Leh And Behold

Have you ever pondered on the fact that getting to —India’s most stunning-albeit-stark destination—can be just as exciting as being there? The road up, both from Srinagar (in Jammu and Kashmir) and Manali (in Himachal Pradesh) takes you past some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world; what with endlessly fertile fields giving way to jagged mountains and finally, the cold desert of Ladakh. This must-experience road trip enables riders to encounter incredibly diverse population—the result of this region being an important part of the trade route for several centuries. But that isn’t to say that this endeavour is an easy and culture-crammed ride. Looking to smoothen out all those bike trip bumps? Consult Condé Nast Traveller’s guide of tips and must-dos for one smooth ride:

FIVE SURVIVAL TIPS 1. Sunscreen is an absolute essential, given most of your day will be spent in the harsh sun in high altitudes. 2. Carry a light, long-sleeve shirt to defend yourself from the ever-evolving elements. 3. Another survival trick includes wearing a bandana—to tame your hair under the helmet and avoid the whiplash effect. 4. Pack a pair of waterproof shoes so you can wade across the many streams formed by the melting glaciers. Whether you are travelling by car or bike breakdowns are inevitable and at some point you are going to be required to walk beside/push/pull your stranded vehicle. 5. Moisturising face cream; all those hours on the bike are going to ensure your face feels like sand paper at the end of the day. Use liberally and keep your skin from peeling off.

FIVE MUST-DO EXPERIENCES 1. Drink from one of the numerous crystal clear, cold springs along the way. 2. Spend a day in Sonmarg—an absolute storybook locale (you are unlikely to come across this village unless you are doing the Srinagar-Leh route by road). Only inhabited for the summer months of the year the first sight you encounter here is horses grazing on the mountain-side surrounded by snow-capped peaks. 3. Eat a meal at Bon Appetite in Leh. It takes a bit of finding but it is one of the best authentic restaurants in Leh. 4. Visit Pangong Lake; the highest salt water lake in the world changes colour every hour to reflect the changing colour of the sky. Only one-third of this incredible lake is in India with the rest falling in China. Unfortunately, its proximity to the border makes it impossible to wander too far, especially for foreign nationals. 5. Cycle down to Leh from Khardung La: cycling up to Khardung La—the highest motorable road (pass) in the world at 18,380ft—may only be for the adventure enthusiast but anyone can cycle down. This one promises to one of the most incredible, eye-opening, experiences you can have anywhere in the world.  

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Mehvash Arslan