        Thank you for your suggestion.

        We(3 persons) finally booked our flight to Srinagar from Bangalore.

        I need bit more information for booking a cab for the entire trip.

        1) Do we have to book a cab for our entire trip, I think booking a cab for entire trip
        will be bit costlier for 3 people.
        2) How much will it cost for car pick up in Srinagar on June 20th and drop us all the
        way to Chandigarh on July 1st.
        3) Is there any possibility of booking 2 cars one to pick us in Srinagar and drop in
        Leh and other to pick in Leh and drop in Manali/Chandigarh as we will be
        booking bikes for rest of the 5 days to roam in and around Leh and how much
        do cab people charge for drop.
        4) Will there be rafting in Manali in June.

        Regards,
        Hari

        • Hi Hari,

          1. Are you planning to take shared taxi in other case?
          2. Shall be around 65-70K.
          3. Yes, that can be done too. Srinagar – Leh is about 16-17K, Manali – Leh should be around 19-20K
          4. Most likely yes

          Regards
          Dheeraj

  9. hi bro
    me and my friend(2pers only) have planned for a srinagar trip for 2-4 days in march on our bike can you suggest some locations which don’t have any restrictions and have some adventure in them and also undr budget travelling

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