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Your Guide to Planning Bike Trip to Ladakh

12 mins. read

Every biker dreams of going on a Leh-Ladakh bike trip at least once in life. While the usual perspective is the flawless landscape and long stretches of road along with rivers, in reality, it requires planning. Be it the duration of the bike trip, the budget you need to keep aside, the unpredictable conditions in the region that you might stumble upon, and so on. To make the planning easier, we’ve curated information that you will need for a safe & sound Ladakh bike ride that’s challenging yet memorable.

Leh-Ladakh Bike Trip Route

Ladakh is the topmost region of the country, bordering Jammu Kashmir on the west, Himachal Pradesh on the south and Tibet Autonomous Region on the east. Ultimately, there are 2 routes to reach Leh. The first is direct from Srinagar (NH1-D) connecting Srinagar-Kargil-Keh (442 km), the other route is the famous Manali-Leh Highway (NH3) 428 km.

Leh > Nubra Valley

Once you reach Leh, give yourself a day to get adequate rest and acclimatize to the high altitude. After leaving from Leh, the first stop, Khardung La, arrives in just 39km (1.5 hr). People usually do an up-down between these two places in just 3-4 hours thanks to the good roads courtesy of the Border Roads Organization (BRO). When heading from Khardung La to Nubra Valley, the tricky part starts when you reach South Pullu – there are some difficult stretches which have slush and water streams created by snow melting. The stretch does require an inner line permit (ILP) and permission. Usually, for stays, riders can opt for homestays and hotels in Diskit. The serene view throughout makes all the effort worth it!

(Leh - Khardung La Pass – Nubra Valley is usually a 5-6 hours ride)

Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso

It is one of the most demanding stretches in the Ladakh region for two reasons – 1) It is a long stretch and 2) there are fewer fuel stations and population density is also low. You are likely to encounter total isolation in a variety of stretches. There are two routes to reach Pangong Tso Lake from Nubra Valley. If a planned trip is what you always consider, you can opt for a Leh tour package.

  • Route 1 – Diskit – Khalsar – Durbuk – Tangtse – Pangong (162Km)
  • Route 2 – Diskit – Khalsar – Wari La Pass – Sakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangtse – Pangong (224 Km)

Both routes offer a great riding experience. However, the first one is tried and tested by many and is considered the easier route as it was re-built in 2010-11 by BRO, making the drive/ride on this route easier and particularly the stretch from Diskit to Pangong takes just 5-6 hours, which earlier took 9-10 hours minimum during a Leh-Ladakh bike road trip.

The route has a pit stop for breakfast and lunch for bike riders at Karu which happens to be 5 km away from Chang La. The roads are newly built and pleasant. In the middle of nowhere, with a couple of houses, you’ll see Chemrey Monastery just before Wari La Pass.

At this point, there are two options – the easy one to yield is Chang La with fine roads. However, the more testing route with harsh road conditions leads to Wari La Pass top.

Manali to Jispa via Rohtang Pass (Alternative Route)

This travel route might not include all the bells and whistles of the Ladakh bike trip; however, it is the easier route that you can consider, especially for riders coming from Delhi-NCR, Punjab, Himachal, Chandigarh or from Mumbai to Ladakh.

Starting from Manali with all the luggage and essentials, the first major stop comes around in 1-1.5hr named Marhi, which happens to be at a 20 km distance, an ideal stop for a tea break or meal, followed by a ascend to Rohtang Valley.

Don’t Miss Out On These Quintessential Places

Bike ride

Magnetic Hill

Feel the pull on your bike with no need for throttle; it’s Mother Nature flexing her magic! Surrounded by the Sindhu River on all sides, this location is en route to Leh while coming from Srinagar. The unique magnetic characteristic of this area pulls bikes and cars uphill – it will be quite the spectacle when you first see it, that’s for sure!

Leh Palace

Locally known as the 'Lhachen Palkhar', this is a magnificent historical structure located in Leh. In recent years, The Archaeological Survey of India has carried out extensive renovation work to revive the palace and restore its original glory while retaining its historical integrity. You can explore its numerous rooms, which house several artefacts, including thangka paintings, ancient manuscripts, royal costumes, and centuries-old weaponry. And once all this is done, gaze upon the magnificent landscape from atop.

Khardung La

At a distance of 40 km from Leh, and situated at the height of 18000 ft, it is one of the most popular stretches in the Ladakh region. The amazing view is incomplete without experiencing a ride via the “Pass of Lower Castle”. Take in the view, have a hot beverage, and click photos with the Buddhist prayer flags in the background when you reach here during your Ladakh bike ride.

Nubra Valley

As you descend from Khardung La to Nubra Valley, the vastness of it entrenches you; it is almost desert-like. After you reach Diskit, there are two places to visit from here.

