Nubra Valley Leh is one of the top places to visit in Leh Ladakh. The name Nubra came from the Tibetan word Ldumra which means “the valley of flowers”. And indeed it is.
This tri armed valley is forged by the massive erosions of 2 major rivers in the region, Nubra and Shyok. Both these rivers meet at Sumur which is a junction point where the 3 arms meet. Shyok River starts its journey from the Galwan Valley in India and ends in the Indus River at Skardu in Baltistan (now POK). Nubra River joins its hands with Shyok at Sumur. These rivers separate Ladakh and Karakoram ranges.
Nubra valley is also known as the World’s Highest Cold desert with an average altitude of 3048 m (10,000 ft) above sea level. Other than the massive accolades above, it is one of the most beautiful, serene, and nature-filled places one must visit in a lifetime in Leh Ladakh.
The valley can be accessed by crossing Khardung La which is the world’s highest motorable pass. You can also visit Deskit Monastery, Maitreya Buddha statue, Hunder Sand Dunes, Turtuk, and Panamik amongst others. These are the most visited places in Nubra valley.
Both foreign nationals and Indians need to take an inner line permit to visit the valley.
Hunder holds the jewel on the crown as it is home to the famous high altitude sand dunes and Bactrian camels. Yes, the same camels were used by traders across borders from Afghanistan. Nubra valley was also part of the Silk Route which passed through this region since the 2nd century BCE.
It is also home to the world’s highest battleground where both the Indian and Pak army holds its positions at an altitude of 6000 m (20,000 ft).
It is a must visit place and easily makes first priority in any ones itinerary.
How To Reach From Leh To Nubra Valley
As the valley has borders with Pak on the west side and China on the east side, it can only be accessed through Leh city via Khardung La from India. Though another entry to the valley is from Pangong Lake side via Shyok, this route is hardly taken by anyone. The difference in distance between both the routes is about 40 km which is additional 2.5 hours of the journey which doesn’t make sense. So I will not discuss the Shyok route.
Leh – South Pullu – Khardung La – North Pullu – Khardung village – Khalsar – Deskit – Hunder
This route is about 130 km and takes around 4 hours to reach Hunder. Usually, there are 2 stopovers en route.
First is at Khardung La pass at an elevation of 5359 m (17,582 ft). Here you can click pictures as crossing this pass is a major feat achieved after riding or driving at such extreme high altitude. You can also visit the Gompa uphill or have a much deserving quick snack in the eatery on the pass. One thing to seriously keep a note about is the time spent on the pass. You should not spend more than 15 minutes on the pass. This is due to less oxygen at such altitudes which depletes your body oxygen levels quickly leading to altitude mountain sickness.
The army is present on the pass and helps travelers or tourists who need immediate medical help in case of emergency. If you are hit by AMS, it is advisable to go down immediately as it may reduce the effects.
The second stopover is Khardung village. A sleepy tiny beautiful village overlooking the Nubra Range. You can enjoy tea/Coffee or Maggi here without worrying about altitude mountain sickness. Thereafter you can continue your journey to reach Hunder so as to reach within time. After Khalsar, there is a junction where the road bifurcates. One will lead to Deskit, Hunder, and the other to Panamik which is towards Siachen glacier.
Depending upon your itinerary, you can take the route accordingly.
You will be asked for your protected area permits at South Pullu and North Pullu by the army. These are army checkpoints and keeps the record of everyone including locals who travel the pass.
Best Time To Visit Nubra Valley Leh
Nubra can be accessed throughout the year if Khardung La pass remains open. However, the army keeps the pass operational to the maximum time possible as it is very crucial for army supplies and convoys. Still, the best time to visit Nubra valley is in summer months starting May to September each year.
During these months, Nubra really blooms and shows its loveliest side to you. In and around the river areas, you can see wheat and barley fields at the backdrop of huge brown mountains and crystal clear skies. This is the sight Nubra valley welcomes you with from May to September. It is also warmer than Leh city and at a little less elevation.
In winters, the vegetation turns to dry and dark brown coloured. Though it is still quite amazing to visit Nubra in wintertime. The Bactrian camels also go in hibernation during this time and develop very thick fur on their bodies.
Places to Visit In Nubra Valley for Sightseeing
I will try and list all the places which are worth visiting. But many places are untouched and very rarely people visit. So choose your tourist spots as per your itinerary and time available with you.
