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Cycling Ladakh: the Himalayan Highway Road by bicycle

Cycling Ladakh is a unique experience. It's something that will change your life. You will be fascinated by the atmosphere, the views, the long and steep passes of this Himalayan Highway Road.


Ladakh by bicycle is a whole new experience!

Ladakh by bicycle was one of my strongest dreams. Now I am living in a dream. And the first words I hear are: “The first time in India? Did you do your spiritual exercises?”
The classy man flying next to me, despite all the recommendations, introduces me to this new world. “Yes, it's my first time in India!” Arriving directly in Srinagar, the starting point of our cycling Ladakh adventure, without touching the outside of Delhi's airport, is an educational experience right away. We don't have enough eyes to catch all these details, we don't have many noses to smell all the smells, or many ears to accept the sound of the hooters, the cries in the streets, the songs and the prayers rising from the minarets. Would you like to hear about the "no rules" rule of the traffics? It's crazy! We don't know whether to smile or cry... Together with the guy helping us with the first shopping experience on a Tuc Tuc, we accept everything in a good mood...

Welcome to Kashmir! We spend our first night in a typical and pleasant houseboat on Lake Dal, and the owners are Booking.com reviews hunters, trying to sell every service they can: from a boat ride to some local products...

Cycling Ladakh intro
On the small dock, we prepare our bicycles, waiting anxiously for tomorrow's start. Hot night, the loud fan doesn't help our sleep...

Cycling Ladakh Stage 1 | Srinagar - Ganger, Gagangir

Lunghezza 75 km |Dislivello 977 m |Tempo di tappa 5h 42 min |Notte a quota 2300 m

In the morning we load our bicycle on the small boat and we get back to the mainland. We're getting watched by curious looks. We start our journey cycling Ladakh, looking forward to the end of this highway next to the lake, to end in a less busy road... You can get used to the presence of military forces, a human chain of different ethnicities, which will end only at the borders with Ladakh. Once we reach the crossroad towards Sonamarg, instead of finding a quieter road, we end up in the middle of the busiest of traffics, bus, jeeps, crazy cars and trucks, ready to use the available meter to do an overtake. No rules! Our speed is very low, and we have to be very careful not to be run over by these crazy drivers. Despite all of this, the people look interested by what we're doing, and give us big smiles, to which we respond with joy because maybe we forgot what it means to meet this kind of free generosity on the road!
Ladakh by bicycle Sonamarg
The Himalayan highway road gradually starts climbing up, with a sweet gradient, but the traffic doesn't stop, so we proceed with caution, stopping often to let these drivers go, or to overtake one of the frequent obstructions. Unfortunately, this singular Himalayan welcome isn't over: some heavy rains make us stop and ask for a roof... So we meet the people from the valley and their curious habits. It looks like they've never seen anything like our bicycles: they look, they touch, they take selfies. This tendency isn't only ours! The rain isn't stopping, so we wear our waterproof clothes and look for a hotel: we'll reach Sonamarg in the morning, and this stage is 13 km shorter than the prediction... We spend the night in the lowest quality hotel in Ganger Gagangair, where we don't even think about a shower or taking a look at the pillow. It was a long time ago I slept in my sleeping bag, a pure joy!T1

