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A travelers guide to Nubra valley tour

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Nubra valley is a distant but not a isolated place which hooks enthusiasm of tourists and also a trekking goal. Like alternative places of Ladakh, Nubra is a high height desert land with a lack of vegetation except for river banks. The old Silk route goes through this valley. Dry land and high mountains through the spangled river are difficult to discover somewhere else. Nobody would have speculated that sand dunes may exist at such a stature height. I have shared my experience my trip to nubra valley.

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, it will incur no extra cost to you but I will get a referral bonus to fund our travels.

It is the northern most part of Jammu and Kashmir which is situated 150 km from Leh. Nubra valley is known because the plantation of Ladakh and was at first known as Ldumra that implied the valley of flowers. Embraced by snow-capped HimalayanMountains, Nubra valley lies amongst close to Tibet and Kashmir. Nice and astonishing scenic beauties make it heaven for the nature lover.

Not just known for its orchards, scenic views, Bactrian camels which attract the visitors. A valley is a place for Buddhist learning. Ensa, Samstemling, Diskit, and Hunder are well known Buddhist monasteries here. One can visit amazing monasteries while driving to the Nubra Valley. One of such monastery is at Diskit village. It is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in Nubra valley consisting 106 feet tall Maitrey Buddha sculpture.

Before getting to the Nubra valley, you have to pass through the wonderful Khardung La, the highest motorable pass (later we will discuss the real fact) in the world. Twisting channels of the Shyok and Nubra Rivers confuse the Nubra valley. Diskit town is the headquarter of the Nubra valley which offers almost all kinds of facilities. It has market which has a single line of shops as well as a Gompa that is located on a rocky drive above the village offering an excellent view to the tourists.

The valley is around one hundred fifty kilometer north from the main city of Leh. The altitude of the valley is simply a bit less than what the altitude of Leh is. It falls somewhere between 10,000 ft. that is 3,231 m at Hunder and 10,600 ft.that is 3231 m at Panamik. As per the atmospheric condition, the best time to visit Nubra valley is during the autumn season which is between the months of July to September.

In order to reach Nubra valley from Leh, you have to pass through the Khardung La pass. Another route, (opened in 2008), crosses Wari La from Sakti, towards the east of Khardung La, which connects to the main Nubra road via Agham and Khalsar along the Shyok River. Along with this, if you want to use the air mode, then the nearest airport is in Leh.

Nubra Valley is considered a part of inner line, areas closer to border; hence an Inner line permit is required in order to visit here. For foreign nationals, a Protected Area permit has to be acquired before their travel from Leh to Nubra Valley. Inner line permit can either be applied for or obtained in person from DM office Leh or online. Protected area permit however has to be obtained through a registered travel agent. Please read through the article below for more information on how to get Inner line permits

HOW I ARRANGED MY INNER LINE PERMIT FOR LADAKH TOUR

You can arrange  permit online also.To know more click below link

ILP online

I will break this article in 4 different sections.

1. How I reached Leh to Nubra.

2. Sightseeing points in my Nubra Valley tour.

3. Where we stayed?

4. Few points to be remembered during Nubra valley tour.

1. How I reached Leh to Nubra

As I also mentioned previously in the article, there is more than one route that you can take to reach Nubra valley from Leh. But, I will discuss here most common and recommended route across Khardung La through which I covered Nubra valley. Other routes are just alternatives that you can take in case of an emergency. You take the road from Leh towards Khardung La, reach Khalsar crossing the village of Khardung and continue towards Nubra valley. Total distance for this journey is roughly around 300 kms, round trip, covering Nubra Valley and returning to Leh. Route is as mentioned below.

Leh – Khardung La (39 kms) – Khardung Village (32.5 kms) — Khalsar (23.5 kms)—Hunder (27 Kms)

Please also ensure that you always carry multiple photo-copies of your permit as you would be required to submit them at several check-posts.

2. Sightseeing points in my Nubra Valley tour

We started early in the morning around 8 a.m to explore the valley and take sufficient breaks while on the way. Our first destination was Khardung La top via Phyang and South Pullu. Road approaching Nubra valley is incredibly well maintained (except in a few places wherever washouts or land slide occur). Before reaching Khardung La we saw snow started covering our road and surroundings. After covering 35 kms Padma, our driver stopped the cab aside and got down. From dickey Padma took 2 snow chains and tied those chains in back tyres to prevent snow slip. After covering 4 kms we reached Khardungn La. As we gain in altitude is high in a very short distance and time, we felt little breathing trouble in terms of altitude sickness. At the top of Khardung La is a military base and little restaurant, that offers free tea, without milk. So if you don’t mind sipping down black tea, it is good place to sit with a cup in your hand and beautiful Himalayan peaks all around you. Take photos next to many signboards reading “Khardung La, 18,380 ft, Highest Motorable Road in the world”. There is additionally a military memento shop selling hats, caps, t-shirts and kitchenware noted “Khardung La” in case you want to buy something that would remind you of the visit. The elevation of Khardung La is 5,359 m (17,582 ft). Local summit signs and dozens of stores selling souvenir in Leh incorrectly claim that its elevation is in the vicinity of 5,602 m (18,379 ft) and that it is the world’s highest motor able pass.

