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iXiGOers Feb 07 2013

What is a good itinerary for a mountain bike / motorcycle trip from Delhi to Leh-Manali?

Aloke Bajpai Feb 22 2013
7 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

First of all, this is a highly recommended once-in-a-lifetime experience for all adventurous people. A perfect "bucket-list" item.

Before we start, let's clear out the basics before we talk about the itinerary:


1.Best time to go: Mid-May to Mid-October (do check more immediate weather in leh before you leave)


2.Budget ~12-14 days and ~30K to 60K Rs. (depending on choice of food or accommodation) for the entire trip. 


3.The most enjoyable part of the trip is the mountain roads (even though some people enjoy the highway perils of biking down to Leh all the way from Delhi) so in all probability you will start your trip from Shimla or Manali, although the latter is considered the more scenic (and more rugged!). So you'll need to go from Delhi to Manali (or Delhi to Shimla) either by bus or by taxi. 


4.It is best to hire the motorcycle directly in Manali. (If you want to rent from Delhi,  RideIndia is a good listing site for such motorcycles on hire.)


5.Royal Enfield Machismo 500 cc is the recommended beast for this trip


6.Much of the itinerary is high-altitude. Some nights will be spent above 10,000 feet. It is important to be physically fit and consult a doctor before commencing this trip. 


7.The Leh-Manali highway consists of generally bad stretches of roads, snow crossings, water crossings due to glacial melts and occasional landslides. It transverses high passes at over 5,000 metres. Travel time is unpredictable due to uncertainties of weather that can turn inclement any time and play spoilsport.


8.For first-time riders in India, remember that cows, goats, dogs, cricket-playing boys, trucks, SUVs and cars have the right of way over motorcycles in India ;-). 


Enough said about the preparation. It's time to talk about the itinerary for the Delhi to Leh trip via Manali.


DAY 1 - Delhi to Manali

Best is to reach Kullu airport by a flight from Delhi to Kullu but since flights are very unpredictable and many a times airlines stop plying on this route, it is best to  take a private taxi from Kullu to Manali. Many tourists still take a bus or taxi from Delhi early morning.One has to do the ~650 km journey in 13-15 hours depending on traffic (whew!)

But guess what, you'll be at 6700+ ft altitude already. Your acclimatisation begins ! The night break can be at one of the accommodation options in Manali

Here's what lies ahead:


DAY 2 - Manali to Jispa 

The fun begins! Start an early morning ride on the world's highest road - the Manali-Leh highway. Just out of Manali the spectacular climb the 13051 feet high Rohtang Pass starts. After 52 kms of continuous ascent amidst lush green mountains and roadside waterfalls, you will reach Rohtang Pass. After Rohtang, the road descends into the Chandra valley, passing through Khoksar and on to Tandi, where the Chandra and Bagha rivers meet. Tandi is the only place on the Manali-Leh highway that has a petrol pump. Do not forget to fill up your tank and reserve containers at Tandi since the next one is after 365 Km !  About 20 miles (32 kms) from Tandi is Jispa where you end the day's ride at a hotel.

View of Lahaul range from Keylong (en route before Jispa):

Sunrise over a local Gonpa in Keylong:


DAY 3 - JISPA TO SARCHU

The rugged part of the trip begins now,  with bad roads, rivers, freezing temperatures, small mountain lakes and breathtaking landscapes. To reach Sarchu, you will cross your second high altitude pass - Baralacha-la the originating point of Chandra,Bhaga and Yunam rivers - at 16,500 feet  with unique landscapes all around you. The whole Manali-Leh highway experience is about riding up and down from one pass to another. After the descent from Bara Lacha La Pass (4830mtrs), one arrives in the plains of Sarchu. Since Sarchu is snowbound for most of the year, there are no permanent structures here, so you stay in Swiss tents with attached toilets or camp out in the open under the stars. 

The valleys and rivers just beyond Jispa:

One of the many rivers one needs to ride across between Jispa and Sarchu: 

After crossing Baralacha-La, there are some tea-stalls / dhabas:


DAY 4 - SARCHU to TSO KAR LAKE

The most awesome part of the trip on the Manali-Leh highway begins right after Sarchu, in the Jammu and Kashmir state. The Gata Loops - a succession of 21 hair pin bends - will lift you 1,500 feet higher and thereafter, the Lachlung-la (16,616 feet) and Nakee-la (15,547 feet) passes will lead you to More Plains, a 26 mile (42 km) extension of the Changthang plateau. At More Plains, you cut across to a dirt and sandy track on your right leading you to the Tso Kar lake. The Tso Kar basin has a long mix of meadows and marshy land. It has both a fresh water and a brackish lake, several natural springs and streams. Migratory birds also use the lake as their breeding ground. Apart from its sheer beauty, Tso Kar is known for the Indian and Tibetan nomads who live here in the winter months. Camp out in the night. 

After crossing Lachung-La pass, there is a semi-desert area before Pang:

Tso Kar Lake, in all its awesomeness:


DAY 5 - TSO KAR LAKE to TSOMO RI RI LAKE

Tso Kar Lake to Tsomo Ri Ri Lake is a 60 Km ride that will test your idea of space and time, and leave you completely out of words to describe what you will see. Not one or two but three pristine lakes, two high altitude passes, Namshang-la (16,500 feet) and Pologonka-la (16,300 feet) combined with sand and stone tracks force you to stop every once in a while to either photograph or to just stand there, unfold your arms and absorb the unbelievable scenery you behold.

Tsomo Ri Ri Lake


DAY 6 - TSOMO RI RI LAKE to LEH

Korzok Village, on the banks of Tsomo Ri Ri Lake, is home to the largest clan of nomadic buddhist tribes in the Ladakh region. The Changpa nomads live in Yak-wool tents and make a living out of rearing sheep and goat. Their yak-milk tea is worth tasting and you should definitely visit one of the Changpa campsites to get a first hand experience on how these amazing human beings have been living in perfect harmony with nature for centuries. After spending time at the nomadic campsite, you can ride alongside the majestic Indus river to Leh.

Korzok Village:


DAY 7 - LEH ! 

ACCOMODATION TIPS:

There are many cheap accommodation options available at many places on the Manali Leh route:

Kokhsar: There is just 1 guesthouse in Kokhsar.

Keylong: Apart from the majestic HPTDC hotel Chandrabhaga which offers rooms, luxury tents and dorms, there are several small guest houses as well where you can spend the night.

Jispa: Jispa has quite a few tent settlements along and a guesthouse.

Darcha: There is tented accommodation available at Darcha where one can spend the night.

Zingzing Bar: In case the weather turns ugly en route to Baralacha La, one can seek accommodation at Zingzing Bar dhaba's tent.

Bharatpur: There are a few tents at Bharatpur which offer basic accommodation.

Sarchu: Sarchu only has tents to offer to an exhausted traveler; however there are quite a few choices here, from cheap accommodation in Dhaba tents which costs Rs. 30 per person to luxury tents costing thousands of rupees a night.

Pang: Pang also has tented accommodation available, although choices are less than one gets in Sarchu.

Upshi: There are few guest houses in Upshi along side the Leh Manali highway.

Leh: Leh being the capital and tourist hub of Ladakh has tons of accommodation options to suit budget of every type, from dorms costing as little as Rs. 75/per person a night to luxurious hotels and resorts costing a thousands of rupees a night. See all accommodation options in Leh too.


The journey becomes better if you complete your journey back from Leh - Kargil - Drass - Sonmarg - Srinagar - Jammu - Chandigarh - Delhi
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