Cycling Ladakh Stage 2 | Ganger, Gagangir - Drass

Lunghezza76 km |Dislivello1402 m |Tempo di tappa 6h 33 min |Notte a quota 3086 m

Despite the cloudy sky, there seems to be no rain to come, so we dive in the traffic towards Sonamarg. Affordable gradients and a good road, even if there are many interruptions for some work, lead us towards Ladakh (they're building a tunnel to reach it more easily). We cycle accompanied by the usual military forces, standing on the streets or on the rocks. These kashmers are strange: despite the globalized world, they seek independence, for a country that is so poor! But maybe it's better, for a western, not to express his opinion due to the wide differences in history and culture! Sonamarg is a very busy city, a touristic destination with many entertainment offers. We understand where all those packed buses were going to! And we didn't see Baltal yet: an entire valley covered in hotels and tents...Cycling Ladakh Jiojila PassLuckily the rain forced us to stop the previous day, so we didn't have to pick one ina million hotels. Near Baltal we cross the road we're going to face to Zojila Pass, 3529 meters high, for us the first of many tests. We obviously dislike easy things. So, why don't we pick a road which becomes a bed of mug, uphill, and at this altitude? Let's put some landslides to make it better, and an endless line of Tata (Indian military trucks), slowly moving! Now, try to breathe at this altitude, cycling a muddy road, and inhale the purest air while a Tata overtakes and rolls you up in black smoke! In a sunny day, the feelings would have been different... But we chose it. And the kid getting out of a tent didn't: the idea of living in those conditions makes me feel dizzy.
Getting down from the Pass, the road gets easier to be cycled and just before the border to Ladakh, it gets paved. The border police ask the travellers to stop and fill in two forms with a bunch of information: something strange is that these forms are almost identical. The road goes down and the first village for the night is. We end up in a same type of hotel, with (a sort of restaurant with direct access to the street, typical for this area), for a good dish of rice accompanied by beans and chickpeas soup, and same modality of sleep: in our own sleeping bag. Wi-Fi isn't available, so we use the hotspot provided by a kind man, to send our news back home. Ah, the shower? Like the previous night, we don't even consider it, and I don't want to examine the condition of the containers for the ablutions. 


Cycling Ladakh Stage 3 | Drass - Mulbekh

Lunghezza96 km |Dislivello1258 m |Tempo di tappa 6h 00 min |Notte a quota 3300 m

Today's stage of our Ladakh cycling trip shouldn't be hard. Kargil, the most important city in this area, is 60 km from here, at 2700 m., so the road ideally descents, except for the frequent little hills, which can be hardly climbed. Our speed stays low, the road goes up towards Mulbekh, the village we chose for the night, leading us again at 3300 m. The views in this last bit of the way become magnificent: green valleys, majestic mountains, and the sun make everything look better! We start realizing that we are on the Himalayas! Along the road and further, in the valleys, we start noticing some Gompas, the sacred buildings of Buddhism, which perfectly integrate with mosques. The traffic is now regular, the Tatas and the vehicle column of the military forces are a few. There are many bikers: it looks like they came from all around India! Cycling Ladakh T3 They say hello and, while overtaking, they put their thumbs up. Some of them ride next to us and ask questions. When we stop to take some pictures, some stop for a quick chat. They are astonished to see some bicycle travellers in these lands and they recognize the effort which characterizes them as well. Among the many questions, with a heavy Indian accent, "Where do you come from?" or "Why did you come here?". When some of them come to know we're from Italy, an Indian guy from Delhi stops with his number 46 cask, pretending a selfie with us. When we tell him we live not far from the city of Valentino Rossi himself, he goes crazy! At the entrance of Mulbekh, we stop at a guesthouse where on the rocks behind it there is a giant Buddha sculpted. Everyone who passes by gives a spin to the prayers round and the annexed bell accompanies us during the relax.T3

Cycling Ladakh Stage 4 | Mulbekh - Lamayuru

Lunghezza66 km |Dislivello1261 m |Tempo di tappa 5h 15 min |Notte a quota 3560 m

We leave early because we'll have to cross two Hors Catégorie Passes: the Namikala at 3700 m and the Fatula at 4100 m. It's a sunny day: will the sun transform in problem today? During the first kilometres, we meet some kids all dressed in a uniform walking to school. Here schools start in March and end in November, then I think everyone hibernates and waits for the thaw. There are many prayers rounds and Gompas: hearing at the same time the prayers from the muezzin and the bells procures a unique pleasure for the mutual respect they transmit. The road begins to climb, but it's not scary: the gradients stay still around 5-7% and getting higher isn't hard, just at the beginning, when you're out of breath...Cycling Ladakh T4We're fully loaded because we didn't know what o expect, cycling in Ladakh at these altitudes and with different climates, so we brought a tent, many clothes, sleeping bag... At the Namikala Pass, we stop for some pictures and then off we go downhill until the next climb. The alternation of down and uphill kills our legs, we really hope the real ascent arrives. While pedalling after a turn I notice a family having breakfast near some trees and I decide to reach them: I feel embarrassed but happy, in this situation where I can only communicate by smiling, they offer me something to eat, some biscuits and a soup, which I refuse despite my interest. Here we go, the second effort arrives: we check every meter our cyclo-computer until it indicates 13479 feet, so 4100 m.
The descent is on a disconnected road, but Lamayuru is getting closer. We decide to stop for the night instead of reaching the valley. The monastery built into the rocks deserves a visit. In its rooms, decorated with rugs and colourful walls, we can watch the moment of the mantra by the monks. This melody, so dense of low frequencies, carries us to a surreal dimension. Some kids serve tea and some novice, possibly because he cannot read the small booklet, starts texting on the smartphone: the power of the modernity. The hotel annexed to the monastery, managed by the monks, has a shower and clean linen (!) and has Wi-Fi. Usual moment of relaxing, with the prayers and the bells, which will sound during the night too, while the beautiful view of the yellow mountains in front of us makes us dream.T4

