12 Mountain Passes in Ladakh

There can be no dearth of mountain passes in a land whose very name implies “the land of passes” and the number of mountain passes in Ladakh are a part of the fame of the region. Tourists come to Ladakh to visit its passes just as much as to visit its lakes and glaciers. The high altitudes of all these passes convert them from mere roadways to veritable adventure destinations. 

Standing atop the Khardung La pass or driving up the steep Marsmik La pass are not experiences that are easily forgotten; they imprint themselves on your memories and warm your heart with their magnificence long after you have left them far behind. The mountain passes Ladakh are not just passes, they are part of the cultural and historical character of the region. 

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These are the passes which the ancient traders traversed to reach the far-flung regions in the east and the west. These are the passes where soldiers fought with the warring Pakistan army, putting their lives on the line for their country. Ladakh’s passes are part of its cultural inheritance, and should not be missed when in the region.

There are dozens of passes in Ladakh but only a few of them are open to motorists. No matter if you are traveling to Leh from Manali or Srinagar, you will come across several passes en route. While most passes are just stretches of roads, some passes have tea stalls and interesting monuments close by which you can pay a visit to. 

In a cut above the rest, the Rohtang La pass also has many adventure activities that tourists can enjoy on their visit. Once in Ladakh, there are several other passes to visit including the famous Khardung la pass and the highest motorable Marsmik La pass. Many mountain passes in Ladakh have local legends associated with them so you could try hiring a local guide or simply conversing with the locals about the pass before you head over to it. 

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This will allow you to enjoy the pass more comprehensively. Visits to mountain passes in Ladakh are an adventure that you should not miss out on, so read on to find out more about some of the best passes to visit when in Ladakh.

Here are some of the highest mountain passes of Ladakh:

01

Rohtang Pass

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Rohtang Pass

One of the most famous mountains passes in India, the Rohtang Pass is a popular tourist attraction in Himachal Pradesh. Situated close to Manali, this pass offers tourists a chance to enjoy a high altitude combined with a majestic view and thrilling adventure activities. 

Rohtang Pass acts as a natural divide between Kullu- Manali and Lahaul- Spiti, so if you are planning on visiting Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh via the Manali route, you will definitely cross this pass. 

Rohtang Pass is covered in snow all year long, so if you wish to enjoy some snow-based activities in the summer months, this is the place to head to. Open only between April and November, Rohtang Pass is a place of adventure. Getting here involves a beautiful and often courageous ride through narrow roads, with majestic mountains accompanying you all the time. 

Once you are here, you can enjoy a whole host of activities like skiing, skating, paragliding, riding a snow scooter among others. Spending a day enjoying Rohtang Pass is a great way to enjoy a Himalayan vacation.

Altitude: 3978 meters (13,050 feet)

 It doesn’t matter if you are an adventure junky or someone who travels with their whole pack for the experience, Leh tour package has something for everyone.



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02

Bara-Lacha La Pass

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Bara-Lacha La Pass

Bara-Lacha La is a famous mountain pass in Ladakh. Situated in the Zanskar Range of the Himalayas, this pass connects Lahual to Ladakh and can be understood as the gateway to Ladakh. This beautiful destination has always been a place of historical significance, acting as it did as an important trade route in the past.

 A panoramic view of Himalayan mountains can be enjoyed from the pass and the peace and stillness that is to be experienced here exceed all expectations. Unlike the Rohtang pass, this pass does not have any touristic activities to offer, which leads to lesser touristic crowds here.

This allows those who stop here to enjoy the majesty of the Himalayas in their entirety, without being distracted by major crowds. Stopping at the Bara-lacha La on your way to Ladakh is a wonderful experience that should not be missed. 

If you are looking to enjoy some adventure in Ladakh, you could engage in the trek from Bar-lacha La to Chandra Taal. Over the 7 to 8 days of this trek, you will be able to experience the Bar-lacha Pass and its environs in the most memorable way possible.  

Altitude: 4,890 metres (16,040 feet)


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03

Lungalacha La Pass

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 Lungalacha La Pass

Situated some distance away from Bar-lacha Pass is the Lungalacha Pass. A high altitude pass which is nevertheless easy to trek, this pass separates the Tsarap Chu Chu valley from the Tozay valley and makes for a unique viewing point in Ladakh. 

