An Epic Road Trip to Ladakh from Delhi | Ladakh Road Trip planning, routes & tips

First Published on July 29, 2017

Through the snowy Himalayas of Jammu
Past the green valleys of Kashmir
Along the zigzag curves of Manali
Finally returning to Delhi

Such was my epic road trip to Ladakh! 
12 days of captivating scenery, crazy adventures & memories of lifetime. 

One of the most common questions that I get as a traveler is – Which is the best road trip you have done – especially in India? My answer is a constant – it is the Delhi to Ladakh road trip done over 12 days. In fact, it is one circuit that is almost always included in the best road trips in India. The sheer diversity of the landscapes, steep climbs, off-road experiences, and interesting pit-stops on the Ladakh trip by road is what makes it so memorable and unique. Truly speaking, this is why, even in my Leh Ladakh guide, I have highly recommended a road trip to Ladakh.

A complete guide to planning a road trip to Ladakh
A complete guide to planning a road trip to Ladakh

While the Ladakh road trip sounds ethereal, it is not a very straightforward one. Its tough terrestrial conditions do require a fair bit of preparation – which ranges from health precautions to getting the right vehicle and pre-booked stays to spend your evenings. You will need to head out at the crack of dawn on most days to cover long distances on this Ladakh trip by road. However, trust me when I say it is going to be all worth it. Those 12 days of my own Delhi to Ladakh road trip were so memorable that given a chance – I would do it all over again. Maybe though this time – it would be a Bangalore to Ladakh road trip. 🙂

This guide to an epic road trip to Ladakh is a memoir of sorts – I will be sharing my own day-wise itinerary of the road trip to Ladakh, the misadventures that I ran into (and they were fun!), and lessons learned from my own experience. The Ladakh road trip guide will also, include all the possible routes that you can take from Delhi to Leh, their pros and cons and the best time to do this trip. In short, it will help you will all that you need to plan a road trip to Ladakh. So, let’s begin with a quick introduction to our main destination Ladakh.

About Ladakh

Leh City in Ladakh
Leh City in Ladakh

Simply put, Ladakh is like the crown of India. Next to the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, this is a region that is bound by different mountain ranges on all sides. Naturally, it has a name that befits Ladakh – Land of High Passes. The entire region is quite remote and you will find a lot of Tibetan settlements here. While traversing through the region. you will need to be careful as you are treading along the borders of our neighboring countries. The largest city here is Leh followed by Kargil. The entire region is at a high altitude and visiting here is bound to give you a very different perspective of India. I can promise you that this is one unexplored and stunning part of India.

Ladakh Travel Guide

READ THIS ESSENTIAL LADAKH TRAVEL GUIDE

Road trip or not, if you are traveling to Ladakh, you will need this ultimate guide to Leh Ladakh. It captures everything – from what to see, where to stay, best time to visit and more.

Essential tips for a Ladakh trip by road

Before you get deeper into the details of this road trip to Ladakh, I urge you to first read my detailed travel guide to Ladakh. This has a lot of information on a basic visit to Ladakh including a packing list, the best time to visit Ladakh, the Inner-Line Permits etc. The Ladakh travel guide will help you better prepare for your entire trip. However, in addition to those tips, do make a note of these specific ones pertaining to a Ladakh trip by road.

The extreme terrestrial conditions of Leh Ladakh require a fair bit preparation for a road trip
The extreme terrestrial conditions of Leh Ladakh require a fair bit preparation for a road trip
  • Choice of Vehicles – The best car for a Ladakh trip would be a 4×4 drive like a Scorpio, Jeep, Thar etc. In the case of bikes, I have heard that the best ones to enjoy a Delhi Ladakh road trip would be sturdy bikes like Bullets or Royal Enfields. Given the high altitudes, steep roads and in some cases, no roads at all, you need a vehicle with high pick-up capacity and an ability to handle off-roading.
  • Expert Driver – Remember these are not straightforward roads. You will encounter narrow ghats, pin curves, tunnels, and slippery mountainous stretches – all through the trip. You need to be an expert driver or at least hire one who can take you around safely.
  • Pre-trip servicing of the vehicles – Irrespective of whichever vehicle you choose, ensure that you have serviced it well before you start from Delhi. The large lonely stretches on this road trip to Ladakh are devoid of garages and sometimes, even fuel stations. You really do not want to get stuck owing to some vehicle issue.
  • Tool Kits – Ensure you have your puncture repair kits, neon signals and other essential tools required for a smooth car experience packed and ready.
  • Snacks for the road – a definite must. Once you leave Jammu or Manali (depending on the route you take for your Ladakh trip), you will not have many restaurants or cafes on the road. Keep a lot of water with you, especially to help you with acclimatization.
  • Battery packs & chargers – Cannot stress enough about these. You will need this for your mobiles, which do tend to drain faster when you have your GPS on and also, owing to the cold weather.

These road trip tips are quite important for this Ladakh trip. There are, of course, the general tips that I have listed here which are also, applicable. Consider using this post as your final checklist for this road trip.

Planning the best routes for your Delhi to Ladakh road trip

Map of  the Road Trip from Delhi to Ladakh
Map of the Road Trip from Delhi to Ladakh

There are two main routes that you can take to get to Ladakh from Delhi – the Srinagar to Leh route and the Manali to Ladakh route. If you are doing a Delhi Ladakh round trip, then you can actually use both the routes – one while going and the other while returning from Ladakh. This is how I had done 12 days of my Ladakh road trip.

Many people also prefer a one-way road trip to Leh Ladakh while taking the flight as an option to either get to Leh or return back from it. Given that scenario, let me give you a gist of the pros and cons of the two routes so that you can make a wise choice. I have also, clearly recommend which of these routes are better suited for your onward or return journey from Delhi.

