A Leh Ladakh road trip sets your imagination alight, as it is not in the least difficult to accomplish. Ladakh’s spectacular, starlit skies, its blue-colored waters, and rainbows illuminate the earth. Leh Ladakh’s iconic tourist destinations, such as the highest motorable road in the world (Khardung La); some of the highest mountain passes in the world such as Zoji La and Tanglang La; are all breathtaking. The best way to explore Ladakh is via road trip by car.
Leh Ladakh Road Trip Map
Before anything else, decide the route you wish to travel on your next Leh Ladakh road trip. Here’s an overview of the most popular route you can cover over the course of 3 weeks. Starting from Delhi to Ladakh via Gulmarg, you can drive from Leh City to Delhi via Manali.
Leh Ladakh Road Trip Best Time
The best time of year to visit Ladakh is from May to September as the road from Leh to Manali becomes available via the Rohtang Pass. From mid-September to mid-October is the ideal time to travel to Leh and Ladakh as this place is enlivened during the Srinagar-Leh and Manali-Leh journeys.
Ladakh can be quite dangerous to visit during the monsoon months, as the separation of powers, weather and air condition make the area dangerous overall during these months. Hotel,flights, and food may become more expensive during this time. If you wish to travel here in August to December, it is best to book your tickets at least months in advance.
Climate in Ladakh
When you plan your Leh Ladakh road trip, consider when you wish to travel based on climatic conditions in Leh. Here are more details about the climate in Ladakh.
Summer Season in Ladakh (April-June):
The mountains are heating up in the summertime, and the land begins blooming. With all 4 of its lakes now flowing, the landscape around Leh is colored in various kinds of luscious shades. Streams flow down (Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri), and their colors paint the scenery in a beautiful manner. This is a trip of a lifetime and the best time to visit Leh by road, traveling by car at this time of the year is a spectacular experience
Monsoon Season in Ladakh(July-August):
The mountains are warmed and the land is beginning to bloom, making it a tourist season during this time of the year in this region. The barren landscape is framed by snow-capped mountains, giving it a beauty that is unlike anything else, making it one of the best seasons to visit Ladakh. The lakes are rejoicing (Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri), and they provide a stunning set of colors for the landscape.
Winter Season in Ladakh (September-October):
Early Winters: In order to enjoy exploring Leh Ladakh and the surrounding areas, this is the best time to plan your Leh Ladakh road trip. The cool mountain breeze now gives the streets an appearance of a dreamland. Occasional snowfall gives a dreamy effect to the region. Along with the bodies of water transforming into a blue dreamland, the region appears like a fantasyland at this time.
Leh Ladakh Roads
Driving on this self-drive road trip is only for experienced drivers who are comfortable driving in India and skilled at driving on steep terrain and hills. There are questionable roads, winding roads, and unsurfaced mountain passes along the way (all details are listed in the daily breakdown below). However, if you are not afraid of driving on difficult roads and road trips and look forward to them, you’ll find this trip hard to beat.
Food in Leh Ladakh
Try to stick to bottled filtered water while you’re in India. Stock up on water and also on non-perishable snacks like dried fruits, nuts, and cookies before you head out on your vacation. However, there’s no need to become overly concerned as there are plenty of hot meals in India readily available, and it’s much more affordable than you might anticipate.
There’s a vast number of dhabas along the road, many of which cater specifically to vegetarian and vegan travelers. Look for paranthas (stuffed flatbreads) and sandwiches.
As you get closer to Leh, you will begin to notice a few establishments serving mok moku (steamed dumplings), chow mein (an Indian take on stir-fried noodles), and Maggi (Instant noodles) off menus. Meals at roadside eateries generally cost less than INR 500 (approximately 5 USD). There are also a lot of moderate and also great restaurants in the bigger cities you visit while on your road trip.
The total expenses tend to depend on a number of factors such as the type of hotels and restaurants you choose to stay and dine. You have an option to choose a lil B&Bs / camping for the days when we had to be on the road all day and just needed a place to sleep at night and luxury hotels for languorous days that had to be spent in the same city.
Apart from accommodation and food, you will incur an additional spend of roughly about USD 120 (INR 12k-15k) on fuel and USD 40 (INR 4K) on tolls and road tax in case you are driving a rental car. Of course, you will be saving rental car costs if you choose to drive using your own vehicle.
Leh Ladakh Road Trip By Car (Car Rental and Car Costs)
Leh Ladakh road trip by car can be the best option to opt for. Renting a four-wheeled vehicle makes a lot of sense if you’re planning a road trip to Ladakh. There’s no practical reason for this, however, it makes things more comfortable and simplifies transportation. In most of India, you can locate a car rental company without any problem. As you probably know, traveling through India means dealing with completely different traffic rules and intricate driving protocol. These factors make it most effective to rent an auto from a rental company in India.
