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Written by Savi, 22 Comments

This is Part 2 of our 5 part series on planning the ultimate road trip to Leh Ladakh in India. We will cover every aspect – itinerary, accommodation, packing, driving – of planning an unforgettable Ladakh road trip:

Read Part 1 – Leh Ladakh Road Trip I (Gulmarg and Leh Ladakh) (opens in new tab)

Read Part 3 – Packing for a road trip to Leh and Ladakh (opens in new tab)

Read Part 4 – 10 Dos and Donts for a roadtrip to Leh-Ladakh, India (opens in new tab)

Read Part 5 – Accommodation: Luxury Camping in Ladakh (opens in new tab)

 

Day 11: Drive to Nubra Valley

Once you’re done exploring Leh City, it’s time to head to one of the most remote and barren corners of the world – The Nubra Valley. Do beware: It isn’t possible to drive rental cars within Ladakh, so you will have to rent a cab. It’s probably for the best because roads here are in bad shape and can be extremely challenging for outsiders! However local drivers know them well as they ferry thousands of passengers to and fro every day.

The road might be bad but the drive is one of the most scenic ones so far. Expect barren panoramas blanketed by snow. This drive also takes visitors through one of the highest motorable road of the world – Khardung La. The mountain pass is crowded but provides the perfect photo opportunity.

 

Top Tip

Head to the taxi stand in Leh City to find a cab and a driver at a competitive price. Expect to pay £100 (INR 8000- 10,000) for an overnight trip to Nubra Valley.

 

Accommodation

We were so impressed by our well-appointed luxury tents in Leh, so we decided to stay at The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s glamping site in Nubra as well. Chamba Camp Diskit boasts of canvas tents overlooking the resplendent Diskit Monastery. We woke up to huge rainbows, clouds suspended over our tent, and gourmet breakfasts every day. The butler service, extensive menus, and We also had a dreamy glamping lunch, one I won’t forget for a long long time at Chamba Camp Diksit.  We had pan-seared scallops with cauliflower foam and a watermelon-feta salad to THIS view – a glistening lagoon, towering peaks, and the Diskit Monastery in the distance:

 

Luxury scenic camping lunch in Ladakh at Chamba Camp Diksit
Dreamiest glamping lunch ever, at Chamba Camp Diksit

 

The drive to Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world
The drive to Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world

 

Khardung La on road trip to Ladakh
Cheesy but it needed to be done 😉 Heck yeah!!

 

road in Nubra Valley while driving in Ladakh
THAT road, we drove on that road in Nubra Valley

 

Traffic jams & precarious roads - the inevitable downsides of a road trip to Ladakh
Dubious crumbling roads on the way back from Nubra Valley – it’s best to rent a cab for driving around Ladakh

 

Day 12 & 13: Explore Nubra Valley and Diskit

You could spend 1 or 2 days exploring Nubra Valley. The area offers a whole host of things to do – you could:

  • explore the gorgeous Diskit Monastery
  • marvel at the gigantic Maitreya Buddha (Future Buddha) at Diskit
  • go offroading and search for the hidden lake, Tso Kar
  • visit the sand-dunes at Hunder and go for a camel ride or admire bactrian camels from a distance
  • Explore Turtuk village or go for a trek in the area

 

However as with Leh City, the panoramas are the highlight of a visit to the Nubra Valley. They are surreal to say the least – rainbows play hide and seek, sand-dunes appear out of nowhere, and barren valleys offer an obscurity that is truly liberating for the passionate traveller. It’s easy to feel like one is on the moon or Mars – but it’s just Nubra Valley hellbent on exerting its charms on visitors! 🙂

 

Top Tip

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to check everything off a list but when you’re in Nubra Valley set aside 1 morning for doing nothing – just stare at fresh rainbows or marvel at the way suspended clouds form patterns over towering mountains. You’ll find yourself falling irrevocably in love with Ladakh all of a sudden 🙂

 

Matreya Buddhah Diskit monastery Nubra
The ginormous Maitreya Buddha at Diskit Monastery

 

Exploring Diskit Monastery in Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Exploring Diskit Monastery in Nubra Valley, Ladakh

 

camels at sand-dunes of Hunder in Ladakh
The remnants of a rainbow lend an air of magic to the proceedings at the sand-dunes of Hunder in Ladakh

 

Offroading in Nubra Valley Ladakh
Offroading in Nubra Valley is so much fun 🙂

 

