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This trip is all about motorcycle riding on the world's highest roads in Himalaya. This is an exciting and challenging road trip on Royal Enfield bikes from Manali to Leh and passing through 15 high-altitude mountain passes and 5 high-altitude lakes that in the end would be one of the most rewarding experience ever. So, don't miss the chance of experiencing this exciting and challenging tour.
Your accommodation during this tour will be a luxury three-star cottage in Manali, three-star hotel in Leh, campsites in Swiss tents, and experiential homestays
On this trip, you cover the entire Ladakh, from Turtuk in Baltistan on the Pakistan border to Hanle on the Tibet border. The trip is mainly on good roads maintained by the BRO (except in patches and the exciting Manali-Leh road) and offering some of the best sights and sounds of the highest mountain desert in the world.
Although the trip is going to be tiring and challenging, it shouldn't be a problem for anybody with reasonably good riding skills to complete this trip with excellent backup, support, and quick response team and rest days.
You'll test run your bikes before you start in Manali. The challenging part of the ride is mostly on the Manali-Leh road. The roads in Leh and around are excellent, maintained by the army.
This itinerary is truly off-beat and covers much much more than the average Ladakh itinerary. During this trip, you get an opportunity to interact with the 'Balti' people in Turtuk and play guests to the 'Changpas' of the Changthang plains. Witness the mesmerizing landscapes of the remotest regions of Ladakh and the amazing flora and fauna of this high-altitude mountain dessert called Ladakh.
Arrive in Manali, then Mountaineerz's support staff will meet you at the bus stop and drive you to Mountaineerz's base. After refreshments, debriefing, and the required paperwork, bikes will be allocated to you. Get used to your bikes while you go for a ride to Old Manali for an early dinner. Ride back to the base for a good night's sleep. Any last minute shopping can be done while in Manali.
You start your journey from Manali at 09:00 to Leh stopping in Sarchu for the first night. Today, you cross Rohtang La (3,978 meters), (la means pass). The Rohtang La is the gateway to Lahaul. The valley of Lahaul is situated to the south of Ladakh. For this very reason, this place derived its name "lho-yul" meaning "southern country".
The ride on the first 60 odd kilometers will be to the top of Rohtang La. Lahaul abounds with monasteries or gompas, the homes of Lamas (Buddhist monks); therefore, Lahaul is often referred to as "The Land of the Lamas". The mountains rise to a mean elevation of 18,000 feet, with the highest peak touching over 21,000 feet and the lowest touching 9,000 feet where Chenab River enters Chamba. Numerous lateral spurs shoot off from the main mountains filling all the valleys with glaciers. It is this feature which made Andrew Wilson, a European traveler (1873), call Lahaul "a valley of glaciers".
The whole Lahaul and Spiti district is a cold desert whose bare rocks and steep slopes stare the visitors in the face. The rivers of Chandra and Bhaga, which constitute the Chandrabhaga / Chenab River after their confluence in Tandi, are the major features on the geomorphology of this region.
Tandi: The village is situated above the confluence of the rivers of Chandra and Bhaga in the Pattan Valley, some 7 kilometers away from Keylong. Revenue and settlement records reveal that Tandi was founded by Raja Rana Chand Ram under the name of Chandi which over the years got corrupted into Tandi.
There are at least three mythological stories connected with Tandi. First, Tandi is believed to mean Tan Delhi, i.e. giving up of the body. This is associated with Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, who left her body at this place. Second, this is believed that Rishi Vasishtha, who meditated near the hot water springs of Manali, was cremated at this confluence; hence named Tandi, i.e. body consumed. According to the third, Chandra and Bhaga were son and daughter of the Moon and the Sun Gods respectively. They were in love with each other. To perform their celestial marriage, they decided to climb the Bara-lacha la and from there, run in opposite directions encircling a vast tract of Lahaul. Thus flowing southeast and southwest both met at Tandi to enter the wedlock. In Tandi, top up your fuel tanks.