- Deskit Monastery – Deskit Gompa is the first thing you will notice when you enter this valley. It is one of the oldest and the largest monastery in Nubra region. Belonging to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The Gompa was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa who was the founder of the Gelugpa sect in the 14th century. It is an extended arm of the Thiksey monastery in Leh. The monastery is situated on the cliff hang of a mountain and looks stunning. You can meet lamas and children studying in the gompa. They also hold an annual festival “Dosmoche” in the winter month of February. Deskit monastery is also the official residence of the Chief Lama of Nubra valley.
- Maitreya Buddha – Also known as Jampa Buddha, is a 32 meter (106 feet) statue on a top of the hill just opposite the Deskit monastery. The statue faces west towards the Shyok river overlooking the Nubra valley. Most of the funds to build the statue came from 3-4 monasteries which also gave 8 kg of gold for its decoration. It was consecrated by the holy Dalai Lama in July 2010. It is said that the statue was built with 3 main ideas – protection of the valley, for preventing war with Pakistan and to promote peace throughout the world. The statue also depicts the future incarnation of Buddha according to Buddhist traditions.
- Hunder Sand Dunes – This is surely the only reason for so many tourists to go to Nubra valley. This is the world’s highest desert sand dunes and you will amazed to see and experience the soft sand. It feels like you are totally on a different planet altogether. Sand dunes are a result of long term silting of the Shyok river and the local mountains. There are a host of activities that happen at the dunes. The most famous is the Bactrian Camel ride.
- Panamik – It is a small village on the road which goes to Siachen Glacier. This place is famous for Sulphur Hot Springs which comes out of the cliff of a hill near Panamik. This is the last place where foreign nationals are allowed. Indians can further go up till Warshi provided they have approval in the inner line permit. I have heard that there are medicinal properties in the hot spring water and many have been treated with the same. There is a small pool which is made by locals for tourists to take a dip and relax inside the pool. They will charge a nominal fee of about INR40 per person to use the facilities which have showers and washrooms as well.
- Turtuk – This is really a hidden gem in Nubra valley. Although nowadays it has got some attention due to many bloggers and vloggers writing about the place. But there was a time, not much only 2-3 years back when no one knew about Turtuk. India took back its control in POK in the 1971 conflict between India and Pakistan. This is a small village with a waterfall cutting the upper Turtuk from the Lower one. There is so much to see and experience in this small village. Peace, tranquility, and a sense of freedom prevails in the region. You can just wander around and be you without thinking of judgment by anyone. People are also very nice and welcoming here.
- Yarab Tso Lake – If you are the one who is into hiking or trekking then this small hike is a must. Starting from Sumur, the hike goes towards the hill which is right on the junction point where both the rivers meet. It is about 15 km from Deskit and takes 20-30 minutes from Sumur. Such kind of short hikes are really astonishing and always gives surprises. The lake is considered holy in the region. So don’t litter around the lake and keep its beauty intact by taking care of your trash responsibly. The water is like a sparkling diamond, hence you can see the bottom of the lake if the sun direction is right. From a photography point of view, the reflections of the nearby mountains on the lake just make it a hell of a shot. Try one!
- Bogdang – This is a stopover on the way to Turtuk. The actual Bogdang village is on a hilltop and one can do a short hike up till the village. There is a pure white sandy camping spot down the road just beside River Shyok which is an amazing option for tourists looking to pitch their own tent. However, not many travelers opt to stay here. Rather they carry on with their journey to Turtuk after snacking a bit in the eateries available.
- Ensa Gompa – This is a monastery just opposite Panamik village after crossing Nubra River. A quaint little monastery is approachable by a bridge on the left side of Warshi. If you are looking to relax and do mediation while listening to Nubra River and sounds of wind blowing in your ear, then this is the place to be. Though the approach road might be a problem for few. But all is well when you arrive and just sit back to look inside and do some super meditation.
- Warshi – There are places that are just meant to be not told too much about. And places like these becomes secret destinations for travelers or backpackers. Warshi is a place exactly what I am talking about. In 2015, Warshi was opened for tourists to visit. It is further away from Panamik village beside River Nubra on the road which leads to Siachen base camp. You can start to see the glacier from Warshi onwards. Even the mountains of the region change and you can be in awe just by looking at their strange shapes and cuts. However, warshi is only a small village with few houses only. But yet it is worth a visit if you really want to see how serene the place is and that too without tourists.
- Samstanling Gompa – This is also a monastery in Sumur. This gompa was founded 140 years back in 1841 by Lama Tsultim Nima. It is now a little modernized but still has the calmness and composer of the oldest of the monasteries in Ladakh. It has 2 main prayer halls which can be used for mediation purposes also. There is a village nearby which is in ruins known as Zamskhang. The old governor used to stay in this village under the rule of Leh king. If you have time then you can plan to visit with a short hike.
