The Foolproof Guide for a Ladakh Motorcycle Tour.
(Everything you need to know minus dumb advice)
Riding a motorcycle to Ladakh is like going on a pilgrimage for bikers. Ladakh, as they say, is the only mecca for the motorcyclists.
The staggeringly beautiful land calls motorcyclists to witness the enormity of its mountains. It makes them feel dwarfed & blissful at the same time.
Riders from all over the world come to ride on the rough patches of Ladakh every year.
And let me guess, you want to ride to Ladakh too.
However, you and I both know that this ride cannot be rushed. Isn’t it?
You want to nail your first bike trip to Ladakh, and it is a feat which can be achieved through preparations and a little guidance.
And that’s the reason why I’ve created this foolproof guide for Ladakh.
This guide will help you plan your first bike trip to Ladakh in the right way.
All the information you will find here is coming from the experience of bikers who’ve ridden to Ladakh many times.
Since this is a long guide, I’ve divided it into eight different chapters.
You can jump on any chapter by clicking on its name.
The Seasons »
Which is the best season to make a bike trip to Ladakh? While the most visited time of the year starts in May and ends in August, riders still continue to ride to Ladakh until October end.
Here’s an infographic to make things more clear.
The Itenary »
There are many routes from where you can reach Ladakh. Every rider will give you different advice based on their experience.
However, most of the riders including me will suggest that you reach Ladakh from Srinagar route and return from Manali route.
Here’s an Infographic of a 12-day itinerary from Delhi to Ladakh. It’ll give you an idea about the major halts.
(Tip: Download all the infographics on your phone for easy access)
Here’s the detailed Itinerary for a bike trip to Ladakh.
Day 1 »
Delhi → Pantitop.
Passing Through: Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Jammu
This is going to be the longest stretch of your ride to Ladakh. But, this stretch can be covered in a single day if you start early in the morning.
And even if you can’t finish this stretch in a single day, there are major cities where you can halt when the sun settles.
Your 1st day ends in Patnitop, stay for the night there.
Day 2 »
Patnitop → Srinagar 200 km.
Passing Through: Jawahar Tunnel, Banihal, Anantnag
On the second day, start with exploring Patnitop on your motorcycle, and then head towards Kargil. The ride from Patnitop to Srinagar is a delightful one. It’ll provide moments of clarity and peace. After crossing the Jawahar Tunnel, the green valleys of Kashmir will come in your sight.
You will reach Srinagar by 5 pm if you start early morning. Once you arrive there, you can make your evenings more fun by enjoying a Shikara boat ride and eating Mughlai cuisine.
On day 2, you’ll stay the night in Srinagar.
Day 3 »
Srinagar → Kargil 202 km.
Passing Through: Sonmarg, Zojila Pass, Drass
While riding from Srinagar to Kargil, you will find yourself in the middle of the quiet valley of Sonmarg. Halt at Sonmarg for some rest and taking pictures, then move towards Zoji La Pass, which is the highest pass in this route.
Once you reach Kargil, stay for the night in the historic town of Kargil.
Day 4 »
Kargil → Leh 235 km.
Passing Through: Namika La Pass, Naki La Pass, Lamayuru Monastery, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib.
The entire stretch from Kargil to Leh is a treat for sore eyes. Ride effortlessly here, click photographs and soak in the scenery as you ride towards Leh.
You’ll find yourself stopping at places and cherishing the momentary beauty of Ladakh.
Day 5 »
Wandering in Leh
Note: It is mandatory to have an Inner Line Permit to visit some protected parts of Leh. Apply for it online by here
The town of Leh has some spellbinding attractions which you can’t afford to miss.
On the fifth day after collecting your Inner Line permit, you start exploring Leh.
Places to visit in Leh
A Buddhist temple located atop a hill, overlooking the whole city of Leh. Take your motorcycle there. If you love to take photographs, DO NOT miss your camera equipment because you’ll regret not taking pictures of Leh city from the Stupa.
Hall of Fame
An ode to Indian Soldiers who lost their lives in the Kargil War. Go to the Hall of Fame museum to see the remains of things used in war. It is well maintained by the Indian Army.
