Average distance by cycle each day: 65 km
Total number of days on cycling: 16
Route and terrain condition: approx. 50% tarmac, 50% dusty road
Best time: July through September
This adventure ride travels over five spectacular passes, two of which are over 16,600ft/5000mt through the Indian Himalayas, unparalleled for their sheer scale and austere beauty.
Ladakh lies embedded in a world of mountains, with the Karakoram range in the north-west, the Himalaya in the south-west and the Trans-Himalaya at its core. This unique region, home to traditional Tibetan Buddhism, is the scene for one of cycling's epic journeys, crossing two of the highest passes in the world! Over the course of the ride the scenery changes from verdant deodar forests and flower-filled valleys to barren lunar landscapes with towering peaks and hanging glaciers. As well as the spectacular surroundings, the rich culture of the Ladakhis is also a highlight and as our route weaves its way across the Himalaya we will see monasteries majestically perched on high spurs, and cycle off to explore little-visited areas, enjoying the tranquility and beauty of a genuinely untouched land. However, there are also great daily changes of temperature, with strong winds . As a result of the dry and harsh climate, only sporadic high steppes are covered with grass, and arid and semi-arid deserts dominate a nonetheless grandiose mountain world.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DELHI. On arrival in Delhi our representative will meet you at the airport and then transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from jetlag. (B,L,D)
DAY 2: DELHI TO MANDI. (212km/6 hours) This morning we transfer to the railway station in New Delhi to board the train to Chandigarh /Kalka. From Chandigarh/Kalka we will drive to Mandi. (B,L,D)
DAY 3: MANDI TO MANALI. (115km/4 H) After breakfast we drive to Manali, a 115km trip we will cover in approximately 4 hours. The drive takes us through the lush alpine landscape of Himachal Pradesh into the Kullu Valley. Here we meet the mighty Beas River which we follow to the hill resort of Manali (2000m/6600ft). On arrival we check into the hotel. The rest of the evening is free to explore the local surroundings. Manali is surrounded by beautiful fir and pine forests, and there are lovely walks in and around the town. There is also a colorful Tibetan bazaar famous for its shawls, caps, jewelry and handicrafts made by Tibetan refugees. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: MANALI. This morning we get on our bikes for the first time and head out on an acclimatization ride. A nearby forest hides a 450-year-old temple, called Hadimba Devi, made out of wood that has remarkable carvings. We then cycle out of Manali and follow the Beas River to Nagar Castle. Nagar was once the capital of this area and the old castle has now been turned into a hotel. Near the castle is the Nicholas Roerich estate. Roerich was a Russian artist, who married a Bollywood heroine and lived here in Nagar. He travelled extensively through Ladakh and Tibet and many of his beautiful works of art still hang in the gallery here. Other options for today include 'Old Manali', a picturesque village close to the ruins of the Fortress Mandakot and the hot sulphur springs at Vaishisht. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: MANALI TO ROHALLA. (35 Km, 6 H) Today we start our first full day of biking on one of the most classic cycle routes in the world and gain over 1000m of elevation. We start climbing right from Manali, through the flower-filled valleys and cedar and fir forests, and pass through numerous villages along the Leh-Manali road. After the last village, called Kothi, we will cycle up many hairpin bends which bring us to the Rohalla Falls. We will then ascend into a small valley where we will reach our camp for the night. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 6: ROHALLA TO TANDI. (72 Km, 6-7 H) Today will be a hard day as we cross our first pass by gaining another 1100m in elevation. We leave early and leave all habitation behind as the road zig-zags higher and higher into the mountains. We feel as though we are entering a different world as we reach the top of the Rohtang La (3978m). This barren windswept pass, blocked by snow for more than six months of the year, crosses the Pir Pinjal Range and is the gateway to Ladakh. We leave the coniferous forests and lush green pasturelands behind and enter a vivid mountainous desert. Ahead are spectacular views across to the mountains of Lahoul and Spiti. From the top of the pass the road snakes down 900m to the small village of Khoksar. Care must be taken on the downhill route as some of the road is not tarmac. We enter into the Lahaul Valley and the cycling becomes easier as we continue on to Tandi, where the rivers Chandra and Bhaga come together. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 7: TANDI TO JISPA. (37 Km, 4-5 H) It is an easier day today as we cycle through Lahaul by gaining 700m in elevation. The scenery is spectacular and the valley narrows as magnificent mountains rise high above us. The road follows the main valley and en route we stop at Gondhala to see the ancient fort. Continuing up the valley we cycle through Keylong, a small bustling town. Keylong is the capital of Lahaul and is surrounded by three famous monasteries - we can see the rooftops shining in the sun on the surrounding hillsides. We continue on to Jispa where we can visit a new monastery, which was specially built for H.H. the Dalai Lama. