This post is the first one in a series of articles detailing my first bike trip to Ladakh. The trip happened at a time where Ladakh was yet to become the hot favorite tourist destination that it is today. On the first three days of the trip, we traveled from Delhi to Jispa with breaks at Sundernagar and Manali for nights.
The trip lasted for a total of 14 days and I will be talking about them all in the coming articles. It was a great trip and a fun adventure that in many ways altered my entire life. It sparked a passion for traveling, motorcycles, photography, blogging, and writing and I had never been the same person since. This blog came into existence write after this trip. I initially started it as a means to share my Ladakh experience with others but gradually, it grew into something much more.
Bike Trip to Leh Ladakh
A motorcycle trip to Ladakh had been a dream for quite some time. I have heard people talk about it. I read about it and always thought about how it would feel to ride your bike on the highest roads in the world. How it would feel to stand in what everyone calls as “Biker’s paradise”.
I have been planning and canceling for the last 5 years. It was 4th time that a plan of taking my bike up there was all set again. A plan that was finalized 3 times before and then got canceled, last time a day before I was supposed to go with my cousin. So the fear of the plan getting canceled again was very high. I kept my fingers crossed for months and didn’t talk about it at all, to anyone.
Thankfully, the trip did not cancel this time and we were indeed able to complete the journey as planned. Below is the itinerary that we followed.
- Delhi to Sundernagar – Day 1
- Sundernagar to Manali – Day 2
- Manali to Jispa – Day 3
- Jispa to Pang – Day 4
- Pangong to Leh – Day 5
- Leh – Day 6
- Leh to Panamik – Day 7
- Panamik to Leh – Day 8
- Leh to Pangong Tso – Day 9
- Pangong Tso to Leh – Day 10
- Leh – Day 11
- Leh to Dras – Day 12
- Dras to Srinagar – Day 13
- Srinagar to Delhi – Day 14
The text above is all hyperlinked. So if you want to read about a specific day, just click on it and it will open the page.
Delhi to Jispa – Day 1 to 3
Ladakh is not a place where you can just pack your bags and go. A trip to Ladakh by road needs meticulous planning. You will have to get yourself and bike ready for the harsh journey ahead.
I made a list of to-do things weeks before and as the day kept getting closer, I started preparing for the “ride of my life”. I got my Royal Enfield ready which I had bought last year exclusively for this trip. Several other things were taken care of and finally, it was time to pack our bags. To read about how I prepared for Ladakh, please take a look at How to Plan a Bike Trip to Leh Ladakh.
I was going to be traveling with a close friend of mine, Mohammed Shoaib. He owned a Bajaj Pulsar 150CC. Initially, the plan was to ride solo on our individual bikes but then we decided to ride together on my Enfield 350CC.
Finally, the D Day arrived and both of us finally started on a trip of a lifetime.
Day 1 – Delhi to Sundernagar
Manali is 550 kilometers from Delhi and it can take anywhere between 13-15 hours to get there by road. My original plan was to start as early as possible, at most by 2 am from Delhi. I wanted to reach Manali comfortably with still some time left to get a final check done on my bike. I know, I was overdoing it a bit with the bike but I just did not want to take a chance.
It is rare the plan keeps up. The same happened to me. Instead of leaving, I found myself sitting at work at 2 am telling people that I and Shoaib were going to Leh (we both work in night shifts that’s why)
Finally, around 3 am, we left work and headed towards my place where I was to pick up my bags.
It was the month of July and Delhi was getting too hot for the last few days. The temperature was in the 40s and there was no sign of rain. But as soon as we got out of the office, it started to rain heavily. Shoaib wanted to get back in and wait for the rain to stop. But I decided to continue riding as we were already running behind the schedule by a couple of hours.
Within 45 minutes, we were sitting at my place fumbling with ropes and chords, tying the luggage on my bike. By 4:30 am we were all set to start the ride that we both have been waiting for.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip on Manali Leh Highway
Delhi to Chandigarh
There was little no traffic this early and it did not take us long to get out of Delhi. The rain arrived again as soon as we started, much to our annoyance. None of us had rain gear so we were left with no option but to get drenched.
