Offbeat Motorcycle Trails in Ladakh
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Ladakh- the Land of High passes, probably one of the most visited places in India on a Motorcycle. Yes, it attracts close to 50000 motorcycle travelers around the globe every year. During the season from June to September people from all over the world visit this remote high altitude coldest desert to explore once in a lifetime experience. Most of the Motorcycle tours start from either Manali or Srinagar or it also starts from Leh, the headquarters of Ladakh division. The possible route to Ladakh is, generally, riders take the "Manali-Leh" highway and then exit from Leh-Srinagar highway or vice versa. Covering some of the high altitude mountains passes like Rohtang Pass, Baralachala Pass, Tanglangala Pass, Fotu la, and so on. Apart from these regular routes, there are several trails that are less traveled, let's see which are those offbeat places.
Hunderman – The Lost village between LOC
Hunderman or Hundarmaan is one of the northernmost villages in India and is situated in the Kargil district of Ladakh. It is located 10 km from Kargil, the district headquarters, and is on the banks of the Drass River. The village which changed its citizenship 3 times since Independence. Until 1947 Hunderman was under Indian territory, during partition till 1971 it was under Pakistan territory and after 1971 war it became a part of India again & till now. Hunderman is one of the remote villages in Kargil district, one has to ride for about 30-45 mins to reach this village which lies en-route to Kargil-Skardu Highway(Which is Closed since 1947). After reaching there please do visit the Museum in Hunderman and you can also view the bunkers of India and Pakistan army. There is also a village just across the river and it belongs to Pakistan. You can do it as a half-day excursion while doing Motorcycle Trip from Kargil to Leh or Srinagar to Kargil.
Everyone knows about Khardungla Pass, Changla, Tanglangla, Zoji La pass &, etc, but only a few travelers know about "Hambotingla Pass". Hambotingla pass is situated on Kargil-Batalik road. The height of this pass is approx 13,380 feet above sea level. This pass is located on the Kargil-Batalik section and lies very near to the international border. While riding from Kargil to Leh most of the riders take Kargil-Lamayuru-Leh highway, but if you want to explore something offbeat then take Kargil-Batalik-Dah&Hanu- Leh road. Hambotingla pass is a gateway for Aryan Villages, after a few km from the pass, you will start to see a glimpse of Aryan Villages like Silmo Grong, Darchik, Dah & Hanu, etc. The pass is located very close to the International border between India and Pakistan in the Batalik Sector. Next time when you ride from Kargil to Leh take this road and enjoy the serene beauty of road less traveled.
Secrets of Aryan Villages
Have you ever heard of Aryan people in Asia or India, having their roots here in Ladakh? Hidden in the secret valleys of lower Himalayan ranges in Ladakh region "The Indus valley", there are few villages in Indus valley like Dah, Hanu, Darchik, and Garkon. They consider themselves to be the pure bloodline of the Aryans. The community also claims to be the direct descendants from the Alexander's Army, some of whom reportedly stayed back after Alexander abandoned his campaign at the banks of river Indus in 326 BC. These villages are a great way to explore the cultural diversity of the region, The tribes have a unique ornamentation style and interesting headgear that makes for great pictures. Dha and Hanu are located in the Brokpa region of Leh and are famously known as the 'Last Aryan Villages of India'. This is one of the best-kept secrets of Ladakh.
Far up in the Himalayan ranges of Ladakh, there is a small village located 80kms from Kargil town called "Chiktan". There are old ruins situated at the top of the mountain called "Chiktan Castle". Built-in the 16th century by Balti craftsmen, the castle served as a royal residence for centuries despite shifts in rulers as the region was amalgamated with neighboring kingdoms. Today, the neglect and natural forces have reduced the fort to rubble. Chiktan Castle is located deep inside a valley, by the Indus river, with the mountains in the background. It is composed of rammed earth and stone masonry with mud mortar. Following the designs of architect and carpenter Shinkhen Chandan, the castle used timber to support the ceilings of the structure as well as to frame the doors and windows. The Palace was one of the Masterpieces of Ladakh and Tibetian Architecture which was famous across Lhasa, Tibet. It reportedly had a rotating room that used to rotate with support of air blowing. The castle was attacked several times during its history but was not abandoned until the late 19th century.
