Motorcycling - Experience

Manali to Leh: Plan a Bike Trip Amidst the Highest Mountain Passes

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Almost all the adventurous souls have the Leh Ladakh motorcycle trip on their bucket list. Why? It is because the entire trip would take you through places that seem to be straight out of a beautiful dream. From tranquil villages, sapphire lakes to peaceful outbacks and dusty terrain, this trip has it all. This place is still raw and going there brings us closer to ourselves. This is the trip that would make you forget all your burdens and enjoy the enchanting beauty of the world around you. Brace yourselves and allow the magic of nature do its wonders to your senses.

So, here's the guide using which you can strike out your bucket list item and go on a Manali to Leh motorcycle trip.

Table of Content:

  • Best time to ride (season/months)
  • Detailed Itinerary :

             -  Where to stop (pit stops) while on the road.

             -  Where to stay (homestay/hotels/guesthouse)

             -  Other nearby attractions of the destination.

  • Things to carry for Manali to Leh bike trip
  • Things to remember for long distance motorcycle trip

Manali Leh Ladakh - Best Time to Ride

Your travel time on the Manali – Leh Highway would usually be governed by the opening of Rohtang Pass and Baralacha La. Both of them are opened during May (could at times be towards the end of May). In June you might find huge chunks of snow on the road while from August to September the road remains in perfect shape. Therefore, August to September would be the best time to ride on Manali Leh highway.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Reach Manali

Everyone has their own schedules and itinerary as everyone comes from different places to reach Leh-Ladakh. To keep it simple, we'll share this ride plan from Manali onwards. So, you would have to reach Manali, there are plenty of ways to reach here. The easiest way to do so is by taking a bus either from Delhi or Chandigarh. You could ride till Manali if you are bringing your own bike. Also, it would be better if you make it to Manali early in the morning as then you would get time for sightseeing. Manali seems like a dream city and the more you explore, the more you would feel the urge to stay there forever. Once you get there, check into a hotel and rest for some time. Although it does get crowded in the peak season time so you might want to consider staying towards the end of the city so you can move out quickly for the trip further.

Grab something to eat and then head out to rent a bike for your trip (if you didn't bring your own bike with you already). Test ride the bike if you are renting and ensure to take photos/videos of the bike prior to renting, this is just to have a documented proof of bike condition before the ride. Riding in hilly areas is a different experience altogether. Follow the road along the Kullu valley where the tricky stretches and bends would help you test the capabilities of your bike. This way you would also be able to acquaint yourself with handling the bike on such roads. You could also do some last minute shopping for the Manali to Leh road trip. Explore the beautiful city, have dinner and enjoy your overnight stay in the hotel.

Day 2: Manali to Keylong or Jispa via Rohtang Pass

This is the day when your Manali to Leh trip officially begins. Get up early in the morning and grab a quick breakfast. Begin your ride towards the Rohtang Pass (3980 meters). On your way, you would be able to experience the beautiful mountain Pass and the impressive villages of Lahul Valley. At Lahul, you would find snow-capped mountains to snow-covered trees (literally everything is covered in snow) if you ride in the right season.

manali leh road trip rohtang pass
Rohtang Pass - 3980 meters (Source)

The first part of the journey would be a challenge for you as the roads aren’t in a proper condition. Not to forget that the weather conditions aren’t predictable in the area here. So if it starts raining or snowing, take a break, enjoy and savor it.

You would also be passing Khoksar and Tandi where you would find a petrol pump. This is the last petrol pump on this Manali to Leh route so make sure to get your bike fuelled up. Begin your journey again and reach Keylong or Jispa. You could choose to stay either at Keylong (Approx 120Kms) or Jispa (Approx 140Kms). Enjoy the popular delicacies of the mountains: steamed momos and Thukpa and rest for the night at a hotel or your camp.

Day 3: Keylong or Jispa to Sarchu via Barchala Pass

On the third day of the bike trip to Leh, you would be riding to Sarchu, approx 85Kms from Jispa and would experience a lot of breathtaking views along the way. As you leave Jispa, you would enter the Greater Himalayan landscape and this route would take you into the heart of the mountains. Enjoy the stunning views as you cross Barchala Pass and go towards Sarchu.