Things To Do
There are a lot of things you can do in Nubra. It has developed into one such destination which will keep you busy throughout your stay with so many things to do. Here is a list below for you to consider.
- Camping – This is an obvious option. Every traveler will one way or the other would like to camp in Hunder. It is just a perfect combination, sand, and camping. There is a humungous choice available for you to pick from. Few tourists, especially bikers, extend the adventure to self camping as well. Nowadays, locals have started objecting to people who pitch their tents without taking permission from them. So, I highly recommend you can talk to any villager or for that matter to existing camps to provide a space for self camping for a nominal amount. They will happily provide the space. You can also bonfire here along with beer and music. O God, what fun it is!
- Camel Safari – Camel Safari at Hunder Sand Dunes is probably the No.2 thing you can do. These are Bactrian camels that have a double hump on their backs. In ancient times, traders used to travel through Nubra valley to enter Leh on these camels itself. So while you ride on the back of one such camel, feel like a nomad traveler wandering around the silk route in these amazing mountains.
- Quad Biking at T mod – There is a newly built connecting road between Deskit and Sumur which connects the 2 arms of the valley. This straight road is a 5 km stretch which has sand dunes on both sides. Just when the road ends, there is a place where quad biking is available. You can have fun riding it on the dunes and satisfy your ultimate hunger for adventure.
- Stargazing and Astrophotography – This is indeed for hardcore enthusiasts who want to indulge in some night photography. Ladakh is famous for night photography and taking star trails and milky way. The same goes for Nubra as well. At Hunder sand dunes in full moon night, the sand reflects the light and it feels like you are on a different planet altogether. Such scenes backed with crystal clear night skies make a perfect spot for night photography. Some professional photographers experiment with the shots and sometimes come up with an unforgettable click.
- Motorcycle riding – You can hire bikes on rent at Hunder and travel to nearby areas like Turtuk or Panamik if you want some biking road adventure. Many travelers don’t feel like riding on Khardung La pass, so they prefer taking a taxi. But you know, there is always a hidden dream of riding a bike at such high altitude in each and every traveler. So, you can fulfill your dream here as the roads are just perfect, very less traffic and the rides are also small. Go ahead and try!
- Hiking and Trekking – Nubra valley is a hub of short hikes including the long ones as well. You can get in touch with any local guide or Ladakh tour operator for any assistance. Even you can ask locals for the short hikes available and they will be able to guide you. It is usually to local gompas or temples or even a few lakes etc. But trust me, you will not regret taking a hike anywhere. The place is just so naturally blessed when we compare the Changthang area with this region. In longer treks, you can take the famous Nubra to Leh Trek which is rated as the top 10 treks in the region. Few places where you can trek are Skarchen, Brok Yokma, Lasermo La, and Phyang.
- Try your hands at Archery – Archery is a traditional game played by Ladakhis. They even perform a small competition where all males show their talent. Women prepare Chang, Gurgur Tea, and dances on the local folk songs. It is kind of a mini-festival that is unique to each village or area in Ladakh. You can also try your hands at this sport. Few locals set up archery on sand dunes at Hunder. You need to pay 50 for trying 5 shots.
- Enjoy Ladakhi Traditional Dance and Music – This is one of my favorite activities. As you are able to observe Ladakh traditional dance and also chat with locals asking about the meaning of gestures and the songs. It also becomes so enchanting that even you will join the women to dance and enjoy along with them. They take a fee of INR100 per person, but it is definitely worth it.
- River Rafting in Shyok River – There are no organised groups for this activity. However, you need to get in touch with a few hotels/camps that are offering River Rafting. They have a guide inhouse who will be assisting you in the activity. The only catch is since it is not a group tour, it is quite costly to hire a guide just for you. But if you don’t care about that, the experience is definitely worth it.
Hotels In Nubra Valley
- Organic Boutique Inn Hunder – Earlier it was known as Hotel Tsashung. As the name suggests it has a beautiful organic garden right outside where you can just walk, pluck the best vegetable you like and give it to them to prepare an awesome fresh salad. Surprisingly they have made arrangments to provide you 24×7 power supply which ensures that your batteries are all charged up all the time. The tariff is also reasonable and the location is also nice.
- Neycho Resort Nubra – Nice and Cosy newly built Neycho Resort Nubra offers the best location and hospitality. It is tucked away in the heart of Hunder village. It has got 15 super deluxe rooms which offer the best of comfort for you which is nice after a back-breaking Khardung La ride. They have all amenities as per a good hotel and also offer wifi.