Cycling Ladakh Stage 5 | Lamayuru - Leh

Lunghezza117 km |Dislivello1720 m |Tempo di tappa 7h 13 min |Notte a quota 3580 m

In order to describe this stage, I'll start from the end. We knew it would have been hard, but we couldn't imagine it would be so exhausting. Despite the altitude, there are many factors today: the desert, the sun and the complete absence of wind. Arriving in Leh, with the last kilometres uphill, is a real challenge.Ladakh by bicycle T5This day started, from 3600 m in Lamayuru, with a fun descent, 20 km long until the valley at 3000 m. The breathtaking views and the rock formations keep changing and excite our eyes. Then, the valley starts climbing again, with the usual leg-breaking sprints, until the ascent gets regular and we can find a good rhythm. We climb this mountain up to 3600 m and the sun gets hotter and hotter. T5 a ladakh in biciAn Indian guy with an MTB too loaded, the only cyclist we met until now, can ride next to us, until a certain point, when he decides to grab an old Tata, to then stop in order to catch his breath. We find ourselves in front of the last mountain (3500 m) before the valley of the river Indus, where we'll be in Leh, the capital of Ladakh. T5 c ladakh in biciIt is a long and exhausting climb, with the last kilometres even harder, and the afternoon sun hotter. Fortunately, we get distracted by the magnetic hills, which invention seems to be attributed to the owner of a cafe. In front of it, there is a parking where the soil is apparently magnetic and the cars move on their own. The strange thing is that our bikes are attracted to it too! Once on the top, we start sighting like a real oasis in the desert the green valley where Leh lays. After the descent, we're very tired, and we face the last climb leading us to 3500 m. We spend the night in a welcoming and cosy guesthouse, far from the hornets, the cars, but also of the bells and the prayers rounds which we were getting used to.T5

Cycling Ladakh Stage 5A | Leh - Khardun La - Leh

Lunghezza74 km |Dislivello1720 m |Tempo di tappa 6h 41 min |Notte a quota 3580 m

At the travel agency, they told us: “See you tomorrow here at 9 AM. At 10.30 you will get your permission to go to Kardun La”. This was the deal with the agency owner. At 9 AM we're already there, with our passports to obtain the "visas" necessary to pass the military check-point at km 24 and continue the climb. It's our interest to be there on time to get the papers and leave right away... The owner arrives at 9.45 and reminds me that "we're in India", and being Italian, I understand and I don't protest.T5 Leh Kardun la d ladakh in biciWe get an appointment at 10.45 to get our "visas", but we cannot leave before midday. Meanwhile, the sky is clear and blue, clear and without a single cloud. The Khardun La, the pass connecting Nubra Valley to Leh Valley, is 5600 metres high and is proudly presented by the locals as the highest street pass of the world, and you can reach it from the capital of Ladakh after 38 km of ascent. T5 Leh Kardun la a ladakh in biciLeaving at 12 AM doesn't help, we're afraid of the heat... but the wind maybe will help. We suffer the heat only for the first 10 km, then the temperature drops... This will be a test to understand if the training and the acclimation are adequate to continue for the second part of the trip when we'll pass Tanglang at 5358 m. and we'll not get under 4600 of this upland, leading us to Lachung pass, at 5064 m.
So we cycle checking the equilibrium between respiration and frequency, trying to understand when and if we'll have problems of hypoxia. With our big surprise and a bit of proud, after the first km until the peak, we didn't show any sign of fatigue. T5 Leh Kardun la bOf course, 38 km is a long distance for a climb, but thanks to the sweet gradient (5-7%), you can easily climb with the bikes unloaded (we left the bags at the guesthouse in Leh). On our adventure cycling in Ladakh, the problems arrive at km 28, where the road stops being paved, is crossed by small water rivers, and keep the balance gets difficult. The duration of our ascent is in a total of 4 hours and 50 minutes, but after all the check-points and stops we spend 8 hours on the saddle. We're back in Leh after the sunset, but what a satisfaction!
PS: If climbing you see many MTB bicycles with bad regulated saddles, wearing flip flops or running shoes and weird clothes, don't fear your climb is worthless: many of them have been transported by car to the top, just for the descent!T5 Khardun La

