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Himachal Tourism

Major passes in Ladakh

High Passes

Ladakh is an exotic destination with plenty of high passes, steep mountains and valleys abound. The route to Ladakh by road is through several scenic Mountain passes, known as 'La' in the local Ladakhi language and 'Ladakh' therefore means 'Land of Passes.' You can find some of the highest motorable roads in the world in Ladakh, which traverse these high passes and take you to exotic hidden destinations high in the Himalayas.

All the roads built on these high passes are part of the Himank project of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)in the Ladakh region of northernmost India that started in August 1985. Himank is responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and related infrastructure including what are claimed to be the world's highest motorable roads across the Khardung La, Tanglang La and Chang La passes. Himank's work ensures access to sensitive military areas including the world's highest battle-ground at the Siachen Glacier and Pangong Tso Lake (at 14500 ft) whose waters span the de facto India-China border. Himank's personnel battle tough terrain and extreme climatic conditions and are constrained in most areas to work within a short working season of four months as roads get blocked by heavy snow and extreme cold temperatures.

Some of the mountain passes one has to travel through, while visiting Ladakh and its twons by road, are:

5.615 m Kardungh La – Pass – the highest pass on earth!
5.390 m Tanglang La – Pass- the second-highest
5.360 m Chang La – Pass – the third-highest
5.300 m Wari La – Pass
5.050 m Namshang La – Pass
5,019 m Lachungla – Pass
5,000 m Polokangla – Pass
4,900 m Namshingla – Pass
4,908 m Kanglajal la – Pass
4,890 m Baralacha la – Pass
4,740 m Nakila – Pass
3,978 m Rohtang la – Pass

Lakes : -

Pangong Tso Lake (4,350 m)
Tsomorragi Lake (4,595 m)
Tso Kar Lake (4,620 m)
Thatsangkaru Lake (4,500 m)
High Passes

Himachal Tourism

(A )Manali - LEH Highway

Rohtang Pass – 13,000ft (3978m)

If you travel from Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh you will cross the impressive Rohtang Pass, which is at aheight of 13,000ft (3978m). The road through the Kullu Valley, past Manali and over the Rohtang Pass to Keylong and Lahul and on to Ladakh, has become very busy during the summer months as an alternate military route, following the Kargil Conflict in 1999 in addition to tensions in Kashmir. Traffic jams are common as military vehicles, trucks, and goods carriers try to navigate the tight roads and rough terrain, compounded by snow and ice at certain points and the large number of tourists vehicles. Partially due to the military significance of the pass, the Indian government began building the Rohtang Tunnel project in 2010 which promises to create a year-round link which is much safer and faster.

Baralacha La – 16,050ft (4892m)

The Baralacha-la Pass is also along the Manali-Leh Highway. This pass is at the lofty height of 16,050ft (4892m). It is situated at a tri-junction of three roads, one from Manali, one from Leh and one from Spiti & Lahaul. The view from Baralacha-La is spectacular with the Himalayas extending along the horizon, as far as the eye can see. The Bhaga river, a tributary of the Chandrabhaga or Chenab river, originates from Surya taal lake, which is situated a few kilometers from the pass towards Manali. The other major tributary of the Chandrabhaga, the Chandra also originates from glacier in this region. The pass also acts as a water-divide between the Bhaga river and the Yunam river.

Lachulung La - 16,600ft (5,059m)

A pass on the Zanskar Range, Lachulung La at 16,600ft (5,059m), is a rocky height with views of the undulating hills and Ladakh plateau below. Lachulung La is a mountain pass along the Leh-Manali highway. It is located some 54 km (34 miles) from Sarchu and 24 km (15 miles) from Pang on the Leh-Manali highway. This is one of the easier 16,000 ft (4,880 m) passes and it can be traversed cross-country by moving along the nala on both sides. However, due to elevation, the hikers face breathlessness during climb and those who have not undergone acclimatisation may face severe symptoms of altitude sickness.

Taglang La - 17,582ft (5,359m)

Also on the Zanskar Range, Taglang-la at 17,582ft (5,359m) is a resting place for nomadic Changpa herdsmen who can be seen with their flocks of sheep and goats, migrating in search of pasture. Taglang La is sometimes incorrectly claimed to be the world’s second highest motorable pass. It is, however, the second highest motorable mountain pass in India after Khardung La and is reached via 21 Gata loops. It is located along the Leh-Manali Highway.

