Nubra Valley is one of the most visited valleys in Ladakh. Famous for its dramatic landscapes, the valley offers some of the awe-inspiring vistas. Just about 120 km away from the Leh city, the valley is one of the most picturesque locations in this region. With humongous mountains, barren landscapes, roughed lands, monasteries, desert, and pretty villages, you will be stunned by the alluring beauty of this valley. It gives you a surreal feeling while witnessing the wonders of nature. Located in the North East Side of Ladakh, the valley is an ideal place for the nature lovers and photographers. The picture perfect postcard destination gives you endless shades to capture into your lens. The nature has bestowed scenic beauty in abundance here. Whether you are a tourist, seasoned traveler, biker or a photographer, this valley gives you enough reasons to get dazed, charmed and mesmerized by its unreal natural mystery.
It takes five and half hours via the Khardung La Pass to reach Nubra Valley from Leh. During your road trip to the valley, your eyes will pop up with each turn. It is worth spending hours on this road. Encircled by the Himalayan ranges, you will witness the continuous change in landscapes, green pastures, wandering yaks and hardly any human interference throughout the journey. Due to its proximity to the border, the Indian tourists need an ILP (Inner Line Permit) and Foreign Nationals require PAP (Protected Area Permit) to visit the valley. It is advisable to acclimatize at least two days in Leh before you head out for the Nubra valley to avoid AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
3 day Itinerary & Travel Guide for Sightseeing
The compelling destination like Nubra Valley offers a lot to see and do if you are not one of those who is always in the rush to tick off their destinations. It requires time to indulge in the luxury of the place. Hence, it demands slow travel. To soak in the aura of the appealing beauty, you need at least 3 days to satiate your travel hunger. I would not suggest anyone to opt for a day trip to Nubra Valley from Leh. Because a day trip is not justified when it comes to sightseeing in Nubra valley. Find out the detailed 3 day itinerary and the travel guide for Nubra Valley.
Day 1: Three day Itinerary & Travel Guide for Sightseeing
After attending the famous Naropa Festival in Leh and spending almost a week in the capital of Ladakh, I headed towards the popular Nubra Valley. I didn’t want to explore the valley in a jiffy. So, I decided to spend 3 days exploring places in and around the valley. The first day was quite relaxing as I didn’t want to rush through things and rather enjoyed the basking sun and wonderful view during my road trip accessed by the snowbound Khardung-La Pass.
Khardung La Pass
The falsely famed as “The Highest Motorable Pass in the World”, the Khardung La Pass is one of the top tourist destinations in Ladakh. It is one of the oldest motorable passes in India and the world. Located around 40 km away from the Leh city, the famed pass is one of the top attractions in Ladakh. Opened in the year 1988 for civilian traffic, it is the gateway to the Nubra valley. If you are travelling during the peak tourist season in Ladakh, you may witness traffic jam on your way to the Khardung La pass. The tourists go berserk clicking that one photograph in front of the signboard at the Khardung La pass. You will not find an empty spot at the top.
What I loved about the high altitude pass was the teasing views of the mountain ranges and the gorgeous valleys. There is an Army run canteen on the top that serves free tea to tourists and a souvenir shop in case if you want to buy anything. Due to its high altitude, it is advisable not to spend more than 15 minutes at the Khardung La Pass as you may hit AMS due to high altitude.
Road Trip to Nubra Valley
When it comes to the scenic roads in India, the road between Leh and Nubra Valley will certainly be considered as one of the most visually charming roads in India. Your eyes will glitter with joy when you embark on this five and half hours of road trip. You can’t take your eyes off from the surroundings. As soon as you leave Leh, you will be treated with layers of snow-capped mountains, blooming valley, sun-kissed weather and twisting road along with it. The jagged mountains, rocky slopes, patchy fields, wandering yaks gazing aimlessly, silent river beds and small settlements are your constant companions. The sound of wind is the only soothing noise to your ears. The wind in your hair and the wish to explore this magnificent valley, makes you travel miles from the urban habitation. You can also stop for a quick tea break in Khardung village, a little ahead of the Khardung La Pass.
