The group flight arrives in Delhi in the morning and we will then transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight or for individual exploration of Delhi. Rooms in the hotel are usually available from noon. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day. Bikes will be transported from Delhi to Manali by road ready for your arrival in Manali.
This morning we have an early start and transfer to the railway station before boarding the train to Chandigarh/Kalka. From Chandigarh/Kalka we will drive to Mandi (approx 210km/6 hours).
In the morning we drive to Manali (approx 150 km/6 hours). We drive through the lush alpine landscape of Himachal Pradesh into the Kullu Valley. Here we meet the mighty Beas River which we follow to the hill resort of Manali (2000m). On arrival we check-into the hotel and collect/build our bikes ready for the following day. The evening is free to explore the local surroundings. Manali is surrounded by beautiful fir and pine forests and there are lovely walks in and around the town. There is also a colourful Tibetan bazaar famous for its shawls, caps, jewellery and handicrafts made by Tibetan refugees.
This morning we get on our bikes for the first time and go on an acclimatisation ride. A nearby forest hides a 450-year-old temple, called Hadimba Devi, made out of wood that has remarkable carvings. We then cycle out of Manali and follow the Beas River to Nagar Castle. Nagar was once the capital of this area and the old castle has now been turned into a hotel. Near the castle is the Nicholas Roerich estate. Roerich was a Russian artist, who married a Bollywood heroine and lived here in Nagar. He travelled extensively through Ladakh and Tibet and many of his beautiful works of art still hang in the gallery here. Other options for today include 'Old Manali', a picturesque village close to the ruins of the Fortress Mandakot and the hot sulphur springs at Vaishisht.
35 Km, 5-6 Hr, elevation gain 1250m. Today we start our first full day of biking on one of the classic cycle routes in the world. We start climbing right from Manali through the flower-filled valleys and cedar and fir forests, passing through numerous villages. After the last village, called Kothi, we will cycle up lots of hairpin bends which bring us to the Rohalla Falls. We will then ascend into a small valley where we will reach our camp for the night.
72 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 1100m. A hard day today as we cross our first pass. We leave early and leave all habitation behind as the road zig zags higher and higher into the mountains. Much of the road near the top of the pass can be muddy especially when wet. We feel as though we are entering a different world as we reach the top of the Rohtang La (3978m). This barren windswept pass, blocked by snow for more than six months of the year, crosses the Pir Pinjal Range and is the gateway to Ladakh. We leave the coniferous forests and lush green pasturelands behind and enter a vivid mountainous desert. Ahead are spectacular views across to the mountains of Lahoul and Spiti. From the top of the pass the road snakes down 900m to the small village of Khoksar. Care must be taken on the downhill as some of the road is not tarmac. We are in the Lahaul Valley and the cycling becomes easier as we continue on to Tandi, where the rivers Chandra and Bhaga come together.
37 Km, 4-5 Hr, elevation gain 700m. An easier day today as we cycle through Lahaul. The scenery is spectacular and the valley narrows as magnificent mountains rise high above us. The road follows the main valley and en route we stop at Gondhala to see the ancient fort. Continuing up the valley we cycle through Keylong, a small bustling town. Keylong is the capital of Lahaul and is surrounded by three famous monasteries - we can see the rooftops shining in the sun on the surrounding hillsides. We continue on to Jispa where we can visit a new monastery, which was specially built for H.H. the Dalai Lama.
32 Km, 3-4 Hr, elevation gain 500m. Another fairly easy day for acclimatisation as we are now approaching the Great Himalayan Range. We cycle through beautiful green pastureland to Darcha (3235m) where we can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee at a local restaurant. From here we continue climbing, until we reach Patseo (3650m). The site now of a lone tea house Patseo used to be the place of an annual fair of the Changpa nomads.
60 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 1400m. A hard day today as we cross the Himalayas to Sarchu. Sarchu is the border between the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. After a gradual climb across large meadows past Zingzingbar we start our long ascent to the Baralacha La Pass (4892m). The climb seems at times to go on forever but the hard work is worth it as the views become increasingly spectacular. Finally we reach the top - we are in the middle of the mighty Indian Himalaya. The word Baralacha means 'a pass with crossroads' and the trails from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul come together here. This is the main crossing of the Great Himalayan Range and we get amazing views of the many snow-covered peaks including Barashigri, Chandrabhaga and Mulkila. From the pass the cycling gets easier as we descend past Kiling Serai and on to Sarchu.
