“Traversing the Himalayan Highways: A Comprehensive Guide from Delhi to Ladakh”

Embarking on a road trip to Ladakh is an adventure etched in the aspirations of many, transcending mere conversations to a tangible journey through mesmerizing landscapes. For those seeking the complete Ladakh experience, the expansive highways unfold the jaw-dropping beauty of the terrain, winding curves, and snow-clad passes, making it a pilgrimage for adventure enthusiasts.

However, the allure comes with a caveat – Ladakh’s highways operate within a limited timeframe each year. This temporal window adds an extra layer of motivation for road-trippers, presenting two key routes: the Manali-Leh highway and the Srinagar-Leh highway. Notably, the former shuts down from late September to May, while the latter closes from early November to April.

Delhi to Leh by Bus

Delhi to Leh Bus via Manali: This epic journey, rivaling few in the region, commences from the bustling Delhi at 216 meters elevation, ascending to sky-high passes of 5000 meters. Covering 1100 kilometers, the trip spans six states and Union Territories, taking travelers through Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh. Operable from June to September, the HRTC bus, the most economical choice at around INR 1400, traverses an arduous yet scenic route.

Route: ISBT Delhi → Chandigarh → Manali → Keylong → Jispa → Baralacha La → Sarchu → Nakee La → Lachulung La → Pang → Tanglang La → Upshi → Karu → Leh.

Bus Availability: HRTC buses operate post the Manali-Leh highway opening, providing an unpredictable journey with potential stops in Keylong for the night.

Tips for the Journey: Expect discomfort and minimal services. Acclimatization is manageable, but carrying altitude sickness medication is advisable. Some travelers break the journey in Keylong for a day for additional rest.

Delhi to Leh Bus via Srinagar: For those seeking adventure from the other side, the journey from Delhi to Leh via Srinagar unfolds a distinct route. Spanning 1230 kilometers over 3-4 days, this option involves a two-part trip with a bus ride from Delhi to Srinagar followed by the exciting Srinagar-Leh leg.

Route: Delhi → Jammu → Srinagar → Sonmarg → Zoji La Pass → Drass → Kargil → Mulbek → Lamayuru → Saspol → Leh.

Bus Availability: JKSRTC provides various seat options with daily departures from Dal Lake at 8 am.

Tips for the Journey: This alternative route is chosen when the Manali-Leh highway is closed, with fewer reported altitude sickness cases. Security concerns are minimal.

Delhi to Leh in Car

Opting for a road trip in a personal vehicle presents two routes:

From Delhi to Leh (via Manali): The journey passes through Delhi → Karnal → Mandi → Manali → Jispa (via Rohtang Pass) → Sarchu → Tanglang La → Leh. This is a challenging drive, suitable for experienced drivers with well-serviced 4WD SUVs. Hatchbacks can face challenges, especially during June and July.

From Delhi to Leh (via Srinagar): The route is Delhi → Amritsar → Jammu → Srinagar → Sonmarg → Zojila Pass → Drass → Kargil → Lamayuru → Saspol → Leh. This route offers better roads, with Zojila Pass being the only tricky section.

Taking a Taxi

Taxi from Manali: Private taxis from Manali cost around INR 25,000 to 30,000. Shared taxis are a budget-friendly alternative, ranging from INR 2000 to 3000. Note that taxis from Manali can only run on the Manali-Leh highway.

Taxi from Srinagar: Private taxis from Srinagar cost around INR 15,000 to 18,000 for a one-day ride to Leh. Shared taxis, costing INR 2500 to 3000, have limited stops and take 18-20 hours.

Delhi to Leh in Motorbike

Delhi to Leh via Manali: The popular route, open from June to September, passes through Delhi → Manali → Sarchu → Pang → Leh. Bikes are available for rent in Karol Bagh, Delhi, with conditions restricting travel beyond the Manali-Leh highway.

Delhi to Leh via Srinagar: Remaining open longer than the Manali-Leh highway, this route covers Delhi → Ludhiana → Jalandhar → Jammu → Srinagar → Kargil → Leh. Bikes can be rented in Karol Bagh or Srinagar, with similar travel restrictions.

Key Considerations for Bike Rentals:

  • Route and Restrictions: Rented bikes have specific route limitations; it’s essential to adhere to these rules.
  • Cost: Prices vary, with Royal Enfield options ranging from INR 1300 to 2000. A security deposit is also applicable.
  • Petrol Pumps: Plan for refueling at Tandi and Karu on the Manali-Leh route. Srinagar-Leh offers more regular petrol pump intervals.
  • Mechanics: While hiring a mechanic is an option, mechanics and puncture shops are available in key locations like Marhi, Khoksar, Keylong, Darcha, Sarchu, and Upshi.

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