Cycle Manali to Leh, Indian Himalayas
Calling all avid cyclists! If you're up for a real challenge and like a mix of on and off road riding then this tour is for you.
Over 10 days of cycling, you'll ride 500km and climb 11,000m up and over 6 epic passes. Finish with a 50km climb from Leh to Kardung La, the highest driveable road in the world at 5600m on the last day!
Fully supported with your choice of bike, this is a challenging but rewarding ride. Get a group of mates and get organised - you'll definitely have something to talk about at the coffee shop when you get back...
Area: Delhi or Manali
Duration: 15 days (10 days cycling)
Daily Activity: 3–7 hours cycling
Grade: Challenging due to altitude
Group Size: 12 or less, but it can just be you. Perfect for cycling clubs or friends.
Bikes: Suitable for road, cyclocross or MTB. Bring your own or hire a mountain bike.
Accommodation: Camping, hotel and guesthouse
Day 1: Delhi
Upon arrival in Delhi you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. We’ll all catch up for dinner as a group so you can meet everyone. Accommodation: Hotel
Days 2 & 3: Delhi to Manali (2000m)
You’ll begin the drive to Mandi by private car (~13 hours) then the remaining three hours to Manali the next morning. Accommodation: Hotel in Mandi & Nature Treat Homestay in Manali (B)
Day 4: Acclimatisation day in Manali (2000m)
A short ride around Manali and Vashisht today to help with acclimatisation and orientation. Plenty of free time for some sightseeing and some momos at the Mount View (Andy's favourite!). Accommodation: Nature Treat Homestay (B)
Day 5: Manali to Solang Valley (3250m) Return Ride (3250m)
A short ride to the Solang Valley (~40km return) to continue acclimatisation. Rest of the day is free. Accommodation: Nature Treat Homestay (All meals)
Day 6: Manali to Mahri (3250m)
And we’re off! A 40km ride with 1500m of climbing on good, sealed roads. You’ll arrive around lunch time so have the afternoon to relax and enjoy the view. Totals: 40km, 3-4 hours. Accommodation: Tents (All meals)
Day 7: Mahri to Keylong (3250m)
Greet the day with a 14km, 700m climb up to Rhotang La (a good Strava segment!). After a quick 4km downhill you’ll swap to MTB (if not already) for the next 12km. After lunch you’ll swap the bikes back then head on through the rolling hills of Sissu, a 22km downhill section to Tandi and a final 8km climb to Keylong (the district HQ of Lahul and the Spiti Valley). Totals: 81km, 7-8 hrs. Accommodation: Guesthouse (All meals)
Day 8: Keylong to Zingzing Bar (4200m)
After a quick climb out of Keylong, you’ll ride a beautiful rolling 17km through the Keylong Valley to Jispa, then another 7km downhill section to Darcha. After Dacha the terrain becomes much more arid. You’ll need your legs for a 5km climb on mixed road (sealed and unsealed) followed by another 12km passing over a few mountain streams to Patseo Lake. Lastly, we have a 15km ride on great roads to Zing Zing Bar. Totals: 58km, 6-7 hours, 1900m. Accommodation: Guesthouse (All meals)
Day 9: Zingzing Bar to Sarchu (4380m)
First up is a 16km, 700m climb up out of Zing Zing Bar to Baralacha La (4830m) where you’ll cross into Ladakh. The next 15km is rocky so you’ll swap to MTB for the descent. The day ends with a beautiful flat 10km into our accommodation. Sarchu looks like a moonscape with a glacial river running through a deep canyon, so a walk around the area is a must. Totals: 43km, 5 hours, 750m. Accommodation: Permanent Tents (All meals)
Day 10: Sarchu to Pang (4520m)
A tough day of climbing with two ~5000m passes on the menu. 26km of open, sealed road winding along a stunning valley following the path of glacial rivers, greet you first thing. The Gata Loops is next - a 10km climb with 21 turns (India’s Alp D’Huez), followed by another 10km to Nakila La at 4885m. A quick 5km descent to Whisky Na La for lunch before the final climb to Lachung La at 5019m. Today finished with a 22km downhill on unsealed roads through a martian valley to camp at Pang. Totals: 82km, 8-9 hours, 1300m. Accommodation: Tents (All meals)
Day 11: Pang to Tso Kar Lake (4650m)
Another Strava segment to start the day: a 5km climb up and out of Pang. The top is the start of the Moray Plains - a flat plateau with fabulous views down over Pang. The rest of the day is flat, newly sealed 'butter road' to the Tso Kar turnoff (42km). You’ll arrive into camp in time for a hot lunch. An afternoon visit the beautiful Tso Kar Lake and the nomadic Tso Kar village. You’ll stop in at the local monastery, try local yak-butter tea and hopefully spot some wild horse (Kiang). Totals: 55km, 3-4 hours, 100m. Accommodation: Tents (All meals)
