Indian Himalayas - A Motorcycle Journey

High passes, deep canyons, raging rivers and gompas

rider on a motorcycle with baren red hills behind

Moon-like scenery of the Himalayan plateau and my trusty Enfield.

If Kashmir, Ladakh and Himalayas do not evoke the feeling of adventure, then what does? Riding around India is always an adventure. But heading up north, into the world's highest mountains, is an experience hardly found anywhere else in today's modern world.

Karol Bargh is the place to get anything motorcycle-related in Delhi. I arrived early monday morning looking to rent a bike. Bad idea! Most shops are closed on mondays in Karol Bargh. After going around, I managed to find one Royal Enfield for the trip north.

The next day, I woke up before the dawn to avoid Delhi traffic. By the time sun was out, I was already out of the city. I decided to make the loop clock-wise because altitude gain is more gradual. Manali-Leh road climbs rather suddenly and most travelers experience altitude sickness. Going clock-wise, I would descend this steep section of the road.

Posing in front of a free-roamig camel

The route I did in clock-wise direction.

rider on a motorcycle and a camel behind

Not far outside Delhi, camels on the road. A good omen, for sure.

The first day of riding was the usual Indian road fight with other drivers, cows, dogs and even camels. But past Jammu, the road slowly climbs up and scenery becomes more interesting.

Fixing a flat tire

After dozens of flats, my friends asked me " what is it about you and flat tires." Indeed, no trip can go without one. On this trip, a piece of inner wiring of the tire punctured 2 tubes. No tubes were available for the next 2000 km in the remotest areas of the Indian Himalayas.

Srinagar is situated at a beauiful lake with many houseboats, which are the main tourist attraction. During colonial times, the British could not own the land, so they had their houses on the water.

Green mountains of Kashmir

Verdant Kashmir mountains. Too bad for all the religious tensions in the region. The history of Kashmir is very interesting and sad in a way.

Zanskar valley surrounded by high, snow-covered, peaks

Zanskar valley - wild, remote, breathtaking and without petrol stations. Manged to get only half way in because I did not bring enough petrol.

A Tibetan village

Tibetan monasteries on the way to Leh. This part of India is inhabited mostly by Tibetans. Indians from other parts of India need a special permit to visit the area.

Welcome to Indus Valley

Entrance to Indus valley.

rider on a motorcycle in front of sign khradung-la 18,380ft

Even though there are higher passes in India, this one claims to be the highest. It is certainly the highest easily accessible road.

Atop a Khardung La pass

Highest I've ever been.

Nubra valley, remote and desolate

The "other" side of the Khardung La pass, Nubra valley, feels incredibly remote. Unfortunately, petrol supply is problematic here as well.

Tibetan monastery cascading down a hill

A monastery in Nubra valley.

Bridge with countless prayer flags

Bridges, passes, even curves are decorated with prayer flags - can't have too much good luck when riding in India.

High altitude Himalayan lake

Clear water and deep blue sky of Pangong Tso Lake.

Riding along a dirt road next to a lake

Not much traffic up here.

Road marker

Indian Himalayan roads are littered with witty signs warning drivers to be careful.

Bare landscape

Nice and warm during the day, but bitter cold at night.

< Deep blue sky reflecting in the lake

Beautiful place, but hard life.

Tibetan plateau lake

There are many lakes on the Tibetan plateau. All crystal-clear and cold. Climate up here is very harsh - sun is burning and it's cold in the shade even on a mid-day in August.

A village perched on a hillside

Tibetans like to build their villages perched on mountain sides with the main temple on the top.

Tibetan prayer flags

Colorful prayer flags against the deep blue sky.

Tibetan kids

Joyful kids wanted me to take a photo of them.

Spiti Valley

Road to Spiti valley

As always, I was worried about taking the road to the Spiti valley, especially starting in the afternoon. There were some gushing creeks and passes to cross, but as always, it turned out to be the best experience of the trip and one of the most memorable roads I've ever ridden. Years afer, I am longing to go back and enjoy this road at a more leisurely pace.


Crossing the run-off from this waterfal gave me grief. The water was swift, big submerger rocks, small wheels and low clearance of my Enfield almost made me turn back.


Switchbacks to Spiti Valley.

Arid scenery

Still no people. In half a day on the road, I saw only one jeep and a group of motorcyclists going the other way. If something goes wrong here, you're on your own.

Desolate spiti Valley

Ominus looking clouds, but no rain.

Road to Kaza

Getting closer to Kaza, food and accommodation awaiting me.

Road carved out of sheer, vertical rock

More south, the scenery becomes green again. This road was carved out of the sheer cliff.

Ride across a suspension bridge

A long and narrow suspension bridge across a raging river. July and August are the rainy season in most of India, but the prime time to visit the Indian Himalayas.

Apart from a few flats, I did not have any mechanical problems with the Enfield. However, the rough roads devastated the bike and by the time I returned it to the shop in Delhi, it was due for a major overhaul. The forks were leaking, making bike feel wobbly, panniers rattled off long way before Delhi and the chain was on its last legs.

Crowded New Delhi street

Back to the reality of Indian madness in Delhi.

My other adventure rides: