Discover India by road

Leh-Ladakh Road TRip in 2021

Leh-Ladakh Road Trip

Inspiration behind Leh-Ladakh Road Trip

The 3 Idiots movie was an Inspiration behind the planning of my Leh-Ladakh road trip. As time passed, the thought became stronger & stronger. Now, with a strong desire, I have started the preparations for the Leh-Ladakh road trip. 

But, in 2020 due to the Covid-19 Lockdown situation, we all are at our home. However, taking this in a positive way, I’ve got more time to plan this trip. 

With hours of research & homework, now, I am sharing my entire Leh-Ladakh road trip planning with you.

3 Idiots Movie Scene with Volvo XC90 and mountains in background
3 Idiots Movie Scene

Getting ready for Leh Ladakh Road trip

I am staying in Mumbai, so I will be starting my journey from here. Meanwhile, planning this trip, I have also gone through some famous blogs & YouTube videos, which have helped me a lot. Undoubtedly, the most important factor is Passion. Because this type of journeys will test all your limits. For that, you have to be well-prepared both, physically & mentally.

Physical fitness is one of the most important factor, which we have to take care of. Because during the entire journey, we are passing through different types of landscapes & weather conditions. And the most extreme terrain of Leh-Ladakh, the land of high passes, with an altitude of more than 18,000 feet. Since the oxygen level is very less at a higher elevation, we must practice some breathing exercises & yoga. Apart from this, swimming and cycling will also help you to increase your stamina.

How to reach Leh?

How to reach Leh-Ladakh? First things first, route selection plays a major role in planning any trip. Furthermore, there are three options available to visit Leh-Ladakh. The shortest route to reach Ladakh is by Air. The nearest airport is located in Leh. Therefore, Leh has good flight connectivity with almost all major cities. From Leh, you can hire a Car or Bike as per your desire for your onward journey.

However, if you wish to travel by Train, first you have to reach Delhi or Jammu Tavi. Mostly all travelers or Riders prefer to begin their journey from Delhi. Because from Delhi they get more travel options. Hence, I also recommend you to start your journey from Delhi.

Welcome to Leh board with Airport in background
Welcome to Leh

And the last but the most favorable mode of traveling to Leh-Ladakh is by Road. Ladakh is the dream destination of all Bikers. According to me, the best way to explore Ladakh, is on the Bike. In most cases, many bikers ride their own bike. But, some of them hire it from various locations like Delhi, Manali, Shrinagar, or even Leh. In short, here you will get any bike of your choice.

Choosing the perfect Bike for Leh-Ladakh road trip

For a road trip, your bike is the second most important thing after you. Right now there are many choices available in the market, from which you can select your bike. If you already have a bike, then it’s a wonderful thing. However, you must know the capabilities of your bike. Because this ride will be full of extreme challenges. Furthermore, if the rider has passion, then one can ride any vehicle anywhere. 

But, still, if you want to make your ride more convenient, you must select a bike with higher CC. (more than 200 CC) At present, I personally own a 100 CC bike, but I know the limits of my bike. The engines of 100-200 cc bikes are built for a city commuting. And during this trip, most of the time, I will be riding on highways, covering 400-500 km in a day. Hence, I decided to buy a new bike with a higher CC engine & advanced features. Now, the question arises “Which Bike to Buy?” After comprehensive analysis of Pros & Cons and comparison among various bikes, I finally selected the  BAJAJ DOMINAR 400 as my touring companion.

Why Bajaj Dominar 400?

I know there will be a question arising in your mind. That why haven’t I chosen Royal Enfield for my trip, which was the most popular touring bike among riders. Actually, earlier I also planned for Royal Enfield Himalayan, but after reading many negative reviews and  watching shocking videos on YouTube. I dropped my plans for RE & finalized the Bajaj Dominar 400 BS6.