You would get to see two lakes namely Suraj and Deepak Tal and would cross several water streams. Keep riding towards Sarchu which is the borderline between Himachal and Kashmir. Enjoy the beautiful views there, click some pictures, have dinner and relax for the day at your camp. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated in order to keep acute mountain sickness away.

Day 4: Sarchu to Leh

This day of your Manali Leh road trip would be filled with a lot of challenges so be prepared for that. Grab a quick breakfast and start early on the road. On this day, you would be riding through the Tanglang-La Pass that is the second highest motorable mountain pass in the world at an elevation of 5300 meters. Sarchu to Leh is approx 250 Kms distance and can be covered during the day in comfortable speeds.

 manali to ladakh by bike,moore plains
Moore Plains and Ghata Loops (Source)

You would also cross Moore plains and Ghata Loops (21 pins) Pang. After you cross the Pass, the roads are pretty well-maintained all the way up to Leh. Another attraction on the way is the ancient monasteries of Thiksey and Shey which are set high on the mountaintops. Upon reaching Leh, check into a hotel or a guest house.

Day 5: Acclimatization

Acclimatizing is essential to get your body used to the high altitude in Leh, You can spend about 2 days in Manali as well for acclimatization but it can be expensive so we suggest to stay over in Leh. This day is going to be a resting, exploring and acclimatizing day of your Manali to Leh Ladakh trip. You could visit the local market here and spend the day sightseeing and appreciate the beauty of nature. The Old Fort that overlooks the city of Leh is a mesmerizing beauty. Enjoy the local delicacies and rest for the night.

bike trip to leh,old fort
The Old Fort that Overlooks the City of Leh (Source)

Day 6: Leh to Nubra via Khardungla Pass

Begin early on this day for your Leh Ladakh bike trip. Ride towards Khardungla Pass, located approx 40Kms from Leh, situated at a height of 18360 ft and is the world’s highest motorable Pass.

At the summit of Khardungla, there’s a beautiful cafe where you can spend some relaxing time. From Khardungla, proceed ahead towards Khalsar village, Diskit and Hunder to reach Nubra which is about 120Kms away. Stay overnight at Nubra and enjoy the breathtaking views. You could also choose to return back to Leh which is what most people do. If you have some time in hand, stay back at Nubra.

Day 7: Nubra to Leh to Pangong Lake

On the seventh day of your Ladakh bike trip, head back to Leh if you had chosen to stay at Nubra. If not, begin riding towards Pangong Lake which is about 270Kms from Nubra. Pangong Tso Lake is the highest saltwater lake in the world. On your way, you would be crossing Changla Pass. This is also the best attraction of Ladakh and seems almost unreal.

Interesting Fact:
About 2/3rd portion of this lake lies in China.

The water is crystal clear and has several fascinating shades of blue.

bike trip to leh- pangong lake
Pangong Lake (Source)

The lake appears even more mesmerizing as the reflections of the surrounding magnificent mountains shimmer on the pellucid waters of the lake. Set up a camp there and enjoy your dinner amidst the stunning views. You could also choose to spend some time at the lake and then make your way towards Chang La and further ahead to the army checkpoint at Tangse. There are resorts there where you can spend the night.

Day 8: Pangong to Leh

On this day of your Ladakh trip by bike, get up early in the morning and head towards Leh, approx 225Kms. You would again be crossing Changla Pass where you might get to enjoy the snowfall. Upon reaching there, visit the Shanti Stupa and the famous Druk Padma Karpo School shown in Aamir Khan’s movie, Three Idiots.

Explore other popular sites and shop at the local bazaars. Enjoy the fabulous views of the Zanskar range and the Indus Valley. Stay overnight at a hotel.

Day 9: Leh to Sarchu

After having breakfast early in the morning on this day of the Manali to Leh trip, head towards Sarchu, approx 250Kms. You would be passing Tanglang-La Pass first and later on Lachung La (5065 m) and Naki La (4800 m) Passes. Enroute you would also get to see Pang which is a beautiful spot set amidst the landscape of Ladakh. Upon reaching Sarchu, have dinner and enjoy a comfortable stay in your camp.

bike trip to leh- sarchu camps
Comfortable Stay in Sarche Camps (Source)

Day 10: Sarchu to Manali

This is the last day of your trip from Manali to Ladakh by bike. Start early in the morning and head towards Manali, your final 230Kms to your starting point. Drive through the Sarchu plain up to Baralacha Pass and then descend crossing Darcha, Zingzingbar, and Jispa. Enjoy the wondrous beauty of Lahaul ranges on your way and reach Rohtang Pass. Rohtang Pass would challenge you with tiny rivers of mud.