Cycling Ladakh Stage 6 | Leh - Rumtse

Lunghezza80 km |Dislivello1113 m |Tempo di tappa 5h 13 min |Notte a quota 4200 m

Today we start the second part of the journey, the part leading us to Manali, through some deserted and solitary lands, where for the night we'll have to stop in campsites with unlikely possibilities to communicate on the web... As of today, a stranger isn't allowed to buy an Indian sim card (which could help using the 2GB per day), and the phone companies sell data as it was gold... These areas aren't covered by a strong signal and only for emergencies, we could use military satellite phones. Using a satellite phone, as many signs remind you along the road, is prohibited!T6 a ladakh in biciThe track looks challenging, physically and mentally. But we're here, and we cannot fear it! We leave Leh around midday after the visit to some places in the city, and we climb down to 3200 m in the valley. The feeling of being in an oasis in the desert is accentuated by the total absence of every kind of vegetation in the sand around us. It's curious that Leh is rarely covered in snow, but it is isolated by the impossibility to move on the Himalayan Highway Road Srinagar - Manali. The only way to get supplies is from the military airport.T6 g ladakh in bici
Like almost every desert, the temperature ranges from night to day are heavy, and today is no exception: our cyclo-computer shows peaks at 40°C. We suffer when the climb gets harder. Then we pass Thiksey Monastery, on the top of the mountain, dominating the valley, and further, we sight Stakna Monastery. Some km further there is Hemis, the biggest monastery in Ladakh, but we cannot see it, and today isn't ideal to climb the mountains to see it.
We are happy with visiting and sleeping in Lamayuru. Near Hemis and further, in Upshi, there are signs indicating Pangong Lake, which we know is beautiful, but to reach it by bicycle we would need three cycling days!T6 f ladakh in biciWe choose to follow the original plan towards Tanglang Pass, cycling in a canyon until Lato for almost 30 km. The landscape has changed, the brown mountains, even if without any sign of plants, are different from the yellow desert. The street climbs with the usual gradients and thanks to the fresh temperatures we reach Rumtse (4200 m), the last village with a covered repair for the night, before the campsites of the next days. No Wi-Fi in the Homestay which offers a "room with attached bathroom" (with shower!), and tonight as well we prefer our sleeping bags to the rugs with heavy blankets.T6

Cycling Ladakh Stage 7 | Rumtse - Pang

Lunghezza97 km |Dislivello1320 m |Tempo di tappa 7h 14 min |Notte a quota 4544 m

The lady at the Homestay which yesterday served us dinner and which has long brown hair, today welcomes us in a green and red uniform and tells us she's going to school. Yesterday she told us that from October to March they wait for the snow to melt. I asked myself how her life will change when she'll be at the University in Leh and will discover the web and social networks... T7 l ladakh in biciLet's get back to our trip: today we'll have to pass 5358 m, the Tanglang Pass. Despite we chose Rumtse as starting point, the ascent will last 31 kilometres. T7 g ladakh in biciThe sky is partially cloudy, and the landscapes aren't special today. We have to measure the efforts since we're fully loaded. Seeing the wings of a giant eagle above our heads carries away the effort. Four hours of focus to check the breath and a lot of commitment: this is our secret to reach today's pass. Let's be clear: we started training months ago, in our local mountains, near Pesaro. For all the Himalayan trip we take Diamox, the suggested diuretic not to suffer the dizziness caused by the altitude, which can be very dangerous in some cases.T7 Kiang ladakh in bici
Getting to the top is a satisfaction, thanks to the cheering “Giro d'Italia” style by the bystanders, clapping their hands, taking pictures and shouting “Bravo!”. A pleasant surprise awaits us for the descent: instead of a gravel road, this has just been paved! After the descent, the upland begins until the end of the trip. At every spin of our wheels, there's a new show: the valley is challenging, but its beauty enlightened by the sun is wonderful. So we proceed for at least 40 km, among shepherds' campsites and wild animals in the distance. It's a unique experience meeting a Kiang, a sort of small wild horse living in bunches in this valley: he tolerates a picture across the street. The last kilometres are hard, for the exhaustion and the strong wind which slows us. We see the descent leading to Pang, in which camp we will spend the night. Not before the sight of an amazing canyon with spectacular rock formations.T7

