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LADAKH ROAD TRIP- Adventure Travel in India



Adventure Travel is the calling of new age travel enthusiasts. The first thing that comes to mind is a thrilling road trip expedition.

Almost every youngster desires to go on a Road Trip, be it in a car or on a motorcycle, and preferably with their closest friends. Many make it their goal to go on at least one such journey; either before they graduate or before they get married. In India, these adrenaline junkies have several options to choose from, but a few specific regions make their eyes sparkle, these regions are Spiti Valley, Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) and the infamous Leh – Ladakh.These days the phrase ‘road trip to Ladakh’ can be heard so often, it might have lost its charm and gusto, although the place itself continues to astound travelers from across the globe. This blogpost will revolve around the idea of planning a road expedition to the high mountains, the actual appeal that attracts adventure travelers, few travel tips and a lot of information!


Why does ‘Ladakh Road Trip’ have so much hype?

In India, the most exuberant and exotic but equally adventurous and challenging destination is the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir. Ladakh is second to none in this niche of tourism. In fact, while writing this post, I feel rather monotonous because everyone interested in travelling to this region does their homework properly.
High mountain passes, treacherous roads and rugged terrain pump a traveller full of adrenaline so he can go all out! People from across the world visit India just to experience the rush while traversing the narrow snow-covered roads and waist-deep water crossings. The entire stretch of about 895 km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir via Leh as well as the neighbouring Nubra Valley and the scenic lakes (Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri) is where all the road trip plans come to fruition.

This bewitching lake -Pangong Tso, justifies all the hype for a Ladakh Road Trip

Why tour the region by road?

Well, there are NO other options! Seems rather disconcerting right? No need to fret because despite the insurmountable beauty of destinations, the journey is the most appeasing aspect of the trip. Some people prefer flying to Leh and then proceeding with the road trip to neighbouring locations but, and I say this from personal experience, that is quite dull.
Instead arriving in Leh from Manali or Srinagar after overcoming multiple hardships en route means you have achieved your long standing travel goal. Read an article written on the cool website 'Thrillophilia' on Renting a Bike for a Ladakh Road Trip.

*BACKPACKER TIP*

If you’re a backpacker like me and on a country or world tour, I assume you would want to save as much money as you can. So if a bike ride to Ladakh doesn’t appeal to you and you’re stuck choosing between renting a car or booking a flight, here’s what I’d like to suggest you do one of two things.
§       Head to Srinagar and ask around for shared taxis from Srinagar to Leh which should cost you around INR 2000-2500 at the most (this is per person cost as you will be sharing the vehicle). Think of it as Uber Pool from Srinagar to Leh! This is much cheaper than the flight and renting a car just for you will probably devour a chunk of your bank balance. CAUTION! This will be a non-stop 18-20 hour journey covering a distance of ~450 km with limited breaks.
OR
§      Three buses run between Srinagar and Leh. They’re categorized as Luxury, Deluxe and Semi-deluxe. The bus fare is around INR 1300 for luxury, INR 950 for deluxe and INR 750 for the semi-deluxe bus. This will be a 2-day journey with an overnight halt at Kargil.

Every place in Ladakh offers a unique & astonishing panoramic view of nature. 


Manali to Leh- Reality kicks in

The “true adventure” part in any road trip to Ladakh comes to life on the Manali-Leh highway. The Srinagar-Leh highway has its beauty, but this one offers a much more enthralling experience. Nature awaits a traveller on this route to challenge each and every aspect of their life; tumultuous situations, panic, harsh and extreme weather, control over themselves and their vehicle. If the rugged roads aren’t a challenge enough to make you think twice before venturing on this road, then you will definitely get the euphoric feeling you desire.
The 5 colossal mountain passes: Rohtang La (3978 m) being the lowest, Baralacha La, Nakee La, Lachulung La and Tanglang La (5328 m) being the highest are like moderators who conduct extensive tests on you before granting you entry into the city of Leh and the paradise that is Ladakh.. I have seen highly skilled and experienced drivers as well as bike riders get intimidated and flustered on these roads. Riding through the wide-spread More Plains was really tempting for me because it was the first straight and properly paved patch of road since we had left Manali. But, exceeding 65-70 kph in this region can be an unnecessary and potentially fatal risk. If you are a bike rider planning a bike ride to Ladakh, make sure you read my blog on 5 Essential Bike Riding tips before you leave for your trip.
Furthermore, the continually varying altitude takes a massive toll on every traveller although, some acclimate rapidly without being affected as compared to others. I fall in the former category but many of my fellow riders weren’t as lucky and experienced severe medical distress (headaches/nausea/vomiting/dizziness/vertigo) due to Altitude sickness.

