One of the most well-known and adventurous road trips in the country is the stretch from Manali to Leh and Ladakh. A road trip from Manali to Leh Ladakh with a distance covering almost 500 km, offers you some of the most scenic places, snow clad mountains and the thrill to drive. The choice of transport is all left to you, but the adventure and the beauty are guaranteed.
Imagine moving through a rain washed, avalanche eroded and narrow roads across defying mountain passes, all the while braving nature in its most majestic yet unreliable way! To cover the entire stretch it would take you two whole days, which would test your motoring skills, patience and determination.
Read More : The Beautiful Leh
And at the end of it, you would find yourself in the ridge lined valley of Leh. Sounds very easy? Then prepare yourself well in advance to take this journey of your life. There are five mountain passes which one will need to cross ranging from 13,000 ft to 17,000 ft in height.
The roads climb and descend through innumerable ranges, passing through several unique geographical wonders. As the roads remain covered in snow, they are now getting ready to be reopened by mid June this year until the month of November.
Here we bring you 12 places that you can visit across the stretch to add on more colour to the journey.
About 160 km from Leh is this beautiful lake named Pangong. A drive to this lake would give you one of the most wonderful experiences. The serene and tranquil lake is not only a tourist's paradise but also a geologist's domain.
An interesting fact is that the lake does not have aquatic life because of the high salt content in the water. However, many ducks and gulls can be spotted on the lake's surface. The beautiful lake was featured in the climax scene of the blockbuster movie '3 Idiots'.
PC: Sreehari Sukumaran
Tso Moriri Lake
Tso Moriri is also known as the 'Mountain Lake'; it is located amidst the mountain ranges of Leh and it is a perfect place to relax because of its serenity. The lake is surrounded by the barren hills and the snow covered mountains form a beautiful backdrop to it.
Tso Moriri is inaccessible to public transport; one must contact one of the tour operators at Leh, who will arrange the permits. Make sure to keep several copies of the permits as there are multiple checkpoints which would like to keep a copy of the permit.
Royal Leh Palace
Leh Palace, also known as the 'Lhachen Palkhar', is the former palace of the Leh Kingdom. The 17th century palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Leh city. The royal palace of Leh overlooks the Namgyal hill lying atop the old Leh city.
It is an important hub of Buddhist culture and religion that provides a spectacular view. The palace is now in run-down condition and is maintained and restored by the Archaeological Survey of India.
An entry fee of INR 15 is collected from Indians and INR 100 from Foreign Nationals.
Zanskar is a high altitude semi-desert lying on the Northern flank of the Great Himalayan Range. Zanskar valley is the region lying between the two main tributaries of Zanskar river - Doda and Kargyag river.
Zanskar is very popular amongst adventure enthusiasts and it doesn't disappoint any of them. The river is one of the best sites for white water rafting in India with rapids of grade III and IV. Mountaineering and trekking are also very popular in this region.
Ride on the Leh - Kargil - Baltic National Highway, and you will reach the magnetic hill. The hill lies at a distance of 30 km from Leh, at an elevation of 14,000 ft above sea level. Many claim that natural or even supernatural forces are at work here, causing the magnetic attractions.
The Magnetic Hill is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope is an uphill slope. Thus, a vehicle left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill. The slope of the hill is an optical illusion.
Nubra Valley lies about 150 km North of Leh, where the rivers, Shyok and Siachen, meet to form a large valley. The valley separates Ladakh from the Karakoram Ranges and the famous Siachen Glacier.
To the Northwest of Nubra valley, lies the Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass of the 'Silk Route' fame, which connect Nubra with Xinjiang.
Panamik village is the last settlement in the northern end of the Nubra valley which is open to tourists. Nubra valley has a lot to offer and is a must do for everyone who travels to Leh.
Seated majestically on a hilltop in Chanspa, is a Buddhist white dome stupa called Shanti Stupa. It was built to promote world peace and prosperity and also to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism.
The stupa was built by the Japanese Buddhists and Ladakh Buddhists. The beautiful positioning of the stupa provides a panoramic view of the surrounding landscapes. This is one of the major reasons for people to visit the stupa apart from its religious significance.
The stupa also houses the relics of Buddha in its base.
It is the second largest town in Ladakh after Leh, it is located at a distance of 234 km from Leh. Kargil occupies a significant place in the Indian war history, and hence attracts a large number of tourists.
It is also a paradise for the adventure seekers, as it plays host to trekking and mountaineering. Other major attractions of the Kargil region include Sani, Rangdum, Zongkhul, Stonday and Mulbekh monastery.
PC: Saurabh Lall
At an altitude of 18,379 ft, Khardung La is claimed to be the highest motorable pass in the world. It is the doorway to Shyok and Nubra Valleys, the place offers amazing picturesque and attractive views of valleys.
Riders from across the world visit this mountain pass on their motorbikes, which gives you a refreshing and remarkable experience that will be cherished for a lifetime.
The best time to visit Khardung La is between May and October.
At an altitude of 3510 meters, Lamayuru Monastery is one amongst the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. It was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa in the 11th century and belongs to Red Hat Sect of Buddhism.
There are many legends associated with this monastery, one legend says that Lamayuru was a lake which drew up back into the mountains after the blessings of a Lama, in order to evacuate the site for the monastery.
The monastery is located in the Alchi village in Leh and was built by a great translator Guru Rinchen Zangpo between 958 AD and 1055 AD. At present, it is being monitored by the Likir monastery.
The monastery is a complex, which houses temples in four separate portions as the monuments were built at different times. It is one amongst the well-known monasteries in the area.
The walls of the monastery are adorned with paintings depicting the Hindu Kings and as well as various teachings of Buddhism.
PC: Steve Hicks
At a distance of 15 km from Leh on a hillock, the Shey Monastery is one of the most revered monasteries in the valley of Ladakh. The monastery was built in mid 17th century by King Deldon Namgyal in the memory of his late father Singay Namgyal.
The monastery is also known as Shey Palace as it served as a royal residence for a long time. It was once, a seat of the kings of Ladakh. At present, the monastery is noted for the giant copper statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
PC: Leva Yakupov