Quantcast

The Journey from Leh to Manali: Biking Paradise

A herd of goats at a valley in Ladakh
A herd of goats at a valley in Ladakh
Passing through the beautiful Ladakh Valley was one highlight of the journey
Passing through the beautiful Ladakh Valley was one highlight of the journey
Stopping for a breakfast at a small dhaba on the Leh to Manali highway
Stopping for a breakfast at a small dhaba on the Leh to Manali highway
Travellers basking in the sun while waiting for breakfast after a long ride
Travellers basking in the sun while waiting for breakfast after a long ride
Unique Ladakh landscape along the Leh to Manali highway
Unique Ladakh landscape along the Leh to Manali highway
A high altitude lake and snow peaked mountains on the Leh to Manali Highway
A high altitude lake and snow peaked mountains on the Leh to Manali Highway
A cafe at the height of more than 4300 m
A cafe at the height of more than 4300 m
Mini buses parked near makeshift dhabas at Zing Zing Bar
Mini buses parked near makeshift dhabas at Zing Zing Bar
Woolen gloves and hats sold outside a shop at Zing Zing Bar
Woolen gloves and hats sold outside a shop at Zing Zing Bar
A beautiful village near Keylong
A beautiful village near Keylong
First glimpse of Keylong
First glimpse of Keylong
A group of bikers on their way to Leh from Manali
A group of bikers on their way to Leh from Manali
A duo riding their bicycles all the way from Leh to Manali
A duo riding their bicycles all the way from Leh to Manali
Clumps of snow on the higher mountains overlooking Keylong
Clumps of snow on the higher mountains overlooking Keylong
The last stop before climbing Rohtang Pass
The last stop before climbing Rohtang Pass
A bus climbing up the precarious Rohtang Pass
A bus climbing up the precarious Rohtang Pass
View of a vibrant mountain from Rohtang Pass
View of a vibrant mountain from Rohtang Pass
The mud covered road towards Manali near Rohtang Pass
The mud covered road towards Manali near Rohtang Pass
Fog covered road at Rohtang Pass
Fog covered road at Rohtang Pass

Road from Leh to Manali is perhaps the most popular route for bikers in India. For many reasons it is perfect for an adventurous ride, but it is not an easy road to travel. Leh to Manali is a 474 km ride through one of the most unique landscapes across the country.

For a stretch of around 250-300 km there was not a single house except for a couple of makeshift tea points along the road. The condition is harsh and not conducive for permanent settlement. It is one of the most barren and isolated places you'll ever see in India. Travelling through the isolated landscapes was a new experience as I am more used to daily chaos and hustle-bustle of big city life. Here you find yourself alone in the midst of unprecedented vastness, just you and the mountains. I felt so liberated. But at the same time, the experience of it was gruesome, and later, I was happy to be back to civilization after almost a 15 hours drive.

Mini buses for Manali leaves Leh around 2 am in the morning. There are no big vehicles or buses because of the precarious road conditions. It was a bit inconvenient checking out of the hotel so early in the morning. My guest house owner warned me of not getting too close with stray dogs at night as they scavenged by the roadside and do not want to be bothered. He handed me an iron rod to keep away dogs but luckily I didn't encounter any on my on my way to the main bazaar.

When the bus left, it was still very dark and Leh was sleeping. It was few minutes after we left the check-post at Leh that the sky burst and a drizzle turned into a heavy rain. I was in the front seat with the driver, and we could hardly see a thing. I was worried and looked at the driver to see how he was holding up. He didn't seem to be bothered at all. He slowly raised volume of the music, higher than the torrents of rain, and hummed along with it. Sometimes it would wake the passengers but I thought he was more concerned about staying awake. I soon went to sleep but when I woke up, we were traversing through snow peaked mountains. The rain had stopped but the cold woke up most of the travellers as we searched through our bags for warm clothes.

Soon, the sun had risen and we were driving through a high altitude valley. The sun lit the valley and turned the grasses to golden brown; few herds of sheep and goats grazed in the valley. It was a priceless moment. We soon stopped at a small place for breakfast. There were 3-4 makeshift shops that serve tea and some basic food like paranthas and maggi. That was the last stop we made in a long time.

Later we were traversing through giant mountains and deep gorges. Along the road we came across lots of bikers. I was surprised to find some women bikers groups too. It would have taken a lot of courage to travel in India alone, let alone taking a bike to Leh from Manali. I also spotted people travelling on small caravan and it gave me a thought. Especially when you are on a road trip to a place like Leh, you could stop anywhere, stay there for a few days, then start again. Here you own the place as much as anyone else.

There are no hotels midway but in the lower valley, there are few camping sites set up by businessmen. Most bikers stopped here for the night before continuing their journey to Leh or Manali.

I find the idea of biking for 15 hours exhaustive yet acceptable, but the idea of riding a bicycle from Manali to Leh didn't even occur to me until I saw a lone guy riding one. He had some of his belongings dangling from his bike. His face was tanned like roasted meat and had braided locks. I couldn't imagine how a man so small, when compared to the indomitable mountains could have a will so big. At the end he had nothing to gain, except for the sheer pleasure and fond memories. But this alone is enough to push oneself to the limits for many travellers.

On my trips I have seen crazy stuff and I have no doubt that when it comes to travel, we Indians are a lot more conservative. We think travel as being luxurious. We could learn a few things from foreign travellers, when it comes to the spirit of travelling and adventure.

