1. Manali – Leh Highway
Rating this route number one was by far my easiest task. Known as one of the most challenging routes within the country, the Manali – Leh Highway begins from the great northern plains and takes you to the highest motorable road in the world. Grueling and rewarding at the same time, this 470 KM long road-trip has been a life-changing experience for most travelers.
The route passes through the green valleys of Kullu & Manali, worships the Pir Panjal Range, the Great Himalayan Range, the Zanskar Range and finally the Ladakh Range. It conquers two river basins and several challenging high passes on the way to one of the most beautiful cold deserts in the world. The route has history written all over it – it’s a corollary of what was once known as the famous silk route and is now a vital lifeline for the Indian army. BBC , Lonely Planet and Fox Traveller have rated this as one of the best road-trips in the world and you will only know why once you’ve experienced it 🙂
Plenty of groups make this trip on bikes or packs of cars. One of the best programs I’ve come across for this route is ‘ Roads Less Travelled’s Lakes & Ladakh Festival – Jeep Safari ! The guys know exactly what they are saying when they say “it is naive to think that Ladakh can be simply discovered on a trip to Leh. Ladakh’s essence has to be explored through steady steps of determination and faith.”
As tempting as this route is to do by yourself, I’d recommend you either move in a larger group or enroll yourself for a guided program like the one above. The route as enchanting as it is, is very grueling and hazardous. You might be mildly pleased with yourself for heeding this word of advice after 3-4 instances of punctured tires 🙂
All pictures on Manali-Leh by Prachi Nadkarni