After a long adventurous journey to Pangong and back, it was time for us to treat ourselves with a good food and drinks at a rooftop restaurant with a scenic view of Leh Palace and nearby attractions of Leh city.
We got our bikes serviced, had our dinner, checked in a hotel with a good view of mountains and spent the entire night fascinating another ‘enfield ride’ to Nubra over the Great Himalayan range through some of the highest mountain passes in the world.
If you are missing on this part of Ladakh on your trip, you are almost missing out on the heart of the Ladakh trip.
Nubra Valley is 150 Kms from Leh town across the Khardung La pass. This is the place where the Shyok River meets the Siachan River to form a large valley separating the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. Siachen Glacier lies to the north of the valley. The Sasser Pass and the famous Karakoram Pass of the silk route fame lie to the northwest of the valley and connect Nubra with Xinjiang.
Diskit, Panamik, Hunder and Turtuk in Shyok valley are the main centers of tourism in this region.
We woke up to a mesmerizing sunrise at Leh, hurriedly packed our bags, tanked up at Leh before making a dash out to Nubra Valley and finally headed off to Nubra. We were super excited as in the next 40 kms of the ride we would hit “The Highest Motorable road in the World – Khardung La – 18,380 Ft, over the Great Himalayan range.
With full enthusiasm, leaving the maps behind, we got ourselves ready to rediscover the legendary route to Nubra, supposed to be a very rough and risky road, very narrow, prone to landslides and rockfall, really dangerous poor track engulfed by melting glaciers along the route.
The experience was breathtakingly unbelievable as we drove across beautiful historical trade routes through enchanting valleys, rugged terrains, picturesque mountains and scenic landscapes full of thrill and excitement.
Best Time to Visit: June to September is the best time to travel down this route.
Starting May 2014, Indian Tourists does not need Inner Line Permits for Nubra Valley
Route Map: Leh – Khardung La – Khalsar – Hunder| Diskit
How to Reach Nubra Valley – Ladakh
Leh – Khardungla Pass: Celebrated as the highest motorable pass Khardung la is the gateway to the Nubra and Shyok valleys. We started as early as possible in the morning to cross Khardung la to avoid huge Nallahs due to melting of glaciers flooding the route which goes through extreme ups and downs.
The ride to Khardungla was quite steep with adventurous winding routes, while climbing up via south pullu we did skid on the dirt track once on the twist and turn of the mighty mountain. It was one hell of an experience- the air kept getting thinner and thinner. We soon reached the much awaited “KhardungLa”.
What we saw, we couldn’t believe our eyes! We could easily see the clouds floating right past us, as if we were in a paradise. The entire valley view was breathtaking covered partially with snow and colorful Ladakhi Prayer Flags. Do try to ensure you do not stay more than 15 minutes at Khardung La as you will start to get hit with AMS.
There is a souvenir shop at the Khardungla top selling “KhardungLa” memorabilia. After we have had black coffee shots and hot aaloo parathas at K-Top, we continued our ride forth K-Top.
Khardungla- Khalsar: The first few kilometers down Khardung La is a miserable dirt track, drastically bad, full of slippery stones, mixed with mud & snow, damaged roads encountering water crossings- with ferocious bitter cold winds and to make it further more difficult it was complemented with occasional rivulets of melting snow and bad roads hitting the route at risky blind turns – but all worth the adventure.
But a few kms downstream the situation changed dramatically and we got into what seemed like the best phase of the trip. We were awestruck to find ourselves amidst the bluest skies of Khardungla Village, where lower altitude stood in stark contrast to the high altitudes of the area.
Covered in fog, the only sound that prevails is the air rushing against the mountains, tip-tap of the melting snow, screech of the tyres on the road and ‘Thumping Sound’ of the ‘Bullet ride’.
Soon we moved towards “North Pullu” gateway to “Nubra valley”, reached khalsar from where the road bifurcates to “Diskit” and the other one channels to “Panamik”. We headed straight for “Diskit” capturing beautiful landscapes – a visual treat to extremes.There was some wildlife to be seen on the way, marmots, wild horses and yaks.
Khalsar- Nubra (Hunder| Diskit): A short span later we were again dumbstruck by the dramatic stunning change in scenery- Greenery, Mountains capped with partial snow, green valleys, desert and much more. We turned our heads at times and again to see what zipped past by us!
Hunder: We finally made it to Hunder. It was a jaw dropping sight – a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes, sunrays filtering in through the dark hung clouds. We were right in the middle of a high altitude desert complete with sand dunes nestled between partially snow capped mountains.
The Cold Desert of Nubra is famous for Double Hump Bacterian camel. These double humped camels are a very rare breed found only in Nubra Valley and Mangolia.
We hopped on for a camel ride across the famous White Dunes of Hunder- a lifetime experience. We were. After camel ride, we were rolling in the sands, dancing and running across the oasis nearby mesmerized by the beauty of the Nubra valley.
We then rushed to see The Hunder Gompa which has some old frescos and a statue of Buddha. Sun was about to set down and from the monastery. The whole view of the dipping sun was breath taking.
We went back to our camp at Hunder, had our diner, popped a diamox (alt sickness medicine) and immediately crashed down to sleep ignorant of the dust storm that raged in the night followed by strong winds.
Diskrit: Next morning after breakfast we checked out and headed off to Diskrit- also called the ‘Orchard of Ladhakh’.
It was a bright sunny day with clouds floating like candies in the blue sky. From there we can see the Shyok river flowing all the way alongside nubra valley. The place gave me an electric rush, a sense of an abstract portrait of a divine imagination on the canvas of my dreams.
We visited Diskrit Monastery which is largest and oldest Buddhist monastery in Nubra Valley and houses a 106 feet tall Maitrey Buddha statue.
In the midst of the magnificent Himalayas there is Lachung Temple as well which is quite close to monastery.
Nubra to Leh: Now it was time for us to start our journey back to Leh.
I didn’t feel like riding back, I was in intense love with the place- the chills that stirred me from within calling my name most sweetly, asking me to stay back and lose myself in the outlines of the Great Himalayan ‘Orchard of Ladhakh’.
The journey was an exquisite delight,so inexplicable and surreal that we were left charmed by the manifestations of nature to its very best.
Check out photo album Incredible India- Ladakh Diaries