12 Top Motorcycling Routes in the Western Himalayas for the Die Hard Adventure Enthusiast - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Friday, May 24, 2019

12 Top Motorcycling Routes in the Western Himalayas for the Die Hard Adventure Enthusiast

The best motorcycle rides in the Western Himalayas

Summers can be sweltering and sultry in the plains and coastline of India, but this same season signals a vibrant change in life in the Himalayas. The melting snow, the increasing temperatures and the bright sunshine gives the entire mountainous region a makeover. Greys, whites and browns are replaced by lush green and vivid colours. The bottom half of the landscape is made up of gurgling snow fed streams and rivers, a sea of greenery interspersed with colourful flowers and a rich array of active bird and animal life. And the upper half of this landscape is dominated by the mighty mountains and their snow capped peaks. Add to this rarefied air, a pleasant nip, longer days, clean blue skies and bright sunshine and you have a heady concoction.

Motorcycling in the high mountains of Spiti

With the high mountain roads in the Western Himalayas being re-opened, this exhilarating experience now becomes accessible to all of us. Motorcycling enthusiasts, cyclists and road trippers…be ready as the time has come to act on your travel bucket-list for the mountains and to conquer some of the highest mountain roads in the world.

Iconic Signboards of Ladakh

Here is a list of the 12 best motorcycling routes in the Western Himalayas. These routes are high on adventure, spectacular when it comes to panorama and absolutely surreal when it comes to overall experience. While some of these take you to the highest villages, polling stations and post offices of India, the others take you to cold deserts, gorgeous high altitude lakes, stunning high mountain passes, India’s highest astronomical observatory, serene monasteries and temples and last, but not the least, some of the highest motorable roads in the world.

Some words of wisdom before you embark on this adventurous journey:

1) Do plan for proper acclimatization or be ready for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

2) Dare devilry is a one way track to hell in the mountains. Remember that and plan your trips accordingly

3) Mountain weather is very unpredictable. Be prepared for snow or very cold weather at all times

4) Certain high mountain passes can get blocked at times due to inclement weather. Do ensure your trip itinerary has enough buffer

5) Some areas are perilously close to our international borders. Hence, you might require inner line permits and there can be periodic checks

1) Leh –> Khardung La –> Nubra Valley –> Turtuk

Riding to the top of the world...

This is possibly the mecca for all motorcycling aficionados. At 17,582 feet above MSL, Khardung La, which is about 45 kilometres from Leh, is one of the highest motorable roads in the world. A steep ascent from Leh takes you to this high mountain pass and on the other side of it exists Nubra valley, one of the popular Ladakh tour places and that is famous for its double humped bactrian camels and scenic views of the Shyok river. A little beyond Nubra valley is the very remote village of Turtuk that shares more similarities with Central Asia than South Asia.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: Usually open throughout the year unless there is heavy snowfall at Khardung La

Nearest airport: Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir)

2) Leh –> Chang La –> Tangtse –> Phobrang –> Marsimik La –> Pangong Tso

The frozen road of Chang La

You might be mistaken if you think Khardung La is the highest motorable road in India. There is a slightly offbeat mountain pass called Marsimik La or Marsimek La that is even higher than it. At 18,384 feet, it is higher than Khardung La and hence owns the title of the highest motorable road in India. But, the road here is not in as good a shape as the one at Khardung La and hence only experienced motorcyclists should attempt to scale this pass. This route takes you through lovely Ladakhi countryside, beautiful mountain passes and authentic villages before arriving at the iconic Pangong Tso lake.

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Approximate number of days: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: May to July

Nearest airport: Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir)


3) Keylong –> Gramphoo –> Batal –> Kunzum La

Chandra Taal Lake - Paradise in the Himalayas

This has to be one of Western Himalayas’ most treacherous routes. It is made up of boulders, stones, pebbles and gushing mountain streams. This route tests the true grit and mettle of the motorcycle and its rider. Connecting the Lahaul region of Himachal Pradesh with Spiti, this route takes you to the absolutely stunning Chandra Taal lake and the heady Kunzum pass, before descending into the villages of Spiti.

Level of difficulty: Difficult (the roads are really poor) with many boulders and water streams

Approximate number of days: 4 days (one way)

Accessible months: March to December

Nearest airport: Kullu (Himachal Pradesh)


4) Leh –> Upshi –> Chumathang –> Hanle –> Tso Moriri –> Tso Kar

The Army road that leads to Hanle in the Changthang Cold Desert

For most of this route, the mighty Indus river flows next to you and that too in the middle of the Changthang cold desert, where horses, Ladakhi kiangs, nomadic tribes and spectacular mountains keep you company. Apart from spectacular views, this ladakh road trip offers you the chance to visit the second highest astronomical observatory in the world at Hanle, a rich wetland in Tso Moriri and a lovely salt lake in Tso Kar.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: All year round unless there is heavy snowfall on the high mountain passes

Nearest airport: Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir)


5) Manali –> Rohtang La –> Tandi –> Barlacha La –> Sarchu –> Tanglang La –> Leh

The Himalayan roads and the bridges - a world apart

When someone talks of a Ladakh bike trip, this is what they would referring to in all probability. One of the most iconic motorcycle trips in the world, this adventure packed route takes you through some of the highest mountain passes in the world, sensational valleys, beautiful landscapes and roaring mountain rivers. If you are a motorcycle lover, this route definitely has to be on your bucket list.

