Umling La Pass in Ladakh, at an altitude of 19000 Feet or 5883 Mtrs, became the highest motorable pass in the world dethroning the Mana Pass in Uttarakhand and road to Uturuncu in Bolivia when BRO opened this road to civilians in 2017.
Many adventure enthusiasts have already visited this coveted pass last year and added this ultimate accolade of visiting the highest motorable road in the world in their adventurous life. In today’s article, I am going to write in detail how you can plan a trip to Umling La pass which lies nearby Hanle village in Ladakh.
If you are interested in knowing more about the highest roads and passed of the world, you can, of course, check my article on the top 13 highest motorable roads in the world.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Umling La Pass Travel Guide
The 54 km long road passing through Umling La Pass connected the villages of Chisumle and Demchok and took six years to be built by BRO under Project Himank. Hats off to the whole team of Project Himank, who took this daunting task of building up the road at such a staggering altitude. BRO had to give special training to all the workers for the construction of this road. Every hour workers had to come down to acclimatize themselves.
I cannot imagine the hard work undergone but well the result is we now have the highest motorable road in the world in India. As Umling La pass is near to the Hanle village, you will be spending a couple of days in Hanle and hence, will be exploring it as well.
In Hanle village, apart from witnessing the breathtaking beauty of the cold desert, you can visit Hanle Monastery as well as the second-highest optical observatory in the world with an installed telescope of about 2.01 meters (6.5 feet) diameter. Hanle observatory is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru and is situated at an altitude of 4500 Mtrs. The details of making a trip to Hanle is detailed out in my comprehensive travel guide of Hanle.
Umling La Permit
Umling La pass is very near to the Line of Actual Control between India and China. Hence, one needs to get the inner line permit to visit this region including Hanle.
The permit for visiting Hanle was used to be sufficient to make a trip to Umling La Pass. However starting 2018, no permits are issued for Umling La pass and civilians are no longer allowed to visit it.
You can get the Inner Line Permits online now and get the stamps at the tourist information center at Leh. However, to get the permit for Hanle, you will have to visit the DC office in Leh and get the permit stamped as per the old method of getting the permit. Carry the printout and visit Leh DC office to get the permit for Hanle. In case you are visiting Umling La pass from Demchok side, please prepare the permissions from the army for which you will need some good contacts in the army to get the permission.
Well, the region of Changthang around Hanle and Umling La pass is very scenic but that at the same time it is harsh, unforgiving and difficult to survive, especially in winters. As it is at a very high altitude, the lack of oxygen makes survival difficult if your body does not acclimatize to its high altitude.
Hence, one needs to plan his/her journey extremely carefully to acclimatize properly and reduce the chances of acute mountain sickness. I highly recommend that you travel slowly and acclimatize properly before making the trip to Umling La pass.
The distance of Umling La pass from Hanle village is 105 km approximately. Hanle itself lies at a distance of 275 km from Leh town of Ladakh district in Jammu & Kashmir, India. Soon you will find it available on Google maps as more people visit the place in the coming season. To get an idea about the direction, you can use my rough sketch of google maps directions for Umling La Pass map below:
Disclaimer: The route direction map of Umling La has been hand-drawn by me considering the rough idea of maps and talking to people who have visited it. Please use it only for informational purposes and direction sense only. It will give you an idea about the location. I request if you have the KML file for the route of Umling La pass, please do share with us so that it can help many other adventure freaks looking to travel to Umling La pass in coming years.
Umling La Pass has become the highest motorable pass or road in the world located at a staggering height or altitude of 19000 Feet or 5883 Mtrs in the Indian Himalayas.
Best Season for Traveling to Umling La Pass
Well considering you will have to traverse various rough roads, especially after Hanle, I will highly suggest that you make the trip to Umlingla pass end of the season around September. In early June, the Photi La Pass will have snow, so the route might not be open and then it is more like snow melting time up to July when water crossings are ferocious.
