Did you ever ask a passionate biker, what is their dream road trip? You will get to hear the Leh Ladakh bike trip in most of the answers for sure.
This road trip is so famous that people actually save money for months to make this trip a reality.
Today I will be sharing, how can you take this trip in the most thrilling and cheapest way possible?
Like everyone else, going on a bike trip to Leh Ladakh was in my bucket list too for a very long time.
But in July 2018, I decided not to postpone it further and finally called up a friend and convinced him to come with me on this challenging but blissful trip in the lap of Himalaya.
Leh Ladakh bike trip is special in so many ways as it gives you the opportunity to come out of your comfort zone and test your endurance. This trip is not like any other trip where you book a cab and do some sightseeing.
I have seen people succumbing to AMS ( Acute Mountain Sickness) on the way. I have seen people waiting for hours as the road was blocked due to snow and waterlogging. but at the same time, I have seen people being utterly passionate about riding on this thrilling road to Ladakh. I have seen people helping fellow travelers on the way with all the resources they had.
There is a reason why this trip is on the bucket list of everyone and why you see so many stimulating posts about this trip on social media.
Leh Ladakh bike trip can be taken in two ways either from Srinagar( Jammu & Kashmir ) side or from Manali side.
Distance from Srinagar to Leh is,
And the distance from Manali to Leh is,
I took the Manali to Leh road as I am in love with the Himachal for quite a very long time.
No matter in which city you are currently living in, you can always reach Manali in the most convenient way. Manali is well connected to Delhi via Buses. You will find tons of buses running from Delhi to Manali every day.
I took a Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali for 800 INR. It took me around 13 hours to reach Manali.
Manali is small and a beautiful place to explore in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the most sought after honeymoon destinations in India but at the same time, it is also a starting point of many treks and adventure activities in Himachal.
My Journey to Leh-Ladakh
Delhi to Manali
I still vividly remember the day when I was standing at the Majnu ka Tila bus stand in Delhi to catch the bus to Manali.
I was with one of my best friends and we were desperately waiting to board the bus but it was late by half an hour.
So to calm down our frustration, we decided to have some Momos.
And that was the best Momos I have had in my life.
Guys if by any chance you will be around Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi, don’t miss to try Momos.
Finally, the bus arrived and we departed to our first stop on this thrilling road trip.
Manali – A serene place in the lap of Himalaya
This was not the first time when I was in Manali. I did visit Manali in the summer of 2014.
But I think that’s the specialty of Himalaya, You can visit its places plenty of times without getting bored.
When we landed in Manali, we started hunting for a reasonable and decent hotel to spend a night.
Finally, we found a decent hotel in 600 INR for two. It was kind of a deal.
Manali was the place where I had decided to rent the bike. And trust me renting a bike for a long trip brings lots of stress. As there are so many vendors and everyone is claiming that their bike is the best and the cheapest.
We were pretty cautious as we didn’t want to have any trouble in between the journey. So we were ready to give a few extra bucks based on the condition of the bike.
Finally, We booked a bike for 1000 INR per day for 7 days.
In the evening, we visited the Hidimba temple and a few other places in Manali.
Manali to Sarchu
The next day we departed at 6 am in the morning.
Manali to Rohtang Pass
It was raining slowly so we put on our jacket and helmet and started our bike ecstatically. The first major stop from Manali was to cross Rohtang pass. The altitude of this place is 13k ft.
It is one of the sightseeing places for the people coming to Manali. I too visited this place in 2014.
I stopped at the Rohtang Pass and clicked some pictures. It was badly clouded and we were almost freezing. So we continued our journey.
Rohtang Pass to Keylong
The next stop was Keylong. The distance of this place from Manali is around 115km.
Before we started the journey from Manali, We had decided to spend a night in Keylong and move further the next day.
But since we reached Keylong in the afternoon itself so we decided to continue our journey.
We were really enjoying while passing through the well-built road amid humongous mountains.
And it’s obvious that we were stopping every now and then to click pictures and to eat something.
The best part about this road trip is the sense of inclusion. You won’t treat other bikers any different than yourself and you can go to any extent to help them in dire adversity.
Keylong to Sarchu
After riding for almost 10 hours non-stop, we were now exhausted. We had already passed Baralacha La Pass(16000 ft) and decided to find a homestay to have some rest.
Upon asking, people said Sarchu (220 km from Manali) is nearby and we’ll get homestay options there. So we continued our ride.
