In purely technical terms, a pass is the highest point on the lowest possible route through a mountain range or over a ridge. In many places they are known as gaps, saddles, or cols, and since antiquity they have played hugely important roles in war, migration, and trade. Today, they are one of the best ways to experience the great mountain ranges of the world and to soak in the scenery. These are 25 beautiful mountain passes you should make a point to travel through!
Paso Internacional Los Libertadores (Chile/Argentina)
Also known as Cristo Redentor, this pass is a major transport route between Santiago, Chile and the Argentinian city of Mendoza. Cars have been known to get stranded here in winter due to unpredictable weather.
Loveland Pass (United States)
A high mountain pass in Colorado, at over 3,600 meters high, this is one of the highest passes that regularly stays open during winter.
Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)
Although not technically fitting the definition of a pass (see introduction), this road is the only access that the village of Guoliang has with the outside world, so in some sense it plays a very similar role.
Furka Pass (Switzerland)
This pass was used as the location for the James Bond movie Goldfinger.
Thanks to a steep incline and numerous hairpin turns this pass is popular with tourists during the summer. Typically, however, busses and longer vehicles are not allowed on the road.
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Sani Pass (South Africa/Lesotho)
A notoriously dangerous road between the countries of South Africa and Lesotho, 4 wheel drives are required. Along the path you can often find the remains of vehicles that didn’t make it across.
Khardung La (India)
Although many claim that this is the highest navigable mountain pass in the world, that is inaccurate. There are several passes higher, one of which you will see later on this list.
Great St Bernard Pass (Switzerland)
One of the highest passes in Switzerland, the Great St Bernard Pass is also the oldest. There are even traces of a Roman road still visible.
Red Mountain Pass (United States)
Known to be dangerous due to steep inclines, switchbacks (sharp turns), and avalanches, this pass cuts through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Urdele Pass (Romania)
One of the highest passes in the Carpathian Mountains, this pass is part of the Transalpina or King’s Road.
Khunjerab Pass (Pakistan/China)
The highest paved border crossing in the world, traffic crosses from driving on the left side of the road (Pakistan) to the right side of the road (China).
Tizi n'Tichka (Morocco)
The highest major mountain pass of Africa, this road was constructed by the French military in 1936.
Col de l'Iseran (France)
Located near the border with Italy, this is the highest paved pass in the Alps.
El Pas de la Casa (Andorra)
Literally translated to “pass of the house”, it got its name from the lone shepherd’s hut that overlooked its winding turns until the early 1900s.
Thorong La (Nepal)
One of the highest passes in the world, this pass is used regularly by local traders.
Khyber Pass (Afghanistan/Pakistan)
One of the oldest known passes in the world, the Khyber Pass was once part of the Silk Road.
Located on Peru’s central road, Ticlio is home to the highest railway crossing in the world.
Tioga Pass (United States)
The highest pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, this pass serves as the entrance to Yosemite National Park. It is normally open from June to September due to high snowfall.
Abra del Acay (Argentina)
The highest point on Argentina’s National Route 40, this pass is only suitable for all terrain vehicles. Like some of the other passes on this list, oxygen deprivation due to altitude can make the crossing difficult.
Hochtor Pass (Austria)
Located on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, this surfaced pass in Austria is also one of the highest in the Alps.
Chungara–Tambo Quemado (Chile/Bolivia)
As you can see from the picture, this pass is one of the principal routes between Chile and Bolivia.
Mana Pass (India/Tibet)
With a new portion constructed by the Indian military, this is now the highest vehicle accessible pass in the world.
Logan Pass (United States)
Found in Montana’s Glacier National Park this pass is the highest point on the scenic Going-To-The-Sun-Road.
Col de Turini (France)
This mountain pass is famous for a stage of the Monte Carlo Rally that is held on its many hairpin turns.
Stelvio Pass (Italy)
The second highest paved mountain pass in the Alps, the Stelvio Pass is famous for its many switchbacks and scenic beauty.