Luckily by the time we reached the outskirts of Delhi, it wasn’t raining anymore. Soon we were on NH1 heading towards Chandigarh. After a ride of about 1 hour, we decided to stop and have a cup of tea near Sonipat because both of us were soaking wet and feeling cold.
Dawn was breaking a little while later and pretty soon we crossed Karnal. At around 10 am we were close to Chandigarh. By this time we were both getting very hungry as none of us have had dinner the night before.
I managed to spot the same Dhaba where we have had food once before in one of our earlier trips to Narkanda and decided to eat at the same place.
In about another hour we were in Chandigarh and decided to buy a couple of things that we forgot to get in Delhi.
This is where the trouble started. It took us 2 hrs to find a shop where we could buy what we wanted. Once that done, the next task was to get back on route to Manali which kind of became impossible. We kept roaming around in Chandigarh for another hour; asking people which way to go. 8 out of the 10 people that we asked showed us the way to Mohali, not Manali.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, we were able to get out of Chandigarh and head towards Kiratpur. By now the mercury has risen and it was getting very hot. We took a stop again at a shop to get a bottle of water and that’s when Shoaib spotted a tubewell in a field next to the road.
I do not know how but he got this crazy idea that we should take a dip in the tubewell. For some crazy reason, I also agreed.
So here we were, two guys standing by the road, in a field that belonged to god knows who, stripping down to our underwear.
I was the first to step into the tubewell but Shoaib just walked up to it and stood still looking towards the road. I asked him why was he just standing and not taking off the clothes. In reply, he pointed towards the road where some girls were looking in our direction and laughing at us.
It was too late for me to do anyway so I ignored them and continued enjoying my bath. Shoaib stepped under the flowing water from the tubewell a little later once the girls were gone.
The bath was surprisingly refreshing and we both felt relieved from the heat. After another cup of tea at the Dhaba, we were again ready to continue the journey.
Also Read: What Clothes should you Pack for Leh Ladakh
Chandigarh to Sundarnagar
Somewhere along the way, looking at the road signs, I realized that we were not going in the right direction. We asked a passerby and he told us that we missed a turn about 15 km behind and were now heading towards Ludhiana. We backtracked and found the small turn towards Manali that we missed earlier. After riding for another 1 hour, we got our first sight of hills.
The traffic between Kiratpur and Mandi nearly drove us crazy. We kept overtaking one truck after one but it just did not seem to end. The journey was slow and tiring and kind of frustrating as well.
By this time we both had realized that reaching Manali the same day before it gets dark would be impossible. Both of us did not get any sleep the night before as we were at work. Now we were starting to get tired and feeling sleepy. So we decided to go as far as we could and continue our journey to Manali the next day.
Also Read: How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness
I was a little hesitant because it would mean a delay of an entire day but had no option. By 5 pm we were in Sunder Nagar and both of us agreed to halt here for the night.
We checked into a nice hotel right next to the canal, freshened up, and stepped out for dinner at a nearby Dhaba. We were so sleepy that we just hurried through the dinner and went straight back to the hotel. With our bellies full, it was time to call it a day.
Day 2 – Sundernagar to Manali
As it always happens with me on the trips, I woke up early. There was no need to hurry as Manali was just 140 km away and I knew we were going to stay there at night.
Shoaib was still sleeping and I let him continue to snore for a little longer. I stepped out of the hotel alone and went for a nice walk along the canal, enjoying a beautiful morning in Sundernagar.
I was suffering from a slight cold and cough for a couple of days but ignored it in the excitement of the trip. But it got worse over the night in Sundernagar and for a while, I regretted not taking any medicine in time in Delhi. I knew I will need some medicines if I was going to enjoy the trip or else it will just ruin the next few days for me.
After a cup of tea at a nearby tea stall, I returned to the hotel and woke Shoaib. At about 9 am, we were both ready to hit the road again.
Also read: A List Things to Carry for Ladakh Trip
Enjoying the Views
As compared to plains, riding a bike in the hills is a lot difficult but you don’t even realize it because you are actually lost in enjoying the view all around you.
The journey between Sundernagar and Manali was really fun. The views were awesome and we were taking our time to enjoy them. I was actually thankful that we did not push to Manali the day before and stayed at Sundernagar. After a good night’s sleep and an adventure ahead, we were both in the best of moods.