- Apple Nubra Cottage – It is a small but great choice for travelers looking for an all-round value for money. They have a great canopy of trees which really helps to sit outside in nature without worrying too much about the sun. However, they classify themselves as hotel but actually they have permanent tents and offers quality and luxury. Their food is also rated as best along with free wifi and power backup.
- Hotel Stendel Nubra – This used to be a homestay but now converted into a hotel. Their location is perfect for travelers who don’t want to travel too inside into the village. It is rated as one of the best locations and also rate high on service and food. They have comfortable and warm rooms with all the amenities. They also offer ATV ride packages and other excursions to local areas.
- Hunder Resort – A unique blend of traditional and modern design, Hunder Resort is a great option for people looking for luxury, peace, and tranquility. They have a nice garden where you can just relax and rejuvenate all day long. They have designed the hotel enabling maximum integration of nature and also have one of the best views. It is also near a river stream whose sounds will hypnotize you to just be sitting, reading a book, yoga or mediation and self reflect the very presence of you.
Camps in Nubra Valley
- Nubra Summer Camp – This camp is situated just beside the main Turtuk road. Hence it becomes easier for you to just park and crash into the comfy beds inside the tent. They are one of the highest-rated camps in Nubra and are also very much in budget. Their food and atmosphere is also highly appreciable.
- Imperial Eco Cottage – Lush green garden, Bamboo cottages and one of the best location, What else do you need? The location of the camp is such that it helps guests to reconnect with nature. And that too with the comfortable accommodation and essential amenities. The simple tribal ambiance of these cottages surrounded by mountains is just perfect.
- Nubra Leisure Camp – This camp is known for its location. It is surrounded by lush trees and beautiful streams passing through the camp itself. They also offer bonfire and barbecue services as well. They have 15 tents with all the comfortable amenities with the attached bath toilet. Ample parking space is also provided for larger groups. At the bonfire, they have arranged for a music system for tourists who really want to have all the fun at the bonfire with the group.
- The Regal Camp Nubra – This camp has a very homely environment best for families or couples. Managed by the owner itself, this camp offers the best food and hospitality in Hunder. They have 20 Deluxe tents with en-suite facilities, hot running water in each tent, facing beautiful Mountain Views. All tents have jute carpets & boutique-style decor with walls in toilets. They also have a backup oxygen cylinder in case of any emergency.
- Nubra Ethnic Camp – They have a huge common bonfire place right in the middle surrounded by campsites. It is convenient for everyone to just go outside and sit in the warm bonfire. It is easier to do a village walk or just have a chat with locals to understand their culture and traditions. Most famous Hunder sand dunes is just 5 mins away from the camp. They also offer organised trips to Turtuk and nearby locations.
Essential Info For Travelers
Altitude – It is the world’s highest cold desert with an average height of 3100 m (10,170 ft).
Inner Line Permit – Nubra shares its borders with both Pakistan and China. Therefore, as per Indian laws, it is mandatory for each tourist to take the Inner Line Permit to travel in this region. You can read this blog on Inner Line Permit Leh Ladakh which has all the relevant information about the same.
Distance between Leh and Hunder – Nubra is 130 km from Main Leh Market. It takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to reach via Khardung La pass.
Mobile connectivity – You can enjoy mobile connectivity of both BSNL and Airtel up till Khardung La. Thereafter only BSNL can be used and that too in Hunder and Deskit village areas only. But don’t rely too much on that. Many times the network doesn’t work even if the signals are present. So this is quite unpredictable.
Medical facilities – There are no medical facilities here or on the way. There is an army available on Khardung La which offers medical facilities only in case of emergency or someone is really suffering bad AMS. For proper facilities, you will have to go back to Leh city only.
ATMs – The answer is again No. As the region doesn’t have any reliable connectivity, the ATMs don’t work properly here. Therefore we recommend you carry enough cash along with you from Leh itself.
Petrol pumps – There is only one small petrol station in Deskit. It has only 1 tank, hence, you have to be careful as sometimes the fuel is not available. Even though, most of the time when we have traveled, we have got the fuel for refueling. You can also talk to locals if you are in dire need of petrol in black. Few shopkeepers do keep the same for such eventualities.
Days to spend in Nubra – The most common itinerary to travel to Nubra valley is only for 1 day. However, some tourists have more time with them and travel to either Turtuk or to Panamik. So we highly recommend at least 1-night stay at Hunder or Deskit. But if you have time, then make Turtuk as a mandatory detour for a day which will be worth visiting.