Crossing the picturesque villages and valleys along with Shyok River, you enter the vast uninhabited hinterlands. The landscape suddenly changes as you advance towards the valley. You will be treated with flatland. A few km ahead of the flatland, you reach the famous Diskit town, the headquarters of the Nubra valley. Just before the Diskit monastery, don’t forget to stop by the stunning lake where you see the reflections of the mountain ranges and the fluffy cotton ball like clouds. People generally ignore this spot, but I found it one of the spectacular sights in Nubra Valley.
After a long road trip, you can go easy on the first day and opt for relaxing at the resort/hotel or home stay on the first day rather than stepping out to explore.
Day 2:Three day Itinerary & Travel Guide for Sightseeing
After a relaxing night, you are ready to explore the places in and around the valley.You can start the day by exploring the Diskit Monastery, the 106 feet tall Maitreya Buddha, followed by Sumur and Panamik. Spend the night at Diskit or Hunder, depending on your accommodation location.
One of the main attractions in Nubra Valley, the Diskit monastery is a must visit place.Perched high above the town, on the craggy hillock, you can drive up to the monastery. The flattering hanging prayer flags, the white washed chortens, soothing sounds of the mantras create a peaceful environment up there. More than anything, the breathtaking views of the Nubra valley are worth visiting this monastery for. The Diskit Monastery is also known as Diskit Gompa. It is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in the Nubra Valley. The Diskit Monastery was founded by the Changzem Tserab Zangpo in the 14th century. He was a disciple of Tsong Khapa. The Monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Maitreya Buddha in Diskit
One can’t ignore the giant Maitreya Buddha statue in the valley. It is one prominent landmark of the valley. 106 feet impressive and tall Maitreya Buddha at Diskit attracts thousands of tourists every year. Facing the Shyok River, the statue sits tall with a height of 32 meters and gives jaw-dropping views of the valley from here. The best time to capture this gigantic Buddha statue is during sunset.
After the Diskit monastery, you can head towards the Sumur village. It is one of the prettiest sights in the valley. The main attraction of the village is the Samstanling Gompa, located above the village at the foot of barren mountains. Built in the year 1840, though the construction of the monastery looks modern, yet it retains the spiritual aura. The monastery houses around 100 monks. It has two main prayer halls. You can opt for a little detour which will land you in another small village called Kygar, also known as Tegar. The crumbling Zamskhang is now being restored and is regarded as a Palace. It was home to the local governor way back in the 19th century (when Ladakh’s royal family still resided in Leh’s palace), and is located in the same village. The Sumur Village is also known for its sand dunes.
Next stop is Panamik, known mainly for hot springs. The Panamik is the last village in Nubra valley and open to tourists. 22 kilometres from Sumur, the beautiful Panamik village is another tourist destination in the valley. The Panamik village serves as a base for the trek to the 260 year old Ensa Monastery, which is known for Buddhist murals. You can also hike 15 to 20 minutes to reach the spectacular and sacred Yarab Tso Lake there. The Panamik village is a good place to buy Pashmina shawls, woolen socks and dry fruits as they are inexpensive as compared to other places in the region.
Day 3:Three day Itinerary & Travel Guide for Sightseeing
The 3rd day in the valley can be dedicated to visiting Turtuk Village and Hunder desert. These two places will take the entire day to explore. You can start early after breakfast and can return to your accommodation after sunset. While exploring Turtuk village, you have to also keep a tap of the time if you don’t want to miss the astounding sunset scene in Hunder desert. So it is advisable to leave Turtuk after lunch to reach Hunder on time.
When in Nubra Valley, visiting Turtuk,the remote village, is a must. Inhabited by the Balti people, this village was open for tourists only in 2010. Untouched by time, this village introduces you to the Balti Muslim culture and gives you a rare opportunity to meet Balti people and see their lifestyle. Located on the bank of Shayok River, Turtuk is home to around 300 families, who live in this ‘border village’ right on the boundary of the Pakistan-administered region of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Turtuk is hardly 10 km away from the northern most village named Thang. Turtuk was part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir until 1971. Flanked by the towering and craggy Karakoram Mountains, the walk around the fields of buckwheat and barley, the scattered little houses, tiny alleyways make it worth your visit to this distant village. The village houses a Balti Heritage museum, showcasing the Balti culture.
