A bike trip to Leh Ladakh is a dream for many adventure enthusiasts and it remains on the top of the bucket list of most people. The reason is that Ladakh is in all literal sense, the land of high passes with jagged terrains and wicked roads that are perfect for offroading. Thrill-seekers from different corners of the world come to Ladakh to get a taste of the adrenaline high that driving on these high altitude passes gives them.
Naturally, a bike trip to Leh Ladakh from Srinagar is something that a lot of bike riders wish to join because they get to experience the thrill of driving on the highways of Ladakh and get to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives in Srinagar. This Ladakh bike trip itinerary is a perfect blend of both adventure and peace.
There are two ways to reach Ladakh by road, One of them being the Srinagar- Leh Highway and the other one being the Manali route.
The Srinagar – Leh Highway is an ideal choice, not only because it runs alongside the Indus river providing a beautiful landscape throughout your long drive but also because the gradual ascend helps in making you acclimated to the region and weather conditions. When you drive to Leh from Srinagar, you are also traversing through the Kargil region, in close proximity to the LOC which makes the trip all the more interesting.
In this Leh Ladakh bike trip starting from Srinagar, we first traverse through the iconic Zojila Pass to reach Kargil. Located at an altitude of 11,575 ft, the pass offers a stunning view of the great Himalayas and connects Ladakh with Kashmir Valley.
Situated on the banks of the Suru River (Indus), Kargil is the second-largest city in Ladakh, holding extreme historical significance as it was the site of the Kargil war back in 1999. After spending a night in Kargil, we will head towards Leh.
En- route to Leh, we will be traversing through Namika La. At an altitude of 12,139 ft, it is one of the two high passes in the Zanskar range of the Himalayas that connects Leh with Kargil. Riding on this pass with the rugged landscape of mountains in the backdrop will make the drive not only memorable but also thrilling. We will also be traversing through the Lamayuru Monastery, one of the oldest and largest gompas in Ladakh housing 140 monks at present. It’s also prominent because the annual dance festivals are hosted in the monastery where all the monks come together to pray.
On our way to Leh from Kargil, we will also be passing through the highest point of Leh Srinagar, at an altitude of 13,478ft is the Fotu La Pass as well as the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers. The fascinating part about Sangam is that both of these rivers reflect different colors whereas Zanskar is more of muddy brown color and Indus is the perfect pristine hue of blue.
The route to Leh from Srinagar also encompasses some of the best attractions of Ladakh like Gurudwara Patthar Ganj Sahib which is a place where Sikhs, as well as Buddhists, come together to pay their respects. The gurdwara is dedicated to Guru Nanak Sahib and has an age-old legend associated with it, making it both spiritually and religiously significant. The Gurudwara is under the care of the Indian Army and people who come here to visit have to follow certain rules, one of them being that photography is prohibited inside the Gurudwara and hence, you have to witness the place of worship in person to understand its importance.
Another must-visit place in Ladakh that you get to visit when you’re traversing through the Srinagar – Leh route is the iconic Magnetic Hill. It is believed that the hill is one of the rare places that defy gravity. When driving in one of the spots where the force is supposedly the strongest, your vehicle travels uphill even if you’re driving in the opposite direction. Although it has been said that the uphill driving part is nothing short of a brilliant optical illusion, people do feel some sort of turbulence when driving which makes the magnetic hill one of the most fascinating and mysterious places in Ladakh.
Last but not the least is The Hall of Fame, a museum dedicated to all the martyrs who lost their lives during the many battles that occurred after the partition along with the Kargil war that happened in 1999 is a reminder of the many sacrifices that the land of Ladakh has witnessed in the past. The museum has a wall named “The Last Post” which has all the handwritten letters written by soldiers in their last few days before they lost their lives in the battle. It is one of the few places that would simultaneously leave your chest feeling hollow as well as make it brimming with pride.
Finally, after traversing through all these iconic landmarks that make the road trip to Leh as fascinating as it is known to be, you’ll reach the heart of Ladakh where the local markets with their vibrant culture that is prominent in Leh will welcome you with open arms.
Leh remains one of the most important places to visit in Ladakh, not just from a tourist perspective but also because it manages to offer you a glimpse at what your time in Ladakh would look like while also giving you the time to prepare for all that you’ll miss in other parts of Ladakh. Although the network is scarce in Ladakh, the last few traces of mobile networks that you get are limited to Leh and so are other things like shops where you can buy souvenirs from.