Hence, late August when monsoon resides in North and September month seems to be the best time to make a trip to Umling La pass. In winter, it will not be possible to make a trip to Umlingla pass at all. So, in November to mid-May, the roads to Umling La pass will be snowbound. Even in May or early June, there is a lot of uncertainty as the snow bounds roads are not actively kept open by the army.
How to Reach Umling La Pass
You can reach Umling Pass after reaching Hanle from three routes. However, you should also know how to reach Hanle first and again. To reach Hanle, you can take the direct route from Leh to Hanle as:
1. The route from Leh to Hanle
Leh – Karu (36 KMs) – Upshi (13 KMs) – Kumdok (19 KMs) – Kere (53 KMs) – Chumathang (34 KMs) – Mahe (22 KMs) – Nyoma (25 KMs) – Loma (22 KMs) – Hanle(51 KMs) = 275 KMs
This is the general route to Hanle that most people take to visit this ever beautiful place in Ladakh. You can reach in about 9 – 10 Hrs depending upon the number of breaks you take in between.
2. The route from Pangong Tso Lake to Hanle
Spangmik (Pangong Tso) – Man (9 KMs) – Merak (12 KMs)– Kakstet (4 KMs) – Chusul (24 KMs) – Tsaga La (33 KMs) – Tsaga Village (20 KMs) – Loma (23 KMs) – Hanle(51 KMs) = 176 KMs
There exist a direct route between Hanle / Tso Moriri and Pangong Tso as well and in most general cases, you will always be doing it from the direct route of Pangong Tso to Hanle because you can exit Ladakh from Tso Moriri towards Manali – Leh Highway after visiting Hanle and Tso Moriri without coming back towards Leh.
Secondly, both Hanle and Tso Moriri are higher than Pangong Tso, so as per the acclimatization schedule, you should stay near Pangong Tso before spending the night at Hanle and Tso Moriri. However, all depends subject to the approval of permits for this route via Chusul. Starting in 2019, foreigners are also all allowed to go beyond Man – Merak Villages as the DC office has started issuing permits to them for this route.
You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and you can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂
3. The route from Hanle to Tso Moriri
After visiting Hanle, you can opt to go towards Tso Moriri from where either you can go to Ladakh, or you can exit towards Manali via Manali Leh Highway. There exist three routes to reach Tso Moriri from Hanle, one via Mahe bridge, other via Salsal La and Kyon Tso – Nidar – Nyoma route. Below is the route which you can follow to reach Tso Moriri from Hanle via Mahe bridge:
Hanle – Loma (51 KMs) – Nyoma (22 KMs) – Mahe (25 KMs) – Sumdo (10 KMs) – Tso Moriri / Korzok (53 KMs) = 161 KMs
The other route goes via Salsal La near Chumur, whose permits are hard to come by, but if you can get them, then nothing gets better and adventurous on your Ladakh journey. Below is the route which you can follow to reach Tso Moriri from Hanle via Salsal La – Chummur village:
Hanle – Salsal La (62 KMs) – Charchagan La (23 KMs) – Tso Moriri / Korzok (60 KMs) = 145 KMs
Finally, you can also take the third route from between Tso Moriri and Hanle as Hanle – Salsal La – Kyon Tso 1 – Kyon Tso 2 – Thitzorbit La – Nidar – Nyoma – Mahe – Tso Moriri. This route is very less frequented among all three routes we discussed to reach Hanle and chances of getting stuck in marshes of Kyon Tso twin lakes are pretty high.
Reaching Umling La Pass from Hanle
Once you have reached Hanle, you again have three routes to visit Umling La Pass. Umling La pass is about 105 KMs from Hanle Village. If you have a permit to visit Hanle, then there is no extra permit required, and if you are coming from the Koyul side, then you need to have a permit for passing Koyul as well. You can refer to the maps for Hanle and Koyul routes.