The reasons for choosing Dominar 400 are:-

373 cc liquid-cooled BS6 engine, Dual-channel ABS, Slipper clutch, 6-speed Gearbox, USD fork in front & mono-shock at the rear, Best in class LED headlights, Full Digital Instrument cluster, Twin Barrel Exhaust, Tubeless tyres, Better mileage, Touring Friendly, Availability of spares & service stations all across India. 

Dominar 400 bs6 features chart

We are getting all these premium features at a price of Rs.2,35,000 on-road. That’s why I called it the Best value for money Bike. Apart from this, we also require some essential touring accessories for our bike like Saddle Stay & Top rack, Crash guard, Windshield, Saddlebags, Tank Bag & Top box, etc. To know more about essential touring accessories buying guide click button below.

Riding a bike, for a longer period is not as easy as we think. Before leaving for such a long ride, we must start practicing with short distance rides. And for a safe & comfortable ride, we need some essential Riding gears for us too.

Essential Riding Gears

During, a bike ride, safety gears are very essential for the rider. Proper riding gears will keep you comfortable in a wide range of situations, and when you’re comfortable you’re a better rider. Good riding gears are designed for more than just crash protection; It’s act like your second skin and protects you from hash sun rays, blowing wind, and any unknown object that is flying through the air. Therefore, you must choose your gears wisely.

Riding gears Buying Guide charts
Riding gears Chose by me

At high speed, the road surface is act like a big belt sander. Good gears is designed for abrasion resistance and is armored against impacts at your joints. For complete list of riding gears & in depth buying guide, click on read more button below.

Things to Carry on Leh-Ladakh Road trip

This ride is going to be very long, so you must choose your luggage wisely. Avoid carrying unnecessary stuff. Because carrying less luggage will make your ride more comfortable. In this section, I will try to shortlist all the necessary items you will require during this long trip.

 

You must choose your clothes according to your necessity. Avoid carrying excess luggage during such long trips. Because, at the end of the day, loading & unloading luggage from the bike, after a long tiresome ride, becomes tedious.

You can also carry a sleeping bag with you for extreme cold weather. If you forget to buy something, then you can also get it from Delhi Karol Baug Market.  Also carry some extra polythene bags for wet stuffs.

Essential Toiletries

I know, I don’t need to mentioned all this. But, still I added this section just as a gentle reminder. So we can prepare all the stuffs properly.

List of Essential Toiletries for Ladakh trip

First aid kit & Medicines

Medical emergencies can occur anytime & anywhere. So, we should be prepared for it, by carrying some essential generic medicines. The following, are the medicines which I personally use, & are not prescribed by me. One should take medicines as per his/her body requirement.

First aid kit

*AMS is the most common form of altitude sickness we see. It starts off with relatively mild symptoms. But if left untreated, it gets severe and could form into either HAPE or HACE. To Know more about AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) Click on read more

Must have Tools

Tools are the vital & essential part of any journey or trip. During an unexpected situation. Especially,  when you are in the middle of the nowhere. In such a situation, if you don’t even have the basic tools, then you can be in a big trouble. Therefore, tools are the must have items in your list. The following are the tools, which I personally suggest you to carry along with you in your trip.

Bike Maintenance

During this trip, your bike will be going beyond it’s limit. So, periodic maintenance becomes necessary. For that you require some basic stuffs like, Motul Chain cleaner & Lube, Compatible Engine Oil & Coolant, WD-40 Multipurpose spray, Puncher repair kit, 12V Tire inflator or foot pump. You can also use a puncher proof solution in your Tubeless tires. These are some very important things that every biker should carry. 

Important documents to carry

Before stepping out for this trip, there are some very important documents which you should carrying. Like, Driving License, PAN card, Aadhar Card, extra photographs, Printed map of Ladakh region. (also Download Offline maps of the entire region in Google Maps) Take extra copies of all documents. The MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT  for Ladakh trip is the Inner Line Permit (ILP). To know more about process of applying for Inner Line Permit online, Click Below.

