14 DAY MOTORCYCLE TOUR OVER THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN ROAD ON PLANET EARTH
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 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 experiences.
Refer to our Adventure Terms…
How to Reach ?
The tour begins from Manali (HP)
There would be pick up available by Traveller Soul to Manali from Delhi by A/C Volvo Coach
Traveller’s can also opt for Taxi from Delhi depending on group size: Transport Upgrade Required
14 Days Plan
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi (flight)
Traveller Soul crew picks you up from the airport and helps you check into your hotel for some much-needed rest and chow. In the afternoon we leave for Connaught Place, the heart of Colonial Delhi. Here you can catch some lunch and browse through the hundreds of souvenir and trinket shops that line Lutyens’ Pre-War collonades. In the evening we take the bus for Manali from the bus stop at nearby Janpath Road. The bus, manufactured by Swedish manufacturer Volvo, offers comfortable seating for the fourteen-hour journey, far more comfortable than your average economy. Overnight in the bus with stops on the way for dinner and then breakfast in the Indian foothills.
Day 2: Arrive in Manali (bus)
The bus 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 Enfields, waiting in the hotel parking lot. 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 .This day we will go on a Himalayan 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 familiarize with the torque characteristics of the bike. 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 3: 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 journey 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. There are hardly any trees here and the bare, mighty mountains are covered in scree and snowy run-offs. 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.
Day 4: Jispa – Pang (ride 150 km)
Soon after Jispa we start getting into Greater Himalayan territory. All traces of greenery disappear and the mountains suddenly get bigger. We cross over the Baralachha Pass (5000m) by noon. 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 are on the Tibetan Plateau in India. Towards afternoon we reach our camp at Pang. Now Pang is a bit of a mean place – there’s weird sandy formations all around and it is in a bit of a depression between cliffs and ranges. 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.
Day 5: Pang – Leh (ride 150 km)
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 carbureted 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.
Day 6: Leh (rest day)
We start the day with giving our dusty bikes a well-earned wash down and fix all the little mechanical bugs that we picked up along the way. 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 word, fuelled by even taller glasses of beer or the local hooch – chhang.
Day 7: Leh – Lamayuru (ride 120 km)
We see the mighty confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers along the way at Nimmo. We stop in Khaltse for grub – nothing remarkable about the place – and then cross the Indus into a side valley enroute to Lamayuru. A winding road across one of the ridges takes us to a place that time forgot – the 4-million-year-old monastery of Lamayuru. Ancient mud walls growing out of the hillsides, monks in bright red and a place to forget civilisation and technology.
Day 8: Lamayuru – Leh (ride 150 km)
Another relaxing ride back up the valley to Leh. We halt briefly at the beautiful old monastery of Alchi. Back in Leh, we spend the night in Changspa again and prepare for a ride into the complete wild.
Day 9: Leh – Panggong Lake (ride 149 km)
Panggong Lake, the largest brackish water lake in Asia is 149 km from Leh. We ride north from Leh and then turn left at Karu. 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 10: 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.
Day 11: Leh – Sarchu (ride 215 km)
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 12: Sarchu – Manali (ride 215 km)
The morning may find us cranking our machines over a few times to get the oil to warm up. 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. We ride down and pass through potholes and mini-rivers of mud, through to our hotel in Manali for a good hot bath. Then have our dinner 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.
Day 13: Manali to Delhi (bus)
A walk 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.
Day 14: Delhi
Arrive in Delhi at 7AM. Check into the hotel for some breakfast and rest. Hit the noisy streets of old Delhi for a tour of Mughal India – visit the Jama Masjid and the 16th century Red Fort built by Shah Jahan. Return to Connaught Place for some souvenir hunting for the non-bikers back home and a tour of Lutyens’ British Colonial Delhi. Dinner back at the hotel and mid-night flight out of Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Refer to our Adventure Terms & Conditions
The tour includes:
- Two nights hotel stay in Delhi.
- Airport and bus stop transfers by cab.
- Bus tickets for Delhi-Manali-Delhi.
- All hotel, guesthouse and camping charges in Himachal and Ladakh, twin sharing basis.
- 350cc Royal Enfields for riders, tour leader and tour guide.
- Luggage racks and bungee cords for strapping on soft luggage.
- Backup pickup truck with 1 spare motorcycle and mechanic.
- First aid kit and oxygen cylinder.
- Food and lodgings for the tour guide and back-up crew.
The tour does not include:
- Meals at hotels, guesthouses, camps and ride stops – tour leaders will collect a kitty to pay for all these expenses.
- Alcohol and other beverages.
- Petrol – all riders will be expected to pay their own fuel bills at petrol stations. The kitty will pay for spare fuel that we carry in the back-up truck – we will need to top up tanks in Pang and Sarchu and there are no petrol pumps in this area.
- Helmets, gloves, jackets, boots, strap-on luggage and other riding gear – riders are advised to bring their own.
- Medical expenses.