Leh Manali Highway- All You Need to Know about Atal Tunnel

leh manali highway

The first thing that strikes your mind when you think of going on a road trip is the famous Manali-Leh Highway. Just think of riding your beast through the criss-cross terrain! Get a chance to explore the unmatchable beauty of the mountains. With the towering peaks covered in snow, cool mountain breeze and distant valleys add to the excitement. You’ll come across some of the most famous passes of Ladakh as you continue your ride through the rugged terrain. The undisputed Leh Manali highway images are always a spectacle and riding through the mountains is one moment which your heart will remember forever!

The Manali-Leh Highway is 428 km long, which connects the Solang Valley to the Lahaul and Spiti valleys in Himachal along with the Zanskar Valley in Ladakh.

Flanked by tall Himalayan and Karakoram Mountain ranges, this route is open for just 5 months in a year and is especially traversed by passionate motorcyclists. However, the Lahaul Valley which is connected to Manali will now remain open for a major part of the year as the newly built Atal Tunnel connects the two. By 2024, the proposed Shingo La Tunnel’s completion will lead the whole Manali-Leh route in becoming an all-weather road.

The route of Leh-Manali acts as a primary route for multiple roads of India-China Border in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. Border Roads Organization (BRO) of the Indian Army has built and maintained the Leh-Manali highway as it supports the heaviest vehicles of the security forces. 


The construction of Leh-Manali began in the year 1964. For achieving maximum pace, the work was taken up from both ends of the route. Finally, in the year 1989, the Leh-Manali highway was ready to serve as the second land route to Ladakh. It expanded over 473 kms.

Travel Time on Leh-Manali Highway

The Leh-Manali Highway can be covered in one, two or even three days, depending upon how long you plan to stay.

  • If you plan to complete the journey in a single day, then you must consider certain factors like motion sickness, acclimatization, and exhaustion as you will be on the road for a minimum 16-17 hours. Unfortunate incidents like engine breakdown or tire puncture are frequent. Most importantly, a single day coverage of this highway would lead to missing out on some breathtaking views. Since you will be traveling through diverse altitudes without frequent breaks, the chances of falling sick will run high.
  • The most preferred journey by first-time travelers as well as routine travelers is two days. This journey gives them enough time for unplanned stopovers & acclimatization. If you’re planning to take a two-day journey, you can start early in the morning from Manali. Keylong, Jispa is the suitable point to spend your night. Start the next day early as well to reach Leh by evening.
  • The least chosen option is the three-day trip, reasons being cost and time. Surely, two layovers are going to cost you extra time and money. But if you consider experience, of course it’s going to be more appealing as you’ll be able to enjoy more spots without rushing. In this case, the journey begins from Manali in the morning, and you’ll be able to reach Keylong by evening.

Where to stay on the Leh-Manali Highway?

The Manali Leh highway has multitudes of places to rest and take a break during your journey. There are budget friendly hotels at the end points that offer accommodation in Manali Leh Highway but if you’re willing to rest in between, there are a number of Dhabas (a roadside eatery) which doesn’t cost much for food. Some of them even let you rest providing dormitory beds but with no private toilets!

Guesthouses are available at Keylong, Sissu, Upshi, Rumste and Karu.

Another option is to sleep inside tents which are inexpensive and generally basic. Luxury tents are available in Jispa and Sarchu.

Road Conditions

Road conditions are totally subject to season and weather. However, most of the sections are well-patched and safe. But there are some sections you need to look out for.

Smooth: Leh to Rumste, Rumste to Tanglang pass, Tanglang pass to Moore Plains, Baralacha pass to Zing Zing Bar, Zing Zing Bar to Jispa, Jispa to Keylong, Keylong to Sissu.

Roads to look out for: Moore plains to Pang, Pang to Sarchu, Sarchu to Baralacha pass, Kokhsar to Rohtang. 

Average: Sissu to Kokhsar, Rohtang Pass to Manali.