Ride carefully through the obstacles to reach Manali. Check into a hotel in Manali to rest or have some food and explore Manali for a little while. This is where your beautiful trip comes to end. Head back to Delhi or Chandigarh via bus or your bike. 

Other Modes of Travel

In case, you aren’t interested in biking, there are other modes of travel that you can choose from like private cars, bus or shared taxi.

Accommodation

There are several hotels and guest houses at Sissu, Gondla, Khoksar, Patseo, Tandi, Jispa, Upshi and Keylong (there are a lot of them at Keylong). Tents and camps are available at Marhi, Jispa, Sarchu, Pang, Darcha, Bharatpur and Zingzing Bar.

Things to Carry For Manali to Leh & Ladakh Bike Trip

Before you head out for the Manali to Leh trip, make a list of all the things that you are going to need. We have provided a checklist below that can be some help. Cross check this list a day before leaving to make sure you have packed all the essentials. When you know that you have all the essential items, you can enjoy the Ladakh bike trip without any worries.

manali to leh distance by road
Essentials for Road Trips.(Source)
  • The first and foremost thing is a sturdy backpack or saddle bags. Avoid suitcases and/or trolley bags, they'll be trouble to manage and carry. Clothing (Do not forget that you have to ride a bike at a very high altitude. Therefore, you would need to pack clothes that would keep you warm and protected from the wind and snow)
  • Two light jackets.
  • About six to eight pairs of warm socks preferably woollen ones and two woollen hand gloves.
  • One warm woollen jacket.
  • Warm ear covers, head covers and forehead covers.
  • Two to three pairs of thermals (By packing thermals you wouldn’t need to pack as many jackets and sweaters as you normally would)
  • A pair of comfortable flip-flops.
  • One or two towels.
  • Five to six T-shirts and two to three pairs of jeans or track pants whichever you feel is comfortable for you. If you'd not be changing much, carrying 2-3 tshirts and 2 jeans should be enough too. 
  • Raincoat. This is optional as even if it’s not raining you could use it to protect yourself from the mud and water on roads.

Safety Gears (The riding gear is compulsory both for the rider and the pillion rider)

  • Full face helmet
  • Biking Gloves
  • Safety Jacket with armor
  • Knee pads (You could get this on rental basis if opting for a rental bike)
  • Boots and boots cover

Documents

  • Four copies of your ID proof (Voter ID card or Aadhar Card) and for all the members (if going in group)
  • At least two printouts of the Itinerary and Manali to Leh roadmap
  • A valid driving license
  • All the important documents of your bike in case you are bringing your own
  • Copy of visa, passport and the international driver’s permit for the foreign nationals

Other Essentials

  • Mobile charger, Powerbank, camera.
  • Get a BSNL number if possible because that is what works best in most of the terrains. The post-paid connection of Airtel works too in a few places.
  • Sunglasses, zip-lock bags, safety pins.
  • Water Bottle, lock for your bags, pen and a small diary (if you wish to jot things down of your trip from Manali to Leh distance by road)
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • A basic bike repairing kit in case of emergencies.
  • Energy bars to keep you going.
  • Other than these, pack essential toiletries and you would be good to go.

Things to Remember

  • After crossing Manali town, there is just one petrol pump at Tandi on the entire Manali to Leh route. Therefore, make sure to get your tanks filled up here even if you had filled it in Manali. It is better to be prepared.
  • It is recommended to carry enough cash with yourself as ATM’s are only available in Keylong and Manali town. After this, you would only find an ATM in Leh.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and do not exert yourself excessively

Summing Up

The Manali to Leh Ladakh bike trip is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You would feel excited, flabbergasted, contented and fortunate. Plan everything properly and prepare yourself for the most exciting trip ever. Have you ever been on road trips before? How was your experience? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

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