Himalayas Ladakh Mountains

Spectacular Leh Manali Highway | 5 High Passes & 55 Pictures!

Leh Manali highway is one of the most picturesque roads in the world. You have to travel on it to experience its beauty beyond words!

We always feel that mountains look different in different directions! While we have travelled from Manali to Leh twice, we travelled from Leh on Leh Manali highway a fortnight back. And what a fantastic experience it was! Our eyes were wide open and there were many wow moments to savour!

We captured these “wow” moments for posterity. While we know these pictures do not do justice to the real, this should inspire you to do Leh Manali road trip next time around!

Let us start the journey. Hop in with us on one of the most spectacular road trips anywhere in the world! The one and only Leh Manali Highway! Please click on the picture to see it in larger size.

Leave early and reach early is the adage that we follow while travelling in the Himalayas because the weather can change at any time in the mountains! We were up and started from Leh around 5.30 AM bidding goodbye to our lovely hosts in Raku guest house. (Left to right – Brinda, Angchik of Raku, Poorna, Sonam of Raku and Ravi)

Leh Manali Highway

Driving on virtually empty roads of Leh town, we cross the towns of Karu and Upshi quickly. Indus River continues to give us company all along.

Leh Manali Highway

Leh Manali Highway

The valley of Indus between Lato and Rumtse is most spectacular with mountains opening up with myriad colours, especially pink. Take a look at these pictures.

The monastery at Gyu village is perched over a small hill.

After Gyu and Rumtse, we start climbing to Taglang La, the first high-altitude pass on Leh Manali highway. The mountains now turn into rolling hills from the sharp peaks we had seen earlier. The dominant colour is brown with tops covered by snow. The excellent winding road takes us to Taglang la top at 17, 582 feet. The first of the five high-altitude passes we will cross on this journey.

After a few minutes on the top, we descend to Moreh plains, a vast desert with rolling mountains. Heavy snowfall in the region has ensured the sprouting of grass all around turning the desolate region pale green.

Good for these sheep to go on a grazing trip….

The road from Moreh Plains climbs up to Pang which is a good place to stop for breakfast. Pang also has an army detachment which will be useful if someone is having any medical issues. We finish our breakfast and continue our journey to the second high-altitude pass. Lachung La.

Crossing the famous Pang Bridge.

The short journey from Pang to Lachung La must rate as the most spectacular journey in the world! The barren land is flush with water-carved natural formations giving a look of surreality!

Notice the carved structures popping out of the earth!

The iconic mud arch

The colossal size of the mountains dwarfs the gently flowing river

We continue the climb even as we see snow-covered peaks as we approach Lachung La

At Lachung La, the second highest high altitude passes on the Leh Manali Highway. 16,616 feet.

The landscape from Lachung La to Sarchu is the most picturesque. Tall mountains covered with snow, deep valleys, rolling hills, varied colours of the mountains, and curvy roads make this the most interesting part of the journey. We descend to Nakkee La first and then to the Sarchu plains.

At Nakkee La, the fourth highest Pass on the Leh Manali Highway at 15547 feet

The road from Nakee La loops down and now we drive down the gata loops and join Tsrap River with its turquoise-coloured waters flanked by colourful mountains!

We cross over the river and now we are in the Sarchu plains. A vast bowl flanked by mountains. Sarchu is a popular camping area for those travelling on the Leh Manali highway.

We are excited as we start climbing to Barlacha La. The road from Sarchu to the pass is in bad condition due to extremely heavy snowfall the last winter. Heavy snowfall meant that the opening of Leh Manali Highway was delayed by a few weeks. We could see how heavy was the snowfall as we climb and see everything still white!

Partially frozen river…..

Bikers have a tough time crossing a fast-flowing stream. Notice the state of the road……

We drive through these ice tunnels as tall as 10 feet!

At Barlacha La. This is a lovely pass with a fantastic view of the surroundings. This is the third highest high altitude pass on Leh Manali highway at 16,040 feet.

We now descend to Zing Zing bar. The road condition is superb unlike the one from Sarchu to Barlacha La. But we have to stop to catch our “wow” moment of seeing frozen Suraj Tal!

