Road Trip to Leh & Ladakh

A road trip to Leh and Ladakh is the ultimate thirst quencher for the adventure junkie. On the one hand, it is a test of one’s grit and patience to drive through dangerous mountainous roads at perilous heights reaching even beyond 18,000 feet, much of which is not even motorable, while on the other hand it is a photographer’s delight to drive through some of the most beautiful and picturesque terrain in India and perhaps the world.

Me and a friend did a road trip to Leh and Ladakh from Chandigarh in August 2013. The trip lasted 10 days and we covered both the famous Manali-Leh highway on our way to Leh as well as the Srinagar-Leh highway on our way back to Chandigarh. In Ladakh, we covered the usual spots such as Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley and Zanskar Valley.

Ladakh road trip

Here’s the complete itinerary of the trip:

Day 1:

  • Departed from Bengaluru for Chandigarh at 9.20 AM via Indigo Airlines flight and arrived in Chandigarh at 1.55 PM
  • Lunch in Chandigarh at a local restaurant
  • Departed towards Manali at 4 PM in a Chevrolet Tavera hired in Chandigarh
  • Dinner somewhere near Pandoh Dam at 9 PM

Day 2:

  • Arrived in Manali at 2 AM, checked in to hotel and rested for the night
  • Woke up at 8 AM, got fresh and had breakfast at Mall Road in Manali
  • Local sightseeing in Manali (visited Hidimba Devi Temple and did paragliding in Solang Valley)
  • Lunch at Solang Valley at 3 PM
  • Depart towards Jispa via Rohtang Pass at 4 PM
  • Dinner in Keylong

Manali and Rohtang Pass

Day 3:

  • Arrived in Jispa at 12 AM and checked in to a tent camp hotel
  • Had a round of drinks by the fireside and then rested for the night
  • Woke up at 8 AM, got fresh and had breakfast in Jispa
  • Departed towards Leh at 10 AM
  • Had lunch at a roadside dhaba somewhere after Bharatpur Tent Colony at 1 PM
  • Had dinner at a roadside dhaba somewhere near Thikse Monastery around 9 PM
  • Reached Leh around 11 PM and checked in to Hotel Tso-Kar in Leh


Keylong and Jispa

Day 4:

  • Woke up at 9 AM and had breakfast and gave our documents to the hotel’s Manager to obtain Inner Line Permits for us (these are required to visit the frontier areas such as Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake)
  • Took rest in the room till Manager returned by 12 PM with Inner Line Permits
  • Had lunch at a local restaurant
  • Departed towards Nubra Valley via Khardung La Pass around 1 PM
  • Arrived at Khardung La Pass around 4 PM and finally in Nubra Valley around 6 PM
  • Dinner and overnight stay in Nubra Ethnic Camp, another tent camping resort in Nubra Valley

Khardung La PassNubra Valley

Day 5:

  • Woke up at 9 AM and had breakfast at the camp itself
  • Did sightseeing and twin-humped camel ride in Nubra Valley from 10 AM onwards
  • Left back for Leh around 12 PM
  • Reached Leh around 5 PM and did some local sightseeing (visited Shanti Stupa)
  • Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight stay in Hotel Tso-Kar

Leh city

Day 6:

  • Woke up at 6 AM and had breakfast at a local restaurant
  • Left for Zanskar Valley for river rafting at 7 AM
  • Returned back to Leh in evening and continued local sightseeing (visited Leh Palace)
  • Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight stay in Hotel Tso-Kar

Day 7:

  • Woke up at 8 AM and had breakfast at a local restaurant
  • Departed for Pangong Lake at 9 AM
  • Arrived in Pangong Lake around 1 PM
  • Had lunch at a local dhaba and left for Leh at 4 PM
  • Reached Leh at 8 PM and had dinner at a local restaurant and overnight stay in Hotel Tso-Kar

Pangong Lake

Day 8:

  • Woke up at 8 AM and had breakfast at a local restaurant
  • Left for Srinagar at 9 AM via Srinagar-Leh highway
  • Stopped at Kargil War Memorial and Magnetic Hill on the way
  • Passed via Kargil, Drass and Zoji La Pass
  • Lunch and dinner at local dhabas en route
  • Reached Srinagar at 11 PM and overnight stay in Srinagar at a local hotel

Srinagar Leh Highway

Day 9:

  • Woke up at 9 AM and had breakfast in the hotel
  • Departed for Chandigarh via Jammu at 10 AM
  • Lunch at a local dhaba on Srinagar-Jammu highway somewhere after Patni Top
  • Reached Chandigarh at 11 PM and checked in to a local hotel

Day 10:

  • Woke up at 10 AM and had breakfast at a local restaurant
  • Departed for Chandigarh Airport at 12 PM and had lunch en route
  • Departed from Chandigarh for Bengaluru at 2.25 PM via Indigo Airlines and arrived back in Bengaluru at 6.55 PM

Few key points to remember:

  1. If driving from Delhi or Chandigarh to Leh and back, remember that you will require at least 10 days to cover all the important places comfortably, because (a) the roads to and from Leh (both Manali-Leh highway and Srinagar-Leh highway) are in poor condition and the journey is therefore arduous and time consuming, and (b) travel from Leh to both Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake takes 4-5 hours one way and once again the roads are in poor shape. Overall it takes a toll on the body.
  2. If you are flying to Leh directly, then you can save a few days and use the time saved to explore more places in and around Leh.
  3. On arrival, remember to keep first day off for acclimatization. This is especially true if you fly to Leh instead of taking the land route.
  4. Inner Line Permits for visiting Pangong Lake and Nubra Valley are not required anymore, however please confirm the same in Leh before departing for these places. If the Permits are required, then you have to apply for those from the DC’s office as soon as you arrive in Leh. You need not apply in person and can ask your hotel’s Manager or some local travel agency to get it done for you. It takes a couple of hours.
  5. Don’t take out-of-state taxis for local sightseeing in Leh. The local taxi union apparently doesn’t allow them to travel around. Private cars are fine, but the taxi union guys are a bunch of rowdies and you could get unlucky.
  6. It is recommended to cover Pangong Lake first before traveling to Nubra Valley, as for the latter you have to pass via Khardung La Pass which is a very high altitude area and causes breathlessness. By covering Pangong Lake first, you give your body more time to acclimatize.
  7. Remember to withdraw as much money and fill your fuel tank in Leh itself. This is because ATMs and fuel pumps are few and far outside Leh. Do remember to carry spare fuel in a canister to avoid running out of fuel and being marooned in the middle of nowhere!
  8. In Nubra Valley, you can go upto Hunder and Diskit which are close to the Siachen base camp. Going beyond these points depends on your luck and whether the Army allows it. In Pangong Lake, you can go up to Chushul which is close to the China border.
  9. Zanskar is not only famous for river rafting in the summer, it is also famous for the Chadar ice trek in winter.



  1. WizmantraWizmantra04-30-2016

    You are awesome man.
    Leh is going to be my next destination.

  2. VishalVishal04-18-2016

    very informative.
    Thanks for writing this blog.

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