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 8: JISPA TO PATSEO. (32 Km, 3-4 H) Another fairly easy day for acclimatization as we only gain 500m in elevation and start to approach the Great Himalayan Range. We cycle through beautiful green pastureland to Darcha (3235m) where we can enjoy sweet tea and soup in a tented restaurant. From here we continue climbing, until we reach Patseo (3650m). The site now of a lone tea house, Patseo used to be the place of an annual fair of the Changpa nomads. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 9: PATSEO TO SERCHU. (62 Km, 7-8 H) A harder day today as we cross the Himalayas to Sarchu by gaining 1300m in elevation. Sarchu is the border between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. After a gradual climb across large meadows past Zingzingbar, we start our long ascent to the Baralacha La Pass (4892m). The climb seems at times to go on forever but the hard work is worth it as the views become increasingly spectacular. Finally we reach the top – we are in the middle of the mighty Indian Himalaya. The word Baralacha means 'a pass with crossroads' and the trails from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul come together here. This is the main crossing of the Great Himalayan Range and we get amazing views of the many snow-covered peaks including Barashigri, Chandrabhaga and Mulkila. After the pass, the cycling gets easier as we descend past Kilong Serai and on to Sarchu. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 10: SERCHU TO PANG. (105 Km, 8-9 H) This will be our longest and hardest day of cycling so we will set off early since we will be gaining 1000m in elevation. We start by climbing fairly gently for approximately 38 km across the windswept Sarchu Plains past Brandy Nallah and Whisky Nallah to the bottom of the Gata Loops. This is a series of 22 amazing hairpin bends, which we slowly ascend. Take time to stop and look back – the valley behind is full of amazing wind eroded rock formations. At the top of the loops we will have climbed 500 meters and reached the Nakli La 4800m. A short downhill is followed by another winding ascent to our second pass of the day, the Lachalung La at 5100m. We are now crossing the barren Zanskar Range, and we are surrounded by amazing multi-coloured mountains – the purples, greens and browns of the hillsides change shades as clouds are blown across the sky. From the Lachalung La we have an easy ride down through an amazing canyon of magnificent rock formations of the Trans Himalaya until we reach Pang. Camp B,L,D
DAY 11: PANG TO PANGUNAGU. (57 Km, 4-5 H)
Today we take it easily to make an elevation gain of only 400m to Mori Plains (4700m). We are now in Rupshu area, the waterless high altitude desert of the Tibetan Plateau. This area is all above 4500m and is home to the hardy Changpas, Tibetan nomads who live in yak hair tents and graze huge flocks of sheep and yaks in this seemingly barren landscape. We turn off the main road and cycle along a sandy track to Tsokar Lake where we camp for the night near Pongunagu. Tsokar means 'white lake', and there are white salt deposits ringing the water. Our camp is a few kilometers from the lake but for the energetic there will be time to cycle to the lake, or even around it to visit some of the nomads. Look out for herds of 'kiang', the wild asses, which roam the surrounding hills. The lake is also good for birdwatchers. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 12: PANGUNAGU TO RANI BAGH. (80 Km, 6-7 H) We gain 900m today. Before we leave the camp we take a closer look at Tsokar Lake, then leave Tsokar and cycle back to the main road. The long climb starts gradually and winds ever higher and steeper to the top of the Taglang La (5350m). You should be proud of yourself at the top – you have just cycled to the top of the second highest motorable road pass in India! We are rewarded for all our hard work with wonderful views of both the Himalaya and the Karakorum Mountains. After a rest and photo stop we have a wonderfully long zig-zag descent to our first real villages since Lahoul. The houses and green fields of barley and potatoes greet us as we pass the villages of Rumtse and Gya before reaching our camp at Rani Bagh. Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 13: RANI BAGH TO LEH. (82 Km, 7-8 H) Today is an elevation gain of 450m. We start early with an easy, winding ride following the Kyamnar River down to Upshi. Here we join the Indus Valley, which we follow all the way into Leh. But first we have a diversion to visit Hemis monastery, once the largest and richest of all Ladakhi monasteries. To get there we have a 7km climb as the monastery is tucked away up a side valley. There is time to visit the ancient temples with priceless Buddha statues. We then cycle down to the main road and follow the mighty Indus River. From Karu we continue on to Tikse, where an impressive monastery sits perched on a hilltop. If there is time we can cycle up to the monastery, which contains a very impressive two-storey statue of the Future Buddha. Passing the ruins of Shey Palace, the cycling is fairly easy as we come to Choglamsar, home to many Tibetan refugees. There is a final sting in the tail as we leave the Indus behind and climb into Leh. Tonight we can enjoy the comforts of a hot shower in our hotel in Leh. Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 14: REST DAY / VISIT SPITUK AND SHANTI STUPA. (10km, 2H) We drive 6km to Spituk, one the oldest monasteries, built on the top of the hill which belongs to the Geluk tradition and where the young Bakula is the head of the monastery and residence for 80 monks. The Japanese-built peace chorten (Shanti Stupa) offers a great panoramic view of Leh town, Stok mountain and the Indus valley. Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 15: DAY TRIP TO KHARDONG LA. (70km, 9-10H) A day-return trip, with elevation gain of 2100m. For the energetic today there is a challenging ride to the Kardung La (5602m), arguably the highest motorable road pass in the world. After the last 10 days we should now be fully acclimatized to the altitude and mountains. We leave Leh early and take a packed lunch. It will take around 6 hours to cycle to the top of the pass. The views are magnificent as we wind our way higher and higher away from Leh. The first half of the ride is tarmac and the last half is rough road. From the top we are rewarded with close-up views ahead of the Karakorums, while behind us the Ladakh and Zanskar mountains seem to stretch forever. After a photo stop we have a fantastic downhill ride back to Leh – a great reward for all the hard work this morning! Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 15: LEH TO LIKER. (70km, 5-6H) We will be on the move to the south west, through the suburbs of Leh, then along the Indus valley. The road climbs slowly past Spituk Monastery, which nestles at the foot of the Ladakh range. We descend to the Indus again, pass its confluence with the Zanskar river, then continue along the river to Basgo village. From here it is up hill along zig-zags then flat ground before heading downhill to Alchi. At Alchi, we visit the famous monastery from the 11th century built by lotsava Rinchen Zangpo. After lunch we will go back to Liker where we spend the night. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 16: LIKER TO LEH. (61km, 5H) We take the same route back to Leh via Basgo castle which was the 2nd capital of Ladakh during the reign of king Jamynag Namgyal and his son Singay Namgyal. Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 17: LEH. The day is free to explore the back streets and bazaars or maybe do some optional sightseeing or shopping around Leh. Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 18: FLY TO DELHI. We transfer early in the morning to Leh airport and catch a flight to Delhi. The flight is spectacular as it flies right across the Himalaya. On arrival in Delhi we transfer to our hotel. During the afternoon you are free to relax or explore Delhi. There will be an optional sightseeing tour of Old Delhi and New Delhi which will visit the Red Fort, Jama Mosque, India Gate, Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Minar. Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 19: FLY TO HOME OR OPTIONAL AGRA TRIP. Departure transfer to international airport and fly home with fond memories of the Himalaya
LAND COST: on request
- All Accommodations in Delhi, Mandi, Manali & Leh with Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
- Camping Accommodation as per the program with all meals during the cycling
- All monastery entrance fees, wildlife fees , camping fees and restricted area permits
- English-speaking cycling guide throughout the trip.
- Service of cook and attendants
- Supporting jeep with cycle repair kits
- All camping equipment including North Face sleeping tents or equivalent, foam mattresses, mess tents, dining tent & toilet tent
- All Transportation from pick up to drop off at the Delhi International Airport
What’s not included:
- Medical and evacuation insurance
- Miscellaneous expenses and tipping to the staff
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snack food in Leh and Delhi
- International Air ticket to Delhi
- Cycle (if you require a cycle, please inform us in advance and we will provide one)
- A single supplement
- Laundry and other services not mentioned in the package. If you need any additional arrangements please let us know.
Khardung La View
IMPORTANT TREK NOTES
Whilst every effort is made to keep to the above itinerary, clients will hopefully appreciate that this is Adventure Travel in a remote mountain region. There will quite likely be changes to the itinerary in terms of anything from on-the-spot choice of campsite to when a rest day is taken. Weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns off the beaten track, local availability of horses or yaks, can contribute to the need for changes. The Trek guide will do everything in his power to see that you are inconvenienced as little as possible in such circumstances. Timings are approximate.
© Yama Adventures, 2022.