After what can really be called an agonizing wait, the Manali Leh Highway has been declared open today for the year 2019. The opening of the pass arrives three good weeks later this year, compared to the opening in previous years. The heavy snowfall that came with the winter season delayed the opening of almost all roads and crossed the Himalayan route and Manali Leh was no exception either. Both locals and people planning a trip to Ladakh patiently waited for the BRO to give a go-ahead and it finally happened today.
According to Commander Colonel Uma Shankar of the Border Road Task Force (BRTF), BRO has completed the snow-clearing operation of the road that remains blocked due to snow accumulation during the winter at several passages along the way. In fact, the route was free of snow a few days ago, but local authorities were assessing the situation and determining whether or not the road was safe to allow civil traffic.
The tourist station in Ladakh is already really active and many people have already traveled there from Srinagar. But it is usually the Manali route that brings all the flow of tourists in the region each year. With the road now open, thousands of people will be traveling to Ladakh by motorbike, car or public transport. In fact, it’s not just the tourists. This road also serves as a lifeline for the people of the Ladakh region, providing essential supplies and stocking winters when the region remains isolated from the rest of the country.
With that said, the situation in Rohtang is a bit out of control at the moment. There is a heavy daily traffic jam in the pass resulting in a 3 to 4 hour waiting time for vehicles. With the opening of the Manali Leh route, things get much worse. The Manali Kaza road will also open this week, which will result in even more traffic. Getting a permit to visit and cross the Rohtang Pass is also a task in itself now.
In the end, however, if a trip to Ladakh was in your plans for this year and the Manali route was part of your itinerary, now is the time for you to realize the dream. My advice would be to give at least two to three weeks before you travel on the road. BRO is still working on road stabilization, which means that temporary closures may still occur. Road conditions also remain a little bad for the first few weeks. Fortunately, if you waited, things with Rohtang will also make things better.