Nubra Valley is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Ladakh and a must visit place specially if you are travelling with family. There are plenty of tourist Attractions in Nubra Valley right from the natural beauty of the place to the religious monasteries. It is believed that the original name of the valley was Ldumra, literally meaning valley of flowers. Now also known as the “Orchard of Ladakh” it is a stunningly beautiful place that attracts thousands of tourists each year. Nubra is a Tri-armed valley formed by Shyok and Nubra (also known as Siachen) rivers and is a prime farming land in Ladakh. The entire valley is a sight to behold in itself with its wide landscapes and Shyok river flowing through the mighty Himalayas. Diskit is the largest town in Nubra valley and also its headquarters. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft.
If you asked me, the entire Nubra Valley is a tourist attraction in itself and there is nothing here that is not worth seeing. Right from the natural beauty of a cold desert to wonderful people living here, it is an experience that you will cherish for long. There are however certain places that becomes the highlight of the journey which I will list down in this article.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN NUBRA VALLEY
Khardung La: Once considered as the highest motorable road in the world (now this claim is disputed by most), Khardung La is one of the primary tourist attractions of entire Ladakh region and not just Nubra valley. At a height of 5,359 m (17,582 ft), this pass was built in 1976 by Border Roads Organization and opened for civilian traffic in 1988. The top of the pass is at a distance of about 35 kms from Leh and the entire stretch is a steep ascent. There is an Army run canteen at the top that serves free tea to tourists and a souvenir shop (also run by Indian army). The pass offers a panoramic view of the surrounding snow-capped ranges and steep valleys.
Hunder Sand Dunes: These sand dunes are located between Hunder and Diskit villages and present an amazing site of white sands. It is also among the top camping sites in Ladakh.
Bactrian Camels: Also known as two-humped camel, it is a very rare animal with their population estimated only two million all over the world. You will see camels all over India but a Bactrian camel can only be seen in Nubra valley. These are found at Hunder and a camel safari in the sand dunes is one of the most popular tourist activities in Nubra valley.
Maitreya Buddha: Located close to Diskit Monastery, it is an impressive 32 meter statue of Buddha that was built in 1996 and sits facing Pakistan. It is said to be built with three main functions in mind: protection, prevention and peace.
Hot Water Springs: Located in Panamik, Nubra valley’s hot water spring is a must visit. Villagers have built small bathrooms around the spring where you can take a dip in the refreshing water. The water of this spring is said to be curative, due to the presence of sulfur and other chemicals in it.
Samstanling Monastery: Located in Sumur village, this 140 year old monastery was built in 19th century by Lama Tsultim Nima and is home to more than 50 monks.
Diskit Monastery: Diskit Monastery is the one of the oldest monasteries and the largest in Nubra Valley. Built in 14th century, it is a popular tourist destination offering a spectacular view of Nubra Valley from its roof. 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.
Yarab Tso: Considered sacred, Yarab Tso is a small but beautiful lake located at a hike of about 15-20 minutes from Panamik.
Ensa Gompa: A 250 year old Monastery, Ensa Gompa is located near Panamik on top of a rock that overlooks the snow capped mountains of Nubra valley. It is a 6 hours trek to reach the monastery from Panamik. If you want to experience the true meaning of the middle of nowhere, here’s where you should go.
Hunder Gompa: It is one of the popular attractions crossing through the Hunder Sand Dunes.
Lachung Temple: A beautiful temple located near Diskit Monastery
Zamskhang Palace: Located near Sumur in the village of Kygar, Zamskhang Palace is believed to be the residence of the kings of Nubra. Long abandoned and standing in ruins, it is now a site of several tiny stupas. Authorities have now started restoration work of this ancient palace.
Shoyok River: Shyok River originates from the Rimo Glacier, one of the tongues of Siachen Glacier and then merges into Indus river in Pakistan. Alignment of this river is very unusual, flowing in a southeasterly direction first and then after joining the Pangong range, it takes a northwestern turn, flowing parallel to its previous path.
Siachen River: Also known as Nubra River, it is a tributary of the Shyok River which ultimately joins the Indus river to the east of Skardu in Pakistan.
Road to Siachen: Experience the thrill of driving on the road that leads to the great Siachen Glacier. Warshi is the closest and last village on the road, approximately 16 kilometers from Indian Army’s base camp at Siachen Glacier.