Ladakh Full Circuit Map for road trip
Ladakh Full Circuit Map

The above map of Ladakh full Circuit was specially designed for Riders by Mr. Digvijay, Founder of Falconriders from Delhi. His videos helped me a lot in planning of this trip. I really wanted to thank him from the bottom of my heart for his astonishing work. To download the Ladakh Map Click Here.

Laptop & Camera Gears

Visiting Leh-Ladakh is a lifetime experience. So, Capturing those moments in cameras is as important as the entire Leh-Ladakh trip itself. Therefore, camera gears are an integral part of this trip. Here are some of the gears which I will be carrying in my Leh-Ladakh road trip.

Apart from these, don’t forget to carry all the chargers & some extra USB cables with you. And pack all these gears in a Waterproof & Impact resistant bag. Charge your batteries & power bank regularly to avoid sudden discharge. Because, at some remote locations you will not even get power point for charging.

Capturing footage is a task which comes with great responsibility. Especially, when you are in a Military zone, you should always make sure that National Security is undistributed.

Best time to visit Leh-Ladakh

Once you prepare your luggage, now its time to decide the best season for visiting Leh-Ladakh. Choosing the proper season is an important factor behind the success of your Leh-Ladakh road trip. With the arrival of summer, tourist season starts, as all the high passes are open. However, the first highway opens during mid-April which is the NH-1, Srinagar-Leh Highway via Zojila Pass. (Alt. 11649 ft.) And from mid-May, the Manali-Leh Highway also opens up via Rohtang Pass. (Alt. 13050 ft.) 

Snow at Zojila Pass in april May
Snow at Zojila Pass during April-May

Summer Season (April - June)

With the beginning of April, peak season starts in Leh-Ladakh. Most of the tourists & bikers visit Ladakh during this period. Therefore, everything becomes expensive including food & stay. But, if you want to experience the snow then, this is the best time to visit Leh-Ladakh.

Beginning of Summer ride in Ladakh

Monsoon Season (July-August)

After mid-July, the monsoon season starts here, which lasts till the end of August. During this, you may face extreme weather in Ladakh. With frequent landslides, roadblocks, black-ice, etc.

Monsoon in Ladakh

Pre-winter Season (September - October)

From September to mid-October is an amazing time to visit Leh and Ladakh. After the monsoon, the sky gets clear, the landscape becomes greener. Due to fewer tourists & bikers, you can get everything at a cheaper rate.

Ladakh in August Pangog tso
Ladakh in August

Winter Season (October-November)

By the end of October, the cold has completely taken over the area. The temperature drops below zero degrees at all locations. Almost all the tourists leave the place. Most of the hotels, guesthouses, restaurants shut down their businesses and start leaving the place until next summer.

Winter in Leh

Full Winter Season (November to March)

This is the coldest time in Ladakh. Even the region gets completely cut-off from the rest of India by road. The only way to reach Leh is by flights. From mid-January to mid-March, the adventure starts. The tourists arrive in Ladakh for the famous Chadar Trek, where they walk over the frozen Zanskar River.

People trekking on Chadar trek on Frozan Zanskar River
Chadar trek on Frozan Zanskar River

In Leh-Ladakh every season has his own charm, and it’s totally depending upon you, that which type of adventure you like. If you want know more about seasons & Festivals which are celebrated during various seasons in Leh-Ladakh.

Leh-Ladakh Route Planning

The next important step is to choose your route. There are two routes popular among the riders. Both routes start from Delhi. Further, you have two options, one is from Manali & other via Srinagar. However, for a return journey, you also have two choices. Either you can return by same route or choose alternate one. 

Route 1: Delhi → Srinagar → Leh → Khardung La → Nubra Valley → Pangong Tso → Karu → Sarchu → Manali → Delhi.
Route 2: Delhi → Manali → Sarchu → Leh → Khardung La → Nubra Valley → Pangong Tso → Leh → Srinagar → Delhi
Distance: Approximately 2,850 km for both routes.