Keylong: Keylong is the last place where your mobile phone will work before you reach Leh and also the last place where you can hope to find a mechanic. In case you are having some problems with your vehicle, get it checked as soon as possible.
Jispa: This beautiful spot is 22 kilometers away from Keylong and 4 kilometers ahead of Ghemur. From Keylong, roads are in somewhat better condition and only get smoother as you approach Jispa and eventually Darcha. Once at Darcha, take a break and tank up on supplies and get yourself registered at the check post in Darcha. The village is situated at the junction of two nullahs with the main Bhaga River. Jispa has a very large dry river bed, a rarity in Lahaul. Good Juniper plantation is around this village.
Today, you cross Bara-lacha la (4,890 meters). Before Bara-lacha la, you will stop briefly for a photography session at Lake Deeptaal and the magnificent Suraj Tal Lake. Roads are mostly in a bad shape and as the altitude increases, you might start noticing the first effects of acute mountain sickness. It is advisable to take it easy and don't over stress yourself, especially at the summit of Bara-lacha la, 16,500 feet.
From Bara-lacha la, it is again a downhill but a rough ride until Bharatpur, after which the road condition starts improving gradually as you approach Sarchu. Sarchu, at an altitude of 14,000 feet, is a collection of tents and a militarily base. Even though it is quite a windy place and high in altitude, it is the preferred night stop for most travelers. You will need to register at the check post in Sarchu before proceeding further.
Roads from Sarchu until the start of Gata Loops are not too bad. Gata Loops are a collection of 21-hairpin bends that take you to an altitude of 15,302 feet. Roads in the loops are in not so good condition and the slow-moving trucks leaving a cloud of thick smoke make the ascent feel tougher than it actually is. Next up is the third pass on the Manali-Leh route, Nakee La (4,750 meters or 15,547 feet), while few kilometers up the road is Lachulung La (5,059 meters or 16,616 feet).
The descent from Lachulung La will take you to Pang which is a temporary tent settlement and has a check post where travelers need to register themselves. The road from Pang to Leh is excellent and will take you over a plateau (42-kilometer long), Skyangchu Thang (the biggest and highest plateau on earth), also called the Moore plains.
It is a day for some rest and checkup of the vehicles and some sightseeing.
Come early afternoon, you'll drive to the 17th-century Leh fort, the most famous landmark in town. From the fort, there's a short trail up to Tsemo Palace; the light walking can help you acclimatize, but Mountaineerz will gladly whisk you to the top by car if you prefer. At the top is a big reward: sweeping 360-degree views of Leh, the valley, and its surrounding mountains, which includes the well-known more than 6,000-meter Stok Kangri peak, towering in the distance at a height of 6,137 meters.
You head to another Leh's great panorama point, the Shanti Stupa, late in the afternoon. The view from here is quite different to the one from Leh Palace; you get a sense of the huge mountain spaces and the illuminated town in the late 'blue' evening light makes for compelling images. Especially in the night when the stupa is lit, the view is spectacular.
Thiksey, 40-minute drive from Leh (especially in the right light) is simply spectacular. Tier upon tier of buildings rises on a crag above the Indus River, white fronts bouncing the prevailing light back at you against the deep Ladakh sky. You wander next through the monastery complex, the photo opportunities coming thick and fast. (Do you know those iconic National Geographic-style Tibetan / Ladakhi / Buddhist shots that got you all fired up about coming here in the first place? They probably came right out of this same monastery.)
You tear yourselves away to go a few minutes north to Shey, a palace and a monastery that also tumbles splendidly down a hillock. Once the home of royalty - the Namgyal kings were required to father their sons here - it now houses the largest metal statue of Buddha in Ladakh. It is 7.5-meter high, built from Zanskar copper hammered out into sheets on a nearby rock and gilded with five kilograms of solid gold.
There is Hemis Gompa, the largest monastic foundation of Drukpa Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism and Stok Palace and Sindhu Ghat. Overnight in Leh.
