On the third day in Ladakh we set out early for Nubra Valley. Located northwest of Leh, we had to cross Khardung La (La means ‘pass’ in Tibetan) at 5,602 m or 18,380 feet. At that height it is the highest motorable road in the world, however, further research online reveals that the altitude reported by the signs may be slightly exaggerated; a recent GPS study put it at 17,582 feet, making it the third highest road.
Like most roads in Ladakh, Khardung La is maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and is always under some state of repair. In addition to carrying travelers to more amazing sites in Ladakh, it is also strategically important to India because it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. About 100 miles further north of Khardung La, Siachen Glacier is the highest battleground on earth, a place where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since 1984 over a border dispute.
Khardung La is also home to the highest cafeteria in the world. Travelers and soldiers mingle and eat maggi and momos (dumplings). There are tens of thousands of prayer flags located at Khardung La and we enjoyed hiking to higher spots to get a better view.