MANALI: With hundreds of tourists, mostly from abroad, going to Ladakh to see the week-long Ladakh festival, the Manali-Leh highway has come alive, with the beeline of vehicles bringing cheer to the tourism industry here.
Thousands of tourists are expected to converge in Leh for the Ladakh festival starting September 1. As tourists are avoiding Srinagar-Leh highway following communal violence in J&K, most tourists are using Manali-Leh highway to reach Ladakh. Before proceeding to Leh, tourists are having night halts in Manali, Keylong and Sarchu, sources said.
MUV and SUV drivers in Manali are a happier lot now as they get passengers without much effort. “Ladakh tourist season is about to finish. But we are at least expecting passengers till late September,” a taxi driver, Ghanshyam Chand, said. The condition of Manali-Leh highway is not worth driving the light vehicles, so only big size vehicles are getting passengers, he said.
Another driver, Mehar Thakur, said hundreds of drivers are getting quality tourists for Ladakh and Spiti sectors. “Demand is mostly from foreign tourists. Both Leh and Spiti roads are roaring with taxis from Manali. Due to the very less rainfall at Rohtang, Lahaul and Ladakh, roads have not been damaged by landslides this year.”
The majority of tourists stay in Manali for at least two days before proceeding to Ladakh to get acclimatized. Hotels in Keylong, Jispa and camps in Sarchu have good bookings till mid-September. Owner of hotel Dekyid in Keylong, Tashi Barongpa, said, “We have got good bookings for September. After that, tourists will stay here while returning from Leh via Manali.”