Cycling Ladakh Stage 8 | Pang - Sarchu

Lunghezza76 km |Dislivello1082 m |Tempo di tappa 6h 23 min |Notte a quota 4346 m

Pang is nothing more than a group of tents and walls with plates on it, hosting dormitories and restaurants. Obviously, in order to identify them as restaurants, you have to use a non-European evaluation scale, and if you are not able to adapt to these situations, you better not travel here. Pang, like all the other villages in this area, flourish in March and disappear in September, following the flow of tourists and commerce.T8 m ladakh in biciIn October the first snows force everyone to get back to the city, shepherds included. The Himalayan Highway Road from Sarchu towards Manali, despite it is the only connecting way, looks different than a road and probably it was paved until some years ago, but now you have to cycle on a rocky and gravel base, pushing your bikes to the limit, with a lot of patience and balance. For the first 7 km, you ride in unique scenery, with sandy and steep walls, where some vertical rocks emerge, reminding the city chimneys.T8 b ladakh in biciThen the ascent begins, with some hairpin turns on the canyon below. The road crosses the valley along the river Tsarap for 14 km. Today it looks like all the bikers, military trucks and the usual Tata had an appointment here, to vomit on us a lot of dust, making us two white riding spots. Lachung Pass is 5064 high, but we're used to it. After the descent, we enjoy a milk tea in the small tent campsite, to then go up again 4 km to the next pass, Nakeela (4738 m), where finally we meet the asphalt again and get 22 km down. We're actually drugged by the same setting repeating over and over, or maybe we're just worried about the heavy clouds coming above our heads. T8 h ladakh in biciWe don't have time to enjoy the earthy smell (like at home) of the rain, that we're in the middle of a storm with hail! We're in the plain of the river Tsarap, 20 km from Sarchu, chosen for the night. But during a rainstorm in this area the temperature can drop to 6°, so we're caught by it and we cannot wear our adequate clothes... if this happened at 5000 m, it would have been a "cold" descent. T8 l ladakh in biciThe forecast was promising some days ago, so we almost run from Leh. In Sarchu all the buildings are made of metal sheets: walls, roof and an external toilet. I'd like to describe the details... and I'll let you guess if the rice we'll have tonight will be followed by chickpeas, beans or lentils. All kidding apart, I have to admit I always enjoyed this food, like momos and chapati. The only thing I refuse to eat is some white-ish soups, clearly made by powder products.T8

Cycling Ladakh Stage 9 | Sarchu - Jispa

Lunghezza85 km |Dislivello830 m |Tempo di tappa 6h 28 min |Notte a quota 3400 m

The basmati rice is accompanied by vegetables, chapati and scrambled eggs, and is usually served with black tea. If the storm put us in difficulty arriving in Sarchu, the starry night without any form of light pollution is appealing. The owner of the local, a 22-year-old guy called Chamba, who lives in Chumikgyalsa near the river Bhaga, rents the rooms and cooks the food for the visitors. He's chatty and funny and tells us many interesting stories about these areas. He studied until he was 13 years old, to then helping his family in dairy products and rugs production. He hopes the Internet will arrive in this area, so he can use his smartphone.T9 d ladakh in bici
The following morning he gives us some dried yak cheese, which his mom brought him from home. Sarchu is the last village in Ladakh, after which we'll enter the Himachal Pradesh. We start cycling in a welcoming valley, surrounded by the usual majestic mountains. The paved road gives space to a hard gravel rocky road, just when the scent starts. We are so focused not to fell down the bikes, that we cannot enjoy the view. After 10 km we meet a small tent village, and the asphalt comes back until Baralachala Pass, at 4850m.
Sometimes we don't follow the rules and ride on the right side of the narrow road, in order to avoid the steep unprotected fall we would have to face in case of error. Then we have to ask some policemen blocking the road the permission to overtake a bulldozer cleaning the road from a giant rock that has fallen down on the road. Now we're scared: we have to check on the rocks above our heads! It's the first time we see snowy peaks and a glacier: it means we're out of the desert, and getting down, we start noticing the grass, and the green plants. Then we're welcomed to civilization by some electricity lines. We spend the night in Jispa, a touristic village which has many offers, from the restaurants to the sleeping facilities.T9