The journey was relaxed and breaks were often. Wherever we saw a good view, we stopped and enjoyed it. I cannot even recall how many cups of tea we consumed between Sundarnagar and Manali but there were several.
Kullu to Manali
Just before Kullu, we saw some people getting ready to go rafting. Looking at them, Shoaib started wondering if we can go rafting too. Even I considered this for a while but then gave up the idea and continued on our journey to Manali.
Once at Kullu, I decided to halt and get some medicines for my cold. Here we saw 2 different rivers flowing down from 2 different directions, and joining 2 become one. The amazing part was that the water of one river was crystal clear and the other one had dirt in it.
By 2 pm, we were in Manali. As we paid the usual Rs. 100 as the city tax for entering the town, a guy walked up to us and asked if we were looking for a hotel. Shoaib wanted to keep going towards Rohtang rather than staying in Manali for the night. But I knew that we might be able to cross Rohtang before sunset, we would never be able to make it to the next town, where we can find a hotel to stay.
So we spoke to that guy and he showed us 4 different hotels. We settled for one and after the bags have been bought into the room, it was time to go and roam around in Manali.
Also read: What to See in Ladakh – A Comprehensive List
Hotel with a View
I did not know why it mattered so much but for some reason, a hotel with a good view of the hills was very important for us. We were only going to be in Manali for a night and there were only a few hours of sunlight left. So it is not like we were going to actually sit and enjoy the view.
But for some reason, it mattered so much that we rejected the first three hotels and settled for the 4 one. This one was the most expensive of all and cost us three times the money than the previous hotels. But for some reason, we wanted a view and paid the hefty price.
The ironic part however was that we checked in, went into the market to buy a few things, and by the time we returned to the hotel, it was dark all around. The view that we paid so much money for was all gone.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Manali
Some locals were doing a folk dance right in the middle of the market. After watching their steps for a while, I decided to join myself.
We bought some medicines, a puncture kit for the bike, engine oil, some spares, pairs of gloves, cold creams and got my bike checked if everything was ok. Soon it was dark and time for us to settle in the hotel room.
Day 3 – Manali to Jispa
I woke up early the next day as I wanted to start for Rohtang as early as possible to avoid the usual heavy traffic. The initial plan was to stay at Darcha for today and go to Pang the next day. But that was going to change.
Dawn was just breaking in and I could already see the line of trucks moving towards Rohtang. I tried to have Shoaib leave the bed and get ready but it took me some time and effort to finally have him come out of his slumber and pack up.
Manali to Rohtang Pass
Finally, we checked out of the hotel and started to ride towards Rohtang. It was very cold and kept getting colder as we started to gain height. Pretty soon, the sun started to shine on top of the hills around us and the views turned amazing.
Because we checked out of the hotel early morning, we didn’t get a chance to eat anything at all. So after riding for a few km, we took a stop to eat something. Here we also bought our quota of smokes because we were told that with the height of the road, prices will also rise for almost everything.
Traffic was increasing with every passing minute but by now I cared the less. All that I wanted to do was to enjoy the scenic beauty around me and click as many shots as I can.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Rohtang Pass
Traffic at Rohtang
The road to Rohtang is a mix of good and bad patches and it always is that way. But as we started to get closer to Rohtang Top, the road turned into a nightmare. The heavy traffic was making the situation worse.
At one point in time, I was right behind a truck at a very steep turn. Suddenly the truck refused to climb any further and came to a complete halt. I also had to apply the brakes and stall the bike. Because there was no road and we were stuck in the mud, I had to ask Shoaib to get off the bike.
Once he was off I overtook the truck and stopped a few meters ahead. Shoaib came behind walking and by then the truck has also started to move. I didn’t want the truck to go ahead because then I would have to overtake it again. So I asked Shoaib to hurry up and as soon as lifted his leg to sit on the bike, I accelerated, leaving the poor fellow shocked.
After riding for the next couple of hours, we were at Rohtang Pass, having a cup of tea.
We rested at Rohtang for a while and then started the steep descent towards Tandi, the last gas station on Manali Leh highway. There was still no sign of the road getting any better.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with Children
Rohtang Pass to Jispa
After riding for some time, I started to get thirsty and that is when we realized that we were not carrying any water with us. I spotted a stream flowing down the hill and decided to drink some water from there. But my hands froze as soon as I put them in the water. It was so cold that it took me several minutes to get some water down my throat.