*EXCITING TIP FOR BUDGET TRAVEL*

If you want to experience something even more adventurous yet comparatively inexpensive, you should definitely try taking the local bus from Manali to Leh instead of a car or motorbike. It is a two day journey with an overnight halt at Keylong (a town en route). Beware, it will not be a luxury vehicle with plush seats and air-suspension to absorb the jerks as the bus traverses river crossings and rugged terrain. It is run by the Himachal Pradesh Government so it’ll be an ordinary bus. The bus fare is ~INR 2700 and includes your accommodation in a tent in Keylong as well as dinner, breakfast and tea. Check out the official website of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) for further details.

Nubra Valley or rather The Silk Route

The Silk route that you studied about in school (OK. Heard about. LOL!) Isn’t just a myth, it actually exists and passes right through the Nubra Valley in Ladakh. To get here, one has to traverse the infamous gargantuan Khardung La. Every traveller plans his entire Ladakh road trip with Khardung La pass as the foundation. While approaching the top of the pass from Leh, the elevation almost increases at a stupefying 55 metres per kilometre.
To add to this adversity, nature introduces obstacles like black ice, waist-deep water crossings, knee-deep mud and the sun shining at its full intensity. Even though it was quite easy for me, riding a bike while your feet are freezing due to the fresh ice-cold water in your shoes is terribly cumbersome and annoying.

This tiny package of happiness and energy was roaming in the fields in Turtuk, Nubra Valley.
The people of Ladakh are kind and polite. Playing tag with this sweet little girl in the fields was exciting!


What is Nubra Valley famous for? These majestic beings right here.


The rider “brotherhood” and unexpected display of camaraderie

Know one thing, even if you are riding solo to Ladakh, you are never alone. No matter the situation, a flat tyre or leaking oil, a worn off brake pad or just exhaustion from riding, even partying together after a long day of treacherous terrain, fellow bike riders you meet on the road will happily join you and turn you into one of them. Here, nationality, colour, race and religion everything is superficial. The only thing that matters to anyone is the journey and the experience of manoeuvring a bike up in the mountains.

What’s the best season to experience Ladakh by road?

Last week of May till last week of September or mid-October

How’s the weather?

Pleasant. Sunny and warm during the day; calm and cool at night

What’s the accommodation scene?

The best experience is to stay in Home-stays; they are available in abundance. Backpacker’s hostels offer beds in their dorms. The “proper” hotels are another but quite boring option

Please tell me they have Wi-Fi up there!

YES. Almost all homestays, hotels, restaurants and cafes have Wi-Fi but the connectivity keeps fluctuating continuously

Can I use mobile internet or at least make calls?

Similar to Wi-Fi, mobile data connectivity isn’t dependable. For calling, only post-paid (billing) SIM cards, preferably those of Airtel or BSNL network function in Ladakh. Use an unlocked mobile phone with the SIM card installed

How do I climb up to Ladakh?

1.             You can start from Delhi and climb up via Chandigarh, Manali, Keylong, and Sarchu till Leh

2.            You can depart from Delhi and ride through Srinagar, Sonamarg, Drass and Kargil till Leh

Must-visit locations

Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Nubra Valley- Diskit, Hemis Monastery, observatory at Hanle, Shanti Stupa and Thiksey Monastery

Riding Difficulty

Depending on the weather, moderate to extreme


Riding through the mountains of Ladakh with people as crazy as me was fun!


Bonding with your Home-stay hosts and other guests over riding experiences, camping in tents, falling off the bike due to black ice, star gazing at the Milky Way at night by the Pangong Lake, playing with the ecstatic marmots, travelling on the actual ancient Silk Route and meeting the rare double-humped Bactrian camels of Nubra valley; all this is the gist of a visit to Ladakh.


How was your Road Trip to Ladakh and how memorable was it?

Comments

  1. Fantastic post. I loved it. Traveling is always fun. It is a great experience. I love traveling by road. Traveling to Ladakh by road would be adventurous. but it will give a lot of memories. I love traveling. And I love travel blogs. It is always a pleasure to visit this Site. Keep it up the work. And keep sharing more blogs like this. Thanks for sharing this one.
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    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for your feedback. I apologise for the immense delay in this reply as well as the inconsistency in posting new articles but I highly appreciate your kind kind words.
    Happy travels Fermin! If you ever plan on visiting Ladakh, just let me know on my social media and I'll try to help you out with basic logistics.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I appreciate your work because i enjoyed reading alot. keep up the good work. Will look forward for more such informative blogs ladakh trip

    ReplyDelete

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