If you are fond of handicrafts, this market will appeal to you. You can visit it if you want to buy handmade stuff for your family/friends.
Day 6 »
Leh → Sumur 115 km.
Passing Through: Pulu, Khardung La, Diskit
This day is probably the best day of riding in Ladakh. You will ride from Leh to Nubra valley where all the unique attractions reside.
Start your journey early morning because you’ll be crossing Khardungla.
A place where every motorcyclist stops by to take pictures. Your bike trip to Ladakh will feel incomplete if you don’t take pictures at Khardung LA.
Reach Sumur and book a hotel there for your night stay.
Day 7 »
Exploring Nubra Valley.
If you ask me which is the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever seen. I’d say Nubra Valley. It houses monasteries, rivers, sand dunes, and Bactrian camels. All casting their spell on you as you try to dwell in the scenery.
Something which will entice you more is the culture of the people living there.
Most of which you’ll get to experience is the hubs of Nubra, which are, Sumur and Diskit.
Places to visit in Nubra Valley
Sumur Sand Dunes
Since your ride on day 7 will start from Sumur, the first place you can go to are the sand dunes. You will be welcomed by the double hunched Bactrian camel waiting to take you on a ride in the dunes.
Panamik Hot springs
21 km from Sumur are the hot springs of Panamik. Here you can take a hot water dip in the complex for a minimal charge. It is definitely worth it!
It’s the only place where you will want to have a bath in Ladakh. Know more about the hot springs at Panamik on Tripoto
Yarab Tso Lake
A sacred lake which you will find on your way back from Panamik Hot Springs. Situated in the middle of the mountains where the echoing of nature can be heard.
You will love to spend some peaceful time here.
Diskit is one of the largest monasteries in the valley. A tall statue of Maitreya Buddha is built in its hall. Every Monastery in Ladakh has its own story to tell, and this one is unique too.
End the 7th day of your bike trip to Ladakh at the Diskit Monastery and head towards your hotel in Sumur.
Day 8 »
Sumur → Spangmik 164 km.
Passing through: Terith, Shyok, Durbuk
It’s the 8th day of your bike trip to Ladakh, on this day, you’ll head towards Spangmik. I advise you to leave early morning from Sumur as the road to Spangmik is beautiful, you’ll be riding alongside the Shyok River.
Places to visit in Spangmik
Pangong Tso Lake »
Be ready for a lightning bolt moment as you see the Pangong Lake yourself. You must’ve heard about the famous lake which is also seen in movies. If you’re planning a bike trip to Ladakh, you must include a trip to the glorious Pangong Lake.
Tangste Gompa »
Tangtse Gompa is another tranquil monastery you’ll visit in route to Pangong Lake. From this monastery, you’ll get a clear view of the sky-piercing mountains, which you can’t miss photographing.
The monastery is well maintained and attractive, there are colorful paintings and wooden carvings that add to the galore.
On the 8th day, you will be staying in Spangmik. You can choose a hotel or even better, you can stay in one of the Lake camps near Pangong.
Day 9 »
Spangmik → Leh 164 km.
Passing Through: Durbuk, Hemis
After watching the early morning sunrise at Pangong Lake, you will ride towards Leh. This day was the most tranquil day of my journey, and yours will be too. Cruise leisurely, stop at towns like Durbuk and Hemis for food and refreshments.
Reach Leh by 4 pm, check in your hotel and go around for a stroll in the market.
Better book an Oyo in Leh beforehand to save some money.
Day 10 »
Leh → Sarchu 250 km.
Passing Through: Thiskey, Taglangla, Lachungla, Pang
The 10th day of your bike trip to Ladakh will be your last day in Leh. Starting from Leh, you will first reach Thiskey, which is around 31 km. Here, you can stop by at the Thiskey Gompa, which is a quiet monastery with beautiful hills surrounding it.
After Thiskey, you will come across some famous some of the passes of Ladakh. First, you will reach Tanglangla, which is 93 km from Thiskey, then Lachungla.
Your stay for the 10th day will be in Sarchu. For a refreshing experience, you can stay at one of the tent houses in Sarchu.
Tent houses in Sarchu can be a little pricey, so if you don’t want to spend a lot, you can coast towards Pang where you will find affordable tent stays for the nights.
