Almost every cyclist who loves adventure dream of cycling on Manali Leh Highway one day. Many of them wonder about what will be the ideal Manali to Leh Cycling itinerary for them. In this article today, I will help you plan a bicycle trip on Manali Leh Highway in detail.
In my last article, I talked about how to prepare yourself for a cycling trip from Manali to Leh. In this article, I will share a detailed day wise plan along with some very important tips to consider for each day when you are cycling from Manali to Leh.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Manali to Leh Cycling Itinerary | Day wise & Detailed
The journey on Manali Leh Highway can get tricky at times and you must be aware of what this adventurous road to Ladakh is all about. Especially when cycling on Manali Leh Highway, you must know about how much distance is safe to travel, what challenges will you face on each day, where you will get the food and where will you get the stay options.
Most of the Manali Leh Highway runs over an average altitude of 14000 feet, which is considered to be high to very high altitude. Our body must be acclimatized to perform at such high altitude. Hence, like any other trip, cycling trip on Manali Leh Highway requires much better acclimatization because your body is doing all the heavy duty not your vehicle.
When I was preparing, I did not come across any useful Manali to Leh cycling blog and hence, I wanted to share this article as my experience so that you can learn from it.
I have broken this cycling trip from Manali to Leh in 10 days and have shared how much distance will you travel and how much altitude you will gain every day.
Hence, let’s start looking into this detailed Manali to Leh cycling itinerary.
Day 0: Cycling in Manali or Solang Valley – Acclimatization Ride
It is very important to stay in Manali or Solang Valley (preferably) for a day or two extra before you start the ride to Leh. It helps you acclimatize to the altitude and will be a lifesaver as you move forward to a higher altitude.
Cycling in Manali or around Solang Valley will help you acclimatize and be warmed up.
The day before the ride, we went to the Solang Valley (14 km from Manali) and returned to have the feel of the climbs, get acclimatized and practice. It was worth every bit as it makes you mentally strong for the tough days ahead on Manali Leh cycling journey.
Day 0 – Important Tips
- Get your bike thoroughly checked in Manali.
- Naveen (Firefox/Trek Store in New Manali) is of immense help in Manali for everything related to the bike, route and ride. Conversation with him will also boost your confidence for the next 2 weeks.
- Stay in New Manali, avoid late nights and drinks.
- Pack your pannier bags and make your bike ready before you head for sleep on Day – 0.
- You may consult your doctor for AMS prescribed medicine or any homeopathy medicine to help you with AMS or acclimatization.
Day 1: Manali to Marhi
Distance 35 Kms, Elevation gain 1600 mt.
The Day 1 is the most crucial day of the entire tour as everything thing that you have read, heard or practiced in the last few months will come to reality before you. You will finally be starting your climb to get that ultimate Manali to Leh cycling experience
The road to Marhi is a constant climb for 35 km with lots of hairpin bends. I think we took over 30+ hairpin bends to climb the 1600 mt to Marhi. The last 6-7 km will get on your nerve as the climb gets steeper, roads get bad and it mostly rains in this stretch but constant cadence, hydrated body, and views around will keep you moving.
The valley here is always lush green, very misty, plenty of waterfalls on the sides and many Dhaba’s along the way to cherish hot cup of chai, some warm food and conversations with locals as they are always excited to talk with you.
On reaching Marhi, we were filled with emotions of all kind, a sense of achievement, some setbacks and excited with the view of Rohtang Pass.
You should look at the list of things to carry on Ladakh trip.
Day 1 – Important Tips
- Keep yourself regularly hydrated
- The stretch has high traffic with some rash driving as well. Be cautious and keep yourself on extreme left.
- Start as early as possible to beat the traffic and also to reach Marhi before the sun sets.
- There are plenty of Dhaba with rooms & tent available for Rs 250/- to Rs. 500/- per night.
Day 2: Marhi to Sissu via Rohtang Pass
Distance 53 Kms, Elevation gain 900 mts
After spending the night at Marhi, we started Day 2 with the steep climb of 900 mt to Rohtang Pass on cycle to be covered in 17 km of bad roads and heavy traffic. The rains only added to the chaos we already had.
However, once we started, we realized it isn’t really difficult up to the pass. Strong will power, persistence and sticking to basics were all we needed to complete the climb. It was a sense of great achievement for me to reach my first pass at 4000 mt on my bicycle.
The downhill ride till Sissu was a bigger challenge for us due to bad roads and shooting stones on the road due to tunnel work in the region. The valley turned greener, glaciers became closer, water streams started crossing the roads and more waterfalls were visible.
We stayed at the house of lovely Nina Dorza whose hospitality was full of love and warmth. She fed us with some delicious home cooked foods which helped us with a good night sleep instantly to get ready for next day’s ride.
