Best Leh Ladakh Travel Itinerary for a motorbiker

Leh-Ladakh is not just another hill station. Ask a biker and a visit to Leh-Ladakh on a bike is like a dream come true.

Here’s a detailed travel itinerary for a trip to the mystical land of Leh-Ladakh on a bike.

Quick Facts:

  • Distance (from Delhi): 1023 km
  • Ideal trip duration: 8-12 days
  • Altitude: 3,500 metres
  • Average temperature: 28°C during summer to -15°C in winter
  • Coldest Months: January and February
  • Accessibility: Though Leh-Ladakh is not accessible during the winter months via the Manali-Leh and Srinagar Leh Highways, Leh is well connected by air. However, travelling to this area (especially by road) between November-February is not just risky but extremely dangerous as well.

People and Culture: Ladakh, a region of that boasts of a rich cultural heritage, is a Buddhism stronghold and is majorly inhabited by Buddhists. While you may find some regions with a Muslim majority as well, these are confined to specific pockets only. Irrespective of religion, you will find the people here borrowing heavily from the Tibetan culture.

Location and Weather: Located in the northern part of the country, the Ladakh region lies between the Kunlun mountain ranges that border it on the northern side and the Great Himalayan range bordering its southern side.

Leh, being a cold desert region, experiences long, cold winters almost from November to March. Summers are comfortable and warm with very little to no rainfalls during the monsoon season.

Best time to visit Leh-Ladakh: Tourist season commences in this area from April onwards. The place starts to open up to the hubble-bubble of the tourists during the impending summer season. As we progress into the summers, the frozen waters of the Pangong Tso and Moriri Tso begin to melt and by mid-May the place is almost ready for the tourist inflow.

But typically, mid-May is not the best months to visit Ladakh. The Leh-Srinagar Highway is the only roadway open and you would be amid heavy traffic during this time with several blocked paths as the snow begins to thaw. By June, it is good to plan a trip to the region.

July to September are months of the monsoon, a common ground for landslides and it may be too risky to venture to the area during this time. Come mid-September and the weather starts to open up and mid-September to mid-October is the best time to visit the Leh-Ladakh region. This season is especially important for bikers as this time of the year marks the opening up of biking rallies in the region!

If you are looking for a winter trip to Leh-Ladakh, it is not recommended. Usually as snowfall commences, the Manali-Leh highway gets closed around mid-October to mid-November and the Leh-Srinagar Highway follows suit by end-November. The roads become increasingly treacherous and it is not worth the risk.

So, undoubtedly, mid-September to mid-October is the best time of the year to visit Leh-Ladakh as the weather is the best during this time of the year.

Planning your road trip: Check out my vlog as I prepare for my much awaited Leh-Ladakh trip here!

Route(s) to take from Delhi to Leh: There are two routes that one can take from Delhi to Leh – via Manali-Leh Highway or via Srinagar-Leh Highway. The Manali-Leh Highway is considered a better route to take, especially for those who are taking a road trip on bike to Leh-Ladakh. Maintained by the Border Roads Organization of the Indian Army, this route is not only well maintained, but also offers sufficient acclimatisation as the altitude change is gradual as compared to the Srinagar-Leh Route.

The months of June to September offer the best time to reach Leh-Ladakh via the Manali-Leh route. Further, the Srinagar-Leh Highway is also closed and inaccessible for almost six months during the winters.

Road Conditions: While the bike ride to Leh-Ladakh is one of the most adventurous and once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the road travel in itself is quite unpredictable with changing road conditions along the way. Most roads in and around Leh are in good conditions, but some sections may be damaged due to constant water flow over them. During early summers and the monsoons, the melted snow and rainwater may result in slushes that could be tricky to manoeuvre. Certain stretches such as the approach roads to the Leh main market, Leh Palace, Namgyal Gompa and Magnetic Hill are particularly bad, so you may want to watch out for these rough patches, too.

Trip Budget:  A typical itinerary for a road trip to Leh-Ladakh would cost differently based on whether you are using your own bike or a rented one.

  • If you are using your private bike, you can assume to travel a distance of about 3300-3600 km to and from Ladakh. Assuming your bike gives a mileage of an average of 25 kmpl, considering a mix of plains and hilly terrain, it would be safe to keep a fuel budget of about INR10,000- 12000.
  • If you decide to cover all the way to Leh-Ladakh on a rented bike, you can keep a minimum rental budget of Rs. 1000-1200 per day with fuel charges extra.

