Nubra Valley – Facts and Complete Travel Guide

Nestled in the northern Himalayan range of India, Nubra valley is a Tehsil in Ladakh. It is located towards the north of Leh at a distance of 160km. It is a gorgeous valley that features a picturesque landscape bordered by the mountain ranges giving it a very “panoramic” view.

Nubra valley

To admire nature is to worship God. But one cannot hope to explore the treasures of a great tourist destination like Nubra Valley without a well-laid guide – or the information of all the thrills to expect. In this travel guide, you will find a comprehensive itinerary that can be customized and arranged, allowing you to experience a comfortable and hassle-free journey according to your needs and preferences. You will also find all the vital information related to your trip to Nubra, such as preparing for the climate, what to eat, where to sleep and available shopping options.

If you are looking forward to a vacation, you can choose to plan your Nubra Valley trip from Ladakh Tour Packages here.

Name and Geography of Nubra

The traditional name of Nubra is “Dumra,” which means “the valley of flowers. But in Ladakhi, Nubra means “western,” referring to the western Valley of Nubra, differentiating it from the sparsely populated eastern valley.

Nubra is a high-altitude cold desert with the Siachen glacier lying to the north and Karakoram Pass lying in the northwest of the valley. The region receives very scanty rainfall and, as such, has sparse vegetation only along the river beds. However, the rivers keep the lands irrigated and fertile, and locals cultivate various crops like barley, wheat, mustard, and fruits, including apples, apricots, walnuts, and almonds. 

Weather in Nubra Valley

The temperature in the Nubra valley ranges from -10 degrees Celcius during winters to 20 degrees Celcius during summers. The summer season starts in April and lasts till July. August marks the start of the monsoon season, and heavy rainfall is experienced during this season. The winter season begins in October and lasts till February. The valley experiences heavy snowfall during these months.

Flora and Fauna

Nubra valley is famous for its seabuckthorn shrubs that grow densely in this cold desert. On account of the fact that these shrubs withstand extreme temperatures, therefore, it grows widely in the dry region of Nubra. Some familiar birds and animals that can be spotted in Nubra valley are:

  • White-browed tit-warbler
  •  Black-tailed godwit
  •  Tibetan lark
  •  Hume’s short-toed lark
  •  Hume’s whitethroat
  • Common sandpiper
  • Common greenshank
  • Common redshank
  • Green sandpiper
  • Ruff

Some water birds include:

  • Ruddy shelduck or Brahminy duck
  • Garganey
  • Northern pintail
  • Mallard or wild duck

Where is Nubra Valley Located?

Nubra Valley is situated in the northern part of the Indian union territory of Ladakh, at an elevation of 3050m high. It is 155 km far from main Leh town. From Leh, a drive via Khardung La Pass takes you to Khalsar. At this point, the road divides into two, one of which follows the Shyok river leading towards Diskit, which is located 120 km from Leh and is the headquarter of Nubra valley. The other road follows the Nubra River leading to Sumur and Panamik. Nubra Valley lies at the intersection of the Shyok and Nubra rivers.

What is Nubra Valley famous for?

Nubra Valley is famous for its pristine natural beauty, stunning lakes, beautiful villages, apricot orchards, ancient monasteries, scenic vistas, and lovely surroundings. This spectacular valley is also known for the camel safari of the Bactrian camels and Quad biking on the white dunes of Hundur and Khalsar.

Things to do and places to visit in Nubra valley

The fascination of Nubra Valley is not limited to the majestic mountains; fruit trees like almonds, walnuts, and apricots also contribute to its magic. There are also a lot more things to do during your Nubra summer camp than just admiring flowers. Plan a refreshing adventure trip to this heavenly place to experience the surreal beauty and tranquility of nature.

Wide-open valleys

At the exact spot where Nubra Valley lies, you’ll witness towering mountains with snows on their top looking merciless and standing formidably. As you descend the wide valley, you can catch a glimpse of crisscrossed opal-blue and turquoise tributaries of the Shyok river and white-colored pebble stones along the banks. The snow-capped mountains and the rugged terrain with patches of bloom gave way to a perfectly artistic landscape. One can witness the tranquil beauty of the mountains and the calming reflections on the water all around the valley. The sight of this play of nature will make your jaws drop and leave you awestruck with wonder as you drive down the winding roads.