Turtuk is a village, 205 kilometers from Leh on the banks of Shyok River. Turtuk gram panchayat is the northernmost village of India. Turtuk was under Pakistan's control until 1971, but later, India got control of this strategic area. Predominantly a Muslim village, residents speak Baltistani, Urdu, and Ladakhi language. Turtuk is the last outpost in India from where the Pakistan-controlled northern areas begin.
Turtuk is one of the gateways to the Siachen Glacier. Diskit Monastery, also known as Deskit Gompa or Diskit Gompa, is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh, northern India. It belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. It is a sub-gompa of the Thikse Monastery.
Lachung Temple and Hundar Monastery are also located nearby; the latter is below the main road near a bridge. The monastery has a statue of Maitreya Buddha in the prayer hall, a huge drum, and several images of fierce guardian deities. An elevated cupola of the monastery depicts a fresco of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery of Tibet.
The village of Turtuk which was unseen by tourists until 2010 is a virgin destination for people who seek peace and an interaction with a tribal community of Ladakh. The village is stuffed with apricot trees and children. The local tribe, Balti, follow its age-old customs in their lifestyle and speak a language which is just spoken and not written. For tourists, Turtuk offers serene camping sites with environment-friendly infrastructure. Enjoy the scenic drive. Stay in a homestay or camp.
Today, you ride 105 kilometers to Warshi and then ride a U-turn to the other bank of Shyok River to Panamik. Nubra is a tri-armed valley located to the northeast of Ladakh valley. Diskit, the capital of Nubra, is about 150 kilometers north from Leh town, the capital of Ladakh district, India. Local scholars say that its original name was Ldumra (the valley of flowers).
The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges. The Shyok River is a tributary of the Indus River. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 feet, i.e. 3,048 meters above the sea level. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La pass from Leh town.
On the Shyok (pronounced Shayok) River, the main village, Diskit, is home to the dramatically positioned Diskit Monastery which is built in 1420 AD. Hundar was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century and is home to the Chamba Gompa. Between Hundar and Diskit, there lies several kilometers of sand dunes and (two-humped) Bactrian camels graze in the neighboring "forests" of seabuckthorn. Non-locals are not allowed below Hundar village into the Balti area, as it is a border area.
The beautiful village of Baigdandu is also located in that area. There is a marked presence of people with startling blue eyes, auburn hair, and rosy cheeks as against the typical mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. Local lore has it that they were a Greek tribe who came in search of Jesus Christ's tomb and eventually settled here. Baigdandu is also known for the goats that give you the famous Pashmina shawls.
Ride along the banks of the Shyok River, where a bit of patience, a touch of luck, and a long telephoto might capture you red fox, partridge, hare, weasel, and migratory ducks resting in river pools. There is much to pleasurably distract you here; if the light is good, you'll be asking to stop every mile or so to capture an amazing atmospheric river valley landscape, a field of shockingly vivid lavender or yellow barley.
Pangong Tso, Tibetan for "long, narrow, enchanted lake", also referred to as Pangong Tso, is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 meters (14,270 feet). It is 134-kilometer long and extends from India to Tibet. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in Tibet. The lake is 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) wide at its broadest point.
Altogether, it covers 604 kilometers. During winter, the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not part of Indus River basin area and geographically a separate landlocked river basin. The brackish water of the lake has very low micro-vegetation. Guides report that there are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. On the other hand, visitors see numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface.
There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake. The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the bar-headed goose and Brahminy ducks are commonly seen here. The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the marmot.
Formerly, Pangong Tso had an outlet to Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, but it was closed off due to natural damming. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, forming marshes and wetlands at the edges. Strandlines above current lake level reveal a 5-meter (16-foot) thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the lake has shrunken recently in geological scale. Camp at an awesome location by the lake.
It is a rest day and camping around Pangong. Replenish yourself and enjoy the emerald lake.
Today's journey beside the lake will be amazing and the first village you would be crossing is Man and then Merak. The ride beside the lake is truly mesmerizing and bound to remain etched in your mind forever. After that, it will be a cruise as you ride on the Tibetan Plateau, vast flatlands at a height of more than 4,000 meters.
