Ladakh Motorcycle Adventure
11 days over the highest mountain road on Planet Earth. 500cc Royal Enfield Standard - single rider.
- Each departure requires a minimum of 8 riders. If the bookings fall short of this number we can either refund your payment (minus any bank transfer charges) or move you to another departure. We will inform you of any scheduling changes at least 3 months before your departure date.
- This tour starts and ends in Manali.
Royal Enfield Ladakh Motorcycle Adventure
With terrifying mountain passes, ancient Buddhist monasteries and high-altitude deserts, the Manali-Leh highway to Ladakh is, or at least should be, the holy grail for any biker worth his (or her) engine oil. Winding Himalayan tarmac, punishing dirt roads, river crossings and thin air demand the best out of both biker and machine on this must-do adventure. You get to enjoy the hospitality of small, family-run guesthouses in Ladakh and camp out on desert plains under the Milky Way. From alpine forests in Himachal to the edge of Tibet and back, this Trans-Himalayan motorcycle journey packs in a wide range of riding terrain and cultural experience.
Day 1: Arrive in Manali
Day 2: Manali – Jispa
Day 3: Jispa – Sarchu
Day 4: Sarchu – Leh
Day 5: Leh (rest day)
Day 6: Leh - Nubra Valley
Day 7: Nubra Valley - Leh
Day 8: Leh – Panggong Lake
Day 9: Panggong Lake – Leh
Day 10: Leh – Sarchu
Day 11: Sarchu – Manali
THE MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE
Day 1: Arrive in Manali (bus)
The bus from Delhi arrives in Manali by 7AM. We check into our hotel, grab some chow and relax till lunch - the bus journey is a fairly tiring one. A true biker is never far from his machine and we lose no time in getting to our Royal Enfields, waiting in the hotel parking lot. We learn about this time-machine that has hung around India for the past 60 years in more or less its original avatar (only in India!). You get an introduction to the quirks of the modern Royal Enfield – low-end torque and a lengthy pick-up time that gives you time enough to contemplate the meaning of life (or write a book or calculate your taxes…). This day we will go on a Himalayan motorcycle riding primer through a part-dirt / part tarmac road along the Kullu Valley. There are some tricky stretches of mud and bends that help you familiarise with the torque characteristics of the bike (it’s all in throttle-control, baby). The ride is a beautiful one right through to the end of Kullu Valley and we return to our hotel for an early dinner. We have an eventful day ahead.
Day 2: Manali – Jispa (ride 150 km)
A quick breakfast and we hit the road at 6AM. Our first challenge is Rohtang Pass (3978m). ‘Ruh-tang’ literally means ‘soul-torture’ and it is the worst of the passes we will cross on our journey. Unpredictable weather and incredibly bad roads and potholes make the motorcycle journey to the top an ordeal. The fabled soul-suffering is compounded by the 2-million-odd tourists rattling up the pass in cabs and vans to catch a glimpse of snow and ice. This could have been a beautiful pass, but uncontrolled tourism has made it far more of a nightmare than the Rohtang’s original name-keepers ever visualised. We cross the pass into Lahaul Valley. There are hardly any trees here and the bare, mighty mountains are covered in scree and snowy run-offs. The contrast from the rest of India is striking – hardly any people and peace and quiet all around. Tiny villages lie along our route to Jispa, a pretty stopover near the district headquarters of Keylong. This is the last place you will get to see numerous shades of green, so soak it all in with a mountain dinner of steamed momos and thukpa – a traditional Himalayan soup made with vegetables and meat (we assume all scary bikers are non-vegetarian, unless you ride a Honda or something…).
Day 3: Jispa – Sarchu (ride 80 km)
Soon after Jispa we start getting into Greater Himalayan territory. All traces of greenery disappear and the mountains suddenly get bigger. Big is the keyword – bigger than the most awesome v-twin you have ever seen, bigger than the former Governor of California and certainly bigger than the Sydney Opera House. Yes sir, it does not get bigger than this. You can only ride slowly along and marvel at the creation of the bearded man in the sky (or bearded lady, we’re not sexist). We cross over the Baralachha Pass (5000m) toward noon. For the first time you realise that you are on a different planet altogether, just man (or woman), machine, mountain and sky. A bit later we hit the plains of Sarchu, the border-point between the states of Himachal and Kashmir. It is here that we cross into Ladakh, and very soon we will be on the Tibetan Plateau in India. We check into our high-altitude tent accommodations at our Sarchu camp. Altitude-sickness might kick in later in the evening. The only solution is to drink lots of water and fluids and keep off the tobacco and alcohol. Some of you may have an uncomfortable night due to dizziness. But this is an awesome place to camp with miles and miles of open grassland and a clear night sky with millions of stars above. Sarchu truly is one of the most magical parts of this motorcycle adventure. We start up early the next day - the most awesome part of the ride lies just ahead.
