Taking the High Road… Literally

The expression “take the high road” means to do the more difficult, but ultimately right, choice in a situation where it is easier and more convenient to do the wrong thing. For example, a student who decides not to cheat and chooses to risk failing even though he has the option to use a cheat sheet and guarantee a high score is someone who decides to take the high road.

But can such a metaphor be applied in its literal context? If you’re in Marsimik La near the India and China border, it’s certainly possible to take the high road — literally.

Found at an altitude of 18,314 ft. (5,582 meters) at the Chang-Chenmo Range in Ladakh between China and India is a road that is generally regarded as the world’s highest motorable road. For the purposes of clarity, a motorable road is one that an average driver of a regular vehicle with four wheels can sufficiently use. In other words, all vehicles, not just the special ones, can pass by this road.

The world’s highest motorable road, found at such a dizzying height, is not open to the public, though. Since it is close to the border between China and India, its use is reserved for the military forces of both nations. No road paint required, just a head for heights!

However, for quite a while, before the discovery of this road, it was thought that the highest motorable road in the world was the one in Khardung La in India. Found in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, it was initially believed that it has an altitude of 18,379 ft. (5,602 meters). However, later GPS measurements showed that this was inaccurate by 800 ft. Its official altitude, as verified by numerous measurements, is now at 17,582 feet (5,359 meters).

In any event, Khardung La is quite a popular spot for locals and tourists alike wishing to experience how it is like to drive along the world’s highest pass (“la” in Tibet is “pass”). With sweeping panoramas and gorgeous views, Khardung La is a destination by itself. This pass used to be part of the historic Silk Road, and it is this same historicity that lends greater depth to this road.

Many other high-altitude motorable passes can be found in the Tibet and Indian region, and unsurprisingly at that. After all, this region is home to the Himalayas Mountain Range, or the so-called Roof of the World.

This is precisely the reason why apart from the two roads cited above, another road that hovers above the rest of the world is the one in Suge La, found at the west of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. This one has an altitude of 17,815 ft (5,430 meters). Another road, Semo La, has an altitude of 18,258 ft (5,565 meters) and can be found in the central region of Tibet.

For any driver, there is probably nothing more thrilling than driving along the world’s highest motorable roads. With gorgeous views and the adrenaline rush of being on top of the world, literally taking the high road is definitely an experience worth remembering.