Khardung La is a mountain pass in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Built in 1976, it was opened to public motor vehicles in 1988. Maintained by the Border Roads Organization, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier. Khardung La is traditionally important because it lies on the key caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. Khardung La is thirty-nine kilometer by road from Leh.

Khardung La at an altitude 5,359 m is at times incorrectly cited as the highest vehicle-accessible pass in the world. There also are higher motor able passes at Suge La, west of Lhasa, 5,430 m (17,815 feet), and Semo La 5,565 m (18,258 feet), between Raka and Coqen in Central Tibet. GPS and SRTM data confirms these elevations. Vehicles are driven over the 5,582 metres (18,314 ft) Marsimik La, in the Indian Karakoram to the northeast of Khardung La, but it is debatable whether this pass should be considered to be motor able. In Nov 2017, BRO (Border Road Organisation) claimed a new 19,300 feet World Highest Motorable Pass at Umlingla, but examination of the course of this dirt track on Google Earth shows that its actual height is nearer to 5,800 m (19,030 feet).

Perhaps, Khardungla Pass has a plus as a result of its open year round. The strategic importance and also the continual tension with neighboring country China make this a vital pass for India. It is additionally the foremost popular and regularly traveled road among all of those high altitude passes.

Road downward towards Nubra has always been in a bad condition till North Pullu. As a matter of fact, there is no tar on the road for the first few kilometers just a dirt road full of snow and mud. It chiefly is because of melting snow which ends in a continuous flow of water on the roads. Caution is advised while driving / riding here. After Pullu is that the scenic Khardung Village which will cause you to apply brakes on your vehicles to take photos many times. Roads from Khardung till Khalsar are smooth so it won’t take you long to cover these 30 kilometers. At Khalsar, rather slightly before Khalsar, the road will divide in two. Road on your right goes to Sumur, Panamik and Warshi while the one on the left leads to Diskit and Turtuk. I went the road that goes towards right to Panamik and Warshi and then the one going towards Diskit, Hunder and Turtuk.

8 kms from Diskit on a moderate road and within fruit orchards is the village of Hunder famous for its sand dunes. If you staying at Diskit for the night, and if you are lucky enough for this to be a full moon night, do not miss the sight that these sand dunes present under a full moon. Another amazing thing you will get to see at Hunder is the Bactrian camel, or commonly known as two-humped camels. Yes, that’s right. Unlike the regular camels, this one has two humps on its backs. You can even get a ride on this camel at Hunder if you are willing to pay. The Bactrian, or double-humped camel, is one of the last leftovers of the Silk Road trade in India. These camels, from China and Central Asian countries such as Mongolia and Kazakhstan, would carry heavy loads along the rocky terrain of the trade route via Ladakh. With the closure of the Silk Road, many were left abandoned in Ladakh’s Nubra Valley. The development of contemporary transport facilities in the remote areas meant the animals weren’t required any longer. Overlooked and not taken cared for, their numbers declined, pushing them to the edge of extinction in the country.

Since the early 2000s although, the number of the Bactrian camels in Nubra has increased – thanks to the residents of the Hunder village in the valley. In 2003, they decided to start camel safaris. As the initiative grew in popularity, the villagers formed the Central Asia Camel Safari, a registered cooperative society, in 2009. Other villages in the region, such as Sumoor, Diskit and Tigger, also jumped on the bandwagon, forming their own camel unions. Today these safaris, whether along the breathtakingly beautiful Shyok River in the Nubra valley or in areas close to the base camp of the Siachen Glacier, are a big draw with tourists. Current Science, a scientific journal, describes the Bactrian camel (Camelus Bactrianus) as “a large, even-toed ungulate, native to the steppes of Central Asia”. They are found chiefly within the cold deserts of China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

In his book, ‘The Tale of Nubra Valley’, local historian Haji Abdul Razzaq Jamsheed writes that the Bactrian camel appeared in Ladakh in 1870. Current Science too says that the double-humped camel “was introduced as a draught animal in Ladakh by travellers of Yarkland within the nineteenth century”. Once the route was closed 1950, some camels were abandoned, some were left with local traders, and the injured ones were sold off.

According to Current Science, there were around 150 camels in Nubra in 2012. Three years later, there have been 211, “including twenty one calves below the age of one year. The camel population is largest in Hunder village, followed by Sumoor, Diskit and Tigger”.

