Delhi to Leh-Ladakh bike trip
20th to 28th September 2022
I finally started my road trip from Delhi to Leh–Ladakh after three years, since I first owned my bike (Harley Davidson Deluxe). Given my bike is a cruiser with low floor clearance, it was difficult to plan the ride from Delhi–Manali–Leh. For those who want to understand the relevance: Manali – Leh route is very scenic on one hand but very dangerous on the other. Not suitable for cruisers at all. Any bike having good ground clearance should be able to do it, still not comfortably though.
Planned route: Delhi – Ambala – Pathankot – Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh–Ladakh with night halt at Jammu, and Srinagar.
Day 1 – Delhi to Jammu
On 20th September morning, 5 riders on two Fatboys, one Heritage, one Street Rod and one Heritage Deluxe, met at the rally point at Dhaula Kuan (Delhi). Flag-off time was 5 AM. Somehow, we got a little late and flag-off was delayed by half an hour. Three more friends joined us by car, since they couldn’t travel by bike this time with us. One more rider on Street Bob was supposed to join us from Ludhiana via Chandigarh, as he started his ride from Shimla (HP).
We were six riders and three people in a car. We have followed the checklist to procure all the necessary items for this trip. The most awaited ride from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh began. It was a group ride and we followed group formation as mentioned here (except marshals due to the low number of riders). The car also acted like a support vehicle for us. A big thanks to my friend Sandy.
Checkout the video of Day 1 (Delhi to Leh-Ladakh):
We started from Dhaula Kuan to Mukarba Chowk and got on NH44. This highway is also known as AH1 (Asia Highway 1), it starts from Tokyo, Japan in East to Kapikule, Turkey in the west (wiki). This highway has so many historical cities on its way, like: Panipat where several famous battles of Mughal era took place, Kurukshetra where Mahabharat war happened. It’s a main highway connecting Delhi to Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, J&K, Ladakh and Haryana. Lot of tourists travel on this highway due to which there are many good eating points whether it is in Murthal (famous for Paranthas and white butter) or many famous Haveli restaurant chain. Overall, it’s a foodie highway to be precise :).
There is a famous restaurant, Neelkanth Star, near Karnal where we had our breakfast. Further we resumed to Ludhiana to catch up with our 6th rider, via Ambala. We took a small break at Harley Davidson showroom Ludhiana, got our bikes checked and got our travel HD passports stamped at the dealership. After having a cup of tea, we resumed the ride to Jammu. Near Jalandhar we left AH1 but continued on NH44 towards Pathankot. We had our lunch at Pathankot, there are many good restaurants, and eating joints. Our target was to reach Jammu by 5 PM, and so we did, got our HD passports stamped at Jammu Harley Davidson showroom, and checked in to our hotel. We covered a total of 627 Km on the first day.
Day 2 – Jammu to Srinagar
21st September, morning 5 AM. We started from Jammu to Srinagar via NH44. The route was Jammu – Udhampur – Ramban – Banihal – Srinagar total of 249 Km.
From Jammu till Udhampur roads are very good, it is mostly 4 lane highway. From Udhampur, there is a mountain road via Patnitop, which was the main highway earlier, but now an approximately 9 km long tunnel is made through the mountain, saving almost 2-3 hours of time. After crossing the tunnel, we came across a single lane and a lot of Army convoy traffic from Ramban to Banihal. It was too crowded and time taking, with traffic jams at several places. At most of the place roads are under construction and at some places there were landslides.
Overall, this small patch of road took us more than 2-3 hours to cross. Luckily, we had our breakfast at Ramban. After Banihal till Srinagar it’s a beautiful route. You will find security forces everywhere on the highway, they stop scattered traffic every few kilometers, put them together (like assembling them) and let go. They follow the same practice every few kilometers.
It was not a long riding day, but we still spent almost 7-8 hours on the road and finally reached Srinagar by lunch time. We had our lunch at the hotel and after a quick rest moved to the Dal Lake Shikara ride. It was a sunny day; we experienced the beautiful sunset from Shikara.
Checkout the video of the tunnel:
Day 3 – Srinagar to Leh
22nd September, morning 5 AM. All bikes were ready with our luggage, and we started from Srinagar to Leh via Dras and Kargil. It was dark at 5 AM, we crossed Srinagar city without any hassle. Guys, please take care of unwanted toll operators at different places in this area, they stop your vehicles and demand toll taxes as per their wish. Most of the places two wheelers are not supposed to be charged. Please mark this advice: pay the charges only if they are able to provide you with the receipt. No receipt no payment.
Since this whole route is managed by the security forces of India, they stop your vehicles and note down your contact information, sometimes they also check the permit to enter Leh.
Overall, it’s a complete scenic route passing through Sonamarg – Zojila pass – Kargil war memorial, Dras – Kargil – Fotu La Top – Gurudwara Pathar Sahib.
Zojila pass is a little difficult as the road is made out of bricks. Your vehicle’s suspension is tested here. It was September, still it was very cold at Zojila. We had to take a break for tea and Maggie to absorb some needed warmth. Next stop was Kargil war memorial, best stop ever. We thanked our soldiers for their service to the nation and remembered the martyrs of Kargil war. Got some clicks and bought a few mementos.
