Ladakh is in no way a destination that you can plan a short trip to. It is not a place that you go to in haste, or think of it as your usual weekend getaway. It is a place that needs time if you really want to enjoy the trip to fullest. Unfortunately not all of us can afford to give as much time as possible, all thanks to our busy lives which forces us to visit as many places in Ladakh in as less of time as possible. Not so long ago, if you wanted to include both Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso in your itinerary, it would require a minimum of 4 days to cover both. On day 1 you would go to Nubra valley, return to Leh on Day 2, reach Pangong on day 3 and arrive back in Leh on day 4. For anyone who cannot afford much of time, it makes them wonder if there is a direct Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso route they can take rather than travelling all the way back to Leh. The answer to this question is yes but before you do so, there are several things that you must know in order to ensure a safe and hassle-free trip.
By each passing year, more and more places are being opened for tourists, places that were earlier beyond reach of a civilian. These routes are still however lesser known and only a handful have travelled on these. The roads connecting Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso are also among such areas. While time is one of the most common factors, a lot of people prefer to travel on this road just to explore a new area or because someone told them that it was more adventurous. Listed below are a few important factors that I feel you must be aware of before traveling on the Nubra valley to Pangong Tso route.
Is there a direct Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Route?
In fact there are two, the Wari La route and the Agham-Shyok route. The first one goes through two high altitude passes (Wari La & Chang La), is longer of the two and easily an 8-10 hours journey at the least. The other route is via Agham-Shyok road, involves no steep climbing but still is riskier, dangerous and difficult. However, traveling on the Agham-Shyok road can easily take you to Pangong Tso from Nubra Valley in 4-5 hours. Click on the links below to read about both these routes in details and refer to the map to understand the route better.
Is ILP or any other permit required for Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso Route?
There is no permit required at all. Earlier ILP was a mandate for both Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso but after that was waived; you do not need any permits to travel on either Wari La route or the Agham Shyok road.
How much is the Nubra valley to Pangong Tso distance?
If you take the Wari La route, total distance of the journey from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso will be slightly over 200 kms depending on where you are starting from. From Khalsar, it is about 208 kms, from Diskit the total distance is about 227 kms and from Sumur it is around 230 kms. If you however take the Wari La road, the distance from Khalsar is 130 odd kilometers and about 150 from Diskit and Sumur.
How long is the Nubra valley to Pangong lake time of travel?
Traveling on the Wari La route, total time of the journey would easily be 10 hours. You need to consider that on this route, you will be crossing two high altitude passes out of which Wari La is a big challenge. It is nothing like the other high altitude passes you would have crossed in your journey so far. The steep ascent on last 20 kms of the pass is enough to make any vehicle huff and puff. Time taken on the Agham Shyok road however is considerably less and you can easily finish the journey in 6 hours. On this route however you need to be extremely careful as road for most part is non-existent between Agham and Shyok. You will be travelling right next to Shyok River and at several places; you will be driving right through the river.
What is the route for Nubra valley to Pangong Lake via Wari la?
Route of the journey is:
Nubra Valley – Khalsar – Agam – Tangyar – Wari La – Tathok – Sakti – Chang La – Durbuk – Tangste – Lukung – Pangong Tso
Until Khalsar, road is mostly good and it is the same route that everyone takes to reach Nubra valley so you will see a lot of tourist movement. After Khalsar, as you proceed towards Agam, road starts to get isolated and a mix of good and bad patches. After Agam towards Wari La, you will mostly be on your own, will rarely see a living soul and road will continue getting terrible as you get closer towards Wari La top. Last 20 kms of the ascent are really steep and will put a toll on both the vehicle and the rider/driver. The descent towards Sakti is a mix of good and bad and after Sakti it is the same mostly good road that everyone takes to reach Pangong Tso from Leh. A 4×4 SUV is highly recommended for this route but if you do not have a 4X4, at least travel in an SUV. Taking a Sedan or Hatchback on this road is not at all recommended as climbing up Wari La will become a big challenge. If you are riding a motorcycle, then an Enfield would be the preferred choice and even then, ride light and if you can then go solo. If you are on a lighter engine motorcycle like 200CC, 150 CC then you must ride solo. Engine any lower than this and you must skip Wari La altogether.
What is the route for Nubra to Pangong via Shyok?
This route will be as below:
Nubra Valley – Khalsar – Agam – Shyok – Durbuk – Tangste – Lukung – Pangong Tso
If there was ever a nightmare of a road than this is it. It was carved out sometime in 2010 I believe but there is still no road. For most part it is just a trail of dirt and rocks next to a river. Sometimes the road will be underneath the water and river Shyok will be flowing all over it. Landslides and shooting stones are way too common on this road. There are several stretches with a steep ascent, rocks all over both big and small; and sharp enough to cut through your vehicle’s tires; numerous water crossings and some quite deep & furious. This is a road (if it can be called at road at all) that is probably one of the least travelled one. Even the local experienced taxi drivers dread taking this route. The small distance and temptation of reaching Pangong within a few hours lures people to take this road but please think twice before doing so. The first thing you need to keep in mind is to never travel here alone. Always go in a group no matter if you are in your own car, a taxi or even a motorcycle. It is extremely rare that you will come across another passing by vehicle and there is a high chance of getting stranded in case of a breakdown. Rocks, water streams, landslides, river pose another threat to not only your vehicle but to you as well. If you land in trouble, the nearest help is hours away. If you are travelling in a Sedan, Hatchback or a smaller engine motorcycle than forget about this road altogether. Only go if you are travelling in an SUV, preferably a 4X4.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.