Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to travel on the highest roads of the world? Are you a biker who is also in love with the mighty Himalayan mountains or a car enthusiast seeking challenges, adventure and thrill? Well, we have got the perfect roads for you to press that accelerator on! Rough and daunting but equally serene and rewarding, the top 10 motorable roads and passes in India are hugged between the Himalayas. Built by the Border Roads Organization, these roads require for you to get a special permit from the government. However, few of them are open to Indian citizens with a valid ID proof.
It is pretty clear that India is privileged with the highest roads and passes in the world but the ongoing debate on what a ‘Motorable road’ actually is has created confusion. Are these roads ranked on the basis of the fact that all citizens can have access to them or is it the government that enjoys the privilege over them? Here are the Top 10 Highest Motorable Roads and Passes in India whose altitude are measured in compliance with SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) or modern age GPS systems.
Dungri La, commonly known as the Mana Pass, used to be the highest road of India until 2017. Running near the Tibetan border and the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, civilians need special permits from the Army and District Magistrate’s office to drive through this road. It is accessible through Badrinath, a Hindu pilgrimage town. Fun Fact: Dungri La is the second highest motorable road in India, but not of the world! The second highest road of the world is in Bolivia, South America.
At an altitude of 5582 metres, Marsimik is a mountain pass in the Chang-Chemno Range situated 96km east of Leh. Each year people come here to conquer this pass to see the six-lane highway that China has built all the way up to the LOC just 10 kilometers beyond the pass. Marsimik La has a proximity to Lukung which serves as the starting point for the famous Pangong Tso Lake.
Photi La is one of the newly opened pass and is situated in the Zanskar/Changthang region of Ladakh, just 30kms away from the very famous Hanle village. This pass is less travelled upon, full of dust and hardly has any soul existing near it!
The Dongkha la or Donkia Pass is a high mountain pass in the Himalaya connecting North Sikkim in India with Tibet. The pass offers a picturesque view of the Tibetan Plateau and is 5km from the Gurudongmar Lake. The pass is highly controlled by the Indian Army and civilians need special permits to visit the pass due to its closeness to the Tibetian border.
With not much tourist attractions connected to it, the Kaksang La is not as famous as the other mountainous passes. It is located between Mahe and Chushul. This pass has some picturesque views of the beautiful lakes, mountains and valleys. Like all the passes mentioned, you need Inner Line Permits and permission from the Indian Army to visit the pass. The pass also reaches the Tso Moriri lake from Pangong Tso.
The Chang La Pass is one of the most frequented mountain passes in Leh and is a gateway to the majestic Pangong Tso lake. Chang La has the world’s highest research station established by the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and is one of the most frequently used roads. Built by BRO and maintained by Indian Army, you do not need special permits to drive on this road. A rewarding drive, the road from Leh to Pangong Tso is full of iridescent views accompanied by the dry desert and the cold wind.
Well, here is it. The name you were probably looking for at the top of the list. Misconceptions formed by the Guiness record, social media and the very famous post- KhardungLa is not the highest motorable road in the world, yet alone in India. Built in 1976, this pass is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. Indian citizens do not require any kind of permit to reach the top but foreign nationals require the Inner line permit! Surrounded by snow clad Himalayan peaks, reaching this pass is so fulfilling because of the panoramic views offered. Khardung La is the ideal place for motorbike, automobile and mountain biking expeditions.
While travelling on the Leh-Manali highway, you will come across the Taglang La situated at an elevation of 5,328m above the sea level. The road is quite well built, yet quite dusty because it runs through a gorge.
Wari La serves as a direct connection between Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. However, it is one of the least traversed highest motorable roads in India. It is a highly remote pass, you will not find a single person visible throughout the journey. Travelling on this road is risky because the roads are an absolute mess with no one to help during an emergency! This pass will surely make you enhance your survivor and driving skills.
So if you’re someone who is looking for an adrenaline rush, then start gathering your gear because the (not so) perfect roads await you!