Things to Do and Places to Visit in Ladakh on Bike 2020

Adventure is out there and no place in India is quite as adventurous as Ladakh. The ancient Himalayan kingdom is now a Union Territory of India and even though the times have taken their toll on Ladakh, it has still managed to retain its remote, old-world charm. If you are planning for an adventurous motorcycle trip in 2020, then Ladakh makes for the perfect destination.

Over the course of this blog, we will take a look at the various places that you should visit and all the awesome things you should do on your bike trip to Ladakh. But first, let’s take a look at the routes you can take to enter Ladakh on a motorcycle.

The Routes into Ladakh

There are two primary routes for entering Ladakh. The most popular route for tourists is the Manali – Leh highway, which starts in the Himalayan resort town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh. From Manali, bikers make their way to Leh, crossing five high-altitude lakes, passes, towns and villages on a 475 km journey. This road only stays open from May – September as the route experiences heavy snowfall in the winter months.

The other route takes tourists into Ladakh via the Kashmir Valley. Bikers typically start in Srinagar and cross the resort village of Sonamarg before manoeuvring through the treacherous Zoji La pass. Ladakh starts just as bikers cross Zoji La and this route takes bikers into Ladakh via the towns of Dras and Kargil. Like the Manali – Leh Highway, this route (NH1) is seasonal, but it stays open slightly longer than the Manali – Leh Highway, generally opening in April and staying open till late November or early December.

Places to Visit and Things to Do in Ladakh

  • Leh: If you are approaching Ladakh on bike in 2020 from the Manali – Leh Highway, then take a break in Leh, Ladakh’s biggest town, and spend a few days to explore it. In the ancient days, Leh was an important stop on the famous Silk Road. Today, Leh has become the tourist hub of Ladakh and apart from offering stunning views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains. The town is home to a plethora of cafes and restaurants serving up a wide variety of international cuisines.

    Leh is also home to some of the most iconic cultural landmarks in Ladakh such as the Shanti Stupa and the Leh Palace. Not far from Leh are villages such as Hemis, Thiksey and Spituk, which are known for their respective monasteries.

  • Nubra and Shyok Valley: Leh is also the gateway to two valleys that are becoming increasingly popular amongst tourists, the Nubra and Shyok river valleys. The Nubra valley is the gateway to the famous Siachen Glacier, one of the biggest glaciers on the planet, and also the Indo – China border. The Shyok Valley takes bikers into the rugged mountains of Baltistan and close to the Indo – Pakistan border.

    En route to both the valleys, bikers have to tackle one of the highest motorable passes on the planet, the Khardung La. At an altitude of 17,582 feet, the pass is challenging due to the low oxygen levels in the region. The two villages that you must visit once you are in this area are Hunder and Turtuk. Hunder is a village that is known for its sand-dunes and the double-humped Bactrian camels, making it the perfect place to experience camel rides. Turtuk, a village right on the border with Pakistan, gives bikers a chance to take a glimpse into the ways of Balti culture.

    The heavy presence of Israeli hippies in Turtul gives it a bohemian vibe. It also has two small museums and tourists can hike up to some spectacular viewpoints such as the Turtuk monastery and the Turtuk waterfall.

  • Kargil: Once you are done exploring Leh and the Nubra and Shyok Valleys, it’s time to rev those bikes up and head towards Kargil. Ladakh’s second-biggest town, Kargil is not very far from the India – Pakistan border and is famous mostly for being the frontline for the 1999 Kargil War.

    However, Kargil has many things to offer for adventure lovers and the road to Kargil from Leh is an approximately 240 km long one that crosses two high-altitude passes and several quaint villages. As the road approaches Kargil, watch the primarily monastery and stupa-dominated landscape slowly change into a mosque-dominated one, as Kargil is predominantly Muslim, unlike Leh, which is predominantly Buddhist.

    While Kargil itself is a busy little town with congested markets, ride a little ahead and you would discover Ladakh’s greenest valley, Suru. Kargil is also the gateway to one of the world’s remotest regions; the Zanskar Valley.

  • Suru Valley: The Suru Valley is one of the most unexplored places in Ladakh. As it is the gateway to the Zanskar Valley, a place that is talked about much more, most people tend to ignore the beauty and adventure that Suru has in store on their bike trip to Ladakh.

    From a climate perspective, Suru is more humid than any other place in Ladakh, which gives it rain consistently during the monsoon season. As a result, no other place in Ladakh is as green as Suru. Most of the valley’s people live on agriculture and it is a real joy to see the people working with the earth, living in sustainable communities. The valley is dotted with towering mountains and the raging waters of the Suru River flow through it.

    As you go deeper into the valley, you will be presented with some immense views of two of the highest peaks in the region, Mount Nun and Mount Kun. The penultimate village of the valley, Parkachik, has a glacier right in front of it, and if you want, you can get off your bike and actually hike your way up to the glacier.

    The last village of the valley, Rangdum, is surrounded by tall mountains on all sides and at Rangdum, the cultural dimension changes once more, as Rangdum and the villages beyond in it in Zanskar are predominantly Buddhist.

  • Zanskar Valley: As you take your bike across the Penzi La pass, you cross over from the Suru Valley into the Zanskar Valley, one of the world’s most remote regions. After you cross the Penzi La, you will be treated to one of the most amazing glacier views from the road. Witness the DrungDrang glacier in all its glory and take a break here for capturing some memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

    The road to Padum, Zanskar’s headquarters, is a rather unforgiving one, but it is also unforgettable in many respects. From Padum, you can visit some of Zanskar’s iconic villages such as Karsha, Zangla, Kargyak, and Purne, all known for their remoteness and ancient monasteries.

    Zanskar is most popular for the Phugtal Gompa, which is a 2-3 hour hike from the village of Purne. There are camping options at Phugtal, which gives you the opportunity to spend some time here and explore the fascinating monastery that’s built right into the mountain.

Besides these valleys, Ladakh also has three iconic high-altitude lakes; Tso-Kar, Tso-moriri, and Pangong Tso. All in all, Ladakh is a huge place and if you are planning a Ladakh bike trip in 2020, make sure that you visit all the aforementioned places.