Top Motorable Mountain Passes in the Himalayas:
Updated: May 4, 2020
"Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action".
By - John Muir
Mountains and mountain pass always fascinated me since I started my Motorcycles Journeys. It's been 10 years since I started conquering mountain pass in Himalayas of India, Bhutan and Tibet, not once but multiple times and the same mountain pass with different landscape and different season and months. That's why I always call the Himalayas are my home forever. Riding Motorcycles in these Himalayan Mountains and Passes is not everyone's cup of tea, before reaching the top you must encounter multiple water crossings, off-road trails, gravels, slush and sometimes snow with black ice. Here is the list of some of the mountain pass that has travelled through Himalayan regions of India on Royal Enfield's.
1. Rohtang Pass- 3980Mtrs ASL
Rohtang pass is situated at the height of 3980 Mtrs in the Himalayan ranges of Himachal Pradesh, it's the gateway to 2 important valleys in the Himalayas. Rohtang pass connects Ladakh and Spiti valley from Manali side which is disconnected during the harsh winters for about 7 months. Rohtang means the Pass of Corpse, named as such due to people working in CBRE dying in bad weather trying to cross the pass. While taking a motorcycle tour from Manali to Leh, this is first pass we should cross and trust me it's beautiful and adventurous.
2. Baralachala Pass-4890 Mtrs ASL
Baralachala Pass situated at the height of 4890Mtrs in the Zanskar ranges of Himalayas, it connects Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh to Ladakh valley in Kashmir. This mountain pass also closed for 7 months in a year and one of the prominent mountain pass in Manali-Leh Highway. There is a beautiful lake situated at the top called Suraj Taal, which is the origin place of Bhaga River.
3. Namik La pass – 3700Mtrs ASL
Namikla Pass is situated at the height of 3700Mtrs ASL in the Zanskar ranges of Indian Himalayas. It is one of the prominent mountain pass in Srinagar-Leh highway. It connects Lamayuru in Ladakh valley to Kargil. The pass is too windy and sometimes it even started snow during the day time as well in Summer, that's why we always said during our tour that "Mother Nature is Completely Unpredictable". And the roads to the top are fantastic.
4. Lachulung La pass – 5059 Mtrs ASL
Lachulung La pass is situated at the height of 5059Mtrs ASL in the Trans Himalayan region of Manali – Leh highway. It is 30Kms from Gata Loops, which is a series of 21 hairpin bends that leads to the top to Nakeela La pass. After a few km riding from Nakeela Pass we can reach Lachulung La pass.
5. Tanglang La Pass – 5328 Mtrs ASL
Tanglang La pass is situated at the height of 5328 Mtrs ASL in the Ladakh Region of Indian Himalayas, it is the 3rd worlds highest motorable road and highest in the Manali-Leh highway. This pass connects Debring to Upshi village in Ladakh. Roads are well maintained and it's pure bliss to ride on this pass.
6. Khardungla Pass- 5359Mtrs ASL
Khardungla Pass or K-top is situated at the height of 5359 Mtrs ASL and it is also called as "Highest Motorable Road in The world", but the statement is not correct, there is other mountain pass in Ladakh region which are higher than this, but it's not in a motorable condition. Khardungla is the major attraction of Motorcycle Tours in Ladakh, most of the riders ride to this pass every year to conquer this mighty Himalayan Mountain Pass. It's the gateway to Shyok and Nubra valley, Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder in Nubra Valley of Ladakh.
7. Chang La Pass- 5360 Mtrs ASL
Chang La pass is situated at the height of 5360Mtrs ASL in the Ladakh range of Indian Himalayas; it is also the 3rd highest motorable pass in the world. According to the Tibetan language "Chang" means north and La means Pass because it's the gateway to the Changthang plateau. Changla connects Pangong Tso lake to Leh district via Karu & Shakti village, the road to changla is very steep and narrow, in fact, Chang La is more difficult than Khardungla pass to ride. Chang La is also a part of the ancient silk route which connects Tibet to Leh for trading essential things. There is also Chang La baba temple at the summit, people usually seek blessings from Chang La baba before proceeding towards the further journey.
8. Nakeela Pass-4769Mtrs ASL
Nakeela Pass is a high altitude mountain pass situated between Manali-Leh highway, the pass will remain closed for 7 months during the winter and it will be open for civilian traffic after mid-June. If you are riding from Manali side then we will reach Nakeela pass after navigating the famous Gata Loops to reach the pass.
9. Fotu La Pass- 4108 Mtrs ASL
Fotu La is situated at Srinagar –Leh Highway and it is the highest mountain pass in this highway at the height of 4108Mtrs ASL. The roads are very good and it a pleasure to ride Motorcycle on this mountain pass. Fotu La connects Lamayuru to Hensikot.
10. Zoji La Pass- 3528 Mtrs ASL
Zoji La is one of the most important mountain pass in Kashmir Valley due to its proximity to LOC between India and Pakistan. Zoji La is situated at the height of 3528Mtrs ASL in Kashmir valley. Zoji La pass separates Kashmir Valley from Ladakh Valley and it closes for 7 months in a year during winters. The road to the top is very steep and narrow, also its very slippery during rains and one has to be very careful while riding on this pass. If you are travelling from Srinagar side via Srinagar-Leh highway Zoji La is the first mountain pass you will encounter.
