India’s terrain speaks of immense diversities. Mountains, valleys, and rivers of India make for a grand spectacle, but not without their share of dangers. To reach the most beautiful places, you have to go through some of the most dangerous roads. There’s no shortage of roads that hug steep mountains, roads that are carpeted with snow, or roads that are believed to be haunted.
Where there is danger, there is an unknown excitement. Adventure seekers see such roads as a test of their capacity to digest thrill. You could be seeing astonishing views of a green valley one moment and have no idea that the gravel under your car’s tires is slipping away. But you should not let not any fear hold you back. If you have a large appetite for adventure, here are the most dangerous roads in India.
This zig-zag mountainous road between Ladakh and Kashmir takes you through scenic views of the Himalayas and the Dras River. The closest city to Zoji La Pass is Sonmarg, falling just 15 km away. If you drive through the pass in winter, you’ll see walls of snow on both sides. Before you start dreaming of driving between such a grand view, let us tell you that the pass is closed during winters. Why? Narrow slippery roads, risks of landslides, and avalanches have often rendered tourists getting stuck at high elevations.
The narrow roads of Zoji La Pass can be terrifying for novice drivers. It’s better to drive slowly and keep a close eye on the road (and not let the view distract you). It’s a complete no to drive on the dirt path of Zoji La Pass at night. A 14 km long Zoji La tunnel project is under construction. This tunnel aims to reduce the 3-hour long journey across Zoji La to 15 minutes one. Crossing Zoji La will sure be safer after the completion of this tunnel, but it’ll be no match to the gorgeous view the pass offers.
Elevation: 11,575 feet
Length: 25.8 km
Dangers: Narrow path, landslides, snowdrifts
Also Read: Experience The Ladakh Festival
Carved on the side of a cliff, the Killar to Kishtwar road is one of the scariest roads in India. Unlike the dirt road of Zoji La Pass, the Killar to Kishtwar road is paved with gravel, sand, and stones. But the low-hanging mountain rocks make it tough for bigger vehicles to pass by. Even the drivers of small cars find it difficult to see over a distance because of these low hangings. The rocky walls beside the narrow road make it super difficult to drive as the rocks form a camouflage.
This road is situated in Jammu and Kashmir, so you can imagine the views out of the window while driving. The pass is also loved by bike riders who ride through the tipsy curvy path like experts. You can get an idea of the crazy road this is if you see YouTube videos shot by travelers along this road. The videos alone are enough to spook the daylights out of you!
Elevation: 8,280 feet
Length: 114 km
Dangers: Low overhanging cliffs, narrow path, poor and unstable road conditions
Also Read: Jammu Travel Guide
How about driving through 21 tight hairpin bends of Gata Loops. As the name suggests, there are many dangerous loops on this road. The tight bends make driving difficult for even the most expert drivers. It gets tougher to control larger vehicles and trucks on this route. Go too fast and there are chances of your car skidding on a sharp bend. You can get an idea of the complex pattern of Gata Loops if you see drone footage or just open your Google Maps.
This loopy patch falls on the Leh-Manali Highway. Gata Loops is not only dangerous but also scary. It’s believed to be haunted by the ghost of a truck’s cleaner who lost his life after the truck broke down in a storm. The story goes that the truck’s driver went to get help from a nearby village leaving his cleaner to guard the cargo the truck was loaded with. But no help came and the cleaner died due to hunger, thirst, and cold. Today there’s a small shrine where people leave water bottles in the place where he died. Interesting!
Elevation: 17,000 feet
Length: 10.3 km
Dangers: 21 sharp bends with every loop measuring 300-600 meters, dizziness, or mountain sickness because of the bends
Also Read: 8 Foods In Leh Ladakh That You Must Try!
Remember the iconic scene where Kareena Kapoor danced between the snow-covered Rohtang Pass in the movie Jab We Met? Rohtang Pass needs no more Bollywood movie features to become famous because it already is! This important road connects Kullu Valley with Lahaul and Spiti. Driving between walls of snow might sound like a dream sequence but doesn’t come without its dangers.
Every year, Rohtang Pass is closed after a snowfall, but it’s pretty approachable between May to November. Since Rohtang is a popular tourist destination, there are endless traffic jams on this narrow road. Mud and snow make the road very slippery, so it’s better you get an expert driver if you’re heading along this route. Add to it winding bends, zero protective barriers, landslides, and risk of falling rocks, you have one of the most dangerous roads in India.
