Driving from Delhi to Leh, Ladakh

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There are many ways to reach Leh from Delhi, but the most enjoyable way is to do so by road. If you can drive the distance of about 1075 kilometers, taking at least 3-4 days, it is sure to be an experience you will cherish for life. And try to drive yourself; there is a different thrill to it than being driven by someone else.

I did so myself in July 2008, and the journey came with some learnings as it has its own challenges. Here is a practical plan you could follow to get from Delhi to Leh:

Day 1:
Leave for Kullu or Manali. It will take about 12 hours to cover the 550 km to Kullu via Ambala, Chandigarh, Roopnagar (Ropar), Bilaspur and Mandi. You could carry on for another 50 km to Manali. A night halt in either of these towns is fine.

Day 2:
Head for Jispa, located about 145 km from Manali via Rohtang Pass. The 51 km drive from Manali to Rohtang can take about three hours; it is a steep ascent, the road quality is below par and traffic can halt at places due to landslides or broken down vehicles. Continue a further 65 km to Keylong, but don’t forget to tank up at Tandi (about 9 km before Keylong) as the next fuel station is only 30 km before Leh. (It is always a good idea to carry some extra fuel in a jerry can in case Tandi is closed or out of fuel, or you decide to take some detours). About 16 km from Rohtang, also watch out for a junction where you keep left; the right turn will take you to Lahaul and Spiti Valley. From Rohtang, the drive to Jispa can take about three hours. But do provision for a lunch break too; your options are either the shacks along the way or some restaurants in hotels in Keylong.

Jispa, located at about 10,890 feet, is a strongly recommended stop to get acclimatized to the subsequent higher altitude regions you would be staying at in Ladakh. You may even be advised to spend two nights here to get better acclimatized, but the jury will be out on this one for a long time as altitude sickness follows few rules and trends; the weakest looking of the pack might sail through, while the highly experienced travellers may just take ill anytime.

Day 3
Now this is the tricky part: Do you make a run for Leh, take a night halt at Sarchu about 87 km from Jispa or camp somewhere between Sarchu and Leh? Here are some points to consider:

  • At about 14,200 feet altitude, Sarchu is more acclimatization than you may need. It is very cold here, with strong windy conditions giving even camp managers who reside there constant headaches. Accommodation is all tented, and toilets are not attached, and it is not a cheerful thought walking out in the middle of the night with howling winds around. But Sarchu is also the only place between Jispa and Leh where you can organized accommodation; your only other option is to pitch tent on the way or crash at any of the shacks on the way who provide a bed for Rs. 50.
  • You can make a run for Leh from Jispa, about 325 km away. It should take you about 11 hours but here is a warning: You may not want to be driving in the dark should you get delayed due to traffic snarls, road blocks, breakdowns or any other reason. And the drive from Jispa to Leh is worth stopping many times over to admire the natural features as well as to take pictures. Why would you want to keep moving when the whole idea of a road trip to Leh was to enjoy the drive?

I personally fell ill at Sarchu, and had a tough night with its symptoms. The next day too was a difficult time driving, and it was only when I received medical attention and a dose of oxygen from an Army doctor at Pang on the way to Leh did I feel normal.

What would I do in the future and suggest you do too? Stay at Jispa, and make a very early start (say at 5:00 am) and make a run for Leh. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep to be well rested for the long drive ahead. It may be safe to assume that the chances of falling ill, even when going through high altitude areas, are low as long as you keep moving. Starting early will give you a cushion for delays and you can still make it to Leh while there is daylight. Even if night falls, but if you are within 60-70 km of Leh, it is all right as the terrain is mostly flat and more densely populated (in case you need assistance).

Day 4
You need this day in case you take a night halt between Jispa and Leh. Or if you had stayed at Jispa for two nights.

Going to Tso Moriri before Leh
If you intend going to Tso Moriri en route to Leh, it is a long drive from Jispa and a night halt in Sarchu may be required. But remember, Tso Moriri is at an even higher altitude than Sarchu and you may feel ill as some travellers do. Do take your precautions.

Some more points to consider

  • All driving times mentioned above are without a provision for stopping to take photographs.
  • When you are short of time, like when you have a full day drive planned, it may be a good idea to carry some food packed at the last hotel you stayed in. You will then not waste time looking for food, and be able to use that saved time for photographs or to make up for lost ground in case of unforeseen delays.

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About the author

Ajay Jain

Ajay Jain is a travel writer, photographer, and blogger. He has written many books, and publishes and online mag and a travel channel too. Contact him at ajay@ajayjain.com.

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410 Comments

  • Tarun

    Hello,
    Me and my friend both leaving to leh on may 30th on mercedes C class Benz, any body interested …

     
  • Gaurav yadav zaildaar

    Hi, Tarun I would like to join u ,

     
  • Gaurav yadav zaildaar

    9466024422 , I m interested

     
  • Umang

    Hi,

    We are 4-5 ppl doing a road trip from Chd-Srinagar-leh-Manali-Chd starting in early 2nd week of june and will be back by end of 3rd week. If anyone is planning around the same time, we can exchange our numbers and probably drive together. It could be more fun as well as help to each other.

