A major 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, which 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 the 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 serves as the gateways 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 situated at 3,979m above sea level, making it 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. The word Rohtang in the local language means ‘pile of corpses, which is indicative of 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 it’s 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 pass 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 in the vicinity of the pass, which are sure to mesmerize you with their calm, blue waters.
6. Nathu La, Sikkim
Next up on this list of the best Himalayan passes in India is Nathu La in the north-eastern state of Sikkim. The 4,310m high Nathu La is one of Sikkim’s most popular tourist destinations, even though it’s situated on the sensitive Indo-China border. In terms of 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 impacted the tourist footfall at Nathu La in recent years.
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.