If you’re in Rohtang, you’ll see tourists hurrying back before dark, and you should too. It’s because the pass is more dangerous after dark. Rohtang Pass means ‘Valley of Death’ and in the language of the hill folks, Rohtang means 'pile of corpses’. Now let us leave it to your imagination of how thrilling this road must be.
Elevation: 13,050 feet
Length: 479 km
Dangers: Landslides, dense fog, slush, strong winds
If the tipsy Gata Loops has your head going in circles, wait until you drive through the Kolli Hills Road. This road has 70 continuous tight bends, making it no less than a roller coaster. This road in Tamil Nadu sees many travelers every year because of popular spots like Arappaleeswar Temple, Agaya Gangai Waterfalls, Siddhar Caves, etc. nearby. An aerial view of the road looks like tracks left by a snake, but tighter and more pronounced! This road in Tamil Nadu begins from Karavalli and ends at Solakkadu.
Kolli Hills Road is especially dangerous in the monsoon because of potholes, bad patches, and mud. The crazy bends on Kolli Hills Road invite many bikers every year because though dangerous, the ride is very scenic. If you’re an expert driver, don’t let your confidence carry you away because the sharp hairpin bends are prone to accidents. Kolli Hills Road is known as ‘Mountains of Death’ not without reason, so drive cautiously. But don’t forget to take in the scenery of the dense green Kolli Hills in the distance. There are local buses too that go through this route, hop on one for the ride of a lifetime.
Elevation: 4,300 feet
Length: 47 km
Dangers: 70 hairpin bends, narrow road allowing only one vehicle to pass at a time, bad patches, potholes
National Highway 5 is one of the longest and most dangerous roads in India. Since the highway runs till the Tibet border, it is also known as the Hindustan-Tibet road. The road is literally carved out of the mountains and treats you with some brilliant views. You have to be careful though since there are unpredictable turns and bends which can go horribly wrong due to poor judgment.
The road has several tunnels and low-hanging cliffs, often making it difficult for large cargo trucks to pass. It’s one of the deadliest highways in the world and is best left to the most experienced drivers. As you take in the views of the chiseled rocks and the Satluj River below, you cannot help but marvel at the highway’s architecture. Drive precariously through this road as there are no guard rails!
Elevation: Varies along the route
Length: 660 km
Dangers: Low hanging cliffs, no guard rails, narrow lanes, unpredictable turns
Well-known as one of the highest motorable roads in the world, Khardungla Pass is both scenic and dangerous. There are no rails and the path is slippery with mud and ice. Well, you cannot afford to slip from a mad height of 17,000 feet! No doubt it is a driver’s nightmare. The worst is glazed ice on its hairpin bends, you won’t even know you’re driving on slippery frozen ice. The Khardungla Pass is located in the Leh district and connects Nubra Valley to the Leh town.
Tourists are not the only ones riding along this road. The pass is frequented by trucks carrying goods to the Siachen Glacier. Riding on the Khardungla Pass is on the bucket list of many bikers. Bikers from all over India dream of riding to the top of this highest motorable road. You can relate if you have seen pictures or GoPro videos of travelers who have been there. But landslides and the risk of steep height make this road scary and dangerous for newbies and experts alike. Also, the sheer height of the pass doesn’t come without some altitude sickness.
Elevation: 17,582 feet
Length: 39 km
Dangers: Landslides, narrow one-lane sections, slush, low oxygen.
Year-round snow, low temperatures, and scarcity of oxygen make Chang La Pass one of the most dangerous roads in India. It’s open only from May to October because of extreme snow in winters. If you plan to go, check if the road is open to visitors. Chang La Pass is located in Ladakh and is unavoidable if you’re traveling from Leh to Pangong Lake. Just like Khardungla Pass, Chang La Pass too is one of the highest motorable roads.
Always drive with your headlights on along this mountain pass. There’s no way to predict when fog might envelop your car. There have been incidents of vehicles missing a turn due to the fog and ending right into the valley below. While we do recommend going slow on this road, don’t spend more than 20 minutes as you start experiencing breathlessness due to the high altitude.
Elevation: 17,688 feet
Length: 15 km
Dangers: High elevation, fog, snowdrifts, slippery road, low oxygen
This high mountainous road is situated in Arunachal Pradesh and runs between Tibet's Cona County and India's Tawang district. This border passes between the two countries and is well protected by the Indian Army. You need a special permit to enter the Bum La Pass and it can go in vain if the weather is not favorable. The extreme temperatures and thin air can make you dizzy while on this road.