84 Km, 8-9 Hr, elevation gain 1200m. This will be our longest and hardest day of cycling so we will set off early. We start by climbing fairly gently for approximately 38 km across the windswept Sarchu Plains past Brandy Nallah and Whisky Nallah to the bottom of the Gata Loops. This is a series of 22 amazing hairpin bends, which we slowly ascend. Take time to stop and look back - the valley behind is full of amazing wind eroded rock formations. At the top of the loops we will have climbed 500 metres and reached the Nakli La 4800m. A short downhill is followed by another winding ascent to our second pass of the day, the Lachalung La at 5100m. We are now crossing the barren Zanskar Range and we are surrounded by amazing multi-coloured mountains - the purples, greens and browns of the hillsides change shades as clouds are blown across the sky. From the Lachalung La we have an easy ride down through an amazing canyon of magnificent rock formations of the Trans Himalaya until we reach Pang.
57 Km, 4-5 Hr, elevation gain 400m. We start slowly with a short ascent to the Mori Plains (4700m). We are now in Rupshu, the waterless high altitude desert of the Tibetan Plateau. This area is all above 4500m and is home to the hardy Changpas, Tibetan nomads who live in yak hair tents and graze huge flocks of sheep and yaks in this seemingly barren landscape. We turn off the main road and cycle along a sandy track to Tsokar Lake where we camp for the night near Pongunagu. Tsokar means 'white lake', and there are white salt deposits ringing the water. Our camp is a few kilometres from the lake but for the energetic there will be time to cycle to the lake, or even around it to visit some of the nomads. Look out for herds of 'kiang', the wild asses which roam the surrounding hills. The lake is also good for birdwatchers.
80 Km, 6-7 Hr, elevation gain 900m, elevation gain 900m. A hard day today as we cross the last pass before Leh, the Taglang La. We leave Tsokar and cycle back to the main road. The long climb starts gradually and winds ever higher and steeper to the top of the Taglang La (5350m). You should be proud of yourself at the top - you have just cycled to the top of the second highest motorable road pass in India! We are rewarded for all our hard work with wonderful views of both the Himalaya and the Karakorum Mountains. After a rest and photo stop we have a wonderfully long zig zag descent to our first real villages since Lahoul. The houses and green fields of barley and potatoes greet us as we pass the villages of Rumtse and Gya before reaching our camp at Rani Bagh.
82 Km, 7-8 Hr, elevation gain 450m. We start early with an easy ride winding down following the Kyamnar River down to Upshi. Here we join the Indus Valley, which we follow all the way into Leh. But first we have a diversion to visit Hemis monastery, once the largest and richest of all Ladakhi monasteries. To get there we have a 7km climb as the monastery is tucked away up a side valley. There is time to visit the ancient temples with priceless Buddha statues. We then cycle down to the main road and follow the mighty Indus River. From Karu we continue on to Tikse, where an impressive monastery sits perched on a hilltop. If there is time we can cycle up to the monastery, which contains a very impressive two-storey statue of the Future Buddha. Passing the ruins of Shey Palace the cycling is fairly easy as we come to Choglamsar, home to many Tibetan refugees. There is a final sting in the tail as we leave the Indus and climb into Leh. Tonight we can enjoy the comforts of a hot shower in our hotel in Leh.
Return to Leh, 78km, 9-10 HR, elevation gain 2100m. For the energetic today there is the challenging ride to the Khardung La (5602m), arguably the highest motorable road pass in the world. After the last 10 days we should now be fully acclimatised to the altitude and mountains. We leave Leh early and take a packed lunch. It will take around 6 hours to cycle to the top of the pass. The views are magnificent as we wind our way higher and higher away from Leh. The first half of the ride is tarmac and the last half is rough road. From the top we are rewarded with close-up views ahead of the Karakorums, while behind us the Ladakh and Zanskar mountains seem to stretch forever. After a photo stop we have a fantastic downhill ride back to Leh - a great reward for all the hard work this morning! Please note: If you hold a Chinese, Korean or Taiwanese passport you will not be able to get an Inner Line Permit to do the Khardung Pass trip and you will only be able to cycle from Leh to the check point half way up.
We now have time to relax and do some sightseeing and shopping in Leh. The day is free to explore the back streets and bazaars or maybe do some optional sightseeing around Leh.
We transfer early in the morning to Leh airport and catch a flight to Delhi. The flight is spectacular as it flies right across the Himalaya. On arrival in Delhi we transfer to our hotel. During the afternoon you are free to relax or explore Delhi. There will be an optional sightseeing tour of Old Delhi and New Delhi which will visit the Red Fort, Jamia Mosque, India Gate, Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Minar.
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for London this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.