Sham Valley is one place that I always recommend to everyone visiting Ladakh. Also known as “Apricot valley”, it is home to some of the remotest villages in Ladakh. Unlike Nubra and Pangong, you do not really need to dedicate days or a lot of time to experience the beauty of Sham valley. As a matter of fact, if you are traveling to Leh by road and including Srinagar Leh highway as well in your travel plan, you will be able to cover most of the tourist attractions here without going too far away from the highway. If you however reached Leh by flight or doing the journey both ways on Manali Leh highway itself, then you must dedicate one day in your travel plan for a day drive to Sham valley. In this article, I will provide more details on how you can plan a visit to Sham valley and what all places you should see there.
Where is Sham Valley
The actual Sham valley is a little ahead of the village of Likir, towards Khaltse. The villages of Suspool and Hemis Shukpachan are right in the center of the valley. The village of Hemis is well connected by road whereas the road towards Suspool ends a little before the village from you will have to trek towards the valley. Unfortunately, most of the villages in Sham valley are not connected by motorable road and trekking is required if you truly want to enjoy the beauty of the valley. The trek starts from Likir and ends at the village of Hemis Shukpachan from where you will trek back to Srinagar Leh highway, ending the trek at Nurla or Khaltse.
Tourist Attractions in Sham Valley
To begin with, bellow is a list of some of the major tourist attractions in Sham Valley. Most of these places are actually on the way towards Sham valley and not actually in the valley. The reason why I am keeping this on the top is because after reading through the list, you will get an idea on how you can plan a journey here. Other details like total distance, modes of travel etc will be covered later in the article.
Established in 1515, this monastery is located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Leh in Fiang Village. It is noted for several sacred shrines and frescoes dating from the royal period. The monastery is also home to a 900-year-old museum which has an extensive collection of idols including a number of fine Kashmiri bronzes probably dating to the 14th century, thangkas, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian firearms and weapons. To get here, you will have to leave Sriangar Leh highway and take the diversion on Phyang Link road. The diversion is about 11 kilometers after Ladakh after you which you will be driving for about 5 kilometers until the monastery.
Gurudwara Patthar Sahib:
It is a beautiful Gurudwara, built in the memory of Guru Nanak Dev and is located at a distance of about 25 kilometers from Leh. Built at a height of 3,600 meters, this Gurudwara is famous for a huge boulder that is believed to have an imprint of Guru Nanak Dev on it.
Move further towards Kargil on Srinagar Leh Highway. About 5-6 kilometers from Gurudwara Patthar Sahib and about 30 kilometers from Leh is the famous Magnetic Hill of Ladakh. You will not have problem spotting the area as there is a large board put up by Indian Army there. This particular part of the road is believed to have some sort of magnetic part that pulls car up on an ascending road even after their engine is not running. Visit here and experience the phenomenon yourself.
Indus and Zanskar Rivers Confluence:
Further ahead from Magnetic hill and a little before Nimmu village is the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers. Indus river flows in from Tibet, originating in the vicinity of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, while Zanskar river originates in Zanskar valley before both of them merge together here. It presents a beautiful sight worthy enough for a quick photography break. There is also a place near the shores of the confluence where you can spend some time.
Zanskar river is famous for two things. One is a summer activity and other is a winter one. There is a road that runs right next to Zanskar river for approximately 20 odd kilometers until the small village of Chilling. If you have some time, take a drive on this scenic road. In river, Chilling is the place from where the river rafting in Zanskar starts, ending at Nimmu village. In winter, this river is famous for Chadar trek.
Just near Nimmu village, you can see half a kilometer long Mani Wall, considered to be the longest in the world. To decode it for you, it is a wall built by stones known as “Mani stone”; a stone plate, rock or pebble, inscribed with Buddhist prayers.
Basgo Palace / Monastery:
Located around 40 kms from Leh is the small village of Basgo which in ancient times was considered a political and cultural center of Ladakh. The ancient Basgo Palace which also houses the Basgo Monastery is located here. The ancient palace was built in 15th century but the Monastery is believed to be even older than that.
It is an ancient monastery built in year 1065 AD and is famous for a 25 feet gold covered Buddha Statue. There are also some artifacts here which are believed to have been created with butter but never melt. The location too of both the village and the monastery is quite scenic and it is well worth a visit. This village is located about 9.5 kilometers from Srinagar Leh highway and to get here, you will have to take the diversion just about 10 kilometers before Saspul.
Once you have visited Likhir Monastery, return to Sriangar Leh highway at head towards Saspul once again. Upon reaching Saspul, you will once again leave the highway, turn on the Alchi Bridge and continue for another 7 kilometers until the small village of Alchi. This is another ancient Monastery in Ladakh, built sometime in 10th century. There is a path from the monastery that leads down to the shores of river Indus if you want to take a walk. This is a good place to stay as well in case you want to break the journey. There is a camp site here known by the name of Sumtseg Camps that is run by the monastery itself.