Camel safari at Hunder Valley sand dunes

Nubra camel safari

No one would have ever guessed that sand dunes existed at such a height. You will find a lot of Camel safaris here as well. You will find a ride on the two-humped Bactrian camel a thrilling experience during your trip to Nubra valley. Besides, the white sand dunes, skyscraping mountains, apricot orchards, the Siachen river flowing by, and the rocking movement of the camels during camel ride adds to the charm, and you will remember the fun experience for your whole life.  

Diskit Monastery

Diskit is the headquarters of Nubra valley. It is famous for a 350-year-old monastery which is believed to be existing since the 14th century, and its apricot plantations. 

The monastery of Diskit showcases a majestic piece of architecture in the form of a 115-feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha. The image of the founder of Buddhism is one of the most impressive things that have a momentous place in the Nubra valley. The statue was declared sacred by the 14th Dalai Lama and was constructed to promote the protection of the Diskist region, prevention of wars with Pakistan in the future, and symbol of peace in the world.

You can also get an amazing view of the Diskit village and the Nubra valley from the monastery grounds.

Shyok River

Shyok River is the real gemstone of Nubra Valley. It originates from the Rimo glacier, which is the tongue of the Siachen glacier. Observe it as it colors the pebble-stoned valley opal blue and turquoise.

Panamik village

The Panamik village is a scenic village located near the Siachen Glacier and is famous for its hot water spring. Trek on the nearby hills and take a dip in the hot spring that is said to have healing properties. During the months of September and October, you will find the leaves of the trees turned yellowish-red and are a treat to watch. The village is also home to an ancient monastery known as the Ensa Gompa.

Permits are required to visit the village as it is situated close to the Line of Actual Control.

Camping

If you are an adventure seeker, camping in Nubra Valley will be a mind-blowing experience for you. There are several camping options from luxury to budget camps that you should not miss out on during your Nubra valley trip. Camping on the challenging landscape of the Himalayan ranges will quench the thirst of your adrenaline rush, and you can dive into the adventure activities for a thrilling experience in the valley. The mountains, clear blue skies, simple lifestyle, and lush green cover offer an irresistible opportunity for camping.

ATV Ride

A 15-minute ATV ride at Khalsar offers panoramic views of the high mountains and takes you on white sand dunes right to the banks of the Shyok River. You will feel the air rushing past your face as you ride over the desert in Khalsar. The feeling of excitement while quad biking on the high altitude of Nubra valley is an invigorating experience, and you will remember it for your lifetime. 

River Rafting in the Nubra River

The Nubra river offers an adventurous rafting option while camping in the Nubra valley. Rafting in the Nubra river is popular among adventure enthusiasts, and guess what? You do not have to be an expert swimmer to enjoy this activity. The best time to experience river rafting is from May to November. 

Contact us to book your river rafting in Nubra.

Cycling in the deep Nubra valley

You can also plan a cycling trip around the Nubra valley. Take a cycle tour to some of the best places in Nubra like Diskit, Hunder, and age-old monasteries and sites that are famous for snow leopard sighting.

Lachung Temple

The Lachung temple, situated just above the Diskit monastery, is one of the oldest temples in the valley. The temple is dedicated to a Buddhist teacher and also holds a massive statue of Tsong Khapa – the founder of the Gelugpa clan. Inside the temple, there are elaborate paintings, and the sophisticated carved walls portray the history and chronology of Buddhism.

Ensa monastery

The ancient 600-year-old monastery is located 35 km towards the north of Sumur village. While walking along the path, you will find numerous white chortens and a hermitage that offers a fascinating view of the Nubra valley.