To know more about budgeting for Leh-Ladakh road trip, Read: The essentials of calculating the budget for a Ladakh Bike Trip

What kind of motorbike to use?

While several bikes are good for a road trip to Leh-Ladakh, a few motorcycles are better suited than others in terms of performance for the mountain terrain that a road trip to Ladakh entails. Some of the most preferred bikes for a road trip to Leh-Ladakh include:

Royal Enfield

Pluses: A big 350 or 500CC engine, heavier size, best-in-class suspension and a comfortable rider/pillion seat. Best if travelling with a pillion rider.

Royal Enfield Himalayan

Pluses: A perfect off-roader bike, especially designed for the Himalayan topography; power-packed 400 CC engine; upright and comfortable riding position; plenty space to tie up your luggage.

Bajaj Pulsar/ Yamaha FZ and Fazer

Pluses: Huge fuel tank.

Negatives: A tad bit uncomfortable seating position and an equally uncomfortable seat!

Hero Impulse/ KTM Duke

Pluses: Good bike if you are riding solo; dual sport tires; upright seating position and good long-travel shocks.

Negatives: Small fuel tank (just 12 litres ☹); under-powered engine

Several newer models and variants have also been hitting the markets lately. Of these, noteworthy machines that you may want to consider for a road trip to the Ladakh include Bajaj Dominar, Honda CBR 250 and UM Motorcycles. However, beware, avoid using Bajaj Avenger – it is just not recommended for mountain rides!

Preparing YOURSELF for a motorbike trip to Leh-Ladakh

As important as it is to prepare your ride, getting yourself ready for the trip is also equally important. Remember that Ladakh is a tough mountain terrain and require a level of preparedness – hone up your riding skills, especially your skills to manoeuvre across hilly terrain. Stamina and endurance building are equally important to be able to sustain the long rides.

Preparing your BIKE for a road trip to Leh-Ladakh

When it comes to preparing your vehicle for the trip, the first thing is to service it up! Here are a few things that you may want to get done before starting on a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh:

  • Replace the clutch, brakes and the accelerator and speedometer cables.
  • Get a change for the engine oil, brake fluid, suspension oil and gear oil.
  • Get your wheels aligned
  • Get the ball bearings of the rear wheel greased.
  • Set your carburettor an optimum tuning level.
  • If your tires seem too worn out, it may be a good idea to get these replaced as well before the trip to be on the safer side.
  • Get the clutch plates, chain set, suspension and swing arm bush replaced
  • Get all the electrical wirings checked.

Riding Gear for Ladakh Trip

While you may not really require a typical riding gear for a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh, you may want to throw a thick, windproof jacket over your clothes and a thermal inside for the bike ride to Ladakh. Just to be safer on the road, especially the treacherous mountain terrain, it may be a good idea to invest in a pair or two of knee and elbow guards and of course a good, sturdy helmet.

Petrol Pumps and ATMs in Leh-Ladakh Route

If you are on a Leh-Ladakh road trip, there is just one small challenge that you must be prepared for – fuel!

The only petrol pump is located in the Leh city. So, be sure to make adequate arrangements if you plan to take a road trip to this area. If you plan to visit Pangong Lake, do get a refill before you make a head-start from Leh as there are no petrol pumps in or around Pangong Tso or the nearby villages.

In fact, the nearest petrol pump near Pangong Tso is the Karu Petrol Pump that lies about 130km on the Pangong-Leh route. Another petrol pump that you may find is on the Leh-Nubra Valley route in Diskit. Unfortunately, even these pumps are highly unreliable as you cannot be sure of the availability of fuels at these pumps. You may try your luck to procure some black fuel (at double its price!!) at some of the villages near Pangong and Nubra Valley such as Chusul, Spangmik and Tangtse, and some even at the Chadar tents at the lake, but their quality is questionable.

Check out Where you can refill your fuel tanks around Pangong Lake and Nubra Valley to know more about this aspect of the trip.

Mobile Networks & Data Connectivity in and around Leh-Ladakh

While you may get good connectivity for most part of your trip, in the interiors, especially beyond Leh (towards Pangong and Nubra Valley), the mobile network and data connectivity around Leh-Ladakh is a dicey subject!

Here is a comprehensive list of what to expect in terms of mobile connectivity on a road trip to Leh-Ladakh:

Manali-Leh: Good connectivity till Gulaba. From Gulaba to Marhi BSNL and Airtel are strong, but as you move from Marhi, right up to Gramphoo, you may experience faint to no network. For a brief area, while you move from Gramphoo to Darcha, you would have a strong BSNL and Airtel network strength, but beyond Darcha right up to Rumtse there is no mobile connectivity.