Turtuk is the gateway to Siachen Glacier and one of the sensitive locations. The idyllic village also houses the Royal Palace. Tourists are allowed to visit the palace and meet the king. It is highly advisable to take permission to click Balti people in the village. With the increasing tourists influx lately, the village has started building home stays and restaurants for travelers. Don’t forget to buy apricots from Turtuk.
I haven’t seen such eye-arresting visuals in my life until I landed in the cold desert of Hunder, just before sunset. Located 7 km from Diskit, visiting Hunder desert is mandatory. It is one of the most photogenic places in the world. It can be over-crowded in peak seasons.The Bactrian Double Humped Camels grazing a dune-like stretch, changing shades of sun rays, reflections of the same in the rugged mountains, hanging fluffy cotton balls like clouds in the unbelievably blue sky, green vegetation here and there, it paints the most fascinating pictures of nature.
I was awe-stuck there. All I did was witness the unfolding drama of nature and became part of the transition. This place was magical and is also referred to as ‘the Desert in the Sky’. Hunder lies on the ancient silk route. You can opt to stay in Hunder instead of Diskit. It has a good number of desert camps and guest houses for tourists.
Must know things
- How to reach
Nubra Valley is located around 120 km from Leh City. You have to hire a private taxi, shared cab or if you are biker, you can opt for a bike ride. There is local bus service as well if you are on a budget trip. It takes five and half hour generally, but it entirely depends on the number of breaks you take throughout your journey. It may take long. The most common route is Leh – Khardung La Pass – Khardung Village – Khalsar – Diskit.
Hiring taxi service in Ladakh is a pretty expensive affair. It becomes easier when you share the taxi fare with a co-traveler. The newly launched Ladakh shared taxi booking system helps you find other travelers to share the cost and space that not only saves you money, but also allows you to meet other travellers across the globe.
The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. above sea level.
- Best Time to Go
The peak tourist season starts from May to August. Though I visited in the month of September and I prefer this month only. It is less crowded and you can see the valley adorning gorgeous autumn colors.
- Where to stay
There is a considerable amount of hotels, guest houses and home-stays available in the valley. Diskit being the headquarters, you will find the maximum numbers of accommodations here. There are guest houses in Hunder, Sumur and Panamik also. You can also prefer to stay in desert camp in Hunder.
I stayed in Desert Himalayan Resort in Diskit. It is a luxury resort. What I loved the most about this resort is its unique view of the gorgeous Karakoram and Ladakh mountain ranges.
Tourists need an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter the Nubra valley. Foreign Nationals require PAP (Protected Area Permit) to visit places in Ladakh. You can apply online for the permits. Here is the official website www.lahdclehpermit.in. The Residents of Jammu & Kashmir and the children below 12 years don’t require permit to visit protected areas of Leh district. Even though you can choose to apply online, you still need to visit Leh DC Office or Tourist Information Center for verification of your permits and get them stamped.
- Mobile Phone Network
You must know that BSNL Postpaid network works in Nubra Valley, though it has a weak connection in places. Currently, Airtel Postpaid (2G internet in Hunder and Diskit) & JIO Postpaid ( 3G connectivity in Diskit and Hunder) are also working in Nubra Valley.
There is J&K (Jammu & Kashmir Bank) ATM in Diskit and Hunder. You will also find SBI (State Bank Of India) ATM in Partapur (6 km ahead of Hunder).
- Patrol Pump
Diskit has a petrol pump. It is mostly operational. But you are advised to tank up on your start from Leh.
- Medical Facilities
Diskit has a hospital to provide basic medical facilities if required. There is also an Army hospital in Hunder in case of any emergency.
My Ladakh experience is curated by The Grand Dragon Ladakh
Disclaimer : Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.
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