Day 2 – Important Tips
- Never get too excited after reaching the pass. It is not even a midway and you need to ride more before calling it a day.
- There are temporary toilets 500 mt before the Rohtang Pass.
- Try not to stop on the stretch between the Rohtang Pass and Koksar due to ongoing Tunnel work and blasting sites.
- Make sure you wear a helmet between the Rohtang Pass and Koksar. The shooting stones are reality and scary.
- Police Check post in Koksar will verify your documents.
- There is one shop which repairs tier right after the Koksar Bridge.
- There are plenty of homestays available in Sissu ranging between Rs. 300 to Rs. 1000/-. There are a couple of hotels as well for some extra comfort if you seek for.
This ends just the Day 2 of this Manali to Leh cycling itinerary and journey has just begun 🙂 …
Day 3: Sissu to Darcha
Distance 57 Kms, Elevation gain 900 mts.
It was our first day to witness the transformation of the green valley into a cold desert. The glacier was getting closer, winds were getting stronger and more rocks were visible than plantation as we moved forward. We originally planned to halt at Jispa but since we managed to reach there early, we decided to ride a few more km ahead to Darcha.
Darcha is the last village in the route and beyond this, we won’t find any settlements other than local Dhabas which pop-up during the travel season. We decided to camp here at Darcha next to an abandoned house with a view of beautiful valley and river flowing by. We were even lucky to have a rainbow in our backdrop. Instead of buying food, we made some instant noodles and soup in a local’s house. Love the warmth and hospitality of locals and the way they welcome you in their life.
The ride to Darcha was among the easiest we had done till now with a great road, negligible climb and a lot of action around. The bikers kept bowing down at us in respect which definitely kept us moving forward and locals would be up for every help we would seek.
You will be thanking for all that training for Manali Leh cycling expedition you did while doing short rides around home.
Day 3 – Important Tips
- There is a bike mechanic who lives 7-8 km ahead of Sissu. You will recognize him with tires kept outside his house on the left side of the road.
- If you don’t feel like camping, it is advisable to stop at Jispa as there are plenty of options for stay available at Jispa.
This end Day 3 of my Manali to Leh cycling expedition and the main journey in the desert of Ladakh is about to begin.
Day 4: Darcha to Zing Zing Bar
Distance 30 Kms, Elevation gain 970 mts.
Today, we had to cover a short distance of 30km but it was a steep climb of 970 mt to Zing Zing Bar. The ride starts with some bad roads on the climb but soon downhill starts with some great views, roads and river crossing the roads.
The valley was browner now, less vegetation, crisp and strong cold wind with less oxygen. Glaciers were closer and more rivers started crossing the roads, we came across our first mountain lake at Patseo and the popup mountain Dhaba at Zing Zing Bar.
The ride wasn’t easy at all. The climbs were knee wrenching and cold winds only added to our woes. However, a bunch of Indian Army people offering kheer outside the temple was such a delight. It made us relaxed and rejuvenated again for the ride ahead.
We had our food and rested for an hour at the lower Zing Zing bar before heading ahead. The sunshine started looking like a myth and anything warm had to be consumed or savored instantly. I was at 4200 mt and had a slight headache probably due to lower oxygen level and high altitude.
The night was spent at a Dhaba were we met a big group of cyclist heading to Leh. Our friends from Bangladesh and Europe also joined us here. It was fun catching up with people here. We ended our day by cooking our first meal which was Dalia and Dal. It was good enough to help us with the sleep and give us enough energy for next day ride to mighty Baralacha.
Day 4 – Important Tips
- 3 km ahead of lower Zing Zing Bar, you will find a motorcycle mechanic with a facility to repair flat tires.
- The oxygen level at Zing Zing Bar is very low, so please don’t get carried away with the name of the place. Respect the nature over here.
- It is preferred to ride up-to Upper Zing Zing Bar as you have better options for stay and makes your next day ride easier.
- Most Dhaba over in Zing Zing Bar has solar lights and option to charge your phones and camera. So don’t waste time and get your gadgets charged.
- Beds are available here for Rs. 100/- to Rs. 200/- per night.
- They don’t make dinner before 8 PM and that is why we had to make our own food and sleep early.
It is not easy to cycle on Manali Leh Highway and reaching 4200 mt is no less feat. You should embrace it and sleep on a high note.
Day 5: Zing Zing Bar — Baralacha La — Sarchu.
Distance 45 Kms, Elevation gain 640 mts.
I started my day by repairing a flat Tire and instantly getting out of breath. At 4850 Mt, the climb to Baralacha La was going to be my first experience of being in such high altitude. The roads were misty, freezing weather, dry cold wind, and thin air. It took us under 4 hrs to climb Baralacha La Pass and it was a moment of celebration for us. We drank some hot tea that we took with us and just sat there for a few moments to savor it.
