A tourist place like no other, Leh Ladakh is simultaneously a tourist’s delight and a traveller’s worst nightmare. The best time to travel of course is between the months of June and September when most of the snow has melted and the weather is warm enough, at least during the day to allow free movement.
More than half the fun of visiting this earthly paradise lies in the journey itself. A road trip through some of the highest motorable roads and passes in the world and experiencing the scenic beauty is a thrill beyond compare.
Here is a quick overview of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two alternative routes to reach Leh by road – the Srinagar Leh Highway and the Manali Leh Highway. While both have a lot to offer tourists by way of breathtaking beauty and the natural charm of the Himalayas, they differ vastly from each other in terms of difficulty of terrain and the thrill of adventure.
Reasons to choose Srinagar Road
# Lower altitude allows for better acclimatization
The Srinagar Leh highway stretches for over 434 kms and runs at a lower altitude than the Manali Leh highway. This is particularly important when traveling with children since the ascent is more gradual, it gives your body more time to gradually acclimatize to low oxygen levels at high altitudes. By the time you cross the Zoji-La pass and Kargil and reach Leh, your body would have adjusted sufficiently to mountain conditions to prevent any serious outbreak of AMS. The Manali Leh Highway on the other hand is over 474 kms long and runs at a much higher altitude crossing some of the highest passes in the world including the Tanglang-La, the second highest motorable road in the world. AMS can set in very fast during the first leg of the journey itself as the body does not get time to adapt to high altitude conditions.
# With less AMS to contend with, Srinagar-Leh route can be traversed faster
With so many places to see in Leh Ladakh, time is always going to run short. Road travel takes up most part of the day because of the distance involved as well as the fact that slow driving is required on slippery mountain roads. In order to make the most of your vacation, it is better to take the Srinagar Leh highway for reaching Leh as driving is much easier and faster and you can even reach in 2 days with one night halt at Kargil. Manali Leh Highway on the other hand is more difficult to drive with much higher chances of being affected by AMS which means you will need to take many more stops, first at Keylong or Jispa and again at Sarchu (if you are able to travel without stopping in between), which means an extra day on the road at the very least.
Reasons to choose the Manali Highway
Thrill of adventure:
However despite the many obvious advantages that the Srinagar Leh highway has to offer, many tourists prefer using the Manali Leh Highway for the thrill of the ride. Where else do you get an opportunity to test your driving skills by crossing the 21 hair pin bends of Gata Loops in quick succession on a treacherous mountain terrain or become part of a select few in the world who can lay claim to having crossed the third highest motorable pass in the world, the Tanglang La. The Srinagar Leh Highway in comparison has less adventure to offer and is comparable in most parts to driving on any other mountain road.
Manali Leh route has greater scenic beauty to offer
Running at a higher altitude and crossing through some of the highest roads and passes in the world including the Rohtang Pass and the Tanglang La, the Manali Leh route offers a breathtaking vista all the way. There is nothing to match the experience of crossing the remarkable stretches such as the stark Moore Plains between Lachlung La and Taglang La, with nothing but the flanking mountains at a distance, leaving you awe-struck.
Convenience Vs Adventure
If you are seeking convenience more than adventure, then the Srinagar Leh route might be a more preferred option. This route is also increasingly preferred by families travelling with children, where easy acclimatization is of tremendous importance. On the other hand for the adventure seekers there is no bigger thrill than covering the route between Manali to Leh by road and witnessing firsthand the wondrous beauty of this “Land of Passes”