Silence of the valley: I know this sounds a little off the track but you got to experience this. The nights of Nubra valley are so silently mysterious with only the sound of the wind to be heard. The calm and the peace of the entire valley is enchanting.
Natural Beauty: As I have already mentioned this before in the article, do not travel to Nubra valley keeping a few places or destinations in mind. The entire valley is a tourist attraction in itself so take a drive and enjoy the natural vistas at every turn.
PLACES IN NUBRA VALLEY
Mentioned above were what can be called as “tourist places in Nubra valley”. Below is a list of all the towns/villages located in Nubra valley.
Khardung Village: Little before Nubra valley and a few kilometers down from Khardung La, this village is a sight for the sore eyes. Distant hamlets and their patchwork fields add a human touch to the muscular scenery and immense views, making it look like a patch of green in the lap of barren Himalayan peaks.
Khalsar: Another small village along the way. Right after Khalsar is the bifurcation where the road gets divided in two, one running towards Warshi village and the other towards Turtuk.
Sumur: As you take the diversion towards Warshi, the first and somewhat spread-out village you will come across is Sumur. It is quite a scenic village, surrounded with bright yellow mustard fields and vast stretches of grass and vegetable farms. There are a couple of theories related to how 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 means ‘three settlements’based on the fact that villagers here occupied two other places in the valley before they finally set up home at the present site. Standing behind and above the village, Samstanling Gompa is the main attraction of this village. A little detour will take you to another small village called Kygar, also known as Tegar and referred to as “Tiger” by Indian army. Zamskhang Palace which was home to the local governor back in 19th century when Ladakh’s royal family still resided in Leh’s palace is located in Kygar.
Panamik: 22 kilometers from Sumur is another small but beautiful village called Panamik. Believed to be curative, the hot water springs are the prime attraction of this village. Panamik also serves as the base for the trek to Ensa Monastery A small hike of 15-20 minutes will take you to sacred Yarab Tso Lake, another place to visit here.
Taksha: It is another small village on the road.
Sasoma: Another village, no tourist place as such here.
Warshi: It is the last village accessible to civlilians on this road. 16 kilometers from Warshi is the Siachen base camp of Indian army which makes it the last populated region close to Siachen Glacier. Earlier, tourists were only allowed as far as Panamik but in 2015, Warshi was opened for tourists as well.
Diskit: This will be the first major town on the second road from Khalsar, going towards Turtuk. Diskit is the capital and headquarters of Nubra valley and with the recent increase in tourism in Ladakh, it has converted into Nubra valley’s commercial hub. It is Situated on the banks of Shyok river and has many hotels, home-stays and guest house options, some of which are open throughout the year. There are several small restaurants in the main market where you can enjoy some Kashmiri dishes as well. The main attraction of the town is the Diskit Monastery and Maitreya Buddha.
Hunder: Another major town after Diskit, Hunder is primarily famous for its mesmerizing Sand dunes and the two humped Bactrian camels. It is said that Hunder was earlier the capital of what was known as Nubra Kingdom in ancient times. Ruins of buildings from that era are still present here, including the King’s palace, the Langchen Khar (also known as Elephant’s palace) and a fort called Gula at the top of the hill. There are also two Buddhist temples here known as white temple (Lhakhang Karpo) and the red temple (Lhakhang Marpo).
Thoise: Next village after Hunder on the road towards Turtuk. 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 stands for “Transit Halt Of Indian Soldiers Enroute” to Siachen.
Changmar: Just another village on the route, nothing worth mentioning here.
Bukdang: Also known as Bogdang, upon entering 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.
Turtuk: The last village on the road accessible by civilians. 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.
AN IDEAL NUBRA VALLEY ITINERARY
As you can probably guess already, visiting all these places would easily take 3-4 days and in my opinion, Nubra valley is a place where you can spend this much time easily. However most of the people just make it a journey for 2 days, Leh to Nubra on day 1 and Nubra to Leh on day 2. Some people stay here for a day which is highly recommended. Depending on how many days you have in hand, you can chose either of the following suggested itineraries for Nubra valley.