The next was to cross the fiercely River which crosses the road in Bharatpur. We needed to reach the place at earliest because the later we go the more fiercely it gets and even the water level rises. We were quick enough and managed to cross the river swiftly.
We took a break after crossing the river and before entering the Sarchu Valley, which is worth instant love. The mountains in the valley were all about different shades of coffee and cream. The beautiful rock formation, a dried up river which probably flowed during the ice age, ice-capped mountains which looked like coffee topped with milk and more.
Day 5 – Important Tips
- The most important part of the ride is to reach Bharatpur before noon and cross the fierce river as soon as possible.
- Once you cross Bharatpur, the road gets really bad, so make sure your tire pressure is right & bags are well balanced.
- There are plenty of Dhaba’s at regular interval.
- Once you enter Sarchu, you will find a number of camps on both sides. These are luxury camps with all the basic facilities you would look forward to. However, if you are comfortable with basic accommodation, head 6-7 km ahead, cross the Himachal Border, enter J & K and this side has the settlement of local villagers and Dhaba’s.
- The stay would cost Rs. 200/- per night for bed dorms and Rs. 500/- for a private room.
- Carry Hot Tea in thermos with you as it gets really cold up in Baralacha La Pass and it works as a savior.
- Army Camp in Sarchu allows you to make domestic and international calls on payment of fees. The rates for domestic calls were just under Rs. 2/- per min.
- You can pitch your own camp in Ladakh.
As you have reached the halfway on this itinerary of Manali to Leh cycling trip, it will help you end your day on a high note and confidence .
Day 6: Sarchu — Nakee La Pass — Whiskey Nallah.
Distance 54 Kms, Elevation gain 900 mts.
As we entered the state of Jammu & Kashmir, we started our day with some easy ride on the plains before reaching the treacherous Gata Loops. It is a series of 21 hairpin bends that lead to the top of one of the highest motorable passes in Ladakh region. It took us a little less than 2 hrs to reach the top of Gata Loops but the heat, climb, and saddle sores were exhausting. I almost gave up from doing the further ride but a quick rest and I was up again.
The next 10 km to Nakee La Pass was difficult and I would stop every 5 mins. But then I did complete the ride till pass and celebrated with an apple we got from Manali 🙂 Some quick downhill herein and we reached the Whiskey Nallah, our home for tonight.
Day 6 – Important Tips
- Start early as the sun gets really strong after crossing the Gata Loops
- There is a small shade right after Gata Loops on the right side. Perfect for a quick power nap or rest.
- There is no place for food between Sarchu and Whiskey Nala, so make sure you get some paratha packed at Sarchu before starting.
- Please don’t through plastic bottles at Gata Loops thinking of the legends. It’s a myth and only leads to more trash.
- There are 4-5 Dhaba available here which charges Rs. 200/- per night. The first one on the left was our favorite
Your Manali-Leh cycling preparation will surely come to the test on this day and next day as you ride hard in the desert region of Ladakh.
Day 7: Whiske Nullah — Lachung La — Pang
Distance 27 km, 300 mt quick uphill and 600 mt downhill
The climb to Lachungla was quick and we completed it in no time. I was the first to reach the top this time but today our challenge was to go downhill till Pang on a bad dirt track. The landscape looked amusing with sedimented rock formation along the stretch of desert.
The road kept on getting worse every mile we went ahead. And army trucks on the way only suffocated us with more dust on the route. We kept stopping randomly to take photos of the landscape in this part the most.
Day 7 – Important Tips
- Cover your face with some cloth after the pass to save yourself from dust and smoke.
- Army Camp in Pang allows you to make domestic and International calls on payment of fees. The rates for domestic calls were just under Rs. 2/- per min.
- Pang has plenty of stays with dhabas available for Rs. 200/- to Rs. 500/- a night.
Day 8: Pang — Morai Plains — Debring
Distance 47 kms, Elevation Gain 300 mts
Pang is a small settlement with the world highest army transit camp at 4600 Mts. After spending the night here, we were ready for a fresh start and excited to ride on the Morey Plains. A quick climb for 4 km and we were already in Moray Plains, a stretch of plains as long as you can see at an average elevation of 4800 mt. The stretch has some of most amazing landscape and is flanked with beautiful mountains and rock formation on both sides.
However, we were welcomed with a very strong headwind for the entire stretch and fighting them on a bicycle wasn’t easy. We were ready for this challenge and continued biking. Today, even the heat didn’t stop us and we reached our destination well before noon to avoid sand storm which starts in the evening.
