There are not many ways available to you if you want to walk above the clouds. Apart from the usual, and often boring air transport method, you’d have to scale a pretty tall mountain to actually be able to walk above the clouds and see the world from above. But what if you wanted to take your car over there? How awesome would it be that you actually get to drive up there on your own and feel the exhilaration of having made to the roof of the world and where 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 mountain sickness and breathlessness. But if you can make it, here are the top ten highest mountain passes in the world where you can actually take an automobile, and not surprisingly, almost all of them call the Himalayas their home.
- Chang La (Ladakh, India)
Elevation: 17586 ft
The Tibetan translation for “La” means “pass”, and Chang la, at a scarcely believable altitude of 17,586 ft above sea level, takes the 10th spot on the list. It is easily accessible through the town of Leh in the Ladakh region of Kashmir and is best experienced if you take a Royal Enfield motorcycle to the summit, where the view are unbeatable.
- Suge La (West Lhasa, Tibet)
Elevation: 17815 ft
Located about 110km from Lhasa, Suge La takes its spot as one of the most extreme mountain passes you will ever come across, simply because of the fact that it is so hard to climb it even with a vehicle. Oxygen, like in most high mountain passes is in short supply and the dangers of mountain sickness loom large. But it is worth it.
- Kaksang La (Ladakh, India)
Elevation: 17841 ft
Kaksang La lies along the familiar paths of Mahe-Nama-Chusul-Pangong Tso, and it is advisable not to attempt this pass in severe weather conditions as Mother Nature can bite back in more ways than one. But if you manage to reach it, you will be greeted with a desert landscape like no other.
- Donkia La (North Sikkim, India)
Elevation: 17999 ft
Also known as Donkha La, this is one of those rare places where you can get a magnificent view of the gigantic Tibetan Plateau. It also lies close to the Tso Lhamo lake, which happens to be the 14th highest lake in the world.
- Photi La (Ladakh, India)
Elevation: 18124 ft
Located some 30km off the village of Hanle, which is famous for the Hanle Observatory for the heavens above, Photi la is an obscure pass not many know of, but that doesn’t discount it’s challenging nature. If you are a stargazer, there are not many places that can rival this place.
- Semo La (Central Tibet)
As the title suggests, it is located in Central Tibet and gives you access to the gigantic Changtang region, home to vast lakes and arid climates. There was only an old dustry road plied by infrequent trucks and buses until 2015, when the Provincial road S206 paved the way.
- Marsimik La (Ladakh, India)
Elevation: 18313 ft
Another crowning jewel of the Ladakh region of India, Marsimik la requires you to have a permit from the Army to actually have access to the place. But if you manage to get it, there are few places in the world that can rival the sheer combination of natural beauty and terrifying tranquility.
- Mana Pass (Uttarakhand, India)
Elevation: 18405 ft
The trail starts just after Mana village in Uttarakhand, some 25 km away from the holy Badrinath and labeled as the “last Indian village” before the border to Tibet starts. During the rainy season, that area and the surrounding Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve becomes a literal paradise. If you can get a permit from the Army at Joshimath, so much the better.
- Road to Uturuncu Volcano (Bolivia)
Elevation: 18953 ft
An odd addition to the list dominated by mountain passes from the Himalayas, this road that leads to Bolivia’s most active volcano had long held the record for the highest road in the world. Only the fittest of the man and machine manage to get a taste of it. It was famously included in the Bolivia Special if the 14 season of Top Gear UK. You may want to check that out ferore you embark on this.
- Umling la (Ladakh, India)
Completed in 2017, The Border Roads Organization (BRO) of India accomplished a heroic feat of constructing the highest road in the world, and the first to actually cross the 19000 ft mark. Expect air to be thinner than what you have ever felt before, but it will definitely be an experience few will have the pleasure to experience.
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