Khardung La – Our Bike Riding Escapade to the Summit of 17000 something ft.

Though our Epic Journey from Mumbai to Leh had completely drained out the energy in us the mystical beauty of Ladakh and the gorgeous landscape were enough to pump in all the energy back into us to set us on a new adventure to explore the wonderful land of Ladakh. Ladakh region in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir has some of the incredible and breathtaking locales. The glimpses of the astounding beauty of the land throughout the journey from Jammu to Leh had left us in utter astonishment and we could not wait to explore them all ourselves.

Next day we applied for our permits with a travel agency in Leh; permits are required by all the tourists to travel in Ladakh. While we waited for our permits we rented bikes and explored the surroundings of Leh which also helped us get acclimatized.

The Third day with the dawn of the day we set on the most thrilling ride of our life through the serpentine roads of mountains to reach Khardung La at 17582 ft. Starting early may help avoid unseen consequences of traffic congestion or landslides. Our new friends from Delhi whom we met in Jammu Joy and Imran too accompanied us. The road up to the South Pullu check point was asphalted and in pretty good shape cut along the dry rocky cliffs. Enroute we stopped at the South Pullu check point to present copies of our permit.

Khardung La Bike Ride

Khardung La Bike Ride

Though Khardung La being claimed as the highest motorable road is highly disputed but the ride through the winding road skirting the mountains and the stunning landscape is unbeatable. As we rode higher the dry mountains started showing signs of snow and soon we rode through the narrow slushy dirt roads with high snowed cliffs on one side and deep drop valleys on the other. Border Roads Organisation ministers the continuous maintenance of the roads while the avalanches and the rivulets from snow melt deteriorate the roads.

Khardung La Bike Ride

While huge clumps of snow mounted on one side of the road the other side had amazingly structured icicles which would sometimes go up to a meter.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The landscape through which we rode are inspiring enough to keep you going but that instant when you feel like you need motivation and you see some adventurers riding up to Khardung La on their bicycles is an adrenaline rushing sight.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The clumps of snow rolled up along the edge of the road, the undulating white mountains rising high through the clouds deep into the perpetual blue skies beseech us to stop for a picture perfect capture.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The journey from Leh to Khardung La took us around 4 hours with occasional stops to get down and push our bikes through sludgy and slippery gravel filled roads, gather our momentum and jump back onto our Pulsar. The idea of riding to a height of 17000 something ft is a mind-boggling experience and the Euphoria to reach the summit of the pass amidst scenic vistas and the feeling of being on top of the world was second to none.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The trail to the top passes through some of the remote areas so it is recommended to be well equipped with water, snacks, and medications. The arduous journey and the chilling cold weather had made us hungry. The pass summit has a cafeteria where we had several cups of hot tea and some hot soupy noodles. The cafeteria claim to be the highest cafeteria in the world may again be dubious but drinking a hot cup of tea on the freezing summit definitely seemed heavenly.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The pass is bedecked with colorful prayer flags and several boards stand with information about Khardung La. The pass has an Indian Army post, a temple maintained by the army and Army souvenir shop.

Khardung La Bike Ride

The pass is surrounded by stunning and picturesque vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks that look like a never ending horizon embracing the overcast skies afar.

Khardung La Bike Ride

Everyone is allowed or say recommended to stay at the top for not more than 30 minutes owing to the low oxygen levels which may cause serious health problems. We clicked few quick photos, soaked up the magical views and began our descent back to Leh.

The winding roads of the mountains skirting through the mist, snow and finally the dry terrain back into the city accompanied by the remarkable vistas epitomizing nature at its best left an indelible mark on our souls.

Khardung La Bike Ride

Khardung La Bike Ride

Khardung La is an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley. Many continue onto the Nubra valley from Khardung La Pass which requires at least a night’s stay at Nubra. The best time to visit Khardung La is between May and October when the pass remains open unless there is any change in weather conditions like heavy snowfalls or landslides.

If you are planning to visit Ladakh you may want to plan during the Naropa Festival held every twelve years.

Have you been to Khardung La? Were you able to make it to Nubra and Shyok Valleys beyond the Khardung Pass? We would love to learn about your experiences.

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26 Comment

  1. This is one place I have to visit this year. Road trip is just the Best. Which season do you suggest?

    1. GOBeyondBounds says: Reply

      The pass remains open from May to October but we would suggest you to plan your visit in June or July.

  2. Brooke says: Reply

    Rashmi-hmm.. well this looks incredibly interesting and adventurous. I have to say I would not want to ride a bike for 4 hours! But the views look stunning.
    I too am dubious at the ‘highest cafe in the world’ claim now I’m wondering if there’s a cafe near Machu Picchu and if so, how high it is….. hahahhah

    was it such high elevation that it was hard to breathe?

