From onsite ; Manali-Leh Highway

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It’s the year 2017 and come the month of May, in the Northern Sector of the sub-continent a change occurs, the hold of the winter has diminished and the earth turns herself over to stretch a bit as the urge to open up the folds to welcome another 200 odd days of warm sun and greenery grows stronger. The glacial waters slowly trickle down increasing in vigor with every passing feet, the tender blades of grass stake their claim wherever the condition seem feasible while the slow process of formation of the soil which had become suspended since the past few months once again gets on track to make the most of what the creation has to offer.

Into this constant change, there is one more that is amalgated, souls with eyes peering far into the distance, bodies eager to take on what nature puts up in opposition, hearts thumping with anticipation and freedom, a dream formed in the mind’s eye constantly replayed. These souls are the frail yet vital additions to the frame that is created out here. This is the Legend of the Manali –Leh Highway and the tales of the those who set their heart and mind to travel on the stuff of Legend gathering together to give a marvelous ode to the determination and tenacity of India’s roadbuilders and maintainers of the yore. This article will delve briefly into the history, key role players and the various constituents that make up this supreme iconic Highway.

Manali-Leh Highway.  The highway with no number, built and maintained by the Border Roads Organization through two extraordinary monumental ongoing Projects: Project Deepak and Project Himank.

Project Deepak, raised in May 1961 under the aegis of BRO, primarily for construction of the Hindustan-Tibet Highway (this is something that I would be touching upon in another article). Over the years the jurisdiction of the project in Himachal Pradesh also now covers the Manali-Sarchu Sector which forms the first part of the Manali-Leh Highway.

Project Himank, raised in 1985, its charter to connect Ladakh with the Indian Subcontinent no matter how callous be the weather and nature conditions. Responsible for construction and maintenance of roads including few of the highest motorable roads in the world in the Ladakh sector especially in the areas of Tanglang La, Chang La, Marsimek La and Photi La. Nicknamed Mountain Tamers for their Indomitable Spirit, they comprise the men and machines that have over the past decades toiled on this highway with jurisdiction being from Sarchu to Leh. Note: La in Tibetan language means a mountain pass.

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Having covered in brief as to those who were responsible for the construction and maintenance of this highway, their tales of grit and glory can cover the entire article, only because there was a road here, one can travel through the heart of the mountain ranges. It really swells the heart to think of such a possibility and experience. The road, which was carved and cut through the mountain ranges stands testimony to the heart of the men and women who built it in the first place. Those who were not travelers but rather pioneers, who braved everything even their own lives to build something like this. Even today their hard work is the proof and testimony of the existence of this highway like no other in the Indian Subcontinent. They slog so that the highway stands against the weather and the elements that oppose. A mighty salute to them indeed. The Manali –Leh highway, 473 kms long starts from Manali in Himachal Pradesh and finishes in the town of Leh, capital of Ladakh. For sake of brevity would be discussing about the highway in terms of driving way points.

For those uninitiated, this highway is one of the most famous highways in the world. It offers a heady mix of adventure, natural beauty, adrenalin rush, solitude, sense of achievement to those who make their mark on it. Die hard road travelers dream of traversing this epic route at least one in their lifetime if not more. For many this dram is realized while for others it is still something that needs to be completed. This is not some regular isolated highway, for without preparation if one goes about the business of tackling it and things fall apart it can lead to tangible consequences to the traveler both in terms of safety as well as materialistically. Having said that with proper preparations it is one of lifetime experience. So let’s read on ….

As per me, the route is to be covered over a period of two days, can be stretched to three days. However, I will be dividing in two sectors, each to be covered in a single day.


Manali- Jispa

So the day starts at Manali, the picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the mighty mountain range at the northern edge of Kullu valley. The town has historically been the start point for the ancient trade route to Leh and beyond into Tibet. Manali also serves as the gateway to the Lahul and Spiti valley which is another great destination for nature and adventure conossiours.

The town is situated at an altitude of 2050 mts and is named after the sage Manu of the Treta Yuga. From Manali one needs to move ahead, on the left as one moves on beyond the outskirts of the town lies the Solang Valley, another destination way point offering some great views of the Rohtang Peaks. The first town that comes after leaving Manali is Gulaba which is 20 kms away and generally is the limit of road travel in winters when snow is dumped all the way from Rohtang till here. The road is narrow and single carriage way twisting through hamlets, small gardens, village shops while all the while climbing upwards as we move ahead towards Gulaba.

