Come summers and the one sound that resonates on the Manali-Leh road is the zooming of bikes. Not without reason; these are the few months that you can make the momentous journey to Leh on your bike, while the roads are still open.
Here is all that you need to know to not just take that 475 Km odd journey from Manali to Leh but also to make it memorable.
The Manali-Leh road is typically open from June to Mid October. If you want to witness snow on the passes and enjoy the cold weather, you could consider setting out in June. Come July-August the chance of seeing snow reduces, although on the brighter side, the temperature becomes far more bearable.
However it is best to enquire about the road conditions closer to your planned timing, as road conditions differ from year to year.
As far as the plan to cruise this highway goes, it is best to make a leisurely trip, at least the first time around. In fact if time is a constraint, it may work better to make the journey to Delhi by train and then start the ride from Delhi, instead of biking all the way from your city to Leh. This plan will allow you to make the most of the time that you have, enjoying the mountains rather than spending some of your precious days driving in the plains. There, however, should be no compromise on the one-day acclimatization that is much needed in Manali, before you start the journey. This is also the time to double-check your bike to ensure that everything is in order for the trip.
It is best to begin the trip early in the morning, hence the previous night is the time to tank up on fuel, check air pressure and more!
The Manali-Leh highway is a mix of high-altitude passes, bad roads, landslides and more. Not to mention the fact that there is acute AMS to contend with. There is no way, therefore, that you could consider it like a regular 475 Km journey and hope to cruise it in a day.
52 kms from Manali and you reach Rohtang Pass. Thereafter, it is a descent into Chandra Valley through Khoksar and then into Tandi.
Pro Tip- Tandi has the only petrol pump on this road so tanking up, is an absolute must-do! You should even carry some extra fuel with you.
First Night Halt
You could take your pick from Jispa, Keylong or Darcha when it comes to spending the night. Located approximately 35 Kms from each other after Tandi, they offer different facilities for different sensibilities. If you prefer a luxury hotel, Jispa, it is. Keylong has regular hotels, while Darcha is for those who prefer to live in tents.
Second Night Halt
120 Kms of breathtaking landscape from Darcha will lead you to Sarchu, an ideal stop for the second night. The journey to Sarchu is momentous to say the least. You need to cross the Baralacha-La Pass at a height of 16,500 feet. Enroute to Sarchu you are also likely to encounter streams flowing untamed on the road which makes biking difficult.
If you are up to crossing two more high altitude passes, Lachlung-La and Naki-La, you can also consider staying at Pang, else Sarchu with its tented accommodation is a favourite with travellers. Post Sarchu the worst part of your ride is over! Once you cross Pang there is a well tarred road which leads to the climb to Tanglang-La, the second highest motorable pass. Post the descent you are ready to greeted by a relatively straight road to Leh- your DREAM DESTINATION!
Tips to remember while biking from Manali to Leh:
- Remember to take a day’s halt at Manali before beginning your trip
- Take a leisurely ride that enables you to both enjoy the landscape and deal with AMS
- Do not forget to tank up at Tandi.
- Carry all essentials so that nothing comes between you and a memorable trip.Among other things, keep your rain gear handy for those times that you can experience rainfall on the way. You can get a handy checklist of things to carry here.
- Keep yourself hydrated and remember to carry your AMS medication. Taking short breaks if you are suffering from AMS, is prudent.
- Do not over speed or try crossing high altitude passes late in the evening
Here’s hoping you enjoy your journey as much as the destination! Bon Voyage!