(B)Srinagar – LEH Highway

Zoji La - 11,500ft (3,505m)

If you travel to Ladakh by road from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, you can see panoramic vistas of the Himalayan landscape. The 434 Km long road crosses the Zoji La Pass which is 11,500ft (3,505m) high. As you cross the pass, there is a striking change in the landscape, since the forested hills of Kashmir are left behind and the bare mountains of the Drass region appear. The Zoji La Pass is snowbound in winter and this route is only open during the summer months from June to September.

Pensi La – 14,436ft (4,400m)

Pensi La is a mountain pass in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. It is known as the Gateway to Zanskar, as it connects the Suru Valley region to the Zanskar Valley region. The summit at this end of the Suru Valley is 23,005ft (7,012m) high, while the mountain to the north is 22,549ft (6,873m). The pass is about 25 km from Rangdum Monastery.

Namika La - 12,200ft (3,719m)

Situated at a height of 12,200ft (3,719m), Namika La is on the road from Mulbek Valley to the Lamayuru Monastery in the Himalayan Zanskar Range along the Srinagar-Leh highway. In Mulbek you can see an immense rock carving of the Maitreya Buddha and a Gompa perched high on a cliff overlooking the village.

Fotu La – 13,478ft (4,108m)

Fotu La is a mountain pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway in the Himalayan Zanskar Range. At an elevation of 13,478ft (4,108m), it is the highest point on the highway, surpassing the famed Zoji La. Fotu La is one of two high mountain passes between Leh and Kargil, the other being Namika La. Moving eastwards, the highway begins to descend towards the town of Lamayuru after Fotu La. There is a Prasar Bharati television relay station serving Lamayuru located on the pass.

Himachal Tourism

(C)LEH – Siachen Glacier

Khardung La - 18,380ft (5,602m)

Khardung La located 40 Km north of Leh links the capital of Ladakh with the road to the Siachen Glacier. It is said to be the world's highest motorable pass at 18,380ft (5,602m). The spectacular view and a cup of tea from the tea-stall at Khardung La, will make you feel you're on top of the world.

The pass on the Ladakh Range is also the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies partway up the latter valley. Built in 1976, it was opened to motor vehicles in 1988 and has since seen many automobile, motorbike and mountain biking expeditions. Maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier.

Saser La - 17,753ft (5,411m)

Saser La, situated at 17,753ft (5,411m),is a high mountain pass in Ladakh and India on the ancient summer caravan route from Leh in Ladakh to Yarkand in the Tarim Basin. It leads from the head of the Nubra Valley into the upper Shyok valley, on the way to the even higher, but easier, Karakoram Pass.

(D)LEH – Pangong Lake

Chang La - 17,590ft (5,360m)

Chang la is situated at an altitude of 17,590ft (5,360m). The Changla Pass is on the route to Pangong Lake from Leh. It is named after the sadhu Changla Baba, to whom the Pass temple is dedicated. The small town of Tangste is the nearest settlement. The Changla Pass is the main gateway for the Changthang Plateau situated in the Himalayas. The nomadic tribes of the region are collectively known as the Changpa or Chang-pa.

Marsimik La - 18,314ft (5,582m)

Marsimik La, elevated at 18,314ft (5,582m), is a high mountain pass in the Chang-Chemno Range in northern India about 100 km (62 miles) east of Leh. There is a road over this pass, over which suitably adapted vehicles have been driven, but it is not a motorable pass in the sense that the road is not in good enough condition to permit transit by normal vehicles. If it were motorable, it would be the highest motorable pass in Kashmir, but reports suggest that there are probably higher motorable passes in Tibet. Located 42 km (30 miles) northeast of the northwest tip of Pangong Lake, the pass is on the shortest route from there to the contested Kongka Pass area some 42 km (26 miles) further northeast on the China-India line of actual control. Marsimik La is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) west of the sharp 6,000 to 6,500 m (19,700 to 21,300 ft) ridgeline forming the line of actual control.

Himachal Tourism