Riding in the Himalayas is a dream that every motorbike rider cherishes. The joy, adventure and rush of riding in this high altitude region are unparalleled.
Negotiating with the difficult terrains to ride on, crossing high altitude mountain passes, exploring a terrain that has stood witness to history from times immemorial, riding on the old silk route or experiencing the local culture and traditions that are indigenous to the high mountains – The reasons to ride to Ladakh are many.
In this article, we list out 10 big reasons why you should get started with your plan to ride to Ladakh right away and get on with a ride of a lifetime.
MANALI - LEH HIGHWAY
Manali-Leh Highway is a dream highway to ride on for many riders. The road passes through some of the most beautiful parts of Himalayas. It also crosses through 5 high altitude passes — Rohtang La, Baralacha La, Naki La, Lachung La and Tanglang La.
The highway starts from the lush green valleys of Manali and Keylong and finally as it gains altitude, enters the bare, harsh and arid mountains of Ladakh.
For most riders the thrill of negotiating bad roads, water crossings, fighting altitude and at the same time being rewarded with some wonderful vistas and landscapes to experience is a dream that they would trade anything for.
2. BARALACHA LA MOUNTAIN PASS
Baralacha La is a beautiful pass that is located between Manali and Leh. It is located after the town of Keylong.
Baralacha la means summit with cross roads from Spiti, Ladakh, Zanskar and Lahaul.
It is one of the most beautiful passes that one encounters on Leh-Manali highway. It is usually clad with snow and is also famous for numerous water crossings (glacier water that melts by afternoon and flows onto the road). It is home to the beautiful emerald lake, Suraj Taal. Bhaga River originates from this lake, which later becomes Chandrabhaga or Chenab River.
3. KHARDUNG LA MOUNTAIN PASS
Khardung La is a high altitude pass that is located around 40 kms from Leh town. It is widely regarded as the ‘World’s Highest Motorable Pass’. Recently, measurements have put this claim in dispute. Notwithstanding the recent findings, the joy of reaching on top of this pass cannot be explained in words. It is almost akin to the joy a mountaineer would feel upon summiting the top. One is greeted by some hot tea at the ‘World’s highest canteen’ maintained by the Indian Army.
There is also much crowd and revelry atop this pass, given the significance attached to it.
4. NUBRA VALLEY & HUNDER DESERT
To the north east region of Ladakh Valley is the Nubra Valley, which separates Ladakh from Karakoram Range. Shyok River meets Siachen River to form this high altitude desert valley.
It is usually accessed through Khardung La pass. After riding through the high mountain pass, the road suddenly opens up to this large valley, characterised by Shyok River making its way at the centre of the valley and the changing shapes of the sand dunes.
The valley, also known as ‘Valley of Flowers’, is one of the few places in the world where Two Humped Camels or the Bacterian Camels exist.
The fact that the famed ‘Silk Route’, which was an ancient trade route, passes through this valley is an added bonus and gives us a peek into the history of the land.
5. THE YUMMY MAGGI
Once you start your ascent towards Ladakh through the dangerous and exciting road from Manali to Leh – You have one constant companion giving you the much-needed energy through the journey – The two-minute wonder Maggi.
Through the roads that lead us into the valley and around it, there are tents setup by locals to cater to tourists and riders. These tents, circular in shape also have bed facilities if someone wants to stay the night over.
The most popular dish in these tents is Maggi. The joy of eating hot cooked Maggi in the chilly atmosphere here is unparalleled. Speak to any rider who has rode in this area and Maggi tops their list of what they have eaten here.
6. GATA LOOPS
Gata Loops is a 22 hairpin bend stretch that one gets on Manali Leh highway after Sarchu towards Pang. You gain altitude very quickly crossing these loops.
What also make this exciting are the many shortcuts that are present between these loops. They are muddy tracks that can sometimes result in swallowing more than one could chew kind of situation.
Nonetheless the view of Gata loops, snaking its way to the top of Nakee La pass is a breathtaking one.
7. PANGONG TSO LAKE
Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake is one of the most popular spots in Ladakh Valley, thanks to a popular Hindi movie. This 140 km long salt lake stretches all the way beyond Indian borders into China. In fact much of the lake lies on the Chinese side.
This magnificent lake can be reached by crossing Chang La pass – Another high altitude and a treacherous pass in this region. Pangong is located in Changthang region, a high altitude desert with an average elevation of 15000 ft.
Sitting on the banks of this lake and watching the sunset and seeing the lake changing colors by the time of day, with the bare brown mountain towering in the background is an experience that transcends the viewer to another world.
8. WATER CROSSINGS
Through out the roads that connect the outer world to the Valley and within, one keeps encountering water crossings. These are glaciers that are on top ranges and due to the intense sun during the day melt down and form small streams.
Quite a few of them cut across the Motorable roads and form small streams, with loose rocks and pebbles to add to the difficulty. To ride the bike or any other motor vehicle through these icy waters is a difficult task that is definitely exciting and will give you an adrenaline rush.
A good way to work around these streams is to start early in the day, when the sun is not yet fierce and the streams are much more gentle and not in full force.
10. LEH TOWN
Leh is not just the administrative centre, but also the nerve centre of the valley. A culmination of old culture and the new town that is opening up to a sea of visitors coming to the valley – one can see a juxtaposition and melting of many cultures in this town.
Explore the German bakeries or the new eateries serving global cuisine, or visit the old market to check out the local craft and arts or take a journey into the history of this ancient town that acted as a resting place for old time traders traversing through the silk route. You can visit the city Palace, or some of the prominent Gompas around – The town has much to offer to visitors with varied interests.
10. AWESOME BRO SIGN BOARDS
Border Roads Organisation or BRO for short is the wing of Indian Army, which constructs and maintains the roads in these remote and treacherous areas of Ladakh. Named as ‘Himank’ project, they are responsible for this remote area to be connected with the rest of the world.
As soon as winter is over – when this entire area is cut off from the rest of the country, BRO starts rebuilding and repairing the damaged roads, making it accessible for locals, riders and tourists.
Through out the roads, you can see many road signs from BRO or Himank. They serve as a reminder to the riders to be careful and attentive on these dangerous roads. The tone of these instructions is laced with humour, reminding the travellers to smile and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings while being careful.