Couple at at Tso Kar, a hidden lake in Nubra Valley, Ladakh
The two of us at Tso Kar, a hidden lake in Nubra Valley, Ladakh

 

 rainbow over our tent in Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Craziest rainbow over our tent in Nubra Valley, Ladakh

 

Couple having breakfast at our camp site in Nubra Valley, Ladakh
The two of us having breakfast at our camp site in Nubra Valley, Ladakh

 

Day 14 & 15: Drive to Pangong Lake and savour Pangong Lake (optional Tso Moriri)

You could head to Pangong Lake in your cab straight from Nubra Valley. However the road that connects Nubra & Pangong is often closed to tourists. In that case, head back to Leh City and head out to Pangong the next day.  Pangong Lake left us mesmerised to say the least. It might have been the highlight of our road trip to Ladakh 🙂

 

Ladakh’s peacefulness and blue skies are nowhere as impressive as they are at Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake). Cradled between mountains, the glimmering water body, that extends from India to China, changes colour every hour. Just sit by the lakeside and try to count the shades of blue! Watch the sun set over the expansive lake before you hit the sack.

 

Stay overnight at Pangong Lake, spend a couple of hours walking by the lake, sitting on the shore, or photographing its waters before departing for Leh City in your cab.

 

Top Tip

  • There are 4-5 shacks selling a mix of India and Tibetan food at Pangong Lake. Hot food is quite reasonable. Snacks including biscuits, chocolates, aerated drinks, and crisps are available but overpriced. Stock your car with snacks in Leh City if you can.
  • If you have a couple of extra days at hand, head over to Tso Moriri, another lake in the area. We did not visit Tso Moriri but heard great things about it.

 

Accommodation 

A number of people choose to see Pangong Lake as a day trip from Leh City. The drive takes 5 hours/way. So this leaves little time to see the lake or absorb the surroundings. So we would strongly recommend staying at the lake at least for a night. Make sure you book in advance as accommodation is extremely limited and in high demand in the area. Do beware – a lot of other campsites in the area don’t have toilets or blankets. Make sure you confirm before booking a place.

We stayed at Pangong Inn – it’s a concrete structure (the only one in the area!) with electricity, hot water, and hot meals. This is as luxurious as it gets in this remote an area. Rooms are basic but boast of en-suite toilets (a rarity in the area), proper beds, and running water. Besides, the view from Pangong Inn is breathtaking – check it out for yourself in the photo below:

 

View of Pangong Lake from Pangong Inn
View of Pangong Lake from The Pangong Inn, the hotel where we stayed!

 

Rooms at The Pangong Inn are basic but comfortable
Rooms at The Pangong Inn are basic but comfortable

 

Ladakh road trip drive
That time we met a Bruised Passports reader at one of the remotest places in the world, Chang La Pass 🙂

 

Ladakh road trip couple at Pangong Lake
I think this is the right time to start penning a manual on how responsible married adults should conduct themselves ??

 

Pangong Lake on road trip of Ladakh
It’s hard to get enough of Pangong Lake

 

rainbow in sky Ladakh
Even the skies are sprinkled with magic in Ladakh – see it? 🙂

 

Day 16: Drive from Leh City to Jispa (optional Lahaul-Spiti)

It was hard for us to say good bye to Ladakh but after a week or so in this enchanted land, it was time to pick up our rental car from Leh City and continue our road trip back to Delhi. On the way back, the road from Leh to Pang is in good shape but it deteriorates after Pang. The stretch from Pang to Sarchu is mostly unpaved and in really bad shape (we hear it will be better in September).

 

The scenery between Rumtse village and the world’s second highest pass Tanglangla Pass, is nothing short of spectacular – think towering multi-hued mountains, terraced green fields, wild horses, and streams. It reminded us a lot of Iceland’s countryside.

 

But that’s not all – this route is FULL of surprises. It’s home to numerous offbeat sights that don’t make it to guidebooks. The More Plains (pronounce Mo-ray) are home to a 40 kilometre stretch of road flanked by towering mountains in variegated colours on both side. The More Plains are uninhabitable, so there is no sign of civilisation here – just azure skies and unending open spaces!!

Then there are the Gata Loops, a series of twenty one hairpin bends that took us down from 16000 feet – self-drive road trips are the only way to see such crazy wonders of nature!! Loved them

 

Top Tip

Stop by the little-known Debring “village” for a quick brunch – there are just a couple of roadside shacks here. The food isn’t the draw but the view is!! This is also the start of the little-known but incredible More plains. The roads were in great shape when we visited and we found ourselves stopping every 5 minutes for a photo (or 10!) 🙂 The stretch from Leh to Pang was by far the best stretch of road in terms of quality on our Leh Ladakh road trip.

