This article “Tourist places on the Manali Leh road” continues with the previous article in the Manali Leh road travel guide. The last article covered the various accommodation options available on the route from Manali to Leh. In this article, I will provide some information about some of the main tourist attractions on the Manali Leh highway.
The meaning of going on a trip or vacation is different for all of us. While some people manage to visit Ladakh several times, not all of us want to do this, or we may find time to do it each year. When I get an appointment from someone asking for my help with their travel plan, one of the most common questions is, “Did I miss anything here?” or “Is there any other place or tourist attraction that I should add to this plan?”
So, what do you see on the Manali Leh road? Every tourist destination, every mountain season, every city has something special to offer, something that attracts thousands of tourists each year. What does the Manali Leh Road offer? Where do you stop? Where can you go? Is there a list that you can keep on hand to make sure you haven’t missed anything? Read on to find out.
Honestly, the entire Manali Leh road is a tourist spot in its own right. This 400 km long route is a destination where every curve will dazzle you with its natural beauty. Pointing out a particular place that can be called a “tourist attraction” is quite difficult and not fair in my opinion. But yes, I agree that some places deserve a little more time than others, and the idea behind this article is to provide information on what to keep your eyes open when passing through a certain area.
What to see on the Manali Leh Highway?
Below is a list of what the Manali Leh Highway will offer you.
- Natural beauty like no other: it definitely remains at the top of the list. As I mentioned above, each shift here would delight you. From the green hills of the Kullu valley to the cold and arid Ladakh desert, it is worth enjoying every breath.
- Adventure: Do I need to say that? Driving on an open road for just 5 months in a year and completing the journey would fill your soul with a sense of accomplishment that will last a lifetime.
- Solitude: in a country like ours, the second most populous in the world, Solitude is a little difficult to find, but you will have plenty while traveling from Manali to Leh.
- Peace: Image sitting on a hill with snow-capped mountains around, without a soul in sight, just the sound of the cold wind, and you will understand.
- Culture: Experience and witness the culture and customs of Ladakh, the monasteries, the food and the wonderful people; things you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
- High altitude passes: A total of 5 high altitude passes that you will pass through to reach Leh, each of which is an experience in itself.
- Nallahs: Have you ever gone through a stream of water with roads and damaged stones underneath, a hill on one side and a direct fall on the other? Get ready, because you will do this several times on the Manali Leh road.
Tourist Places on Manali Leh Highway
With this being said, there still remains the question of what do you see? Where do you stop and spend a little more time than other. Below are a few places that in my opinion are the star of this journey. A detailed description of these places is further in this article.
- Rohtang La
- Deepak Taal
- Baralacha La
- Suraj Taal
- Shaheed Sainik Bhawan
- Gata Loops
- Lachulung La
- Moore Plains
- Tso Kar
- Tanglang La
I will also list down all the places on Manali Leh highway below with a brief description. You can take a printout of this while on the journey, more like a check list, to ensure that you did not miss visiting some place that was worth a visit.
One of the main tourist destinations in our country, Manali needs no introduction. At a height of 2,050 m (6,726 feet), this small town is a beauty in itself, although, in my opinion, it is getting very crowded today.
Traveling from Manali to Leh would mean that you will be in Manali between the months of June to September, of which June and July are also the tourist season here; therefore, be prepared for a swarm of tourists,
Hotels and inns are in abundance here, so finding a place to stay won’t be a problem. If you want, you can spend a day in Manali before starting your journey to Leh. That way, you can do a final check on your motorcycles, cars and will also provide you with enough time to obtain Rohtang licenses.
Read below for more details on how to obtain the permissions and restrictions applicable to passing through Rohtang La.
Ascent to Rohtang
A task in itself, climbing the mighty Rohtang Pass will give you a taste of what you want right at the beginning of your journey. Start as early as possible from Manali, well before sunrise. The top of Rohtang is located approximately 55 km from Manali, the first 40 km of which are a feast for the eyes. Numerous streams of water, waterfalls, fascinating landscapes, of which you will witness at sunrise.