Cycling Ladakh Stage 10 | Jispa - Khoksar

Lunghezza66 km |Dislivello940 m |Tempo di tappa 4h 51 min |Notte a quota 3200 m

It's an easy stage this one, just passing the Rohtang pass, the last effort before the long descent to Manali. The cloudy and dark day doesn't give justice to the beauty of these lands, getting greener and greener. We slowly climb down towards the valley of the river Bhaga, even if sometimes there are some steep hills, offering a scary view on the canyon. Of course, there is not a single railing, like in the totality of this route. Another detail: to indicate danger there are no signs, but small mountains of rocks. After 30 km, near Tandi, at the end of the valley, we turn right and follow the river Chandra. T10 e ladakh in biciThe first kilometres are a bit scary for the presence of many rocks fallen from the mountains above... There are no signs of humans passing through, so we continue cautiously: one eye to the canyon and the other to the mountain above. A few km from Khoksar, over the river, we see the construction works for the tunnel to Manali. With this tunnel, the Rohtang pass will lose his charm of a tough road to reach Ladakh. It's loved by bikers and bicycle tourers, but I'm sure the life of these valleys will improve: they won't be exiled during winter. We're in Khoksar. Nothing special, just some homestays before the bridge, where we're staying before the last stage.T10

Cycling Ladakh Stage 11 | Khoksar - Manali

Lunghezza70 km |Dislivello852 m |Tempo di tappa 5h 07 min

Last stage, end of the trip. We still have to climb the last pass, Rothang. We have breakfast at DolmaLast, where the lady owning this Dhaba is curious and is clearly thirsty of information from us: in an improvised English, she tells her trip to reach the village with her husband. Three days of a bus from Kathmandu, because there's no work in Nepal and she came to India during the good season, leaving her son home. In her words we recognize a deep love for her land: Kathmandu is big and beautiful, has rich shops, supermarkets and a delightful climate.T11 c ladakh in bici Used to the idea that Indians came to Europe to seek a job, I understand this internal migratory movement. It's sunny, and I enjoy riding today. We have company: three wild dogs which we adopted, some Tata, touristic buses and trucks. Weare for sure tired by all this up and down, but this must be the toughest climb of all the journey, with gradients touching 9%. After 6 kilometres the road is impossible to ride on, and for 5 kilometres we fight against mud, gravel and rocks, jumping on some rocks and then sinking into the mud... Everything is overtaken with some stubbornness and training. We notice the clouds moving fast towards Manali: they're low, moved by a strong wind, and they move up. At the peak, at 3978 m we dive into the fog. We have to say goodbye to the dogs who followed us lately before taking the last descent where we have to use lights to see better!
The more we climb down, the more the vegetation gets luxuriant and green, it's like crossing a giant botanical garden! The Himalayan chain opens to the monsoons, bringing frequent rains. Never seen so many eagles! they allow us to film them, flying very low. We climb down 2000 metres for 50 km: it's my first descent so long! We'll have to check the brakes once home. We're finally in Manaly, and after a visit of the city, we'll have to worry about the transfer to Delhi and then, unfortunately, pack the bikes and get back to Italy, remembering forever this adventure on the Himalayan Ladakh by bicycle.