Food joints – Yes, there are a lot of options in Nubra to eat. Mostly offer Ladakhi as part of their menu, but few also offer north Indian and other cuisines. Few are a little inside the village but they are the ones which will give you the real feel of Nubra with gardens and lots of greenery. If you are visiting Turtuk, then be assured that this tiny village is slowly turning into a food paradise. From local balti food to Chinese to Indian, many travelers just sit and relax in the nature-filled homely environment and can have fun throughout the day. The famous restaurant here is the Balti Kitchen and the Apricot Café.
Things to note for Travelers
- Due to the high altitude region, acclimatisation is most important. Kindly don’t ignore this and spend proper 2-3 days in Leh. Talk to experts or your hotel/camp or any Leh Ladakh tour operator for further assistance and info.
- Electricity might be an issue here sometimes. So keep in mind the remote location and be prepared for a limited time electricity availability. Even though, nowadays, many hotels and camps have a backup generator. But still one must be mentally prepared about such problems.
- As a responsible and good traveler, you must keep in mind that this is a remote location. Access to all the amenities can sometimes be a challenge. So never mind if anything is not as per your expectations. You are here to enjoy the beauty of Ladakh, not the amenities.
- Due to the very high influx of tourists, the Nubra valley has suffered lots of pollution and littering of plastic everywhere. This is not acceptable as it ruins the experience of other travelers and also has a very high impact on nature. So please manage your own trash and become a proud happy contributor rather than just a tourist.
- As mentioned above, electricity can be an issue where you cannot charge the batteries, it is always better to carry extra during your journey. You don’t want to miss any awesome shot just due to this fact right.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get to Nubra Valley?
You can reach Nubra from Leh via Khardung La pass. It is about 130 km from Leh and takes about 4 hours to reach Deskit in Nubra valley. You can also take a few halts en route which is always welcomed to soak in the beauty of the valley.
What is there to see in Nebra Valley?
There are a lot of places to see in Nubra. Few of them are as enlisted below
- Deskit Monastery
- Maitreya Buddha Statue
- Hunder Sand Dunes
Can I return to Leh the same day of the visit to Nubra Valley?
Yes, you can surely do that. Just keep in mind to start early in the morning from Leh. You can spend a few hours in Nubra and plan to start your journey back from 3-4 PM at the max. Also, consider the number of hours you will travel in a day. If you are completely ok with it, then you can plan for a day trip.
Is Nubra Valley worth visiting?
It is indeed. It is the world’s highest cold desert and is mesmerising to see mountain ranges on both sides of the river. The valley especially turns green in summer months and this makes Nubra as one of the best places to visit in Leh Ladakh. It is also home to Siachen glacier which is the highest battlefield in the world.
What are the activities to do in Nubra Valley?
Nubra is home to many small and unknown places. But if you are an adventure junkie and seek activities in your itinerary, then you will not be disappointed. There are lots of activities you can do, here is a list of a few of them
- Double Humped Bactrian Camel Ride
- ATV Bike riding on sand dunes.
- Trekking and Hiking
- River Rafting
- Ride or cycle to Turtuk
What are the other attractions near Nubra Valley?
Besides the most common places, there are other lesser-known attractions which you can explore. Here is a list of few below
- Ensa Gompa
- Yarab Tso Lake
- Yama Gonbo Monastery
- Skuru Village
- Samstanling Monastery
Is Panamik famous for its hot water springs?
Yes. The hot springs at Panamik are quite famous and especially for the medicinal properties of the hot water. These are sulfur-rich natural hot water springs that come out of from a cliff of a mountain. Locals have built a pool in a closed environment for travelers to just sit and relax in the pool. There are also bathrooms for bathing and changing purposes. They will charge a nominal amount of INR40-50 as an entry fee.
What is Nubra famous for?
Nubra is famous for 3 things –
- A 32 meter Maitreya Buddha statue which overlooks Nubra Valley facing towards POK.
- Hunder Sand Dunes which is the world’s highest cold desert.
- Siachen Glacier is the world’s highest battle zone.
Can we stay in Nubra Valley?
Yes, there are numerous stay options available to you with all kinds of accommodations. Hotels, Camps, Resorts, Guest Houses, Homestays, and even themed boutique properties. The price starts with as low as 500 per room for budget properties to as high as 12,000 per room night for high-end luxury resorts.
Bikamp has a campsite in Leh named Bikamp At Leh Camp. We also organise Leh Ladakh Bike Trip for groups and offer Leh Ladakh Tour Package for couples, groups, families, and friends. If you are planning for an offbeat and adventurous experience, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +91 – 9818824450 / 9549919666