First are the captivating sand dunes of Hunder. These vast stretches of golden sands, set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, feel surreal. You’ll get to see the gentle Bactrian camels here; these are two-humped camels which are specific to this region.

Then comes Turtuk. Proudly known as the "Gateway to Siachen" and the northernmost village of India, this unspoilt place preserves the Baltic heritage and gives visitors a chance to explore the stunning surroundings. You can also meet and greet with the friendly locals as they tell you some of the most riveting stories about all that this village has been through.

Pangong Tso Lake

It is the highlight of any bike trip to Leh Ladakh, Widely known as Pangong Tso Lake, it has always remained a key highlight for bike riders visiting Ladakh. The lake stretches for over 134 km, and a rare element to notice while visiting the lake is the multiple shades of blue and green throughout the line of sight on the lake. The best time to enjoy the view is anytime except winter as the lake freezes completely at the time despite saline water.

Tsomoriri Lake

Tsomoriri Lake is a captivating gem nestled in the rugged landscapes of Ladakh. The lake is surrounded by barren hills and snow-capped peaks, and its crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque landscape that is awe-inspiring. On the whole, Tsomoriri offers a serene and peaceful environment for visitors seeking solitude.

Gata Loops

Now this is one part of your route that you ought to do during the daytime to fully appreciate the beauty of it. The Gata Loops consist of a series of hairpin bends or loops that take the road up a steep mountain pass. While you are at it, go slow and mindful as this section can be quite challenging for new riders.

Zanskar Valley

The road less explored often has the best experiences in store. This is exactly what Zanskar Valley promises. Passing through the smooth roads and serene view from Kargil to Leh, there’s a sudden change in the topography which marks your presence in the Zanskar Valley. Riding over granular paths and passing through a magnificent but sparsely populated landscape is the key highlight.

Preparing For Your Ladakh Bike Trip

What to Carry?

Since Leh-Ladakh is full of harsh terrains, a full-face helmet is highly recommended with an all-terrain riding jacket/windcheater for uncertain weather conditions. Riding gloves, riding boots and knee + elbow guards are also highly advisable. Here are a few important things to carry that are necessary for your Ladakh bike ride.

For Bike

  • Tie Belts & M-seal
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Air pump
  • Torch
  • Chain lube
  • Accelerator wire
  • Clutch wire
  • Towing rope
  • Tools (Allen Key set) & wire cutter
  • Bungie Cord(s)
  • Wind & waterproof riding gloves
  • Jerry can(s)

For Personal Use

  • Riding goggles to protect your eyes
  • Charger, power bank
  • Sunscreen
  • Cooking utensils, sleeping bag and other camping equipment (that is if you plan to camp).

Recommended Fuel Stops

Ladakh is a remote place with a lot of desolate routes. Hence, it is good to have a basic knowledge of fuel stops. The Manali-Leh highway has some petrol stations en route, with the last one located in Tandi. The Srinagar Leh highway, on the other hand, has a couple of fuel stations on the way, making the ride a little convenient.

In and around Leh, there are a few fuel stations, and the nearest one on the outskirts is Karu (35km away). All the fuel pumps operate throughout the year. When reaching Nubra Valley, there is a hand-operated Petrol pump in Diskit. However, there are no fuel stations in Turtuk, Hunder, Panamik and any other village in Nubra Valley. When reaching Pangong Tso Lake, there is a new fuel station in Tangste Village about 34 km before Spangmik, Pangong Tso Lake.

Safety Tips

Since Ladakh is a sparsely located, high-altitude region; there is limited availability of goods and services. So, either everything takes time to reach or is available at a significant distance. Here are a few safety tips you must follow: -

  • There is limited access to medical facilities, and medical help can even be a day away. So, it is highly recommended to carry your medicines and first-aid kit.
  • Despite cellular networks expanding at a great pace in the region, there are still places where access to cellular services is not available. So, it is recommended to download offline maps, just in case you are lost and unable to find any human habitation nearby.
  • Carry ready-to-make meals, food supplies and water as there are limited grocery shops on the way.
  • Be extra cautious while riding as the slush might reduce the grip that your bike tyres need. Try maintaining a safe speed and stick with your group rather than going solo just in case you get stuck in an emergency. Last but extremely important, make your motorcycle’s rear brake your best friend.

Visiting the vast and perpetual landscape of Ladakh humbles you, gives you perspective, and changes how you see life. It’s certainly an experience you’ll emerge a better person from. Be patient as you explore it all, be careful on the turns and hairpin bends, don’t litter, and avoid doing anything damage anything to spoil the beauty of this place. Ride responsibly!

May 01, 2023

Author

Veena World
Veena World

We are an Indian travel company founded in 2013 and excel at domestic and international tour packages including guided group tours, specialty tours, customized holidays, corporate MICE travel, inbound travel and destination weddings.

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