The road started to get a little better as we kept descending into the valley. By 3 pm we reached Tandi. There is no petrol pump for the next 365 km after Tandi so we were carrying a can for extra fuel. We got the fuel tank of my bike filled up and an extra 10 liters in the can.
The road after Tandi was way better than I could ever imagine. After riding on the roads of Rohtang, an almost straight road was such a relief. We still had a lot of time in hand before sunset so I wanted to reach Darcha and break the journey there.
By 4.30 pm we reached Jispa. Here I saw a tenting accommodation right next to the river. Though we still had time to carry on further, both of us decided to halt here for the night, basically for 2 reasons.
One was that we liked the location very much and secondly, both of us were starving. We haven’t had anything since morning except for paranthas before Rohtang. The price that the owner asked for a 1-night stay in the tent was very high. But because all his tents were vacant, he agreed on a price that we quoted and allowed us to stay.
Also Read: How to Plan a Trip to Jispa
Camping in Jispa
After settling in, we checked our watches and it was only 5 pm. We walked up to the owner and asked if he has something available to eat. To our disappointment he had nothing and to our astonishment, we couldn’t find anything to eat anywhere in Jispa. We came back to the tent and asked the guy to have the dinner ready as soon as possible. Then it was time to enjoy the valley around us.
After roaming around for a while, we asked the owner to arrange for a table and 2 chairs. Once that done, we laid down our chessboard and were soon deeply engrossed in a game of chess. The feeling was amazing. Sitting and playing chess with high mountains all around us and a river flowing nearby while sipping down a hot cup of tea was an evening that I will never forget.
To our relief, dinner was ready by 7 pm and it was time for us to finally have our first meal of the day.
Soon after dinner, Shoaib drifted off to sleep and I stayed awake. There was pin-drop silence all around me except for the sound of the wind and flowing water, which sounded like the best music in the world. I came out of the tent and just stood there, listening to the wind, listening to the river. That concluded our journey on Day 3, as we traveled from Delhi to Jispa.
Best time to Visit Jispa
The best time to travel from Delhi to Jispa is between May and September. In this duration as well, you should try to avoid the monsoon months of July and August.
With the opening of the Atal Tunnel, it is possible to travel to Jispa in winter as well but you will have to be prepared for freezing temperatures.
Where to Stay
There are a few hotels, a campsite and wooden Huts available in Jispa where you can stay. The best place would either be the camps or the wooden huts. This travelogue is of my first ride to Ladakh and there wasn’t much in Jispa back then. In recent years, a few other hotels have also come up.
A friend of mine who traveled from Delhi to Jispa stayed at a hotel called Padma Lodge. It is a nice and clean hotel with reasonable rates. He did not go to Ladakh and was just visiting Lahaul Valley. He stayed at the hotel for 2 days and had good feedback about it.
Delhi to Jispa Distance by Road
Traveling from Delhi to Jispa, the total distance you will cover will be around 620 kilometers. The journey will need at least 2 days to be completed.
Delhi to Jispa Bus
There is no direct bus available from Delhi to Jispa. You will first have to board a bus for Manali and then travel to Jispa from there.
The only way that you can go straight from Delhi to Jispa is by boarding the Delhi to Leh Bus from ISBT Delhi. But it is an ordinary HRTC bus and the journey will be a little cumbersome. A better way is to board a luxury bus for Manali and then an ordinary bus for Jispa.
Can the Journey be Completed in 1 Day?
There is absolutely no way that you can cover Delhi to Jispa in a single day. If you try to do that, you will end up driving for about 24 hours straight. Another issue you will handle is Rohtang Permits.
The best and fastest route from Delhi to Jispa is via Manali, which I described above. The only other alternative routes are via Spiti Valley or Sach Pass that are much longer. By either of these routes, it will take you 4 to 6 days to travel from Delhi to Jispa.
- Journey Ahead: Jispa to Pang – Crossing Over to Ladakh
Delhi to Jispa – Conclusion
Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of this travelogue. I hope the information above on traveling from Delhi to Jispa and planning a trip to Ladakh was of help. If you have any questions or need any other details, please feel free to ask in the comments section below, or at our Community Forum and I will be glad to answer.