Leh Ladakh Road Trip By Car: Plan Your Drive In India
Day 1: Driving from Delhi to Patnitop
Driving through Indian cities and plains the first few days is ideal in order to become accustomed to driving in India. The drive from Delhi to Patnitop, a small mountain resort in eastern Jammu and Kashmir, is long; the trek can take between 16 and 20 hours. If you’re uncomfortable with lengthy car rides, it is smart to break it off at some point.
Day 2: Driving from Patnitop to Gulmarg
As soon as you get to Patnitop, you will find yourself in a wide range of forests, meadows, rushing waterfalls, and blue sky. Apple orchards will start appearing on your route and the sun-drenched panoramas of Kashmir will welcome you as you come down the tunnel. At some point you will cross Jawahar Tunnel; you will be brought through the other side once you walk outside.
The winding mountainous drive between Patnitop and Gulmarg takes 8 hours. Expect plenty of pit stops in between; rainbows dance in the meadows and Gulmarg. Nature’s bright beauty and light here are the greatest in Kashmir.
Days 3-5: Gulmarg & surroundings
You can stay 3 nights at a decent Resort as you travel the region around Gulmarg. The wilderness there was stunningly beautiful in this part of Kashmir.
You might just pile your picnic basket into the car to get to your destination, or take a short hike, whichever suits you better. If you decide to leave Gulmarg’s magical woodlands, anyone can organize a picnic.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take a trip on the Gulmarg Gondola, one of the highest-operating cable cars in the world. You can easily go up to the first level of the gondola, but your vistas of the Himalayas mountains are splendid from the second level. Definitely recommended! Tickets cost around 16 USD (INR 1600). Consider yourself warned, anticipate long lines.
Day 6: Driving from Gulmarg to Kargil
Finally, it is time to leave the tranquil surroundings of Gulmarg and enter strange terrains far away from Gulmarg. The drive from the Gulmarg area to Leh could not be completed in just one day, so it was best to cover it over the course of 2 to 3 days. Kargil is the perfect place to stop if you’re performing this trek over 2 days.
This drive is one of the most scenic drives. Expect glacier views at Sonmarg, little streams at Drass, herds, glad shepherds, flocks of sheep, and seductive stretches of countryside at Andarkand. At Zoji La (Zojila Pass), one of the difficulties along this highway, roads are very short but magnificent vistas are abundant. Furrow-packed scenery wanders everywhere, so it is hard not to be affected by the bad roads or traffic jams.
Day 7: Driving from Kargil to Leh City
The military presence in Jammu and Kashmir is affected by the complexities of the region’s political status.
Scenery-wise, this stretch of road is magnificent. In fact, it’s so stunning you won’t even care to stop every five minutes, especially as you get closer to Leh.
As you progress toward Ladakh, you will observe lush meadows, distinguished by towering conifers and ribbed by placid streams, balanced against barren hills, which are amplified by the powerful beams of the sun. Monks could be spotted all over the place and monasteries were scattered everywhere as far as the eye could see, that’s when you know you have made it to Leh!!
Some of the famous places that are worth stopping at on the way are Lamayuru village (midway between Kargil and Leh), Alchi, and the much-hyped magnetic hill.
Days 8-10: Explore Leh City and surroundings
There are a lot of things to see in Leh City.
- You can start by exploring Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist stupa located on a hilltop
- The Old Town of Leh makes it a fascinating self-guided walk with its crumbling houses, the busy marketplace, and Leh Palace (Get directions)
- Leh Palace offers great views of Leh City, but only the neighbouring Namgyal Tsemo Monastery offers truly spectacular views of Leh City.
- Chapels outside town, Thiksey and Hemis monasteries give a fascinating glimpse into the Buddhist way of life. It’s easy to spend hours exploring the various rooms, admiring staircases, and speaking with the spiritual leaders at each monastery. Don’t miss the early service that starts at Thiksey monastery, and the afternoon prayer ceremony at Hemis monastery (Get directions – Hemis Gompa).
Take it easy on your first day in Leh City and don’t overexert your body. If you commence a road trip, it’s likely that your body will acclimatize slowly to the changes in altitude while your Internal Confection goodies adjust to the heat and humidity. If you plan to fly to your Leh City destination, the distance in altitude will feel significant at first, compared to if you’d driven there from sea level. In any case, refrain from consuming spicy hot food until your body has acclimatized.
Learn more about Leh Ladakh trip packages here.