A local sightseeing tour of Leh is one of the highlights of this Ladakh road trip and covers many historical as well as culturally significant places. The first one is Shey Palace or Shey Gompa which consists of the second largest Buddha statue of Ladakh in its embrace. The gigantic copper statue is gilded with gold and is 12 meters tall covering three floors of the monastery. Apart from the noted statue, the monastery also has many paintings adorning its walls as well as manuscripts that have been preserved for centuries now.
The next halt is Thiksey Monastery which is the largest gompa in central Ladakh. Nestled at an altitude of 11, 800 ft in the Indus Valley, the monastery has the largest statue of Maitreya Buddha covering the same height as that of a two-storey building. Apart from the statue and the fact that the Dalai Lama himself visited and commemorated the temple in 1970, it also holds many other stupas, statues, and thangka paintings that are of extreme importance.
Last but not least stop in the Leh sightseeing tour would be the Shanti Stupa, a white dome structure enshrined by the Dalai Lama himself. The structure has become a significant part of Ladakh and its heritage. It holds ancient relics of Buddha himself in its abode. Due to being located at such a high altitude of 11,841 feet, it also offers a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding landscape making it a delight to visit for tourists.
Although Leh is the heart of Ladakh, the land of high passes has many more beautiful gems that remain unexplored. One of them is Nubra Valley with the kind of beauty that leaves you awestruck. The best part about this mini road trip from Leh to Nubra is that you’ll be traversing through Khardung La pass which is one of the highest motorable passes in the world, with a staggering height of 18,379 ft. The pass is a gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys.
Adventure enthusiasts from across the world come on this pass to experience the thrill of riding their bikes at high altitudes. Nubra also offers you the chance to indulge in adventure activities like Double Hump Bactrian Camel safari, ATV rides, and more.
This Ladakh trip from Srinagar also allows us to explore some of the truly underrated and hidden gems of Ladakh. As the land stands witness to some of the major battlefields, it also forms a bridge for people to walk through the lanes of history. One of the many places that people are unaware of is the tiny village of Turtuk, the last village in India- the Pak border is only a few kilometers away from the LOC. The village was under the control of Pakistan until the war of 1971. Now it remains the last village in the Ladakh outpost. Apart from its historical and political significance, Turtuk is known for its variety of fruits and is especially renowned for its apricots.
Turtuk is also approximately only 71kms away from Siachen which is the world’s highest and coldest battlefield along with being the site of the Siachen conflict between India and China.
The next stop in this Ladakh bike trip from Srinagar is the pristine Pangong Tso, the saltwater lake freezes completely despite it’s saline nature and changes color according to the position of the sun is one of the most fascinating attractions of Ladakh. The lake was hugely popularized after being featured in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots. The beauty of this lake cannot be summarized by words and camping by its side, enjoying the view of the starry night skies remains a dream of many travelers, and this road trip gives you the opportunity to live that dream.
The best part about this itinerary is that when you’re coming back from Pangong to Leh, you get to traverse another iconic pass which is the Chang La Pass and one that is located at an elevation of 17,688ft.
As you head back from Leh to Sarchu on your return journey, you’d get to witness Moore plains which is a large stretch of barren land and are probably the only part of this entire trip where you get to drive straight on a tar road until you come across Gata Loops which is another highlight of this road trip and encompasses of more than 21 hairpin bends or loops that you’ve to traverse through to finally reach Sarchu. En route, you’ll be riding through Nakeela which is yet another popular mountain pass in Ladakh.
The reason this bike trip from Srinagar to Ladakh is one of the most beautiful journeys you’ll come across is because of the ever-changing terrain that you ride through. From the beautiful valleys of Kashmir to the barren stretch of Ladakh to the lush green meadows that come into view once you’ve passed through Baralacha La and are heading to Manali.
The best time for any traveler to do this bike trip is from the months of June to September as the many passes that you get to traverse through only open up by then. You will get to have the ultimate off-roading experience on this bike trip from the months of June onwards.
In a nutshell, this bike trip encompasses everything that a biker, as well as traveler, thinks of when they dream about a Leh Ladakh bike trip.