Motorcycle Riding in the Himalayas – 8 Reasons to Go!
Riding a motorcycle in the Himalayas is something very special. Carving through stunning scenery to the thump of a Royal Enfield motor is the most wonderful way to explore the amazing landscapes in this incredible region – no wonder our Himalayan Heights and Hidden Himalayas tours have been the best sellers every year since we introduced them back in 2015. So if you are thinking about that big adventure, riding a motorcycle in the Himalayas, here are 8 good reasons – and two cracking videos – to persuade you to pull the trigger and get it booked.
#1 THE ARRIVAL
OK, so this is the obvious one to start our list with as your Indian experience starts the moment you step out of Indira Gandhi airport. India is such a vibrant and colourful country, even the scramble for a taxi is just a taste of what is to come and once you set out into the traffic and head deeper into the beautiful chaos that is New Delhi – it’s sensory overload! . Luckily we pick up our customers from the airport, allowing you to stare wide-eyed at the buzz of the streets, the people, the shops, the tuk-tuks, the cows, the bicycles – everything that makes the country’s capital so unique!
Don’t be in a rush to leave Delhi – leave your bags at your hotel and go on an incredible tour of the vast city in a tiny green and yellow tuk-tuk – a day’s hire will cost you less than £10 and the driver will take you everywhere you want to go and a few places he gets free lunch for bringing you! Wander round the Red Fort, take a walk in Old Delhi – and finish the day in the stylish Haus Khas district. Our favourite hang out is The Social, overlooking the city from the day beds of the rooftop terrace with an ice-cold gin and tonic!
If you arrive a few days early you can of course take a trip to Agra & be bowled over by the Taj Mahal.
#2 THE SCENERY
So although Delhi is truly amazing, it’s not one of the prettiest cities in the world, and neither are the flat plains that surround the capital. For the truly stunning scenery, you have to head to the hills, quite literally. As soon as you start climbing, everything starts getting better as you’ll start seeing stunning forests, crashing rivers, soaring cliffs – and that’s just in the lower regions!
When you head up to the Himachal Pradesh region, things start getting serious as this is where you reach the lower stretches of the Himalayas. From wide river valleys to cool woodlands, narrow passes to sweeping plains, this region has a bit of everything – and with a motorcycle you can explore it all. It’s hard to pick our favourite part of this wonderful place, but if pushed then Nubra Valley comes pretty close to perfect. From mountains to sand dunes, the mighty Shyok River and vast ravines, it’s hard to put the camera away and keep your eyes on the road. This is an incredible place which you can experience with Ride Expeditions or, if you are very brave, on your own!
#3 THE ROADS
Let’s be clear here – not all the roads in India, are in the best condition you’ve ever seen, especially in the higher parts of the Himalayas. With such a vast country, the standard of the roads varies enormously, as does the standard of driving – ride through Delhi and it’s like a constant hazard perception test! But once you escape out of the towns into the countryside and up to the mountains, you will be rewarded with some truly astounding roads. From wide empty tarmac ribbons tracking trough mile after mile of wide open plains, to sinuous gravel roads clinging the the sides of impossibly high cliffs, the Himalayas is a hell of a place for riding a motorcycle.
But don’t be thinking you need a big powerful bike to enjoy the best of Indian roads, on the contrary – the best bikes to enjoy riding here are softer powered bikes like the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Bikes built in this fascinating country, bikes that belong here, bikes that are not going to catapult you off a 300m drop if you get a bit of a whisky throttle! And with so much to see, who wants to go fast? Relax, take it all in and chug away all day!
WANT ADVENTURE? WE GOT ADVENTURE ...
#4 THE MOuNTAINS
If you were only allowed one reason to explain why you want to go riding a motorcycle in the Himalayas, we can supply a pretty big one – quite simply the sheer majesty of this breathtaking mountain range itself. The Himalayas stretch over 1500miles from Afghanistan in the west to Bhutan in the east, with over 50 mountain peaks higher than 7,000m above sea level. Until you have been to this region it’s hard to imagine the incredible scale of the Himalayas – these mountains are simply epic.
Riding a motorcycle in the mountains is, without a doubt, the best way to really experience the Himalayas. On both our Himalayan Heights and Hidden Himalayas tours, we’ve picked out the most stunning routes that will take us into the heart of this mountain range, staying in remote camps and distant villages hundreds of miles away from the madding crowd. From sipping a beer by a roaring fire beneath sheer cliffs on the high plateau at Sarchu, to climbing up winding roads in the incredible Spiti Valley dwarfed my enormous peaks, the views are beyond epic!