Next is Chushul where your permits would be checked. After crossing Chusul, the road approaches to a 14,500-foot pass Tsaga la with China on your left side and you would find lots of army outposts at your left on top of mountains.
As you move towards Hanle, the size of the mountains starts to decrease and you start witnessing a series of small mountains clustered together giving a feeling of a different world altogether. The journey to Nyoma - Loma and up to Hanle is smooth with great views.
Hanle in Changthang region of Ladakh is one of the most beautiful, enchanting, calm, and soul-loosing places in India. Hanle has a lovely Hanle Monastery offering some great aerial views of the whole village that is a home of about 1,000 people. The views from the top of the monastery are just breathtaking. Hanle also houses an Indian Astronomical Observatory which is the world's highest observatory in the world at a staggering height of 4,500 meters. Stay in a guesthouse or homestay in Hanle.
It is another day of an exciting ride. Feel sheer riding pleasure as you drive on exciting tracks to reach Karzok on the banks of Tso Moriri. You are bound to encounter some wildlife today, kiangs and some migratory birds for sure.
There exist two routes to reach Tso Moriri from Hanle, one via Mahe bridge and the other via Chumur. One route goes via Chumur whose permits are hard to come by but if you are able to get them, then nothing gets better and adventurous on your Ladakh journey and it is planned to take this route adding another pass to your trip. (Hanle - Salsal La (62 kilometers) - Charchagan La (23 kilometers) - Tso Moriri / Korzok (60 kilometers) = 145 kilometers)
Just in case you don't get permits for Chumur, then you'll take the other equally beautiful route. (Hanle - Loma (51 kilometers) - Nyoma (22 kilometers) - Mahe (25 kilometers) - Sumdo (10 kilometers) - Tso Moriri / Korzok (53 kilometers) = 161 kilometers)
The last petrol pump you left behind in Upshi, Leh and since you want to exit Ladakh through Manal-Leh Highway from Tso Moriri, the next petrol pump will be available at Tandi about 900 kilometers away.
Korzok is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery belonging to the Drukpa Lineage and an ancient village on the northwestern bank of Tso Moriri (lake) in Leh district, Ladakh, India. Korzok village, perhaps the highest permanent settlement in India, is situated from 4,520 meters (14,830 feet) to 4,570 meters (14,990 feet). The gompa (monastery), at 4,560 meters (14,960 feet), houses a Shakyamuni Buddha and other statues. It is home to about 70 monks.
In the past, the monastery was the headquarters of the Rupshu valley. It is an independent monastery under Korzok Rinpoche, widely known as Langna Rinpoche. The third Korzok Rinpoche, Kunga Lodro Ningpo, was the founder of Korzok Monastery. This revered monastery is 300 years old.
The Tso Moriri lake below it is also held in reverence and considered equally sacred by the local people. With the efforts of the WWF-India, the Tso Moriri has been pledged as a 'Sacred Gift for a Living Planet' by the local community (mostly Changpa herdsmen). As a result, the area has been opened up for tourists. Tso Moriri is a lake in the Ladakhi part of the Changthang Plateau (literally: northern plains) in Jammu and Kashmir in northern India.
The lake is at an altitude of 4,522 meters (14,836 feet). It is the largest of the high-altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. The official name of the land and water reserve here is the Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.
The lake is fed by springs and snowmelt from neighboring mountains. Most water enters the lake in two major stream systems, one entering the lake from the north, the other from the southwest. Both stream systems include extensive marshes where they enter the lake. It formerly had an outlet to the south, but this has become blocked and the lake has become an endorheic lake. The lake is oligotrophic in nature and its waters are alkaline. Accessibility to the lake is largely limited to the summer season, though Karzok on the northwest shore and the military facilities on the eastern shores have year-round habitation.