Day 11 »
Sarchu → Manali 223 km.
Passing Through: Baralacha la Pass, Keylong, Rohtang La
Leave from Sarchu early in the morning because on your ride towards Manali, you will be greeted by clear lakes, silent valleys, and high mountain passes. Halt for food and refreshments at Keylong, then reach Manali for your overnight stay.
Day 12 »
Manali → New Delhi 539 km.
Passing Through: Bilaspur, Ambala, Karnal
This will be the last day of your bike trip to Ladakh. If you start early from Manali, you can reach Delhi at night. There are many cities in between where you can halt for breakfast, lunch, and refreshment.
Don’t Forget: This is a suggested Itinerary, just to give you an idea of where and how to go. You can modify the itinerary according to your stay at different places.
The Motorcycle »
Unsurprisingly, the most asked question in every travel forum is, “Which is the best motorcycle for doing a trip to Ladakh?”
I think it’s a general dilemma among riders.
Look: You can ride any motorcycle to Ladakh if it’s in the right condition.
In fact, I know people who have been to Ladakh on scooters. It’s not a “Royal Enfield only” zone or an “ADV only zone.”
Even if you have a 100cc commuter, you can go take it to Ladakh. The only problem? Your ride will be slow and less cozy than others riding to Ladakh on a touring bike.
Need to buy a touring bike? Here are the best touring bikes you can buy in India (from 1lacs-5lacs)
Whichever bike you take, make sure it is regularly maintained and perform a few necessary checks and make it Ladakh ready.
Don’t Forget: If you are renting a motorcycle, make sure you get it checked by a mechanic before riding it to Ladakh.
Basic motorcycle checks before Ladakh »
Ladakh, the mecca for motorcyclists is also the place where motorcycles are put to their toughest test.
You must at least perform these checks mentioned in the infographic.
A brief about them is given below.
Chain & Sprockets »
On a new chain sprocket, the teeth are flat, and seem like half of the teeth has been chipped off. While on a worn out gear, the teeth will be pointed. Inspect the chain sprocket, if it looks worn out, just change the whole set.
Get this: Breaking of the chain is one of the worst things that could happen on your ride to Ladakh.
Think about it, you’ll feel hopeless it happens. Get a new chainset if you have a doubt.
Take a closer look at your tyres, If there is optimum tread on them and no cracks, you are good to go. For this matter, you can also consider how many km. have you ridden in them. Is it near to the recommended km? You may want to change them.
Get this: You don’t necessarily need chunky off-road tyres to go to Ladakh. Street tyres can do fine, given that they are in excellent condition.
Just practice a little bit of off-roading on them before you head to the mountains.
If you regularly your engine will be in excellent condition. But if you don’t, I’ve got some easy motorcycle maintenance tips for you.
But double check your motorcycle while preparing for Ladakh. Go to a mechanic and get it checked for bad bearings or loose valves. Also, change your engine oil even if you are some kilometers away from the drain level.
No puffy or weak brakes allowed if you’re planning for Ladakh. If your brakes feel that way, get your brake shoe and disc plate replaced.
I don’t have to tell you about the importance of good brakes. Do I?
Get a feel for your bike’s battery. Does the self-starter take time? Do the light feels dim You might want to get it checked and even replace it. Same goes for the switches, are they all functional? Give a thorough check.
Packing Essentials »
In this chapter, I’ve tried to cover the essential things you need to carry on a bike trip to Ladakh.
For making it easily digestible, I’ve compiled the list in the form of an infographic which you can save for later use.
I’ve also mentioned why you need these things below the infographic.
Medical Aid »
» Dynamox Tablet: In Ladakh, or any other high altitude place there are chances of altitude mountain sickness which causes shortness of breath and headache. In the case of AMS, Diamox tablet is incredibly helpful.
» First Aid Kit: Your first aid box must have all the essential aids like bandages, disinfectant, scissors, wound cleaner, etc. You can consider buying this medical box by Milton to keep your first aid organized while touring.
» General Medicines: Keep general medicine for fever, cough and cold, stomach ache, allergies, etc. They can prove helpful.