Both routes have their own characteristics. Srinagar to Leh route offers better road conditions and picturesque views. Whereas the route from Manali offers more scenic views but with extremely rugged terrain. Which increases the level of difficulty and danger as well. 

However, there is good news for all riders !

Rohtang Tunnel (Atal Tunnel)

From September 2020, The newly constructed Rohtang Tunnel aka the Atal Tunnel will be inaugurated by our Hon. PM Shri Narendra Modi. This tunnel will start from Dhundi (south portal) and ends at Sissu (north portal). This 8.8 km long tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by about 46 km. The Rohtang tunnel will be one of the longest road tunnels in India built at altitude at 3100 mt.

Rohtang Tunnel Map

Our route (Mumbai to Leh)

Our journey will start from Mumbai, the distance from Mumbai to Leh is approximately 2,845 km. I have often seen many riders riding in a hurry. They just focus on their final destination & skip many important places which are coming on the way. I personally believe that we should enjoy our trip, spending enough time at each & every location coming on the way.

Mumbai to Leh Route Map
Mumbai to Leh Route Map

Srinagar to Leh via Gulmarg & Sonamarg (517km)

After spending one day in Srinagar, the next day we will be leaving for Sonamarg via Gulmarg. We will have our night stay in Sonamarg, &  the next morning we will proceed for Leh via Kargil. We have chosen Srinagar route because, in this route the altitude rises gradually. As a result, your body get used to with high altitude & it reduces the chances of AMS. 

Srinagar to leh via kargil route

Leh Sightseeing (Alt. 11,562 ft.)

On our first day in Leh, we will be exploring places in Leh namely, Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace, Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnatic hill, Spituk Monastery, Hall of Fame, Thiksay Monastery, and Leh Market. This would also help us in acclimatization. We will also be applying for a permit on the same day.

I would like to mention one more important thing. Throughout the entire Leh-Ladakh road trip, you will be passing through various altitudes. So, you might face some difficulties in breathing. Therefore, I recommend you to travel taking proper halts. Keeping this point in mind, I have also mentioned altitude of every place which we will be visiting.

Leh - Khardung la pass - Turtuk (Alt. 11,562 - 18,380 - 9,846 ft.)

The next day, early morning we will be proceeding for Khardung la Pass, the worlds highest motorable road in the world at an altitude of 18,380 ft.  From there we will be going towards Nubra valley via Khalsar – Diskit, and will Reach Hunder. A place famous for it’s cold desert & double Hump Camels. Later we will be visiting Turtuk, here we will have our night stay. 

Our Route: Leh – Khardungla Pass – Khalsar – Diskit – Hunder – Turtuk. (Total distance 210 km)

Turtuk - Thang - Siachen Base camp - Warshi (Alt. 9,846 - 12,000 ft.)

In morning, first we will be visiting Thang, The Last Village of India. We will be spending some time there, and then we’ll continue our journey. Then we will be visiting Siachen Base camp. Earlier, a special permit was required to visit Siachen. But, recently the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh announced that tourists can now visit Siachen Glacier, which is the highest battlefield and one of the most difficult terrains on Earth. However, you require a separate permit to visit Siachen. Nevertheless, there is no clarity on how to apply & from where you will get the permit. We will spend our night in a Home stay in Warshi. 

Our Route: Turtuk – Tyakshi – Thang – Khalsar – Sumur – Panamik – Sasoma – Warshi – Siachen Base Camp – Warshi.  (Total distance 220 km)

Warshi - Khalsar - Pangong Tso (Alt. 12,000 - 13,860 ft.)

The next day, we will be visiting the iconic Pangong Tso. Pangong lake is bit far away from Warshi, so we need to start our journey as soon as possible. Because, we need to reach Pangong lake before sunset. The starch of Pangong lake is very long. There are many tent stays available here for tourists. We will be spending our night in a tent stays near Spangmik.

