Ladakh is known as the land of high passes and is home to some of the roads located at the highest altitudes. Here are some of them:
Umling La or Umlingla Pass – 5,883 metres or 19,300 feet
In 2017, BRO built and opened, the world’s highest road over Umlingla pass or Umling La connecting Chisumle and Demchok villages. Umling La pass is about 105 kms from Hanle Village and about 235 kms from Leh. If you have a permit to visit Hanle, then there is no extra permit required. If you are coming from Koyul side, then you need to have a permit for passing Koyul as well.
The route you can take is Hanle to Photi La Pass to Photile Village (57 KMs) and then follow the route from Photile Village to Umlinga La pass for about 50 KMs at an altitude of 19300 feet. You will come across two bridges/ water crossings while going to Umlingla Pass from Photile Village. There is another route from Ukdungle village as well but it is more of a dirt track.
Marsimek La or Marsimik La – 5,582 Mtrs or 18,313 Feet
Marsimek La Situated in Ladakh where civilians, though native to India, with prior permits from the army can travel and scale this daunting pass at an altitude of 5,582 metres. Getting a permit to Marsimik La is a little easier in comparison to getting a permit to that highest road to Mana Pass or Dungri La road.
The road to Marsimik La bifurcates through Pobrang on the way to Pangong Tso Lake and is about 20 odd kms from there at a steep climb. People have scaled Marsimik La in normal SUVs (4×2) or average powered bikes in the past. Marsimek La or Marsimik La is the highest motorable mountain pass in the world because the other two in the list above it are high altitude roads, not passes.
Photi La – 5,524 metres or 18,124 feet
The latest unknown entry into the world’s top five highest motorable passes or roads is Photi La pass. Situated in India – Ladakh region at an altitude of 5,524 metres or 18,124 feet, Photi La is about 30 odd kms from Hanle that at present is in the Changthang region of Ladakh further away from Tso Moriri lake.
Kaksang La – 5,438 metres or 17,841 feet
Next in the list, we have another least known surprise entry by the name “Kaksang La” pass which is situated in the Changthang region of Ladakh at an altitude of 5,438 metres or 17,841 feet. It comes on the route from Mahe to Nama – Chusul – Pangong Tso when going over Hora La Pass that comes first as you start ascending from Mahe ahead of Chumathang or near Tso Moriri.
On this route from Mahe to Nama – Chusul – Pangong Tso, there are two amazingly beautiful lakes – Yaye Tso and Mirpal Tso as well which will take your soul away by their first sight itself. Again, you need an Inner Line Permits in Ladakh to visit the region of Nama – Chusul but at least Indian nationals always have fair chance to get these permits. Please note at times, even after having permits, the army does not allow you to travel on this route and can send you back from the checkpoint in case they deem it unsafe to travel further for civilians.
Chang La – 5,360 metres or 17,586 feet
Well, yeah, those of you who have been to Ladakh will be in a surprise to know that Changla pass is higher than Khardung La too as per the readings in compliance to SRTM or with modern age GPS systems. Chang La is quite a beautifully located pass on the way to majestic Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh,
India which is visited by thousands of tourist every year as soon as the season in May – June starts after the opening of the Manali – Leh Highway or the Srinagar – Leh Highway. Since Leh has connectivity via air as well, nowadays loads of tourists have also started visiting frozen Pangong Tso over snow buried Chang La pass in winters too. Do not miss a black tea or tomato soup up there at the canteen.
Khardung La – 5,359 metres or 17,582 feet
Falsely claimed as the highest motorable pass in the world named Khardung La pass, situated in Ladakh, India at an altitude of 5,359 metres or 17,582 feet. Thousands of tourists travel every year to this mountain pass and I assume that it may be one of the most clicked passes in the world for sure with maybe thousands of photographs produced every year by tourists over the Internet who visit Ladakh. Almost, everyone who visits Ladakh, do visit Khardung La pass and get a picture clicked up there with its signboard. You can also get some souvenirs of the world’s highest motorable road too from the shop up there at Khardung La.
Taglang La or Tanglang La – 5,328 Meters or 17,480 Feet
Second last on the list is Taglang La or Tanglang La pass at an altitude of 5,328 metres or 17,480 feet which is located in Ladakh, India. It comes on one of the most beautiful and adventurous roads of the world, the Manali – Leh Highway. Like Khardung La, Taglang La is also incorrectly claimed to be the second-highest motorable pass in the world followed by Chang La pass. However, now you are aware of what exactly is the order of Chang La, Khardung La and Taglang La.
Wari La – 5,312 metres or 17,428 feet
Last on the list is a desolated pass situated in Ladakh, India which connects the direct route from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso and falls under Nubra Valley at an altitude of 5,312 metres or 17,428 feet. The climb to Wari La is so desolated that one can feel completely disconnected or lost from the civilized world while traversing the route all the way from Agham village to Sakti village at the base of Chang La pass. Not even a single human soul to spot in miles.
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