     
  • sidharth

    Hi Mitlesh, me and my girlfriend are interested togo to Leh in the month of June. We can tag along with you guys… please call on 8373900898 to discuss further. Regards,Sid

     
  • subodh

    HEY WE WENT TO LADHAK IN 2007 THAT WAS AMAZING WE WENT IN SANTRO . WE LOVED THE ROAD ESPECIALLY PAGAL NAL .THAT WAS CHALLENGING TRIP . ANY CAR IS GOOD IF U R A GOOD DRIVER .

     
  • subodh

    HEY WE WENT TO LADHAK IN 2007 THAT WAS AMAZING WE WENT IN SANTRO . WE LOVED THE ROAD ESPECIALLY PAGAL NALA .THAT WAS CHALLENGING TRIP . ANY CAR IS GOOD IF U R A GOOD DRIVER .

     
  • Ranjan chaudhary

    We are leaving delhi on 7th june for leh and our trip will be del – jammu – srinagar- kargil- leh- manali-delhi. If anyone is interested in joining us on the way, can contact us.

     
  • subodh

    hey well i m going ladhak in my NANO with two friends on 12th june .it will be a challenge for NANO .

     
  • Intrested for a trip to leh ladkah on the month of july.
    If anyone planing to go please write to me

     
  • Umang

    Hi Ranjan,

    Looks like our dates and travel route match quite a lot except that we’ll be starting from Chandigarh on 7th. Please share your contact details or reach me ASAP at itsumang@gmail.com so we can discuss further and collaborate. :-)

    Also if anyone else too is travelling at this time please feel free to reach out but soon as the dates are not far away.

    Looking forward to an exciting lifetime trip! :-)

    Cheers,
    Umang

     
  • Sumeet

    Hi guys. Me n my hubby have plannedfor a trip to ladakh from june 4 to around 14th. We ll b going by road in our maruti 800. Anyone going during dis time period can contact us at my no. 09803031015

     
  • Tanuj Taneja

    Hi guys.
    We are 2 boys on two motorbikes leaving on 15th june from Chandigarh for 10 to 12 days. It would be great to have more company. If you are outgoing are would like to discuss traveling together please call 8198986585

     
  • Avneet

    Hi guys..
    Me and my wife are planning to go to leh from delhi this week by our own car grand i10. if any family is interested to join us can contact on my mobile number. 08447393236.contact asap.

     
  • Anil Rajput

    I have fixed date 18 July 2014 to leave for Manali will stay at Jispa, Leh, Pangong, Khardong-La, Alchi, Kargil, Drass Valley, Srinagar, Shopian, Rajouri( Mughal road ) Jammu , back to Delhi on 4 August , we are four in a Scorpio self driven , any one want to join us with or without vehicle is welcome .

     
  • capt MS Negi

    ETD 3jul,14.route-Kalpa-Kaza-Kunzum Pass-Kelong-Pang-LEH and back.veh scorpio.any one welcome to join

     
  • SANJEEV SHARMA

    ME AND MY FEMALE FRIEND ARE PLANNING FOR A TRIP TO LEH-LADAKH BY ROAD SOMETIME MID OF JULY 2014 IN OUR QUANTO-Nick named OPTIMUS (MAHINDRA).
    LOOKING FOR A COUPLE TO ACCOMPANY US.
    IF INTERESTED , PLEASE CALL ME AT 9910903058

     
  • Vinod Chauhan

    We will move from delhi on 17th july 2014 we are only four person yet so anybody can join us or we can join you so anyone planing to go leh ladakh by bike then plz contact us 09854084574

     
  • Vinod Chauhan

    hiii Florance Sonowal

    Can i know the date because i am from guwahati and i am planing from Delhi

     
  • ravi wadhwani

    hello eveyone..
    iam also planning to discover leh laddakh so please
    anyone tell me about the trip.

     
  • P.K.Saxena

    anybody going to leh in 2nd week of july

     
  • subodh saluja

    Hii… we 2 people are planning for road trip delhi-leh by our own swift car in this july ,
    If anyone intrested in accompany then contact

    9911049966

     
  • subodh kumar

    hi subodh if ur going to leh in ur swift car it will be challenge for u as a driver. if its a first trip to leh . i went on 12th june in my i10 car it was a excellent………tour .if u need any tips pls let me know. my no. 8800213489.delhi

     
  • Hey avneet…is i10 fine to go to ladakh n pangong lake….many people have told us not to go by i10….please let me knw as soon as possible coz we will b going on 21 july

     
  • Ravi kant Tyagi

    M willing to go ..
    Anyone interested

     
  • subodh kumar

    THERE WAS ONE PAGAL NALA .2010. BUT NOW THERE WERE 10 PAGAL NALA .SO BE CAREFUL WHEN U CROSS THESE

     
  • Neeraja

    Hi,

    My husband and I are planning to do a road trip to leh ladakh in 4th week of July. We want to take delhi-manali-leh-kargil-srinagar-delhi route. We plan to start on 20th morning from Delhi and reach back Delhi by 29th afternoon. We are looking for partners for this trip as it would be more enjoyable with a group. Details can be discussed later.If anybody has plans to travel on same dates kindly post a comment. We can discuss it further by sharing our contact numbers. FYI, we are from Bangalore.

     
 

 

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