The Foolproof Guide for your First Ladakh Motorcycle Tour
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Despite digging into the wealth of motorcycle forums and travel websites, you still haven’t found a complete guide to tell you everything you need to know before making your first bike trip to Ladakh.
The staggeringly beautiful land. It calls for every motorcyclist to witness the enormity of its mountains that stands Yogi still. It urges motorcyclists to find inspiration while feeling dwarfed looking at its rock face and it makes them humble while riding on its rough patches.
Picture this in your head. At this point, you realize that you really want to plan a ride to Ladakh. How can you resist?
However, you and I both know that this ride cannot be rushed. Correct? 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.
Therefore, I’ve created this guide to help you plan your first bike trip to Ladakh in the right way. All the information you will find here is coming from my personal experience and a little bit of research on the internet.
I’ve divided this guide into different chapters and you can jump on any chapter by clicking on the name.
Which is the best season to make a motorcycle trip to Ladakh? I hear this question often. While the most visited time of the year starts from May and ends in August, riders still continue to ride to Ladakh until October end. Here’s an infographic to make things more clear.
Frankly, there are many routes from where you can reach Ladakh. Every rider will advise you of the best course based on their experience. However, most of the riders including me will suggest you reach Ladakh via Srinagar route and return via Manali route. Here’s an Infographic on a 12-day itinerary from Delhi to Ladakh to give you an idea about the major halts.
Here’s the detailed Itenary:
Delhi → Patnitop 655 km.
Passing Through: Karnal, Ambala, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Jammu
This is going to be the longest stretch of your ride towards 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 it in a single day, there are major cities where you can stay for the night when the sun settles.
Your day ends in Patnitop, stay for the night there.
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. Riding from Patnitop to Srinagar is a delightful ride which provides 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
•Shopping on mall road
•Eating Mughlai cuisines
Stay the night in a hotel in Srinagar.
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, you can stay for the night in the historic town of Kargil.
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, take snapshots, soak in the scenery as you ride towards Leh. Stop at places you are passing through and cherish the momentary beauty of Ladakh.
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 clicking 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:
Shanti Stupa: 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.
Tibetan Market: 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.
Leh → Sumur 115 km.
Passing Through: Pulu, Khardung La, Diskit
This day is probably the best day for 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 cross Khardungla where every motorcyclist stops by to take pictures. A bike trip to Ladakh is not complete if you don’t have a picture at Khardung LA.
Reach Sumur and book a hotel there for your night stay
Exploring Nubra Valley
If you ask me which is the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever seen. I’d say Nubra Valley. This valley 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 in Nubra valley. Most of which you can experience is the hubs of Nubra, Sumur and Diskit.
Places to visit in Nubra Valley:
Sumur Sand Dunes: Since your ride will start at 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.
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! Probably the only place where you will want to have a bath in Ladakh.
Yarab Tso Lake: A secret/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 Monastery: Diskit is one of the largest monasteries of 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.
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 be 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. Additionally, places are waiting to be explored by you in Spangmik.
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 lake from others who ride to Ladakh and also seen in movies. Your bike trip to Ladakh must include a trip to the glorious Pangong Lake, or else it will be unjust.
Tangste Gompa: Tangtse Gompa is another tranquil monastery you can 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 colourful 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.
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.
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. These 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.
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.
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 by night. There are many cities in between where you can halt for breakfast, lunch, and refreshment.
Note: 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.
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 cosy than others going on bigger bikes.
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 for 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 maintain your motorcycle, your engine will be in excellent condition. But to double check, it, go to a mechanic and get it checked for bad bearings or loose valves. Also, change your engine oil even if you are km away from the drain level.
Get this: An engine failure on top of the mountains will hit you like a ton of bricks.
No puffy or weak brakes allowed. If your brakes feel that way, go and get your brake shoe and disc plate replaced. I don’t have to tell you 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.
Get This: A battery failure means no self-starter, no lights, and that will create a lot of problems.
Under the packing essential chapter, I’ve tried to cover all 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. Additionally, I’ve also mentioned why you need these things below the infographic.
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 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.
Keep general medicine for fever, cough and cold, stomach ache, allergies, etc. They can prove helpful.
Pain relief spray
It’s your first bike trip to Ladakh, you should be all prepared. After your first journey, you may want to cut somethings from this list, but for the first time, I recommend that you carry these things:
•Clutch Wire & Throttle Wire
•Extra engine oil
•Toolkit Puncture repair kit – I bought this puncture repair kit because comes with a bag which is a plus while touring.
•Air Pump – According to your budget, you can purchase a manual leg pump or a digital tyre inflator like this
•Extra pair of brake and clutch lever
•Extra pair of footrest
Inner Line Permit:
Voter Id, PAN Card, Driving license
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.
Not one, keep at least two power banks with yourself, you will surely need them on your tour to Ladakh. You can consider this jumbo 20,000 mah power bank for your tour.
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.
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 because 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 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.
Your regular riding gloves won’t be able to save your hands from the cold temperature in Ladakh. You must ride with a woollen riding gloves which is capable enough to keep your hand from freezing. Especially if you’re going in the colder months.
I found some cheap riding gloves online, 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.
On a bike trip to Ladakh, you will find a tank bag 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.
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 litres Saddlebags by Gods, which happen to be my favourite because of the value they offer.
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 woollen socks 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 woollen socks. One set will get the job done, I think.
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 woollen jacket. I thank my Jockey thermal liner for saving me from freezing in Ladakh.
Carry a woollen scarf to cover your neck, ears, and face.
Extra pair of Shoe:
Carry an extra pair of shoe in case the shoes you’re wearing gets wet while riding on slush or water crossing.
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.
A woollen 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)
•Pain relief spray Mustkeep!
•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 rupees 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 500 on an average per night, your accommodation expense for 11 days will be 5500 INR
If you spend 100 per meal and take 3-4 meals a day, your expense of food will be 5000-6000 for 11 days.
Your entire round way ride from Delhi to Ladakh and back will be approximately 1600 to 1700 kilometers. For which you will need 50 liters of petrol if your mileage is around 35.
The total expense of fuel will be somewhere around 4000 INR.
Calculating these figures, your total expenditure on food, fuel, and accommodation will be approximately 16,000 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 Ladkah.
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 and BSNL connection before going to Ladakh.
>Dos and Don’ts on a road trip to Ladakh
For making it easily digestible, I’ve added an infographic with all the Dos and Don’ts you should keep in mind while travelling to Ladakh by road. Both motorcyclists and car drivers should take care of these things for a safe and happy journey to Ladakh.
>FAQ about a motorcycle trip 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, plus 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 travelling 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 and proud about making this trip. It’s an ultimate adventure who’s memories you will cherish all your life, so feel happy and proud. Second thing, tell yourself that anything can happen and it is not an easy journey. Face the possibility of an unforeseen circumstance, but be prepared to tackle it all.
•Should you take a Leh Ladakh tour package?
I am strictly against booking travel packages for Ladakh, or anywhere else for that reason. You can find many bike trip organizers to Ladakh. But don’t get fooled by their offers. First up, they charge a lot of money. Further, you are going on an adventure to be free, and when you go with a travel company or an organizer, your freedom is a sham. You have to follow their rules and regulations and there’s nothing you can do once you’ve booked your package with them. No flexibility at all. It’s better to do all the preparation for a bike trip to Ladakh by taking reference from this guide and planning your trip alone or with friends.