Yarab Tso Lake

Driving 15 km ahead of Diskit village will take you to Yarab Tso lake. It is located near the Sumur village, and you can reach the lake by hiking uphill for approx. 20 minutes. It is regarded holy by the locals, and visitors are advised not to swim or wash their feet in the lake. The natural beauty of the scenery will soothe your body and soul as you enjoy the enthralling sunset and camp overnight near the lake.

Samstanling Monastery

The Samstanling monastery is located in Sumur village. It was established in the 18th century and is one of the significant attractions in Nubra valley nowadays. On the way to Samstanling Monastery, a clear blue sky and colorful prayer flags will welcome you. Set amidst the high mountains with patches of vegetation, the monastery is known for its unique design of walls with large murals and beautiful architecture. You can trek for approx. 45 minutes from Sumur to reach the monastery.

Zamskhang Palace

Zamskhang Palace is the royal palace of the former Kings of Nubra, built in the 17th century. You can reach the palace by hiking from Tegar village near Sumur in Nubra valley. It is a stupefying example of Tibetan architecture and is built with stone, mud, and mortar. The palace depicts the history of the kings who ruled the region previously. Although the palace is abandoned and in a state of disrepair nowadays, the real treasure lies inside the palace ruins. The interiors of the palace are adorned with colorful and intricate paintings, and the Prayer room is also preserved and decorated with frescoes and sculptures.

Turtuk

Turtuk is one of the northernmost villages in India. You will get a chance to unravel the mixed tradition, culture and also learn about different local dialects. Turtuk village is situated 90 km ahead of Hunder village. You will enjoy a fabulous road trip on the well-paved roads of Nubra valley. A walk over the wide valleys, wild horses, grazing around, and reflections of majestic mountains with clouds hovering in the blue sky will leave you spellbound and mesmerized.

Preparing for Nubra Valley

The oxygen level and air pressure drop significantly at the Khardung La Pass, so acclimatize in Leh for 2-3 days before heading to Nubra Valley. Next up, you want to arrange for a Khardungla pass before heading to Nubra. Purchase the pass from Leh town. Without the pass, you will not be allowed to visit certain places in Nubra Valley. Finally, since it’s going to be a long ride from Leh with no shops on the way, carry a good stock of water, snacks, warm clothes, and if riding by motorcycle, a couple of gallons of petrol.

Accommodation

You will find a few budgets and mid-range hotels alongside both Shyok and Nubra Rivers. There are also a handful of guesthouses at Hunder, Diskit, and Surmur. Lastly, Hunder offers some camping options at the foothills of the mountains.

Hotels in Nubra valley

Some of the known hotels in the valley are enlisted below:

  • Hotel StepInn Nubra Valley
  • Hotel Sten Den
  • Lchang Nang Retreat
  • The Wooden Nest – Nubra
  • Heritage Thongsal
  • Hotel Real Siachen
  • Hotel Lasthang
  • Hotel Grand Nubra
  • Hotel Yarab Tso Nubra

Camping in Nubra valley

  • Nubra Ethnic Camp
  • Apple Nubra Cottage
  • Mystique Meadows Camp
  • Cold Desert Camp
  • Royal Deluxe Camp
  • Valley Flower Camp
  • Desert Himalaya Resort
  • Double Humped Camp Hunder
  • K2 Luxury Camp
  • Nubra Organic Retreat

Days required to explore Nubra Valley

If you are planning to visit all the major attractions including Turtuk, Diskit, Hunder, Panamik, you should spend atleast 2-3 days to have a worthwhile tour in Nubra Valley.

Limited shopping options

Diskit is a good place to shop in Nubra; pick up a souvenir of your trip from here. Sold here are beautiful turquoise jewelry, prayer wheels, Buddha heads, Kashmiri carpets, and world-famous Pashmina shawls. Tibetan and Kashmiri handicrafts are also found here.

Nubra valley is one of the major tourist attractions in Ladakh, and you cannot afford to miss the opportunity to visit the best places in the valley. Plan a trip to Ladakh straightaway and explore the beauty of this offbeat destination in northern Ladakh for an extraordinary holiday experience.