The camel ride offered to travelers is a leading draw in the Nubra valley and most visitors come here just for it; we were delighted we got the possibility too. Purchased 3 tickets 200 Rs. each for 15 minutes ride. Up close we discovered that these animals looked much shorter than the single-humped ones we‘d seen before. Likewise, naturally, the Bactrian ones were rather furry with thick tufts of hair around their necks and legs — they looked rather cute! We climbed atop them and were seated in between the 2humps. Then the camels waddled across the dunes for precisely 15 minutes — it was an uneventful and bumpy however enjoyable flight!

Later on we rested on the little mounds of dune for a while taking pleasure in the lovely scenery and cold breeze before heading back to Diskit to visit the monastery. Diskit Gompa is among the largest and oldest monastries in the Nubra valley. Like a lot of other Buddhist Gompas in the Ladakh area, it sticks to a mountain-side sitting simply above the village. Luckily, automobiles can go right up to the base of the gompa from where it’s a brief climb to the prayer halls and shrines. We were surprised to find that all of these were perfectly kept and preserved over the years. The monastery courtyard was beautiful and in the evening dusk looked absolutely wonderful.

But the most amazing aspect of Diskit Gompa was the huge Maitreya statue that was constructed on a high terrace across from the village on a smaller hillock! We could see it plain from the Gompa however seeing it from up-close while standing at its feet was just simply exciting! Unlike the Shanti Stupa in Leh, this one had actually been developed by truly experienced artisans — it was a splendid piece of work!

Our last stop for the day was the village of Sumur where the main tourist attraction is its Gompa. We booked a guesthouse for the night and avoided to see the Gompa as we felt too tired. It is quite a scenic village, enclosed with bright yellow mustard fields and huge stretches of grass and vegetable farms. There are a few of theories associated with however the name Sumur came into existence. Some believe it to be derived from ‘Sum-yur’, meaning ‘three irrigation channels’,an assumption borne out by the three sources of water that feed the village. Another theory, however, says that the name came from ‘Sum Yul,’ which suggests there settlements ‘based on the very fact that villagers here occupied 2 different places within the valley before they finally found out home at the present site. Standing behind and on top of the village, Samstanling Gompa is that the main attraction of this village. The tour of Nubra valley provided us with a unique feel of the northern-most part of India and its residents. No tour of Ladakh might be complete without crossing the world’s greatest (alright, maybe among the highest) motor-able pass and taking a peek at the wonderful landscape on another side. On retrospection, however, we need to spend more time at Hunder.

3. Where we stayed

We reached hotel Namgyal Villa Nubra around five o’clock evening. When our cab entered hotel Namgyal Villa Nubra premises I got down from the cab. It was too cold outside (probably 3-4 degree). I saw the hotel was locked and there was nobody in the hotel. I went to an adjacent house and after calling repeatedly one senior and one junior lady (mother and daughter) came out of the house. They told the hotel has been closed for the next 6 months because of winter. I show them my booking and payment slips and furthermore mentioned that I even have been confirmed with the owner over the phone. I also told the name of the proprietor. To know more click below link-

http://www.tintinbox.com/hotel-namgyal-villa-nubra/

5. Few points to be remembered during Nubra valley tour.

1. Nubra valley is located at a height of 3048 meters, an average altitude of about 10,000 ft.

2. Diskit is the capital of Nubra valley and is located about 120 kms from Leh.

3. Nubra Valley is considered a part of inner line, areas closer to border; hence an Inner line permit is required in order to visit here for Indians.

4. For foreign nationals, a Protected Area permit has to be procured before they start traveling from Leh to Nubra Valley. The PAP, that prices 600 Indian rupees (INR), specifies where you can visit and overnight. Officially you’ll most likely be listed as a part of a ‘group’ (minimum 2 people) however in practise solo travellers don’t have any issues. Visitors ought to carry multiple copies of their PAP for Nubra’s numerous checkpoints.

5. There is no public transport available on these roads.

6. Khardung La remains open throughout the year; same is not the case with Wari La.

7. Phone networks do not work in Nubra Valley.

8. Suffering from AMS here are very low.

9. Road conditions in Nubra valley are surprisingly smooth.

10. Between July and September is the best time to visit Nubra valley.

11. I recommend Nubra valley tour itinerary should be of 1 night 2 days.

12. There is no Bank or ATM in Nubra Valley or on the way.

13. Debit or credit cards too are not accepted here.

14. There is no petrol pump at Nubra or on the way.

15. Khardung La pass is not the highest motorable road in the world and is no longer accepted by most authorities.

16. The major attractions apart from the mountain scenery and Shyok river basin to this region are cold desert and bactrian camels of Hunder.

Also read, TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT WHEN YOU ARE IN LEH.

Last updated 06.01.21

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