After visiting Likhir, return once again to Srinagar Leh highway and head a little further towards the village of Uleytokpo. This village is famous for stunningly beautiful Rizong Monastery. This monastery was built in 1831 and sits at the top of a rocky slide valley. This monastery is also called “the paradise for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. About 2 kilometers from the monastery is Jelichun Nunnery, a home to about 20 nuns at present.
After Rizong, if you still have some time, the small village of Hemis Shukpachan is worth a visit too. It is a small but beautiful and traditional village which is famous for another gold covered status of Buddha. The location of the village is quite scenic too and it is a good place if you wish to stay for the night. There are several home stay options available and you will be surprise by the greenery around this village. The road until the village is good and in my opinion, if time allows, stay here for the night and continue either your return journey to Srinagar or back to Leh the next day. This village, named after the grove of cedars, is one of Ladakh’s prettiest.
One of the high altitude passes that you will cross while trekking from Likir to Yangthang village. It is at a height of 3580 meters. This passes is only however a trekking route and not connected by road.
Another not motorable passes that lies on the trek route to Yangthang from Likir. It is at a height of 3630 meters.
Another pass at a height of 3750 meters that you will cross to arrive at the village of Hemis Shukpachan from Yangthang. This too is only accessible by trekking.
As you approach the village of Ang from Hemis, this will be your first past to cross at the height of 3816 meters.
Last high altitude pass to cross to reach the village of Ang. At a height of 3,750 meters, this pass too is not connected by road and you must trek to reach here.
If you trekked from Yangthang to the small village of Uley, thn this will be the pass you will cross to get down to Hemis Shukpachan. This one is highest of all the passes on trek route, at a height of 4100 meters.
Leh to Sham Valley Distance
It entirely depends on what places you are covering and how you are planning the journey but a round trip from Leh to sham valley would be anywhere around 180 to 200 kilometers. If you are however traveling from Leh to Kargil, then you will have to take a 30 kilometer long deviation from the highway; 10 kilometers before Saspul towards Hemis Shukpachan.
Kargil to Sham Valley Distance
Distance between Kargil and Sham valley would be approximately 200 kilometers if you go through Alchi and Likir. If you however enter the valley from Nurla, arriving at the village of Ang then this distance would be approximately 150 kilometers.
Sham valley altitude
An average altitude of Sham Valley comes out to be about 11,000 ft which is more or less equal to the altitude of Leh at 11,400 ft. If you are however trekking through the valley, then the maximum altitude will be 12,300 ft.
How to reach Sham Valley
The best way to reach Sham valley of course is by your own vehicle. The next best thing to do would be to hire a private taxi but this may cost you anywhere between Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 10,000 depending on what all places you are covering. It is a great option if you are in a group of 4-5 people in which case the cost per head will be way lower. Shared taxi and Bus would not be that great an option because there are multiple places that need to be covered and you may not find a public transport towards these remote villages at all. You will get off the bus or shared taxi, visit one place and then stand and wait for another which will not work at all. So the best way to visit Sham valley is either by your own vehicle or by a private cab.
Sham Valley Trek
Sham Valley is more famous as a trekking destination. It is a relatively easier trek considered best for a beginner. It is easy, enjoyable and you get to experience the local Ladakhi life up close as you pass through some of the remotest villages. Sham Valley is a 4 days trek and the below mentioned itinerary is followed.
Day 01: Leh to Likir – Drive to Likir, the start point of the trek. Should not take more than 2 hours at most.
Day 01: Likir to Yangthang via Phobe La and Chagatse La – An easy trek of 9 kilometers covered 4-5 hours.
Day 02: Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachan via Tsermangchan La – Total trek of 8 kms covered in 2 to 3 hours
Day 03: Hemis Shukpachan to Ang via Mebtak La – Total trek of 10 kms covered 3 hrs
Day 04: Ang to Temisgam to Nurla to Leh – A total downhill trek of 8 kms covered in 3 hrs followed by a 2 hours drive to Leh
This is the usual trek itinerary that is followed. You can try to merge Day 2 and Day 3 together if you are short on time however I must advise that you do not attempt this alone. Ensure that you have a guide with you to take you through the route. You will be walking through remote Ladakh and you definitely do not want to get lost here or get in any other trouble. Have a guide with you, who can speak the local language,
Best time to visit Sham Valley
An ideal time to visit Sham valley would be anywhere between May till October when both the highways leading to Ladakh are open for civilian traffic.
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.