The lake is ringed by hills rising over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). "Changpas", the nomadic migratory shepherds (pastoral community) of yak, sheep, goat, and horses of Tibetan origin and who are engaged in trade and work on caravans in Ladakh region, are the main inhabitants of the area. Changpa (Champa) herders use the land of this valley as grazing ground and for cultivation.
Thirty-four species of birds including 14 species of water birds of which following are the vulnerable species: black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) endangered, bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) - only breeding ground in India, Brown-headed gulls (Larus brunnicephalus), great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus) (rare), black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) (rare).
Mammals include Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata), Goa antelope (threatened), lynx, nayan, Ovis ammon hodgson), bharal, Himalayan blue sheep, Tibetan ass (kiang) or (Equus kiang), endemic to the Tibetan Plateau great Tibetan sheep, one species of marmot, Marmota himalayana in large numbers seen on the hill slopes surrounding the lake and also along the roadsides, one species of hare, Lepus oiostolus, one species of vole, alticola rovelei, three species of mouse hares, Ochotona alticola, Ochotona macrotis, Ochotona curzoniae or Tibetan sand fox, scinella ladacensis, and large carnivores: carnivores fauna reported are: the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), the Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco).
Today is a rest day.
Riding on the Changthang plains is exactly what dream rides are made of. After Tso Moriri, you ride to another lake on the Changthang plains, Tso Kar. There will be some wonderful sightings of kiangs, marmots, bar-headed goose, Brahmini ducks, etc.
The road leads to Debring on the Leh-Manali Highway from where either you can go to Ladakh or you can exit towards Manali via Manali-Leh Highway. Stay in camps in Sarchu.
Post breakfast in Sarchu, start a ride to Manali via Jispa. Enjoy the grand views of the land of glaciers, Lahaul valley. Pass by Kokhsar, Tandi (where River Chandra meets River Bhaga), cross Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), and have an evening tea break at Marhi.
You'll be reaching Manali in the afternoon. There will be a celebratory dinner in one of the popular restaurants in Manali. Stay in a beautiful cottage.
After a hearty breakfast, you will be dropped in Manali. Explore Manali at a leisure before taking the evening Volvo to Delhi or Chandigarh.
There will be an option of paragliding and zip lining for those who can never get enough of action, before departure.
Mountaineerz requires a bike rental deposit of 10,000 INR. This will be refundable at the end of the tour.
An explorer by instinct, a rider by reflex, a mountaineer by passion, and a humble and true leader by nature, Parminder has chosen Himalaya to be his home. Parminder is humble enough, not to mention the numerous map making and theme-based photography tours and road trips he has facilitated and many successful off-beat and alternate route expeditions he has led to Zanskar, Leh, Ladakh, and Lahaul-Spiti. Having facilitated over 40 truly off-beat expeditions and road trips, it would only be fair to say that he knows what he is talking about when it comes to the Western Himalaya, especially Ladakh and Spiti.
This tour will take place in India including Manali, Keylong, Sarchu, Leh, Diskit, Hundar, Turtuk, Panamik, Pangong Tso, Hanle, Karzok, and Tso Kar.
Freshly cooked high nutrition vegetarian meals will be served on the trip. You have the choice of ordering non-vegetarian food from dhabas, wherever available. Tea or coffee, soups, and snacks will be served. The non-vegetarian meal can be served at the campsite or dA Base.
Bhuntar Airport (Kullu Manali Airport)
Transfer not provided
Please book your flight to arrive at Kullu-Manali Airport (KUU).
Mountaineerz can offer airport pick up/ drop off at an additional cost of 3,500 INR per way.
Direct buses ply daily from Delhi / Chandigarh to Manali. Cabs are also available. Mountaineerz will make arrangements for participants travel in luxury Volvo bus departing from Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus between 19:00 and 21:00. In Manali, Mountaineerz will meet you at the bus stand.
You can come to Kalka Railway Station (KLK), but you may not get the comfortable Volvo buses.
For this organizer you can guarantee your booking through BookMotorcycleTours.com. All major credit cards supported.
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