Useful Information for your Ladakh Cycling Trip

We cycled Ladakh almost 900 km in 11 stages, to which we have to add 74 km to climb Kardun Pass at 5600 m above sea level. The total elevation gain, counting this last climb, is 14.474 m. It's important data, considering the heights and the load on our bicycles.
We were forced (we forced ourselves) to carry a lot of clothes in case of bad weather and a tent in case we couldn't reach a village: our bicycles were very heavy. So at the end of a trip like this, you will feel tired. We have to add the ability to adapt to India. “First time in India? Did you do your spiritual exercises?”, well NOW I can understand these questions. A bicycle journey isn't easy and even after 1000 km through Jammu and Kashmir and the Himachal Pradesh you can appreciate it. The risk is to see only the flaws, so clear to the Western eyes...
If you look for comfort, it would be better not to face a trip like this, because except in Srinagar, Leh and Manali, where the standards are average, in other villages you won't meet what you expect, especially in the second part of the journey, where you won't have electricity or water, and where you'll have a list of drugs to carry for emergency. Even food requires a good amount of adaptation attitude and avoiding the spiciest dishes, you'll end up eating almost the same boring rice, vegetables and chapati. In the cities, you'll have restaurants from all over the world and street food, even if we suggest choosing cautiously. I personally didn't suffer from the typical traveller diarrhoea, drinking water from the bottles and avoiding fresh and not boiled vegetables.
Unfortunately, even the basis of the hygienic rules aren't respected, so you'll have to adapt quickly to the first time in India. The same goes for some beds, where linen and pillows won't help... so you'll have to carry your own sleeping bag. Hence, either you hate it or you choose to discover its culture and essence piece by piece, which a western traveller could miss at a first sight.
There's a picture, taken in Leh by the friend and colleague Emanuele, showing me walking in a street next to a cow, a small one, like a company dog. I think it could be a good recap for this trip, translating dense situations, sincere smiles, respect, meetings with all these cultures melted in one spot. It's a peaceful immersion in a new sensorial universe, full of images, strong sounds, smells, capable of stimulating future travel experiences and generate the need to understand the culture of this amazing country.


The preparation of this Ladakh cycling trip, with all the doubts and variables connected to the places, the climate, the culture and the logistics, has been long and demanding. We have to thank Sergio Borroni for the essential suggestions and advice, being a medic and a bicycle tourer himself; then Antonio Santinello, for the precious logistic advice; Urvashi Srivastara, guiding me from India the previous months towards the knowledge of his beautiful country; the doctors from the Vaccination Centre at the Hospital in Fano, for their availability and help; Green Bike in Fossombrone for the preparation of the bicycles and the technical materials; Emanuele Battistelli, friend and unreplaceable bicycle tourer.

What would we have changed in our adventure in Ladakh by bicycle?

In order to help anybody who'd like to choose a similar trip cycling in Ladakh, I'd like to make some suggestions to clear any kind of doubts which we had. These are some useful information in synthesis if you want to travel like us during the period 3-15 July:
  • Summer clothes + shorts, T-shirt and socks
  • Windbreaker, arm warmers, leg warmer, winter gloves, thermal T-shirt
  • Rain clothes
  • Bicycle shoes and covers
  • Tent: to consider for an emergency if you can't reach a place to stay for the night
  • Light sleeping bag, for personal hygiene in the tents
  • Drugs: antibiotics, anti-diarrhoea, anti-inflammatory, diuretic (Diamox), sun cream
  • Vaccines: hepatitis A/B, anti-typhus, anti-cholera, anti-tetanus
  • Passport with 6 months validity, online visa to be printed (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html)
  • Bicycle with Schwalbe Marathon Plus 32 tires. Gear: 28 front, 36 back
  • Powerbank, charger and adaptor for Indian sockets
  • Repair Kit and Multitool 

Did you know that cycling Ladakh is one of the world's premier mountain challenges for intrepid cyclists?

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Francesco G

ITA - Ho 33 anni e sono piemontese, anche se da qualche anno vivo e lavoro in Lombardia. Dopo un inizio da totale inesperto in questo campo, mi sono avvicinato al mondo dei cicloviaggi e della bicicletta sempre più. Oggi posso definirmi "cicloviaggiatore", e assieme all'altra mia passione - il videomaking - non mi fermerei mai! Cyclo ergo sum, pedalo quindi sono, per cercare di capire perché andare in bici sia così bello, terapeutico, ricco... E ogni volta che provo a capirlo, non ce la faccio, e sono costretto a ripartire sui pedali!

ENG - I'm from Piedmont and I'm 33 years old, I have been living and working in Lombardy for a few years. After a start without any competence in this field, I then approached the bicycle world more and more. Today I can call myself a bicycle traveller and videomaker who would never ever stop. Cyclo ergo sum, I cycle therefore I am. I ride my bike trying to understand why it is so beautiful, rich, therapeutic. And every time I try, I do not understand it. So I must leave again...

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