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Top 10 Mountain Passes in the Indian Himalayas

Posted May 5, 2022 in Top Contenders - Last updated November 14, 2023

A significant portion of the Himalayas lies in India, and it’s a treat for any traveler who loves the mountains. As you travel through the Indian Himalayas, you’ll have to traverse several high-altitude passes that connect different valleys. Of course, not all of them are spectacular, but the best Himalayan passes in India will leave you wanting more. Read on to learn about them.

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1. Pensi La, Ladakh

Nestled at a height of 4,400m, the Pensi La connects the valleys of Suru and Zanskar in Ladakh. The pass itself offers spectacular sights of the surrounding snow-capped Himalayan peaks, but what’s even more impressive is the Drang Drung glacier located in the vicinity. Unfortunately, the pass remains open for only 5 – 6 months every year, and it’s inaccessible during the winter months due to heavy snowfall.

2. Khardung La, Ladakh

The Khardung La in Ladakh is a 5,602m high mountain pass, which until very recently was the highest motorable pass in the world. Even though it’s no longer the world’s highest motorable pass, it’s still one of the best Himalayan passes in India to visit. The pass is the gateway to the remote valleys of Nubra and Shyok, and the road to access it winds upwards from Leh. Despite being at a greater height than Pensi La, Khardung La remains open longer to its strategic importance for the Indian Army.

3. Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh

Rohtang La is 3,979m above sea level, lower than Khardung La and Pensi La. However, don’t let the altitude fool you – the pass has a dangerous reputation. Back in ancient times, when traders would traverse the pass on foot, the treacherous weather conditions at the pass’ top took countless lives. In the local language, Rohtang means ‘pile of corpses, which indicates the pass dangers. Previously, the pass connected the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. However, since the inauguration of the Atal Tunnel, its importance has waned.

4. Kunzum La, Himachal Pradesh

The 4,551m high Kunzum La is one of the most spectacular passes in India. The pass connects the Lahaul and Spiti valleys and is also home to a temple. Vehicles often round the temple compound before continuing their journeys, as it’s believed to bring good luck. To experience the breathtaking beauty of Kunzum La, you’ll have to approach Spiti from the Manali side. The roads in the area are not good, but the views from the past do more than enough to make up for them.

5. Baralacha La, Himachal Pradesh

Baralacha La is a pass that connects the Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh to the Zanskar Valley in Ladakh. At the height of 4,850m, the pass remains full of snow for most of the year, making it one of the most beautiful sights on the Manali – Leh route. In addition, there are some incredible Himalayan lakes near the pass, sure to mesmerize you with their calm, blue waters.

6. Nathu La, Sikkim

Next on this list of the best Himalayan passes in India is Nathu La in the northeastern state of Sikkim. The 4,310m high Nathu La is one of Sikkim’s most popular tourist destinations, even though it’s on the sensitive Indo-China border. Regarding cross-border trade between India and China, no pass can come close to the Nathu La in terms of importance. However, conflicts and skirmishes between the Indian and Chinese armies have recently impacted the tourist footfall at Nathu La.

7. Se La, Arunachal Pradesh

The state of Arunachal Pradesh in India’s northeast has always been a point of contention between India and China. However, you’re likely to forget the geopolitical tensions once you set foot on the Se La, situated at the height of 4,300m. The pass connects the districts of West Kameng and Tawang and is considered sacred by practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. According to local beliefs, there are approximately 101 holy lakes that dot the surroundings of the pass.

If you want to travel to the Himalayas, learn more before booking your trip. Whether it’s a travel guide or simply researching, you’ll want to ensure you take all the precautions. Make your travel planning easier by searching through itineraries for the Indian Himalayas and finding the trip that best fits you.

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