Road trip to Ladakh from Delhi via Srinagar

Ladakh road trip via Srinagar
Ladakh road trip via Srinagar

The total distance from Delhi to Ladakh via Srinagar is around 1035 km and it takes around 22 hours to get to Leh. The route goes through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu, Srinagar, Sonmarg and Kargil – allowing you to see the best of Kashmir valleys with its snow-capped Himalayas, verdant valleys and the pretty glaciers melting into gushing rivers. This is definitely a better route to take, especially if you are on your way to Leh from Delhi and you will soon see why.

The Pros of a road trip from Srinagar to Leh

  • The driving distances are fairly balanced, allowing you to reach the bigger cities well in time for your night halts.
  • The rise in altitude is gradual, allowing you to better acclimatize and avoid AMS.
  • The roads are not so deserted and have quite a few petrol bunks as well as small towns along the way.

The Cons of the Srinagar to Leh road trip

  • The slightly volatile situation in Srinagar can sometimes create a hassle. However, one can always choose to skip Srinagar and drive past it to Sonmarg.
  • Slightly less adventurous in terms of the drive as compared to the Leh-Manali route.

Road trip to Ladakh from Manali

One of the routes on the road trip to Ladakh from Manali takes you through Rohtang pass
One of the routes on the road trip to Ladakh from Manali takes you through Rohtang pass

If you actually look at the distance of a Ladakh trip from Delhi via Manali, it will definitely seem lesser. With around 770 km, you might assume that you will reach Leh faster. However, this isn’t the case. Owing to the steeper climb, you are likely to take as long as the Srinagar stretch to get to Leh. No doubt that the new Atal Tunnel has made this stretch easier but you definitely will be missing out on some of the most stunning views of Rohtang pass if you take the tunnel. After all, the whole point of the road trip is to enjoy the passing vistas.

This route is best suited for your journey from Leh to Delhi.

The Pros of a road trip from Manali to Leh

  • The driving distance though shorter tends to be a little more strenuous. For one, the climb is steeper and two, there are longer stretches to cover before a night halt – especially the Keylong to Leh stretch.
  • One can save around 3.5 hours if they take the newly constructed Atal tunnel from Manali to Keylong instead of Rohtang pass.

The Cons of the Srinagar to Leh road trip

  • The rise in altitude is steep, even without Rohtang pass. One has to be extremely careful when traveling toward Leh.
  • The roads can be quite isolated with just army camps and a few Maggi tents along the way.
  • There are a lot of ghats and loops on this route. One needs to be very careful while driving.
Klook.com

A day-wise Leh Ladakh road trip itinerary

With Delhi as your start point, you can pretty much follow the same Ladakh road trip itinerary that I did. Keep aside 12 days for this end-to-end journey – one that I promise will be one of the best road trips that you can do. Going forward, I am going to detail the entire road trip to Ladakh from Delhi in a day-wise manner, giving you enough details on what to see along the way and where to book your night halts. As mentioned in the above section, I used both routes to do this trip. For my onward journey from Delhi to Leh, I used the Srinagar route. The Manali route is what I used for my return trip.

So fasten your seat belts and embark on this stunning Delhi to Ladakh road trip.

Day 1 of the Ladakh Road Trip – Delhi to Jammu

From Delhi - Murthal - Ludhiana - Pathankot - Jammu
Distance: 588 Kms
Drive Time: 9 hours

The first day of any road trip is always filled with energy and excitement. Frankly, that is enough for you to get up early and leave the city by 5 am. You can hit the NH44 as early as possible and reach Murthal by around 7 am. Grab your breakfast here – there are tons of Dhabbas and food courts on the highway serving your piping hot parathas with dollops of butter. Continue towards Ludhiana on the same NH 44. You are most likely going to be driving for 4 hours.

Make a breakfast stop at Murthal on Day One of the road trip to Ladakh from Delhi
Make a breakfast stop at Murthal on Day One of the road trip to Ladakh from Delhi

I highly recommend you take your lunch break here before proceeding to Pathankot. Again, avoid going into the city and stick to the food courts on the way. Pathankot is around 3 hours on the same NH 44 highway. Fuel up here if you need to or just stretch your legs with a cup of hot tea. Continue on the same highway for another 3 hours and you will reach your first night halt at Jammu Tavi.

This stretch of a road trip from Delhi to Leh has a lot of big towns and less scenery. For me, the high spirits on the first day of an epic road trip to Ladakh were enough to make up for this. Plus, a raucous bunch of fellow travelers singing raunchy songs from the 80s and 90s kept the whole journey so lively that before I knew it, I was in Jammu. I stayed at one of the many Oyo hotels in Jammu Tavi – which was comfortable for the night halt. You can look through this link to find one that best suits you.

Day 2 of the road trip to Ladakh – From Jammu to Sonamarg

Jammu - Udhampur - Ramban - Srinagar - Sonamarg
Distance: 336 kms
Drive Time: 7.5 hours

Now begins the dreamy part of the Ladakh trip by car. While your total drive time is just around 8 hours, I still recommend an early start on Day two – primarily so that you get some time for sightseeing in Srinagar. Also, the early start will help you make up for any other unforeseen delays owing to the army movement on this route.

Chenani- Nashri Tunnel -  one of the longest tunnels in India
Chenani- Nashri Tunnel – one of the longest tunnels in India

Hit the NH 44 again towards Udhampur. This stretch takes around 1.5 hours. I don’t recommend a stop here and suggest you continue on towards the famous Chenani- Nashri Tunnel – one of the longest tunnels in India. This tunnel is also known as the Patnitop tunnel while its official name is Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee tunnel. The tunnel reduces your distance on the Jammu -Srinagar stretch by 30 km and the travel time by almost 2 hours. The smooth connection is around 9 km long and quite exciting to drive through.

Our unexpected pit stop at Ramban during the Ladakh Road Trip
Our unexpected pit stop at Ramban during the Ladakh Road Trip

Past the tunnel, continue on towards Ramban town where you can grab a bite at one of the many hotels along the Chenab river. The total drive time from Udhampur to Ramban is around 2.5 hours. The tunnel is exactly midway between these two towns. Ensure you take your biobreak here for the next leg of the journey will take you over 3 hours to Srinagar. By now, you would have begun seeing the mighty Himalayas. As you proceed further, the brown hill tops will slowly change to mesmerizing green valleys bordered by snowcapped mountains. This is when you need to take those frequent photo stops to admire the various viewpoints.

The valleys of Kashmir - One of my photostops on the way to Srinagar on the Ladakh road trip
The valleys of Kashmir – One of my photostops on the way to Srinagar on the Ladakh road trip

However, be careful while stopping along the highway as there are numerous restrictions. You might find a lot of army patrols along the way, stopping you and asking you for your identification. Keep your personal IDs handy as well as the car papers sorted (insurance, permits, registrations and licenses). Once you reach Srinagar and assume things are quiet there, spend some time by Dal lake or take a tour of the Shalimar gardens.

Dal Lake in Srinagar - a must-stop on your way to Leh from Srinagar
Dal Lake in Srinagar – a must-stop on your way to Leh from Srinagar

The last leg of this Ladakh trip by road on Day two is the most scenic of the lot. As you leave Srinagar towards Sonamarg, you will see the actual reason why Kashmir is termed as Paradise on earth. I just could not have enough of those stunning glaciers that melt into streams right before your eyes. In fact, it was on this stretch that we made the maximum photostops – all in an attempt to capture the verdant vista.

Sonamarg - our intended halt for Day 2 of the Ladakh Road Trip
Sonamarg – our intended halt for Day 2 of the Ladakh Road Trip

We chose Sonamarg as our final stop for Day Two as Srinagar had a little turmoil happening. Ideally, it would have been great if I had managed to follow the plan I outlined above to the T. However, to our bad luck, we faced a major roadblock owing to a landslide – just after Ramban. This forced us to make an unscheduled night halt in this tiny town. With the loss in time, we had to zip past the scenic stretch to Srinagar – where I wish we had time to stop and click. Driving from Ramban to Srinagar made me feel as if I were traveling through the meadows of Switzerland. The scenes here were absolutely breathtaking and a true testament to the phrase “Paradise on Earth

If you have gone as per the original plan, you can check into a hotel in Sonamarg – many of them are listed on this link.

Day 3 – Zipping through Sonamarg to Kargil

Sonamarg - Zojila Pass - Drass - Kargil
 Distance: 125 kms
 Drive Time: 3 hours

Sigh! Well, I had to do a quick tour of Sonamarg as we reached there a day later than planned – thanks to the landslide. I do hope you have better luck than me and wake up to those enchanting clouds in the meadows of Sonamarg. You can actually start at leisure and spend the morning sightseeing in and around Sonamarg. Leave after a good lunch and head out on NH1 towards the mighty Zojila Pass. This pass marks your entrance to the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Ladakh Travel Guide to getting to Leh - Crossing the Zozila Pass before it is shut down for the day
Ladakh Travel Guide to getting to Leh – Crossing the Zozila Pass before it is shut down for the day

The Zoji La Pass is a very significant pass – not just because it connects Kashmir to Ladakh but also, for the fact that it is considered to be one of the most dangerous mountain passes. It is at an altitude of 11,575ft above sea level and is around 25.8 km long. The zigzag road is so narrow that sometimes it allows only one vehicle to pass through – which is why you have to be extremely careful when you drive on it. The pass is closed during winters owing to heavy snowfall. Sometimes, even during spring or summer, it might be temporarily blocked. One should check at army checkpoints of Sonamarg or Baltal before proceeding on the pass. Also, remember the pass closes by 5 pm

Along the Zoji La Pass on a road trip to Ladakh
Along the Zoji La Pass on a road trip to Ladakh

Despite the dangerous stretch, one cannot help but gasp at the bewitching valley below – sometimes packed with the colorful tents of people heading for the famous Amarnath yatra. There are one or two vantage points along the pass, where you can stop for a minute or so and enjoy the stunning backdrop of the Himalayas. Once you are past the Zojila Pass, stop at the famous Zero point. This is one stretch that is cold throughout the year. In fact, it is called so because no vegetation is able to survive the extreme temperature.

At Zero point - just after Zojila Pass
At Zero point – just after Zojila Pass

This is where we chose to stretch our feet. A few photos to remember the crazy adventure and we were soon on our way to Drass – the coldest place in India and the 2nd coldest one to be inhabited on earth. This is where you need to make time for the Kargil War Memorial. This is located right on the highway and is a must-visit destination. Warning though – it is extremely melancholic and it is hard to hold back tears when you listen to the story of the Kargil war, right in front of the very hill it happened.

Veer Bhumi at Kargil War Memorial
Veer Bhumi at Kargil War Memorial

After the memorial, just take a short break at Drass to refuel yourself and head straight to Kargil. Once in Kargil, you can check into a hotel and relax for the day. Kargil is a lovely city by itself and I highly recommend walking around the river area and the marketplace.

The one thing that you must be cognizant of on this stretch is that your ascent is gradually increasing. Keep drinking a lot of water and avoid strenuous activity to ensure you are not hit by AMS. It is best to avoid smoking and alcohol for the day.