Day 12: Tso Kar to Lato (3500m)
Today’s challenge is the 30km gradual climb to Tanglang La at 5360m (with a 3km unsealed section for a little extra challenge). Keep an eye out for shepherds with pashmina goats, yaks and bullocks. After refuelling, you’ll enjoy the fabulous, smooth, winding 30km downhill, which makes the climb worth it. The air begins to feel warmer and trees reappear as we head back into lower altitude. Tonight is the last night with your crew so there'll be a small celebration with local dancing, singing and drumming. Totals: 61km, 6-7 hours, 700m climbing & 1400m descending! Accommodation: Tents (All meals)
Day 13: Lato to Leh (3500m)
Last day into Leh! A beautiful downhill 20km through the small, fertile farming valley along the Indus River greets you this morning. With every turn you will start to feel more oxygen in the air and the temperature rise as you roll past Stupas and tiny villages. After tea at Upshi, you’ll ride another 35km on double lane rolling roads through a large army base and numerous small villages until Thiksey. After lunch, you’ll visit the Thiksey Monastery, a working monastery which dates back to the 11th century. The final stretch into Leh is 20km where you’ll be greeted by a hot shower and a beer to celebrate! Total: 65km, 4-5hrs. Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
Day 13: Rest day
Rest day to explore Leh. Leh is filled with many historical sites such as the monastery and palace. A trip to the Donkey Sanctuary is also a fun option. There are also plenty of cafes if you’d prefer to have a rest! Accommodation: Hotel (B)
Day 14: Kardung La (5600m)
The final hurdle! A 39km, 2100m climb up to the highest motorable pass in the world. Make the most of the fist 25km as the last 14km is on unsealed, hard-packed dirt road to make it more fun… The views are spectacular, stretching from the Indus valley in the South over the endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range to the giants of the Saser Massif in the North. After a bit of time at the top, we'll zoom back down to Leh to end the cycling portion of the trip. Tonight we’ll have a final celebratory dinner with our guides before a well-earned sleep! Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
Day 15: Leh to Delhi
After breakfast in the hotel, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Delhi then home. If you’d like to extend your stay in Leh by a day or three there is plenty to see in the surrounding areas and in Leh itself. Accommodation: Hotel (optional) (B)
Please note the itinerary is only a suggestion and we can extend your stay in Delhi, Manali, Leh if you'd like to explore.
About the Indian Himalayas
For many, the Himalayas are synonymous with Nepal, but vast tracts of this magnificent range form the northern borders of India. From Ladakh in the northwest through to Darjeeling and Sikkim in the east, these beautiful mountains offer a diversity of scenery and culture unmatched anywhere.
The Himalayas stretch across six nations: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are the source of three of the world's major river systems, the Indus basin, the Ganga-Brahmaputra basin and the Yangtze basin. The Himalaya mountain system is the planet's highest and home to the world's highest peaks with over 100 separate mountains exceeding 7200m.
The landscape along the Manali to Leh Highway changes immediately after getting past Rohtang Pass. The greenery on the southern side of the mountain pass is reminiscent of the Swisse Alps. Shortly after the pass, the mountain slopes on turn to lunar landscape framed with snowy mountain peaks shining brightly in the sun.
Our local guides are the best in the business. They have lived and worked in and around the Himalayas and are knowledgable in all aspects of the area: wildlife, culture, safety and the politics of conservation. Most of all, they are passionate about showing you their home and will do their utmost to make it the best holiday of you've ever been on.
When camping you will stay in 2 man Alpine tents (sleeping bags and mattresses included). The camp will be set up with toilet, bathroom and dining tents, as well as chairs, tables and a generator for electricity. Camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents each day, cook all meals and wash up for you - all you need to do is relax. You'll be greeted each morning with freshly brewed Chai or coffee and each evening when you get to camp, snacks and a range of hot drinks. Consider it "glamping"!
