Ladakh has much to offers to its visitors. You can spend weeks here and will still not have your fill of it. There are high altitude passes, challenging roads, beautiful lakes, inviting treks, mesmerizing valleys; enough to keep you, your gaze and your camera occupied for as long as you stay here. One such prime highlight of a trip to Ladakh is the beautiful and enchanting Nubra Valley. A small mysterious placed tucked up in the lap of Himalayas; nurturing a beauty still untouched and a culture still enigmatic.
Nubra Valley is located at a distance of about 100 kilometers from the city of Leh; on the other side of mighty Khardung La. Its original name is believed to be “Ldumra” meaning “Valley Of Flowers”. Now also known as Orchard of Ladakh, this beautiful part of our country is on top of the list for every tourist traveling to Ladakh. Until 2010, it was open for civilians until only Panamik and Hunder but then the last points were moved ahead to Warshi and Turtuk.
The main road access to the Nubra Valley is over Khardung La pass which is open throughout the year. An alternative route, opened in 2008, crosses the Wari La from Sakti, to the east of Khardung La, connecting to the main Nubra road system via Agham and Khalsar along the Shyok River. A third route, made operational in 2013, connects the valley from Pangong Tso side, via the villages of Durbuk and Shyok.
The latest addition in a long list of tourist attractions in Nubra valley is the small village of Turtuk. This part of the valley was unseen by tourists till 2010 and is a virgin destination for people who seek peace and an interaction with a tribal community of Ladakh. The village is stuffed with apricot trees and children. The local tribe, Balti, follows its age old customs in their lifestyle and speak a language which is just spoken and not written. For tourists Turtuk offers serene camping sites with environment friendly infrastructure.
Nubra valley is located at a height of 3048 meters, an average altitude of about 10,000 ft (3048 meters) which actually puts it at a lower altitude than even the town of Leh. Diskit is the capital of Nubra valley and is located about 120 kms from Leh. Shyok River confluences with Nubra River (also known as Siachen River) to form this enchanting valley that separates the mountain ranges of Ladakh and Karakoram. Due to its close location to the border, an Inner line permit for Indian citizen and protected area permit for foreigners is required in order to visit Nubra Valley.
Nubra valley Travel Guide
If you are planning a trip to Ladakh in near future and Nubra valley is on your itinerary; please read through the article below for further details on planning a visit here. This article contains information on three different routes you can take to get to Nubra; places where you can stay and a list of must visit tourist attractions in Nubra Valley.
Nubra Valley Map
Below is a detailed Leh to Nubra valley travel guide with map and route explanation.
The map above includes areas that are not actually within Nubra valley. Only the area from Khalsar to Turtuk and Warshi is the Nubra valley. Region towards Agham, Karu, Sakti, Shyok Village, Wari La isn’t considered a part of the Nubra but I included this in the map only to highlight an alternate route that you can take to visit there.
I will break this article in 4 different sections. First one detailing how to reach Nubra valley, second part covering a list of places you can stay at; third part listing down some must visit places there and the last part provides some general information about the valley that can be of use.
Nubra Valley Permit
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 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. Please read through the article below for more information on how to get these permits.
How to reach Nubra Valley from Leh
As I also mentioned previously in the article, there are three routes that you can take to reach Nubra valley from Leh, as shown in the map. The first is the actual recommended route across Khardung La and the other two are just alternatives that you can take to get to Nubra valley from Leh.
Route 1 – Leh to Nubra Valley via Khardung La
This route is the most known, popular, easiest and quickest one. 99% of the tourists take this route to reach Nubra valley, 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 350 – 400 kms, round trip, covering Nubra Valley and returning to Leh. Route is as mentioned below.
- Leh – Phyang – Khardung La [39 kms]
- Khardung La – Khardung Village [31 kms]
- Khardung Village – Khalsar [30 kms]
- Khalsar – Warshi [90 Kms]
- Khalsar – Turtuk [117 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..
Leh to Khardung La
Take an early start from Leh so that you have time to explore the valley and take sufficient breaks while on the way. Your first destination will be to reach Khardung La top via Phyang and South Pullu. Road is pretty good except for a few bad patches due to melting snow near the top of the summit. Despite the fact that gain in altitude is high in a very short distance and time, you would hardly feel anything in terms of altitude sickness.
