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Khardung La: Important facts and Detailed Guide

Khardung La, one of the mightiest passes in the world, stands tall like an uncrowned king in the rugged and rustic terrain of Ladakh. It sits as a big item in the checklist of every Ladakh traveler.  In fact, it is the second most visited place in Ladakh, after Leh city and its nearby attractions. The winding road from Leh to the top of the pass gives the much-needed adrenaline rush to the visitors followed by the majestic views of the mountains and the valley from the top. You definitely get that feeling of being on top of the world while soaking in the unmatched beauty of the Himalayas. While driving from Leh to Khardung La, you also get an opportunity to closely look at army convoys carrying supplies for Siachen Glacier warriors. 

My experience at Khardung La

 “Khardung La – the world’s highest motorable road” that’s how I had always known it until I visited it. Seeing the photos of other people with the Khardung La sign in their backdrop, would always give me goosebumps. I have been there a couple of times both alone and with my TT groups.  To be very honest, I have no memory from my first visit as I didn’t get to step outside the vehicle because of a bad headache which was due to indigestion (yes, I wasn’t very careful during my first trip). Every other time, I seized the visit here like a boss along with my TT groups. We experienced an adrenaline rush and we made wonderful memories.

Quick facts about Khardung La

1. Khardung La: the world’s highest motorable road

Khardung La
Transforming Travels Group at Khardung La

Many sources claim the road leading to Khardungla pass to be the world’s highest motorable road. Apart from the countless articles online, these sources also include the landmark stone and the merchandise sold over there. In fact, the landmark stone also claims the Khardungla pass height to be 18380 feet.

Please note that it is indeed one of the highest motorable roads in the world, but it is not the highest motorable road in the world. Also, the correct Khardungla altitude is 17582 feet. 

2. Strategically Important Pass

Khardung La is strategically very important for Indian Defence as the supplies for Siachen Glacier are transported through it. Hence, even in the winter season, the Indian Army makes the best possible efforts to remove snow from the road and keep the pass operational.

3. Part of ancient silk route

Khardung La is historically also an important route as it was a part of the ancient silk route. The traders had to undertake an arduous journey of crossing the Khardungla pass and many other high passes to make their way back and forth between Leh and Kashgar. Did you know that during World War II, China attempted to transfer weapons and other dangerous war-related materials through it?

4. When was it built & opened?

 The road that makes the Khardungla pass accessible was built in 1976, but it was opened to motor vehicles only in 1988. It is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation.

5. Getaway from Leh to Nubra Valley and Shyok

Khardung La top is located at a distance of 39 km from Leh. Leh is the nearest major town. It is also the getaway to Nubra Valley and Shyok Valley from Leh city.

6. Khardung La Challenge

Did you know that “The Khardung La Challenge” is the Highest Ultra Marathon in the World? This annual race is amongst the toughest and ultimate challenging endurance races where the limits of the runners are pushed to the extreme. The total distance of the marathon is 72 km. Out of this, almost 60 km of the marathon is run above 14000 feet. 

Things to do at Khardung La Top

1. Click Photos

Khardungla pass
That’s me at Khardung La top!
Khardung La 1
Our Women-Only group at the top!


Khardungla pass 1
Another landmark stone at the top!

The topmost thing anyone could do here is clicking photos. I have seen people going crazy clicking snow photos and there is always a waiting line to get clicked with the famous Khardungla pass stones. Seems like everyone’s visit would be incomplete without getting clicked with that stone.

2. Khardongla Cafe/ Rinchen Cafeteria

Khardongla Cafe
Khardongla Cafe/ Rinchen Cafe

There is a small cafe named Rinchen Cafeteria at Khardung La Top where one can have some hot beverages. If you are really cold and would like to pamper yourself with some good tea at 17582 feet, then it would be a good choice to visit the cafeteria. 

3. Indian Army Merchandise

How do I tell you how crazy my TT group went over the Indian Army Merchandise being sold at Khardungla top? We purchased Indian Army caps and flaunted them throughout the trip. The entire Khardungla pass area is under the control of the Indian Army and army personnel manages the souvenir shop. This also means that the revenue generated by selling the merchandise directly goes to the Indian Army.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) at Khardung La

Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS is indeed a very common concern for many people at Khardungla top. Here are a few things you can keep in mind to avoid the AMS there:

  • Do acclimatize properly in Leh for at least 2 nights before heading to Khardungla. 
  • Be light on your stomach the day you leave from Leh to Khardungla. Also, keep sipping some lukewarm water until you reach the top.
  • Keep an extra jacket, caps, and gloves handy to wear at Khardung La top. You would need all of them. 
  • Most importantly, do not spend more than 30 minutes at the top under any circumstances. You never know when AMS can start hitting you or your co-travelers.

Please note that it is very common to experience dizziness on the Khardungla top. If you experience the same, make sure you are properly wrapped up in warm clothes and sip some warm water. Good thing is that you won’t stay here overnight, but will start descending after 30 minutes. As you descend, you start feeling normal.

Time required at Khardung La

Please note that 30 minutes are more than enough to spend at Khardung La top. There could be AMS-related challenges if you spend more time here. Also, you might get delayed for your onward journey if you spend a lot of time here, which is not advisable in terrain like Ladakh. 

Best time to visit Khardung La

Just like the other parts of Ladakh, the summer months from June to September are the best time to visit Khardung La. It is fully accessible in these months without any logistical challenges. However, there have been instances of unexpected snowfall in early June or late September sometimes. Hence, please check the on-ground situation from your travel agent or local contacts before planning the trip.