The pass falls on the Manali-Leh Highway, so if you are travelling to Ladakh via Manali, you will certainly stop at this pass. The views visible from the Lungalacha pass are breathtakingly powerful and spending an hour or two here will make you admire the marvels of nature with a whole new respect. 

The terrain of the pass makes it easy for hikers and trekkers to explore the elevation often causes problems. But trekking around Lungalacha La pass is overall a rewarding experience that even relative beginners can enjoy. 

The Lungalacha pass is located close to both Sarchu and Pangong lake, so tourists can combine visits to all three places in one trip and enjoy the best sights of Ladakh comprehensively.

Altitude: 5,059 metres (16,600 feet)
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04

Taglang La Pass

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Taglang La Pass

Taglang La enjoys the fame of being the second highest mountain passes in Ladakh and is a must-visit tourist stop during Leh Ladakh road trip. With its staggering height, sweeping plains, and awe-inspiring views, Taglang La makes for a marvellous all-encompassing destination in Ladakh. 

The pass is situated at a close distance to Leh with Sarchu and Upshi being neighbouring settlements. A visit to Taglang La can easily be combined with visits to these places. 

If you are travelling to Ladakh via Manali, you will come across this pass, so make sure to stop here awhile. Taglang la is unique because of the cultivation all around it. It is a favourite pasture ground for the Changpa herdsman, so you can expect to see a fair share of goats and sheep grazing around the pass in the day. 

The entire ambience of the pass is very appealing and visiting it is a good way to enjoy some time during your Ladakh trip.

Altitude: 5,328 metres (17,480 feet)


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05

Zoji La Pass

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Zoji La Pass

Zoji La is a high altitude pass in Kashmir that leads up to Ladakh via Srinagar. The pass connects Kashmir and Ladakh and is, therefore, an important stopover destination if you are heading to Ladakh. The pass is beautiful in its majesty- the cool winds that are always blowing here add to the zest of the mighty mountain view that confronts the eye when you step out onto the pass. 

There is always a hint of army presence when you are on this pass because of its history as a strategic location. 

The pass was captured by Pakistan during the 1947 war and since then has been a sensitive zone in Indian militaristic defence. The pass is a wonderful place to stop at for an hour or two when on the way to Ladakh. Its close proximity to Sonamarg adds to the popularity of the pass, and you can easily combine a visit to both places in one trip if you feel so inclined.   

Altitude: 3,528 metres (11,575 feet)

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06

Pensi La Pass

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 Pensi La Pass

Also known as the “Gateway to Zanskar”, Pensi La is one of the important mountain passes in Ladakh.  This mountain pass connects the Suru valley to the Zanskar valley and also acts as a watershed destination for the Suru River. This pass is essentially the beginning of Ladakh on the Srinagar route, and you can perceptibly see the landscape change hereon. 

The Pensi La pass features glorious views owing to its high altitude and spending some time here taking in all the natural beauty ensconced by silence is a wonderful experience. The pass is situated close to Kargil and you can combine visits to the two together. 

A lovely glacial lake and the Drang Drung Glacier also lie at close range to the Pensi La. If you wish to explore the region in greater depth, you can also visit the Rangdum Monastery which lies approximately 25 kilometers away from this pass.

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Altitude: 4,400 metres (14,436 feet)

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07

Namika La Pass

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Namika La Pass

One of the most prominent mountain passes in Ladakh, Namika La is a thing of joy. Also known as the “Pillar of the Sky Pass”, it offers breathtaking views of the neighbouring peaks. The pass falls en route to the Mulbek valley and is a popular tourist stopping point on the way to Ladakh. There is a lot of scope for sightseeing in and around the pass.

There are the ancient rock carvings of Maitreya Buddha to be seen as well as a Buddhist Gompa. The pass connects Leh and Kargil and is one of the highest passes in the region. Stopping at this pass is a great way to signal your entrance into Leh Ladakh.