Elevation 2050 mts
Accommodation RIDE INN, Paramount Inn, various others to suit everyone


Hunger wants Multiple , recommend Johnson’s café/Chopsticks
Mobile Connectivity All networks including Data
Additional Info ILP needs to be taken from DC office for crossing Rohtang La ( article on that coming up soon )
Road Condition Manali roads are good but narrow


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Marhi.  After Gulaba as one moves ahead, the road by now is hugging the sheer mountain side with steep drops on the other side as it snakes ahead towards Marhi . The rider is getting acclimatized to the terrain that is coming ahead with each passing meter, for out here the margin of error is quite less as the narrow single carriageway demands intense concentration and careful controlled driving with assessment of what lies beyond the next turn which is not visible at the present. Marhi situated at an altitude of 3300 mts basically is a small way point on the way towards Rohtang La. There are few basic dhabas where one can have tea and hot food. In recent years, adventure sport too have started out here and the entire scene looks like a village fair in progress. However, come out here in offseason and one is greeted with spectacular views of huge mountains up ahead while the valley down below.


Elevation 3300 mts
Accommodation Sketchy at tea Houses
Hunger wants Basic hot meal
Mobile Connectivity Sketchy , all networks
Additional Info Recommend breakfast/lunch and proceed ahead. Adventure sports available
Road Condition Manali-Marhi is a single narrow carriageway esp after Kothi but in good condition


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Rani Nullah.      After Marhi as one moves ahead, the route starts to climb more steeply as the elevation increases dramatically, soon we are crossing Rani Nullah, which is a glacier point and come winter immense snow walls get erected here owing to the way the snow gets dumped out here by the western disturbances. It is this place where most of the day crowds go for clicking pictures as soon as the Highway gets opened for the season. This is also the region where the heavy vehicular rush implies a long traffic jam of several Kms. This rush is on account of the people wishing to reach Rohtang for a day outing and those who are proceeding towards Leh itself. Hence the trick is to leave very early from Manali  and well everyone actually is going to try this trick itself J

Rohtang La.        Post Rani Nullah, we finally come to the first pass of the route as well as the only pass of the day.Say hello to Rohtang La, 51 kms from the town of Manali , lies this place known as Pile of Corpses , indeed this seemingly looking docile pass is immensely deceptive and has been the harbinger of misfortune to many a traveler who gets stuck here owing to swirling banks of mist , tonnes of sudden snow which leads to closure of the road to Manali within a few hours . At an altitude of 3900 mts, that’s 1900 mts higher than Manali, one finds rolling banks of clouds and mist out here. The levels of fog witnessed out here reduces visibility to a couple of metres and the narrow roads and almost hair pin turns with oncoming traffic scares the living daylights of almost all drivers.It does not matter if he is a local or a out of state.  It sets the tone for what is coming ahead. As stated earlier, the golden rule is to start quite early from Manali in order to at least get ahead of the tourists who are visiting Manali and have on their itinerary a day visit to Rohtang. This enthusiasm of witnessing heavy snow during the months of April, May as soon as the permission is provided to open the Highway results in massive jams on the narrow stretch of road which is very dangerous, nothing can be worse than stranded in a jam on a narrow road with no room to maneuver. The blue sky in the morning or early afternoon is not a guarantee of what will happen in the evening or night, hence proper planning is very important when coming in the vicinity of Rohtang La.

Elevation 3900 mts
Road Condition Marhi-Rohtang is better than the previous sector in respect of maneuverability of Vehicles , however in heavy fog the hair pin bends create a mess


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Gramphoo.         As one moves ahead of Rohtang, the road slopes downwards and on the right one can see the massive Rohtang Peak, snow covered at all times of the year, the path is all downwards now and in a pretty bad shape, broken all the way till Koksar. But first we reach the legendary Gramphoo, where if one takes a right diversion he enters the Lahul Valley and moves into the network of the valleys of Lahul , Spiti , Pin and Lingti . However presently we are moving ahead. Gramphoo is at an elevation of 3200 mts, back in 2010 when I had come here, there were small dhabas where one could eat a hot meal but now, they are all gone.