Guesthouses and Hotels
Accommodation can at times be a little basic in this region; however all hotel rooms are en suite and water and electricity supplies are fairly reliable.
Single rooms and tents can be requested for an additional cost (subject to availability); please enquire at the time of booking.
We quote every tour individually based on your needs and wants. The price will be confirmed once itinerary is finalised. The cost of our this tour will include and exclude the following:
The price of the tour includes:
- All airport transfers
- Flight from Delhi to Leh
- All internal land transfers including private bus or overnight bus from Delhi to Manali
- All meals as listed in the itinerary (B,L,D)
- All snacks during cycling days
- Accommodation including hotels in Delhi and Le, guest houses in Manali and Keylong and permanent tents in Sarchu.
- All camping gear including tent, mattress, sleeping bag, dining tents, bathroom tents and toilet tents
- Two experienced local English-speaking guides
- Support crew and vehicles (support crew will travel with the group at all times so you don't need to carry a day pack or tools)
- A Fitness Adventures jersey
- First Aid support with oxygen in case of emergency
The price of the tour excludes:
- Airport departure tax (~USD$17)
- International airfares
- Travel Insurance
- Additional meals as noted in the itinerary
- Any additional purchases such as entry to monuments, if required
- Local bike hire (Trek mountain or Focus cyclocross bikes available) if required
Eating and Drinking On Tour
A cook and two kitchen hands will travel will be with you every step of the way and the food that they can produce from a little tent with little equipment is unbelievable. Meals will be included as stated in the itinerary (B,L,D) - this is all meals except those in Delhi, Manali and Leh. Meals provided on the tour will be a range of Indian, Italian, Tibetan and Chinese with local produce used to showcase local delicacies.
You'll be woken in the morning to a fresh brew of coffee or tea and fed a full breakfast before commencing the day. Snacks and lunch are packed for you in the support Jeep with regular refueling stops en route. After a long day on the road you'll be fed hot soup, pakora, fruit, tea and coffee as soon as you reach camp and an amazing spread of dishes for dinner each night in the dining tent.
Meals outside the itinerary will be your choice with numerous Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Western restaurants as well as supermarkets available in most cities should you wish to make your own. Choice of food can be limited in smaller villages. We recommend choosing vegetarian dishes - these are often the best option anyway! Eating in India is very cheap and you should expect to pay only ~$5-10 AUD per meal in an average restaurant. Please set aside $120-200AUD for meals.
Fitness and safety
A rewarding challenge with fantastic support
Due to the altitude and number of long climbs, this is a challenging tour and requires a good level of fitness. We can provide you with a training program written by Fitness Adventures' founder and Exercise Physiologist, Andy Pedashenko, to help improve your fitness prior to the tour - all you need to do is ask.
This is fully guided tour with vehicle support at every stage of the tour. Under no circumstances will a rider be left alone to make their way to the next camp. All guides are trained in first aide and there will be a complete first aide kit including oxygen in case of emergency. There will also be mechanical help available at all times and a spare bike if required along the route.
Cycling at altitude
This trip goes to high altitudes where there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Although rare, a number of medical conditions can also reduce your body's ability to acclimatise, and thus will affect your performance at altitude and make you more susceptible to AMS. If you are worried about any pre- existing condition (e.g. heart problems), or unsure of your physical ability, we recommend that you seek medical advice prior to booking.
What to bring?
90% of the route is sealed roads suitable for road bikes with thicker tyres (ideal for cyclocross bikes). The other 10% may be a little trickier due to ongoing road work. If you prefer, we can organise to have spare mountain bikes available to swap over to at any time (and for some fun downhill racing!) or can transport you in the Jeep. Just consider it the Paris-Roubaix of the Indian Himalayas!
You will be required to bring your own bike, unless you wish to hire mountain bikes. Whilst we'll have a mechanic with us on tour, you'll need to bring a few spare parts and shoes, helmet, gloves and cycling clothing. We'll provide you with a detailed packing list.
Not ready to leave just yet?
Combine this tour with an amazing Himalayan trek, a stay at a beautiful hotel for some R & R or a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.