Altitude: 3,700 metres (12,139 feet)


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08

Fotu La Pass

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Fotu La Pass

The highest pass on the Srinagar- Leh highway, the Fotu la is a magnificent place to visit during your trip bike to Ladakh and should be on the travel itineraries of all tourists. It is a beautiful pass and offers fantastic views of the mountainous neighborhood. Driving on the Fotu la pass is an experience of a lifetime- the wide open roads with little to no traffic and the mountains looking on making the drive an adventure in itself. 

Wild and chilly winds blow here all through the summer months and make the place a memorable one. Ladakh is a beautiful region and Fotu La embodies this beauty in a very majestic fashion. The tryst with nature that Fotu la brings you during your Manali Leh Srinagar bike expedition, will stay in your heart for a long time.

Altitude: 4,108 metres (13,478 feet)
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09

Chang La Pass

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 Chang La Pass

Chang La is one of the high mountain passes in Ladakh that fall on the way to Pangong lake. Renowned for being the third highest motorable mountain pass in the world, Chang la is a beautiful pass with beautiful views and driving across it is an experience that you will cherish all life long. 

The roadways are wide and often deserted, cool mountain breezes blow regularly, and its extreme steepness only adds to its adventurous ambiance. It is necessary to traverse this pass if you wish to visit the Pangong Tso lake as well as the Changthang plateau. 

Crossing the pass is a memorable experience not only because of the natural landscape but also because of the yak rides and the army tea stalls in the region. You can stop at the Chang Pass for a couple of hours and enjoy all of the different sights and sounds that it has to offer before driving onwards towards the Pangong lake. Also, you should not miss the chance of camping at Pangong Lake, as it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your Ladakh tour.  

Altitude: 5,360 metres (17,590 feet)
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10

Marsimik La Pass

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Marsimik La Pass

A must visit mountain pass in Ladakh, Marsimik La is famous for being the world’s highest motorable pass. You simply cannot miss the opportunity to drive through it when in Ladakh because this experience will be one of the defining moments of your trip to the region. There are a lot of things to do in and around the Marsimik la pass. Apart from visiting the beautiful glacial Pangong lake, you can also pay a very appealing visit to the hot springs near the pass. 

There is also the opportunity to visit the six-lane highway built by China which extends right up to the India-China border in Ladakh. The high altitude of the pass makes the views from here very special and driving here is a truly memorable experience. However, the condition of the roads of Marsimik la is sketchy at best and this makes driving here a very tricky task. It is best to hire an experienced local driver who knows how to tackle these roads when you decide to pay a visit to the Marsiik La.

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Altitude: 5,582 metres (18,314 feet)


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11

Khardung La Pass

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Khardung La Pass

Undoubtedly, one of the best-known mountains passes in Ladakh, Khardung La is one of the best places to visit in Leh. The magnificent pass is one of the highest passes in the world and offers a glorious range of experiences to its visitors. The ride up to Khardung La itself is made up of exotic sights and sounds and is very memorable. 

If you intend to visit the Shyok and Nubra valleys, you must cross this pass to reach there. Another one of the most prominent and grandiose sites that you will come across when on the way to Khardung la is the Siachen Glacier. 

There are many trekking trails in Ladakh that also cross this pass. Bone-chilling winds are a constant feature of Khardung La and the mighty mountains all around add to the vibrancy of the experience. Drinking a cup of tea as you gaze upon the view is a simple experience but nonetheless a uniquely beautiful one. A trip to Khardung la is a once in a lifetime trip that you should not miss.

Altitude: 5,359 metres (17,582 feet)
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12

Saser La Pass

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Saser La Pass

A formidable mountain pass in Ladakh, Saser La is a place that must be experienced to be believed. It is an impressive pass and a dangerous one, and crossing it is a thrilling experience that stays on in the memory for long. The pass connects Ladakh to the Yarkand County in China and provides visitors with a breathtaking experience. 

The roads along the pass are very rough and ready and driving across them is not an easy task. The steepness of the pass and the low-oxygen supplies there only add to the challenge. But for those who are able to overcome these obstacles and manage a ride through the pass, the experience is rewarding.

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Altitude: 5,411 metres (17,753 feet)


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