Ladakh can be an intimidating landscape to explore for a Novice traveller. However, things are not the same in comparison to how they used to be once. While there were times when only travel enthusiasts and explorers would kick into their vehicles with a surge of adrenaline to explore the different realms of no-man’s land, times have changed. What once used to be a traveller’s Moonland is turning into more of a tourists’ abode.
While there are a very few that settle for months to explore this beautiful valley, most of the travellers come into this wonderland for a few day, five or seven maybe. And in this constrained timeframe, the only places one could visit is a circuit that takes one from Nubra via Khardung La to Pangong-tso. But the truth being, five or seven day’s time is not just enough to explore the beautiful valleys of Shyok and Nubra, let alone Ladakh.
A pre-defined itinerary for Nubra constrict the traveller plan to a homage to Diskit Monastery, a ride on ATV’s and Bactrian camels in sand dunes near Khalsar, and maybe if someone insist, then a day’s visit to the village of Gilgit Baltistan.
But the valley also extends to the right of confluence of Shyok and Nubra.
Nubra Valley – demonstrates a very different landscape of Ladakh. Vast expanse of white sand all around and colourful mountains enroute with Shyok and Nubra rivers adding to its beauty, this place is exquisite. Each place whether small or big in Nubra has a history of its own and if one is even a least bit interested in travel then one should definitely make all efforts to know about a place before visiting it.
Here is our humble attempt to understanding some of the places that we happened to visit in Nubra Valley and were blown away not only by the beauty around but also the rich and unique culture of the region.
Sumoor Sand Dunes
Isolated and secluded, the white sand dunes here are magical. Pre-covid, there were Bactrian camels as well in the area hence attracting the tourists. But during covid the camels were left to fend for themselves in the jungle and hence these exotic animals were not to be found in the Sumoor dunes area, causing lack of tourists.
The landscape here is beyond words and if you happen to visit the dunes in the early morning hours you can soak in the calmness and serenity of the place. Do plan a visit to this small village and enjoy the surreal landscape here. You can also drop by the Samstanling Gompa (monastery) and complete the circuit. This monastery houses some unique murals.
About 20 kms from Sumoor lies this small village of Panamik. Famous for its hot springs, this place is again a road comparatively less travelled. Another gem in the Nubra valley, the route to this village is really scenic with white barren lands all around. The landscape is different and yet it gives you a feeling of being in Jaisalmer for a while ( especially if you have travelled on Tanot Mata Temple road in Jaisalmer, you know what we mean :-)).
The hot springs here are said to have therapeutic properties and have ability to cure both skin diseases and rheumatism. Also there is a section of the spring which has drinkable water. Water is boiling hot here but there is a stream with lukewarm water as well and hence making it decent enough for a dip, in case you want to. Explore the area around the hot springs and you will be amazed at the place.
Another less revealed gem in the Nubra valley. This 400 year old monastery is perched atop a hill and the road to reach here is very interesting. Situated at a distance of about 15 kms from the village of Panamik, you need to cross the bridge over Nubra river. Earlier it was a harsh trek of about 5-6 hrs from Panamik to Ensa but now there is a superb road to reach here.
If you are driving here, be prepared to cover about 13 hairpin bends which take you uphill giving you a sense of reaching to a no-man’s land. A very thrilling experience. Usually an old monk stays here all alone but during the summer months, you will find some more monks around here. The murals here are quite old and different. View from up above is really enchanting.
Luvan Tso (Falsely labelled as Yarab Tso)
Ladakh has a number of lakes but mostly people know of a handful of them. But there are many more unknown lakes around the region formed due to the melting of glaciers. One such gem is this lake. It was really hard to find this place because even the locals around do not know much about this lake. There were a few who helped us locate this amazing place which stands atop a lone mountain in the middle of the desert somewhere between Sumoor and Panamik.
In the local language, the lake is called “Luvan Tso” and it has a legend associated with it. It is a holy lake to the Buddhists and it is believed that if you look deep into the lake you will be able to see the Potala palace of Tibet in the waters of the holy lake. Quite magical, right? But not many people visit this place and miss out on a beautiful opportunity. Again we were the only ones there when we visited the place.
In recent times, this village has picked up on the radar of the tourists. A beautiful village which falls in the Gilgit-Baltistan region which is in Pakistan except for the 4 villages which are part of India. Situated on the border, this village has a unique landscape and culture to boast of. This is not the last village on the border though, as believed by many. Famous for its Balti culture and apricots, this village lies in the Chorbat valley of the region. Shyok river flows through the village adding a charm of its own to the whole landscape here. Turtuk is the last huge settlement around this area beyond which lie the villages of Tyakshi and Thang.
If you go here with the thought of visiting some specific tourist points, you are mistaken. You need to visit the place for its rich heritage, culture and to just soak in the sheer beauty tha this village offers. Chill, relax and take your time to understand the world here.
Nubra and Hunder – For almost every tourist, these 2 places go hand in hand. If you plan to go to Nubra, Hunder is the obvious choice and the maximum number of people choose to stay overnight at Hunder. Place is famous for its sand dunes and especially during the sunset. Another major attraction of the place are the Bactrian camels which are unique to the Nubra Valley.
Hunder is the most touristy place in the valley. The village is quite scenic and the deserted look of the place attracts the tourists to this place. There is also an old monastery in the village in case you are interested.
This is the most inhabited village of the Nubra valley and is famous for its almost 600 year old monastery. The monastery here is the oldest one found in the valley. Place is also famous for its 108 ft tall statue of Maitreya Buddha. Again, this place attracts hordes of tourists.
Apart from the above known and some unknown places, Nubra is also the base for Siachen glacier. On the Panamik route, tourists are allowed to go upto the village of Sasoma and Warshi as of now. The valley here is a little different and the mountains seem to be more like skeletons since they are mostly covered with snow during the winters.
So if you really want to explore Nubra valley then try and cover the above places to revel in its real beauty. And if you want to explore it all the more, do cover Nubra from Shyok Valley and Wari La routes. These routes will just mesmerize you and you will also get to witness some raw beauty of this less explored valley which is nestled between Ladakh range and Karakoram range of mountains. Also this is the valley where Shyok river meets into Nubra river and flows along as Nubra river through the valley.
Happy travelling and keep exploring as much as possible. We would love to hear from you if this article was of any help.