Koksar. Moving ahead, after 17 kms  we reach the truck stop settlement of Koksar, a dusty settlement frequented by the GREF crews as well as trucks that make a mandatory stop here. The bridge on the river Chenab is as rickety as ever and needs careful attention all the time. In my opinion one can have a quick lunch here if needed and then move ahead. Koksar is an altitude of 3120 mts and is generally avoidable other than the mandatory lunch stop.

Elevation 3120 mts
Accommodation PWD Guest House
Hunger wants Basic North Indian meal
Mobile Connectivity Sketchy, all networks , No data connectivity
Additional Info It is recommended to move on rather than planning a night stay out here
Road Condition Rohtang to Koksar is a broken down stretch . Very dusty in the post monsoon months and in period May-Aug , the slush and heavy traffic demands careful driving as well as optimum vehicle performance .


Sissu.    Up ahead, the road improves substantially for a few kms . On the left one can see the mighty mountain ranges and valleys. Out here the rider is able to actually soak in the feeling of riding in the Himalayas. Till here, most of the traffic is bunched together but post Koksar, everyone spaces out and soon a personal space is formed around the traveler. Sissu comes up post 10 km an altitude of 3100 mts.

Elevation 3100 mts
Accommodation Triveni Gh
Hunger wants Basic hot meals
Mobile Connectivity Nil
Additional Info Pleasant village for evening walks
Road Condition Koksar to Sissu is tarred and a pleasure to drive on considering what one has come through

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Tandi.   Post Sissu, the road deteriorates as we move ahead, there is lot of construction crews of GREF out here for on the left side one can see the frantic activity of construction of the Rohtang Tunnel exit. The dust is everywhere as one is caked in it. This situation persists till one reaches Tandi, situated at an attitude of 2573 mts. Tandi became famous I would say not for the confluence of the Chadra and Bagha rivers but rather because it houses the final petrol pump on the Manali –Leh highway. The next fuel station is at Choglamsar on the outskirts of Leh town, 365 kms away. Almost everyone tanks up out here hence there is a waiting time, but then utilize that time to click a pic for posterity with the Indian Oil board standing proud in the middle of nowhere, definitely something iconic.

Elevation 2573 mts
Accommodation PWD Gh
Hunger wants At village ahead of IOC petrol pump
Mobile Connectivity Nil
Additional Info Fill up those spare fuel jerry cans , one will need ahead in case we get stuck at Baralacha La , Tanglang La
Road Condition Sissu to Tandi is once again broken down on account of the Rohtang Tunnel project , extremely dusty and would be slushy in May – Aug .

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Keylong.              As we move ahead, the road twists gently moving onwards, the pace by now is settled for we are in the late afternoon cruising ahead to Keylong. This iconic of all places nearby is on the banks of the Baga river and is a distt HQ too. There is sketchy mobile connectivity till Keylong and within the town the network is surprisingly quite good with data connection also being available. There are lots of stay options in Keylong comprising of Homestays as well as hotels. At an altitude of roughly 3000 mts, Keylong is a strong contender to terminate the journey for the day for the traveler reaches here by around late afternoon/early evening. However, I generally prefer to push ahead towards Jispa.

Elevation 3000 mts
Accommodation Changrabhaga HPTDC , Nalwa Gh
Hunger wants Home cooked food available
Mobile Connectivity Good , all networks including data connectivity
Additional Info Generally all tour operators stop here
Road Conditions Well laid tar road , pleasure to drive on

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Jispa.     Moving ahead after 27  Km we reach Jispa which is my preferred place to terminate the journey for the day. Jispa is also on the banks of the Bhaga river at an altitude of 3320 mts. The accommodation options are not very many compared to Keylong but that ensures that there is quiet and solitude along with the gorgeous vistas of seeing the sun setting on the towering mountains that encircle the valley floor. BSNL connectivity exists at Jispa.

Elevation 3320 mts
Accommodation Ibex Jispa , Padma Lodge
Hunger wants Excellent cuisine at above two hotels
Mobile Connectivity Good – all networks , data connectivity only BSNL
Additional Info Go for a walk to the village , stroll on the river bank
Road Conditions Well laid tar road , pleasure to drive on

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Today, the beginning has to be made before sunrise, for the route is long, perilous, strenuous, varying in altitude but breathtakingly beautiful. The traveler will reach the zenith of the mountains and then plunge into the depths, will travel on broken terrain at the head of dust clouds and cruise on a runway. Today is the day when he/she will experience what stuff legends are made of, but for now he has to make the beginning. So while the darkness still engulfs the earth and the sky is bluish with the hint of the approaching dawn, the machines are bought back to life and engines warmed up.