11. Hambotingla Pass- 4056Mtrs ASL
Everyone knows about Khardungla Pass, Changla, Tanglangla, Zoji La pass & etc, but only a few travellers know about "Hambotingla Pass". Hambotingla pass is situated on Kargil-Batalik road. The height of this pass is approx 13,380 feet above sea level. This pass is located on Kargil-Batalik section and lies very near to the international border. While riding from Kargil to Leh most of the riders take Kargil-Lamayuru-Leh highway, but if you want to explore something offbeat then take Kargil-Batalik-Dah&Hanu- Leh road. Hambotingla pass is a gateway for Aryan Villages, after few km from the pass, you will start to see the glimpse of Aryan Villages like Silmo Grong, Darchik, Dah & Hanu etc. The pass is located very close to the International border between India and Pakistan in the Batalik Sector. Next time when you ride from Kargil to Leh take this road and enjoy the serene beauty of road less travelled.
12. Wari La-5310 Mtrs ASL
Wari La is one of the remote and offbeat mountain pass located in the Shyok valley of Ladakh, it is situated at the height of 5310Mtrs ASL. Due to its remoteness hardly anyone will take this pass, this pass is an alternative to Chang La pass, if this pass is close due to snowstorm of landslides then travellers take Wari La from Pangong to Nubra valley and then to Leh. The road is in terrible condition and one needs to be an extremely experienced rider to conquer this mountain pass.
13. Polokangla Pass-5000Mtrs ASL
Polokangla Pass or Pologongka pass is a high altitude and remote mountain pass situated in Changthang valley of Ladakh. The pass is situated at the height of 5000Mtrs ASL and making this as one of the offbeat pass in the valley while travelling Leh to Tso Moriri via Tanglang La and debring you will take a left turn towards Tso Kar. Polokangla is 45Kms from debring towards Puga Hot Springs. The road is a complete nightmare with no tarmac and full of loose sand and gravel. There is no sign board to mention the pass, it's just prayer flags which you will get to see.
14. Namashang La Pass-5300Mtrs ASL
Namashang La pass is situated in Chumthang Valley of Ladakh while travelling from Sumdo or Puga village towards Tso Moriri you will get Namashang La pass. After riding a few more km from the pass you will reach Kiagar Tso which the base of Changpas, the Nomads of Changthang Plateau. Again there is no signboard in the pass, its juts payer flags to indicate that you have reached Namashang La pass.
15. Pensi La Pass- 4400Mtrs ASL
Pensi La is situated at the height of 4400Mtrs ASL in the Ladakh valley,. Pensi-La is also the gateway to the Padum, the headquarters of Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district. A 240 km road connecting Kargil town to Padum, through the Pensi La remains open for a brief 5 months, between May and October. The road condition is not that great to the summit. One has to navigate through offroad trails to reach the top. It also the highest point in Kargil-Padum road.
16. Banihal Pass-2832Mtrs ASL
Banihal pass is situated in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himalayas and connects Kashmir valley to the plains of Jammu. The Banihal pass is the place where the scene change you will see a sharp change in nature and mountains. The natural surroundings of Kashmir unfold themselves on the journey both through the Banihal and the Jehlum valley roads.
17. Sach Pass-4419Mtrs ASL
Sach Pass indeed called as mother of all Mountain pass is situated at Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh at the height of 4419Mtrs in Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. It connects the Chamba valley with the Pangi valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Sach pass will open from Mid June to Mid September and then closed during winters. It connects Chamba to Pangi valley of Himachal Pradesh. Sach pass can be reached from three directions, via Pathankot-Dalhousie road, Manali-Udaipur road, and Udhampur/Anantnag-Kishtwar-Paddar Pangi road. The first is the shortest, more treacherous, and most popular route, given that the other routes are very long in comparison.
18. Kunzum La Pass-4590Mtrs ASL
Kunzum La pass is a high altitude mountain pass situated in Kunzum Mountain range of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, it connects Lahaul valley to Spiti valley and so its called as Gateway to Spiti Valley. The roads are open from July to October every year and remain closed during Winter. If you are travelling from Manali side towards Kaza you will get to cross this pass. The roads are in terrible condition and it tests all the skills of the riders and makes you suffer while climbing from Batal camp to the top of the pass. The Kunzum Devi Temple is located on the Kunzum Pass. The presiding deity, Goddess Kunzum Devi is an avatar of Goddess Durga and is the protector of the pass and the travellers.
19. Marsimik La Pass- 5582Mtrs ASL
Marsimik La pass, probable the highest motorable mountain pass that I ever travelled, situated in the Chang-Chemno Range of Trans Himalayan mountains of Ladakh. One needs to get special Inner Line Permit from Leh DC or Indian Army officials to ride on this pass. Due to its proximity to the China border, it holds a very important role for the Indian Army. The road to Marsimik La from Lukung is an absolute disaster, with no proper signboards and full of off-beat trails makes this pass a most treacherous as well. The last few stretches are even more difficult due to low oxygen supply and it makes harder to conquer.