We resumed our journey and got a tankful at Kargil, crossed the city via Kargil bypass, and had our lunch. Crossed the mighty mountains of Fotu la Top and entered the most scenic road I have ever witnessed. We took a stopover at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib and reached our hotel at Leh by 6 PM. Total distance covered 416 Km. Beautiful roads with dusty mountains and their peaks covered in snow, amazing blue sky. Sometimes it felt like nothingness of the world’s problem in that region.
Check out the amazing video of Ladakh region (Delhi to Leh-Ladakh ride day 3)
Day 4 – Leh to Pangong lake
23rd September, our plan was to visit Pangong Lake which is approximately 200 Km from Our hotel in Leh. I could only join the ride till 70 kms and had to come back to the hotel with one of the riders as rear Tyre of my bike worn out. Other riders continued their journey to Pangong Lake and spent overnight there. The next day they came back via Nubra valley and Khardung la pass. Me and my friend missed this visit. But we heard a lot of exciting things about this journey from others. As we missed this beautiful route therefore, we are planning to do it in the summer of 2023.
For the return journey back to Delhi, I have got a new rear Tyre airlifted from Chandigarh Harley showroom. It reached me the next day and I got it changed in time, all set for the return journey. But my friend who returned with me got unlucky, as his bike’s fuel pump got some issues, it seems while re-fueling the tank manually on the way to Pangong, it was mixed with some impurities. We had to order RSA for his bike, which came 3 days later, and dropped the bike to Chandigarh Harley service centre. Because RSA came after 3 days, and we had to leave before that, therefore we had to park his bike at the hotel, who took care of all the RSA formalities on our behalf. We are thankful to the hotel staff.
Day 5 – 6
Day 5 and 6 were the rest days. Me and my friend hired a taxi to visit Khardung La pass at least, but we got unlucky again, the weather was harsh that day, it was continuously drizzling, and, on the pass, it was snowing. Due to the harsh weather vehicles were unable to reach the top. We had to call off our program.
We anyhow visited the Shanti Stupa which was within walking distance from our hotel and then later went to Outback festival 2022 at Stok village. Spent some time there, came back and visited Leh city main market. Leh is a very well-maintained and clean city, with a lot of places to visit. It is home to many popular Monasteries. For sure you will not get bored here. Just take care of weather conditions and get acclimatized before you go out.
Day 7 – 8 – 9
We rode from Leh to Srinagar on 26th September. Stayed at Srinagar overnight and left for Jalandhar on 27th morning. Now this was an interesting day. As I have mentioned earlier about the landslide near Ramban, till our return journey it went very badly. Due to this continuous landslide, there was a traffic jam of more than 20 Kms. Most horrible jam I have ever seen. It was a completely hilly road without any alternative route. Single road, all vehicles were lined up on one side of the road, and there was very little oncoming traffic, as at the site of landslide both ways were blocked.
We were on two wheelers, so we crossed the traffic jam from the right side of the road easily. But the car with us got stuck, it was not wise to drive on the right side of the road, because still there was some local oncoming traffic. Once we reached the landslide site, we had to wait there for the road to be cleaned up. But the landslide was still happening with smaller rocks and dust. After the clean-up we somehow crossed the site. But the car was still stuck. It took them more than 8 hours to get out of that Jam.
This time we tried to by-pass Jammu city and took left from Udhampur towards Pathankot. It was a bad decision; the route was shorter but filled with speed breakers and a lot of potholes. One of the bike’s shockers got damaged. It was such a bad road. Please don’t take this road till you have confirmation that the potholes are fixed.
We reached Jalandhar by 5 PM, the car reached there at 11:30 PM. We stayed there overnight and the next day we left for Delhi.
Delhi to Leh-Ladakh concluded:
It was nine days of complete adventure. Lot of memories were made. Fortunate and unfortunate events happened to most of us. My dream of riding from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh was fulfilled. I have learned so much from this trip, 4 bikes out of 6 had some issues. I got the Tyre airlifted (a completely new experience), 2 bikes needed RSA to be delivered to the service centre back to our place. One bike with damaged shockers was still able to reach Delhi on its own. Hot- rainy – chilly weather all in all. What else do you need from the ride, when everyone reaches back safely with so many wonderful memories?
From Leh to Pangong – Nubra valley – Khardung La pass, this route doesn’t have a petrol pump (or maybe there is one, but it is still out of petrol most often). Locals on this route sell petrol in water bottles at higher rates. Still, I would suggest riders to take care of it themselves. Just buy some cans of petrol, fill them and fix it with your luggage. It will always help you or your fellow rider in case of emergency.
The whole Ladakh region is mostly an army area. You will find a lot of army convoys on your way, and so many barracks. This region is mostly a cold desert. Very few trees. You may easily get bad throat due to fuel exhaust. I caught it too for 3 days. Cover your nose, breathe fresh air and enjoy the trip. Experience of Delhi to Leh-Ladakh ride is once in a lifetime.
Hotels we have stayed in:
Lords Inn (Jammu)
Royal Heritage (Srinagar)
Sipa Ladakh (Leh)
Pangong Willow (Pangong)
Best Western Plus (Jalandhar)