A road trip to Ladakh is on the bucket list of every biker worth his salt. It’s not only Indian bikers who aspire to make this trip as a large number of biking enthusiasts from around the world make the journey to India to take part in this Holy Grail of bike road trips in the country. Since the season for this famed journey is about to start soon, I thought it would be a good idea to give you an outline on how to plan the trip and what you can expect once your adventure is under way. So let’s begin.
The starting point for road trips to Ladakh is either Delhi or Chandigarh. There are 2 routes that you can take to reach Ladakh from Delhi: Delhi to Ladakh via Srinagar and Delhi to Ladakh via Manali. Getting to Srinagar and Manali from Delhi is pretty straightforward so I’ll be focusing more on the second leg of the journey from these cities to Leh-Ladakh.
1. Srinagar to Leh
The journey from Srinagar to Leh will take you past beautiful villages, the Kargil War memorial, breathtaking valleys and countless monasteries. You’ll see the beauty of the Himalayan regions in all their glory and also experience more terrains than you could have imagined.
Route: Srinagar – Sonmarg – Zozi La – Drass – Kargil – Mulbek – Lamayaru – Saspol – Leh
Total Distance: 416 kms
Best time to make the trip: Early May to late October (road conditions vary with the weather)
Petrol Pumps on Srinagar-Leh route
1) Mangan: Starting from Srinagar, the first petrol pump is available at Mangan, which is situated at around 32km from Srinagar.
Distance from Srinagar: 32 Kms
2) Sonamarg: The next refueling can be done at Sonamarg; around 80km from Srinagar and 48km ahead of Mangam.
Distance from Mangan: 48 Kms
3) Kargil: Make sure, you fill enough fuel in Sonamarg as the next petrol pump is located around 124km from Sonamarg or 204km from Srinagar.
Distance from Kargil: 124 Kms
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4) Mulbekh: From Kargil, the next filling station lies in Mulbekh; around 40km, and 242km from Srinagar. Fuel stations are also available in Wakha and Khaltsi, which can be easily reached from Mulbekh.
Distance from Mulbekh: 40 Kms
The route from Manali to Leh is a bit more gruelling than the one from Srinagar but it’s completely worth it. You’ll be tackling high mountain passes, narrow roads and the harshest terrains. But you’ll also witness views that just can’t be described by words. Snow-clad Himalayan passes, green valleys and long stretches without a soul in sight are what await you on this route.
Route: Manali – Rohtang – Gramphu – Kokhsar – Keylong – Jispa – Darcha – Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu – Gata Loops – Nakee La – Lachulung La – Pang – Tanglang La – Gya – Upshi – Karu – Leh
Total Distance: 490 kms
Best time to make the trip: June to September (road conditions vary with the weather)
Petrol Pumps on Manali-Leh Route
1) Manali: While in Manali, you can find abundance of petrol pumps. This hill station town has a total of 6 petrol pumps.
2) Tandi: Moving 110 km from Manali, you can find a petrol pump in Tandi.
Distance from Manali to Tandi: 110 Kms
3) Karu: 345 km from Tandi and 30km before Leh, you can also refuel your vehicles in Karu.
Distance from Tandi to Karu: 345kms
4) Leh: Arriving in Leh, one can also find quite a few petrol pumps. In addition to the few petrol pumps in Leh, you can refuel your vehicles at the petrol pump near the Leh Airport (25 km from Leh).
Preparing for the Ladakh Road Trip
- Make sure that your bike is in perfect running condition before starting the trip. Mechanics are very hard to find in this region and you may be stranded without help in case of a breakdown.
- Spend some time with your mechanic while getting the bike serviced and learn how to fix minor problems that may arise during the trip. Carry a tool kit with you to tackle problems like oil leaks or punctured tyres.
- Make sure you carry thermals, jackets, riding gloves and enough socks for the journey. Also carry plastic bags which you can use to prevent your socks from getting wet while riding through water-logged roads.
- Carry a lot of dry fruits, chocolates, water and other non-perishable food items. It’s very easy to get fatigued due to the oxygen deprived air in high-altitude regions and all these food items will be a life saver in those conditions.
- Carry extra fuel at all times and your tank filled completely at every petrol station as they are very infrequent on the journey.
- The number of ATMs in this region is very less and they may not have any cash available at times. So make sure to carry an adequate amount of cash with you.
- Give yourself time to get acclimatized. Since you’ll be travelling by road, it won’t be as problematic as someone travelling by flight. But still remember to take it easy and don’t over-exert yourself. While riding, pace yourself slowly and focus on enjoying the ride more than trying to reach your destination as fast as possible. The fun lies in the journey and not the destination after all.
Safety Tips for the road trip
- Hydrate. Seriously, this cannot be stressed enough. Due to the cold weather you might not be thirsty but make sure to drink water regularly nonetheless. And eat a lot of food as well. Your body burns a lot of energy to keep you warm and long road trips are tiring on their own. So make sure to keep your energy levels up.
- Stay updated on the latest road conditions before starting each leg of your journey. Landslides and avalanches are fairly common in the area and it sucks to be stuck in a traffic jam when the entire point of the trip is to escape daily problems like that.
- Make sure you are keeping yourself warm. Wear good quality thermals and in the off-chance your clothes (mostly your socks) get wet, change them immediately.
- Take your time while riding. Remember that it’s not a race and if it were this would be the one where slow and steady wins. You won’t be doing yourself any favours by riding fast as that’s just going to exhaust you and will rob you of the chance to enjoy the surrounding views.
- Travel with company. Solo trips are actually a brilliant experience, but in this case it just might be better to have friends around in case some unexpected problems arise. And 2-3 days of riding alone in harsh environments is more draining than you can imagine.
Hope you found this article useful. We’ll be getting you more articles with details of where you can stay, places to visit and how to prepare your bike for a road trip to Ladakh soon. Follow Wheelstreet on our social media pages to keep up-to-date with the latest information for road trips to Ladakh. Happy Riding!
This article is brought to you by Wheelstreet – India’s first bike rental platform.