#5 THE PASSES
Now to get between these incredible mountain ranges, you are going to need to tackle those infamous passes. From the astoundingly beautiful Rohtang Pass that rises up out of Manali towards the western end of the Spiti Valley, the Baralacha La Pass that climbs to 4,860 m on the way to Keylong or the Chang La Pass – the second highest pass on any of our tours at 5,250m into the sky where you’ll need those layers and insulated gloves to keep out the icy cold. Brrrr!
But if you really want epic, then the Khardung La Pass knocks it right out of the park and into next week. The pass climbs over the peak of Khardung La from Leh and over to the Shyok and Nubra Valley, reaching a staggering 5,359m – that’s over 5km or 17,500ft above sea level in case you can’t get the context. The air gets progressively thinner as you head up, and if your bike has an old school carburetor it will start feeling like you are dragging an anchor, you might even start feeling that getting your breath can be tricky. Luckily we use the updated Royal Enfield with fuel injection so even though you might be struggling a bit, the bikes will just keep going!
It truly is an incredible feeling when you get there. On top of the world – Hell yes!
#6 THE PEOPLE
Whether you are a regular or just an occasional traveller, what often makes the difference between a good trip and a great trip is the people you meet along the way – from the taxi driver that tells you more about the country than you could ever read in a guide book, to the fellow travellers that share part of your journey. The Himalayas and India as a whole doesn’t disappoint, with colourful and wonderfully friendly people from the moment you step off the plane to the shopkeepers in remote villages and beyond. In all the years we’ve been touring in this country, we’ve encountered nothing but warmth and friendship along the way.
Calling in at the smallest of roadside stops will see smiling faces and the offer of delicious home cooked food prepared right in front of you and a trip to a monastery can become a truly enlightening experience in every possible way. It’s a magical place with magical people, so as you travel be generous with your time, and if appropriate, with your money. Karma is real and when you are travelling far from home, it’s best to have some in the bank…
Although the tendency for people to always help out and not disappoint is often useful, it can sometimes also get you into some difficulties. Ask a passer by if you are on the right road to Delhi, the answer will invariably be ‘Yes‘, – no matter if it is or not- as saying ‘No’ might make you sad!
Once you know this, you tend to ask things like ‘Which way to Shimla?‘ for a far more reliable answer!
#7 THE PEACE
Although it might seem a bit of a cliche to go to India to find yourself, there is a definite spirituality to the whole of India that you don’t find anywhere else in the world. Watching the sun rise over the mountains from the shores of Pangong Tso, the highest saltwater lake on the planet, is a magical experience that should not be missed and connects you to the landscape in a truly beautiful way.
We’re no hippies but if we were – it would be far out Maaahn!
This peace seems to lay over the Himalayas like a finely crafted cloak. It pays to take some time away from the bike, climb to the top of a hill and just sit and be still, taking in the incredible scenery all around. Our favourite place to do this is just above the tiny mountain village of Nako, a shiny jewel of a place in a rugged landscape that is a stop-over on our Hidden Himalayas tour. It’s a true privilege to pass through this stunning place and spend some time just being still and peaceful.
Don’t believe us? Book it and come see!
#8 THE EXPERIENCE
So our final reason to ride in the Himalayas ties all the others together. Riding a motorcycle in this wonderfully diverse, chaotic and beautiful country, and especially in the Himalayas, is an experience like no other. From experiencing the sights and smells of the cities, the markets and the ramshackle side streets, the unexpectedly delicious food in the remotest locations, the assault of colours, the madness of the traffic – it’s truly incredible.
Then there’s the scenery. Massive mountains, enormous valleys, crashing rivers and deep gorges. Cool forests and wide plains, snow covered peaks and grass covered rolling hills, rice paddys and dense jungles it’s all there and waiting to be explored.
Don’t forget the people you’ll meet on the way – it’s all part of the adventure. From the traders in the markets to the goat herds alongside the trails, the guides to the mechanics, the hotel keepers to the street vendors – that’s why it’s one of our favourite places to visit and ride! And with a group of fellow bikers alongside you for the trip, you just know that it’s going to be a fantastic experience!
So what are you waiting for?