Day 4 of the Delhi Ladakh road trip – the first feel of Ladakh

Kargil - Mulbekh - Fotu La Pass - Lamayuru - Leh
Distance: 216 kms
Drive Time: 4 hrs
Birds Eye View of the Kargil Town - our night halt on Day 3 of the Ladakh Road Trip
Birds Eye View of the Kargil Town – our night halt on Day 3 of the Ladakh Road Trip

Though your drive time is just 4 hours, it is best to get an early start from Kargil. The key reason for this is that there are numerous attractions on this stretch of the road trip to Ladakh and a few of them will require time. Again, remember to keep drinking water as you will still be ascending towards Leh.

Stop at Mulbekh monastery on the Srinagar-Leh highway
Stop at Mulbekh monastery on the Srinagar-Leh highway

Fuel up at Kargil and head straight to Mulbekh monastery. In around 45 minutes, you will see a large stone carving of Lord Buddha and that is the Mulbekh monastery. From here, head straight to the Fotu La Pass. A swarm of prayer flags will greet you and invite you to step out and take the surrounding view of the Zanskar range of Himalayas. This is the highest point of the Srinagar – Leh highway and a perfect place to admire how the Ladakh landscape is a huge contrast to the green valleys of Kashmir.

Lamayuru monastery - a must-visit stop on the road trip from Delhi to Leh via Srinagar
Lamayuru monastery – a must-visit stop on the road trip from Delhi to Leh via Srinagar

Follow the zigzag roads till you reach the village of Lamayuru. Plan to take a break here for lunch and explore the oldest monastery of Ladakh. The monastery will take around 45 minutes or so and thus, it is better to order your meal at the restaurants near Lamayuru monastery before embarking on the tour. Post lunch, stop at the base of the monastery to take in the view of Moonland (called so owing to the texture of the mountains).

Confluence of Indus & Zanskar - one of the key Ladakh tourist places
Confluence of Indus & Zanskar – one of the key Ladakh tourist places

The next leg of the journey will take around 1.5 hours to the outskirts of Leh. I, however, felt as if it were just 30 minutes – thanks to the stunning and everchanging colors of the landscape. Before I knew it, I was at Nimmoo, taking in the distinct colors of the Zanskar-Indus confluence. After a quick photo-op, you can continue on and experience the Magnetic hill on the way to Leh. Just after the Magnetic hill, remember to stop at the Pathar Sahib Gurudwara. You can enjoy a little refreshment before heading straight to Leh and checking into your hotel. The Gurudwara serves food for free and is maintained by the Indian army.

Leh has a lot of hotels to choose from. You can check this link and book directly using the same.

Day 5- A rest day in Leh

The entrance to the Royal Leh Palace in Ladakh
The entrance to the Royal Leh Palace in Ladakh

Day 5 in Leh is all about acclimatization to the high altitude. It is best to take it easy and enjoy the city at a slow pace. You can explore the Leh market, visit the famous Leh Royal Palace and the Shanti Stupa or even the Hall of Fame museum in Leh. However, try to keep an even pace and not tire yourself.

Shanti Stupa - one of the places to visit when you are in Leh for acclimatization
Shanti Stupa – one of the places to visit when you are in Leh for acclimatization

While in Leh, apply for your Inner Line Permits either directly or through your hotel. You will need to get permits for your visits to Nubra Valley, Tso Moriri and Pangong Lake. Refer to this link to know more about the Inner line permits.

Day 6 on the Delhi to Ladakh road trip – Heading to Nubra Valley

Leh - Khardung La - Diskit - Hunder (Nubra Valley)
Distance: 125 kms
Drive Time: 3 hours

Do not go by the drive time on this stretch as you are bound to make many many photo stops. The journey to Nubra Valley is filled with surreal beauty. Start early from Leh and head straight to one of the highest motorable mountain passes in the world – Khardung La. You can stop for a few minutes here to capture your moment but be extremely wary of the altitude. Avoid staying for more than 10 minutes. After Khardung La, you will actually be making a descent, and might find the ride extremely enjoyable.

A glimpse of surreal beauty of Nubra Valley Ladakh
A glimpse of surreal beauty of Nubra Valley Ladakh

You can take a refreshment break at Khalsar before heading to Diskit. The drive from Khalsar to Diskit is very scenic with the Shyok river flowing and the beginning of the cold sand dunes. In fact, I would call it ethereal – especially since the landscape changed from green valleys to red sand mountains to finally white deserts. Here and there you will be able to spot calm lakes with those perfect reflections and if you are lucky like me, then you will even see wild horses around. At Diskit, follow the path to the large Maitreyi Buddha statue – one that you will be able to spot from far away.

Jhampa statue of Maitreya Buddha at Diskit in Nubra Valley
Jhampa statue of Maitreya Buddha at Diskit in Nubra Valley

Spend an hour or so exploring Diskit monastery before making your way to Hunder. Check into your Nubra valley stay (you can book on here) and relax for the rest of the day amid the white sand dunes surrounded by gorgeous mountains in the company of the famous double-hump Bactrian camels – ones that are usually found here.

The Highest bloggers meet at Khardung La - a feat recorded in India book of records
The Highest bloggers meet at Khardung La – a feat recorded in India book of records

A must-mention event that took place during my Ladakh trip by road on this stretch was the Highest Bloggers meet – a feat that has got recorded in the India Book of Records. 20 of us – fellow bloggers were invited for a meeting at the Khardung La Pass by Oyo rooms and ScoutMyTrip. It was quite a gathering when we unfurled our banner at the top of 2nd highest Motorable Pass in the world. Definitely a memory that has been imprinted for life!

Three trips to Ladakh and yet not enough to cover the place

READ THROUGH THIS GUIDE ON NUBRA VALLEY

Nubra valley is a destination by itself. This guide to Nubra Valley Ladakh tells you all that you need to know about it – from places to see to tips on where to stay.

