If you like to travel, especially like to travel in mountains then I am sure that you must hear of terms like Highest Mountain Passes in the world, Highest Lakes in the world and Highest Motorable Roads in the world, etc. As a traveler, we all have dreamed of scaling the world’s highest lakes, roads or mountain passes one day or the other after seeing that other doing it or in the wake of our self-belief.
Highest Motorable Roads in The World
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There is not a number of ways that are available to your if you want to walk above the clouds. Apart from the usual and often boring air transport way, you have to scale a pretty tall mountain to be able to walk above the clouds and see the world from above. But what in case you wanted to take your car over there? How awesome would it be that you get to drive up there on your win and feel the exhilaration of having mad to the roof of the world and where the air is as thin as it will ever get? Well, for starters, you need to be physically fit and be acclimatized enough to bear the perils of mountains’ breathlessness and sickness.
World’s highest motorable road
Most of us have seen 1000s of the images on different websites and social media platforms with travelers posing with the signboard of Khardung La Pass in Ladakh. But frankly speaking, it is not a child’s play to travel 18000 feet from sea level and feel the top of the world.
The thin air can give nightmarish situations of things getting stuck at that high altitude.
However, if you are those who have scalded over Khanrdung La Pass and felt that you were on top of the world, then I like to pause you here and will break your heart by wiping away the myths about the altitude of Khardung La Pass, that claimed to be Highest Motorable Road in the world. Before going into the details of the world’s highest motorable roads, you must first understand the meaning of motorable roads.
Top 10 highest motorable Road in the world
Motorable Road is defined as a road on which (1) any average experienced driver can drive any car or bike such as a hatchback, sedan, SUV and low powered bike such as higher power bike, etc. (2) any average experienced driver can drive an equipped motor vehicle like a 4*4 SUV or an ATB or a hefty power bike, etc. (3) any great expert driver can drive an equipped moto vehicle like a 4*4 SUV, or an ATB, etc. (4) only army movement is allowed and is prohibited for civilians but still considered as a motorable road where anyone, at least local native of that place can drive prior permits or permissions and (5) whether the road is tarred or metalled or is it an unpaved road or dirt track with rocks on it but in drivable conditions at least for High GC vehicles or bikes or the road is abandoned but once built.
There is always a lot of debate and discussion over the topic to label something as the highest in the world and it seems like no one can agree on things such as the highest lake or the highest motorable road.
Highest Motorable Passes in the World
Now, going by the above information let us brief the Highest Motorable roads in the world whose attitude data points are measured in compliance with SRTM or with modern age GPS systems that are based on the reports present river the internet.
BRO (Border Road Organisation) has built and opened the world’s highest road in 2017 over Umlingla Pass which connects Chisumle and Demchok villages. Umling La pass is located at 5883 meters or 19300 feet above sea level. Umling La Pass has located about 105 km from Hanle Village and about 235 km from Leh. But civilians are no longer allowed to travel to Umling La Pass.
So you have to wait up until the point in the future when the army and administration are issuing the permits for Umling La. The route you can take is Hanle to Photi La Pass to Photile Village which is 57 km away. Then you can follow the route from Photile Village to Umling La Pass for about 50 km at an altitude of 19300 feet.
You will come across water crossings or two bridges while going to Umlinga Pass from Photile Village. There is another route that you can take from Ukdungle villages ut it is more of a dirt track only expect a few kilometers.
The Uturuncu Road is located in Potosi, Bolivia which used to be considered the world’s highest motorable road at a staggering altitude of 18953 feet or 5777 meters until India opened up Umling La pass.
This route has attracted a number of cyclists from all over the world as is the highest cyclable road in the world. This road was built to service a sulfur mine and if you live in India and have been to the high villages of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, then by looking at the pictures of roads to Uturuncu, you can judge that such roads are driven mostly by a number of local natives and tourists who are experienced drivers in such areas of trans-Himalayas.
Mana Pass or Dungri La
Mana Pass also known as Dungri La is situated at the border between India in the state of Uttarakhand and Tibet. Civilians and natives of India with prior permits from the army can travel up there to reach the third highest motorable road in the world and India’s second-highest Motorable road.
Mana Pass or Dungri La is located at an altitude of 18192 feet or 5545 meters which is less than the altitude of Marsimik La. The road is higher on the Indian side than the newly built road on the Tibetan side and rises to 18406 feet or 5610 meters on the Indian side of the border and 250 meters west of the low point of the 5545 meters or 18192 feet. Hence, it can be considered the world’s third-highest motorable road and India’s second-highest motorable road after the Uturuncu road.
Marsimik La is located in Ladakh, India. Civilians and natives of India with prior permits from the army can travel and scale this pas which is located at an altitude of 5582 meters. Getting a permit to Marsimik La is a little easier in comparison to getting a permit to the highest road Unling La, Mana Pass or Dungri La Road.
The road to Marsimik Lad is divided by Pobrang on the way to Panging Tso Lake and is about 20 odd km from there at a steep climb. You can scale Marsimik La by your ordinary SUVs 4*2 or average powered bikes in the past. Marsimek La is the second-highest motorable mountain pass in the world because the two that are mentioned above are the high altitude roads, not passes.
Semo La is located at 5565 or 18258 feet above sea level. Semo La is situated in the central part of Tibet. You can use this route as an alternative access route to Mount Kailash and Western Tibet, especially when mud or weather makes access by the more southern route tough.
Before the opening of Umling La, Marsimik La and access to Mana Pass or Dungri La, only Semo La is used to be quoted as the world’s highest motorable road to clear away the myths which always surrounded Khardung La Pass.
Photi La makes the latest entry into the world’s highest motorable roads. This road is located around 30 km off the village of Hanel, which is popular for the Hanle Observatory for the heavens above. Photi La is located in Ladakh, India.
It is an obscure pass not many knows of but that does not discount its challenging nature. If you are a stargazer then there are not many places that can rival this place. This pass is located in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
Dhonki La is located in North Sikkim, India. Dhonki La is also known as Dhonkha La and this is one of those rare places where you can get a spectacular view or the gigantic Tibetan Plateau. Dhonki La also lies close to the Tso Lhamo Lake and which happens to be the 14th highest lake in the world. This motorable road or pass is elevated at an altitude of 17841 feet. This road is under the Indian Army and because of its location near Tibet, it is challenging to get permits to drive on Donkia La.
Kaksang La is located at an altitude of 17841 in Ladakh, India. It lies along the familiar oaths of Mahe-Nama-Chusul-Pangong Tso. I suggest you do not attend this pass in severe weather conditions as Mother Nature could bite back in a number of ways than one. But if you manage to reach it then you will be greeted with a desert landscape like no other.
Suge La is located in West Lhasa, Tibet. It is located about 110 km from Lhasa and it takes its post as one of the most extreme mountain passes that you will come across ever in your life because it is so hard to climb it even with a vehicle. Like in most high mountain passes, oxygen is in short supply here and the dangers of altitude sickness loom large. But I have to say that this place is worth it all. This pass is located in the Nyenchen Dangla Mountains and it is a wild dirt road that most vehicles can travel on.
Chang La is located in Ladakh, India. It is located at a scarcely believable altitude of 17,586 feet above sea level and this pass takes the 10th spot on the list. Chang La in Ladakh is at easy access through the town of Leh in the Ladakh region and it will give you the best experience if you rake a Royal Enfield motorcycle to the summit where you will get an unbeatable view. Chang La serves as a gateway to the famous Pangong Tso Lake.