Once you leave Leh / Karu, the next fuel station will be at Tandi (after Keylong). That’s around 360 kms from Leh. Make sure you top up your fuel tanks in Leh city or Karu.

 

Accommodation:

Sarchu and Jispa offer a number of camping sites and guesthouses. All accommodation in the area is extremely basic. We stayed the night at a small hotel called Padma Lodge. The hotel complex is next to the gurgling Bhag river and quite scenic during the day. Rooms are basic but clean and hot food is plentiful – ok for a quick stopover to break the journey!

 

Leh-Ladakh-Road-Trip-India-Itinerary-Planning-144
It’s hard to say good bye to Ladakh 🙁

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
There are no signals in this part of the world but every now and then you must stop to let the residents pass by 😉

 

Gata Loops on Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
The Gata Loops are the highlight of this drive

 

Ladakh panorama
The More Plains are little known but spectacular!

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
Vishal Taal – a random pit-stop b/w Leh and Manali

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
View at road side shack in Debring – make sure you stop for a snack or a meal!

 

Day 18-20: Drive from Jispa to Manali & explore the villages around Manali

The drive from Jispa to Manali is quite a short one on paper but it can take anything between 5-8 hours. this is because the road from Jispa to Rohtang Pass is in bad shape and Rohtang Pass itself can get extremely crowded. Hundreds of tourists flock to Rohtang Pass every day because its an easy day trip from Manali. Consequently the traffic situation is nightmarish, to say the least!!

 

Once you’re settled in a little corner of Manali, spend your days discovering quaint bakeries, visiting orchards or devouring freshly-picked cherries and peaches, knocking back a few beers by the banks of River Beas, or going for rambly walks and hikes in the area.

 

Top Tip:

  • Manali is the perfect place to stock up on fresh fruits – cherries, apples, and peaches – for the long drive back to Delhi. You won’t have to go too far looking for fruits – dozens of vendors can be found selling cartons of fresh fruits on the roads surrounding Manali.
  • When you leave Jispa, make sure you top up your fuel tank at the petrol station in Tandi.

 

Accommodation:

Manali is an extremely popular getaway for Indian tourists so the main town can get crowded, cramped, and chaotic. We’d suggest staying away from Manali, in a peaceful village in the Parvati Valley if you’re there for more than 2 days. Vashisht, Old Manali, Tosh, and Kalga are some of the villages that are peaceful and slightly off-the-beaten path.

If you’re there for a shorter period of time and are just breaking your journey in Manali, then a hotel like Holiday Cottages and Resorts in the neighbouring Simsa is apt as it is just a couple of kilometres away from Manali but far from the madness. Rooms are spacious, well-equipped with hot showers, electric kettles, and other such and overlook Himachal’s lush green valleys.

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
Driving towards Manali

 

Traffic jam at Rohtang Pass on the way to Manali
Reality check! Traffic jam and crowds at Rohtang Pass on the way to Manali

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
The two of us chilling by the banks of River Beas in Manali

 

Ladakh road trip Manali
View from our room in Manali

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
Manali’s lush forests, winding roads, and cotton candy clouds 🙂

 

Day 21: Drive from Manali to Delhi

Just like the first day, the last day of this roadtrip is not particularly spectacular. The first few hours comprise of winding roads through hills but soon enough you’ll find yourselves in the plains.  The route we followed is – Manali- Kullu-Mandi-Swar ghat – Kiratpur- Ropar (Roopnagar) – Ambala – Karnal – Panipat –  Delhi. Once again, do not refer to your GPS blindly. Study the route beforehand and map it out before you set out on the drive. It took us 14 hours from Manali to Delhi including a few stops for meals and coffee.

 

That’s it! A road trip to Ladakh is truly the road trip of a lifetime. We saw panoramas that didn’t seem real at every step and found it so easy to fall in love with this forbidden remote land. As you probably know, we’ve driven thousands of miles in dozens of countries, but this road trip to Ladakh will forever rank as one of our favourites 🙂

 

Ladakh road trip drive travel fashion
G’bye Ladakh – we’ll be back soon 🙂

 

Ladakh road trip drive from Leh to Manali
It’s not every day that one gets to see such surreal beauty from the car window!