Day 7- Nubra to Pangong Lake

Hunder- Khardung La- Leh - Thiksey - Chang La Pass - Tangste - Pangong Tso
Distance: 240 kms
Drive Time: 6.5 hrs

OR

Hunder- Shyok - Durbuk - Tangste - Pangong Tso
Distance: 240 kms
Drive Time: 6.5 hrs

2 different routes and the same drive time? Well, do not go by the theoretical drive time and distance. The two routes differ widely in terms of challenges and Ladakh attractions that you can see along the way . The original plan during my own road trip to Ladakh was to take route two – via Shyok but as luck be, the road was not well done and there was tremendous flooding of the river making this particular stretch undrivable. Therefore, I travelled to Pangong via Chang La Pass. In your case, you can make the decision based on your own preference after you read through the two routes below.

Nubra Valley to Pangong Via Leh & Chang La Pass.

Leh city on the way back from Nubra Valley
Leh city on the way back from Nubra Valley

If you plan to take this route, leave as early as you can after breakfast. You will be driving all the way through Khardung La to Leh. Grab an early lunch at Leh and head towards Kharoo. On the way, plan to stop at my personal favorite – Thicksey Monastery. It is hard to resist this picturesque place and trust me when I say, exploring it from within is so worth it. However, be aware that if you do decide to do Thiksey monastery, you will have to skip the other attraction – Hemis Monastery, which is also, on the way. You can do either one of them else, you will be pressed for time.

At ChangLa Pass - one of the highest motorable passes in Ladakh
At ChangLa Pass – one of the highest motorable passes in Ladakh

Past Kharoo, you will begin your ascent to the highest motorable pass – Chang La. You can stop for a few minutes on the top and then continue on towards Durbuk and Tangste to finally reach Pangong Lake. The ascent and descent of this Pass is fairly smooth with good roads but it does slow you down in terms of driving. Also, if there is flooding on the way, then you will have a fair bit of off-roading that you might have to do to cross a few streams – like I had to. True that it has its own thrill but it definitely slows you down.

Also, do stop by to see the friendly marmots, who keep popping up along the way.

Streams that you will have to cross enroute to Pangong Lake - make sure you have a good 4x4 vehicle
Streams that you will have to cross enroute to Pangong Lake – make sure you have a good 4×4 vehicle

Nubra Valley to Pangong Via Shyok

The road between Leh and Nubra Valley
The road between Leh and Nubra Valley

For those of you who want to avoid the high altitude ascent and descent at Khardung La and Chang La, this route via Shyok is a good option. I believe now the roads are fairly well done, making this a far easier drive. For this, you can leave a little later from Nubra and travel up to Khalsar. At this point, there is a bifurcation that takes you away from Khardung La towards Shyok Village. From the village you can directly hit Durbuk and then Tangste – all the way to Pangong Lake.

On this route, you will have Shyok river keeping you company all the way to the village. There are no major attractions to stop as such but you will find enough of picturesque spots for a quick photo shoot.

Your night halt in Pangong will most likely be in Tangste or by the tents around the Lake. Remember to bundle up well as the temperatures even in summer tend to go to single digits. You can find your accommodation through this link.

More Pangong Lake pictures capturing the reflection of the sky

A GUIDE TO PANGONG LAKE

This detailed guide on Pangong Lake – aka 3 idiots lake has all the necessary information you will need for your visit here. From what to pack to where to stay and what to expect.

Day 8 of Ladakh trip by road – All about Changthang Valley & Tso Moriri

Pangong Tso - Merak- Chushul - Nyoma - Sumdo - Tso Moriri
Distance: 330 Kms
Drive Time: 8.5 hours
Sunrise over Ladakh Pangong Lake
Sunrise over Ladakh Pangong Lake

Be prepared for a day of completely raw and rugged beauty. Catch the morning sunrise at Pangong lake where within minutes, you will see the sun kissed lake changing colors from an orange-streaked gray to a beautiful bright blue. Fill yourself with a good breakfast and carry some for the road too for going forward, you will find no restaurant or town. The entire day is all about driving through lands that you might have only seen on television – or possibly in your dreams.

The famous 3 idiots lake aka Pangong Lake in Ladakh
The famous 3 idiots lake aka Pangong Lake in Ladakh

From Pangong Tso, head towards Merak and then Chushul. At Chushul , you can stop at the Rezang La War Memorial (also, called Chushul War Memorial) – erected in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives during the 1962 Indo-China war. You can take the break to freshen up before turning towards the Leh – Manali highway. This entire area is very close to the China border and hence, stick to the main roads only.

Chantang Valley that runs close to the China border
Chantang Valley that runs close to the China border

The drive from Chushul to Nyoma is absolutely stunning – with sometimes no road and only dirt tracks. This is where you will see wide desolate patches surrounded by mountains and the only inhabitants in sight are Wild horses and marmots and maybe, a few mountain goats. From Nyoma, head towards Sumdo and finally the only road to Karzok – aka Tso Moriri. You will be traveling along the road with Indus river flowing beside you.

Along the Indus River to Tso Moriri
Along the Indus River to Tso Moriri

If you found Pangong Lake cold, Tso Moriri will be freezing. It is after all the highest altitude lake. Be prepared with warm clothing. There are only tented accommodation here – which you will have to pre-book in Leh.

Day 9 of the Leh Ladakh road trip from Delhi – A touchdown at Keylong

Tso Moriri - More Plains - Pang - Sarchu - Jispa - Keylong
Distance: 336 Kms
Drive Time: 10.5 hours
Tso Moriri in Ladakh
Tso Moriri in Ladakh

Be prepared for a long long drive. However, enjoy it as much as you can for this is the last of Ladakh that you will see before you head back to Delhi via the Leh- Manali route. The road back is fairly good and smooth, with very little off-roading. You will pass by Tso Kar – another high-altitude salt water lake and then hit More Plains. One of my biggest highs on my Delhi to Ladakh road trip was driving through More Plains. The stretch is an absolute bliss for bikers.