  3. This is nuts, I am so jealous of your adventure in the mountains. This is clearly is a bucket list of mine, thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. The images are stunning, it is incredible what nature offers and the way you where able to capture it in your photographs and words. The majestic landscapes must have been impressive real-live. I can only imagine the euphoric feeling you describe. What kind of tea flavour did they offer at the highest cafeteria in the world? It would be interesting to know!

  5. This looks like such an amazing adventure! I have never ridden a motorbike so the thought of riding one for 4 hours does not sound too appealing to me. However, it seems worth it for the breathtaking views you saw.

  6. Ami says: Reply

    Wow…that’s a cold ride. I can already feel shivers down my body. And that icicle was so cool. You look like Yoda holding it 😀

  7. This trip looks so incredible. It is defo on my Bucket List.The snow piles are incredible on the roadside. Defo will be reading up more on this area.

  8. blair villanueva says: Reply

    Hello!

    Oh this is crazy! Crazyness of fun and fantastic adventure. Your squad are so lucky to visit this place, and I’m truly amazed with the dryness of land below, and the beautiful whiteness of those snow above. So cool!

  9. No matter how many times one sees pictures of Ladakh area, they look as fascinating, don’t they? Haven’t been able to go yet. On the agenda…

  10. 1 metre icicles? That is very cool! What an amazing experience is must have been to ride through snowcapped hills, although I would have needed a break and some extra cushioning if sitting on a motor bike for four hours!

  11. Tom says: Reply

    That looks amazing, though a bit scary–if someone suffers from altitude sickness, it would be hard for them to ride safely back down. Having said that though, I would absolutely do this trip–it looks brilliant.

  12. Ana says: Reply

    This is among one of the world’s most legendary motorbike trip! Glad to read about your experience and I felt that I was literally there on your trip! Your pictures are breathtaking and this trip is on my bucket list! Hope to visit there someday in my life!

  13. Wow! What an amazing adrenaline-pumping trip! I have been to India before but never got to this region. I wish I had now after seeing your post! The mountains look beautiful with the snow and the bikes look like the ideal way to reach the summit!

  14. Never been to this side of India, although many of friends have gone. I would love to provided the I get over the fear of riding bikes. My main attraction would probably be snow, if not anything else.

  15. Wow! This looks super thrilling! World’s highest cafeteria got all my attention. You people should be rated among super travelers! 🙂

  16. Paola says: Reply

    Amazing lanscapes!! You were really brave to ride a motorbike among snow area. Wasn’t it dangerous? I would fear to slip..

  17. Jenn says: Reply

    Wow! I am not sure about whether I would dare to go by bike through those roads! The ride must have been amazing, but also a slippery one! In any case, it seems like a great trip! beautiful shots!

  18. Wow, you guys are very brave. I looked at the picture where your motorbikes were standing on the muddy ice and I was like … what? How skillful do you actually have to be to ride there?

  19. Wow! You guys look so cool on those bikes. I don’t know how to ride a bike, so I really can’t imagine riding through all that snow. And getting tea at the world’s highest cafeteria sounds like a lot of fun, even if it might not be the world’s highest!

  20. Oh, wow, this looks like such an epic bike ride! My bike travel has been limited to much tamer roads 😀 And that “ice sword”… can I have one? Not sure how to keep it from melting though.

  21. This is a perfect adventure trip. I can imagine riding on the motorbike up the hills would have been an amazing experience. But people riding bicycles to the Khardung La summit is real gutsy and quite motivating too as you mentioned. A J&K trip is definitely on for me next year.

  22. sophie says: Reply

    Wow, what an incredibly unique and wonderful experience! Loving the photos and the views must have been incredible… It looks like it must have been a bit cold though?

  23. Shane says: Reply

    I’m not at all familiar with these scenic mountains. Looks like quite the as adventure by bike! It would be out of my comfort zone, but I’d be willing to take the risk for the view!

  24. I’ve been on a similar bike trip in India and it was amazing! Road tripping by bike in India is highly recommended, especially in the northern region.

  25. I visited Leh Ladakh way back in 2008 after my 10th Boards, but all the memories are still fresh as if I went yesterday. As it was still snowing at the high reaches during our stay, we happened to go all the way up one fine day when the weather was good. We were lucky as we witnessed some fresh snowfall along with a cup of hot tea. Khardung La was constructed by my fathers unit, so it was a nostalgic and proud feeling being on top and what made it more special was that there was no one apart from my family, our driver and the jawans stationed there.

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