Dear rider, Are you looking for a rewarding and unforgettable bike trip on your next expedition?
Then you shouldn't miss this article written with the utmost desire to help you all adventure freaks. When you talk about a road trip on your bike, Manali-Leh Highway is truly your gateway to the Himalayas.
With enchanting snow-capped mountains, rugged terrains, daunting roads, and unpredictable weather, this highway is the mecca for bikers.
The road from Manali-Leh which is open for only 4 and a half months in a year during summer has always been the most anticipated biking experience of the year for riders. That is why it's a once in a year opportunity.
Your driving skills must be excellent because this road is not like your everyday commute to work. Also, there are many things to consider before leaving for this highway.
After listening to hundreds of queries from riders, there is one question which everyone has a hard time with and that is, “how do I plan a bike trip to Manali-Leh Highway?”
So, we at BackPackClan thought of bringing a comprehensive guide so that you get to know everything about this famous highway. Read ahead and plan your next Bike trip on the Manali-Leh road.
1. Know the Route - Route Details of Manali-Leh Highway:
With an overall distance of 490 km and an average elevation of 4,000 m (13,000 feet), the Manali-Leh Highway is one of the highest motorable roads in India. After remaining cut off from India for about 8 months, this highway opens its way only during the month of May-June.
Crossing over 5 major high altitude passes of both J&K and Himachal Pradesh, this highway is not a one day ride. An average rider will normally take about 2 days to complete the journey. So, you need to be well prepared for any crisis in the middle of the route.
If you want to know more about the route in detail then you should read further. We have laid down some extensive information about the route and what you can expect during the journey around this route.
First let's know about the Routes, its distances and the conditions you can expect from the route.
● Manali – Marhi – Rohtang Pass [52 Kms]
This route has been one of the most daunting roads to travel due to the grandeur of the mighty Rohtang La. Rohtang actually means "pile of corpses", due to people dying frequently in the olden days because of bad roads. Although don't get scared because the roads are much better today.
There may be some rough patches at the top of Rohtang La but the route is smooth overall. Also, you can stop at Dhabas at Marhi or at the top of Rohtang which are open during summers from June.
However, if you are thinking of self-driving, you need to know that you will require a permit to climb the Rohtang Pass, either from Manali SDM office or online. Also, start your journey early morning to avoid the traffic from Taxis and Trucks which can really annoy you in the journey.
● Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Kokhsar [19 Kms]
This route has some decent roads for your bikes and not of much trouble as well. The first village you will come across after Rohtang La will be Kokshar.
Here you need to get yourself registered at the check-post and also if you are a foreign national, you need to show valid passports and Visas to the officials.
You can also find many eateries and guest houses around Kokshar where you can have refreshments or even stay for the night if you like. From Kokshar, you are now headed to the Spiti Valley.
● Kokhsar- Sissu – Tandi [38 Kms]
This route which runs along the elegant Chandra river has some of the brilliant roads to ride on. Also, this will be your last checkpoint to refuel your Tank until you reach Leh. So make sure you fill up your tank as soon as you reach Tandi.
● Tandi – Keylong [9 Kms]
Traveling side by side to the Bhaga river and the famous Khardhang Monastery at Keylong are some of the major attraction in this route. Also, this will be the final checkpoint where you will get a mechanic, so get your machine properly checked and repaired.
Mobile Signals are rare from this point, so make all important calls if you have to at this point.
● Keylong – Jispa [22 Kms]
Jispa is a beautiful village with amazing scenery all around it. You should consider halting the night here because you won't find any accommodation facilities until you reach Sarchu. You can find decent accommodation facilities here because tourists frequently stay here when they travel through this route.
So, this has become a favorite for everybody as this is the final checkpoint where you get basic amenities and facilities. You can also find a mechanic here.
● Jispa – Darcha [6 Kms]
Tourists have to register themselves here, before moving forward on their journey. Roads are decent here with mixed off-road and paved road.