Man, Merak and Chusul Village
Man, Merak and Chusal are 3 villages which are located exactly next to the Pangong Tso Lake, most of the travelers who travel to Pangong stays at either Spangmik or Lukung. But the real beauty of Pangong lies after crossing Spangmik and ride towards Man & Merak Villages. Man is just 10kms from Spangmik and most of the time we will ride very next to Pangong Lake and further till Merak village the roads go the same. Merak is 12 km from Man village and probably one of the best trails in Ladakh to enjoy offroad tracks, the roads are full of gravels and sand. One needs to obtain an Inner Line permit from Leh DC to travel on this road, coz after Merak we can ride till Chusul village. This place is famous for the Indian Army who fought to the 'last man, last round' at Rezang La (Chushul) on November 18, 1962. Without this crucial victory, the territory might have been captured by China, Chushul is one of the five officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies to improve relations. One needs an Inner Line permit to travel to Chusul from Spangmik via Man & Merak Village. If you stay for a day in Spangmik then you should explore this Trail for sure.
Hanle, the most remote village in Ladakh Territory and lies very close to the Indo-Tibet border. Hanle can be reached from Leh through 2 different routes, the one is a regular road from Leh-Hemis-Nyoma Bend-Hanle which is 250 Kms and the other one is from Leh-Spangmik-Chusul-Mood – Hanle which is 318kms and one of the best trails to ride on Motorcycles in Ladakh region. The roads are very rugged and not much human settlement in between, it's pure bliss to ride in Changthang Plateau from Spangmik to Hanle via Chusul. Hanle is home to the Indian Astronomical Observatory. The location of the village and the observatory are highly sensitive due to the close proximity of the Tibetan / Chinese border. Special permission is needed to visit either by the Indian Government or DC office Leh.
Turtuk is one of the remote villages in Leh district situated in Nubra Tehsil. Turtuk is a tiny farming village nestled between snow-topped mountains, Apricot farming, and the Shoyk river. And is the only Balti region under the Indian administration, Geographically, Turtuk lies in the Baltistan Region and is one among four such villages in India, the other three being Tyakshi, Chalunkha, and Dhothang. The residents of Turtuk and its adjoining villages speak Balti language along with Ladakhi and Urdu. The story of Turtuk is very similar to Hunderman Village, Turtuk was under Pakistan till 1971, after which India gained control over this strategic area. For years, Turtuk was kept secluded not only by the government but by its uniquely imposing geography: cradled by the Karakoram mountains, it's a hard, un-shaded trek from surrounding villages. Yet the predominantly Muslim province of Baltistan – an anomaly within mostly Buddhist Ladakh – once served as an important gateway to the Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected India with China, Persia, and Rome. The mixed backgrounds of Turtuk's villagers, who are of Tibetan and Indo-Aryan descent, speak to Baltistan's once important role as a connector of goods, cultures, and people. One needs to travel for 8 hrs from Leh to reach Turtuk village, or you can do around circuits starting from Leh-Pangong-Nubra valley via Shoyk road and then Turtuk.
Zanskar valley one of the remote valley situated in the Trans Himalayan region of Ladakh. Zanskar is a sub-district of Kargil located interior of the Ladakh region with Padum as its administrative center. Zanskar is the most isolated part of the Trans Himalaya region. Once it was the part of the Guge kingdom in Tibet. Padum the headquarters of Zanskar valley is 450kms from Leh, one has to travel for about 2-3 days to reach Padum with an overnight stay at Kargil. Before reaching padum we need to cross Pensi La mountain pass which is at the height of 4400Mtrs. One of the major attractions in Suru Valley, Pensi la, Padum, and some Buddhist monasteries. The road condition is good from Leh to Kargil and from Kargil to Panikhar, but after crossing Panikar the real fun begins when road conditions turn to Dirt trails, it is also the reason why Zanskar valley is not everyone's cup of tea.