Visiting Khardung La in Winter

khardung la weather
Khardungla pass in winter


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Khardungla in winter

You can visit Khardung La in the winter season as well but this adventure comes with its own set of challenges. Being a strategically important pass for Indian Defence, they make the best possible efforts to keep the pass operational even in the winter season. However, if there is heavy snowfall, then the pass may stay shut for a few days. Tourists getting stuck here because of unexpected heavy snow isn’t very uncommon. 

Khardung La Weather

The weather of Khardung La is mostly cold and windy, irrespective of the season. It can be warm in Leh and Nubra Valley but at the same time, very chilly here. You get to see snow here throughout the year, of course, with varying intensity. Although Ladakh is an arid region, you may still find light rain showers here. Please pack accordingly.

Inner Line permit for Khardung La

Khardung La is a part of the inner line i.e. areas that are close to the Indian border, and that’s why an Inner Line Permit is required for both Indian Nationals and Foreigners. The permit to visit here can either be obtained from Leh by visiting the DM office or online. One can also outsource the permit arrangement work to their travel agency.

How to reach Khardung La

Please note that you would mostly visit the Khardungla pass as a part of your journey from Leh to Nubra Valley. Some people who don’t visit Nubra Valley, prefer taking a day trip from Leh to Khardungla.

Leh to Khardungla
Viewpoint on the way from Leh to Khardungla


Leh to Khardungla
Our women-only group at the above viewpoint!

The Khardungla top is located at a distance of 39 km from Leh city.

The most viable option is to go in a private vehicle if you are in a group. If you are a budget-conscious solo traveler, then you can look for shared taxis from the Leh bus stand. Do remember that people are badly stuffed inside those shared taxis and hence you may feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic during the journey. 

It takes almost 2.5 hours to drive from Leh to Khardungla top. If you are lucky, it might take less than 2 hours.

The road is narrow and you also encounter traffic because of Indian Army convoys carrying supplies to Siachen. You also end up taking a few photo breaks. Hence, it practically takes 2-2.5 hours to drive from Leh to Khardung La top.

Here is the route:

Leh -> South Pullu -> Khardung La Top -> North Pullu -> Nubra Valley

khardung la pass

khardung la pass

Khardungla Top
Khardungla Top

Leh to South Pullu is almost 25 km. This stretch is good and smooth with very few bad patches. 

The next 14 km from South Pullu to Khardung La are challenging. The road is slightly rocky, bumpy, and slushy because of melting snow. 

From Khardung La to North Pullu, it’s another 15 km and the road is still not good. However, after North Pullu, it is mostly a smooth ride.

It is always advisable to start early in the morning from Leh to cut the traffic and reach your destination on time.

Hotels at Khardung La

There are no hotels/ guesthouses/homestays at Khardung La top or in the close vicinity. It’s also not a place for tourists to stay. As mentioned earlier, spending 30 minutes here is more than enough. 

Medical Facility at Khardung La

Please note that there is no proper medical facility/ dispensary/ hospital nearby Khardung La. You have to carry your basic first-aid kit with you. In case some serious health issue comes up (which should not if you are properly acclimatized), then the nearest hospital would be the SNM Hospital in Leh.

ATMs at Khardung La

Please note that there is no ATM at Khardung La or nearby areas. Your best bet is to withdraw money from Leh and carry sufficient cash with you. The souvenir shop or the cafeteria at the top only accepts cash. The same is the case with all en-route tea points and dhabas.

Mobile network at Khardung La

You get decently good reception of postpaid Airtel and BSNL connections at Khardung La top. However, from Leh to Khardungla to Nubra Valley, the network could be patchy.

Packing List for Khardung La

  • Whenever you leave from Leh, keep an extra layer of jacket handy because the weather here is very cold as compared to Leh.
  • Caps and gloves
  • Hot water in an insulated bottle
  • Cash
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Oxygen Cans/ cylinder for very emergency cases
  • Neck pillow for a good nap during the road journey

If it’s not a day trip from Leh to Khardung La, your remaining packing list will mostly be specific to Nubra Valley where you would be staying overnight. 

How to be an ambassador of Responsible Tourism at Khardung La?

Destinations like Khardung La really require visitors to follow the guidelines of Responsible Tourism, else, such fragile places would lose their charm.

You can be a Responsible Tourism  ambassador here by following a very simple behavior:

  • Don’t litter around. If you have any waste with you, either you dispose of it properly or carry it with you to Leh or Nubra Valley.
  • Don’t exhaust yourself by running or jumping around. Refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol or do anything else that would lead to AMS. 
  • Please don’t drive to Khardung La if bad weather conditions are unexpected. It might become an adventure for you but the Indian Army faces the burden of rescuing the stuck tourists. 
  • Please don’t try to scratch the milestones/ landmark stones at Khardung La top. It spoils the beauty of the places.

The above tips are specific to Khardungla pass. You can read this article in order to understand more about the practices of responsible tourism that would help you in the longer term.


Khardung La is indeed a place that must be visited during a trip to Ladakh. Being it’s close vicinity to Leh city, it can also be visited on a short trip to Ladakh. Just make sure that you are acclimatized properly before heading here. Keep a check on weather, temperature, stay hydrated, pack warm clothes and follow the guide. I am sure that with proper precautions, you would end up having a memorable visit to Khardungla pass. 

You can also join our group tour to Ladakh. We organize a women-only trip to Ladakh and also a mixed-gender group tour to Ladakh, every year. If you are a group of people, we can organize a customized package for you as per your requirements.

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