Riding through high Himalayas – Motorbiking in Ladakh

2 June, 2021 | Reccy Guide

You’ve covered half of the world already on your motorbike and you feel like it is now time to conquer the Ladakh region of India. Or maybe, you have only been riding in familiar environments up until now and want to discover new roads in faraway land. No matter your reason, as long as you are a confident driver, motorbiking trips in Ladakh region will offer one of the most memorable expeditions of your life. Ready to ride? Read below to learn more.

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What do the routes look like?

The Ladakh region is big enough to offer countless route possibilities. Most of them will take you 10 days or more, and you will need to add some extra time if you want to look for a bike or gear to rent on your own (more information about that later). Furthermore, be aware that the road conditions in India are probably not what you are used to, so you might need a couple of days of riding around before starting your trip in order to get used to the local roads and driving.

Most riders will start in Leh or Manali and explore the surroundings, but it is also possible to ride all the way from Delhi to Leh if you have enough time. If you decide to start and end your trip in Delhi, there are two main routes to get to Leh:

  1. Delhi – Jalandhar – Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Karu – Sarchu – Manali – Delhi

This route offers the best road conditions of both, so is more suitable for drivers with a little bit less experience or still needing to build confidence on Indian roads.

  1. Delhi – Manali – Sarchu – Khardungla – Nubra Valley – Kargil – Srinagar – Delhi

This is a longer route and many parts are very rough roads that will challenge even the most experienced of bikers.

the view of the road

Starting from or around Leh, the itineraries vary greatly depending on the tour companies. Here are the main routes you can expect:

  1. Leh – Nubra Valley – Leh – Pangong Lake – Hemis 
  1. Leh – Pangong Lake – Hemis – Shey – Nubra Valley – Alchi / Ule – Kargil – Sonmarg – Srinagar
  1. Leh – Pangong Lake – Leh – Khardung La
  1. Manali – Jispa – Pang – Leh – Pangong Lake – Nubra Valley – Leh

As mentioned, every tour company brings a twist on these roads – that’s why we won’t be detailing each of them in detail. However, as you can see, many places seem to come back quite often in the itineraries. To help you choose your route, take a look at the most popular sites and decide which ones to visit:

Pangong Tso Lake

Stretching 130 km from India to China, this lake offers out-of-this-world scenery of deep blue waters on a mountainous background. You can camp on its shore at night.

Nubra Valley

Dryer than the Pangong Tso Lake, the Nubra Valley is a mountain desert that used to be famous for its importance in the region’s trading activities as part of the Silk Route. Here also, you can camp overnight.

Magnetic Hill

Located on the Srinagar-Leh highway, this hill is a bit more special than others. Turn off your engine, and witness how your bike still climbs the hill as if you were descending! 

Khardung La Pass

This is a must if you like to cross off things off your bucket list, as Khardung La Pass is one of the highest motorable passes in the world at 5635 meters above sea level, second only to another Indian pass since 2017.

Where do I find a bike?

If you are coming from far away, it is very likely that you won’t be traveling with your own motorcycle. For those of you booking a tour, don’t worry – the bike will be part of the package and will be adapted to the itinerary and to you. One less thing to worry about!

If you are deciding to ride solo, however, you will need to carefully choose your bike before starting your trip. If you are starting from Delhi, head to the Karol Bagh market and you should find what you are looking for. Starting in Leh? You can find a motorbike to rent in the market of the city or ask your hotel for recommendations. In any case, make sure to look at all aspects of the bike beforehand and take it on a test drive before your expedition.

When should I go?

The best time to go riding in the Ladakh region is between June and October, as this will give you the best chances of good weather and, consequently, the best road conditions. The months of peak tourism are June, July and August – which might be surprising as part of it falls during monsoon season. Despite Ladakh being a rain-shadow area, meaning an area where it does not rain at all or very little during the monsoon season, the period between the end of July and August can be a bit riskier weather wise. If that’s when you are planning to be there, use caution and ask local guides for the safest route.

Are you convinced and wanting to hit the roads in the beautiful valleys of the Ladakh region? Riding freely with breathtaking views across India will most definitely be one of the most extraordinary experiences of your rider’s career, so start getting ready!

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