Leh is the land of valleys and mountain passes offering breathtaking views and panorama to remember for a lifetime! There are many passes on the way to Leh and in Leh. The most famous amongst the mountain passes in Ladakh is the Khardung La pass which is the gateway to Shyok and Nubra valley. The Chang La pass on the way to the premiere destination in Leh; Pangong Tso, is famous for the free tea served by the Indian Army! At present, these passes have immense military importance as a mode of supply for various military facilities such as food, fuel and ammunition. These high mountain passes play a major role in the growth of the tourism industry as major tourist destinations such as Ladakh.
Khardung La being one of the most popular destinations in Leh and the gateway to Nubra and Siachen glacier, one might encounter a lot of traffic and army convoys on the way and it is best to start off the journey early in the day to avoid as much traffic as you possibly can. The drive to Khardung La can get very bumpy as the weather and landslides that frequently happen here doesnt augor too well for well maintained roads! Having said that the drive to the summit of Khardung La is relatively easy compared to a few other rides in Leh. Road beyond South Pallu is in bad condition & gain in altitude is substantial and the elation of reaching the Khardurng la top is mind numbing!
Located about 75 kms from Keylong, Baralacha La at an altitude of 16,040 feet across the Bhaga river is the start point of several treks in Leh Ladakh region which include the famous Suraj Tal trek and Chandra Tal trek. It is always advisable to cross Baralacha La pass before noon. The melting of snow on the higher altitudes of this pass makes it difficult to cross it as the day advances.
Tanglang La on the Manali – Leh highway at an altitude of 17582 ft is the highest point on the highway. Tanglang la is like the gateway to Leh on the Manali – Leh route. Gata Loops and Tanglang La are the highlights of the Manali – Leh highway. Like most of the mountain passes in Leh on Tanglang la also there is a small temple and a marker stone whith the altitude of the pass mentioned on it!
The gateway to Changthang, Chang La at 17,590 ft is the third highest motorable pass. At the pass there is a shrine dedicated to Chang La baba after who the pass is also named. Tangste is the nearest settlement. Indian army serves tea here free of cost to tourists visiting Chang La pass!
Zoji la Pass is one of the highest mountain passes on Srinagar – Ladakh highway about 100 km from Srinagar ahead of Sonmarg. Zoji la pass remains closed to traffic for nearly six months in a year due to heavy snowfall in winter. (Opens by April end)
The Marsimek-La pass built by ITBP at 18634 ft also makes unsubstantiated claims of being the highest motorable pass in the world! Marsimek-La is on the northern-most tip of the Plateau 35 kms from Pangong Tso
Fotu La pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway of the Himalayan Zanskar Range stands at a height of of 13,478ft (4,108m) above the sea level. This mountain pass is referred to as the highest point on the highway, going beyond the well-known Zoji La. The drive through the pass is a beautiful journey where you can stop to get an amazing view of the snow-clad mountain ranges.
Lachulung La, located in Ladakh separates the valleys of the Tsarap Chu Chu and the Tozay, where both are on the flow of the Zanskar and the Indus rivers. Situated on 16,600 feet above the sea level, the pass is quite close to the Sarchu and Pangong lake. The pass on the Leh-Manali Highway is around 8 kms from La Nakee that is around 24 kms towards the north of Pang. The road is visible from the narrow gap of the Lachulung Lungpa. While crossing the pass, the tourist buses and taxis take a halt here most of the times, to let the tourists admire the local natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. It is one of the favorite passes amongst the hikers as well as trekkers.
Namikala pass, located at the Zanskar range that connects Srinagar- Leh highway. This pass located at the height of 12,139 feet above the sea level is also known as the pillar of the sky passes. Namikala pass is situated on the way to Mulbek valley. Tourists here can see the rock carvings of Maitreya Buddha as well as a Gompa. It is one of the most important passess in Ladakh and the last one too, before one enters the Kargil region. You will find a number of signboards giving important information. Although a barren land, but once you cross the pass you can admire the breathtaking view of the lush green surroundings and snow-covered peaks.