Tough and harsh yet glorious and fascinating, the mighty Himalayas are undoubtedly the most mysterious and beautiful terrain in the world. Mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts from all over the globe aspire to, scale the lengths of these snow-clad mountains. It is a wonder in itself that Indian Government has managed to build roads at the highest altitudes so that the tourists can bask in the maximum beauty of this mountain range. India prides itself with many of the world's highest motorable roads. Which one is the highest among them is often debated about due to discrepancies in the definition of 'motorable road'. The most common definition o a motorable road is; A road or pass that can be driven on by a vehicle having high ground clearance or a motorcycle.
Listed below are the highest motorable roads in India:
1. Khardung La, Jammu & Kashmir
Often cited as the highest motorable road in the world, Khardung La stands at an altitude of 5359 metres. While its title of the highest motorable pass in the world is debatable, it is one of the toughest passes to drive upon. Being the gateway to Shyok and Nubra Valley, Khardung La offers some fine panoramic views of the snow clad Himalayan Peaks. Indians no longer need permits to reach here; only ID proofs are sufficient.
2. Mana Pass, Uttarakhand
Also known as Dungri La, Mana Pass is a high altitude pass at the Indo- Tibet border in the state of Uttarakhand. At the height of 5610 metres, Mana Pass stands as the second highest motorable road in the world. The pass leads to Badrinath, an important Hindu pilgrim. Motorcyclists and adventure enthusiasts have driven on the pass many times, however, getting permits for Mana Pass is not that simple.
3. Marsimik La, Jammu & Kashmir
Marsimik La falls in the Chang-Chemno range of Ladakh. At an altitude of 5582 metres, it is among the highest roads in the world. It is relatively easy to get driving permits for Marsimik La as compared to Mana Pass. However, only Indian nationals are issued the permits. Marsimik La has a proximity to Lukung which serves as the starting point for the famous Pangong Lake.
4. Photi La, Jammu & Kashmir
Less known and one of the highest motorable roads in India, Photi La is located in the Changthang region of Ladakh. It is less frequented by tourists and is one of the least traversed in India. It is perched at the height of 5524 metres and lies about 16 km from the beautiful village of Hanle. Driving further Pangong Tso towards Chushul and Hanle makes one reach Photi La.
5. Donkia La, Sikkim
At an altitude of 5500 metres in Sikkim, Donkia La is the road that connects Sikkim to Tibet. It is situated about 13 km from the Gurudongmar Lake and about 4 km from Cholamu Lake. The road is under Indian Army and due to its location near Tibet; it is challenging to get permits to drive on Dongkha La.
6. Kaksang La, Jammu & Kashmir
Kaksang La is at an altitude of 5438 metres and is located in the Changthang region of Ladakh. It is one of the few highest motorable roads open for foreigners in India. Kaksang La is not that famous as compared to other mountainous passes as it does not serve as a passage to any major tourist attraction in the area. It can be reached by driving further from Spangmik along Pangong Lake towards Chushul and turning south towards Mirpal Tso and Yayi Tso. It is also a good alternate route to reach Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso.
7. Chang La, Jammu & Kashmir
At an altitude of 5360 metres, Chang La falls en route the Pangong Lake. The steep ascends, and bad road condition makes Chang La one of the most challenging roads to drive upon. Only true adventure junkies should visit this high motorable road in India.
8. Tanglang La, Jammu & Kashmir
While travelling on the scenic Manali-Leh highway, appears Tanglang La. At the height of 5328 meters, Tanglang La is 61 km from Upshi. The roads are well constructed mostly, yet they are quite dusty.
9. Wari La, Jammu & Kashmir
Wari La serves as a direct connection between Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso. It is an altitude of 5312 metres and is one of the least traversed highest motorable paths in India. It is a highly remote pass, and at times there is not a single person visible throughout the journey.
With dwindling oxygen level and treacherous paths, scaling these highest motorable roads is not a child's play. It takes experience and passion for driving upon these paths as the feeling of driving upon world's highest roads is truly exhilarating.