Recommended Time to Travel on the Leh-Manali Highway

Rohtang Pass and Baralacha Pass are open by the end of May. You can plan a trip from the first week of June to see the stacks of snow from the previous season’s snowfall and that’s why it is the most preferred time of the year. When July hits, the snow begins to melt and it gets tough to navigate because of the freshwater passages. Also, chances of rainfall are higher from July, so if you wish to avoid that, hit the route in the August-September period. The last month for a safe visit is September.

Passes on the Leh-Manali Highway

  • Tanglang La Pass

Amongst various passes in Manali Leh Highway, Tanglang La is the second highest pass of the world and the highest of your journey with its highest point at 5300 meters or 17582 feet. The view at this point remains in your heart for the rest of your life! Also, don’t forget your cameras during the trip as this motorable pass will offer incredible views to capture.

  • Lachulung La Pass

This is the second Pass of the Leh-Manali route which has an altitude of 16616 feet. If you have altitude sickness, then there’s a possibility that you might face a bit of breathing problem while climbing. The Lachulung Pass is among the favorite passes of trekking and hiking lovers. The drivers of tourist taxis and buses let the admirers enjoy beautiful views while crossing this route by taking some time to halt.

  • Nakee La Pass

At a height of 15547 feet, Nakee La Pass will be the third pass of your trip. By the time you arrive at this pass, you would surely be bound by the view of the Indus River. Ensure being cautious while driving as this route can test the patience of even the most skillful drivers. Heavy snowfalls and rainfalls sometimes block certain parts of the highway considering the unpredictable weather zone.

  • Baralacha La Pass

This particular pass falls in Zanskar range and serves as an intersecting point between Ladakh and Lahaul. Suraj Tal lake, which is the source of Bhaga River is located just a couple of kilometers away from this pass going towards Manali. It’s another bonus view of your journey.

  • Rohtang Pass

The Rohtang Pass remains open from the month of June to October and the recommended time to visit this amazing place is from May to November. During this period, it becomes the hotspot for travelers and tourists as they choose among many exciting and adventurous activities like mountain biking, skiing, snow scooter, and even paragliding.

Fuel Stations

There is no fuel station for approximately 330 kilometers between Tandi and Karu. A new gas station is being planned to come up in the future. Therefore, all the vehicles must fill up at the beginning of this stretch. Motorcycles and vehicles with smaller tanks must carry extra fuel with them. In unfortunate or emergency cases, fuel may be available near camp sites and at small towns on the route. But there’s a possibility that this fuel might be adulterated.

Important Tips for the Leh-Manali Highway Journey

  • Don’t get overexcited or overconfident during your trip as it can turn into your enemy.
  • Before you’re all set to travel, ensure that you’re mentally and physically fit. Be prepared to face random challenges during your trip.
  • Keep the first aid kit and all the required medicines with you.
  • Ensure that you have kept all the toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, and soap.
  • Avoid wearing slippers and sandals during the journey as the temperature is freezing cold out there.
  • Carry an extra pair of warm shoes.
  • Carry thermal liners, rainproof clothes, rain cover for your bags, and thermal liners as you would be experiencing bone-chilling cold.
  • Ensure keeping a sufficient amount of high-energy food, glucose and chocolates.
  • If you’re traveling by your own vehicle, ensure that you’ve enough fuel kept in reserve.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Which highway connects Leh to Manali?

The Leh-Manali Highway in northernmost India connects Leh to Manali, in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Q2. Is Manali Leh highway dangerous?

The Leh-Manali Highway is among the most dangerous roads in the world. It has a mountain range running parallel to it, offering stunning views but at the same time makes it dangerous.

Q3. Is Manali-Leh the highest road in the world?

More than 4000 meters above the sea level, the Leh-Manali Highway is the highest road in the world.

Q4. Is Manali to Leh open?

The Manali Leh highway opening time is affected by multiple factors.Due to high risk of road-mishaps, the Leh-Manali Highway was closed on 2nd November. It is expected to reopen in April or May next year.

mohammad bakr For Abu, every molecule has a story that he tries to reflect in his writing. He likes to capture the audience by striking a conversation with them through his articles, the inspiration for which is derived from his love for poetry.
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