You will be required to submit a copy of your permit at South Pullu. At the top of Khardung La is an army base and small cafeteria, which offers free tea, without milk however. 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 several signboards reading “Khardung La, 18,380 ft, Highest Motorable Road in the world”
There is also an Army souvenir 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. Last time I was there, I really liked a hat with Khardung La written on the front but could not buy it as the souvenir shop was closed because the guy in charge went visiting Leh.
Khardung La to Khardung Village
Road on the descent 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 puddles. It mainly is due to melting snow which results in a continuous flow of water on the roads. Caution is advised while driving / riding here.
Once you reach North Pullu, you may again have to submit a copy of your permit. There is a small restaurant at Pullu so in case you are hungry, you can eat here. Chances are that the only thing you will find in the menu are chips, biscuits and Maggie.
After Pullu is the scenic Khardung Village which will make you apply brakes on your vehicles to take photos several times. The vista presented by small green fields in midst of naked snow capped desert mountains is awe-aspiring.
Khardung Village to Khalsar
Roads from Khardung till Khalsar are smooth so it wont 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. Both these roads run right through Nubra Valley and a drive on both is highly recommended. I will first explain the road that goes towards right to Panamik and Warshi and then the one going towards Diskit, Hunder and Turtuk.
Khalsar to Sumur
Road after Khalsar and through-out Nubra Valley remains in good condition and shortly you will realize why Nubra Valley is so famous. Greenery will start coming more in the picture of a cold desert and it would start looking like an oasis. While at Sumur, visit the 150 year old Samstanling Gompa that this village is famous for.
Sumur to Panamik
Further 20 kms will take you to the village of Panamik, another town where a lot of people prefer to stay while visiting Nubra Valley. There are several budget guest houses available here. Panamik has a 250 year old Ensa Gompa but the primary attraction is its hot water spring. Locals have constructed bathrooms around the spring and there is a proper bathing arrangement. It is highly recommended that you take a dip here and feel your tiredness melting away.
Panamik to Warshi
Warshi is the last village on this road until where tourists are allowed. It is also the last populated area before Siachen Glacier. This very road continues and around 16 kilometers from Warshi is the Indian Army base camp for Siachen Glacier.
Road conditions will pretty much remain OK until Warshi, you may hit a few bad patches though.
Warshi to Diskit
Since you can not go any further beyond Warshi, you will now have to backtrack 90 kms towards Khalsar, the point where the road bifurcated and you took the right turn. From here now take the left turn which will take you to Diskit, headquarters of Nubra valley.
Primary attraction of Diskit is the ancient Diskit Gompa which is believed to be from 14th century. There is a statue of a Deity in the Gompa holding a mummified human forearm and head [believed to be of a Mongol Warrior] in its hand. It also presents a Panoramic view of Diskit village and the valley around from its roof.
A lot of people visiting Nubra Valley prefer to stay at Diskit because of the availability of pay phones. Your cell phone will stop working the moment you start on the ascent to Khardung La so if you want to call your folks back home, Diskit is the place you can do it from.
Diskit also has some decent hotels and guest houses available to stay.
Diskit to Hunder
8 kms from Diskit on a moderate road and amidst fruit orchids 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.
Hunder to Thoise
Thoise stands for “Transit Halt Of Indian Soldiers En-route” to Siachen and is the Next village after Hunder. This is the only large piece of flat land in the area and serves as a military airfield. The airstrip here is a critical facility used to supply men and material to Siachen glacier and other border areas on Indo-Pak border.
Thoise to Bukdang
Also known as Bogdang, upon entering this village you will realize that the majority of the population has turned from Buddhist to Muslim. This region is inhabited by Balti people, that are Muslims of Pakistani origin. This entire area was taken over by Indian army in 1971 before which it was part of Pakistan.
Bukdang to Turtuk
This is the last village accessible by civilians on this road so this is as far as you go. As you enter Turtuk, you will know what it means to be “frozen in time”. One of the gateways to Siachen Glacier, It is the last outpost in India after which the Pakistan-controlled Gilgit-Baltistan begins. Population here is mostly Muslims of Balti origin. The landscape here would turn from Barren Ladakh to green all around, and you will find fields of everything from apricots, apples, tomatoes to cauliflowers and cabbages. It was opened for Tourists in 2010 and people here primarily depend on agriculture and tourism for living. Everything from apricots, apples, tomatoes, cauliflowers, and cabbages grow in Turtuk.