As we drive through one more snow tunnel, we are in for another wow moment of seeing this U-Turn in the snow! This place had zero snow when we participated in Hell Race at the same time in 2016. Such are the vagaries of climate change!

We climb down Gata loops and stop for lunch at Zing Zing bar. The road from Zing Zing bar now hugs the Bhaga River which originates in Barlacha La. The landscape now changes from a desolate desert to green. A lovely road makes the drive a pleasure.

Clear waters of Deepak Tal. A small lake on the Roadside.

The landscape now changes into the lovely green. The mountains look gorgeous with snow on top. Waterfalls cascading. Streams flowing down. Small little villages look beautiful!

The confluence of Chandra (Chenab) which comes from Chandra Tal and Bhaga which comes from Barlacha La. The combined river flows as Chenab and joins Sutlej later.

Picturesque villages at the foothills of the mighty mountains!

A bridge on Chenab

A beautiful waterfall at Sissu. This is a charming village with lovely mountains, waterfalls and streams.

Another one. This is at the Khoksar police check post. Beautiful!

As we start climbing to Rohtang pass, we are greeted by a myriad of cascades and this is one of the best!

For a few kilometres, the road turns bad due to a diversion and this is a temporary measure as a culvert on the main highway is being repaired. This is likely to deteriorate in days to come with rain. We hope the culvert gets repaired and the main highway is opened to traffic.

After the bad stretch, we are now greeted by fabulous vistas of Rohtang La. As we approach the pass, it is snow everywhere! We had seen snow in June 2015 when we drove from Spiti but not like this. This time, the snowfall has been massive! Look at the snow walls we drive through!

At Rohtang top. The last of the five high passes. This is of the least height among the five at 13,050 feet.

We were lucky that we were driving on Tuesday when Rohtang is closed for Manali tourists. It is a breeze of a drive with no hiccups. On other days, we have heard horror stories of traffic jams. Some parts of the road from Rohtang top are broken in places making it a single lane. With no manning of these choke points, it results in traffic jams.

The drive from Rohtang to Manali is one of the most beautiful drives. Lovely greenery, cascading waterfalls, green meadows, cedar trees………All these make it a pleasant sight to the eyes!

Leh Manali Highway

Leh Manali Highway

We stop at Marhi for breakfast and drive along. We don’t stop at Manali as our destination is Chandigarh.

Driving on Leh Manali Highway is the experience of a lifetime. The landscape is mesmerising. It changes every kilometre. The mountains humble you. You get awed looking at the beauty of these mountains.

Plan a trip once. You will never forget the experience.

Are you looking for an Easy Itinerary of Ladakh with a detailed daily plan? Then you should not miss this! Please click on the link below.

7  Days Easy Ladakh Itinerary with detailed daily plan 

Travel Tips

  • We have given detailed tips in our post on Manali Leh Road. You can check details on different aspects of the trip in this link.
  • The tips given there apply to this as well. Except that if you are coming from Leh to Manali, you don’t need any permit and also acclimatisation is not an issue. Having stayed in Leh, you are already acclimatised.
  • The drive on Leh Manali road from Leh has to be done in two days with a night stay. Stay for the night at Jispa which has better options to stay than Keylong. We stayed in Keylong and we don’t recommend it.
  • The only tip – an important one – is to plan your road trip on Leh Manali highway in such a way that you cross Rohtang Pass on Tuesday! We had not planned it but it just happened and we were lucky to breeze past Rohtang with not a soul in sight!!!
  • We hope this post has answered the following questions
    • What are the road conditions on Leh Manali highway?
    • What is the status of Leh Manali Road?
    • How much time is taken from Leh to Manali?
    • What is the height of Leh Manali road?
    • How can I go from Leh to Manali?
    • Is let Manali Road open?
    • Can I go on bike on Leh Manali highway?

Thank you

We thank you for stopping by Travel Twosome. Hope you enjoyed reading this post on Leh Manali Highway the way we enjoyed writing it! May we request you to share it with your friends and inspire them to make this trip?

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