Tso kar lake - you can catch this on the Leh-Manali highway
Tso kar lake – you can catch this on the Leh-Manali highway

You can choose to take a night halt at Pang, if you do not want to drive more but I recommend clearing Pang and doing the famous Gata loops to Sarchu. You can always stay in Sarchu if you are tired, else continue on to Keylong. We personally stayed in Keylong and started a bit late the next day. The little break in the morning did do wonders to us.

The beginning of the Indian Petra Landscape from Pang towards Sarchu
The beginning of the Indian Petra Landscape from Pang towards Sarchu
Ghost Temple of Gata Loops on the road trip to Ladakh from Manali
Ghost Temple of Gata Loops on the road trip to Ladakh from Manali

The few sights that you must look out for include the very Petra like landforms from More Plains to Pang, the 21 hair-pin bends of Gata loops, the ghost temple of Gata Loops at the 19th bend and the Suraj Tal lake before you hit Keylong. While the sights might be self-explanatory, a little lore about the Ghost temple of Gata Loops. The temple is identified by the mounds of plastic bottles at the 19th loop. They say that a truck driver died in the cold long back and even now his soul walks around asking for water. So, as a mark of good luck, drivers on the loop leave behind water or cigarettes at the mound. 😉

There are plenty of restaurants that you will find at Pang, Sarchu and Keylong. You can also, use these places to freshen up on the journey.

Day 10 on the Ladakh trip by car – Keylong to Manali

Keylong - Rohtang Pass - Manali
Distance: 115 Kms
Drive Time: 4 hours

or 

Keylong - Atal tunnel - Manali
Distance: 70 Kms
Drive Time: 2 hours

To be honest, when I did my Delhi Ladakh road trip, I did not have the option of Atal tunnel. The tunnel was completed in the subsequent years, and thus, the only route that I could take was via the lovely Rohtang pass. To be honest, I would still want to do this – purely for the pristine views which include fabulous waterfalls, green valleys and snow capped mountains. However, it is a steep climb.

At Rohtang Pass - on the way to Manali
At Rohtang Pass – on the way to Manali

If you take the Atal tunnel route, you can completely by pass the Rohtang pass and the climb, as well as cut short your distance by a good 2 hours. Of course, the choice is completely up to you. In case you are driving from Pang or Sarchu, the Atal tunnel would definitely ease your drive time.

Given the shorter drive, you can spend some time doing sightseeing in Manali. While there are several hotels in Manali that take you to the center of the town, I would recommend staying a little away, closer to the highway. I stayed in this lovely property by the Beas river. You can find that as well as other Manali hotels through this link

Day 11 – Return to Delhi from Manali

Manali - Bhuntar - Mandi - Chandigarh - Delhi 
Distance: 575 kms
Drive Time: 12.5 hours

To be honest, this is just a long drive home where you reflect on the lovely memories of those mountains that you have seen over the last 10 days. In some ways, it was pretty depressing to know that I was at the end of my epic Ladakh trip. I wished that we could have spent a little more time, delayed our departure a little bit but then I know there was no end to it.

The Manali to Delhi stretch can be done in half a day, as the roads are very smooth and include toll highways. However, if you still want to cut it down, you can do a night halt at Chandigarh. Keep your PUC certificate handy when in Chandigarh as they are very strict about it and you might be hauled over for a check.

Technically, you are done with the trip in 11 days . The extra day on the Ladakh road trip is required only as a buffer – should you have any landslides, break-downs or similar situations. As you can see, the terrain is tough and it always better do add that extra day.

Well, that is it from me in terms of the Ladakh road trip itinerary. A quick hop over to the FAQs section and then, just remember to pin this ultimate guide to a road trip to Ladakh.

Common FAQs for the Road Trip to Ladakh

Can we go to Ladakh by car?

Yes, you can. In fact, I highly recommend a Ladakh trip by car to enjoy the beautiful terrain. Though it might be a difficult drive in parts, with the right precautions and planning, the road trip by car will be very enjoyable.

Which car is the best for a Ladakh trip?

I would highly recommend a sturdy SUV like Tata Hexa or Scorpio for a Ladakh trip. A 4×4 wheel drive is what will help you steer through the tough terrain where sometimes you only have a rocky stretch. You need a powerful engine to climb up the steep slopes as well as a good fuel capacity – mostly because there are large stretches without any fuel bunks in sight.

Can we take sedan to Ladakh?

Yes, one can drive a sedan to Ladakh. However, it will take an extra effort and care to drive through those steep slopes and rugged roads.

How many days is Leh Ladakh road trip?

Keep aside at least 12 days for a Leh Ladakh road trip from Delhi. If all goes well, you can complete the circuit from Delhi to Leh and back in 11 days but it is always good to keep a day extra for any detours or unforseen circumstances

Is a road trip to Ladakh safe?

A Ladakh road trip is quite safe, despite the tough terrain. You just have to ensure that you have planned your route properly and taken all the right precautions – not just for your car but also, for your health.