 

Ladakh road trip
Tempted to visit Ladakh? 🙂

 

* All costs and road conditions true of June 2016

 

Are you crazy about road trips too? Here are some of our favourites:

Carnivals and Beaches: A Road Trip Through Spain

Lions and Wineries: A Road Trip Through South Africa

The Land of Game of Thrones: A Road Trip Through Croatia

Picture Postcards Everywhere: A Road Trip Through New Zealand

Glaciers and Icebergs:  A Road Trip Through Iceland

Other resources to help you in planning your road trip to Ladakh:

Devil on Wheels

Leh Ladakh India

Road Less Travelled

22 thoughts on “An Epic Road Trip To Leh Ladakh, Nubra, And Pangong Lake

  1. We are going to Ladakh this September and this post will come in so handy for us. The route we planned on is very similar to yours. We will be driving from Hyderabad though. And your pictures have got me even more excited for our trip.

    1. That’s awesome Harini 🙂 Hope you have an awesome time on your road trip of Ladakh and find everything you need to plan it right here 🙂

    1. Ramya – you know I always love hearing from you 🙂 Manali itself isn’t great -it’s too crowded but the villages around it are really nice

    1. Hey Abhinav – Vid’s a professional travel photographer. All these photos have been clicked by him or a tripod (under his direction) 🙂

  2. @bruisedpassport just gone thru ur leh-ladakh travelogue.its fascinating & tempting. All snaps r jst awsm.Hope u won’t mind if I ask u which Camera you used in this trip.

  3. What an amazing website.I checked your full leh story with that wonderful information you’ve posted really appreciated.
    One thing is the best that when reading through the journey you’ve posted is the do and don’t,tips,places to stay,all gathered in one place as if no need to go anywhere just your page makes notes and start the trip.

    THANKS FOR THE JOB AND WONDERFUL IDEA.
    WOULD ONE DAY BE A PART OF ALL THE STORIES YOU’VE POSTED HOPE SO COMES TRUE.

    1. Hey Arvinder – so glad you appreciate it. Putting together the guide to a roadtrip in Ladakh took really long as we wanted to include as much information as possible but we’re so happy to hear it’s helpful for our readers. Yay 🙂 Hope you get to travel tons super soon

  4. Hello,

    We’ll we doing a similar road trip (Delhi-Srinagar-Leh-Manali-Delhi) in June this year and your article has been really useful for us!

    I just have 2 questions regarding it and it’ll be great if you can assist us:

    1) Regarding the Rohtang Pass, is it true that it is closed on Tuesdays? Also, are there any restrictions on the timings during which vehicles coming from the north going towards Manali can enter the pass? (On another website I read that vehicles coming from the north can only pass between 6pm and 5am).

    2) How long did you guys take to drive from Leh to Jispa?

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Drew,

      So sorry for not replying sooner. Seems like you’d already be on your road trip – please do share your experiences with us 🙂

      1) We did not face such time restrictions. We were at Rohtang at around 1 p.m. and there was no restriction on the entry towards Manali. There was a massive traffic jam though 😉

      2) Leh to Jispa – well it took us around 12 hours but this included photo and rest stops. As a rule for this road trip, add a couple of hours to what Google maps suggests 🙂

      Once again, apologies for not getting back sooner – hope you had a great trip and that our article was helpful.

  5. Hi,
    Your travelogue has been amazing and the pictures are a treat to watch.
    However, there is one thing I would like to mention honestly.
    I felt, you could have taken your self drive rental scorpio to the Khardung La top.
    Driving yourself to the highest motorable road is a matter of pride and not everyone gets that chance to savour.
    Being a travel enthusiast Khardung la pass is like a Holy Grail to me and I am a bit disappointed that being travel enthusiasts you took a taxi ride to the heaven instead of driving yourself.
    Apart from this no other issues.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Abhinav,

      Thanks – glad you like the pictures 🙂 We were driving a rental car which is not allowed beyond Leh (as of 2015). We would have loved to drive to Nubra valley in our rental car but the local authorities don’t allow that. Moreover, we have driven on even higher and more dangerous roads so the “holy grail” is always subjective 🙂

  6. Hi Sasi Vid,

    We are also planning to do the same trip this year July. Your write up will definitely help us a lot. Thanks for sharing such a nice experience.

    Regards – majeed

    1. Thanks so much Majeed for this information-makes us so glad that our posts are of help to our readers:)

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