Because the Bum La Pass is at such a great height, you can see the clouds touching the road. It’s the highest motorable road in Northeast India. It was Bum La Pass through which the Dalai Lama entered India. This snippet of history alone invites many tourists to see the pass. While you’re here, don’t forget to see the Sangestar Tso Lake. But try to book an SUV with an experienced driver when you embark on the Bum La Pass. Blizzards, sudden snowfall, and dense fog make driving very difficult on the road.
Elevation: 15,000 feet
Dangers: Hairpin bends, bottleneck roadways, poor road conditions, unpredictable weather
Also Read: Top 8 Things To Do In Arunachal Pradesh
The hairpin bends of Gata Loops and Kolli Hills Road are nothing in front of the Three Level Zig Zag Road in Sikkim. A picture of the road itself will have you feeling dizzy. It’s best to avoid this road if you get nauseous easily or else you will be puking all the way up to the Thambi View Point. Not kidding, because the road has 100 sharp hairpin bends falling just within a 30-kilometer stretch.
The dizzy ride to the top is worth it for the view from Thambi Point. From up there, you can see the road stretching out against the backdrop of the Himalayas. It’s undoubtedly one of the dizziest roads in the world. What makes it dangerous? Slush and glazed ice in the winter months can make you skid along any of the hundred sharp turns. It’s easy to lose control of your car in such conditions, so drive with caution!
Elevation: 11,200 feet
Length: 30 km
Dangers: Are 100 crazy bends not enough of a danger?
Unpredictable turns, risk of falling boulders, and rockslides make Bodimettu a dangerous road to travel on. The road connects Theni, a hillock town in Tamil Nadu with Munnar, a hill station in Kerala. The trade between the two towns means that Bodimettu Ghat is the only way to transport goods. There’s no shortage of tourists along the route since Bodimettu is close to the popular hill stations of Kerala.
The risk of falling rocks and landslides in the monsoon makes Bodimettu Ghat very dangerous. The sharp curves make you hold on tightly to your seat. You can see jeeps going too and fro, a preferred transport option for the locals. Though scary at first thought, the road offers you some breathtaking views of the ghat area. Be prepared for some dizziness because there are 27 hairpin bends along the way!
Elevation: 4,500 feet
Length: 18.5 km
Dangers: Rockslides, landslides, sharp bends, slippery edges in monsoons
You have reached the end of this article as a more aware and cautious traveler. Yes, dangerous roads can be fatal but that doesn’t mean you should never explore them. Just remember to download an offline map of the road you are going to embark on. You cannot afford to get lost on a dangerous road, right?
Which Are The Most Dangerous Roads In India?
Zoji La Pass, Khardungla Pass, National Highway 5, and Three-Level Zig Zag Road are some of the most dangerous roads in India.
Is There A Dangerous Road In Maharashtra?
Yes, the Neral to Matheran road and the Amboli Ghat are some of the dangerous roads of Maharashtra. It’s recommended to not travel along these roads at night.
What To Carry On A Road Trip?
First aid kit, snacks, water, power banks, and toolbox are some things to carry on a road trip. Take your car on a maintenance check before setting out for any road trip.
Are High Mountain Passes Accessible By Two-wheelers?
Yes, totally! Many bikers love riding on high mountain passes. Roads like Khardungla Pass are well frequented by bikers from all over India.
When To Avoid Traveling On Dangerous Roads?
Monsoons are the time to avoid dangerous roads since this is the time roads are prone to landslides. Muddy and slippery paths also multiply the risks associated with a dangerous road.
Which Is The Toughest Ghat In India?
India's geographical terrain is so diverse that is has a plethora of tricky ghats. And Bodimettu, one of the most toughest ghats, is located in the Theni District, on the Madurai to Kochi highway. What adds to the challenge is its elevation (the ghat sits at an altitude of 1200 metres) and the sharp hairpin bends that makes driving seem like a test.
Is Driving In India Difficult?
Driving in India can be a bit tricky because of the congested roads and many narrow lanes. However, once you get familiar with the roads and the style required to navigate, driving in India becomes a breeze.
What Is The Driving Age In India?
The legal driving age to drive any motor vehicle is 18 years in India.