Before you go, Pin this

Ladakh road trip
plan roadtrip ladakh
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Booking Resources

  • Booking.com has a lot of options for your stay in Leh Ladakh. You can use this link to browse through the various listings across Leh, Kargil, Hunder, Pangong and more.
  • Another good resource for your hotels in Leh Ladakh is Agoda.com. This link allows you to book your chosen hotel directly
  • Viator.com has quite a few listings of tours from Leh – including car rentals, bike tours etc. So, if you are not looking to drive all the way, you can consider booking some of these online through this link.
  • If you are looking to buy any of your home or travel requirements from Amazon, do consider clicking through my affiliate link and getting there. Remember it will not cost you anything additional but will keep my website going.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
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103 thoughts on “An Epic Road Trip to Ladakh from Delhi | Ladakh Road Trip planning, routes & tips”

  1. This is probably the only road trip I have been on, where not a single song from my actual playlist got played. You all heard the #compliment version of the playlist, but it didn’t seem to matter too much. The company on the trip, and songs everyone sang more than made up for that. I also didn’t sit behind the wheel even once and that did not matter too strangely. When I look back on this trip, the only thing that I really remember are the precious moments we all had with each other. We really got to know one another, and put up with each one’s idiosyncrasies. We went as 20 individuals but came back as one group. That is the first reason for me to call this trip a success.

    The trip to Tso Moriri, the only thing crossing our minds was to see you guys in piece. The Chushul sector is not known to be too friendly. That was the only reason for us to make a run; and we were prepared enough to camp out in the night in case we did not make it to the Korzok village. That would have been an experience too! But it’s usually just Deepak and I who get caught in those situations.

    One thing about the trip we could do better next time around is probably have some more maggi.

    Reply
    • All I can say Vineet is that you guys just knew how to get us to have fun and create memories for life. Have always and will always look forward to going #AageSeRight with you guys. I know there will always be adventures along those lanes.

      Reply
  2. लद्दाख मेरा देखा हुआ है लेकिन लेकिन उसके बाद भी जब किसी और के ब्लॉग या फोटो देखने का या यात्रा सुनने का मौका लगता है तो अपनी यात्रा याद आती है और ऐसा लगता है कि हम दुबारा उसी लोक में पहुंच गए हैं और यात्रा का आनंद उठा रहे हैं,

    Reply
  3. Loved reading yours and the teams exploits as the action continues in part-2. Indeed an amazing journey with experiences to cherish for a lifetime. I loved the picture of the horse near the Indus river, he looks so free and without a care in the world against the wilderness.

    Reply
  4. This is a very comprehensive itinerary of a road trip to Ladakh. Many people fly directly there. But in my opinion, the road trip has a charm of it’s own which nothing else can beat. By the way, couldn’t help staring for long at your beautiful snaps. Very well captured!!

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  5. Yet another beautifully written blog from you Ami ! Ladakh’s uniqueness can’t really be covered in a single trip or even two. Every time you visit you will learn something new. Our role here was to try and get as much info about the places we visited to all of you. Hope we succeeded to an extent while making sure all of you were safe.
    But hats off to the entire bunch ! Most hardened travellers have had difficulty in travelling on such terrain for days on end. But this team just did not complain. It was a fun fest for all of us ! Let’s do this again.

    Reply
    • Thank you Deepak for initiating this and making it fun for all of us. Vineet and Your impeccable planning and crisis management really went a long way in making this trip a huge success. As always, I shall be ready to go #AageSeRight again with you guys. Till then, shall keep writing my memoirs down 🙂

      Reply
  6. What fun trip and great anecdotes ! You really make memories that last you a long time when you take road trips. Lovely captures too !

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  7. I miss my trip to Himachal too. I can’t just forget the views just like the ones you have taken during a road trip to Ladakh. I remember how our last day was sombre just like how you felt. We just didn’t want the trip to end. Scout my trip was very well organised and they knew exactly what to do.

    Reply
    • Mountains do have a hold on you as I discovered. I sure can understand your feelings. Sigh! ScoutMyTrip was really well prepared and that is what made the whole trip such a success! Thanks for stopping by Soumya

      Reply
  8. What a very long and memorable road trip you had. Such an aamzing adventure and I enjoyed the photographs in this post. The scenes are all picturesque and wonderful. It’s a long journey wherein your eyes are filled with beautiful panorama, breathtaking landscape and have inner peace. What an amazing journey you had, I hope I’ll experience this kind of road trip too.

    Reply
  9. Whoa! 11 days of solid fun and excitement!
    The scenic beauty all around is mesmerizing and the pictures are so full of enjoyment.
    I too could have been a part of this if I could spare this stretch of time.

    Reply
    • It was fantastic Indrani. You would have had a lovely time. But yes, I understand your constraints on this one. Hopefully we will have another rocking trip soon!

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    • Thanks Kenneth. Looks like the Effect worked…..;-) They say that the mountains along the Chinese borders did have snipers looking down at us. Who knows though!

      Reply
  10. The views look absolutely amazing during the whole trip! This must of been a quit adventure. And the photo of the sunrise is stunning! I would be so scared of getting the mountain sickness but I would probably still go, how could I say no to this.

    Reply
    • The ScoutMyTrip team took adequate care of ensuring we acclimatize well. Am sure you too would have been fine. The road trip was just amazing!

      Reply
  11. Reading this post brought back my own travel memories in beautiful Ladakh. The brush with chinese snipers sounded crazy, that path runs really close to China no doubt! I loved reading about the group fun you guys had in Ladakh!

    Reply
  12. What a cool blogger trip! I have been wanting to travel to Tibet (or nearby) for many years but have yet to make it. The scenery looks intriguing and the monastery is something I’d be particularly interested in, as well as the off-roading in 4 wheel drive vehicles through the desert (I’ve only done that in Egypt or California!) 🙂

    Reply
    • Every bit of this trip was exciting. The monasteries for sure as well as the off roading and the adventures along the way. Am sure you too, will have fun with it.

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  13. I think I have missed the part 1 of your amazing trip but considering that I really liked this post, I have to read the previous one. This place looks beautiful especially because it’s surrounded by nature!!
    The photos show it very well 🙂

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  14. Oh my goodness – I can’t believe how incredible the scenery is! The Changla and Rohtang passes are stunning, and it looks like you and your fellow bloggers had an amazing trip. I hope to see it with my own eyes one day.