Day 4: Sarchu – Leh (ride 215 km)
We set out from Sarchu and climb over the Lachulungla Pass. About 3 hours later we stop at Pang. After tea and an early lunch we climb up to one of the most awesome parts of the Manali-Leh ride. Forty six kilometres of sheer riding nirvana – the Morey Plains! A narrow bit of tarmac stretches across the immense flatlands and disappears into the mountain-range-horizon. Distant ridges form the borders of the plains as we race along as fast as our carburetted steeds will permit. No traffic lights, no grandmas crossing the road, just a long line of bikers with the odd truck coming down the other way. In the afternoon we cross the Tanglang-La (‘La’ means Pass), the second-highest motorable mountain pass in the world at 5300m. We cross the pass and get to see the first shades of Himalayan desert green at Gya village, an ancient Buddhist habitation on a tributary of the Indus river. Soon we come out of a narrow gorge and into the wide-open Indus valley and the first major stop in the route at Upshi. The roads are much better here and we have a broad, well-maintained tarmac road all the way to Leh, 60 kms from Upshi. On the way we can see the monasteries of Shey and Thiksey, perched on hilltops with desert oases at the bases where the local Buddhist populations live. We arrive in Leh late in the afternoon. It is a busy market town, the heart of which is filled with the clamor and congestion of any other Indian market town. We check into our accommodations in the leafy suburbs of Changspa. A beer and the cool evening air is your prize for completing the most awesome motorcycle ride on the planet. Over the next few days, we will explore this unique landscape and culture and at the end of it, do it all over again!
Day 5: Leh (rest day)
Leh has a mixed Muslim and Buddhist population and has both a large Masjid and a Tibetan Gompa. The main central street is lined with curio shops and has many eating places serving a wide range of cuisine. We start the day with giving our dusty bikes a well-earned washdown and fix all the little mechanical bugs that we picked up along the way (the Enfield is remarkable at picking up bugs but like the Terminator, will never, never stop). We can take the opportunity to explore Leh on foot and check out the old fort that looks over the city. The evening is spent lazing around the peaceful residential suburb of Changspa, in one of the many garden restaurants that thrive in the area. We enjoy a late night barbecue under the starry sky, with tall tales of motorcycling misachievements in far corners of the world, fuelled by even taller glasses of beer or the local hooch – chhang.
Day 6: Leh - Nubra Valley (ride 128 km)
Today we will cross the highest motorable mountain pass in the world, the Khardungla Pass (5602m). Our first pitstop after the pass is Khardung village where we stop for tea. The Shyok river curves its way beautifully through the valley. The Nubra Valley is part of the ancient Silk Route which used to connect Northern India to Central Asia and Xinjiang Province in China. This used to be a busy trade route between India and China years ago, with caravans loaded with salt, wool, opium, spices and precious metals over the treacherous mountain passes. Diskit is the main market town in Nubra Valley at a distance of 115 km from Leh. The main attraction here is Diskit Gompa. Small farming communities with their fields of barley strike a sharp contrast against the backdrop of the harsh mountain desert landscape. We ride another 10 km to Hunder, our campsite for the night. There are sand dunes in Hunder and you can enjoy a ride on a twin-humped, Bactrian Camel later in the day. We wind up the ride under the stars, as many travelers would have had in the old days of the Silk Route.
Day 7: Nubra Valley- Leh (ride 128 km)
After an early breakfast we bid adieu to this ancient and forgotten land. We do an easy ride up the valley, stopping along the way to take pictures. We cross the Khardung La early in the afternoon with a stop at the top to take some pictures and really soak in the highest part of our journey. Mighty Himalayan conquerors we are! We ride down to Leh, clean up and then hit Chanspa for some beers and dinner.