Darcha.                 First up as we leave Jispa is the settlement of Darcha, at an altitude of 3360 mts. Darcha will generally be crossed early in the morning and a hot tea out here would be most welcome. There is a police check post that makes a note of all those who travel beyond Darcha. Immediately after Darcha, as we leave the settlement behind we come to a left diversion, this route is one of the adventurous routes which takes one over the Shingo La (altitude 5091 mts) towards the Zanskar region and connects up at Chumik Nakpo village. In time this route will gain popularity among many but for now is a rarely used route by outsiders visiting the region. As we move ahead after crossing this diversion we head upwards, climbing steadily as the dawn too breaks over the mountains.

Elevation 3360 mts
Accommodation Tea houses
Hunger wants Baisc
Mobile Connectivity Sketchy
Additional Info  

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Deepak Taal.      Up ahead after 16 km we reach Deepak Taal, at an altitude of 3810 mts near the settlement of Patseo which had an ITBP camp. The still waters of the lake reflect the image of the surrounding peak and the glacier that feeds this lake. During the months of May-Aug, this lake wows everyone with its greenery and reflective visual. There are small dhabas (eatery) which serve basic foodies for those interested.

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Patseo. Crossing Deepak Taal we reach Patseo, at roughly the same altitude, the settlement serves the ITBP camp and the GREF camp which have transit accommodation for the personnel.

Zing Zing Bar.     As one moves ahead, the topography generally starts changing compared to the previous day, for now the road moves into the mountains as we climb steadily with multiple twists on the road. At an altitude of 4270 mts there is a single dhaba as on 2016 just ahead of the GREF campsite. Mainly IOC truckers stop here early in morning for a quick bite before taking on the mighty Baralacha La. In the tourist season there is a possibility of few eateries that come up to cater to the travelers. There is a landslide area just after the GREF camp which generally is a unreliable proposition in the months of May-Aug but stabilizes fairly well in the succeeding months. Hence one needs to cross over early while the winds are still and the water flow is minimal.

Elevation 4270 mts
Accommodation GREF camp
Hunger wants Elementary
Mobile Connectivity Nil
Additional Info Fill  up some hot tea in a flask for a tea break at Baralacha La
Road Conditions Jispa – Zing Zing bar is narrow , however pretty manageable , elevation is on the rise .

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Suraaj Taal.        Up ahead after crossing Zing Zing bar the route twists and moves on and after 20 km the traveler is greeted with a surprising visual of an turquoise green lake in the midst of huge snowcapped peaks and boulder ridden slopes. Welcome to Suraaj Taal, the second highest lake in India at an altitude of 4883 mts. The beauty of the lake and its sudden appearance surprises the traveler and leaves a long lasting impression. Do pause for some visuals however caution that the road is constructed on the mountain slope and is very narrow hence a stationary vehicle can create problems for those coming from ahead or behind. The lake is the source of Baga river which flows and unites with the Chandra river to eventually form the Chenab river as it passes through Kashmir.

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Baralacha La.     Only eight kms ahead and one reaches right at the heart of one of the mightiest and famous passes in Indian Subcontinent revered amongst the fraternity of road travelers. We are speaking about the mighty Baralacha La. This pass decides the fate of this highway and the closing time of the highway for any particular year. Not one to be taken lightly at an altitude of 4890 mts, this pass stands tall and mighty overseeing the entire landscape.

Baralacha La is different from the other high motorable passes, most of them are connected even in the winter months’ courtesy the Indian Army which have posts but out here the story is different. In the winter, this pass is totally cut off with no human settlement for miles around. Even in peak tourist season Baralacha La can experience sudden snowfall and get isolated. Transiting this pass in early season or in late October is a major risk with uncertainty factor. Driving skills and vehicle performance has to be at optimum to tide over an uncertain situation at Baralacha La.

Elevation 4890 mts
Road Condition Zing Zing bar to Baralacha La is narrow , twisty in places and uphill all the way .