The weather got really bad by evening and all the mountain ranges around us started receiving heavy snowfall. We were now more worried about tomorrows ride as we get to do our final climb to Tangala La Pass at 5400 Mt.
Hoping for good weather the next day, we called it a day and stayed at Debring for the night.
Day 8 – Important Tips
- Once you reach Debring (Dhaba on your right side), ride a couple of more kilometers to reach upper Debring (Dhaba on your left side).
- It cost Rs. 200/- per night in most Dhaba over here.
- Try and reach Debring before evening as the winds get really strong in this part.
- There are many mountain dogs in this part which would chase cyclist for a long stretch and looks scary. Keep riding slowly, try ignoring them and they will gradually leave you.
Day 9: Debring – Tanglang La – Upshi
Distance 81 km , Elevation gain 700 mt.
It was the day for the treacherous climb to the second highest motorable road in the world. We woke up to a bad weather and snowfall over Tanglang La with almost zero visibility and rain from where we could say. We waited for the sun to rise and the weather to get more clear before we started our ride to the Pass.
At the very beginning 2 fiercely mountain dog started chasing us. Generally, they are amazing but these two were after our life. We kept shouting and rode as fast as we can till the left us in peace :). The first 12 km was easy. We were at a good pace, bikers kept cheering us up and we kept getting amused with fresh snows around. But next 8 km to the top was full of struggle.
First, it started raining, then hail storm which was followed by snowfall and freezing cold weather. The rode wasn’t wide enough and had no shades we can stand or rest under. The only option was to continue riding ahead in our wet clothes, in hails which were hitting us hard and in moments when our fingers were swollen because of cold and we could not even bend them.
It was not the end of struggle when I ran out of water 3 km before the top. I literally shouted and cried on the middle of the road. Thanks to that happy soul who stopped by to give me some water, I calmed down and I started riding again.
20 mins later I was on top of Tanglang La Pass and it felt incredible. I felt like I am on top of the world. It was an emotional moment for being able to climb all the high passes in this route. We stayed here for a bit, drank some tea, celebrated our moments, captured some in camera, kept smiling endlessly, patted our own back and felt immensely proud of our self for everything we did in last 9 days.
After spending 20 mins on Tanglang La top and taking in our emotions we started again, for a long descend of 60 km to Upshi. We were all set to enter the land of Stupas, Monasteries and Happy People. The moment we entered the Ladakh region, we saw a distinct change in life and landscape. Village life and vegetation was back, more people were visible and fascinating rock formation all both the sides made the ride amazing for us.
Day 9 – Important Tips
- It isn’t really difficult in terms of a climb but the harsh weather is all that matters. It plays with your mind constantly and will be thinking of giving up at several intervals. But constant cadence, believing in all you did in last 8 days and some warm chai will keep you moving.
- There is a Dhaba at the Tanglang La Pass which serves some basic food, instant noodle, and chai.
- On your ride downhill, keep control on your speed as there is plenty of hairpin bends.
- Upshi is a big village with plenty of homestays, food, restaurant, bars and more.
Reaching on top of Taglang La is the most important feature of you Manali to Leh cycling trip. You will feel like you have completed the journey.
Day 10: Upshi to Leh
Distance 49 kms with mostly flat rise and descent.
It was the last day of our ride and we will finally be in Leh by end of this day. The ride started with yet another flat Tire and while mending it even the tube burst. But thankfully we had enough spare tube to take us through.
Riding next to the Indus River and gorgeous Ladakh Valley was sheer bliss. Getting to see the magnificent Thiksey and Shey Monasteries was the added bonus to our ride. It was a lazy and easy ride to Leh but the closer we got, the heat started taking a toll on us.
It was a ride full of excitement. For being in the place I have always dreamt of coming to. For making it all this way on my bicycle. For doing something that seemed impossible every instance. For living through some of the most challenging moments of my life. And for million more things which are even difficult to put in words.
Day 10 – Important Tips
- The climb in last 4-5 kms of Leh is killer. Especially because it will be noon by now and sun at its peak.
- Ride up to the Fort Road in Leh where you have plenty of places to stay and eat.
- Mobile Phone starts working in Upshi.
I hope this itinerary of cycling from Manali to Leh helps you plan your bicycle adventure to Ladakh. As you see it is more in the mind than the actual fitness plus the way you plan your Leh Ladakh trip. Once you reach Leh, you can do cycling around Leh – Ladakh before climbing to Khardung La to end this adventure trip.
This article completes my series of Leh Ladakh bike trip blog. Please give a shoutout to me in case you need any help in preparing for a cycling trip on Manali Leh Highway or to Ladakh. I would be happy to help.
If you know your friends or family who are planning a trip to Ladakh, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Ladakh trip.
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