Khardung La

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Time Required: 1 to 2 hours

Entry Fee:

INR 20 per person per day (Inner Line Permit)

Khardung La Pass, Leh Ladakh Overview

Khardung La, also known as Khardzong La, is a high mountain pass in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, near Leh. It has been wrongly claimed as the highest motorable road in the world in Guinness World Record at an elevation of 5602 metres. However, according to various researches, the actual elevation is 5359 metres. Also referred to as the ‘Pass of Lower Castle’, Khardung La pass is a perfect getaway for adventure enthusiasts, peace seekers and mountain biking aficionados.

An entrance to the Shyok and Nubra Valley, Khardung La was built in 1976 and was opened for public in 1988. The pass is very important for India as it is used to carry supplies to Siachen glacier. As you make your way to the top, you are rewarded with stunning views of mountain valleys and tortuous roads. The pristine air with the surrounding snow-clad mountains is the cherry on the cake. From the top, you can get picturesque views of the Karakoram range and the Himalayas. However, due to heavy rains and snowfall, the Khardung La pass remains closed from July to August and November to February.

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The best time to visit Khardung La pass is between April to June and September to October. During summers, you will find the route less dangerous as the roads are dry. The sun shines bright with the temperature lingering at 21 degrees Celsius. However, nights can get cold when the mercury dips down to 7 degrees Celcius. Incessant rains and heavy rainfall from July to August and from November to February make Khardung La pass inaccessible. Often, the pass is even closed down during these months.

Khardung La pass has been claimed as the highest motorable road in the world at an elevation of 5602 metres whereas the actual elevation is 5359 metres. The highest motorable road is Umling La Top built in 2017 by Border Road Organisation (BRO) at an altitude of 19,300 feet. There are also several other passes like Marsimik La and Semo La. This is a controversial debate as Guinness World Record still shows Khardung La pass as the highest motorable road.

Khardung La pass is situated at an elevation of 5359 meters on the Ladakh range, near Khardong village, 37 km to the north of Leh. It acts as a gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Siachen Glacier lies on your way up the Nubrar valley.

The nearest town from Khardung La is Leh which is accessible by road from Manali and Srinagar. Also, direct flights operate between Leh and New Delhi. After reaching Leh, you can opt for daily buses that ply between Leh and Nubra valley via Khardung La pass. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi with an experienced driver or self-drive. Cycling or riding a bike is also preferred by tourists. At each checkpoint, photocopies of permits are required to be submitted.

Road condition is good for about 25 km on your way to the Khardung La pass until South Pullu. From South Pullu to Khardung La, you will encounter bad patches and broken roads. For around 14 km, the route condition deteriorates with slush and water streams caused by melting snow.

1. Once you are at the top of the pass, avoid drinking, smoking or exhausting yourself as the oxygen level is low.
2. Consult your doctor to ensure that you fit for the trip.
3. Carry warm clothes and sufficient food and drinking water.
4. Make sure you have your permits ready as they are needed at each check post.
5. To avoid acute mountain sickness, proper acclimatization is necessary at Leh. However, if you feel uncomfortable at the pass, it is better to drive down to Leh.
6. Hire an experienced driver as the roads are harsh and dangerous.

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