The Khardung Pass (Tibetan: Khardung La, la meaning “pass” and khardung “moon”) is a mountain pass in the Ladakh region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located in the Ladakh Range of the Himalayas at an elevation of 17,582 feet (5,359 m).
|Khardung La Elevation||17.582 ft (5.359 m)|
|State||Jammu and Cachemira|
|Type of Road||Paved|
At the top, there is a sign that says that Khardung La reaches 5,602 meters and that it is the highest motorable pass in the world, both statements are incorrect, according to different sources, such as the NASA SRTM, or the Cartographic Institute of Catalonia, Khardung La is not the highest motorable pass in the world. The highest motorable pass in the world is Umling La, which is also located in the Ladakh region of India.
The Khardung La pass is a popular tourist destination. Visitors come to admire the stunning views of the Himalayan mountains and to experience the feeling of driving through one of the highest mountain passes in India. The pass is strategically important for India, as it is used to transport supplies to the Siachen glacier.
This mythical pass is located 39 kilometers from the city of Leh and is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra valleys. The Khardung road was started in the 1960s by the Indian Army, completed in 1976 and opened to the public in 1988. Before that, it was only accessible on foot or by horse. The pass is closed during the winter months due to snow.
Khardung La is of vital importance as it lies on the historical route from Leh to Kashgar. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take this route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass.
The Khardung La pass is a must-see for any visitor to Ladakh. The views from the top are stunning and the road is a unique experience. The pass is also a sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists, who believe it is the gateway to heaven.
Driving Khardung La Pass
Both from Leh, the south access, and from the Nubra valley, in the north, the road is almost entirely paved. Areas where there are rock falls may be in worse condition, but in general the road is very well maintained. Rental vehicles, both motorcycles and 4x4s, as well as heavy vehicles regularly travel through here. If you plan to visit the Khardung La pass, make sure to acclimate to the altitude before going. The pass is located at a very high altitude and it is possible that you will suffer from altitude sickness if you are not careful.
When does the Khardung La Pass open?
The road is closed from October to May due to snow and it is common to encounter accidents or landslides. Much caution and patience is recommended.
Permits and travel information
For travelers, it is important to know that a special permit is required to visit the Nubra Valley, which is a protected area of Ladakh. This permit (called the Inner Line Permit) can be obtained in Leh for about 200 rupees.
The nearest city to Khardung La is Leh. Leh is connected by road from Manali and Srinagar. It can also be flown from Delhi, at a very low cost, with the local airlines Vistara, GoAir, Air India and SpiceJet. If you do not have your own vehicle, from Leh, there is a daily bus service to Nubra Valley that passes through Khardung La.
During the winter, the temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius and there can be layers of snow up to 3 meters thick, so traveling to Ladakh during this season is crazy. In summer, the temperatures are more pleasant, with maximums of up to 10-12 degrees Celsius during the day, but at night, the minimums drop to -5.
Even in the summer season, the weather can be extreme, so it is recommended to be very well dressed. In addition to the cold, it is important to note that the climate in this area is very dry, especially in the summer. Do not forget that the pass is at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters, where most people, to a greater or lesser extent, suffer from altitude sickness.