Day 8: Leh – Panggong Lake (ride 149 km)
Panggong Lake, the largest brackish water lake in Asia is 149 km from Leh. Two-thirds of this gigantic high-altitude lake lie in China. We ride north from Leh and then turn left at Karu. The well-maintained Kashmiri tarmac gives way to patchy surfaces and dirt. We cross the ChangLa (5500m) and descend to an army checkpoint at Tangse. We ride along the lake for a while and spend the night at Panggong Resort, a comfortable but basic guesthouse run by the Ladakhi locals.
Day 9: Panggong – Leh (ride 149 km)
Breakfast and a few quick walks along the lake and we point the bikes back toward Leh. It’s a relaxing ride today. Nothing more to achieve than to get into Leh on time. Tonight will be our last night in Leh so the rest of the evening is spent trinket hunting in the bazaar and visitng the Shanti Stupa – a huge structure overlooking Changspa – we ride to the Stupa and spend a half hour on the large terrace below the Buddha. A fantastic view of the Indus valley and the Zanskar Range before us. Too bad they wont let us bring our barbecue and beers out here….and just as well, for we need to hit the sack early for a long riding day ahead.
Day 10: Leh – Sarchu (ride 215 km)
Oh no, not again! It is time to backtrack over our great Trans-Himalayan adventure on the road to Leh – back over all the dirt-tracks, river crossings and terrifying mountain passes. The task may seem daunting but the ride is completely different from the one that brought us in. The landscape seems different on the way out, the perspective changes and we have more time to notice things that we missed the last time around. We will give Pang a miss and ride slightly longer to spend the night at Sarchu, exactly halfway between Leh and Manali. We camp out in the meadows, with a thick blanket of stars to mask out the same fuzzy headache we encountered in Pang - an incredible experience in an incredible place. The same high-altitude rules on fluid intake apply.
Day 11: Sarchu – Manali (ride 215 km)
The morning may find us cranking our machines over a few times to get the oil to warm up - an overnight frost may have turned all the lubricants into chocolate syrup. We ride on over the Sarchu plain and assault Baralachha at noon. We are welcomed into Jispa with shades of Lahaul green and the end of the great Himalayan desert. A cheerful ride up the handsome Lahaul ranges and it is time to face the great and wicked Rohtang Pass. We hit the tourist jungles over the other side and wind our way through them (or over them) with mild irritance – mighty Himalayan conquerors such as us have no time for squealing insects. We ride down the pass through potholes and mini-rivers of mud (and fog if we’re lucky), through to our hotel in Manali for a good hot bath. Dinner with our bikes, with stories of recent adventures and plans for the future. A long ride and much deserved sleep with dreams of high mountain lakes, monasteries and dusty motorcycle trails on a totally different planet. Next day, check up on all those emails and a walkabout through the backpacker alleyways of Old Manali. Load up the riding gear on the bus in the evening for a long drive back to New Delhi. No, you cannot take your bikes back with you. They’re not good for you. Really. Leaky old Royal Oilfields….
The tour includes:
- 500cc Royal Enfields for riders, tour leader and tour guide.
- Motorcycle fuel for the tour.
- All hotel, guesthouse and camping charges in Himachal and Ladakh on twin-sharing basis with breakfast, lunch and dinner included. The meals include a breakfast and dinner buffet.. Lunch will be served on the way in small mountain shops locally called dhabas.
- Accommodations for this tour are at deluxe hotels and guest houses and are usually amongst the best available in the small towns and villages along our route. All our campsites provide luxury tents with attached toilets.
- All hot beverages.
- Bungee cords for strapping on your day pack.
- Backup pickup truck with mechanic. All your luggage goes in the truck.
- First aid kit and oxygen cylinder.
- Food and lodgings for the tour guide and back-up crew.
- All taxes are included in the tour price.
- The tour price includes all permits and toll charges.
The tour does not include:
- Helmets, gloves, jackets, boots, strap-on luggage and other riding gear – riders are advised to bring their own. We have some riding gear available here but not all of it is water-proof. Also, you might want to bring helmets and other gear that fit you well.
- Transportation to and from Manali is not included.
Manali - The Holiday Resorts Cottages and Spa / Snow peak Retreat And Cottages