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The scenic route: Biking from Leh to Nubra Valley

The scenic route: Biking from Leh to Nubra Valley

By Aquib Nawab

09 Jul, 2024

Imagine venturing through the majestic Himalayas, where snow-capped peaks pierce the sky and ancient valleys whisper tales of history. This isn't just a fantasy—it's Ladakh, a high-altitude desert in India affectionately known as "Little Tibet" for its breathtaking landscapes and rich Buddhist heritage.

Among the many adventures in Ladakh, one journey stands out—the exhilarating bike ride from Leh, the former capital kingdom, to the spellbinding Nubra Valley. Picture yourself navigating through rugged terrains, surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty at every turn. This isn't just a bike ride, it's a quest into the very heart of the Himalayas. The thrill of biking through such awe-inspiring scenery is an experience like no other.

Why bike from Leh to Nubra Valley?

Covering 691 km in about 18 hours approx via NH 3, the journey from Leh to Nubra Valley offers more than just a commute. While shared jeeps or private taxis are convenient, biking the route provides an unparalleled sense of freedom and a unique opportunity to bond with nature. Here’s why choosing a bike for this adventure is a memorable experience:

1. Unparalleled views

Face the breeze on your head while zigzagging through twisted paths that offer you a panoramic view of the snowy peak, sinuous terrain, and green valleys everywhere.

2. Immersive natural experience

Unlike closed vehicles, biking enables one to breathe deeply, feel fresh mountain air, and hear gurgling streams flow by.

3. A rewarding adventure

Getting past these challenging high altitude passes itself is a worthy achievement, leaving behind huge pride in yourself and ever-cherished memories.

Leh | Credits: Canva

Planning your adventure

Before embarking on this thrilling journey, careful planning is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:

The best time to go

During summer months like June up until September, being relatively mild weathered and entirely snow-free on roads makes it an ideal period for biking across Leh:

  • June–July: Marvel at the snow-covered peaks; however, a few high passes may still be blocked by snowfall.
  • August–September: These two months provide ideal biking times, with no cloud cover and cool temperatures on the grounds.

Route and itinerary

The most common route to Nubra Valley from Leh is through Khardung La, which is one of the highest motorable roads worldwide. Below is a possible itinerary for a 3-day’ journey:

Day 1: From Leh (3500 m) to Lamayuru (3510 m)

On your first day, you will acclimatise to the high altitude in Leh before setting out on your journey. You’ll cover approximately 669 km in about 16-17 hours, heading westwards towards Lamayuru. The route offers stunning views of picturesque villages and the fascinating Magnetic Hill, known for its optical illusion. After reaching Lamayuru, you will explore the ancient Lamayuru Monastery and stay overnight to prepare for the adventure ahead.

Day 2: From Lamayuru (3410 m) to Diskit (3142 m) via Khardung-La (5359 m)

Your second day involves a challenging 227 km ride that takes around 5-6 hours. You will start with a tough climb up to Khardung-La, one of the highest motorable passes in the world, where you can enjoy panoramic views and take a short break. After reaching the top, you will descend into the breathtaking Nubra Valley, passing through beautiful villages and landscapes before arriving in Diskit or Hunder by evening for an overnight stay.

Day 3: Explore Nubra Valley and return to Leh

On the final day, you will explore the highlights of Nubra Valley. You can spend the morning visiting Diskit Monastery and admiring the impressive Maitreya Buddha statue, followed by a memorable Bactrian camel safari on Hunder’s sand dunes. In the afternoon, you will begin your return journey to Leh, covering 692 km in approximately 17 - 18 hours.

Stunning scenic spots and key attractions on the way

  • Stunning scenic views: From Leh to Lamayuru, enjoy the mesmerising landscapes, including the unique Magnetic Hill, where you’ll witness an optical illusion that makes a slight downhill slope appear to be uphill.
  • Magnetic hill: As you drive, don’t miss Magnetic Hill—a natural wonder where vehicles seem to roll uphill against gravity due to a geographical illusion.
  • Traditional villages: Along the way, you’ll pass charming villages with traditional Ladakhi architecture and local life, offering glimpses of the region’s culture and daily life.
  • Ancient monasteries: Visit the historic Lamayuru Monastery, perched on a hill, which is one of the oldest and most renowned monasteries in Ladakh.
  • Khardung-La pass: Prepare for the exhilarating ascent to Khardung-La, one of the highest motorable passes in the world. The panoramic views from the top are simply breathtaking.
  • Nubra Valley landscapes: Experience the dramatic landscapes of Nubra Valley, including lush greenery and the stark beauty of the desert-like terrain.
  • Bactrian camel safari: In Hunder, enjoy a unique camel safari on the sand dunes, a rare experience that lets you explore the valley from a different perspective.
  • Diskit monastery: Visit Diskit Monastery to see the majestic Maitreya Buddha statue and immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere of the monastery.

Bike and gear

Choosing the right bike: It is highly advisable that you use a durable off-track motorcycle such as the Royal Enfield Himalayan or similar adventure bikes that will be suitable for such harsh terrain.

Essential gear

  • Helmet, riding jacket, gloves, and boots: non-negotiable safety gear.
  • Warm clothing layers, It can get very cold at night and at high altitudes.
  • Rain gear, be ready to change for unpredictable weather.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm which are essential protections against the harsh sun at high altitudes.
  • Basic toolkit and spare parts in your bags for minor repairs.
  • First-aid kit and essential medications in case of any medical emergencies.

Permits and documentation

  • Inner Line Permit (ILP): Required by all foreign nationals as well as Indians not residing in Jammu and Kashmir to visit Ladakh. Can be obtained online or from designated offices.
  • Permits for Khardung La: Can be obtained from the Tourist Office in Leh.
  • Driving licence and vehicle documents: Ensure that they are valid documents and are always available with you.

Altitude sickness and health

  • Acclimatisation: Stay at least 2–3 days in Leh acclimating yourself to the high altitude before starting your ride.
  • Hydration: Drink lots of water while avoiding alcohol and smoking.
  • Medications: Consult your doctor regarding medication for altitude sickness, carry basic first aid boxes.

Responsible travel

  • Respect the environment: Avoid littering, and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
  • Respect local customs and traditions: Dress appropriately, be considerate of the local sentiments.
  • Support local communities: Buy souvenirs, eat at local establishments, etc.

Nubra Valley | Credits: rayomand77, Instagram


Biking from Leh to Nubra Valley is an unforgettable adventure. As you traverse steep mountain passes, immense vistas unfurl at every bend. The raw beauty of Ladakh's stark landscape imprints itself on your soul.

After an intense yet magical journey, relax and rejuvenate at The Hosteller. With premium amenities and comfortable dorms, The Hosteller offers a welcoming community for solo travellers and groups alike. Enjoy their cosy common rooms, cafe serving delicious meals, and friendly staff who make you feel at home. Located strategically near top attractions like the bustling Main Bazaar, The Hosteller provides everything you need after an epic biking trip.

So go ahead, book a bed at The Hosteller, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime across Ladakh's breathtaking landscapes. From the soaring heights of Khardung La to the sand dunes of Nubra Valley, this bike trip will create lifelong memories.

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