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Approximate number of days: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: May to July

Nearest airport: Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) or Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) depending on which way you opt for this route


6) Kaza –> Ki –> Kibber –> Tashigong –> Thinam

Picturesque Himalayas and the Spiti Valley as seen from Ki Monastery

Home to the world’s highest polling station at Tashigang and colorful gompas in harmonious surroundings, this route in Spiti valley takes you to some of the highest villages in the world. Rapidly ascending roads, steep curves and hairpin bends and heavenly vistas greet you here. I would go here to stay in these high villages and to meditate in its tranquil monasteries.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 2 days (one way)

Accessible months: April to December

Nearest airport: Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) or Chandigarh


7) Kaza –> Langza –> Hikkim –> Komic –> Dhemul –> Chorden

Extremely scenic mountain village of Langza in Spiti, Western Himalayas

While the previous route takes you to high mountain villages, this route takes you even higher. India’s highest post office at Hikkim, India’s highest village in Komic and an absolutely gorgeous village located at the base of mighty snow capped mountains in Langza are some of the treats of this route. The roads can be bad to worse, but the panoramas will more than make up for it.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: April to December

Nearest airport: Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) or Chandigarh


8) Kaza –> Dhankar –> Mud –> Pin Valley

You can do nothing but admire nature's bounty at Dhankar, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

This has to one of Spiti valley’s prettiest routes. Connecting Pin valley national park with the main Spiti highway, this route is full of pristine river views, cute villages and lush nature. At Dhankar, this route also offers one of the best river confluence views in the Himalayas where the pin and the spiti rivers meet. Trekking enthusiasts will love this route as it allows them to indulge in the high altitude Dhankar lake and the various treks leading towards Pin Parbati peak and the Great Himalayan National Park.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 2 days (one way)

Accessible months: April to December

Nearest airport: Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) or Chandigarh


9) Leh – Alchi – Lamayuru - Kargil – Zozi La – Sonmarg

The butt-breaker Zozila pass

The notorious Zozi La can be found on this bike trip to Ladakh. Running perilously close to the Pakistan border, a lot of military action can be seen on this route. It is home to two tranquil monasteries in Lamayuru and Alchi, it has the gorgeous confluence of the Zanskar and the Indus rivers, it has the unique magnetic hill and stunning valleys. While the roads till Kargil are good, do expect some back breaking conditions after that, especially as you near Zozi La pass.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 2 days (one way)

Accessible months: April to December unless there is heavy snowfall on the high mountain passes

Nearest airport: Leh (Jammu and Kashmir) or Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir)


10) Shimla – Sarahan – Sangla – Chitkul – Kalpa

This is apple terrain. Sarahan and Sangla are famous for their apples. Chitkul is considered the last village on the Hindustan – Tibet highway. And Kalpa is home to the Kinnaur Kailash mountain view. Located in the Sutlej and the Baspa river valleys, these villages offer everything from pretty riverside to ripe apple orchards and from lovely mountain vistas to a pretty mountain holiday.

Level of difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Approximate number of days for return journey: 3 days (one way)

Accessible months: All year around unless the roads are blocked due to heavy snowfall or landslides

Nearest airport: Chandigarh


11) Leh – Padum

Scenic Zanskar river - beginning to freeze - once completely frozen, the famous Chadar trek on the river begins

Recently opened, this route takes you to the heart of Zanskar valley, one of the remotest regions in Ladakh and certainly a new addition to a leh ladakh bike trip plan. This route will be cold, as offbeat as possible and will offer you some of the best views of the Zanskar river, the one that freezes to become a ‘chadar’ or carpet in the winter months.

Level of difficulty: Difficult

Approximate number of days: 2 days (one way)

Accessible months: May to July

Nearest airport: Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir)


12) Leh – Chemrey – Chang La – Pangong Tso

Capturing the Pangong Tso beauty in his lens

From lush Indus valley to mustard fields to high mountain passes and a massive salt water body, this charming route takes you through some of the most diverse landscapes of Ladakh. The offbeat Chemrey monastery, the beautiful Chang La pass, the quiet Tangtze village and the absolutely jaw dropping high altitude Pangong tso lake are its main highlights. Camping by the lake and watching the starlit Himalayan night sky is an experience to die for.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Approximate number of days: 2 days (one way)

Accessible months: All year round unless the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall

Nearest airport: Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir)



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