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  • Writer's pictureTeam Escapades

Roads of Ladakh:

Ladakh, probably one of the most adventure destinations for any motorcycle traveller, or we can also call it a "Mecca" for a motorcyclist. Ladakh always offers great pleasure for those who love Mountains and adventures. Situated in the Trans Himalayan region of India, Leh is the headquarters of the Ladakh region. Ladakh offers some of the great road trips in the Himalayas, on this blog we are going to tell you the top Roads of Ladakh, where one can enjoy riding motorcycles or four wheels. It has some of the world's most dangerous roads and some of the world's highest mountain passes connected by road.

1. Manali Leh Highway – 476 Kms

Undoubtedly this Manali – Leh highway is one of the beautiful roads in the entire Ladakh region. The highway is a 476 km stretch starting from Manali town in Himachal Pradesh state and end in Leh town in Ladakh Union territory region. The highway will be closed for 6-7 months of the year during the extreme winter season, from November to early May it's highly impossible to access this highway. Because there are 5 mountain passes which are above 4000mtrs ASL. And the roads are in very rough shape with lots of water streams, broken bridges, and endless snow-capped mountains. The Leh-Manali Highway is generally two lanes wide (one lane in each direction) without a road divider but has only one or one and a half lanes at some stretches. Snow and rain can make the highway slushy or too slippery to travel. Past precipitation can also create travel hazards. It has over a dozen Bailey bridges and many of them are now being upgraded to two-lane steel bridges. The highway crosses many small streams of ice-cold water from snow-capped mountains and glacial melts without a bridge and it requires driving skills to negotiate fast-flowing streams. The highway has many damaged stretches and under-maintained portions, where even a little rainfall can trigger dangerous landslides. The road quality is poor from Zingzingbar to Pang and high speed can cause discomfort.

2. Srinagar Leh Highway – 422Kms

Srinagar Leh highway or National highway 1D is the mountain highway that will connect the Ladakh region to the Kashmir valley. The highway is 422Kms long starting from Srinagar in Kashmir valley and ends in Leh in Ladakh union territory. The highway will be closed for 6 months from November to April. Zojila pass at the height of 3528Mtrs will cut off this highway from the rest of the world during harsh winters. It is also a part of the ancient silk route connecting Kashmir valley to Yarkand county in Tibet Autonomous Region of Mainland China. For the most part, NH 1D transited through extremely treacherous terrain and followed the historic trade route along the Indus River, thus giving modern travelers a glimpse of villages that are historically and culturally important. The road generally remained open for traffic from early June to mid-November. The total length of NH 1 was 422 km (262 mi). The two highest passes on NH 1D include Fotu La at 4,108 m (13,478 ft) elevation and Zoji La at 3,528 m (11,575 ft) elevation. Drass, located some 170 km (110 mi) from Srinagar at an elevation of 3,249 m (10,659 ft), is the first major village over the Zoji La pass. The village is inhabited by a population of mixed Kashmiri and Dard origins, having a reputation of being the second coldest permanent inhabited spot in the world after Siberia, with temperatures dropping to −45 °C.

3. Kargil – Zanskar road

Another important Road in Ladakh is Kargil to Zanskar valley road. The road is a state highway that is developed and maintained by the Border Road organization (BRO) a Unit of the Indian Army. The road is about 230Kms stretch connecting Padum (Zanskar Valley) from the rest of the world. Zanskar is a tehsil of the Kargil district, which lies in the Indian union territory of Ladakh. The administrative center is Padum (former Capital of Zanskar). The Zanskar Range is spread over a vast area from the southeastern boundaries of the state of Kashmir and extends in the northwest direction to the eastern limits of Baltistan. It separates Ladakh from the valleys of Kashmir and the Chenab River. Penzi La mountain pass at the height of 4450Mtrs ASL. Zanskar remains cut off from the rest of the world for more than eight months a year due to the blockade of the Penzi La. Besides, there is no air service. Today Zanskar is one of the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh and one of the last surviving cultural settlers of Tibet

4. Kargil – Batalik – Dah Hanu – Leh Road

Apart from the Kargil Leh highway, there is another alternate road from Kargil to reach Leh, that is via Batalik & Aryan villages, also one needs to cross Hamboting La pass at the height of 13000Ft asl to reach Aryan villages from Kargil. Dah & Hanu are the few villages in the Kargil sector that are home to the ethnic Drokpa tribe of the Himalayas. They are said to be the descendants of the original Aryan or Indo-European race. Legend has it that when Alexander, the conqueror, came to the Indus Valley and then moved on to Beas, he left a few of his clansmen behind who settled down here. Roads from Kargil to Aryan villages are most spectacular with lush green apricot farms and the Indus River on the other side. Most of the roads are tarmac and it’s a single-lane track.

5. Leh to Pangong Lake Road

After reaching Leh either from the Manali side or from the Srinagar side, the roads of Ladakh will divert into multiple small regions where one can choose the best and most important roads to travel in Ladakh bike trip. Among the important roads in Ladakh, the first one is Leh to Pangong lake, Leh to Pangong lake is a must-visit road in Ladakh. The road will take you to one of the remote and isolated valleys of the Himalayas that is Changthang Plateau or valley, the route from Leh will take you to Karu and take a diversion from Manali Leh highway towards Shakti village, after shakti village one will start ascending towards Zingral where there is an army post. After riding for about an hour or so from Shakti village you will reach Changla Pass at the height of 5390Mtrs ASL, it is the 3rd highest motorable pass in the world. Most of the roads are in good condition except few patches near Changla Pass. It will take around 6-7Hrs to reach Pangong Lake from Leh.

6. Pangong Lake to Nubra valley & Turtuk road

After exploring Pangong lake, one can travel to Nubra valley via Shoyk river road, this is an alternate road to Nubra valley from Pangong lake, earlier days people used to travel back to Leh from Pangong and reach Nubra from Leh on the next day, but this Shoyk valley road cuts the driving distance by 150kms or even a day. Most of the roads from Pangong to Nubra valley are full of off-road with lots of boulders and river beds, one needs to be extremely cautious while riding on these roads, as there are no many villages in between till you reach Nubra valley. The total km from Pangong to Nubra is 160km which will take about 6-8Hrs of the journey to cover the distance. After exploring Nubra valley one can drive further ahead and reach Turtuk village, which is the last village before the Indo-Pakistan border. Turtuk is a beautiful village situated at the banks of the Shoyk river and the majority of the people are from Baltistan which are originated from the Pakistan region.

7. Turtuk to Leh road

Another spectacular road in Ladakh is from Turtuk to Leh via Khardungla Pass. 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 Turtuk to reach Leh, or you can do a round circuit starting from Leh-Pangong-Nubra valley via shoyk road and then Turtuk to Leh.

8. Leh – Hanle road

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 the 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.

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