From desert to greens – The drive back from Leh via Keylong and Manali

Day 7: Leh, Upshi, Tanglang-la, Debring, More Plains, Pang, Lachulung-la, Naki-la, Gata Loops, Sarchu, Baralacha-la, Jispa, KeyLong

Almost 350 KMs out of 474 KMs long Leh – Manali Highway, does not have any civilization, although you would find some tented accommodations and tea stalls at every 30 to 40 KM. It is necessary to carry extra fuel because there is no petrol station from Leh till Tandi (around 365 KMs). Most of the time you drive at an altitude of around 4000m, but we did not face any issue related to AMS sickness as we had spent enough time in LEH at high altitude and our body was already acclimatised to high altitude.

The journey can’t be completed in one stretch therefore it is necessary to break either at Jispa (beautiful village on the Bhag river, Jispa Lodge is a good stay option) or Keylong which is a small town with all kind of shops.
Mountain Passes on the route are:

Taglang La: 5328 Mtrs
Lachulung La: 5079 Mtr
Baralacha La: 4890 Mtrs
Rohtang Pass: 3980 Mtrs

Due to excellent road conditions, crossing Tanglang-la (highest pass on this route at 5328 m) was as easy as driving in plain. We started from Leh at 04:30 and crossed Tanglang-la around 06:00 with a short tea break at Debring at 06:30.

Tanglang-La pass, smooth road

Tanglang-La pass, smooth road

Tanglang-La pass

Tanglang-La pass

Breakfast at Debring

Breakfast at Debring

Immediately after Debring, the “More Plains” starts which is around 40 KM plain road surrounded by mountain and extends till Pang at an altitude of around 4700 m.

More Plains, an excellent 40 KM plain road at an altitude of around 4700m

Road until Pang is in excellent condition but it start converting into a gravel road while approaching Lachunglung-la pass. We start crossing Lachunglung-la (5079 m) at 08:00 and reached Sarchu at 10:30.

Lachung-la Pass (5079m)

Lachung-la Pass (5079m), gravel road

Enroute you find Gata Loops, a series of 20 hairpin bends that take us from Naki-la to Sarchu.

Gata loops

Gata loops, 20 hairpin bends

We had our breakfast at Sarchu (4253m) which lies in the middle of Leh-Manali highway and a major halt point for most the travellers. It also has tented accommodations but overnight stay is only recommended if you have acclimatise yourself for 2 to 3 nights in Leh.


Breakfast at Sarchu

Tented accommodations in Sarchu

One of the tented accommodations in Sarchu

The next pass enroute was Baralacha-la (4890 m), it is a high plateau where three different mountain ranges – Pir Panjal, Zanskar and the Great Himalayas – meet at an altitude of 4890m.

Baralacha-la pass

Baralacha-la pass at an altitude of 4890 meters

Baralacha-la pass at an altitude of 4890 meters

Baralacha-la pass at an altitude of 4890 meters

Baralacha-la pass

Baralacha-la pass at an altitude of 4890 meters

Just a few kilometres away from the Bara-lacha Pass towards Manali is the Bhaga river, a tributary of the Chandrabhaga river, which originates from the Surya Taal Lake.

This pass is covered in snow during all seasons, and you really feel like passing over the mountain and feel at the top of the Earth, the view is just outstanding and can’t be explain in words.


Suraj Taal

Just after crossing the Baralacha-la, we reached at Zingzing bar, another small halt point with tea shops and tented accommodations (but no real bars around :))

Road from here become smooth until Keylong.

Zing Zing Bar

Zing Zing Bar

Near Darcha

Bad road conditions near Darcha

A MTB rider near Darcha

A MTB rider near Darcha, salute to his motivation and courage

It was 16:30 when we reached Keylong and we decided to pull over for a night stay here as the next stretch of journey is going to be difficult and at low speed.

Day 8: Keylong, Rohtang pass, Manali, Chandigarh

Next morning, we started around 6:00 from Keylong for Chandigarh. Crossing Rohtang-la pass was little difficult due to melting snow and heavy vehicle traffic on a narrow road. We found hundreds of tourists playing with snow at Rohtang pass, but just did not bother stop and continued towards Manali.

From Rohtang till Manali, we faced with heavy traffic due to hundreds of taxis carrying tourists from Manali to Rohtang.

We had our breakfast break at Manali around 10:00 and reached Chandigarh by 21:00.

Enroute had to pay fine for fast driving in Manali :)

And this is how the most thrilling and adventurous journey comes to end with an unforgettable experience and a zeal to come again.


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