Leh: All post-paid service provider networks work here, but BSNL has the best strength.

Leh to Pangong: As you move from Leh to Chang La, the connectivity starts to recede. From Chang La onwards, right across Tangtse, Pangong and beyond, there is no network. You may however purchase a satellite phone to stay connected.

Leh-Nubra Valley: You would find BSNL network from Leh up to Khardunga and till Nubra (Hunder). After that, there is again no network, especially if you are visiting the Siachen Base Camp, Wari La or Agham Shyok.

Leh-Srinagar: This route has decent mobile connectivity at Lamayuru and Zanskar courtesy BSNL. Kargil and is provided connectivity by all major network providers, with Jio and Airtel being the strongest. Similarly, Sonmarg and Srinagar have good connectivity.

Permits for Leh-Ladakh

All domestic travellers to Leh-Ladakh are needed to obtain an Inner Line Permit for traveling to all Inner Line regions of Ladakh including Tangyar, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Khardung La and Tso Moriri. Foreign tourists on the other hand need the Ladakh Protected Area Permits (PAP). Both these permits are available online at  www.lahdclehpermit.in.

Good thing is that you would not be requiring to obtain any permits for traveling on the Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh Highways including none for the Zanskar Valley.

Suggestive Itinerary for a 10-days bike trip to Leh-Ladakh

Before you start on your journey to Leh-Ladakh, don’t forget to pack several copies of your permits. You would be required to submit them at almost each check-post that you pass.

Detailed Day-by Day Itinerary

Check out a detailed day by day itinerary and catch me live in action on my day-wise trip as well right here!

DAY 1: Delhi to Manali

Total Distance to be travelled: 541 Kms (via NH 1, NH 21, NH 44)

Riding Time: 13 hours

Start time: 5AM

Route: Delhi – Sonepat – Panipat – Karnal – Ambala – Rajpura – Sirhind – Fatehgarh Saheb – Roopar/Roopnagar – Kiratpur – Swarghat – Bilaspur – Sundarnagar – Mandi – Kullu – Manali

Sumptuous Stopovers: Take a pick from one of these places to take a break and enjoy a wholesome breakfast.

  • Puran Singh da Dhaba, Ambala
  • Backpackers Cafe, Chandigarh
  • Hotel Lake View, Bilaspur
  • Bheemu Dhaba, Mandi –Manali Road

(How to reach: Cross Mandi bus stop and keep driving for 3 – 4 km after the petrol pump to arrive at this simple dhaba that serves some of the freshest and healthiest food at absolutely reasonable prices.)

  • (Parantha) Dhaba at Bhuntar Bus Stand

Stay Options for Day 1: Here are some options that are worth a try and are closest to Manali–Leh Highway:

For more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 1

DAY 2: Manali to Keylong

Total Distance to be travelled: 115 Kms

Riding Time: 3 hours 57 minutes

Route: Manali – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong

Where to eat: Make a stop at one of these places and enjoy a steaming hot snack:

  • Gramphu – This place has some tea shacks that serve tea and steaming hot Maggi!

Stay Options for Day 2: Here are some options that are worth a try in this area

DAY 3: Keylong to Taglang La Pass

Distance to be travelled: 250 Kms

Riding Time: 7 hour 15 minutes

Route: Keylong -Tandi – Jispa – Zing Zing Bar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Pang – Tanglang La

Stopovers: Make a pit stop at Tandi and get your machine refuelled as this is the last gas station on this route. Jispa and Darcha are also popular stopovers on this route. Sarchu is last stopover on the Himachal on this route and is a military base.

Register yourself at the Pang Check Post to proceed further.

Where to eat:

  • Jispa Hotel can be a good option for an early dinner
  • Zing Zing Bar also has few eating options
  • Sarchu – Has few Tibetan-style Himalayan stalls that serve soups, momos and noodles among other things.

Stay Options for Day 3: Here are some options that are worth a try in this area:

What to visit while here:

Don’t forget to visit the Army Transit Camp at Pang – it is the world’s highest at 15,640 feet above sea level.

For  more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 3

DAY 4: Leh – Pangong

Total Distance to be travelled: 223 km

Riding Time: 5 hours 44 minutes

Route: Leh to Pangong (Via Pangong Tso Lake Route i.e. Leh – Shey – Karu – Shakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Lukung – Spangmik – Pangong Tso)

Permit Required: Pangong Tso Permit

Stopovers: This route offers a great stopover in the name of Chang La – an army base that houses a small cafeteria too. Then, there is the Chang La Baba ka Mandir that is considered to ward off bad omen and safeguard travellers on this route. What’s more, you get to be clicked right in front of one of the many signboards displaying the popular “Chang La – 3rd Highest Motorable Road in the World”!

