“If you want to take a once-in-a-lifetime journey, don’t miss Ladakh.” Dith Yasuri
WHERE ON EARTH IS LADAKH?
The Ladakh region, also known as “Little Tibet”, is part of Jammu & Kashmir, a northern state of India located mostly in the Himalayan Mountains. This area offers rich cultural diversity with a unique blend of Tibet, Nepal, Kashmir, and more.
The valley is characterised by arid plains, pastureland, and snow-capped peaks. Ladakh is known for its barren landscape and scenic beauty. You’ll feel like you’re in Morocco and New Zealand at the same time. This is a region with several internal and international conflicts, but most people are warm and friendly. There are many protected areas that you need permits to access.
THINGS TO DO IN LADAKH
There are many interesting things to do in Ladakh. You could visit Phugtal Monastery in Zanskar the Virgin Valley, travel further to Turtuk (the beautiful northernmost village in India), experience the optical illusion of the Magnetic Hill, enjoy the natural poetry of Pangong Tso Lake, or trek the Markha Valley.
One of the things you shouldn’t miss is making the journey to Khardung La on a motorbike on one of the most dangerous roads on earth. At a height of 18,380 feet, Khardung La Pass is the highest motorable road in the world. The pass lies on the trail from Leh to Nubra Valley.
THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME ON A ROYAL ENFIELD TO KHARDUNG LA
About 10 years ago, I came across an image of Phugtal Monasteries in Zanskar and it inspired me to visit Ladakh. However, a few incidents, especially the 20th century Kargil War and Srinagar blasts in beautiful Kashmir, delayed my trip to this remote valley until this year. Ladakh came to my mind for a new travel project, this time not to Zanskar but to Khardung La. This location is harsh, but it’s a symbolic journey that you should not miss no matter what your motivation is.
To reach Leh from New Delhi, there are three popular options: you can take the 490km trip on Manali-Leh Highway, cross NH1 Highway from Srinagar, or fly directly into Leh. I was on Manali-Leh highway. You can ride a motorbike for at least two or three days before reaching Leh.
Acclimatisation is one of the important things to prepare for while planning the trip to Ladakh. Leh and most of the places in Ladakh are located at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Visitors may suffer from dizziness, headaches or even acute mountain sickness (AMS). Planning to acclimatise to the high altitude is one of the most important things to take into consideration when you are planning your trip to Ladakh.
From my experience, riding a motorbike along the highway is better and safer than taking a tempo traveller or taxi. On a bike, you can travel at your own pace. You can stop at Keylong, Jispa and many other places to enjoy the beautiful scenery. And riding a motorbike means that you are the person who controls the machine and your destiny. Some of the hired vehicles move so fast that they can reach Leh in 18 hours or less. Can you imagine sitting in a vehicle that moves that fast on one of the most dangerous roads in the world?
I choose to ride on India’s favourite Royal Enfield on this journey. Manali to Leh is the best part of the Ladakh journey because it takes you through varying landscapes across the Himalayas. But be prepared for a rough ride. This mountain road is tricky.
WHY THIS HARSH JOURNEY?
This once-in-a-lifetime journey is a mixture of slow travel and an adventurous motorbike journey. It’s not only a challenging adventure but also a self-growth journey that you can use to motivate yourself and inspire others to do what you love.
HOW TO GET THERE
Internationally, fly into New Delhi. You can then take a road trip from New Delhi to Manali (554.1 km via NH44, about 15 hours by bus with a few stops along the way) and continue with a motorbike from Manali to Leh for another 490 km. Khardung La pass is about 40 km from Leh and is open from 6 a.m to 7 p.m. You have to stop at South Pullu for the checkpoint run by the Indian Army. To avoid any inconvenience to your health due to the higher altitude, you should stay at the top less than 25 minutes. After reaching the top, you can either go back to Leh or continue the journey to Nubra Valley and Turtuk village. In this case, make sure that you have permits to visit Nubra Valley if you are a foreigner.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BE ON THIS ROAD?
In general, June to September is the best time to visit because Taglang Pass remains closed the rest of the year. It is open in October, but you should avoid travelling on this route during this month. For the latest information on the road, you can check its status on Manali – Leh Highway Status 2016 – 2017. Please note that bikers also need a Rohtang Pass permit to use this highway.
WHERE TO STAY & EAT
From Manali to Leh, there are a few stops for meals and accommodations for all travellers. If you go slow and steady, your first stop can be either at Keylong or Jispa, and then you can continue to Sarchu or Pang (seasonal / temporary tents) on the next day. On the third day, you can rest at Rumtse before heading to Leh. The options to stay in Rumtse are limited. In Leh, you will have no problem choosing your accommodations and restaurants.
Ladakh has many things to offer. It’s a place for the adventurer and solitude-seeker. This is a place that welcomes you with an open heart, and you’ll leave it with a fresh mind. A journey like this teaches us self-awareness, persistence, and patience. So, why don’t you take the journey of a lifetime to Ladakh?