Mountains have always been considered sacred by many religions. We would hear stories of monks and sages disappearing to the mountains for meditation to find inner peace. When you drive though 15 hours on the mountains, you begin to have a lot of respect for it. We had lunch at the base of a snow covered mountains at a place called Zing-Zing-Bar, at a height 4,320 m. Though the food was simple, we had a sumptuous meal. The place also offered lodging facility in case of emergencies.

From then on, we began to see a lot more of greenery. The driver looked over his shoulder and said we've entered Himachal Pradesh. The road seemed endless and the mountains unconquerable. The greenery came to full view as we meandered down to Keylong, the biggest town between Leh and Manali. The town cling on to a steep hill but I instantly fell in love with the place. Most travellers stop at Keylong on their way to Manali or Leh.

By late evening, we had already started climbing the Rohtang Pass. The mountain loomed like a giant barricade. It is one of most precarious and coldest mountain passes in India. Thick clumps of fog came out of nowhere and covered the mountains. When we were at the peak, we could only see few metres in front. The wind was cold and unforgiving. It was summer and the sun stayed up long enough but when we reached Manali it was already dark.

We have arrived at a green valley and to the chaos and the life of a bigger town. If travelling should be about a little solitude to reflect oneself, then this journey was worth every inch and couldn't have been more exciting.

Leh to Manali distance: 473.9 km

Leh to Manali by road time: 17 hours approximately

Mini bus fare: Rs.1300

22 Responses to “The Journey from Leh to Manali: Biking Paradise”

  1. S N Bapat says:

    Sir
    I want to travel from Manali to Leh by road [by mini bus]. Tentative date of starting journey from Manali is 15th of June 2014. Please let me know the fare for two persons[one male and one female{husband wife}]

    • moitours says:

      The fare is around Rs.1300-1400 for a person

    • shridhara says:

      dear sir,
      we want to travel manali to leh which is the best month. we are planning to go in may second week. what should we see in leh. we are nature lovers and photographers. we love life style and culture also.

      • moitours says:

        Hi Shridhara,
        The best time to visit Leh is from May to June, just before monsoon sets in and traveling becomes hazardous because of landslides. May should be absolutely fine but please check updates for road opening of Manali-Leh Highway.

  2. Srihari says:

    Hi,
    We are a group of 4 people and are planning for a road trip from Manali. We are confused on which route is the best to go for.
    1. Manali to Leh via Sarchu
    2. Manali to Srinagar to Leh
    Problem with Option 1 is risky and our healths might get affected and tour can go wrong.
    Problem with Option 2 is it will take approximately 3 days for us to reach Srinagar from Manali. (707 KMs).

    Please help us with your thoughts.

    • moitours says:

      If you are doing a road trip for the first time, I think option one would be better. Manali-Leh-Srinagar road trip is a long one. Even if you want to go ahead with it you need to take few days break at Leh.

  3. sid says:

    sir, we 4 person want to go leh to manali. their is any morning bus from leh to manali and what is its price

    • moitours says:

      Yes, Leh to Manali buses leave early in the morning round 2-3am. Pls get the latest updates on fares from travel agencies

    • lobzang says:

      yes there is bus to travel to leh from manali but it will start from mid of may to mid of september. i would suggest you should come by sharing taxi which is comfortable and save your time. If you need any kind of information, please feel free to ask.
      We have tour packages,trekking and bike tour etc.

      • Parth says:

        Hi,
        We are a group of 4 ppl and wish to go from leh to manali with a stay at sarchu for river rafting
        Please, suggest how many hours it would take to reach manali via sarchu from leh & which mode of transport to take…
        Thanks.

        • moitours says:

          Hi Parth,
          Leh to Manali takes around 15-16hrs by mini bus. Shared mini bus leaves Leh around 2am in the morning and reaches Manali around 8pm.
          Some travelers do stop at Sarchu but no taxi services are available here. One can also book a taxi or rent a bike.

  4. Parul Gupta says:

    We want to travel from Srinagar to leh & to Manali with my 2 year and 7 year old daughter by car
    What u suggest

    • moitours says:

      Hi Parul,
      I think it should be fine as long as you don’t take shared taxis. You could stop at Keylong and Sarchu along the way to Leh- to make it less stressful for the girls. All the best!

  5. Austin says:

    hello sir
    we are group of 4 people . We wanted to travel from manali to leh by bikes . could you please email me all the details about this . And I would be very thankful to u if u also suggest a fast or better method to reach leh from manali .

    • moitours says:

      Hi Austin,
      First of all the best time to do is from June to July. Rental bikes are available at Manali. There are no petrol/diesel pump along the way so you have to carry enough fuel for the whole trip. You can also stop at various halt points like Keylong and Sarchu to make it easier on yourself. All the best!

  6. tansukh soni says:

    sir
    leh manali tour from chandigar bike trip

  7. Manoj says:

    Hi we are 5 members r their their starting from Chandigarh going on kargil Srinagar leh manali and Chandigarh how many days do v need to cover it by byke

    • moitours says:

      Hi Manoj,
      It would totally depend on the pace you want and can travel. The mountain roads are difficult and you will need to recover every ride. At least give two weeks. All the best!

  8. suthan says:

    Manali to leh how long the plain roads,, and hilly roads. Then maximum with in how many hours we can cover the distance by motor bike

    • moitours says:

      Hey Suthan,
      Manali To Leh’s Road is one of the most challenging roads, as it passes through many high mountain passes. Except for small stretches of roads by the river valleys, the roads are on tough mountain terrain.
      if you plan to cover without stopping for the night, you can expect 15-18 hrs ride depending on the speed you travel.

  9. saurav says:

    hi i want to know if bike rented in manali allowed for local sightseeing in ladakh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>