Starting 2018, no civilian is allowed to visit Umling La and permits for Hanle is not enough to travel to Umling La pass. You will be stopped at the checkpoints and will not be allowed to travel to Umling La pass. This pass is not yet open for tourists because of falling in the sensitive area too close to the border with China.
The route you can take is Hanle to Photi La Pass to Photile Village (57 km) and then follow the route from Photile Village to Umlinga La pass for about 50 KMs at an altitude of 19300 feet. You will come across two bridges/ water crossings while going to Umlingla Pass from Photile Village.
There is another route from Ukdungle village as well, but it is more of a dirt track only except a few km. Hence to sum it up, the three routes to reach Umling La Pass from Hanle are:
- 1. Hanle – Photi La (35 KMs) – Photile (57 KM) – Umling La (105 KMs): This is the most recommended route to reach Umling Las pass from Hanle in comparison to all other routes.
- 2. Loma – Dungti – Fukche – Koyul – Demchok – Umling La: Well, there are lots of ifs and buts for following this route because you will need special permission from the army to visit beyond Fukche towards Koyul and Demchok. Demchok is the border village on Indo – China border, and half of the village lies in China while the other half lies in India. Hence, getting permission to visit this village as a civilian is extremely tough and can result in a waste of a day in case the army does not allow you to go beyond check-posts at Fukche or Koyul.
- 3. Hanle – Ukdungle (30 KMs) – Umling La (101 KMs): The road from Hanle to Ukdungle is very rough and almost a dirt track. Better avoid unless you have 4×4 or used to ride/drive on rough roads. Once you reach Ukdungle, you can follow the trail towards Umling La pass crossing the nallas/bridges that fall on the first route. Hence, you can do kind of both routes as a circuit.
Preferred Vehicles for taking to Umling La Pass
Of course, the higher ground clearance vehicles are preferable, and AWD or 4×4 ones will surely add the much-needed comfort and peace of mind. The road ahead of Hanle towards Photila and Photile has some tricky sections in between and then further to Umling La pass there are a couple of water crossings which could be nasty at times.
I will highly recommend that you take 4×4 vehicles if you wish to take the Ukdungle route. I will keep my reservations for hatches and sedans going towards Photi La and Umling Pass pass as of now. Once BRO completes the road constructions and makes it fully tarred, it is better to then attempt Umling Pass on hatchback or sedan. You should learn about the tips and tricks to drive on the rough roads in the Himalayas.
Pro Tip: If you are doing a self drive to Umling Las Pass and Leh – Ladakh, then make sure to read my article on 40 Must Have Things to Carry on a Self Drive Trip to the Himalayas
Suggested Itinerary for Umling La Pass
To visit Umling La Pass from Hanle, I will highly recommend that you stay two nights in Hanle to make a trip to Umling La pass from Leh. One day you can relax the night before visiting Umling La pass at Hanle and next morning leave early to give yourself ample time to visit Umling La pass from Hanle.
It will also give you a chance to relax at Hanle and witness the mesmerizing beauty of Hanle ad a star-studded night sky. Of course, an opportunity to capture the shots of milky way galaxy from your camera. Hence, I will recommend the following plan for Umling La pass trip:
Day 1 | Leh – Upshi – Chumathang – Nyoma – Loma – Hanle
- Cover Landscapes en route
- Cover Hanle Monastery and Hanle Observatory
- Overnight at Hanle
Day 2 | Hanle – Photi La – Photile Village – Umling La Pass – Hanle
- Visit the World’s Highest Motorable Pass – Umling La Pass
- If you are an adventure seeker and have experience in riding or driving on dirt tracks and bad roads, you can try to take the route from Ukdungle. A word of caution that this route is better to be only taken if you have skills to ride/drive in such terrain else stick to Photi La route which in comparison is little easier to ride/drive than Ukdungle route.