    Reply
  15. The place does not look real Ami. Wow! How stunning. From your image placement, and the resolution. I do feel like I am there, in Ladakh. Well done and as always, thanks much for sharing.

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  16. Wow, what an adventure! The scenery is absolutely stunning. I would be depressed if I had to leave there too.

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  17. Your Ladakh road trip posts are truly a weblog – an online journal or diary (the kinds I used to keep offline as a teenager). The account faithfully captures the happenings along the way. Enjoyed reliving the trip through this account!

    Reply
  18. Fabulousness galore. No one could put it as comprehensively as you do Ami. I cannot get over the pics!! Too beautiful esp the one with the prayer stones and also the Pangong lake one. You made me travel with you all through 🙂 Loved the videos and the background story of all those moves 😉 wonderful read. truly one of the most memorable trips any blogger could go on! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks a ton Divsi. That really feels good to read. I cannot and will not be able to forget this trip for a long long time. And I know I will be returning to Ladakh once again, but this one will always remain special.

      Reply
  19. Incredible scenery to be blessed to witness. The monastery looks incredible. It really is amazing that they could construct something that incredible back then. As I keep reading the scenery gets better and better. SNIPERS! OMG! That trip really is a memory you will never forget.

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  20. The landscapes are not at all how I imagine India to be but it sure is beautiful. I definitely want to visit Leh on a future trip

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  21. Ladakh is in my bucket list from many years and I am sure this year I will make it actually planning for during summer time :)…Your post will be helpful for me to make the itinerary. Thanks :).. BTW pics are really great 🙂

    Reply
  22. This is such an amazing road trip! I think the best road trips have adventures and unexpected twists like yours. That view from Rohtang Pass is absolutely incredible. I can see why everyone was depressed at the end.

    Reply
  23. I love your writing, your sense of humor comes through. The Thiksey Monastery looks amazing. It is cool you got into the India book of records and had so much fun doing it. The things that went bad, turned into great memories because of your attitude. Good work!

    Reply
  24. I’d never really heard of Ladakh, but I can see how utterly spellbinding it is! So beautiful and you’ve captured some excellent photos. I’m so sorry you had a flat on your trip, but those experiences tend to shape us I think!

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  25. What a gorgeous view! OMG, I thought I was the only one who leans out the car window to get a photo! Great shot of the Thiksey Monastery, the architecture looks amazing. Looks like such a fantastic trip!

    Reply
  26. I was looking forward to reading part 2 — Wow, your photos once again are spectacular. This is the reality of India it is a very big country and with mountains and rivers like this, it takes 4 hours to go 115kms! I hope to get to this part of India someday — I think I will need more rest stops like the one you did in Manali!

    Reply
    • This region is quite raw and decent roads plus elevation makes the drive longer. However, you wouldn’t mind it with those views. Hope you plan a trip here

      Reply
  27. It sounds like such an epic trip! I hate that day 11 brought a bit of sadness. Most road trips have at least one day like that. For me it is typically the last one because I’m sad it’s over. It’s crazy how long it takes to go a fairly short distance! Sounds like a seriously epic road trip

    Reply
    • The end of the trip is always so melancholic. But well, you have those amazing memories that somehow keep you going. This one did have longer time for shorter distance owing to the terrain but who is complaining… We had some amazing views

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  28. Your entire road trip has been quite an adventure! The people you are traveling with sound like a fun bunch of travellers, too! I’ve really enoyed seeing your photos, and hearing your stories — you’ll have wonderful memories for a lifetime.

    Reply
  29. A road trip to ladakh is quite adventure that everyone like the trip very much. This an amazing journey to cheer up the people with the beautiful snaps.

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  30. Crazy Road trip Ever! Glad that i found this article on a road trip to Ladakh. Informative article thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  31. Wow, some of those road areas really look very scary including that one pass that just is incredible to capture in photographs and drive through. But, I can see how the landscape really inspires you to go the this remote region and gorgeous scenic areas to explore, it really seems harsh and remote, I can’t even picture living there year round.

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  32. What a comprehensive guide to road tripping to Ladakh! You’ve covered every question I had and provided some helpful planning tips I wouldn’t have thought of, even though I’ve taken many road trips. The route looks lovely, and I especially like the look of Dal Lake in Srinagar and the entrance to the Royal Leh Palace, and of course, the mountains! What a touching gesture to leave water bottles for the unfortunate truck driver’s ghost.

    Reply
  33. I have done many road trips in my time, but none through India, and this looks like a great one. The wide-open landscape interspersed with the whitewashed villages looks wonderful. I am glad you explained the reason for the plastic build-up on the mountainside as I am sure if visitors weren’t aware of this tradition it might just look like someone had dumped rubbish there!

    Reply
  34. This is an incredible road trip Ami! I can’t remember all of the place names as I was too in awe of the photos. India has some beautiful and remote landscapes, I’d like to see it for myself one day. Leh and the temples look incredible there, but I’m not sure I could get used to the altitude.

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  35. I can see why this would be your favourite road trip of all time. You’re right, the diverse landscape would be a highlight. I love how you described Ladakh as the crown of India. To be surrounded by different mountain ranges on all sides would make this a stunning destination. But a difficult one to visit knowing the meaning behind its name – Land of High Passes – and that it’s so remote.

    Reply
  36. I still repent the fact that we never traveled to Ladakh when we visited Kashmir couple of years back. Am just fascinated by the destination and the more I see the photos posted by travelers the more is my desire to be there. Hopefully next year as this year is already packed with plans. But now I would rather do a road trip like you from Delhi. Thank you for all the tips which would make our journey exciting. Would love to follow your detailed plan.

    Reply

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