● Darcha- Zingzingbar – Baralacha La – Bharatpur – Sarchu [84 Kms]
From Darcha the road goes all uphill to an elevation of about 14000 ft above the sea level. After Darcha, you will get the chance to see the famous Deepak Tall which is a beautiful Lake. You can halt there and enjoy the scenery and also you will have facilities to eat and refresh along the lake.
After Deepak tall, it's a steady climb to the great Barcha La Pass from here which is 16500 ft above the sea level. It is covered in snow throughout the year so take warm clothes to sustain the cold.
The famous Bhaga River and the Chandra river originate from the melting of the snow from opposite sides of the Barchala pass. You might get hit by Acute Mountain Sickness at this height of elevation, so take care of that.
Sarchu is a military base and has a police check post. Register at the police check post here.
● Sarchu - Pang [80 Kms]
From Sarchu it's a route which climbs 500 m through the Gata loops (22 hairpin bends) at 4,190 m (13,750 ft) elevation and traversing through Nakee La pass at 4,739 m (15,547 ft) and Lachulung La pass at 5,065 m (16,616 ft) elevations.
Make sure to register at the police check post here because Himachal Pradesh ends here and Ladakh Region of Jammu & Kashmir starts. Also, don't dare to stop at Gata Loops because it has a bad history Ghosts creating Chaos out there.
You may not believe but that place is somewhat haunted though.
● Pang –Tanglang La – Upshi [125 Kms]
This route is one of the favorite routes for any avid rider because of the beautiful plateau called the Moore Plains. It's a plain valley which spans on a length of about 35 kilometers. You will be shocked to see this kind of land formation out of nowhere. This is truly magical.
After the Moore plains, it's a steady climb towards the final pass and one of the highest motorable roads in the world which is the Tanglang La. The roads uphill and also downhill are not so good, so drive attentively on this treacherous road.
Due to its elevation, you may start feeling sick but it will go away as you descend down the road. Take care of yourself when you get mountain sickness in this elevation. It will only stay for a while.
Roads are brilliant as you are about to reach Upshi.
● Upshi – Karu – Leh [55 Kms]
After crossing Indus river, the highway is on the right bank (north) of the river from Upshi to Leh. Roads are brilliant in this route and you won't face any problem from now. Halt at Upshi for some refreshment as its just an hour drive to Leh from here.
Now, you know about the route and most of your doubts are already cleared. However, there are some more things to know while planning your Bike trip to Manali-Leh Road.
2. Best Time to Travel on Manali - Leh Highway:
Roads to this highway open when the two big passes, Rohtang La and Barchala Pass open up for the Season. Only when these two passes are open you can travel through this Highway. Rohtang La Opens up around may and Barchala at the beginning of June.
So, the best time to go on a bike trip on Manali-Leh Highway would be around June - September. To know the best time you need to know the road conditions first, right?.
● Road Conditions in June-July
Roads from Manali to Leh have just opened up during this time and snow also starts melting. BRO (Border Roads Organisation) who maintains the roads start clearing up the roads. However, June-July is not the best time to travel because of the massive tourist influx in Manali and also because of the huge piles of snow on the road won't let you complete your journey.
Also, you can expect heavy rains during this season because of monsoon hitting the region. Frequent landslides and roadblocks will be evident during these times which will get you stranded on your journey.
So, This is not the right season or time to take your bike and start this daunting expedition.
● So, what is the best time to go then?
Although we may say July - August is the best time to go on a bike trip to Manali-Leh Road, there are some important things you need to consider as well. As monsoon is going on around this time, heavy rains and landslides frequently occur along the road.
During these times ice starts melting and falling down the road. This creates small rivers or water crossings across the road, which can be a challenge to cross if your vehicle has low clearance on them.
It will be impossible to cross after lunch because the sun is at its peak and rivers get really big and rapid. So, to avoid this challenge, you should ask the locals beforehand about the Nalas at different points and cross them as early in the morning as you can.
Recently one of the most challenging water crossings has been in Zing zing Bar which has caused a lot of problems for the commuters. Also en route Rohtang to Sissu, you will have to cross a water crossing like in ZingZing Bar.
Your driving skills must be par with the kind of road you will be facing. Also, you will also find slush along the roads to Barchla Pass, so be attentive of the road because that could cause a major accident.