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Killing Sarai.       Once we cross Baralacha La, the descend is composed of a number of twists and turns thereafter which we move ahead to a legend known as Killing Sarai. In the days of the yore, this place was known as the breaker of vehicles and GREF used to maintain a constant presence here to pull or push the vehicles. There is bridge here which used to stand when it wished and give away when it felt the mood set in. Consequently, vehicles used to ford the gushing waters coming from the nearby glacier in a vain hope to cross; hence the adage “Killer of Vehicles”. But now, those dreadful memories are receding, there is a sturdy bridge that caters to the requirement of bridging the space between both ends of the road and assist in allowing the vehicles to cross the glacial stream.

After Killing Sarai, the road moves staring ahead and the traveler reaches a kind of a plateau, it’s like coming out of one network of mountain ranges and finding space before the start of the next one. The traveler also has his/her first glimpse of the Tsarap Chu river flowing to the left, which flows towards the Zanskar region. The river near Sarchu presents a very pretty picture to those who chose to spend some time reflecting on its beauty.

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Sarchu. Coming ahead after covering a distance of 30 kms is Sarchu, a pretty open place but plagued by high altitude and bone chilling winds. Sarchu has a check post where in one has to enter the details prior to proceeding ahead. Additionally, there are camp sites prior to sarchu where one can stay in case of a requirement. In my advice, one has to stay in Sarchu only if there is a vehicle breakdown or a stoppage in travel plans for the high altitude (4290 mts) will in all likelihood impact very substantially on majority of those coming from lower altitudes like Jispa. However, if one is coming from Leh, Sarchu can be looked as a night halt. There are many photographic themes to shoot for the avid photographer out here when the grass is green and there are herds of livestock grazing upon in content frame of mind.

Sachu settlement offers option for food and refreshments as well as a stay in the tea houses if one wishes to. Once we move ahead, we cross the Tsarap Chu river over a bridge named Twing Twing and now we are entering yet another network of mountain ranges. Up ahead we cross a series of iconic legendary bridges built over mini waterslides known as Whisky Nullah and Brandy Nullah, but for now these are a mere shadow of their past dreadful glory. Up ahead we eventually reach a parting point and the Tsarap Chu turns left to moves towards Zanskar region while we embark on the legend of the Gata Loops, 24 kms after crossing Sarchu.

Elevation 4290 mts
Accommodation Red rocks Camp prior to Sarchu , Blue Pooy Camp
Hunger wants Excellent cuisine at above campsite
Mobile Connectivity Good – all networks , data connectivity only BSNL
Additional Info Wear additional clothing from afternoon onwards for the wind picks up , avoid alcohol.
Road Conditions Baralacha La to Sarchu comprises of broken down patches but pretty much manageable. As one approaches Sarchu , the road condition improves


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Gata Loops.        Gata Loops (at an altitude of 4630 mts), a series of 21 hairpin bends takes one straight into the heights, the traveler gains 1500 feet over a series of 21 bends, an unparalleled feat not replicated anywhere else in the subcontinent. One will see trails cutting across and between the loops, trying to shorten the distance but these are perilous and one miscalculation will result in the vehicle plunging straight down the mountain slope. The climb is strenuous and steep requiring concentration and focus.

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Nakee La.            After the culmination of the loops, a short distance ahead, one reaches Nakee La. The third of the high passes that the traveler crosses since Manali, at an altitude of 4740 mts, look around all one sees are mountains peaks within easy reach, prayer flags and mountain stones. There is no wildlife or vegetation out here, it is a windswept place with the presence of the Gods for company. Do stop here for a visual and prepare a chorten of Mani stones which are supposed to spread positive vibes and keep the spirits away in remote passes such as these.

After Nakee La we move downwards descending rapidly, the route is narrow and winding so keep the focus on the road. The descent reaches right till the depth of the valley floor and then the climb begins once again as we start ascending to the fourth pass of the Highway, the views are gigantic and as one looks back, the entire highway straddling the high mountain slopes and meandering its way can be seen. Truly a breathtaking visual, do try to capture these visuals for they will remind oneself of the magnitude of solitude and space through which the highway has been built.

