The 475 km Manali-Leh road enriched with high passes and snow covered mountains remains open for just around four months in a year (mid June to mid September). Also known as the ‘Upshi-Manali’ road en routes Taglang La, claims the second highest motorable pass in the world. The route is mostly barren and uninhabited. The most important thing before getting started is to take note of fuel, as you will only get one Petrol Pump after Manali, located in Tandi 113 kms from Manali and 367 kms before reaching Leh. Also get some packed food and drinking water as you would not find any hotels or restaurants on the way expect some guest houses in Keylong and a few camped accommodations in Sarchu & Pang where you will get tents on sharing basis with a cost of approx Rs. 200 per person.
The road could be good for adventure loving people only and is suited for jeeps & SUVs only. A race of few adventurous people also does their journey on motorbikes or bicycles. You can also board a bus from Manali to Leh or a shared taxi if you are on a tight budget or travelling alone. The Journey from Manali to Leh takes around two days. You can take your first stay at Keylong if you are planning to visit Trilokinath and Udaipur or you can stay at Sarchu where most of the people stay, you will get tents with mattress, quilts and food there.
The Manali-Leh Route:
The Rohtang Pass: Rohtang La (La means Pass in Tibetian) is the first pass on the route at a height of 3,978 m (13,050 ft). Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas around 51 km from Manali. It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Culturally you will get a feeling to be already in Ladakh, the few houses that you will see are built in Ladakhi style – unbaked mud bricks, whitewashed walls and flat mud roofs.
Gramphoo: Drive down the hills of Rohtang Pass and you will reach Gramphoo. This is a tri-junction. One road goes to Spiti and other to Koksar-Leh
Koksar: Boundaries to Lahaul starts here. Koksar is one of the villages in Lahaul and Spiti and is about 19 km from Rohtang Pass, Koskar is the coldest place in Lahaul.
Tandi: Located 7kms away from Keylong and here you will find last petrol pump on the route to Leh. It is suggested that you keep your tanks full here and take some spare fuel with you if possible.
Keylong: Keylong is the biggest town on the route. It is the administrative centre of the Lahaul and Spiti district, 126 km north of Manali and 120 km from the Indo-Tibetan border. The road after Keylong runs along with river Bhaga.
Darcha/Jispa: This is the starting point for treks to Zanskar Valley and the Shingo La. For mountaineers and trekkers the Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has built a hostel at Jispa.
Bara-lacha La: Bara-lacha la also known as Bara-lacha Pass, or Bārā Lācha La, is a high mountain pass in Zanskar range, connecting Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, at an altitude of 4,890 m (16,040 ft) above sea level. A track from Spiti meets the main highway here; travelers have used this pass for centuries for the same reason. The pass is also the watershed between Chenab and the Indus rivers. We are now driving above the tree line and in the rugged desert.
Sarchu: Sarchu (also known as Sir Bhum Chun) is a major halt point with tented accommodation; you will also get food here. It is situated between Baralacha La to the south and Lachulung La to the north. The journey, normally takes two days, so travellers and tourists use this spot as an overnight stop.
Taglang La: It is known as the second highest motor-able pass in the world and also the highest point this route at an elevation 5,328 m (17,480 ft). If you are not much physically fit, It is advised not to stop on the pass for much time as it could create serious breathing problems.
It is mostly downhill after Tanglang La. Rumtse will be the first human habitation that you will find after Keylong. The road now runs along River Gya, till it reached Upshi village, where it meets River Indus. It goes past the Karu, Stakna, Thiksey, Shey and Choglamsar village before reaching Leh town.
Below is the route map from Manali to Leh, you can also click on the link above to view larger map for detailed road distances and navigation.
Driving Road Distances: Manali-Leh Highway
Below are the Road Distances of Various Destinations on the route from Manali
|Manali (Starting Point to Leh)|
|The Rohtang Pass (el. 3,978 m or 13,050 ft)|
|Koksar (Chandra River)|
|Tandi (Petrol Pump). Road Junction, other road leads to Udaipur|
|Keylong (Headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti district)|
|Darcha (Starting point for treks to Zanskar Valley)|
|Bara-lacha La (el. 4,890 m or 16,040 ft)|
|Sarchu (Overnight stop in tented accommodations)|
|Lachulung La (el. 5,059 m or 16,600 ft)|
|Pang (Optional night halt, world’s highest army transit camp)|
|Tanglang La (el. 5,328 m or 17,480 ft)|
|Upshi (road junction on the Leh-Manali Highway)|
|Leh (your dream destination.. )|