It was opened for Tourists in 2010 and people here depend on agriculture and tourism for living. It is a great place to spend a night and a good camping site too. Accommodation here is very basic in form of home stays and a few guest houses which are big enough to hold 5 to 6 people and very clean. Major attraction of this village are the beautiful and vistas and immense peace. It is also famous of walking sticks made from the horns of wild ibex.
Route 2: Leh to Nubra via Wari La
To be honest this is not really a route that people take to reach Nubra valley but to actually get back from Nubra valley to Leh; or to go straight from Nubra valley to Pangong Tso without coming back to Leh. Off-late, this road is gaining popularity among the adventurous types due to the difficulty it presents. Some people chose to reach Nubra via Khardung La and return via Wari La. Be advised however that this road is not a walk in the park and crossing Wari La will be a challenge for both you and your vehicle. Of the three roads connecting Nubra valley to other parts of Leh, this route will come second in terms of difficulty, distance and time taken.
Click on the link below to read more in details about this route. Please note that the way this article is written is explaining how to get to Pangong directly from Nubra valley but should give you an idea about crossing Wari La.
If you are planning to travel to Nubra valley via Wari La, route would be as follows.
Leh – Karu [35 kms]
Start early from Leh because this journey will take some time. Take the Manali Leh highway and reach Karu. Roads will be good so shouldn’t take long to get here.
Karu – Sakti [10 kms]
From Sakti, turn towards Karu on the road that goes towards Pangong Tso.
Sakti – Wari La – Agham [68 kms]
At Sakti, you will notice a board pointing you towards Wari La and Agham. Turn here and after a little while you will start ascending towards Wari La. Please be advised that Wari La is nothing like the passes you would have crossed so far in your journey and will really test you and your vehicle. Details of this are mentioned in the link that I provided above. Roads conditions will be a mix of good, bad and ugly.
Agham – Khalsar [31 kms]
From Agham, take the road towards Khalsar and from there continue to Nubra valley, as detailed previously in this article.
Route 3: Leh to Nubra Valley via Agham Shyok Road
Once again, this is not really a route that you take to reach Nubra valley from Leh but to get to Nubra valley from Pangong Tso or vice versa. This one is the most difficult and least recommended routes. The reason why I highlighted the section of road between Agham and Shyok in red in the map is because it is no road at all. It is just a dirt track with rocks and lose gravel all around. It wouldn’t be wrong to tag this road as “Dangerous” and is the least recommended one.
The only time people travel on this road is to reach Pangong Tso directly from Nubra Valley or vice versa because the travel time via this road between both the places is merely 6 hours. I wouldn’t recommend travelling on this road to anyone unless you are traveling in a group, or at least 2 to 3 different motorcycles or cars. If you are travelling with family, then do not even consider going in this direction. Please read the article below for more details on this route.
The way above article is written is explaining how to reach Pangong from Nubra but it should give you an idea of the the journey. From Leh you take the road towards Pangong and reach all the way to Durbuk from where, you take the turn towards Shyok Village and continue towards Nubra Valley. Please note that it is not a days journey and you may end up driving in dark with no place to stay. The only way this route is to be taken is if you are driving from Pangong to Nubra and not from Leh to Nubra.
There are a couple of things I would like to mentioned in regards to traveling via Wari La or Agham Shyok road. First is that there is no public transport available on these roads. So if you want to travel this way, put it on your itinerary only if you are traveling by your own vehicle. Second is that Wari La opens a bit late in the season. While the road across Khardung La remains open through out the year; same is not the case with Wari La. BRO clears this road sometime by late June or early July so please check the status of the road before you plan your itinerary.
Last is that while applying for Inner line permit, please ensure that you clearly mention Wari La and names of villages of Agham, Shyok and Durbuk on it. If the name of the pass is missing from your permit, Indian Army may not allow you to go that way.
