Ever since the Manali Leh Highway was opened to foreigners in 1989 cyclists have revered it as one of the most spectacular rides in the world. It’s also the second highest (easily upgraded to highest if you climb the Khardung La when you reach Leh), and half of its 475 kilometres traverse a landscape so high and so barren that there’s no permanent human habitation at all. The scenery is epic and hard won over a series of 5000 metre passes which lead from the lush Kullu Valley over high altitude desert to the remote and starkly beautiful ancient kingdom of Ladakh.

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Start / finish






Road conditions


Manali (Himachal Pradesh) / Leh (Jammu & Kashmir), India

310 miles / 500km (including side-trip to Tso Kar)

Start 1900m (6233ft). Max 5350m (17,552ft). End 3563m (11,689ft)

Minimum 7 days riding. Allow 3 weeks for flights and acclimatising.

Hard (altitude, temperature extremes, occasional poor road surface)

Guesthouses, hotels, homestays, parachute tents - tent not necessary unless you’d like to camp under Himalayan skies...

Usually ok, 75% tarmac, 25% mud-packed road. You may need to cross some streams (these can usually be cycled through).

£ (not expensive)