Itinerary 1: Nubra Valley in one day
I would not recommend this but if you planning to do Nubra valley in one day then ensure that you start as early as you can from Leh. Cross Khardung La in early hours and continue towards Nubra valley. Once you cross Khalsar, you need to decide which road you want to travel on as doing both the stretches, (Warshi and Turtuk) in one day can become a challenge. Alternatively, what you can also do is rather than driving all the way to Turtuk or Warshi, return from somewhere in between. For example, from Khalsar take the road towards Diskit. Reach Hunder by noon, see the sand dunes and Bactrian camels and start your return journey. Before Khalsar, take the road towards Warshi, drive until Panamik, see the hot water springs and be on your way to Leh. Whatever you do, please ensure that you plan your journey in a way that sees you back at Khardung La top latest by 5 pm.
Itinerary 2: Nubra Valley in two days
This is the most common way of traveling to Nubra valley. If you have 2 days in hand, you can follow the following itinerary.
Day 1: Leh to Turtuk: Once again, start early from Leh, cross Khardung La in early hours and from Khalsar take the road towards Diskit. Depending on the time you have in hand, chose what places you can visit from the list I mentioned above and continue driving towards Turtuk for night stay. Another way of doing this is to continue driving all the way to Turtuk and make sure that you are there by noon. After sight seeing, start your return journey and stay at Diskit for the night. Diskit Monastery, Maitreya Buddha, Sand dunes and Bactrian camels are a must see.
Day 2: Turtuk to Warshi to Leh: On day 2, start early from Diskit and take the road towards Warshi. Drive all the way, visit Samstanling Monastery, Panamik hot water springs and Yarab Tso on the way and start your return journey to leh by 2 PM latest.
Itinerary 3: Nubra Valley in three days
If you can stay in Nubra valley for a day then nothing like it. If you are doing this journey in 3 days, you will have plenty of time for sight seeing and will b able to cover most of the places. You can follow the following itinerary and from the list above, pick where you want to stop and which place you want to see on the way.
Day 1: Leh to Warshi to Panamik/Sumur: Start early from Leh, drive all the way to Warshi for sight seeing and return to either Panamik or Sumur for night stay.
Day 2: Panamik/Sumur to Turtuk to Diskit: On day 2, drive all the way till Turtuk for sight seeing and return to Diskit for night stay. If it interests you, you may chose to stay at Turtuk for the night too.
Day 3: Diskit to Leh: On day 3 return to Leh. Since you have some time in hand and if you are feeling adventurous, you may take the Wari La route for return journey rather than coming back via Khardung La.
BEST TIME TO VISIT NUBRA VALLEY
Tourist season opens in Nubra valley in April after the snow starts to melt and roads become more accessible to tourists. Before that, from January till March, the weather here remains extremely cold with only a handful of accommodation options operational. Khardung La too remains covered under a thick sheet of snow so getting to Nubra valley in these months too can become a problem. In April, as tourists start to visit the place, a few hotels and guest houses start to open up. This is the time when you will find the entire valley blooming with Apricot flowers. From May till August, tourist season remains at peak and practically every part of Nubra valley is accessible. All the hotels, guest houses, home stays are fully functional and finding a place to stay is no big deal.
September and early October are the best time to visit Nubra valley in my opinion. The entire valley at this time of year presents an enchanting view of colors all around. As the tourist season at this time is towards close, there are not many people around however the hotels and guest houses are still operational.
November till late December will probably the worst time to visit as the weather would be very cold but you won’t catch much snow anywhere. I am making this statement on basis of assumption that anyone coming to Ladakh in Winter will be after snow.
If you are visiting Nubra Valley in Winter, you will find plenty of snow at Khardung La, so much that sometimes the road may remain closed for days. There is however not much snow within the valley due to the fact that it is at an altitude even lower than the city of Leh.
BEST VEHICLE FOR NUBRA VALLEY
Road conditions in Nubra valley are not really that bad and you will find a lot of locals here driving around Maruti 800s as well. The only challenge is of crossing Khardung La so you really need to check if your vehicle is capable enough of high altitudes and has sufficient ground clearance. However if you have driven your car to Leh already, then you need not worry taking it to Nubra as the terrain you would have already driven on is way worse than what you will find here. Same applies to motorcycles as well.
I hop this information was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments sections below and I would be glad to answer. If you feel I missed listing another tourist attraction in Nubra valley here, please do suggest and I would add it to the article.