Our Route: Warshi – Agham – Shyok – Durbak – Tangtse – Spangmik – Pangong lake. (Total distance 235 km)

Pangong Tso - Hanle (Alt. 13,860 - 14,800 ft.)

Here we will get-up before Dawn to capture the time lapse of this Beautiful lake. After spending some time we will start our journey towards Hanle. But Hanle is a bit far away from Spangmik & road condition is not good. Hence, we will try to reach Hanle as soon as possible. We will be staying in Home Stay here.

Our Route: Spangmik – Merak – Chushul – Loma Bend – Hanle . (Total distance 162 km)

Hanle - Tso Moriri (Alt. 14,800 - 14,840 ft.)

From Hanle we will be going to Tso Moriri, also known as the Mountain Lake. It is located at an altitude of 15,075 feet. The lake is surrounded by high mountains. To reach Tso Moriri, you will have to reach Karzok first. Here we will have our night stay. 

Our Route: Hanle – Loma Bend – Nyoma – Mahe Bridge –  Sumdo – Karzok (Total distance 150 km)

Tso Moriri - Debring (Alt. 14,800 - 15,600 ft.)

After capturing some photos of this picturesque Lake, we will start our return journey towards Debring. We will be passing through one more beautiful lake called Tso Kar & Thukje Monastery. And we’ll try to reach Pang or Debring for our night stay. Both are located on Leh-Manali highway.

Our Route: Karzok – Sumdo – Tso Kar – Thukje – Debring (Total distance 110 km) 

Debring - Jispa (Alt. 15,600 - 10,500 ft.)

From Debring we will start our return journey for Mumbai via Leh-Manali highway. This route is very scenic, and passes through many high passes. We will try cover maximum distance, but with proper halts at every spot mentioned below. We will try reach Jispa before evening. However, there are many Camps or tents available for tourists in all spots. So, we will halt anywhere, when it’s dark, as we avoid night driving.

Our Route: Debring – More Plains – Pang – Lachung La – Whisky Nala – Naki La – Gata Loops – Sarchu – Baralacla pass – Jispa (Total distance 215 km) 

Jispa - Manali (Alt. 10,500 - 6,730 ft.)

In the morning, we will start our Journey from Jispa to Manali. After passing Keylong we have two routes to reach Manali. One is via regular Rohatang Pass, and other via newly opened Rohatang Tunnel (Atal Tunnel) from Sissu to Dhundi. This 8.8 km long tunnel reduces distance by about 46 km. After reaching Manali we will stay there & relax for one day.

Our Route: Jispa – Keylong – Sissu – Rohatang Tunnel – Dhundi – Manali (Total distance 85 km) 

Return route (Manali to Mumbai)

From Manali we will start our return journey for Mumbai. But, we will not be following the same route from which we used earlier. While returning we will try explore each & every popular places coming on the way. Our entire return route is given below. (Total Distance 2785 Km)

Manali to Mumbai return Route
Manali to Mumbai return Route Map

Budget for Leh-Ladakh road trip

Budget is a very important part of every trip. Especially, for a long road trip. Yes, this trip is going to take more than 25 days. Because, we will be staying one or more days at every major location like, Ahmadabad, Jaipur, Delhi, Srinagar, etc. So, I am giving my tentative budget for this entire trip, including Petrol, Stay, food, bike maintenance, etc.

Leh-ladakh road trip budget Chart
Leh-Ladakh road trip budget Chart

Above prices are given as per my calculations, it may vary from person to person. The prices mentioned above are excluding Bike, Accessories, Riding Gears, Camera gears, etc. You can choose them as per your choice & budget. 

By writing this article I have just tried to share my personnel views & plans of my upcoming trip. Apart from this you have any queries please feel free to comment below or contact us.  

In future, I will be sharing complete videos on topics mentioned above. to stay updated please subscribe to our YouTube channel. & if you like this article please share it with your family & friends.

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