Where to eat:

  • Tangste offers some good local options for lunch, so try being here by lunchtime.

Stay Options for Day 4: Some options that are worth a try in this area:

Earlier campsites and Chadar Tents were set up around the lake and were available to tourists. But these have now been discontinued due to environmental concerns.

What to visit while here:

Some sites that are worth a visit in Leh include the Leh market, Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa. At Pangong, enjoy the serenity and beauty of the Pangong Lake.

For  more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 4

DAY 5: Pangong Lake – Nubra Valley

Total Distance to be travelled: 274 Kms

Riding Time: 7 hours 21 mins

Route: Merak – Spangmik – Tangste – Durbuk – Diskit – Nubra

Permit: Nubra Valley requires the Inner Line Permit as it is considered to be a part of the inner line.

Stay Options for Day 5: Nubra Valley offers several options to stay for the night there.

For  more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 5

DAY 6: Nubra Valley – Leh

Total Distance to be travelled: 160 Kms

Riding Time: 5 hours 6 minutes

Route: Give an early start from Nubra and take the route via Khardung La back to Leh.

Plan staying in Leh for the night.

Places to visit on your way back to Leh: While traveling back to Leh from Nubra, there are quite some monasteries that are worth a pit stop to visit. Try visiting the monasteries at Hemis, Shey and Thiksey.

For more details, visit:  Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 6

DAY 7: Diskit to Khardung La Pass

Total Distance to be travelled: 75km

Riding Time: 2 hours 11 minutes

Route: Diskit – Khalsar – Khardung Village –Pullu – Khardung La Pass – Back to Leh

Places to visit and things to do:

Diskit, the headquarters of Nubra Valley, is also the location of the 14th Century Diskit Gompa that houses the statue of a Deity.

Khardung La Pass is a small army base and also the highest motorable road in the world. Yes! You would actually be riding at 18380 ft!! Grab a cup to tea at the Khardung La Pass Army Cafeteria and shop at the Army souvenir shop to remember your visit by.

Stopovers: Stop by at the Khardung Village for collecting some memories. Yes! This is just the place to get some photos clicked! Another pit stop is a detour to Sumur where you can visit the 150-years old Samstanling Gompa.

Where to eat: You don’t get anything fancy here but some simple bite options!

  • Pullu has some eateries that offer Maggie, chips and biscuits

For more details, visit:  Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 7

DAY 8: Leh to Sonmarg

Total Distance to be travelled: 340 Kms

Riding Time: 8 hours 10 mins

Route: Leh – Kargil – Drass Village – Zojila Pass – Sonmarg

Factfinder:

  • Drass is the world’s second coldest region after Serbia!
  • Zojila Pass is known as the Gateway of Ladakh

Places to visit in Kargil:

  • Lamayuru Monastry
  • Magnetic Hill
  • Gurudwara Pathar Sahib
  • Confluence of Indus and Zanskar River

Stay overnight in Kargil!

Stay Options for Day 8: Here are some options for a night at Kargil:

Places to visit in Sonmarg: Sonmarg, or the Meadow of Gold, is a paradise unto itself. Here are some places that you must visit while here:

  • Thajiwas Glacier
  • Zoji-La Pass
  • Vishansar Lake
  • White River Rafting
  • Nilagrad River
  • Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
  • Baltal Valley

Don’t forget to go shopping in Sonmarg!

For more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 8

DAY 9: Sonmarg – Srinagar – Pathankot

Total Distance to be travelled: 421 Kms

Riding Time: 10 hours

Route: Sonmarg – Srinagar – Udhampur – Kathua – Jammu

Where to eat: Here are some popular dhabas on the way:

  • Kant da Dhaba
  • Chennai Xprs

For more details, visit: Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 9

DAY 10: Pathankot to Delhi

Total Distance to be travelled: 481 Kms

Riding Time: 7 hours 18 min

Route: Pathankot – Hoshiarpur – Jallandhar – Ludhiana – Ambala – Kurukshetra – Panipat – Sonepat – Delhi

Where to eat:

  • Jullandhar Haveli (Lunch)
  • Ambala (Tea + Snack)
  • Karnal Haveli (Dinner)

Finally, back home and to some much-needed rest after all the excitement!

For more details, visit:  Royal Rider Dinesh Bike Trip Day 10

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