Motorcycle parts »
When it’s your first bike trip to Ladakh, you should be all prepared. After your first journey, you may want to cut on some of these things, but for the first time, keep these with you:
» Clutch Wire & Throttle Wire
» Extra engine oil
» Puncture repair kit: I bought this puncture repair kit because comes with a bag which is a plus while touring.
» Extra pair of brake and clutch lever
»Extra pair of footrest
» Inner Line Permit: Apply for Inner line permit here, do read the guidelines first
» Id proofs: Voter Id, PAN Card, Driving license
» RC Book: Carry the original RC of your motorcycle, if your motorcycle’s RC is on your family member’s name, you will have to prove it in Leh. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to take your motorcycle to Leh and will have to rent a local bike.
» Passport size photos: Keep some photographs with you, you’ll need them while filling forms.
» Bike Insurance: Have valid insurance for your motorcycle and keep the original document with yourself.
» Driving License: Keep your original driving license with yourself.
» Power Banks: Not one, keep at least two power banks with yourself, you will need them on your tour to Ladakh. You can consider this jumbo 20,000 mah power bank for your tour.
» Memory Cards: Keep at least 64 GB of additional memory with you. You can’t miss photographing in Ladakh, because there is beauty everywhere. It is quite likely that you will run out of storage.
» Extension Wire: Another critical thing to carry to Ladakh. While staying in hotels, you won’t find as many charging sockets. The extension will prove incredibly useful at that time. While I was touring, I bought this extension board by Havells, it is compact and allowed me to charge 4 devices at a time.
Riding Gear and Accessories »
The more gear you wear, the more confidently you ride. In no way, it is advisable to make a bike trip to Ladakh until you have the essential riding gear. Some of the must haves are:
» Riding Jacket: Riding Jacket is an essential part of gear without which you shouldn’t embark on your trip to Ladakh. Get a touring jacket for Ladakh if you don’t have one.
»Riding Gloves: Your regular riding gloves won’t be able to save your hands from the cold temperature in Ladakh. You must ride with a woolen riding gloves which is capable enough to keep your hand from freezing. Especially if you’re going in the colder months.
If you don’t have a huge budget, I found some affordable riding gloves online, you can check them out.
» Riding Pants or Knee guards:
Riding Pants are good to have, but if you don’t have one and want to ride in your jeans, you must invest in knee guards like these. Need to be fancier, you can buy these riding jeans with knee guards in them.
» Riding Boots or Gum Boots: I consider riding boots a vital part of safety on a motorcycle. A bike trip to Ladakh without riding shoes is a big NO.
» Tank Bag: On a bike trip to Ladakh, you will find a tank bag like this incredibly helpful. It will be handy for keeping the things you will often use like your mobile phone, power bank, helmet cleaner, snacks, documents, etc. I’ve tried and tested many tank bags, but the Zeon R1 by Road Gods always impresses me. It is waterproof, robust. affordable and comes with a rain cover too.
» Saddle Bags/Panniers: What should you keep all your luggage in? Saddlebags or Panniers? Well, it is entirely up to you. I use saddlebags, and they work well for me. You can check out these 75 liters Saddlebags by Gods, which happen to be my favorite because of the value they offer.
Clothing Essentials »
» Woollen socks: Riding in the cold weather of Ladakh always puts up challenges in front of you. One of them is cold feet. You must carry AT LEAST 6 pair of woolen socks like these to Ladakh. There are chances that your socks may get wet while water crossing an extra pair of socks are a must. Check this set of six woolen socks, it’s quite cheap.
» Thermal liners: You must have at least 3 liners with yourself. The more layers you wear, the warmer your body will remain when compared to wearing just one heavy woolen jacket. I thank my Jockey thermal liner for saving me from freezing in Ladakh.
» Scarf: Carry a woolen scarf like this to cover your neck, ears, and face.
» Extra pair of the shoe: Carry an extra pair of shoe in case the shoes you’re wearing gets wet while riding on slush or water crossing.
» Face mask: This an essential one. A face mask is extremely useful in Ladakh. It saves your face from the cold air and keeps it warm even if you choose to ride with the visor open.
» Woollen cap: A woolen cap will save your ears and head from catching a cold. It is beneficial in the cold winters of Ladakh.