Elevation 4740 mts
Road Condition Sarchu to Nakee La is pretty well laid out , the road has dips in between hence do not overspeed , as one approaches Gata Loops drive carefully and honk on the turns

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Lachung La.         Lachung La, 22 kms away at an altitude of 5079 mts is     quite nonassertive considering the height at which it is situated. Generally, by the time one reaches this pass, he/she has been on the road for more than 06 hours and the travel has affected the mind on a subconscious level, there has been grit determination and awe-inspiring spectacles that have been seen and felt. For now, the focus perceptly shifts to crossing these high mountain passes and reaching the city of Leh. This is the pass where one crosses the 5000 mt mark, and considering that its 5 kms straight up from the sea level, it is something that needs to be celebrated. so definitely stop for a while, click some visuals for the sake of posterity and then we move ahead.

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Pang.     By this time, the sun would be on its zenith and the harsh high altitude sun would be making its presence felt on every living being. The thoughts right now should be to keep oneself adequately hydrated as well as moving ahead because the next stretch is one of the most broken down of the entire highway as well as backbreaking on the vehicle and the occupants. We descend quite rapidly from Lachung La and soon enter a unique region where we come across huge porous mountains through which nature and wind have carved eccentric structures. The road by now travels on the valley floor and there is immense amount of mud and dust everywhere. It is advised to cover oneself as much as possible while travelling in this belt. Coming down to the valley level does not mean we have decreased in altitude, for we still are comfortably above the 4000 mt mark. After 23 kms and countless vibrations that have assaulted the vehicle and body we will reach Pang. The altitude reads 4600 mts and Pang is a welcome sight for almost everyone arriving from Manali side. The settlement has tea tents which serve basic hot food and tea which is the need of the hour for many. Most of the state transport buses also have a major halt at Pang. This place also houses the highest transit camp for the defense forces and hence medical facilities too are available.

Elevation 4600 mts
Accommodation Tea houses
Hunger wants Basic hot meal
Mobile Connectivity Nil
Additional Info It gets super cold in the night , spare fuel in jerry cans available
Road Condition Lachung La to Pang is once again totally broken down , dusty and narrow. The conditons in May-Aug would be slushy in between and lots of fine mud all around.


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More Plains.      After a short break and recharging the essentials, one is ready to move ahead. For ahead lies something special, a RUNWAY on HIGHWAY. The amazing geographical landscape and conditions have created various unique and awe inspiring visuals on the landscape. What lies up ahead is one of them. As we exit Pang we immediately start an upward climb and within a short time we are at the level of the surrounding mountain peaks and then we come to a arrow straight tar road in this flat top zone where the earth stretches in to the distance on the right while we have mountains on the left and in the middle of this we have a black Tar road leading into the horizon. Welcome to the iconic More plains, at an altitude of 4800 mts. The feeling is exhilarating especially after the bone numbing ride from Lachung La to Pang. The next 35 kms are pure bliss and my request is to stop for a while and take some visuals. Park your vehicles to the side of the road and just walk onto the plains that stretch in to the distance. It is a once of a life time experience to see such open vastness in the midst of the towering mountain ranges. Many get the temptation to burn the tires as they race on the inviting road hence the adage Runway on Highway but be cautious as the road does dip slightly in places and they can break the suspension of even a SUV. Also avoid driving on the plains because that would have a negative effect on the ecology of the grasslands in addition to ruining your vehicle too but click pics to your heart’s content for this indeed is a special place to make some memories.

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Debring.              As we approach the end of the MORE plains, we reach Debring at an altitude of 4800 mts, most will miss this small collection of tea houses in the blink of an eye but point to note is that here lies the turn off for going to Rupshu valley which houses the Tso Kar and Tso Moriri Lakes. But because one needs permit to visit hence it is recommended to move ahead to Leh and not take a turn off out here.

Elevation 4800 mts
Accommodation Tea camps
Hunger wants Elementary
Mobile Connectivity BSNL occasionally
Additional Info It gets freaky cold in the night


Tanglang La.       The road stars rising and soon we are climbing steadily, approaching the highest pass of the Manali – Leh highway, an grand icon in its own right, the angry one Tanglang La at an altitude of 5328 mts, this one is to be treated with utmost respect. Even if the sun is shining in full glory one will still shiver at Tanglang La. Claimed to be the second highest motorable pass in the world it has however been displaced by Marsimek La in the recent years. Do stop here and make that extra effort to click some visuals because the cold and wind will drive you back to the vehicles and harry you to move ahead but resist the urge and click. However, do not stay at Tanglang La for more than ten min or so partly because we still have a long way ahead and it will be late in afternoon when we arrive here and secondly the high altitude will take its toll if not moved ahead quickly.

