The Journey from Leh to Nubra Valley
Travelmynation did a 6-month tour of the Northern Himalayas and one of the parts we enjoyed the most was our journey from Leh to Nubra Valley. We read that more than 50 million years back, the Indian-Australian plate split away from Gondwanaland, floated upwards and crashed into Eurasia. The Tethys Ocean, which once isolated the two landmasses, was pushed up by the diving Indo-Australian plate, and today is the huge Tibetan Plateau. Also, as the Indo-Australian plate flooded upward, with layers of mainland covering blaming and collapsing into mountain ranges, framed the most noteworthy point on the earth, the Himalayas. Interesting isn’t it!!
Nubra valley is a high altitude cold desert. The towns are flooded and ripe, delivering wheat, grain, peas, mustard and an assortment of foods grown from the ground, including blood apples, pecans, apricots, and even a couple of almond trees.
Hunder has become home to a few Bactrian (two-humped) camels, who are currently utilized to give tourists short rides over the high-height sand dunes. Following the suspension of the silk course in 1950, few Bactrian were left in the tri-furnished Nubra valley in Ladakh.
Where to stay in Nubra Valley
Since this is now a tourist place, there are plenty of accommodation options – from homestays to hotels and resorts. Diskit and Hunder have the major concentration of the best stays and as you move towards Thang, the concentration of these hotels reduces. So, it’s a good idea to stay either at Diskit or at Hunder since Panamik can be quite far from the Turtuk side.
We chose to stay in Lotus Eco resort, located in Hunder and close to the Diskit Turtuk highway. The resort is tucked away in a quaint little corner of the valley with no interference and away from the crowds of the village. Situated in the heart of Nubra Valley at a walking distance from the famous sand dunes.
Lotus Eco Resort – The Mud House is spread in a sprawling green area of about 4 acres amidst Apricot, willow and poplar trees. Lotus Eco Resort has a well-furnished 12 suites embedded with all the modern facilities and yet traditional in all ways, each of the suites is equipped with a beautiful fireplace and couches to sit around.
The green area has views of the mountains behind and you will often hear the murmuring of the Shyok river flowing behind it. We hadn’t made any reservations when we reached during the month of May. But since the maddening crowds hadn’t invaded Nubra yet, we easily got a room for the 3 of us here. Tired after a long drive from Leh to Nubra valley, we quickly checked in and ordered some hot lunch. It was cold but the sun was out.
The rooms are very comfortable and surprisingly equipped with facilities you wouldn’t expect in this part of the world. We got an extra bed put in and soon were sipping on a hot cup of tea in their beautiful garden outside. Our plan was the day was to take rest and then explore the local market in the evening.
Around 5 pm, we drove to the market area, a tiny section near the resort that had some bars and restaurants and a few shops for daily essentials. Since we were on a 6-month driving tour of the Himalayas, we had stocked up quite a bit of stuff but to beat the cold needed some alcohol to keep us warm. There are very few shops that serve alcohol here and not always would you end up paying at the MRP. Be prepared to shell out extra amounts, otherwise carry some from Leh to Nubra valley.
Over the next 3 days, we made the resort our base and covered destinations like Diskit, Hunder, Turtuk, and Thang from here. Food was surprisingly good as well as the staff at the resort was happy to serve us some local as well as lip-smacking north Indian food.
Best time to visit Nubra Valley
Summers are the best time to visit Nubra Valley, owing to clear skies and pleasant weather. The weather is pleasant and not as harsh and frigid as the temperatures during the winter season. The temperature from April to July ranges between 8 – 20-degree Celcius making summers it a great time to be outdoors in Nubra. Don’t miss the Hemis Festival that is held either at the end of June or the start of July and is hosted during the Guru Padmasambhava.
The rainy season in Nubra Valley lasts from August to September. Although the region receives moderate to heavy rainfall, this is not exactly the best time to visit Nubra Valley, owing to the frequent downpours and dangerous landslides.
Permits for Nubra Valley
Since Nubra Valley is located close to the border you will require an inner line permit to enter the area. For foreign nationals, a Protected Area permit has to be procured before they can travel from Leh to Nubra Valley. Inner line permit can either be applied for and obtained in person from DM office Leh or online. Protected area permit, however, needs to be obtained through a registered travel agent.