- Overnight at Hanle
Day 3 | Hanle – Tso Moriri via Mahe OR Salsal La OR Kyon Tso – Nidar
- Cover Korzok Monastery
- Kyong Tso 1 or Kyong Tso 2 Lakes if following the route from Nidar
- Overnight at Tso Moriri Lake
Day 4 | Tso Moriri – Tso Kar – Debring – Taglang La – Rumste – Upshi – Karu – Leh
- Cover Tso Kar Lake and Taglang La (some part of Manali – Leh Highway)
- Overnight at Leh
You can always refer my most recommended and detailed itinerary for Leh Ladakh trip.
Accommodation or Stay Options near Umling La Pass
As Umling La Pass is just a mountain top far away from civilization, the closest stay options or accommodation near Umling La pass is at Hanle village where the stay will be available for tourists.
There is a well-known guest house in Hanle by the Sonam Guest House which offers about ten rooms in all with a big dining room. Many of them have attached toilets and few shared ones. It was also known to be by the name of Padma Homestay earlier. Sonam Dorjay is the guy who runs it while the Padma is his wife.
Contact Details of Sonam Guest House, Hanle – Ladakh
- Contact Person: Mr. Sonam Dorjay
- Attributes: A very good friend of mine, knows DoW and its vision very well, very down to earth local ready to support & help other locals of the village
- Contact Details: +91 9469224302 / +91 9716507246, [email protected], [email protected]
- Location: Hanle, Khaldo
Sonam Guest House Hanle, offers SPECIAL DISCOUNTED RATES to all the readers/followers of the Devil On Wheels website through our Destination Specialists. In order to avail the discounts, you can use the online booking form at the link: Book Here
Medical Facilities Nearby
As it is one of the remote places in Ladakh itself, you will not find anything major as medical aid near Umling La pass. You may need to visit the nearest primary care center at Hanle village or Rhongo village. Otherwise, army camps may help out in case of an emergency for medical aid. Hence, I highly recommend that you carry your medical kit for basic health issues and do not rely much on medical facilities nearby Umling La Pass.
The medical kit or first aid kit must always be present with you. Also, as you understand it is a very high altitude region, carrying an Oxygen cylinder with you will be extremely helpful in dire circumstances.
Food Joints near Umling La Pass
There will be no eating place or food joint around Umling La pass. The nearest food you may get will be at army posts, local village dhabhas at Koyul, Demochok, and, of course, Hanle. I will suggest taking packed food from Hanle village and if you are staying at Sonam Guest House, then better ask them to pack food for you.
I will further advise that as a contingency of such a remote location, it is better to carry some spare food in case you get a little late somewhere due to roadblocks or landslides.
Phone Signals at Umling La Pass
The moment you will leave Hanle village, you will lose any connectivity whatsoever to Umling La Pass and back. Recently, a BSNL phone tower has come up in Hanle, and at times the phone connectivity is present in the village. However, do not rely much on it. There is one public satellite phone installed at a house in Khaldo village in Hanle. The home with a phone also offers homestay accommodation.
Petrol Pumps Nearby
The nearest petrol pump to Umling La is at Karu (about 240 km) from Hanle. You need to carry enough spare fuel with you to complete the trip. It also depends upon which route you are taking and add the required fuel based upon the added distance you need to travel from Hanle.
Karu is near Leh only, so no matter which route you opt, Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri or Leh to Tso Moriri, you should carry some spare fuel. You may also find some black fuel at Hanle or Chumathang.
You will not find any ATMs near Umling La Pass or Hanle village. Hence, it is always better to carry cash from Leh itself.
Video – Top 13 Highest Motorable Roads in the World
This region near Hanle / Umlingla Pass in Jammu & Kashmir offers one of the most beautiful landscapes that you will even see within Ladakh. Hence, if you are planning a bit of adventurous trip and not traveling with family, I will suggest to surely including Hanle and Umling La pass in your trip plan.
This region of Ladakh is still a bit secluded, offering a different feeling and aura. I hope this travel guide will be useful for your upcoming trip Umling La Pass and other places within Ladakh.
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