You won’t really see the sun rise, but that shade at the top of the peaks is a sight in itself. This road gets really crowded as the day grows and you don’t want to get stuck in traffic, so it’s very important that you start early. In the last 10 to 15 kilometers near the top, there is a mixture of muddy mud, pebbles and water passages that will startle and thrill you at the same time. Below is a list of places you will find when climbing Rohtang La.
This will be your first high altitude step on the journey. 90% chance of finding snow at the top. Spend time on your first step at a high altitude of the trip and revere the vision you will never forget for the rest of your life, if it is your first time in Rohtang. The literal meaning of Rohtang is “a pile of corpses”, so it is called “guessing”, but don’t let that scare you. Seductive landscapes that consist of strong wind, cold temperature, snowy peaks and lush green valleys are what the Rohtang Pass is famous for. At the top, the total altitude of sea level is 3,979 m (13,051 feet) and the total distance between Manali and Rohtang Pass is approximately 51 kilometers.
The road through this powerful hill connects the valley of Lahaul and Spiti to the valley of Kullu and remains closed for about 6 months in a year, from November to April. If this is your first time at such high altitudes, it will also be the place where you may or may not experience the disease. If you do, don’t spend too much time at the top and start descending immediately on the other side. As you gradually reach a lower altitude, the effects of AMS also diminish.
It is the place where a road forks towards the Spiti valley. There is nothing here, except a small Dhaba, which also doubles as a Chadar tent, offering a bed for just Rs. 200 – Rs. 300. If it weren’t for this Dhaba and the fork in the road, you probably wouldn’t even realize you crossed Gramphu.
Right after Gramphu, you will start traveling on the Chandra River to Jispa. There is a beautiful legend related to this river. Click here to read about it.
A few kilometers ahead of Gramphu, Kokhsar is famous for being the first settlement in the Lahaul valley. Kokhsar has several small dhabas that also function as Chadar tents and some machine shops. There is also a PWD hostel in Kokhsar, but you really need to book in advance to stay at this hostel.
Also known as Khagling, this is another small village located on the banks of the Chandra River. The helicopter service from Lahaul to the Kullu valley operates in Sissu, Winters. Locals use this service to reach the other side of the Rohtang Pass, in Manali, after roads close in winter due to snowfall. There are some Dhabas / Chadar tents and a PWD inn in Sissu, but like Kokhsar, you must book in advance to stay at this inn as well.
This small town is famous for two things. The first is that he has the last gas station on the Manali Leh highway. After Tandi, the next gas station is 365 km away, as you approach Leh, to refuel here. The second thing this city is famous for is the confluence of the Chandra River, which originates from Lake Chandratal, and the Bhaga River, which originates from Lake Surajtal. Together, these rivers become one here and form the Chandrabhaga River which, after entering Jammu and Kashmir, is called the Chenab River. Stop for a while when you cross Tandi and witness the confluence.
Keylong is the administrative headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti Valley and the largest city on the Manali Leh road. It is also home to the Kardang Monastery, the largest and most important monastery of the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Being an important city, the place is filled with a large number of hotels and inns, to fit any budget. The HRTC and HPTDC buses also stop here at night before continuing to Leh the next day. There is a high possibility that you will receive a signal here if you are using a postpaid BSNL or MTNL cell phone connection. There is also an ATM in Keylong, in case you forget to withdraw money from Manali
Another small town on the Manali Leh road and my favorite place to stay. The accommodations are in the form of 2 cemented hotels and some camping sites, as detailed in the previous post. There is also a machine shop in Jispa, which becomes the last machine shop in progress. I must recommend spending the night in Jispa and it will be worth every penny.
The only thing worth mentioning about Darcha is that it is the end or the starting point of the famous Zanskar walk. There are some tents here if you would like to stay all night.
Right after Darcha and before the rise of Baralacha La, it’s a very small lake, but don’t let its size fool you. It may be smaller in size, but a giant when it comes to natural beauty. There are a few Dhabas / Chadar tents beside the lake. It also doubles as a camping site if you plan on setting up your own tent. Talk to the Dhaba owner and they will be able to arrange your food and allow you to use the restrooms for a small fee.
