Almost every cyclist who loves adventure dreams 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:
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 high to very high altitude. Our bodies must acclimatize to perform at such high altitudes. 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.
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 the Manali Leh cycling journey.
Distance 35 Km, Elevation gain 1600 mt.
Day 1 is the most important 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 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 kinds, 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.
Distance 53 Km, Elevation gain 900 meters
After spending the night at Marhi, we started Day 2 with the steep climb of 900 mt to Rohtang Pass on cycle covering 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 challenging 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’s sleep instantly to get ready for the next day’s ride.
This ends just the Day 2 of this Manali to Leh cycling itinerary and the journey has just begun 🙂 …
Distance 57 km, Elevation gain 900 meters.
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 popup during the travel season. We decided to camp here at Darcha next to an abandoned house with a view of the 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 kept us moving forward, and locals would be up for every help we would seek.
You will be thanking for all that training for the Manali Leh cycling expedition you did while doing short rides around the home.
This end Day 3 of my Manali to Leh cycling expedition and the main journey in the desert of Ladakh is about to begin.
Distance 30 km, Elevation gain 970 meters.
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 we had to consume anything warm 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 where we met a big group of a 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 the next day ride to mighty Baralacha.
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.
Distance 45 km, Elevation gain 640 meters.
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 raging river which crosses the road in Bharatpur. We needed to reach the place at the 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.
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.
Distance 54 km, Elevation gain 900 meters.
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 the 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.
Your Manali-Leh cycling preparation will surely come to the test on this day and the next day as you ride hard in the desert region of Ladakh.
Distance 27 km, 300 meters quick uphill, and 600 meters 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.
Distance 47 km, Elevation Gain 300 meters
Pang is a small settlement with the world’s 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 the most amazing landscapes, flanking with beautiful mountains and rock formation on both sides.
However, a powerful headwind welcomed us 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 terrible by evening, and all the mountain ranges around us started receiving heavy snowfall. We were now more worried about tomorrow’s 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.
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 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, two 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 the next 8 km to the top was full of struggle.
First, it started raining, then hail storm which was followed by snowfall and cold weather. The road wasn’t wide enough and had no shades where we can stand or rest under them. 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 swell 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 shouted and cried in 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 ourselves for everything we did in the last nine 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 were back; more people were visible and fascinating rock formation all both sides made the ride amazing for us.
Reaching on top of Taglang La is the most important feature of your Manali to Leh cycling trip. You will feel like you have completed the journey.
Distance 49 km with the mostly flat rise and descent.
It was the last day of our ride, and we will finally be in Leh by the 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 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, it was magical. 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 millions of more things which are even difficult to put in words.
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 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 is planning a trip to Ladakh, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Ladakh trip.
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This post was last modified on May 31, 2021 20:45
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