I had to first go to an internet parlor to print the form, and if you don’t want to go through this trouble make sure you have a couple of copies of the form with you. Carry IDs that have your photo identification, address, etc along with all vehicle documents. All originals copies and along with these carry about 10 passport size photographs. If the line isn’t too long, then you should be able to get the permit in about 1-2 hours maximum. This is the link to the online application.
Traveling from Leh to Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley is located at a distance of about 100 kilometers from the city of Leh; on the other side of Khardung La. The main road access to the Nubra Valley is over Khardung La pass which is open throughout the year. Owing to high altitude, Nubra Valley is well connected to the rest of India only by roadways. Regular bus services ply from Leh to Nubra valley; buses being operated both by private and government owners.
There is no direct flight or rail connectivity, but you can take a taxi from Leh and travel to destinations like Hunder, Diskit, Turtuk, Panamik and Thang within the Nubra valley. From Leh you will have to travel towards North Pullu, crossing Khardung La and then after Khalsa,r you will hit the village of Diskit which is the first tourist point in Nubra valley. The journey, spread over 115 kilometers can take up to 4-6 hours depending on road and weather conditions.
Things to do in Nubra Valley
Just the drive through the hamlets like Diskit, Turtuk, Hunder, Thang is a magical experience and will give you a deep understanding of how life in the valley looks like. The muddy landscape is overshadowed by the beaming smiles of the kids you see Enroute, playing happily in the open expanses. The drive from Leh to Nubra valley itself is an experience. After all, not every day do you cross the magnificent Khardung La!
Double Humped Camels
This is the star attraction in Hunder village and thousands of tourists come to experience the camel ride. We reached early morning around 8 and the camels weren’t there yet. However, around 9 am we saw a big herd walking towards us with their owners.
With funky hairdos and tall demeanors, these camels are quite the lookers! Though we didn’t opt for a camel ride, many seemed to enjoy this activity. We were happy taking pictures and walking them walk into the horizon!
Not many people visit this unheard-of place but Panamik is a hotbed (literally) of hot springs. The village is a base camp for trekkers heading to Ensa Gompa. You can also indulge in shopping for Pashmina shawls, Kashmiri carpets, woolen socks, apricots, apples, walnuts, and some exquisite Kashmiri or Tibetan artifacts.
Located near the Sumur Village, approximately 15 km from Diskit, this gorgeous lake can only be reached by hiking uphill for 20 minutes. The beautiful lake blessed with crystal clear water is set amidst the contrasting pale surrounding making it a truly spectacular sight. Since its a holy site, please do not enter it, wash your feet in it or throw garbage in it.
This is the last village in the Nubra valley where civilians are allowed to go. In fact, we were the first ones to visit Thang once it was opened to the public in 2018. To get to thang, you need to drive towards Turtuk and after crossing it you will get to an army check post in Tyakshi. After some formalities, you will drive to another check-post in Thang village from where an army personnel will escort you till the border. Spend time looking at the Pakistani bases and the forward locations.
Diskit’s claim to fame is the Diskit monastery and in front of it is a 32 meter tall Maitreya statue overlooking the river and the plains below it. Situated atop a small hillock, this status is painted with vibrant colors and with the backdrop of the blue sky and the pale colors of the landscape, it makes for an outstanding picture!
This is also called the Deskit/ Diskit Gompa is the oldest and largest monastery in Nubra valley. While traveling from Leh to Nubra valley you cannot miss this hillside monastery on the left and this along with the statue are stunning landmarks of the valley. The monastery was founded by Changzeb Tserab Zaongpo, the disciple of Tsong Khapa who was the founder of Gelukpa.
The Monastery is renowned for its festival “Dosmoche” or the festival of a scapegoat. In the festival, the monks perform the mask dances expressing the power of Goodness over evil. It is said that this dance form eradicates bad luck.
The Sole Petrol Bunk
Well, you will have to make this pitstop since this is the only petrol bunk in the valley! If you are traveling from Leh To Nubra valley, chances are you’ve consumed a lot of fuel and for your way back or for your onwards journey to Pangong Tso, you will need to fuel up.
The prices here are decided by the owners I guess and are a little higher than the rest of the state. Make sure you are carrying enough cash since they might not accept cards. Tank up because if the bunk runs out of fuel you might be stuck for a few days!
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