There are two ways to reach Ladakh and its capital city Leh: by road via Manali (Himachal Pradesh) or Srinagar (Kashmir) and by air with a flight to Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport located just 4 km from Leh city centre.
The best option is to:
A study and survey on AMS among tourists in Leh conducted by NCBI shows that:
Therefore, tourists are advised to travel to Leh-Ladakh by air to minimize the risk of altitude sickness.
Tourists are strongly advised against travelling by road from Manali to Leh. This road trip should be done only when properly acclimatized to the altitude, at the end of the Leh-Ladakh trip, from Leh to Manali.
Ladakh used to be almost completely cut off from the rest of India 6 months per year due to harsh weather conditions in winter keeping the roads blocked with snow for many months. Nowadays, reaching Ladakh has become easier with daily flights to Leh all year round. There are approximately 8 flights per day in each direction between Delhi and Leh. The capital of Ladakh is also directly connected to other major cities such as Mumbai, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Jammu but flights are less frequent. The airlines operating flights to Leh are Air India, GoFirst, Vistara, SpiceJet and IndiGo.
The scenic flight from Delhi to Leh takes one and a half hours. Try to get a window seat so that you can contemplate the wonderful bird’s eye view of the Himalayan snow-clad mountains. Flights are only in the morning because it gets usually windier in the afternoon. Leh airport remains operational for all 12 months of the year though flights are sometimes delayed or cancelled in winter due to bad weather conditions. In summer, flights are very reliable.
The official name of Leh airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport and its IATA code is IXL. It is one of the highest airports in the world at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level and you should spend the first day acclimatizing in Leh before heading to higher altitude. Leh airport is a military airport, therefore the security is tight and a printout of your e-ticket can be required when going through the security checks. Just outside the terminal, you can easily find a taxi to drop you at your hotel. Leh city centre is only 4 km away from the airport and a prepaid taxi costs approximately ₹ 600.
Taking a flight is the most comfortable option compared to the bumpy 2-day road trips to Manali and Srinagar. A one-way air ticket between Delhi and Leh costs approximately ₹ 8,000 in average but there can be significant price variations. Airfares tend to skyrocket during the peak tourist season (June to August) and in winter during the Ladakhi Losar (New Year) and the winter school holiday (mid-December to end of February). Websites such as www.makemytrip.com and www.yatra.com are useful to compare the flights and find the cheapest tickets.
Delhi office: Indira Gandhi International Airport, Terminal 3, New Delhi - 110037 | phone: 011-49631097
Leh office: Fort Road, Leh - 194101 | phone: 01982-252076
Delhi office: Indira Gandhi International Airport, Terminal 2, New Delhi – 110037 | phone: 011-25653521
Leh office: Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, Leh – 194101 | phone: 01982-253940
Delhi office: Jeevan Bharti Tower-1, 10th floor, 124 Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110001 | phone: 9289228888
Delhi office: 319, Udyog Vihar, Phase IV, Gurgaon – 122016 | phone: 9871803333
Delhi office: Upper Ground Floor, Thapar House, Gate No. 2, Western Wing, 124 Janpath, New Delhi – 110001 | phone: 0124-6173838
While taking a flight to Leh is the fastest and most comfortable option, leaving Ladakh by road is an experience of a lifetime. There is a Ladakhi saying: “the land is so harsh and the passes so high that only the best of friends or the worst of enemies would visit you”. Indeed, the route is amazing but strenuous so it is recommended to fly one way (from Delhi to Leh) and return by jeep (via Manali or Srinagar).
Shared jeeps as well as private jeeps from Leh to Manali and from Leh to Srinagar take 2 days and it is the most comfortable option if you opt to go by road. Another option is to take a HRTC bus or SRTC bus, this is the cheapest option but also the slowest and it is more difficult to stop en route for photos.
There are 473 km from Leh to Manali and it takes 2 gruelling days to cover this distance with one night in Pang, Sarchu or Jispa. Several camps are available in Sarchu while Hotel Ibex is a popular place to stay in Jispa.
The legendary Leh-Manali highway is the most mind-blowing route (compared to the Leh-Srinagar highway). It goes through breathtaking landscapes and crosses several high mountain passes including the famous Taglang La pass (5,328m) which the highest point on this route. On the second day, you will cross Rohtang La pass before reaching the green Manali valley covered with pinewood forests. The Leh-Manali road is normally open to traffic from June to October when the passes are clear of snow. Contact us to know the latest road conditions. A shared jeep costs ₹ 4,000/person for 6 passengers and a driver while a private jeep can be hired for minimum ₹ 21,000 (for the whole car).
With one extra day, you could do a side trip to Tso Moriri lake. This huge lake located at an elevation of 4,530 metres is one of the most mesmerizing attractions in Ladakh. You could spend one night in the small village of Korzok, on the bank of the lake and meet the Changpa nomads before heading towards Manali via Tso Kar lake. Note that an Inner Line Permit is required to access this part of Ladakh.
Recommended tour packages with Manali:
It also takes 2 days to cover the 422 km from Leh to Srinagar with an overnight stay midway in Kargil. Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh, it has a population of 11,000 with a majority of Muslims.
The Leh-Srinagar highway is less impressive than the Leh-Manali highway. Most of the attractions are located within the first 60 km from Leh, it includes Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, Magnetic Hill and Sangam (the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers). On the second day, you will drive via Zoji La pass (3,528m) and Sonamarg before reaching Srinagar. The Leh-Srinagar road is usually open from April to November. A shared jeep costs ₹ 3,500/person and private jeep can be booked for ₹ 18,000 (for the whole taxi).
There a several interesting options which can be selected for your road trip from Leh to Srinagar. For example, on the first day, you could visit some of the main Buddhist monasteries of the Indus valley (Basgo, Likir, Alchi and Lamayuru). Another option is to take the small road via Dha-Hanu and Batalik (a few kilometres from the border with Pakistan known as the Line of Control) to reach Kargil.
Recommended tour package with Srinagar: