Reach the heights, feel a sense of achievement!
India houses the highest mountain ranges in the world such as Himalayas and Karakoram and traversing through them it no less than traveling at the highest places on Earth. Scaling the mountainous roads is not just challenging yet a rewarding factor giving you a sense of accomplishment and beautiful picturesque views. While it is an everyday task for many such as truck and bus drivers, it is a thrilling adventure for others such as tourists and travelers to ride in these highest mountain roads and passes. We bring you some of the highest motorable roads in India which are worth visiting or riding.
19300 ft (5882 meters)- Contradictory to the popularity of Khardung La being the highest pass at an elevation of 17,582 ft, Umlingla is the actual highest pass located near the India-China border in Jammu & Kashmir. This is the world’s highest motorable road which can be traversed by skilled bikers and Indian Army jeeps yet debatable whether this pass should be considered to be motorable. The road stretching up to 86km constructed by BRO goes up to an elevation of 19,300 ft that connects Chisumle and Demchok villages in the Ladakh region. Civilians need special permits to drive through since it is accessible only to and is under the surveillance of the Indian Army. This road isn’t a normally traversable one with also the oxygen level dropping to 50% less than at normal places, at Umlingla Top.
Dungri La Road
18406 ft (5610 meters)- This is situated in the state of Uttarakhand at the border between Tibet and India. This is the highest motorable road in the world, based on the data of SRTM this road is at an elevation of 18,406 ft which connects India to Tibet through the Zanskar mountain range. The construction of this lasted from 2005-2010 by the Border Roads Organisation of the Indian military. It gained visibility on visual globe systems such as Google Earth in 2011. Yet again special permission is required from the Army and District Magistrate’s office for the civilians to drive through this road.
Marsimik La Pass
18,314 ft (5,582 meters)- Based on the data of SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) the pass is at an elevation of 18,314 ft. To 96 km east of Leh, Marsimik La lies in the Chang-Chemno Range marking it the second-highest motorable Mountain Pass in World. You can head in the road that turns north away from the lake just before the start of Pangong Tso, further into the hills the pass lies at 20 kilometers further on that road. Several skilled riders conquer this highest motorable pass in the world every year, and just 10 kilometers beyond the pass, one can also see the six-lane highway China has built up to the LOC. To climb this pass civilian shall need a permit from the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Leh.
18124 ft (5,524m)- Situated in the Zanskar range of Ladakh region, Photi La can be considered as the latest addition to this list. Located at about 30 km from the beautiful Hanle Monastery in the Hanle village, it falls on the Hanle-Photi Le road. The road is very dusty and also the oxygen level is quite low because of which you will hardly find any soul around here. To conquer this pass you will require permission from the Indian army.
18,000 ft (5,500 m) – This high mountain pass in India connects Sikkim in India with Tibet and is also known as Donkia Pass. This offers a picturesque view of the Tibetan Plateau from where it is located in North Sikkim. It is 5km further from the Gurudongmar Lake which is also known to be one of the highest lakes in the world and considered sacred by the Buddhists. Civilians need special permits to visit the pass because of it being controlled by the Indian Army. It is quite a task to get permits much like Mana Pass because of its proximity to the Tibetian border.
17,841 ft (5,438 m)- Situated in the Ladakh region, Kaksang La is a high mountain pass between Mahe (40km, 4,200m) and Chushul. You will be offered some of the picturesque views of the mountains, fantastic lakes, and valleys. Similar to other high passes, you will need Inner Line Permits and permission from the Indian Army to visit the pass. It is quite tough for the foreign nationals to obtain these permits, which looks quite fair chances for the Indians.
17,586 ft (5,360 m)- According to SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) this high pass is at an altitude of 17,586 ft from the sea level. This amazing pass is located on the way to majestic Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh. DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) has its world’s highest research station established at Chang La. This also acts as the main gateway for the Changthang Plateau in the Himalayas.
17,582 ft (5,359 m)- This is yet another pass situated in the Ladakh region of India and often incorrectly claimed as the world’s highest motorable pass. But it only comes 8th in our list of world’s highest motorable roads acting as a gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. This is maintained by the Border Roads Organization which was built in 1976 and publicly opened to the motor vehicles in 1988. The elevation of this pass is 17,582 ft according to SRTM and is counted as the 9th highest motorable pass in the world. This pass offers some of the mindblowing panoramic views and is an absolute beauty in itself. Indians can traverse this pass without any particular special permit whereas foreign nationals will require Inner Line permit for the same.
17,480 ft (5,328 m)- This high mountain pass of Tanglang is located on the way to Leh from Manali. This is at an elevation of 5,328 meters (17,480 ft) and the highest motorable pass among the five passes on the Manali-Leh highway. The condition of roads is pretty good and paved except for about 500m unpaved section north of the pass.
17,428 ft (5,312 m)- Falling on the road from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso with the direct connection, this pass is a high altitude pass in Ladakh region, at an altitude of 17,400 feet. You will hardly find any soul during your entire journey on this barren pass of Wari La.
16588 ft (5,056 m)- On the way to Leh from Manali this is another high mountain pass at an elevation of 5,056 m (16588 ft). It also forms the second highest motorable pass among the five passes on the Manali-Leh highway. It is located 100 km south of Taglang La. The roads amidst the rocky gorge are pretty well maintained.