My travel experience of Nubra Valley

We bought all the necessary items we might need during our trip to the Nubra Valley from Leh Main Market and packed our bags. The next day we were ready for our drive towards the Nubra Valley. On our way from Ladakh’s capital to the Nubra valley, as our driver reached the peaks of Khardung La, we could see the snow-capped mountain tops hiding behind the clouds. Everything seemed to be in slow motion in the rarified air. Since we traveled in the month of September, we did not have any chains on the tires, and the roads were also in good condition.

Khardung La

Khardung La pass

We paused at Khardung La to experience the snow-bound mountains and the beautiful valley of the Tsolding Buddha Park. We had some hot Maggi, and while sipping down the tea, we clicked remarkable pictures of the mountains, valleys, and next to signboards that read “Khardung La Top, World’s Highest Motorable Road, 18,380 ft. We also bought some shirts and caps from the Army Souvenir shop to remind us of our memorable visit. We reached Pullu, and visitors were supposed to submit a copy of their permit at this point. Since we belonged to Ladakh, we did not make any permits for our visit to the Nubra valley. There was a small restaurant where we had some snacks and drinks.

Khardung village

We passed the Khardung village and came across some of the most mesmerizing attractions. From towering mountain peaks and serene glacial rivers to some of the most breathtaking lakes in the world to different sects of Buddhist monks wearing masks and dancing in a hypnotic trance around the courtyard of the monasteries.

As Nubra Valley is located against the Pakistan and Chinese borders and its mountainous alpine terrain has been in controversy, and under the discussion of all the countries involved, it was closed to the outside world for several years. It is also the base of the world’s highest military conflict between India and Pakistan on the Siachen Glaciers. For over a decade now, the Nubra valley has become a stable region and is open for tourists nowadays.

While driving on the outrageously high passes, we saw some Indian army tents where they provided emergency oxygen often needed by the tourists who had not acclimatized properly in Leh before setting off for the high altitude areas of Ladakh. Some road workers (Border Road Organisation) were also present in the freezing temperatures. They tried to keep the roads clear of rockfall and snow and made them accessible for people trying to reach the most remote corners of Ladakh.

The roads from Khardung La were relatively smooth, so it did not take us long to reach Khalsar. Before reaching Khalsar, the road divided into two, of which the right went towards Sumur, Panamik, and Warshi, and the left went lead to Diskit, Hunder, and Turtuk. We took the right turn first, which went towards Sumur, Panamik, and Warshi.

Sumur

Eventually, we reached the Sumur village, where we visited the Samstanling monastery. The monastery was painted in red, golden, and white color, and we could see colorful prayer flags tied all around the monastery. We chose to trek across the valley for some time and visited the Zamskhang Palace, which was situated in the Kyger village near Sumur. Earlier, the palace was the home of the royal families of the Nubra valley, but now it was abandoned, and we could see the ruins of the palace scattered all around.

Panamik

Then we drove towards the Panamik village to enjoy the splendid and striking view of the mountain peaks and the famous hot water spring, which is believed to have curing properties. We drank some water and rested for a while, and continued our journey in the Nubra valley. From Panamik village, we hiked for almost 20 minutes and reached Yarab Tso Lake. The water was crystal clear and the offbeat location added to the charm and beauty of the miraculous lake. We refreshed our mind and soul amid the sheer bliss of nature and returned to Khalsar afterward.

Now we took the left turn, which took us to the Headquarters of Nubra valley, Diskit.

Diskit

We reached the confluence of the Shyok and Nubra rivers, where we saw a herd of yaks grazing in the green meadows and some crossing the river.

The river provided an irrigation source for the villagers to water the dry and barren lands, and they had planted crops of wheat and barley. It was late September, and the leaves of the trees had just begun to turn yellow, making a stunning contrast with the brown mountains and the clear blue skies.

As we passed the village of Diskit, the desert-like dunes stretched across the roads left us spellbound. The desert was set at 5,000 meters, and we were fascinated by its scenic views and Bactrian camels straggling across the dunes. We decided to halt for some time and chatted with a few locals. The villagers smiled and greeted us, saying “Juley,” which meant hello or goodbye. They told us about the fact that yak and camel caravans were common there before the Chinese sealed their border in those areas in the late 1950s. Animals such as yaks, horses, and camels were used to transport wool, opium, spices, gold, turquoise, coral, indigo, and other goods for trading purposes on the Himalayan routes of the Silk Road, and also brought goods from Pakistan, China, Central Asia, and beyond.