Elevation 5328 mts
Road Condition Debring to Tanglang La is well laid down tar road , uphill all the time


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Rumtse.               As we descend from Tanglang La, the roads are surprisingly very good however steep hence careful focus and driving is essential. Now we are entering the Leh valley as we descend completely and reach the village of Rumtse at an altitude of 4260 mts and after driving 20 kms. It is a pleasant village and also offers some home stay options.

Elevation 4260 mts
Accommodation Limited Tea Houses /Homestays
Hunger wants Hot meals
Mobile Connectivity  BSNL
Additional Info Pleasant climate


Soon we will be crossing the villages of Sasoma, Gia,Nato, Miru and the road twists through these villages and is in a good condition. By now we have been on the road since early morning, fatigue and tiredness will have crept in. Hence it is important to focus even more as we approach the destination of Leh which is a couple of hours off.

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Upshi.   The next big town that we will reach is Upshi, 61kms from Tanglang La at an altitude of 3500 mts , and there is the police check post where we will need to register ourselves and also pay entry and wildlife tax.

Karu.     Post Upshi we will be gliding onwards towards Leh and reach Karu at a distance of 15 kms from Upshi which has a petrol pump where we can top up fuel if needed ,else as it will be dark by the time we arrive here it is wise to push on towards Leh.

Elevation 3400 mts
Accommodation multiple
Hunger wants North Indian and Tibetan
Mobile Connectivity BSNL post paid
Additional Info Suggest move ahead , Leh is just up ahead .Also turn off for Pangong Tso


Choglamsar.       Post Karu we will reach Choglamsar, which has a big army presence. In fact, post Karu we will be seeing substantial army presence in the entire Leh Valley. The road from Karu towards Leh during the daylight hours is one spectacular visual frame and in the days to come do take a drive out here in the evening or morning hours to click some spectacular and engrossing visuals.

Leh.       Finally, after driving 470 kms, one reaches the culmination of the Manali –Leh highway, one enters the town of Leh, heart of LADAKH. The highway will have definitely left its mark on the inner subconscious by the time one enters Leh and its presence will forever be printed on the inner being.

Elevation 3500 mts



Accommodation Multiple.
Hunger wants Excellent cuisine , recommend café Gsemo and the coffee shop at Ling Book Shop
Mobile Connectivity Postpaid BSNL. Sketchy data connection
Additional Info  
Road Conditions Rumtse to Leh is well laid out tar road with twists , passing through villages hence careful driving is the need of the hour

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  1. Break the entire highway into twos sectors or three sectors and cover each sector in a single day. Manali/Jispa; Jispa /Leh or Manali/Jispa; Jispa/Sarchu; Sarchu /Leh. ( But point to note is Sarchu is not recommended owing to high altitude) .
  1. Altitude Mountain Sickness affliction is a reality and it hits majority of individuals as we gain altitude very fast while the body needs time to acclimatize. Keep oneself hydrated all the time and no strenuous activity after the day’s ride is highly important. One can take Diamox tabs from Delhi itself if needed.
  1. Carry medication for Headaches, nausea.
  1. Cover the exposed part of body as much as possible both in daytime and at night. Shades for the eyes are mandatory.
  1. Avoid alcohol at night.
  1. The vehicle should be in optimum condition for the battering that it is going to be subjected. Ensure that it is at its peak optimum condition. For more on vehicle preparation please read the below link provided.
  1. Safe and responsible driving is the need of the hour every single moment. The concepts of overtaking, braking and acceleration on this highway is different from other highways. Patience is the KEY for a safe arrival at Leh.
  1. Avoid offloading so that one does not land up in a dire and unfavorable situation and ruin the trip to Ladakh.
  1. Keep a small checklist of places that you will be passing in order to understand the iconic journey in a much better manner.
  1. Finally, do not litter this region, let’s be responsible travelers.


I hope this deciphering of the highway will go a long way in helping and planning the grand journey that many amongst you will feel motivated to undertaken in the years to come.

Julley !!




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