» Pocket knife: A pocket knife like this one with a few tools will come really handy in your trip.
» Extra Cash: Keep it in different places (in your luggage, in the bike, in your pocket)
» 2 Jerry Cans: 5 liters each (especially if your fuel tank is under 15 liters)
» Spare Bike Key: (Always keep one on a long bike trip)
The budget for a bike trip to Ladakh »
Honestly speaking, the budget for a bike trip to Ladakh varies for every other rider according to his or her needs. Your main expenses on the journey will be on accommodation and food.
Talking about accommodation, you can find decent budget rooms starting from 500 ₹ to 1500 ₹. For food, If you stick with simple meals, you will have to spend 100-150 ₹ on an average per meal.
If you spend 1000 on an average per night, your accommodation expense for 11 days will be 11000 ₹
If you spend 200 per meal and take 3 meals a day, your expense of food will be approx. 7000 ₹ for 11 days.
Your entire round way ride from Delhi to Ladakh and back will be approximately 2000 to 2500 kilometers. For which you will need approx. 71 liters if your mileage is around 35 kmpl.
The total expense of fuel will be somewhere around 5000 ₹
Calculating these figures, your total expenditure on food, fuel, and accommodation will be approx. 23,000 rupees for 12 days.
It can be more, it can be less based on the circumstances.
Apart from the money spent on food, accommodation, and fuel, your money will be spent on buying things for preparing yourself for and shopping in Ladakh.
Please note that only postpaid connections work in Jammu & Kashmir. Apart from that Airtel, BSNL, and Vodafone are the only companies which provide the network in Ladakh.
Get a postpaid Airtel connection, or a BSNL sim before going to Ladakh.
Dos and Don’ts »
For making it easily digestible, I’ve added an infographic with all the Dos and Don’ts you should keep in mind while traveling to Ladakh by road. Both motorcyclists and car drivers should take care of these things for a safe and happy journey to Ladakh.
•What is the best time for a Ladakh bike trip?
If you are a first-timer, choose to go from May to July. Otherwise, you can go from August to October for a more adventurous trip in the rainy season.
•What to consider while planning a bike trip to Ladakh?
This complete guide is the answer, but also consider the social and political conditions in J&K.
•Which are the best bike for a Leh Ladakh bike trip?
Any bike which is regularly serviced and is in excellent condition. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an adventure bike.
•Where to rent bikes from Delhi to Ladakh?
Karol Bagh is the place for all your motorcycle touring needs. From renting a bike to Ladakh to getting it ready for the epic adventure. You will find everything in Karol Bagh, Delhi.
•Is it safe for females to travel to Ladakh alone?
It is as safe and traveling anywhere else in the world. With safety, precautions, and proper planning, females can nail an epic ride to Ladakh.
•Can we travel to Ladakh alone on a motorcycle?
Definitely yes, if you are a responsible rider. Many riders ride to Ladakh alone every year.
•How much riding experience is required for a bike trip to Ladakh?
There is no yardstick to measure that. If you think you can ride well and have been riding long distance, you can ride to Ladakh. But before riding to Ladakh, I recommend you practice a little bit of off-roading.
•Which is the safest route to Ladakh?
As suggested in this guide, Delhi-Srinagar-Kargil Leh is the safest route to Leh. This is also the most common route for Ladakh.
•What are the cheapest ways to go on a bike trip to Ladakh?
Your ride to Ladakh can be affordable if you spend less on accommodation and food. Stay at affordable places and eat simple food, ride a smaller motorcycle with better mileage. It will also make your trip more adventurous.
•How to prepare yourself physically for Ladakh?
You can start working out before a month or two before your ride. If you are short of time, you can just practice stretching your muscles and cycling. For getting used to riding longer distances on a motorcycle, the best thing you can do is to ride long distances often. Apart from that, you can practice some lungs exercises like deep breathing and inflating a balloon.
•How to prepare yourself mentally for Ladakh?
To prepare yourself mentally for Ladakh, the first thing you should do is to feel good about making this trip.
It’s an ultimate adventure and you’ll cherish its memories all your life, so feel happy and proud.
There’s always a possibility of unforeseen circumstances, but be prepared to tackle it.