And when we were about to reach Sarchu, we found lots of fellow riders gathering at one place.
We inquired from one of them and got to know that there is heavy waterlogging on the road and if we want to cross it then we have to pass through 4 ft water.
But luckily to save us from misery, there were few homestays before the waterlogging. So we decided to stay in one of them for 300 INR per head.
As of now, the ride was quite smooth and we didn’t face much difficulty but the worse was yet to come.
Out of nowhere, I started getting a heavy headache and was unable to breathe properly. It seemed like AMS( Acute Mountain Sickness) symptoms.
I had Diamox (one of the medicine for AMS) with me but that was of no use as you must have to take this medicine 12 hours before in order to work it.
That night was full of suffering, I didn’t eat anything and was barely able to breathe properly.
Our homestay caretaker had made dinner for us but at last, he had to eat that himself in order to avoid wasting.
Sarchu to Leh
The next day I woke up vomiting and trust me for the first time in my life I felt good after vomiting. It actually reduced my headache and breathing problem.
Also, there was no waterlogging now. So we decided to continue our journey further. We bid goodbye to our homestay care-taker and he gave us a few leaves of garlic and suggested us to keep it in the mouth as this helps in reducing AMS.
People living in the mountains are the most modest and helpful. They will leave no stone unturned in order to assist you. I adore them a lot for this quality.
Sarchu to Pang
Those who suggest you not take Manali to Leh road due to horrible road conditions are actually talking about the road from Sarchu to Pang.
It is actually horrible. It is 110 km long and will make sure you reach Pang with aching waist and back.
But trust me the rest of the road is well built and you will be exuberant while riding your bike.
There is altogether a different kind of satisfaction you get when you overcome a hardship and trust me the same we felt after reaching Pang from Sarchu.
Pang to Leh
The road from Pang to Leh is like the one you see in movies.
The neverending slope of a well-built highway with the pristine landscape will keep you hooked while riding. You will feel a different kind of energy and tranquility.
On top of that, all the fellow riders on their way back will give you thumbs up with a smile on the face. Surely this trip is way different from other trips.
Pang to Leh is around 170 km and within 5-6 hours you can cover this distance.
Leh – A city where sometimes population of tourists surpass the population of locals
Finally, on the second day after riding the bike for 475 km from Manali, we reached the most famous city of Ladakh, Leh.
The most amazing thing about this city is you will get to see Indian Army base camps almost everywhere.
There are museums dedicated to our Bravehearts who sacrifices their life for our safety.
There are not many things to do in Leh except for a few monasteries and museums to visit.
30 km from Leh, there is a place called Magnetic hills which you can visit and 3 km from Magnetic there is rafting point where people gather to click pictures instead of rafting 😀
Leh to Khardung La pass
Did you know that? the highest motorable pass of the word is in India.
It is Khardunga La pass. It is situated at an altitude of 18300 ft from sea level.
But there is a catch? You have to acquire an inner line permit (ILP) from Ladakh government to visit Khardung La, Nubra valley and Pangong lake.
The permit will cost you somewhere around 600 INR per head.
Khardung La is a motorable road that connects Siachen to Leh.
Please note that If you rented the bike from Manali or Srinagar then that bike won’t be allowed to visit Khardung La, Nubra Valley & Pangong Lake.
You have to use Leh local bikes to visit these places.
When we started riding to Khardung la pass, it was raining heavily. And we didn’t have a proper raincoat. Since we were tight on the itinerary, we couldn’t afford to plan any other day either.
We decided to ride anyhow and were drenched very badly. We stopped at a military canteen where they were serving tea and maggie(noodles).
Nothing can beat chai (tea) and maggie combination in mountains.
We enjoyed every sip of tea and cherished every spoon of maggie. And eventually, it made our ice-cold body a bit warmer.
Now it was raining slowly and we decided to continue our ride.
We reached the top of Khardunga La and clicked some pictures and then came back.
I remember an anecdote while coming back from Khardunga La. When we were halfway down. We spotted a man who was breaking stones with bare hands.
It must be his job otherwise who breaks stone in 2-degree Celcius.
When he saw us coming, he stopped us with a puppy face and requested us to give one pair of gloves to him.
We were now in a dilemma whether to give it or not as we didn’t have any extra pairs of it.
After a bit of contemplation, we decided to give it anyway.
