At the northern tip of India lies Ladakh, the land of high passes. A region situated at an altitude above 3500 meters, between the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges, has become a tourist haven.
It opened its gates to tourism in 1974, and in recent years seen a surge in tourist numbers. It is no secret that Ladakh has become a sought-after destination for tourists, thanks to its vast arid landscape, monasteries that date back centuries, snowcapped mountains, icy blue lakes, and its beautiful people.
Ladakh operates in isolation for most of the year, and getting there during specific periods can be challenging. Whether you take the road or air route, there are many questions to answer. Depending on your time and budget, you can choose from a plethora of options to make your Ladakh visit a memorable one. From biking tours around gorgeous valleys to treks with eyewatering views, Ladakh has something for all.
The highways leading to Ladakh stay closed during the harsh winters. The Manali-Leh highway remains closed from late September to May, while the Srinagar-Leh Highway closes down from Mid October to April. This scenario adds an extra layer of challenge while limiting your options to the air route.
Delhi to Leh by Flight
Flight from Delhi is the easiest option to get to Leh. There are four airlines currently plying from Delhi to Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh. Usually, flights take off from Delhi in the morning as the Leh airport is closed after 12:30, courtesy of high winds. Delhi is the primary airport that connects Ladakh to mainland India.
Leh airport is different than other airports in India as it run by the Indian military. So, security checks can be more demanding than others. From the airport terminal, you can easily hail for taxis and head to your destination in Leh.
Another option is to fly from Chandigarh. If you find yourself closer to Chandigarh than Delhi, this would be your best bet to get to Leh.
The other two airports that have flights to Leh are from Jammu and Srinagar. These flights can come in handy while leaving Ladakh if you have plans to visit Kashmir or Jammu.
Flight Rate: Rates start from Rs. 5000 INR, but it is subject to fluctuations throughout the year.
Delhi to Leh by Bus
Delhi to Leh by bus through the Manali-Leh highway is an adventure on its own. This route is open for a limited time each year, usually from June to the end of September. This route takes you through Himachal Pradesh. You will pass through Manali, crossing the scenic Spiti valley and then the Rohtang Pass to enter Ladakh. This scenic drive will come at a cost, and it is not going to be comfortable. Taking the HRTC bus is already a challenge, and you will also rest in Keylong Pass for a night and then head to Ladakh.
This route is heavenly dependent on the weather conditions, as the opening date of the passes is hard to pinpoint. Slight changes in weather might hinder your plan as these passes close down frequently due to bad weather.
Another route by bus would be getting through Kashmir. Taking a bus from Pathankot in Punjab to Jammu and then heading to Srinagar. From Srinagar, you can head to Leh. JKSRTC is the official bus service provider from Srinagar. You will pass through Zoji La Pass. This route is longer and usually avoided by tourists or taken by tourists who visit Ladakh and then plan to head to Kashmir.
It will take 4-5 days to reach Leh from both Manali-Leh highway and Srinagar highway. If time is your enemy, we suggest you don’t choose this option.
Bus Rate: Rates start from Rs. 1500 INR for HRTC bus service. Other bus services charge upwards of Rs.2400 from Manali to Leh, plus you will need to get to Manali from Delhi.
Delhi to Leh by Motorbike
It has become a dream for bikers all around to ride to Leh. Bike tours require planning as well as time, as it will take 4-5 days to get to Ladakh from Delhi. The journey can also be challenging, and for first-timers, thorough planning is a must.
Imagine riding through passes with unimpeded views of the landscape, savoring the beauty of this region with every kilometer you cover. If adventure is your priority, this route is well suited for you.
Choose a bike with high performance. It is no secret that Royal Enfield bikes dominate the scene in Ladakh. And they do for a reason, as these bikes perform exceptionally well in challenging terrains. You can also choose from other bikes from companies such as Bajaj, TVS, Jawa, and many others.
You have two options, Manali – Leh highway and Srinagar Leh Highway. The route for Manali-Leh highway is Manali – Rohtang – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – Tanglang La – Gya – Upshi – Karu – Leh.
The route for Srinagar – Leh highway is Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zoji La Pass – Drass – Kargil – Mulbek – Lamayaru – Saspol – Leh.
Bike Rate: The cost per day of 500cc Royal Enfield starts from Rs. 1700 INR, 350cc starts from Rs.1300 and Royal Enfield Himalayan from Rs. 2000 INR.
Delhi to Leh by Car
If you want a different type of adventure, taking a four-wheeler is another option. It might not be as thrilling as a bike tour but certainly more comfortable. You can get to Ladakh through Manali or Srinagar.
This option is most preferred if you are traveling in a group. You can easily find a jeep from Manali to Leh, and this trip usually takes 18-20 hours. From Manali, you will pass through the Rohtang Pass and cross Spiti before entering Ladakh. Another option would be to book a jeep from Kashmir. This trip is impressive as the drastic change in the landscape will announce your entry to Ladakh when you cross Zoji La Pass from Sonmarg. The green valley of Kashmir ends, making way for the arid landscape. You will also pass through Drass and Kargil before you get to Leh.
Jeep Rate: The booking rate starts from Rs. 30,000.
There are no shortages of taxis during season time. You will find taxis plying to Leh every day from Manali as well as Srinagar. Taxis are usually cheaper than hiring a jeep, and you will also find shared taxis if you are traveling solo and looking to cut costs. The price of taxis will vary according to availability and the timing of your visit. When Rohtang Pass opens, the bus service starts a bit late, so the taxi rate might reach as high as Rs. 3000 INR, while during peak season, it will come down to Rs. 1500-2000 INR.
Delhi to Leh by Train
Although this is an option for you get to Leh, it is the most inconvenient one for sure. First, you will have to take a train from Delhi to Jammu, which is the last station. From there, you will have to take a taxi to Leh, which will take an additional 20 hours.
Or you could wait on the Indian Railways, who have taken up a major railway project promising to reach Leh in 20 hours. 20 hours! Can you believe that? The Bilaspur – Manali – Leh railway project’s completion year is 2022. As much as we want you to wait and the slow timeline of the Government, we advise you to take other options.
Please find the rates from the website of Indian Railways.
The Fastest way to get to Leh from Delhi
Taking a flight from Delhi would be your fastest option as flights only take one and a half hours to Leh. Now, if you find yourself in cities such as Chandigarh, Jammu or Srinagar, then you can take flights from these places. If the roadways are the only option, you can take a bus from Delhi to Manali which will take 12-14 hours, and a jeep from Manali, getting you to Leh in 48 hours.
The Cheapest way to get to Leh from Delhi
The cheapest way to get to Leh from Delhi would be the HRTC bus, as it will take you under Rs.1500 INR. But cheap always comes with a cost, and the cost here is your comfort. Don’t worry; the views will take care of your sore rear-end. If this is not your cup of tea, your next best option would be to take a flight from Delhi.