So, our only advice would be to cross these sections early morning when it is cold and the snow has not melted yet.
3. Facilities & other Amenities on Manali-Leh Highway:
Due to its treacherous nature and uncertain weather, there is no way you could complete this journey in a day with a non-stop Plan. This will be one of the most challenging routes you have ever taken in your life.
So, if you want to complete it in the best way possible, you have to halt for refreshments, sightseeing and stay a night in the middle because you will hardly find Hotels and restaurants in this highway.
For the night halt, we would recommend you stay at Jispa or Keylong, whichever suits you. You will also find lodges at different points like Kokshar, Sissu, Darcha, Bharatpur, Sarchu, Pang, Rumtse and Upshi.
For Eateries, you will find fantastic dhabas at Marhi, Rohtang, Zingzing bar, Whisky Nala, Debring and the best at Deepak Taal. Make sure you keep your self filled because due to high elevation sickness is inevitable for some.
● Other Amenities:
Other Amenities like the Mechanics are available at Kokshar, Tandi, Keylong, Darcha, Sarchu, Pang & Upshi. So, make sure you get your vehicle checked and fixed at these points.
Also, Petrol Pumps are not widely available on this highway. So, halt and get your tank filled as well. You will find fuel at Tandi, Karu, Dhabas at Sarchu may provide and at Pang.
ATM's is available at only three places which are, Manali, Keylong, and Leh.
It would be best if you could get a Post Paid Connection from BSNL because other connections don't work out here.
You will find medical facilities at Sissu, Keylong, Sarchu, and Pang has army camps so they can provide you with medical facilities also.
4. Things to Consider before leaving:
Before Leaving for this daunting ride to the Himalayas, you must consider some things which are very important and you should know them before embarking on this journey. We have laid some of them and you must not ignore them.
● Clothes for the journey:
Although most might ignore this and just say that we will take warm clothes then you are mistaken. You must know the type of clothes you will need on this highway. Just don't go out packing tons of Woolen clothes and fill your bags. Rather you should carry plenty of cotton clothes, a few light woolen, and thick inners.
Also, carry a windproof jacket because the cold winds are going to hit your bones and flesh where the pain is unbearable. Also, carry some woolen socks and gloves. You must maintain layers of clothes at all times which balances your body temperature.
● Carry Your Important Documents:
Important documents like your Aadhaar Card, Driver's license, Voter Id or Passport because you have to register at different checkpoints and they will ask for your identity proof. Also, one important thing that you will need a permit to cross Rohtang La if you are not from Himachal Pradesh.
Get that Permit from Manali ADM Office or online.
● Avoid consumption of substances:
Consuming Substances like Alcohol, Tobacco or any kind of illicit drug can be harmful to your health in this kind of elevation where oxygen is very much limited and you are not yet adapted to the climate.
Although you can carry medicines to cure Acute Mountain Sickness because this will be a major issue for you if you haven't acclimatized with the atmosphere.
● Keep yourself filled and hydrated:
At all times you must not starve yourself because you will require an immense amount of energy to hold the climate and the elevation. So, if your body is not filled with good food, then that weakness will make you sicker.
Also, staying hydrated is major when you are traveling on this highway. If you can, carry a flask carrying warm water with yourself and get it filled at every dhaba or ask locals to provide some. They would be happy to help you.
Some of you may have gotten scared of how treacherous this highway is but we know that real adventure freaks don't care about it. They have this hunger to conquer their fear and themselves at a whole another level.
We at BackPackClan have always appreciated this kind of passion and wanted to serve you like no other out there. We are soon taking this daunting ride to the Himalayas with our crew and lots of other riders like you.
We take care of all the equipment, repair, necessary help and accommodation along the journey. We got your back throughout the journey if you want to travel with us. Our riders can't get enough of us, some of them join us on every expedition we take on.
We have a great sense of community and assistance to all those backpackers who want to go on this expedition but are not able to take that one step in the beginning. So, we started this community to elevate the travelling experience for all the backpacking enthusiasts.
So, pack your bags and join us on our next expedition!.