He was really happy but we were in trouble now as we only had one pair of gloves but two people and there was no shop in the vicinity.
We suffered a bit in the rest of the journey to Leh because of the cold in hand but we were more than happy that at least we helped someone in need 🙂
Leh to Pangong Lake
We didn’t take Khardunga La – Nubra valley root to go to Pangong. We decided to go via Leh way.
So we came back to Leh from Khardung La and took some rest in the hotel balcony and then departed to Pangong lake.
Pangong lake from Leh is around 150 km.
The first 50 km was all fine. Then the road started getting bad, then worse and then finally worst.
And now it was really unsafe. It all because we preferred Avenger 220 over Royal Enfield 350 and to the pile of our misery we were two people on that pitty Avenger 220.
The bike was skiting very badly and there was no way we were going to reach Pangong on this bike.
So we decided to call it off and return back.
yes, you heard it right, we couldn’t manage to visit Pangong lake in our Leh Ladakh bike trip 😥
Please don’t stop reading this blog post 😛
Anyhow, we came back to a mechanic shop and he diagnosed our bike.
There was no problem with the bike. It’s just that this bike was not suitable to climb the roads of Pangong lake.
Leh to Manali
We were really disappointed that we couldn’t visit Pangong lake.
Now ride from Leh to Manali was like a sprint running for us. We completed a 475 km journey in 18 hours.
The first day, 4 hours and the next day 14 hours.
But I would suggest not to hurry that much. It’s tiring and also unsafe.
we reached Manali, submitted the bike to the vendor, collected our security deposit and now it was time to get back to Delhi 😎
Now I want to address a few of the questions people very often ask when they think of planning a bike trip to Leh Ladakh
Which month is best to visit Leh Ladakh?
Leh Ladakh road trip usually opens in June and ends in October every year.
But taking this trip somewhere around June-July will be great as this is the peak season to do Leh Ladakh bike trip and you will find tons of fellow travelers traveling with you which is actually good as more the people, high the chances of getting help if something bad happens to you or your bike.
Which bike is best for Leh Ladakh trip?
When it comes to taking a bike trip to Leh Ladakh, royal Enfield classic 350 is the most sought after bike.
Because of the power, it contains which is necessary to climb a few of the highest passes of the world.
When traveled to Ladakh, I opted for Avenger 220 as I had never ridden Royal Enfield in my entire life and I found it risky to try any new bike at that much of height.
What is the cost of the Leh Ladakh trip?
It totally depends on you and the way you travel.
I took this trip in around 12k per person including everything from Delhi.
We booked Avenger 220 bike for 7 days in 1000 INR per day. We filled fuel of around 4000 INR and rest went in accommodation, food and miscellaneous.
But we were two people on the same bike, so our total cost got divided into two.
Is Leh safe for tourists?
I would say mostly yes if you would take corrective measures and precautions while traveling.
When you ride on high altitude, you don’t have to rush in anything. You have to take every step with utter focus and keeping safety in mind. if you do this then Leh Ladakh bike trip is not unsafe at all.
I suggest, Keep an extra day in hand while planning your trip. This way even if something won’t go according to your itinerary, you won’t be panicking and start doing things recklessly.
Are rented bikes allowed in Leh?
If you want to do local sightseeing like Magnetic hills and monasteries then rented bikes are allowed.
But if you want to visit Khardungla pass, Nubra Valley or Pangong lake then you won’t be allowed to use bikes you rented from Manali or Srinagar.
You have to rent local bikes from Leh to visit these places.
But if you own the bike and it is not rented then take wherever you want in Leh-Ladakh as there are no such restrictions imposed on personal bikes.
Are Leh and Ladakh two different places?
Ladakh was basically a territory in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and Leh was one of the cities in that particular territory.
But things have been changed now when the government of India decided to scrap the article 370.
Now Ladakh is no more territory of Jammu & Kashmir. It is now an independent union territory of India.
Leh Ladakh bike trip preparation
You don’t need any special preparations to take on the Leh Ladakh bike trip.
But you have to be proficient in riding a heavy bike. I used 220cc which worked pretty well for me except for a few places where my bike started skiting while climbing.
And also purchase required gears beforehand like good biking jacket, gloves, knee protection, sunglasses, medical kit, etc.
And Leh-Ladakh is a very high altitude territory, so it is very common to face the symptoms of AMS.
So better consult the doctor beforehand and take the medicine with you.