Trips Outside Leh
In addition to the Manali-Leh Highway itself, Ladakh offers some other "ride of a lifetime"-standard trips to the discerning cyclist who enjoys a spot of hillclimbing:
"A Grand Day Out..."
Just under 40 km north of Leh by road (and a mere 15 km as the crow flies) on the way to the Nubra Valley is the Khardung La, which claims to be the world's highest road pass at 18,380 ft (5,602 m). It is probably only 5359 m in reality (see also the brief discussion and links on my home page), making its grandiose claim somewhat debateable. It's a doable day ride from Leh if you're adapted to altitude, working out as basically 24 miles or so of straight up, followed by the same descent, with about 7,000 ft (2,150 m) climbing included. Although one needs a permit to visit the Nubra Valley itself (very cheap-a couple of hundred rupees or so from any travel agent in Leh), it is not necessary to have a permit just to ride to the top of the pass. Bring your passport to show at the army checkpoint about 14 km from the top. Although the road officially starts from the South of Leh and goes all the way round the city, it is easy to take the northern road out of the city past the Women's Alliance of Ladakh centre, and then cross a short stretch of waste ground on your right to join the Khardung La road just north of the city, and this saves a few miles. The ride itself is quite good, providing good views towards Leh, and at the top one can see the Karakorum range to the north of the pass, and then by turning 180 degrees see the Himalayas back towards Leh. Although we never went into Nubra, other travellers recommended it as a pleasant place to visit. The actual area at the top of the pass itself is nothing to write home about, being just a collection of a few corrugated iron huts, together with the ubiquitous roadbuilders and soldiers hanging about. You can get free tea at the top, but there is no dhaba, so you need to bring lunch and water from Leh. Past the army checkpoint, the road is poor, with the points of the foundation stones showing through the tarmac making for a slow and bumpy ride up, and a jarring ride down. The remainder though is very good, and the descent from the checkpoint is fantastic because it is so long!
Leh to Lamayuru
The village of Lamayuru, with its famous hilltop monastery, lies about 125 km west of Leh along the Indus valley. Off this valley en route are several places of interest, such as the ancient Buddhist temples of Alchi, the temple at Blasco (a world heritage site), and the monasteries of Likir and Rizong. We did this trip as a 2-day jeep journey, staying overnight in Lamayuru at the monastery and visiting Alchi on the way out and Rizong and Likir on the way back. Staying at the monastery was a good experience in its own right, and we were also able to attend the monk's evening prayers. Klaus came with us, and for a vehicle and driver for two days worked out at about £12 each for five of us. We had originally considered taking the bus out to Lamayuru, and cycling back to Leh over about three days (allowing time to visit places of interest as well as ride), but we elected to take a jeep as we were advised by other travellers that the road was crowded with trucks and a very dull journey. This turned out to be rubbish, at least once one is about 20 km outside Leh. The mountain scenery around Lamayuru is quite the best I have ever seen-take the lower road by the river at the bottom of the canyon into Lamayuru and then follow the upper road out and around, where it eventually joins the main Leh-Kargil road after some breathtaking switchbacks to return to Leh. The climbs around Lamayuru are precipitous, and the descents likewise. A fantastic several-day ride would be to take the bike with minimal kit (camping is unnecessary here) and cycle in a loop out to Lamayuru and back, taking in both the high and low roads, perhaps starting in Blasco and finishing in Leh.
Since it is likely to be very hot, and the roads are horrible and heavily-trafficked with polluting lorries and buses, we would suggest taking public transport or jeeps rather than cycling when visiting places of interest very close to Leh itself, such as Stok Palace, or the monasteries at Tikse, Shey and Spituk.