Accommodation And Other Facilities in Nubra Valley
Diskit is the headquarters of Nubra Valley and has maximum number of hotels and guest houses. Even several locals here take tourists as paying guests for a very moderate charge. It also has a petrol pump but availability of petrol can not be guaranteed so it is advised that you tank up on your start from Leh. Phone networks do not work in Nubra Valley and the only available pay phone is also located in Diskit.
Hunder, Sumur and Panamik also have few hotels and guest houses available so you can chose to stay at either of these towns for the night. For more details on accommodation and contact details of several hotels in Nubra valley, please read the below article.
Nubra Valley Altitude
The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. (3,048 meters) above the sea level.
Acute Mountain Sickness in Nubra Valley
The elevation of Nubra Valley is actually even lower than the town of Leh and chances of anyone suffering from AMS here are very low. People are actually advised to visit Nubra Valley first in order to give their bodies time to acclimatize. For more information on Acute Mountain Sickness and how to deal with it in Ladakh, please read through the article below.
Nubra Valley Road Conditions
Road conditions in Nubra valley are surprisingly smooth and maybe the best that you will come across in Ladakh. The only bad sections are between South and North Pullu if you are coming via Khardung La. On the Wari La route, the entire road from Agham to Sakti is actually bad. The Shyok road is a total nightmare, no road at all. However, after Khalsar and throughout the valley, roads are mostly super smooth.
Best Time to Visit Nubra Valley
Contrary to common belief, Nubra Valley actually remains open throughout the year. Road from Leh may temporarily close due to snowfall at Khardung La; but Army usually restores the connectivity as soon as they are able to. The best time to visit Nubra valley however will be between July and September when all the road to and In Ladakh remain open. Guest houses and hotels too are all operational this time.
Best Vehicle for Nubra Valley Trip
Except for the bad section between South Pullu and North Pullu; roads across Nubra valley are good so even a hatchback and Sedan can be used for visiting here. If you have an SUV then you can take either of the three routes I explained above; however if in a car with low ground clearance, then stick to the Khardung La road and do not venture towards Wari La or Agham Shyok road. Same is the case with motorcycles. If on a 350 CC or 500 CC motorcycle in good condition; all roads are pretty much accessible. If on a motorcycle with smaller engine or scooter, then better to stay on the Khardung La road.
Clothes for Nubra Valley Trip
Actually it would apply for what clothes you pack for your Ladakh trip, not just Nubra Valley. I have covered this information in details in another article. Please read Clothes for Ladakh Trip: What to Pack
Tourist Attractions in Nubra Valley
This information too I have covered in complete details in another article. Please read, Tourist Attractions and must visit Places in Nubra
Minimum Time Required for Visiting Nubra Valley
If you went through the list of tourist attractions in the list above; you would realize that there are plenty of things to see and experience in Nubra Valley. An ideal journey to Nubra would be to reach here from Leh on Day 1; spend Day 2 to explore as much as you can; and return to Leh on Day 3 or continue to Pangong. Most common way of doing this journey however is in 2 days; that is to reach here on Day 1 and continue further on Day 2. You can do this if you are short on time; but I would really recommend staying here for at least a Day.
I often get asked if Nubra valley can be covered in a single day. While this is not really recommended but the answer is yes. You can start from Leh by first light of the day; keep your breaks limited, reach Diskit by noon; and be on your way back to Leh after a quick break here.
ATMs and Banking Services in Nubra Valley
There is no Bank or ATM in Nubra Valley or on the way. Debit or credit cards too are not accepted here. Please ensure that you withdraw and carry enough cash before you leave Leh for Nubra.
Petrol Pumps in Nubra Valley
Like ATM, there is no fuel station at Nubra or on the way. Please ensure that you make proper fuel arrangements before you leave Leh; depending on your itinerary. For more details, please read Spare Fuel in Ladakh, Where do you need it?
Mobile Connectivity at Nubra Valley
No matter which network you are on, your mobile phone will not work in Nubra Valley at all, and this also includes BSNL or MTNL networks. For more details on mobile reception in Ladakh, please read Mobile Phone Services in Leh and Other Areas of Ladakh
This I think pretty much covers most of the important aspects about planning a trip to Nubra Valley. I hope this information was helpful and if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in comments section below or at our Community Forum and I will be glad to answer.