Nothing very good about Patseo. It’s just a small place, with a few army camps.
I really wonder who came up with that name, but this is where the rise of Baralacha La begins. The roads may start to deteriorate after that point and there will be some Nallahs to cross, formed by the melting snow at the top of Baralacha La..
This will be your second high altitude pass on the Manali Leh road. Ironically, although Tanglang La is at a higher altitude, it is actually Baralacha La that remains covered in snow for longer and receives much more snow than Tanglang La. If you are traveling in June or early July, you are likely to find a lot of snow at the top of Baralacha La.
Also known as Surya Taal, it is a small lake at the top of Baralacha La Pass. It is the source of the Bhaga River and has a breathtaking view between the high peaks of the hills. There is also a walk between Suraj Taal and Chandratal that originates from here. If luck has favored you, you can find the lake completely frozen, even in July. The legend related to the Chandra River is also relevant to Suraj Taal. Click here to read about it.
Shaheed Sainik Bhawan
Time to try some Supernatural. The ruins of Shaheed Sainik Bhawan, at the top of Baralacha La, are considered a haunted place. Click here to read in detail about the scary story. I’m not sure how true this is, but it just seems like a made-up story to me.
Another strange name, but the road conditions here will be mostly bad, terrible, in fact, and that’s why I think the name.
Also known as Bharatpur City (I don’t know why), this is a small location for Chadar camps and tents. If you were planning to camp in Sarchu, also consider the city of Bharatpur, because the camps here are much cheaper than Sarchu.
Sarchu is the point at which the state of Himachal Pradesh ends and Jammu and Kashmir begins. It is like the central point of the Manali Leh road and a famous campsite. Many people chose to stay in Sarchu, in a camp, or in a tent or camp by Chadar on their own. If you plan to set up your own tent, it is recommended to do so closer to a camp. For a small fee, the camp site can give you a place to camp and will also allow you to use the bathroom facilities.
A series of 21 hook curves that will take you to the third high altitude step of the journey, Nakeela. It is also reported to be a haunted website. Click here to read about the ghost that haunts Gata Loops.
Your fourth high altitude pass, located at 16,616 feet. This is also the second highest pass on the Manali Leh road.
This is another great campsite on the route. There are a whole series of Chadar tents here, as mentioned in the previous post. The entire location of Pang is quite scenic, with a river flowing as you approach Pang from Manali Side and More plains on the Leh side.
A plateau on the lap of the Himalayas, Moore Plains is a treasure. However, do not make the mistake of accelerating, as the road can get very uneven without warning. Stay on the road and don’t go away. If you’re lucky, you can find a Kiyang or blue sheep here.
This is where a road forks towards Tso Kar. There are a few dozen Chadar and Dhabas in Debring.
If you are ready to Leh the road for a while, you can take the road towards Tso Kar, which is about 20 to 25 km from Debring. I don’t really think Tso Kar is that scenic, but it’s worth a visit. There are few Chadar tents at Tso Kar if you want to stay. Leave the Manali Leh road, go to the lake, spend some time there and go back to Debring.
Its fifth and last high altitude pass through this road, located at 17,582 feet. In my opinion, it is also the most difficult because of the severely damaged road that takes it. This pass is the highest on the Manali Leh road and is also considered the second largest number of motorcycles in the world ‘. You will definitely feel the effects of AMS here and the low oxygen levels. I recommend that you don’t spend too much time at the top. Just stop, take some pictures and go on your way.
As he approached Rumste and even after this small town; observe how the hills start to become colorful and even the vegetation begins to appear again. There is a hike to Tso Kar and Tso Moriri, further to the Spiti valley, which starts at Rumtse.
Nothing worth mentioning about Upshi, just another city on the way when you start to approach Leh.
Karu is a beautiful village on the road from Manali to Leh, just a few kilometers from Leh. The village’s location features a vivid display of colors; the white on top of the hills, the green of the trees, the colors of the flowers and strangely the stones too.