Ladakh is one of the oldest Indian civilizations and most hostile environments to be in. Situated in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was not open to foreign tourists few years ago. There was a time when even Indian citizens had to take prior permission to enter the area; however, presently people from different nations are welcome to visit and savour the feel of the place.
The road to Leh from Manali is one of the most spirited and popular trails, to avail this adventure sport’s feel in India. The entire stretch of the route offers mesmerizing sights, sheer adventure and the thrilling challenge of bike riding no doubt. It is 480 kilometres of pure adrenaline rush. A biking experience of once in a lifetime, its route stretches up to an altitude of 5,602 metres, while never being lower than 3,978 metres. The effort that goes in riding along this elevation path creates unimaginably beautiful results while en route as well as at peak point. Here, the rider is in for one of his life’s best visuals, encompassing glorious mountain peaks, frozen glaciers, wind-blown valleys, crystal clear rivers, alpine lakes, serene monasteries, remote settlements and lush meadows and valleys.
This route offers a range of scintillating views at different halts. From spending a night at the exquisite town of Jispa, to camping at Sarchu, the border point between states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, that is reached after a long climb to the peak of Baralacha La pass, from where the spectacular snow-capped mountain ranges of the Himalayas are a delight to the eye. Reaching and camping near the Tso Kar Lake is too fascinating. From there involves crossing the Tanglanga pass, the second highest motorable road in the world at about 5350 metres. The ride provides one experience after another, while being a wholesome experience in itself, wherein apart from the landscapes, millennium old serene Buddhist monasteries like Kye Gompa or Key Monastery, in the Lahaul and Spiti District of Himachal Pradesh, and the Nubra valley near Leh are must visits.
Barring the breathtaking Leh-Manali highway, mountain biking tours in India expand their reach to other parts of the country, namely the colourful and culturally rich Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi, the Ganges route at Himalayan foothills in Rishikesh, the mountainous Sikkim, the serene and classic Kerala, other places through South India like the royal Mysore, Nilgiris, also covering places in Bangalore, Goa, Maharashtra, routes staring from Shimla to Spiti and Kinnaur in Himachal, and different routes in and around Ladakh itself.
To promote this adventure sport in the country, an NGO called HASTPA, annually organises a mountain bike race known as ‘MTB Himalaya’ in the mountainous Himachal. It covers a 500 kilometre trail in a span of 8 days. The route was initially from Shimla to Manali, but now follows a loop, starting from Shimla and ending there, also passing through Kullu and Mandi districts. In its 10 years of existence, it has seen about 1200 participants from different nations such as US, Austria, Germany, Nepal, Bhutan and India. Such MTB events are also organised in Shimla, where it’s a 2-day event, in Sikkim, Kerala and Lahaul and Spiti district. The growing popularity of this adventure sport will see more such races, events and expeditions coming up, only adding to its further growth in the country.