We could not take our eyes off the panoramic views of the valley and decided to stop for the evening to enjoy the night sky, full of stars in the desert camp. We were lucky enough to spot the full moon during our night stay at Nubra valley, and the sand dunes under the full moon were an awe-inspiring sight.

Diskit monastery

We woke up early in the morning and headed over to Diskit monastery, which was located on a hillside overlooking the Nubra valley. We paid an entry fee of 30 rupees each and entered the gompa. The monastery was the largest one in the valley and home to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The picturesque location of the gompa drew plenty of tourists, and a lot of people also visited to attend Diskit Gustor, a festival signifying the triumph of good over evil. In this festival, the monks put on masks and costumes and dance in a hypnotic state as they abandon themselves to the rhythm leading to trance and feeling of ecstasy.

We saw the Maitreya Buddha statue in the monastery that was 32 feet high and recently added to it in 2010. The statue was really gigantic as it dominated the blue sky while facing the magnificent Shyok river. We were left shocked by the majesty of the towering statue of Maitreya Buddha. The statue was built as a symbol of peace and specifically for the protection of the Indian territory. We took several pictures of the statue, and from another side, below the Jhampa statue, we could see a colorful building with windows.

Hunder

Road to Nubra

We stayed overnight in Diskit, and the following day we started our trip to Hunder village. The road was recently constructed by the road corps of Border Roads Organisation, but at some places, unstable land was covered in stones and dirt or washed out by heavy rains and snowfall.

As we approached, the valley turned narrower, and we could see the Karakoram ranges become clearer and unclouded high above the valley base. The never-ending, ever-shifting sand dunes were all we could see, and all at once, the rocky formations were lost in the desert. It was a fantastic experience riding the highest ATV or quad bike for the first time in the incredible cold desert of Nubra valley. We drove over the sand dunes and stopped by the riverside to click some beautiful shots.

We also came across a herd of Bactrian camels roaming in the valley and were meant for tourist activities. The double-humped Bactrian camels stole our hearts, and we enjoyed a brief camel ride in the valley.

Thoise to Bogdang

After spending some quality time riding a camel and exploring the desert region, we drove towards Thoise. The area Thoise stands for “Transit Halt Of Indian Soldiers En-route.” It serves as a military landing field and is used by the Indian Army to supply men and facilities to the border regions, mainly the Siachen Glacier.

From Thoise, we reached Bogdang and entered the village. We noticed that the village was inhabited by Balti people who had converted from Buddhism to Islam. The village was a part of Pakistan earlier and was captured by the Indian Army during the 1971 war.

The village of Turtuk

Finally, we set forth for India’s most unique village of Turtuk that was opened for tourism some time back in 2010. We reached the disputed border area of Nubra, over which the Indians and Pakistanis had fought and argued fiercely for a very long time. Turtuk was a Pakistani village of Baltistan until the 1971 Bangladesh war when Indian soldiers captured it during the border war, and it fell into India’s lap. It is the gateway to the Siachen Glacier and the last outpost in India.

As we entered the village, we witnessed the spectacular view of the barren landscape and clear reflections of the mountains on the surface of still water. The water freezes during winters, and the people easily walk on it while crossing the frozen river. The villagers in Turtuk spoke the Balti language and primarily practiced Islam. The men wore the traditional shalwar kameez and Balti caps, while the women wore finely printed dresses. 

The breeze blew gently on our faces as we sat along the river, exploring the exquisite beauty of the valley. Strolling around the village, we felt immersed in a dreamland where we could see the snowclad mountains above and the clear blue waters in front of us. We wandered in the fascinating last village of northern India, where houses and almost everything was built from rocks, from irrigation channels to the cold storage systems for the summer months. We were astonished by how zealous and industrious the villagers were.

The agricultural activity was continuously going on from the strenuous and arduous cultivation of crop fields to the rows of apricot trees. During our stay at the village, we got to know the customs, dialects, and mixed cultures of the native people of Turtuk. Some of the highest mountains of the world, like K2 and Broad Peak, were not very far away from this village but disconnected by the borders and high mountain barriers. 

The village was completely enclosed by the fierce river, rugged peaks, and the rocky slopes surrounding it like a massive wall. It was incredibly green and clean all around the village because of the eco-friendly methods practiced by the local people. In the evening, the sun bathed the entire valley, which created a dazzling view of the mountains and the river. We spent an overnight in the village and woke up to the chirping of birds and the sound of a flowing river. 

We had our breakfast early and headed towards some major attractions for sightseeing. It was our last day at Nubra, so we visited some monasteries, mosques, and Balti Heritage House, which showcase the diverse culture of the Balti people. In the afternoon, we had our lunch, packed our bags, and prepared to return to Leh. 

Return

We were reluctant to leave and wished to spend some more time but could not continue further. While retracing our steps for Leh, we followed the Shyok river through the villages of Nubra valley while driving on the stony slope towards the south. We were utterly exhausted as we traveled on the twisted roads above the hills and valleys, but fortunately, we returned to the plane lands after traveling for a while.

We were reluctant to leave and wished to spend some more time but could not continue further. Our unforgettable journey to the Nubra valley was a demanding one, but at the same time, the surreal beauty made us feel calm and relaxed as we admired the parting views of the valley.

Best time to visit Nubra Valley in Ladakh

You can visit Nubra valley any time of the year. However, May, June, and September are the best time to visit Nubra when the weather would be very pleasant. The months of April and October are also a good time to visit Nubra, but you might feel very cold during the nights. 

The months of July and August are also not a very good time to visit the Nubra valley, as you might experience very blazing hot weather during the daytime.

How to reach Nubra Valley?

The easiest way to reach Nubra Valley is to arrive at Leh Airport by flight and then hire a cab from Leh to Nubra Valley. The popular Leh-Nubra trip is an ideal start to explore the gorgeous valleys of Nubra. It is around 160 km away from Leh and takes about 5-6 hours to reach. Read how to reach Nubra Valley to know the best and easiest route.

Insider tips for travelers

  • Nubra valley is at an altitude of more than 10,000 feet. So, it is essential to understand that proper acclimatization of the climatic conditions is mandatory for people visiting Nubra valley.
  • Carry an oxygen cylinder in your vehicle from Leh. Oxygen cylinders are available in Leh to rent.
  • You would need a permit to visit Nubra valley. Obtain the permit from the DC office in Leh a day before your trip to Nubra valley and carry few copies of the permit from Leh.
  • Download the offline map of Nubra from Google map for easy navigation.
  • Carry some warm clothes with you, as nights are cold there even in Summer. Read things to carry for Leh Ladakh trip.
  • If you visit Nubra valley via Khardungla, don’t stay in Khardung La for a long time. As your body’s acclimatization is still in process, it isn’t a good idea to stay at a very high altitude place like Khardungla for a very long time.
  • During summer, sun rays in Nubra are of exceptionally high intensity. So, use sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
  • Wear sunglasses during sunny days in summer.
  • The weather in Nubra keeps changing. So, keep checking the weather prediction report before visiting the valley.
  • Please book your flight tickets early, as during the peak season the prices would go higher.
  • Google flights have this fantastic feature of the flight price alert system. So, find your flight on google flights and then subscribe for the alert on Google flights.
  • Bring some warm clothes and a jacket, from October to May.
  • Rest for some time to acclimatize yourself on the first day of arrival.

The Shyok-Nubra Valley situated in the NW Himalaya of India represents a dynamic environment where continuous tectonics has influenced the landscape, geologic and geomorphic processes.

Naveen Hakhoo
About the author

Sam K. Pandepa is a certified travel agent of Ladakh. He completed his MBA in 2012 and has worked as a tourist guide up to 2015. After that, he is working as a travel agent.

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